What makes Thailand unique? In other words why is Thailand the Hail Mary pass of tourists and expat destinations?

My last post on Should Thailand be like US? along with the frequent power outages at work, Bangkok Reality Smackdown’s smackdowns, and my own mother telling me via Skype that โ€œthe party is going to have to end someday,โ€ (gee, thanks Ma) have started to roll into one thick-alicious condensed milk roti.

Why are we here? Why do we love Thailand? Why? Are we like crazy? Level with me Western World, is the East just a holiday playground?

Even though I was born and raised in Hawaii, I never did fit in there. I mean, I blended like a Where’s Waldo? picture, but I was never an Island Girl. I enjoyed the beach, but didn’t live for it. My friends were drama geeks and we ran around yelling and pretending to be creative and edgy. And I was teased for how I dressed and how I looked. Oh well.

But I didn’t change who I was. It’s strange how the idea of conforming never entered my mind. Somehow I knew this was my fate in life, and now I roll around in it like a dog enjoying a ripe and fine scent.

It didn’t help that my mom told my brother and I to never ever speak pidgin. Tourists feel like they have truly landed outside of the Continental US when they hear the locals speak. It is another language, especially after you throw in some Hawaiian words, you might as well be outside the 50th State of the Union.

I’ve shared why I moved with the frequency of a go-go dancer, and even why I expat. But why are you here? Is it really just as simple as affordable cost of living, great food and warm weather? What about the language barrier, the cultural forcefield and driving landmines? Women like me can’t even add pretty girls to the list because our catcher’s mitts plays with only bats and balls.

Is Thailand the โ€œlesser of two evilsโ€ then? “We have to live somewhere” kind of thing? When we are faced with two president elects we chose the one we hate less? This is hard to put into words, but shouldn’t we know why we are living somewhere? How can I explain to my mom that this is not a full moon party (never been) but an honest to-the-Dalai-and-his-Llama choice?

Am I karaoke crazy to live in the country, hell, the same province, that took my father’s life? And the place that ended my six year relationship with the man I once loved? Thailand is the mermaid that has wooed my men onto jagged rocks at the end of my ocean. And yet I motorbike around town and dive into Chiang Mai waters with the spirit and passion of a younger swimmer.

Faraway friends ask if I still like it here. Left handed or legitimate question to ask. If I was in a relationship, friends would probably ask about that too. I have to answer, yes, I do. I don’t fit in and I don’t speak Thai very well. I’m an unlikely Thai. Sometimes I melt into the Thai people landscape and I like that very much. Other times I am a frostbitten toe, sticking out as an English teacher – or as a not Asian enough, not Local enough, not brown enough minority.

I guess when I think about it, the reason why I like Thailand is it’s unfinished, rough, a little wild wild mess. The sheriff is corrupt, out of town, but not so bad that he doesn’t do his job occasionally. More importantly he leaves me alone. Politically I’ve disengaged with my passport country because they play the same game every four years, it’s a Groundhog’s Day comedy that has lost its humor. And like a dysfunctional relationship, I had to leave.

Foreigners complain about the lack of rules and regulations, but that is one of the reasons why I like it. Rules have a tendency to carry the unyielding terror of a yardstick in a Catholic school room. They also complain about the tourists in their-lack-of-respect-garbs and attitudes, but I don’t mind that either. This is what a childhood in Hawaii, America’s darling of tourists destinations, will do for you.

You get used to the matchy-matchy couples, in their side by side outfits. The people who like to wear the name of the last place they were at as tee shirts. The Teva sandals, the sunburn backs and peeling faces, the mosquito bitten legs, the sweaty pits, the crumbled maps. In Chiang Mai, it’s just more international and stronger smelling.

I laugh out loud when I can, but tourists provide much entertainment. I think it’s their way of giving back. And I’m not trying to be snarky here. I’m a tourist too, when I travel. I don’t know why, but I’ve been attracted to tourists towns. Maybe I am more Hawaii that I think.

13 replies on “Why Thailand

  1. “Women like me can't even add pretty girls to the list because our catcher's mitts plays with only bats and balls.” This is why we are friends in real life, too…You always give me a lot to think about, Lani. And, yeah, I need to take a step back and think about *why* I came here in the first place and the things that make this place special. There are a lot. Though not the roaches. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. 555 – I'm not sure why baseball is such a metaphor for these types of things :POh, and the roaches are “special” alright!


  3. “I guess when I think about it the reason why I like Thailand is it's unfinished, rough, a little wild wild mess.”Lani, you nailed it perfectly for me. I don't feel easy in my soul walking the manicured tidiness of Singapore, or the well-paved streets of the west… or or or… but you've already said it so well, I'll stop there.


  4. I fully agree with you all, perhaps that's the reason why I can stay here that long and still am not bored.“Order and neatness is a virtue of mediocrities” ~Marcello Mastroianni in Una giornata particolare (1977)


  5. Hi Lani, my reasons for staying in Thailand have changed over the years. When I came here I was so passionate about the place, but this has settled down to something a lot less intense. I spend so much time inside my own head that in some ways it doesn't matter where I live ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. @Paul: I hope you find that passion for Thailand again. I understand that it has changed but get outside your noggin and draw inspiration from your surroundings. Writer's orders :D@Dr. Will: I actually can't stand being illiterate and that is why I'm learning Thai!


  7. Another great read Lani…I came to Thailand to get away and blow off some steam…I moved to Thailand because of the incredible people, food, scenery and weather ( no snow shovels needed )


  8. Thailand is chaotic, unpredictable, mad and frustrating. I love it. When I think of Thailand, it's like the cigarette butt flicked into the face of a smoking bylaw officer back home. When I think of back home, it's the perfectly trimmed hedge in another nameless, charmless, cookie-cutter street in suburbia where regulations serve to bleach out the colour of life. Long live the edge! Stamp out uniformity.All the best Lani!


  9. @Talen: Thank you for supporting my awesomeness.@SiamRick: Love your “back home” metaphor ~ colorless indeed. One of the things I started to notice the more I traveled around the States.


  10. LOL. I've been in Thailand almost a decade. HATE it half the time, ADORE it the other but there's one thing for sure – it's never boring and no matter how much I bitch about it, you don't see me leaving any time soon :)And no, I'll never live in the USA again. That place never 'fit me'.


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