– Living in Thailand: Part 1
As Chris’s posting in India drew to an end, a stint back in London beckoned. So we came up with Plan B – taking a career break and living in Thailand for a few years.
We’d holidayed in Thailand for years – attracted by the warmth of the climate and the welcome, and the Thais’ tolerant, helpful and above all easygoing attitude to their farang (Western) guests. Would living there be the same?
First, where to live? We settled on a seaside town two hours from Bangkok and just a short distance from Pattaya on Thailand’s eastern coast. Pattaya itself is a trap for sex tourists, with a notorious go-go bar scene. But living in our chosen destination, with its large population of retired expats, would give us access to Pattaya’s abundance of modern shops and restaurants while keeping the sleaze at arm’s length.
Thai property laws are complex and very strict; it’s almost impossible for a foreigner to own land legally. Foreigners can buy condominiums, but build quality varies hugely and the close proximity to potentially noisy neighbours put us off. So we decided to rent, at least until we found our feet.
With much of Pattaya resembling a construction site, there were plenty of properties available, and the estate agents’ offerings seemed overpriced. We viewed some houses advertised privately in Pattaya’s three English-language newspapers, but most were dark and cluttered with built-in furniture.
But before long we found a light, spacious house on a quiet compound by Crescent Moon Beach. This secluded beach is dominated by the Sanctuary of Truth, an immense wooden temple-like building on a cape at the north end of Pattaya Bay. The compound staff were friendly, very helpful, and used to dealing with expats – many of the residents were teachers at local international schools. And compound life would give us the advantages of 24-hour security (burglaries are common in unguarded houses) and straightforward bottled gas and water delivery.
We didn’t need to buy a car, since plenty of “baht buses” (converted pick-up trucks with two benches and a roof) ply the main road to Pattaya. Living ten minutes’ walk off the route wasn’t a problem. If anything, it made it easier for us to be quickly welcomed into the friendly, village-like community along our soi (side road).