My mother Marina Alidou spent the last 5 years in Bangkok out of 15 years following my father her husband who has been posted in several countries in Asia. She shares her experiences as an expat’s wife and tells us about the things he has enjoyed in Bangkok. “Mid 2018 meant that our posting in Bangkok has come to an end. Five years in this crazy and astonishing city, of cultural and travel discoveries and work.”
Was it hard to settle down?
Bangkok is a huge city, and you have plenty of choice for accommodation. Our first decision was a house over a condo: not an easy choice, as a condo has nice extras such as a gym, swimming pool and cleaning. To swim after a working day in this humid and hot tropical climate is a pleasure.
We chose a townhouse located two minutes walk from Thong Lor BTS with a wild garden and colourful neighbours. Vivid Soi 38, famous for its street food (which has now changed due to yet another condominium construction project). We tried to find a house through the estate agencies, but finally found it walking around one day in the area and looking for signs “to rent”. Two years later, with our son going to the Lycée Francais, we decided to move again closer to our son’s school in an different part of the city, Lat Phrao area. Our Mooban (village) has a swimming pool, green alleys and is located in a pleasant neighbourhood. I was lucky to find a suitable job almost immediately with a French Insurance Company. However, the paperwork to get my work permit for the company took more than a month. I have read recently that Thailand shares with India the highest rank of unemployment among spouses of French expatriates. In total I worked 4 years with my colleagues, both French and Thai.
What surprised you in the first months of your arrival?
The first days I had to get accustomed to the taxi’s different bright colours – pink, orange, green and blue. Then, never closing 7/11 shops. Where can you buy milk, bread or a sandwich in the middle of the night in France. And probably the most important asset is friendly smiling people who are rarely angry.
What did you like the most?
Thailand is a very safe country. Along with Singapore, Thailand is ranked as the least dangerous country in the SE Asia. You feel good just walking, the crowd is friendly and relaxed. People are polite and positive. There are still scams, like in any big city. Taxi’s with no meters or the tuk-tuk challenge to make the longest path to get to your final destination. Scams happen everywhere but if you’re vigilant you would be OK.
What was your favourite place?
Sukhumvit, of course – all the way from the Gateway to Siam Discovery! When the weather is clement, don’t use a taxi or the BTS, just walk.
What was your daily routine?
Either I work in my office in Chidlom or from my house. To come to the office I decided not to use a taxi but to break my sedentary way of life. I walked for about 45 from my house to the Klong Boat Station – then half an hour ride to Chidlom by river shuttle. The khlong (canal) is picturesque. However, if you use a boat be careful don’t let the water get in your eyes. It is very dirty. All in all it took me almost one and a half hours in the morning, but 2 hours to “klap baan” (back home) in the evening as a queue waiting for a boat was often long. If I worked from my house, I finished at 17.30 and was as free as a bird. I swim with my son in our communal swimming pool surrounded by palm trees.
What was your biggest challenge?
Traffic is really annoying in BKK. Especially on Friday evening, 2 hours to the city centre from our place though after midnight 15 minutes. I hear that it would be improved in the coming years (how?) with a new road system, pity I won’t get to see it.
What would you recommend to a newcomer?
Basic Thai is not that difficult to learn. In 30 lessons I was able to communicate on a basic level (order food, giving my address to the driver). Thais really appreciate it. Unfortunately, it never went further as I started to work full time. The Thai alphabet has a biggest number of letters of all languages, and I have never learned how to read, for my utmost shame So, if you are braver than me, you will learn those 81 letters!
What is next?
Now we have moved to Prague – very bohemian. I plan to learn Czech first, then find a job but just part time so I can spend more time with my growing son. The thought of not using the AC at home everyday warms my heart. Thai experience was great but now it’s time to say farewell to tropics. Back to Europe, to meet real seasons, fall’s cold rains and winter’s snow. Sure, we will miss Thailand’s sun, its beaches and palm trees, street food but most of all, Thais – friendly smiling people…