.Introduction to Thailand
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Neil Stoneham, is a 35 year-old British journalist currently living in
Neil writes mainly educational features for the learning post supplement of the newspaper but also writes freelance pieces for other publications. In addition to his full-time occupation, Neil hopes to one day finish a radio drama script or maybe even get over the 10,000-word threshold of his elusive first novel.
Neil will be happy to answer any queries you may have about visiting or living in
Renowned for its tolerant and ancient peace-loving culture,
Living here can be an exhilarating mixture of pleasantness and frustration. If the fumes and chaos of
More and more Thais are learning to speak good English, so communication should be fairly easy, especially in the tourist areas of
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Buddhist Monks walk out of a temple in
It is also worth noting that the tsunami-hit areas around Phuket are recovering much quicker than their counterparts in other countries because of the more advanced infrastructure. So be sure to make Phuket an option if you are planning a holiday here.
April is best avoided as the temperatures can reach into the 40’s and, no matter how used to it you are, it still feels unbearable.
The rains come in June and temperatures settle down again. Visit from this time until September if you like a good bargain and don’t mind the odd shower.
The safest and most efficient way of getting around is by the Sky Train which snakes above the city in most major areas, including the business districts. Then there is the relatively new underground Metro which complements the sky train routes and, again, serves important areas. Nonetheless, at present, the service is fairly limited to central
The skytrain in
Taxi fares are charged by the meter and anyone who offers to take you somewhere for a price should be refused as the chances are they will be ripping you off. A sizeable minority of taxi drivers, it has to be said, also like to throw in a few fairground-like thrills into the bargain while they are driving you to your destination! It is, nonetheless, a service most favoured by expats and seems to work fairly well.
If you’re adventurous, you might like to try the famous samlor or ‘tuk-tuk’ as they are better known. These three wheeled fume-belching open-air taxis are a fun and cheap way to explore the city. Fares are negotiated in advance with the driver. Also, for the even more adventurous, motor-cycle taxis can speedily wind their way among the traffic if you’re in a hurry.
If you are looking to travel around
A modern air-transport system serves Thailand as well as other international destinations. New, low cost airlines are bringing fares down to both domestic and Asian cities. Thai Airways International (THAI) is the national carrier and very good it is too. In anticipation of the new Bangkok International Airport (to be opened sometime in 2006), THAI are going through something of a revamp, so the service should eventually be top notch.
Depending on your budget, it is possible to live in anything from a modest one bedroom apartment, to a grand 200 sq metre condo overlooking the city. Most condos come with a swimming pool and gym facilities. Rental prices are usually about half to two-thirds of the price you would pay for the same thing in the UK.
By law, foreigners are not allowed to own land in Thailand. You can, however, purchase apartments above the ground floor and these can be fairly inexpensive, although – thanks to the booming economy – prices are going up fast.
In addition, the laws for purchasing apartments mean that, unless you have a good stock of money back home (where a third or more of the money has to come from), getting a loan from a Thai bank is quite difficult.
Some foreigners opt to get round the law by purchasing property through a Thai partner or friend, although, in certain circumstances, this might not be a good idea.
Jobs: Thailand is a popular country for expatriate workers. The perks and standard of living here makes it an attractive proposition, which means it can be fairly competitive. A large number of expatriates have been sent here by their companies back home but there are a sizeable number of them who got jobs while visiting Thailand.
By far the most feasible option for foreigners is to work as an English teacher. Acquiring some formal qualification, such as TEFL certificate, will virtually guarantee you work here. There is a reason for this, however. The salary for most English teachers is very small and you will be lucky to earn anything more than 30,000 baht (₤450) a month. That’s enough to get by but don’t expect to be able to afford any luxuries.
A Thai man places durians onto a pile at a fruit market
Try www.ajarn.com to get the bigger picture. You will require a work permit and special visa (which must be obtained outside the country) to work in Thailand. These require a huge amount of bureaucracy and, unless you have a job sorted out already, it is pointless trying to obtain one.
Working illegally is not advised unless you don’t mind risking a spell in the Bangkok Hilton (and I don’t mean the hotel). Try these English language newspapers for the latest vacancies – www.bangkokpost.com or www.nationmultimedia.com.
Study: Thailand probably has the most diverse and varied international education scene in the world. There are some excellent schools here, although they are not cheap. However, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a school which fits your budget and location requirements. www.isat.or.th is a useful resource as is the Bangkok Post’s education section www.bangkokpost.com/education.
The local government education system is going through a period of radical change and, although there are many success stories, there are few Thai schools that would come close to international schools in terms of suitability for expatriate children.
Universities mostly cater for the local population although a few of the bigger universities offer courses in English. My general impression is that they are not quite up to the standards of good British or American institutions but are certainly an option for students who want to study abroad.
Restaurants serving local and international cuisine from all corners of the planet can be found in our capital. And Bangkok certainly has the best nightlife, ranging from the modern hip dance clubs on Royal City Avenue to the famed dens of iniquity on Soi Nana or Soi Cowboy. Whatever rocks your boat, Thailand can certainly rock it!
If you want something more tranquil, visit the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Samet, Phuket or the land resort of Hua Hin. Jungle and countryside can be found in the beautiful Kao Yai national park (just a couple of hours drive from Bangkok) or the high mountains of the north around Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai.
If you want history, a must is a visit to Kanchanaburi – home to the fascinating “Death Railway” and the fabled Bridge Over the River Kwai.
Thailand welcomes people of all nationalities, religions and cultures as well as those from the LGBT community.
Health care: Good health care is readily available in Thailand. Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok provides world class private health care and there are many smaller international hospitals around areas populated by tourists.
It’s a good idea to take out health insurance if not provided by your company or if you are visiting.