We’ve been staying the last 12 days on Bang Por Beach on the north shore of the Thai island of Koh Samui. Look it up on Google Maps, if you want. It’s a nice, peaceful, and gentle beach devoid of the kind of surf we’ve relished in the Bahamas before, with coarse pinkish sand and turquoise tinted water. The water is so calm, it’s like a swimming pool tucked into one corner of the Gulf of Thailand.
From the peacefulness of our beach blankets, it’s wildly easy to observe the tides here: as the moon arcs overhead, tides go out and water flows west. The moon circumnavigates the earth, much as we are–illuminating the night sky for our friends and family back home–and the waters follow it, flowing back east to greet it the next day.
Man, that’s poetic, ain’t it? Platitudes (travel platitudes, actually, which I hereby declare to be called travitudes) aside, we didn’t fall in love with Thailand like so many others love to blog on and on about. We can, however, readily say we really, really liked Thailand. We reserve the term “love” for a few other special places on God’s green (and turquoise) earth. But still, Thailand is a place we will gladly return to.
Consider this: we have regularly enjoyed full-service restaurant meals for $15. This would include drinks (usually multiples, given our current appetite for adult beverages), sometimes an appetizer, plenty of food for both of us, and sometimes a dessert. I say this, of course, at the risk of sounding like a cheap bastard, but I have reached an age where I will readily admit that I am, indeed, a cheap bastard. Being a cheap bastard is, in fact, an integral part of our full time travel strategy.
And if $15 meals doesn’t tickle your frugal culinary fancy, we’ve done even cheaper at markets eating street food. Just last Friday we had multiple beers (don’t judge us, it’s hot here), meats on sticks, grilled corn on the cob, and sticky rice with fresh mango. We came up with about $11 in our heads, give or take a dollar given our ability to divide currency rates at that moment (which admittedly wasn’t great, also given our current appetite for adult beverages).
Some of you, I’m sure, are pointing at your phones or computers saying, “Aha! See! What were you really eating when you ate ‘meat’ on a stick, hmmm?” While we assume that we’ve eaten the likes of chicken, pork, and sausages of the pork-chicken ilk, honestly I’ve said, “Just eat it,” more the past few weeks than I’ve probably said cumulatively in my life. And I’ve not regretted it with a single morsel. Thai cuisine might just be the best in the world, like a wonderful blend of Chinese, Cajun, and seafood that was plunked down in this wonderful little country by angels.
Now, we’ve only been three places in Thailand: Chiangmai (also written Chiang Mai), Bangkok, and Koh Samui. That itinerary, representing about 3 weeks total, was carefully evaluated and selected by the availability of cheap airfare. Not really: there is no truly cheap airfare, in fact, that involves any of the island destinations of Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi (which, by the way, is pronounced “Ko-PEE-Pee”, and is an island that we will one day visit for a number of rather juvenile reasons), Phuket (don’t get me started), and Krabi. For the benefit of the search engines, these are our Top 4 Island Destinations Of Thailand!!.
We went to Chiangmai primarily to visit the Elephant Nature Preserve. We went to Bangkok because of the flight connections and to see the famed reclining Buddha. And we came to Koh Samui for the beaches and because it fit pretty decently into our schedule. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment, but despite what other travel bloggers will claim after a week or so “in country”, this still doesn’t make us experts on Thailand.
We are, in this regard, “anti-travel bloggers”. We won’t espouse how great everywhere we go is and that you haven’t truly lived unless you’ve gone where we’ve gone. Truth is, if you’re American or Western European and you’re looking for great beaches upon which to vacation–even at cheap bastard prices–it’s a whole helluva lot more convenient to go to the Caribbean than to fly halfway around the world to get here. But if you plan to stay a bit longer, say a few years, or even until you kick the travel bucket, well then Thailand might should be on your radar (note: “might should be” is Southernese for “maybe it should be”). Modern day Siam is, to put a fine point on it, a great place to expat: beautiful, full of great and friendly people, chock full of delicious food, and all for pittance compared to what us westerners are accustomed to paying. It is all this, I should add, at the moment: with all the expat and travel attention focused here, that might not be the case much longer.
We’ve seen more expats here than anywhere else we’ve traveled. There was the French man in the nearby beach villa, a restaurateur in Nice in his prior life, and his Thai girlfriend. The German couple who adopt and care for the dogs on the beach. And the furtive, white-bearded American men with young Thai wives or girlfriends. Seemingly there is enough of the latter to populate a small island nation, to which I will only say, “Whatever floats your squidboat.”
An ACTUAL squidboat. Yes, it’s a “real thing”.
So, I guess Thailand, with its warm weather and beaches, is a fine place to visit if you’re already on this side of the planet, and a great place to settle down if the expat life is your idea of retiring. That makes it a lot like Florida, just with fewer people who forget to turn their signals off and a lot more Asian people who really know how to cook.