coolthaihouse.com blog

some thoughts from Dozer
builder image

Robin T: life up-country

Robin T on building and living up country Your contributer who wants to build up country should consider the following points before getting to the construction phase

Basics

You are a “rich” falang and will always be perceived as such. This will always induce various degrees of jealousy and poison – fact of life Im afraid

How much you are affected by this depends on the relative prosperity of your village. It can vary widely. I was fortunate, by accident, to land up in a village area that is relatively prosperous mostly from the high level of thais working overseas in Taiwan, Korea and Israel. Because of this they have a more balanced and realistic approach to a falang presence and are not completely ignorant of the outside world. I know of other villages less than 5 kms away which are quite the opposite and most of them are in the hands of money lenders and are desperately poor as a result. This makes a very sour environment.

If you are up country you are likely to be the only falang around with almost no one else speaking english. Fraternising with the locals may sound like a good idea but it is a romantic notion strictly for short term tourists. The harsh reality of rural life breeds other priorities. Even if you have learnt some central thai, it will be of limited use when trying to understand the local lingo. You will certainly not understand the undercurrents. when I first went up country 5 years ago I was pretty much mobbed with “hospitality”. As I came to understand more, this false bonhomie has pretty much evaporated and I avoid the “parties” as far as possible.
Nowadays I still like my area but keep very much to myself with only a handful of locals I consider acceptable. this may sound condescending but its no different from the way a thai village headman or business man behaves. As an educated european I am unable to have much in common with the labouring classes – this is fact not a choice presumption.

So you are on your own up there.

Medical

Its OK if you are fairly young fit and adventurous but what happens if you get a medical problem, where is the nearest fully equiped hospital. In my case its 90 mins drive into Khorat – which was a close thing when my wife suddenly went into breech birth labour – she nearly died on the way.

Security

You probably have little to fear from your villagers, but if your house is out in the sticks on a piece of barren rice field then you need to consider a basic fortress with walled compound and high gate. A double perimeter fence and some vicious dogs? (thats the South African way). There are many itinerant labourers and traders in trucks floating around. You need to be wary of these. You mostly dont know where they come from and, like gypsies, they are always looking for opportunity. Locals are very wary of these people so should you (particularly if they come from any of the border areas where security is notoriously bad. No point being sorry after the event.
Dont expect much help if you get a problem. Its even more of a concern if you have children. Child abduction is widespread. Bad things can happen in the dark

Even in a village you need a perimeter fence as you may find your self alone when your wife has gone off somewhere (they always have plenty of places to go and sit and boast – you generally have nowhere). So you need to be able to keep the beggars at bay and they always seem to find out when you are alone

Traveling

You must think what you will do when you have to travel. How will you lock up your house. Will it be left unattended for long periods? Will anyone take care of it for you? Unless it is right under the surveillance of your immediate family then you cant generally rely on someone else to be a reliable caretaker (even if paid). While I am up in Bangkok, my wife stays in her mothers house for company (thais hate being alone and isolated) so she has emptied our bungalow of any significant valuables (fridge, cooker etc). That’s how much faith she has in our village and its one of the better examples. Of course if you intend to stay up there always as a family then there is no concern. That is a thai ladies dream, to get a tame falang to come and live and spend his money in her village. It may not be your dream after a while.

Transport

Another point to consider is your remoteness. Distances are much greater than you might appreciate. Travelling 10 kms over a rutted farm road in the dry season may take 30 to 40 mins. When it rains, it may be impassable to 4 wheel vehicles (forget 4wd BS doesn’t help much and you are more like to skid into a ditch). You only recourse is a hazardous motrocycle trip.

How will you move about. A motorcycle is cheap but hazardous and unreliable on farm roads. Fancy doing 40 kms to the main town on a black top highway – you are braver than I am. As a falang you really need a pickup (not a saloon car). A standard cab pickup will suffice. I would advise buying brandnew. I have a very bad experience with a second hand purchase. I could give you a horror story here but it would take up too much space. Dont bother with a 4WD, expensive and not used by locals. When the rainy season comes put a half tonne of sand bags in the back and you will be ok for most situations on the treacherous roads. Either service the vehicle yourself or at the main agent. Never leave you vehicle unattended in the hands of a local villain mechanic. You are likely to discover many of your vehicles genuine parts have been secretly changed out for fake parts with disastrous consequences. Your villain will also be very skilled at covert sabotage – meaning that your vehicle will inexplicably breakdown a month or so later. Horror story. Locals you will observe, always stand and watch over the mechanic – that should tell you something.

Services

If your are outside a village then you may not have access to electricity. In which case you have to have you own generator. This is expensive to run. Electricity will cost 3 times the EGAT cost ie 15B/unit. Its difficult to run a refrigerator economically and may be cheaper to have a delivery from the local iceman. You will have to harvest your own rainwater for drinking and use pond water for washing. Your mobile phone might not work reliably. Its unlikely there will be a phone landline available. It may be a radio telephone type which is unsuitable for internet use. If you have to generate your own electric you will have to set it up properly with an emergency standby Honda unit and some special battery storage (you cant use a car battery).

Is it that bad?

If all this sounds unduly negative, I would say I am only providing this to counter balance the grossly over-optimistic view of rural life that newcomers seem to possess. There are great rewards to be had from living in the countryside but you have to prepare yourself properly for it (just like you would get kitted for life in the antarctic say). Perhaps because it looks on the surface so beautiful and cheap you tend to skip over the practicalities.

Life in the LOS has been described as heaven and hell on a knife edge. You play by the rules and you can enjoy a pleasant life fairly free from problems. You get it wrong, Falang, and it will cost you dearly. I think this applies to the far east in general and I have seen many people ignore sound local practice and screw up badly. Up to you.

Here is an alternative

Try a prefab house – american trailer style. Dont buy land, rent it. when you get bored you can unbolt your house like a flat pack and move it all on the back of a 10 wheeler to some other idyllic location and reassemble it. The house always remains your personal property. I can post an outline design If I had my time over I would do exactly that – live in a trailer.

editor: I agree that most expats find life ‘up-country’ a tough go and don’t last but a year or so. Never tried it myself, but these comments sound about right. On the services side, the up-country expats I knew had it quite a bit easier, ie. phone land line, electric OK, etc — depends on area. On the mechanic: good thing to watch out for all over Thailand. Dogs: dogs are incredibly effective as a security device. Sure, you always hear the stories about how they can poison the dog and then enter, but that doesn’t seem to happen very often. Crime hear is ‘opportunistic’, if it isn’t easy they just move on down the road.

Leave a Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.