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Expat Kids & Parenting in Bangkok

Being a kid or raising one overseas…now these are challenges. If you talk to adults or even teenagers who have grown up in foreign countries, most will relish telling you how much they enjoyed the experience. What’s more, most can’t wait to move to another country and do it again.

As ‘third culture people,’ they may not know the names of ordinary birds or flowers in their home countries, the rules of American football, or for that matter, have a clear understanding of their own national history, but plenty of their home-grown peers don’t either.

So what makes this experience so different? ‘Third culture’ is a term used to describe the process of becoming international in perspective identity, and experience. It’s far more than carrying a passport or knowing how to count or say ‘cheers’ in numerous languages. ‘Third culture’ means viewing the world, and your place within it, as a vibrant and continuous adventure involving exploration, assimilation, and change.

This is what makes growing up in a foreign country so special and why it’s something they want to repeat.

Most TCK’s (‘third culture kids’) will talk about the opportunities they had: the adventure, the people they met, and the friends they now have all over the world. If you probe deeper, they’ll also tell you it was exciting and growth-inducing due to having to cope with the small things like riding public transportation, the unknowns of operating in a language they don’t fully comprehend, and the intercultural challenges of making friends with people different from themselves. All that has made them feel confident, more mature in many ways from their ‘domestic’ peers.

In order to better grasp the implications of this for your children, we should begin with some reflections on why you took the kids overseas to begin with. Typical responses-beyond the issue of their dad’s (or mum’s ) cancer opportunity-are generally along the lines of broadening their horizons exposing them to differences, new people, and ideas. Simultaneous with these noble and quite achievable goals are the less loudly voiced concerns about the academic standard of the new school, the kids’ ability to make friends and fit in, drugs, violence, illness, family time, and household chores and responsibilities. And if you ask kids prior to departure, you’ll find their primary concern – and most frequent objection to going-is about leaving their friends behind, making new ones in a new school environment, and what their new home will be like. “Will I get my own room?” “Can I take my favourite…?”

So lets begin with the friends issue, Kids are moving all over the world all the time, and everywhere they go they find peers, In Thailand, expatriate schools report about a thirty percent turnover each year, and while this may seem higher than in typical small town or sprawling suburban high school back home, in fact in means that making friends is actually easier. Every kid in the new school has been a new kid, and are, by necessity, more open to differences. While tight peer groups do exist, they are more fluid, with ample room for newcomers. Relax, your kids will make friends.

Dealing with Diarrhoea in Bangkok

No matter what country they find themselves in, expats have some code name for this temporarily disabling condition. Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico or Delhi Belly in India. It became Bangkok Belly and the Thailand Trots here. Travellers often encounter brief bouts of diarrhoea that cause them to miss trains and planes and to stay close to toilets rather than be able to tour around sightseeing.

Many people avoid street vendors’ offerings, but it is just as easy to pick up diarrhoea-causing type bugs from meals served in a swank restaurant or one you dish up yourself from buffet selections. It’s generally a matter of normal cleanliness and thorough cooking, but bad weather is more apt to upset your system, and there’s not much you can do to avoid impure water.

Even in first-class hotel’s, the help may refill their ‘pure’ water jugs from a tap. Bottles of so-called treated and filtered water may well become contaminated at any time during the production process, or in your table glass.

Polaris brand or other locally bottled waters are usually recommended. There are also imported brands. Frankly, I have drunk the tap water in Bangkok for more than thirty years. But when newcomers here that, they often stare at me as if I might be the walking dead. The thing I object to in the water from the tap is the strong chlorine taste, and that if you let it sit for some time in a glass or look at the filter, you’ll see it has a lot of sediment. Then, too, there is the high lead content from the old piping systems, Maybe I’ve developed a cast-iron digestive system from all of that.

It is the same with ice. You may take all the precautions with your drinking water, but after the ice you put in mets, you may easily discern dust and dirt particles. To be on the safe side, boil your drinking water – for ten minutes at boiling point – and filter it. The one gets most of the bugs; the other removes most of the particulates.

Then use your boiled and filtered water to make your own ice cubes. One reassuring thing to remember is that the longer you live here, the more immunity your body builds to the local germs and bugs. So don’t despair and become fearful of everything about to pass your lips.

Some sufferers of loose, watery stools misunderstand their diarrhoea and call it dysentery, which is a more serious condition involving discharges of mucus and blood, as well. One source of these problems lies in eating seafood, particularly raw seafood, which can lead to days of retching and hours on the toilet. While you’re in Thailand, avoid raw meat and seafood dishes. Most expats from somewhere other than Asia, Africa, and Latin America may have little immunity to these bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and can find themselves hospitalized with saline drips in their arms.

Bangkok Housing – House or Condo / Apartment ?

The kind of housing you’re looking for is the first decision to make when moving to Bangkok. If you ask about, you’ll find expats in Bangkok can be split on the choice. Sure, it’s fun to write home about the topical paradise your home is, but wait until you hear for yourself how loudly the termites are eating into the wall between the downstairs bathroom and the living room.

The water cocks may drip, drip all night, but in the daytime produce only sad sighs when you turn them on for your shower.

Will earth-fill trucks churn your lane into impassable mud, or will buses passing behind your bedroom produce explosive backfires and plaintive squeals that leave you sleepless? Which of your neighbours keeps dogs, or do they just gather at your gate for their bark and howl fests ?

Does another neighbour have a pet gibbon chained up outside so you can get its amusing whoops at the crack of dawn? Or is there a love-staved kawoo bird that starts up with alarming shrieks of ‘ka-wao, ka-waaaao!’ at any time from 10:00 at night until 6:00 the next morning. If you need an example of untiring animal persistence, these are two.

Parks of Bangkok are sinking. Who takes care of the pipes connecting your house to the street mains as they snap from subsidence? Be sure that you and your landlord agree on maintenance responsibilities. Some landlords do not raise the rent for tenants who do some of their own upkeep of the property. House rents may be cheaper than apartments for this reason. However, suitable houses may also be more different to find than apartments.

If you do find an attractive house with its fully grown garden, and you don’t mind hiring staff that includes a gardener. You may find this meets you admirably. There is a place for the children to play that is – except for the occasional snakes – safer than the street. Your pet dog can romp happily. You can host a large dinner party – having sprayed for mosquitos beforehand – and live like a tropical lord and lady.

An apartment in Bangkok, even with its higher rents, loss of privacy, and lack of a play space, may have a swimming pool. You won’t have to hire your own gardener and guard and pay for the major repairs.

Bangkok Medical Tourism, Why Bangkok ?

Bangkok has been well-known to have an excellent set of healthcare providers with world-class hospitals, US and European trained physicians, and nursing professionals who are the envy of international healthcare providers.

Having certain medical procedures performed in Bangkok can save you 60-80% – after factoring in travel and lodging expenses!

With any medical procedure safety and quality should both weigh heavier than cost. Before deciding to have any surgery, do your research.

Our website provides a comprehensive starting point, but can not answer all the answers unique to each prospective patient’s situation.

For each procedure you will need to weigh benefits versus risks.

You will need to research both the physician and clinic/hospital before making a final decision.

For the provider, make sure they are board certified in their specialty in the country in which you are having the procedure performed.

Keep in mind that some country’s certification laws may be less stringent than those in the United States or Europe and you may want a surgeon with a western or international certification.

Ideally would want to find a surgeon who certified in the United States using the American Board of Medical Specialties website.

A great resource for patients seeking cosmetic procedures abroad is the International Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery their website can provide information on internationally certified surgeons and other useful information.

Lastly, ask to speak with former patients, ask to speak to several people having undergone the same procedure, with the same physician at the same clinic or hospital.

Why seek medical care abroad in Bangkok?
The reasons why people travel to Bangkok for medical care is as diverse as the people themselves. However, there are three reasons that seem to come up more frequently than others:

(1) Great quality medical care in may be accessible at a substantially lower cost outside of ones country of residence. The cost of many types of medical care has skyrocketed in some areas of the world, in particular in the United States and in some countries in Europe. Residents of these countries can potentially pay 50-90% less for the same procedures or treatments in Bangkok. Best of all, the care available in these hospitals can be comparable or even better than the care available at hospitals and clinics in the United States and Europe. All this while travel has gotten cheaper and faster.

(2) As with any other product or service there are hospitals and doctors that have a reputation for being in a class by themselves. This has for a long time led people to travel, sometimes very long distances, to seek out the best of the best to treat anything from a life threatening condition to have minor cosmetic procedures performed.

(3) The advance of technology continuously leads to the discovery of new or improved methods for treating disease or performing medical procedures. For reasons ranging from a new treatment option not yet having gained government approval to the availability of resources such as specialists and equipment people sometimes miss out on treatment options that could have offered them a better outcome if not looking outside of ones local hospital.

A broad spectrum of people choose to receive medical care abroad. The procedures chosen obviously vary.

For segments of the population with comprehensive medical insurance cosmetic procedures are often chosen, both because these procedures are not covered by insurance and because a short vacation in conjunction with these types of procedures allow for some necessary recovery time before returning to normal life. Most common places for these procedures: Asia, Eastern Europe and Spain. Also, laser eye surgery (Canada) and dental work (Eastern Europe), both not covered by insurance are popular reasons for this segment to go abroad.
For people without health insurance there are significant amounts of money to be saved on virtually any procedure.

For both segments, access to procedures and treatments not accessible, or widely accessible, in their home country can be a motivating factor for going abroad for treatment. E.g. treatment options desperately needed by patients in the United States are delayed because many medical equipment and drug manufacturers bring state of the art technology to Europe years before introducing it in the U.S. because of the, sometime, excessive bureaucracy with bringing medical technology to market here.

For quite a number of years, Thailand’s major private hospitals have led the creation of a new tourism segment, that has taken off and is now bringing big rewards: medical tourism.

Hospitals such as the Bangkok Hospital and Bumrungrad Hospital have led the way, drawing wealthy clients from the Middle East, Japan and the United States seeking a high standard of care at affordable prices.

Now, marketing systems are in place to bring such clients to Bangkok and Pattaya as well. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and individual tour operators have taken the lead to develop this important segment.

For example, tour operators in the State of Qatar see positive signs in Thailand’s medical tourism industry, thanks to competitive prices and the international standards of many medical facilities. Overall, Qatari tourist numbers have increased 58% in the 2007-2010 period alone—and many of those visitors are seeking medical care.

Farooq Siddiqui, manager of Regency Travel & Tours in Qatar, said the medical tourism industry in Thailand has much room to grow with Middle Eastern patients.

“Medical treatment in Thailand costs about 50% less than in Europe,” Mr Siddiqui said. Current numbers show about a third of Qataris looking for medical care abroad are coming to Thailand, with the rest going to Germany, the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Siddiqui added that rich Qataris like to have a medical check-up in Bangkok and stay at the JW Marriott Hotel, which offers a special rate for medical tourism clients. For its part, Bumrungrad International Hospital, also in Bangkok, reported 125,000 Arab patients last year alone.

Ritz-Carlton residences Bangkok at the multi-use mahanakhon development

First It was MahaNakhon’s iconic architectural design with its distinctive sculptural appearance that stole the show, carefully carved to introduce a three dimensional ribbon of architectural ‘pixels’ that circle the tower’s 77 storeys. Then, earlier this year, the 200-million baht RitzCarlton Residences Bangkok Sales Gallery was launched at MahaNakhon Pavilion, complete with three show units decked out in a way Bangkok has never seen before. It’s a collaboration with award-winning interior architecture practice David Collins.

Studio, creative force behind some of London and New York’s most opulent and highly acclaimed commercial interiors. Collins’ interiors simultaneously combine classic British elegance with contemporary Hollywood glamour, and his company counts Madonna among its VVIP residential clients.

In an exclusive interview with 2magazine he shared some insight about his first major project involvement in Asia…

“We were approached by PACE Development to work with them to develop show apartments that would be unique for the Southeast Asian market,” David says.

“They wanted to incorporate the materials and craftsmanship which attracts so many Western buyers to the East, together with the colors and luxury of Western influences. Therefore it was a brief that appealed to us, because we are great admirers of the aesthetic of Asia and Thailand in particular.”

According to David they met and worked with a number of companies within the industry in Thailand, and whilst establishing a relationship found out exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of the various companies were, regarding the production and procurement of design elements.

There were at any one time between 12 and 15 people (from David Collins Studio) working on the project, and it took almost a year to resolve the brief. “As well as the specifics of the brief, the market had also changed, and we feel it was really quite a quick turnaround.”

David said he was most impressed with the craftsmanship and manufacturing capabilities in Thailand. “We worked with overseas companies on a lot of the marble, stone and joinery work, but we made much of the metalwork and the fine furniture in Thailand.”

For him the unique aesthetic of the project is the number of cultural influences that have been diffused to create a contemporary but luxurious environment. “The Ritz-Carlton brand speaks about luxury, service and indulgence, and at the same time a very contemporary building means something that is very pared down and simplistic on the interior. It was our vision to update both of these concepts, and to focus on finishes that would engage prospective buyers,” he says.

Buyers will have the option to order bespoke pieces of furniture directly from David Collins Studio, and many of these pieces will be numbered and signed; limited edition pieces designed specifically for this project that will be manufactured in Thailand.

The concept and interior architecture evolve around a spectacular circular reception hall, covered in hand-dyed shagreen (stingray), which flows effortlessly to link the private and entertainment spaces within the residence. A subtle combination of spatial optimization, minimalism and understated luxury make for a look-and-feel that’s
unmistakably plush and inviting.

Overall, David is thrilled with the results. “All projects are challenging, both from a creative and logistical point of view, but we had great support from the client and our collaborators in Thailand.

I think the outcome reflects this spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm.”

The 194 units of Ritz-Carlton Residences Bangkok will start on the 24th floor of MahaNakhon tower, up to the penthouse Sky Apartments on the 73rd floor. Sizes range from 120 to 185 square meters (two to five bedrooms), with selling prices between 25 and 250 million baht per residence. Each will feature impressive hi-tech fittings and features, ceilings will be up to 3.5 meters high, while expansive panoramic views promise to be a real show-stopper through floor-to-ceiling glass window walls. Among the world-class services and amenities available to residents
will be a Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge on the 53rd floor with private dining rooms, a library and meeting rooms, as well as an outdoor lap pool alongside a landscaped sundeck, extensive fitness facilities, and a Media Lounge for private film screenings.

The Sales Gallery at MahaNakhon showcases two- and three-bedroom units designed over three floors to accurately
reflect the scale and revolutionary architectural features of the actual residences. On the ground floor is also a Public Gallery that will be used for frequently rotating exhibitions, as well as a Dean & DeLuca Café.

At 314 meters high the 18-billion baht MahaNakhon project – adjacent to Chongnonsi Skytrain station in the prime Sathorn area – will be Bangkok’s tallest building on completion in 2013. It will also comprise The Bangkok Edition (a signature boutique hotel conceived by famed hotelier Ian Schrager), MahaNakhon Square (an outdoor landscaped public plaza), a 10,000- square-meter upscale retail center called MahaNakhon Terraces, and a multi-level rooftop Sky Bar and restaurant.

Expat Healthcare in Thailand

Healthcare in Thailand means some of the most modern and affordable healthcare in the world. This is why the country promotes medical tourism, offering the opportunity to get treatment for an ailment and recover where the climate is warm year round. For the expatriate living and working in Thailand, medical tourism is not the focus however getting the best care at a reasonable price is.

Healthcare a Priority for the Expat
It is easy for a healthy expat to ignore the importance of getting all of the facts when it comes to expat healthcare in Thailand. Why? It is mostly because living in the Land of Smiles is so enjoyable that a normally healthy person never thinks about getting injured or sick. However, the expat needs to make it a priority to get healthcare covered because anything could happen after living here for an extended period.

There are common injuries and ailments in this land. The most common is probably falling off of the back of a motorbike taxi. Many expats avoid the motorbike taxis when first arriving in Thailand but the convenience of this mode of transportation is alluring and most end up depending on these two-wheeled modern day horses.

Another ailment that typically victimizes those who first come to Thailand is food poisoning. Even those who have lived in Thailand for some time can fall victim to the occasional bout of diarrhea, fever, and chills after eating food that may have a touch of the wrong bacteria. The risk of minor food poisoning is always here because of the hot, humid weather and sometimes food is on display without proper refrigeration.

These are just a couple of examples of special risks to one’s health in Thailand. Also consider that you may be a retiree here and naturally you will need more treatment as you age.

Hospital Choices for Expats
You basically have two general choices when it comes to hospitals providing Expat healthcare in Thailand: an international hospital or Thai hospital. The most prominent international hospital in the country is in Bangkok, Bumrungrad. It is also the most expensive however more affordable than hospitals in other parts of the world such as the U.S. and U.K. The staff speaks English and there are translators for Japanese, Arabic, and other languages.

Beyond Bumrungrad is a multitude of private Thai and government hospitals for you to choose from. Most expats go with the private Thai hospitals however English-speaking staff members are not as common in them. This is where the expat does well to learn Thai language while living here. However, you will find the care to be at the same high standard yet much more affordable than an international hospital. A couple of good private hospitals for expatriates in Bangkok are Theptarin and Bangkok Hospital and there are many others.

Private Clinics
You can also find private clinics on the street in just about any town in Thailand. These are clinics to handle simple ailments such as colds and minor injuries. Some hospitals such as Bangkok Hospital have outpatient clinics within expatriate communities such as the one at the Bangkok Gardens Apartments near Soi Narathiwas 24 and Rama III Avenue in Bangkok.

Preventative Healthcare
Another attractive perk of Expat healthcare in Thailand is that you can get a complete physical at a fraction of the cost that you would incur in your home country. For example, the international hospital, Bumrungrad, offers a full health check priced at 7,000 THB and 8,300 THB for males and females respectively. This equates to around £142 / £170 and $227 / $270 in U.K. and U.S. prices which would be unheard of in those parts of the world. Bumrungrad also offers different health check packages at different pricing tiers but all are reasonable.

What is convenient about healthcare in Thailand for expats is that if you have a minor ailment, you can actually get the pharmacist at a local drug store to recommend and sell you a medication without seeing a doctor first. One common medication that is bought in Thailand without a prescription is the antibiotic. Likewise, if there are certain medications that you take regularly (such as asthma inhalers) then you can probably get them refilled by only going to the pharmacist in Thailand. You will also find that many of the pharmacists speak English.

There are also companies that offer healthcare insurance for expats. Some expat employers even offer healthcare as one of the perks of working for them. However, most minor care is affordable even without insurance which will give you the opportunity to shop around for major medical insurance coverage to supplement your healthcare costs in Thailand.

Find out more about Thailand Health Insurance and request a quote:

Getting a Driver’s License in Thailand for Expats

Although you can technically drive in Thailand on an international driver’s license, there are some reasons why you should be getting a driver’s license in Thailand. International driver’s licenses are intended for temporary use–when you are visiting somewhere. If you are an expat living in Thailand for more than a few months, you need a Thai driver’s license because insurance companies require it. Additionally, when you have a Thai license, you can show it at any of the national parks and tourist attractions and avoid paying the tourist prices. You can do the same with a Thai work permit but if you are living here on a retirement visa, you will not have one of those. The final reason is because if you get stopped by a police officer there is a chance that he will not accept your international driver’s license. Here is the basic procedure you will go through when obtaining your driver’s license in Thailand.

Proof of Address
The first document you will need when getting a driver’s license in Thailand is a letter from either your embassy or Thai immigration that states your address in country. Going to Thai immigration to get this letter is probably the easiest route. The immigration officer will give you a form to fill out, charge about 200 THB, and then send the letter to you in the mail. Some sources say that an immigration officer will come to visit you at your residence but this rarely happens in busy places like Bangkok. Make sure you make a copy of the picture page on your passport and your current visa page for the immigration officer.

Medical Certification
Another document needed will be the medical check. You only have to visit any hospital or street clinic and the staff there will know what to do. The check only involves making a determination if you are reasonably healthy and of sound mind. The cost for this check varies however it is minimal.

Other Forms
Make sure that you take your international driver’s license or license from your home country before getting a driver’s license in Thailand. If you have this, and it’s valid, you will not have to take a written or driving test. The other forms necessary include copies of your passport picture page, TM card that was stamped when you entered the country, and current visa. Keep in mind that you need a non-immigrant class visa in order to get a license. Make sure that you take your passport as well.

Going to the Department of Land Transport
This is the agency that you will see when getting a driver’s license in Thailand. It would be a good idea to take someone with you who can speak, read, and write Thai however this is not an absolute necessity. You will hand over all of your documentation at the front desk and then be directed to another station where they have you fill out another form. It is best to get to the department early because the line gets quite long. In Bangkok, the Department of Land Transport office located across from Sukumvit 62 opens at 8:00 A.M. however lines form around 7:00 A.M.

The Tests
For those who do not have a current international license or license from their home country, they may have to take both a written and driving test. The written test is in Thai and it is okay to have a Thai-speaking person assist you. For the driving theory test, you will be shown a video (which will be in Thai language) and then given a 30-question computer test. You will need to score at least 23 on it.

The second, for those without a current foreign or international license, will be a driving test where you will be provided with an automobile from the department. You will need to prove that you can effectively and safely maneuver a vehicle by doing things like backing straight, making turns, and parallel parking.

Everyone, when getting a driver’s license in Thailand, takes these three tests: color blindness, peripheral vision, and reaction time. The color blindness test involves basic recognition of colors. The peripheral vision test requires that you place your chin on a machine and then the operator will ask you to respond when you see flashes of light at your side. And the reaction test puts you on a machine with an accelerator and brake pedal. You accelerate and respond by braking when the signal indicates to do such.

Final Steps
When you have all of the required forms submitted and passed all of your tests, you will finally go to get your picture taken for the actual license. The fee is 105 THB. Your first license is considered temporary and only good for 1 year. After that, you can get a 5-year license.

Keep in mind that different branches of the Department of Land Transport may do things slightly different. For example, you might have an expired foreign license which would theoretically mean that you would have to take the written and driving test but on occasion, officials at the department have been known to overlook it. Like with anything in this country, always smile and be cooperative and you will be surprised at just how easy getting a driver’s license in Thailand is.

Thailand Weather: Hot and Rainy Seasons

For the expat living in Thailand, the words “hot and rainy” pretty much sum up Thailand weather. However, this is a simplification. In the southern parts it is hot year-round and the northern parts in the Chiang Mai vicinity experience cool temperatures in December and January. By knowing what to expect with the weather in this country, you will be prepared for taking advantage of low tourist seasons and for battling occasional torrential rain and street flooding. Here is a quick look at the weather in this country.

Southern Thailand Weather
You have your choice in the southern part of Thailand with two options: hot with rain or without. However, the times of these two seasons differ depending on if you are on the east or west coast of the southern peninsula. On the west coast of the southern peninsula, you will find it rains heaviest from April until October.

In November, things on the peninsula’s west coast begin to dry up with little or no rainfall. This dry season lasts until March along with cooler temperatures (still hot though). Come March, temperatures begin to rise with April being the hottest month. Also in April, the rainfall begins to increase with September and October as the peak months for it.

The east coast of the peninsula is different with regard to rainfall. The most rainfall typically happens between the months of September and December. Rainfall will peak around November and taper off during the months of December and January. Then, just like the west coast, the weather will get drier and hotter with April being the peak month as far as temperatures are concerned.

Northern Thailand Weather
In the northern part of Thailand, northeastern winds cause cooler and drier conditions between the months of November and February. Then, between March and May, temperatures begin to get hot and peak during the month of April. Rainfall also begins to increase with a sharp spike in May and peaking around August. The higher elevations in this region such as the mountains have been known to drop down to freezing temperatures.

Central Thailand Weather
Bangkok is the main population center in the central region of Thailand. Pattaya and Koh Chang (Elephant Island) are two other popular getaways in this region. In this region, you will find that the rainy months occur between April and November with the most rainfall occurring from May until the first couple of weeks in November. The two months with the heaviest rainfall are September and October. December through March is typically dry but still hot. However, Bangkok has been known to experience some relatively cooler nighttime temperatures during December and January although not cool enough for a jacket.

Seasons to Watch
Across the board, April is the hottest month in Thailand. It’s no surprise that April is also the month of Songkhran (Thai New Year, April 13). This is when everyone takes to the streets and celebrates by dousing each other with water either from big buckets or high-capacity water guns. It’s a way to deal with the incredible heat and it’s a celebration that you don’t want to miss. If you live in big cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya, or Chiang Mai, it’s difficult to avoid getting wet as locals indiscriminately soak anyone with water.

Another season to watch with regard to Thailand weather is the period between September and November when run-off from the northern regions floods Bangkok and Pattaya as it attempts to reach the Gulf of Thailand. Bangkok has an elaborate canal system but sometimes the Chao Phraya River, which runs through the center of the city, swells and overflows to include the canals or “klongs” as they are called in Thai. 2011 saw extreme flooding with the northern part of the city around the old Don Muang Airport submerged for months. Many development projects are in the works to divert this run-off so that the same disaster will not occur in the future.

In summary, you will find that the best time for the expat to invite friends to Thailand will be December, January, and February. These are also the peak tourist seasons and prices tend to be higher however your guests will be able to enjoy sunshine and cool breezes and the best of Thailand weather.

Streets Smarts and personal safety in Bangkok

Moving to the Land of Smiles naturally causes some concern for the Thailand expat because he is migrating to an entirely different culture along with unfamiliar surroundings. However, you need not worry too much because Thailand has taken many measures to guard your safety and it is probably the most relaxed of all countries in Southeast Asia. Yes, there are scams and dangers in the street but all it takes is a little vigilance and common sense and you will more than likely have no problem. Here are some street smarts that will help you stay safe in Thailand.

Streets Smarts in Entertainment
No doubt, when you first come to Thailand, you will want to partake of some of the nightlife and restaurants that cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya have to offer. Most expats coming to Thailand to work will probably live in Bangkok so consider that the tips that apply to this city are pretty much the same anywhere else in the country.

If your night out takes you to a restaurant or bar, always make sure you know what you are being charged so that there are no surprises when the check comes. There have been instances where checks were artificially inflated unbeknownst to the customer because of an inability to read Thai language or inebriation. Higher class restaurants will probably never do this to you but many like to experience the spirit of Thailand and eat or drink at street restaurants and bars. Stay vigilant and always know what you are getting charged.

Dealing with People
The Thailand expat will find that Thai people are generally easy-going and non-confrontational. You will also find that out in the streets, Thais will be cordial and friendly but will rarely intrude on your personal or business life. Having made this point, if a person (Thai or foreigner) walks up to you on the street trying to befriend you then you should be suspicious and politely bow out as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, folks who walk up to you on the street are trying to set you up for a scam or talk you out of some money. And, whatever you do, try to always avoid confrontation with a Thai because you may either get no reaction or an explosive one and the situation will more than likely turn out worse.

The street beggars in Thailand will oftentimes tug on your heartstrings, especially when there are mothers begging while holding small children. It is better that you keep your money. It is sad but begging scams are common here.

Then, enough cannot be said about your safety and being cautious with whom you drink. While the locals in the neighborhood watering hole might seem jovial and friendly, you may be in for a surprise. All it takes is one person (usually male) to drink too much and you, being a foreigner, will draw his attention. There have been many instances of the Thailand expat being injured or fatally wounded here after a night of drinking with strangers.

Respecting Thai Culture
The Royal Family of Thailand is highly revered and respected in this country. Never, under any circumstances, disrespect any member of the Royal Family. This includes making derogatory comments about them, verbal and written. The country’s Les Majeste laws specify that anyone, to include the Thailand expat, showing this disrespect can be arrested and sentenced to prison.

Also, consider that the King of Thailand’s picture is on all currency. Therefore, if you drop a coin, never trap it with your feet. Thai culture considers the feet a very repulsive part of the body and it is disrespectful to step on icons of Thailand with them.

Transportation Smarts
One of the fascinating features of Thailand is the availability of several modes of transportation, one of them being the tuk-tuk. These are the small three-wheeled covered motorized taxis that have been featured in movies and travel brochures and capture the spirit of Thailand. Unfortunately, many of the drivers are dishonest and overcharge foreigners because the vehicles are not metered. If you absolutely must take a tuk-tuk, negotiate the fee beforehand.

The preferred modes of public transportation for the Thailand expat in Bangkok are taxis, buses, BTS Sky train, and the MRT subway. Taxis are good for safety and reliable but do not forget to tell the driver to turn on the meter. There have been instances where taxi drivers turn off their meter with the unsuspecting tourist in order to craft their own “tip”. They have also been known to take foreigners to their destination by using a longer route but unless you know your way around, you may not detect this is happening.

Then, there are the motorbike taxis. This mode of transportation is probably one of the most noticeable when you arrive in Thailand. The concept is simple; motorbikes can get you easily to your destination because they have the ability to weave through stalled traffic. However, passengers rarely wear helmets and the drivers have been known to be intoxicated at times. If you really want to ride a motorbike taxi, take care of your safety and sit square on the back and do not lean to the left or right. When the motorbike is navigating through tight traffic, keep your arms close to your sides, hold on tightly, don’t spread your legs, and never lean to the left or right to see what is going on. Many have been injured by not keeping a tight profile on the back of these motorbikes.

Protecting Your Money
Obviously, you should never flash your money regardless of the city where you are at. However, there are other ways to be vigilant with your money in Thailand. First on the list is to make sure that you always count your change no matter where you purchase an item. Second, always exercise caution at ATMs. There have been instances where thieves have tampered with ATMs by inserting a device to get an imprint of your card and then someone looks over your shoulder to get your PIN as you punch it in. To protect against this happening, make sure that you always cover your pin with your other hand while entering it and be wary of any strangers studying your movements.

It is important to always trust your instincts just as you would in any of the world’s major cities. And, it is of critical importance to stay sober if you are alone on the streets. By following these basic street smarts for the Thailand expat, you can be sure to guard your safety thus making your stay here much more enjoyable.