My Daily Roadtrip

Archive for the tag “everyday life in Thailand”

When you’re not a tourist

I always find it slightly amusing when people seem to think that I live an exotic life full of weekly elephant rides, hanging out at the beach (the closest which is around a 10-hour drive away), and soaking up the tropical sun. Sorry to disappoint folks, but I live here. I’m not a tourist. Imagine your daily life. My life is probably fairly similar to yours in many ways; it’s just that I happen to be in Thailand. Granted, that in and of itself introduces some huge nuances to how I live life, but the point is that living somewhere is very different from being a tourist in that same place.

Sorry, but I don't live here ...

Sorry, but this is not the view* out my front window …

In that vein, I thought it would be fun to share ten things that set me apart from a tourist:

  1. I do not walk around wearing a large backpack on my back … or my front (seen a lot).
  2. My “to-do” list for the week does not (usually) include visiting Doi Suthep, the Elephant Conservatory, exploring the Old City, or taking a Thai cooking class.
  3. I do not have a return ticket to the country I came from. That is no small thing. It is much easier to say, “Well, I can deal with anything for 5 weeks,” than to deal with difficulties due to the move that will last an undetermined amount of time.
  4. I am not only in Thailand between the months of October and January (cool season).
  5. I do not walk around the streets of Chiang Mai with an opened Lonely Planet: Thailand book.
  6. I know how to say more than “sawatdee kah” (hello – feminine) and “khap khun kah” (thank you – feminine). Not much more, mind you; I speak Thai at around a 2 year-old level (if that), but I do know a few additional phrases and words.
  7. I do not ride around in a tuk tuk with my feet propped up in the air. To put it simply, “feet are regarded as unclean and symbolically (as well as physically) the lowest part of the body” (source) in Thailand. The “raised foot in the tuk tuk”maneuver is a cultural faux pas and I (now) realize that.
  8. I am not amazed on a daily basis at how cheap everything here seems. Granted, the cost of living here is lower than in America and I am not complaining about that one bit. However, I realize that some things (ie. a car/truck) can actually be more expensive than in my home country. I also have come to expect lower prices for many things and balk at times when certain things here have American price tags.
  9. I know that Thailand is more than simply “The Land of Smiles.” Like any culture, it has its dark areas, ways of doing things that can drive one mad, and is not all that it may initially seem.
  10. Although Chiang Mai has been ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, our family leaves Chiang Mai to vacation.

No, I don’t think I’m better than the tourists who come through Chiang Mai. However, I am different. And now my perspective has been forever been changed about living in other countries … if Shun-Luoi and I ever talk about different places we’d like to visit and they seem so romantic and perfect, I now think, “Yeah, but what would it be like to live there?” Chances are, everyday life wouldn’t be as romantic and perfect as you imagine it would be.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble about living overseas or about our life here. I do hope that we get to ride elephants sooner than later and we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a beach trip. I am acutely aware that these (among many other experiences) are amazing opportunities that most will never have and I’m really grateful for even the prospect of experiencing them. But for now, I’ll head back to my grocery shopping and laundry-folding.

Because I live here.


* photo credit: mrkt (


The things I’m getting used to (or not) here

In order to share some of the nuances of everyday life here in Thailand, I thought I’d write about things in terms of how comfortable  (or not) I have become with them or how I have (or haven’t) gotten used to each thing. For the sake of brevity, I won’t be expounding much on each one, but feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comment section and I’ll tell you more …

So far in Thailand,

I have gotten used to the sinks in my house having two options – off and on. (Well, to be honest, I can have more or less pressure if I want, but there are no hot vs. cold water options.)

I have grown comfortable with the navigation of the local hospital in order to check in, be seen by a doctor in the emergency room, and pay my bill. This one is compliments of my son, who recently had a run-in with one of our sinks falling off the wall, shattering, and cutting one of his legs fairly badly. After seven visits to the ER for stitches, bandage changes, and check-ups, I’m quite comfortable with the process.

I have not gotten used to seeing older, white, western men out and about with their young Thai girlfriends.

I have gotten used to seeing stray dogs running around just about anywhere and everywhere. I have not yet gotten used to said dogs barking, yipping, and sometimes riling up our entire neighborhood of pet dogs (who are enclosed within their gates). To be honest, it is one of my least favorite parts of living here.

I am getting used to how many of the smaller stores, restaurants, and coffee shops here are open … well, just when they are. A daily schedule of when they are or aren’t open? Not so much. In addition, these stores will often be there one day and gone the next with no explanation.

I have not gotten used to how, once you make friends here, they will care for you like family even if you’ve only know each other for 4 or less months. However, I absolutely love it! It really is unique and I am learning a lot because of it.

I am not always comfortable with the amount of attention (and sometimes touching) my children often attract when we are out.

These 2 cuties get A LOT of attention when in public!

These 2 cuties get A LOT of attention when in public!

I have gotten used to paying certain prices for particular foods, coffee, and the like, and now am slightly indignant when I have to pay $2 USD for an iced latte rather than $1 USD. I know, I know, I’m going to experience “sticker shock” big-time when I return to the States for the first time!

I have gotten quite comfortable driving on the left side of the road, although I often still head to the wrong side (left side) of our truck to get in when I drive (the steering wheel is located on the right side here), and sometimes still turn on the windshield wipers when I mean to flip the turn signal (reversed from how they are in American vehicles).

I have not yet gotten used to those times when we are the only white people amidst a sea of Thai, such as when at the market, at the park when the Thai are out exercising, or at the local hospital. I’m ok with that – I think everyone should at times be forced to be in places where they are somehow the minority, as it challenges the way you think and look at things and people.

I have grown comfortable with the fact that small geckos live in my walls and ceiling and run wherever they please whenever they please. I have not grown comfortable with how these geckos also poop wherever they please. Nasty!

leaving our shoes outside the room we went to a meeting in

leaving our shoes outside a meeting room

I have gotten used to having to take off my shoes at the door of some businesses, gatherings, etc.

I am growing more comfortable having to use squatty potties at times when in public bathrooms. I am still getting used to the fact that these public bathrooms often do not have toilet paper, soap, or paper towel available in them.

I am not used to, and am in fact uncomfortable with, the fact that the majority of public advertising in Chiang Mai uses only white models or light-skinned Asian models. (In America, darker skin is often considered more “beautiful.” Here in Thailand, however, lighter skin is considered to be more “beautiful.”)

I am getting a bit more used to there being a different set of “rules of the road” to which people abide to here. I am still getting used to the graciousness of Thai drivers (Road rage? The only time I really experience that is when I ride with westerners!), but being a new driver here, I am grateful for it!

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, folks! Maybe I’ll share more in a “part 2” post at some point in the future. Until then, you’ve gotten an idea of some of the things we encounter in daily life here and how comfortable (or not) I’ve grown with them.

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