Thailand is like the American Wild West. This is my epiphany. Trying to explain why I like it here has been an exercise in watching, wondering and patience. Since I have spent many years contemplating the perfect place to live, I have discovered that the cost of living, the friendliness of the people, both the Thais and expats have made Chiang Mai a great place to be.

But, to be certain, Thailand has that Wild Wild West feeling which I have eluded to before. If I take this comparison ever further, I realize this is what I truly like about Thailand.

I grew up watching Spaghetti Westerns and my favorite books were the Sunfire series.  The main characters were girls in historical settings, like the American West. The girls always went through some adolescence to adulthood transformation and they always were spirited as good heroines should be.

Caroline cut her hair and pretended to be a boy so she could follow her brothers on the California Trail. Josie put her life in danger for the Pony Express, and Amanda went unwillingly on the Oregon Trail to emerge as a true pioneer.

Maybe that is why I spent 6 years in Colorado. I fell in love with the mountains on a family road trip when I was 13, and vowed to return for college. Folks thought I was brave to go to a school and a town, I never visited, but I did the research. It was a small school, in a small town, in the mountains, and Fort Lewis College had my major: archaeology. What else did I need to know?

Now, that same word – brave – is being uttered when friends learn I live in Thailand. I suppose it is a brave thing to leave home, to leave the territory you know, for the unknown. But just like those who went to the town of Independence to head West, there is this promise of a new beginning and adventure that I find irresistible.

Motorbikes are the horses and the primary mode of transportation. Your bonnet is your helmet. At least it’s mine, and I have to check to see there isn’t a bee in it before I put it on.

Businesses come and go. Businesses are mobile too. Prostitution and families live side by side, and bargaining is a way of life.  You can’t always find everything, like you did back home, so you have to do a little searching sometimes. And if that doesn’t work, then you learn to live without or get creative.

Tailoring and laundry services are abundant, but I’ve yet to find a place for a 5 cent bath. I suppose it is not something I’ve needed, yet. Friends and folks pass through at a train station rate.  And if you live in Chiang Mai, well, you know, it’s one dusty town.

I’ve watched the locals outrun the law and the law, for the most part, minds its own business. Canned beans are expensive so I buy them dry and soak them. It’s a bustling town though and experiencing a boon. I see new buildings going up and construction all around me. Books are heavily circulated and recycled among us expats, and hats with brims are a good idea for the strong Thailand sun.

It’s not for everyone. I suppose it depends how civilized you like it. I like it civilized enough. But I haven’t been here but 2 years. Perhaps if I can’t stake my claim then I’ll move on – again.


7 replies on “Thailand is the Wild Wild West.

  1. I am the “zero” American generation. I came to the US from Vietnam when I was in my twenty and now I'm in my 40's. I'm struggling to raise my daughter in a very mix culture family. I hope some day my daughter will understand what we have to give up and how much we have suffered trying to give her a good life. Thanks for your story. You've turned out pretty fine right.Tung


  2. Like you, I have been trying to understand and explain my attraction to this place after almost five years. I grew up on cowboy movies (always the guy in the white hat), so I think you're on to something important. For me, it's the element of surprise around every corner. Western-trained expectations don't work very often here. But thankfully there are not too many baddies in black hats.


  3. @Tung: I hope that much for your daughter and more. Thanks for reading :)@Dr. Will: There is definitely the element of surprise, and livestock and dogs that scavenge, around the corner! Cheers!


  4. Thailand being the Wild Wild West is so true. While nothing much works quite right, and road safety is a bit questionable, the lack of rule enforcement is in our favour often enough to make it one of the many perks.


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