We’ve been living on a paradise island of Koh Samui for a six months now. Time has passed pretty quickly and we’ve learned alot during this time. Some of the things are good, some of them aren’t. But as in your home country you will get used to everything. And even the paradise island doesn’t feel so “paradisy” all the time. Like in Finland (and every other country) even Thailand has it’s pros and cons. So that’s what we are writing today. If you’re looking at Thailand through the heart shaped glasses there might be some shatters in your lenses after you read this.
Easygoing life: This can be seen everywhere except while on the road. There is even a thai word for lifestyle like this and it’s called “sabai“. Practically sabai is part of life of every thai since you can feel the peaceful and relaxed lifestyle while just looking at them. Things happen when they happen so you have to take your time. At first this lifestyle might seem quite lazy because thai workers are taking a nap at the furniture department of a big supermarkets or on a flatbed of a big truck.
Time to relax after the work is done
On the other hand you have to understand that thais are working 10 hours per day six times a week and get paid something between 250-500 euros so let them rest once in a while. If you should work with the payroll like that you would do the exact same thing.
Nature: This is the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Koh Samui. If you google Koh Samui you are getting lots of pictures of the beaches, palm trees and steep hills. Since Samui is an island there’s nice seabreeze everywhere and you can go to swimming to a ocean very easily. The middle part of the island if basically a mountain/jungle area with all the exotic wildlife so you will hear alot of different birds singing and all kinds of “magical sounds”.
Downside of the nature: The jungle includes huge ass spiders and colorful snek’s that kills you on sight. Gladly you really don’t see them so often since we have seen a snake about once in a month. We aren’t afraid of sneks but it’s better if they stay outside. By the way; there are cobras. So if you see one, backoff or play a flute and hope it will do the dance instead of attack.
It’s also a nice thing that you don’t need to wear ice fishing overalls like in Finland when you leave your house since it’s -20C and it’s windy as in frozen Hell. You don’t even have to wear long pants or proper shoes and you can even go to the market with bare feet if you want. That’s also very accepted and thais do that too.
Food: As you might already know Thai cuisine is extremely tasty, spicy, nutritious and quite cheap and you can find it in pretty much everywhere. At least in some form. On the side of the streets there are streetfood vendors selling satays, fruits, sausages and all kinds of meaty meats. Sure it can be difficult sometimes for us to get streetfood since Hanne is vegan. There really aren’t much vegan options unless you want to buy a fresh fruits or sticky rice.
Vegan curries with spring rolls.
And if you don’t like thai food (well why go to Thailand then?) there’s a lot of different other options especially in Koh Samui. You can eat in fine dining restaurants with the white tablecloths, try western sporty bars offering European steaks and British fish & chips or “bangers and mash” (what ever that is other than some stupid words). Or if you’d like to have some real italian pizza or even hamburgers that’s possible too. There are also Burger King, McDonald’s and Hooters if those are your cup of tea. So you really have plenty of options to eat.
PS: If you can’t find something from the markets or restaurants there’s quite possible that someone is making and selling it. You can find real sourdough breads, vegan cheese or even vegemite. You just have to know where to find or whom to ask. And that’s how we build a “donkey’s bridge” to the next phase.
Other expats: Expats = farang (= mamu: quite inappropriate word in Finland). Just like we are. If you require something and you don’t know where to get it or if you need help on anything the other farangs will help you. Facebook groups have helped us alot and the farang community in here is very supportive. We’ve met lots of nice people because of the Facebook groups and that’s also where we found our cats and received an invitation to a pool party.
It’s very hard to find a hardware store from a city you don’t know. Or find someone to take care of your pets or house while you are on a visa run. Expats are a huge help because there’s always a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy to do the job.
Prices: Even though Samui isn’t the cheapest place in Thailand it’s still cheaper than Finland. Obviously. Most of the fruits and meats, especially chicken, are really affordable compared to our Wintery Wonderland. Of course, as it comes in fruits the prices are understandable, since in Finland we don’t have any exotic fruits. Actually the only fruit we have is an apple.
In here you can even get yourself a fresh durian directly from a tree a kilometer away if you feel like it (and the stink doesn’t make you vomit) or even get a banana from a tree at your backyard.
The best way to see the price levels are the houses and apartments. Let’s take a look at a brand new apartment for comparison. What kind of house you’ll get in the capital area of Finland for 400 euros? Nothing. Okay if you’re very lucky you might get a 11-square-meter sized dog kennel from the government for that price. From the smallest cities you might get a small one bedroom apartment but nothing fancy.
In here we are basically living with the same amount of rental expenses and we have a house with four bedrooms, living room, kitchen and three showers (don’t ask why). You could get also a smaller one with a private pool or maybe with a sea view if possible.
Activities: There sure are lot of different activies. Most of them are different forms of water activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, waterskiing and kite surfing. And if you want to go and see some turtles or even dolphings that’s possible too! You can experience and do lots of stuff from motocross to go-kart or even see elephants in Elephant Sanctuary. Just be aware that there are also lots of safari tours that offers you elephant trekking and you should never support this kind of animal cruelty.
Hanne training in Muay Thai gym
For the americans and hoplophiles there’s also a possibility to visit shooting ranges where you can use all kinds of firearms if you just got the money. You can even visit an abandoned military base and train like Keanu Reeves if you’d like.
And if getting drunk and wasted while partying with ladyboys is your thing; Have no fear! That’s also possible. The flashy lights of Chaweng, cheap booze and busty ladyboys have taken the money and dignities of many men.
Friendliness: Might be a bit fake but anyway. Employees might take their level of customer service a bit over the top even if you would be only just strolling around. Usually you have three or four of them following you everywhere you go just in case you might need some help. For a finn this can be quite awkward at times because our personal space is at least three meters wide.
Skills > diploma: This is like a two way street. It’s great that sometimes skills are more valuable in here than having some form of masters diploma to be able to work at a bike repair shop. You can’t fix motorbikes or cars with the piece of paper but with an experience and skilled hands you can.
But then there is this other way of the street. You call an electrician to fix your broken network cables so he shows up and after doing the job he leaves 90 meters of loose cable hanging in the air while convincing he’s a professional and it should be like that. Sure after he’s done with the work your internet is connected but how long and is it safe to you or to your house? He says “Same same”, gives you a thumb up and leaves.
Next day you call a plumber to fix your sink so the same guy appears and fixes your sink. Next time you need a gardener or maybe a help from a moving company? There’s always a same guy standing behind your door and smiling. Does he have a diploma or certificate of anything? No haaave! 🙂
Thai style of connecting cables
There’s no hobos nor beggars: There might be but you really don’t see them ever. There might be some homeless guy sitting next to a 7 Eleven with a small paper cup in his hand but he really doesn’t bother you. He ain’t drinking beer or yelling to people passing by. He just sits and waits if someone might give him a coin or two.
We’re sure there are lots of reasons for this but one of the big reasons is that like in Finland, homeless and jobless people can’t afford alcohol. Also it’s not a part of thai culture. If thai loses his house because of reasons he won’t go searching the future from the bottom of the bottle but tries to build a new house and life around it. It’s also quite hard to starve here since you can always go fishing or get some fruits from the trees and with ingredients like these you can make an excellent meal to yourself. Durian, catfish and various herbs and tadaa; You’re all set.
Traffic. For some reason we had this romanticed image in our heads where we would walk to work at morning, sipping our takeaway coffee and eating a breakfast we grabbed from a small food stand. But nooooo. Not gonna happen. If you decide to walk to your workplace that’s located in a ten kilometers away your home you will probably die after first 300 meters. Why? Because the traffic is pure carnage. There are concrete trucks driving like they are in Mario Kart, tuningcars straight from The Fast & The Furious and some lunatics with their overlypowered StreetHawks. If you don’t get hit by one of these you will at last get run over by some tourist who just happened to find his driver’s license from a cereal box. If he even has one.
Without a scooter or any other motorized vehicle you really can’t go anywhere. There are not really much proper walking streets anywhere except in Chaweng or near Fisherman’s Village.
You can see pretty much anything while on the road.
Compared to thais (who always has some supernatural skill called Avoiding Collision) tourists are still the main concern on the roads. Usually they are just on the way and somehow blocking both lines. “Samui tattoo” is a very common joke in here and is referred to road rashes they get after flipping over with their Honda Click’s. It’s actually pretty weird how people can crash on the ground while driving straight road. On the other hand: no wonder you will get your pretty face smashed if you’ll pull scooters front brake while driving 80km/h.
PS. It’s a strange thing how tourists can leave their brains home when leaving the home countrys airport. Here in Thailand using helmet is required by law. Just because locals drive without one doesn’t mean you should drive aswell. Why on earth would you drive bare-headed in Thailand when the traffic here is one of the most deadliest one in the whole world. In Koh Samui there are 20-30 fatal accidents for every month and in whole Thailand over 500. So you do the math. How many could’ve been avoided if people would wear a helmet?
Stray dogs and cats. These sad stories are everywhere all over the island. And there are more coming all the time hence the local animal rescues neuters them at monthly basis. At times if feels like you’re watching Silverfang because dogs are moving in big groups barking to each others and defending their territories. Sometimes they might chase motorbikes driving by or jumping against cars. Usually they are harmless but you never know what they might do. So be careful around these bad boys.
People say there are no cases of rabies involved in Samui these days but you should be safe rather than sorry.
Beach doggo hanging around
Dirtiness. What do you think about recycling in the small island of Thailand compared to big cities of Europe? What the people here might do with a pile of plastic bottles, glass jars, tin cans or other household wastes? They gather everything as a huge pile and then stick it into a fire. That’s recycling on it’s best. Gladly plastic bags are nowadays banned in Thailand in supermarkets, 7 Elevens and so on. But still you can see these small dumps near the roads of in the middle of the jungle just waiting to be burned.
And the beaches? Tourists are throwing their Coca-Cola bottles and beercans all over the beachline while waves brings all kinds of waste to the shore. Sure there are some volunteers who are focused on cleaning the beaches but that won’t remove the problem. It’s just cleaning the dirtiness left by others. Let’s just hope there won’t be another Koh Phi Phi situation.
Insects and creepy crawlers. We mentioned this previously but still it need it’s own place in this post. It’s pretty obvious that there are tons of different insects in Thailand. There are crawling ones, buzzing ones, flying ones, rolling ones… Some might even do all these things at the same time. And then there are snakes and scorpions that could kill you in a few minutes if you’re having a very bad day. The worst snakes are the cobras so if you step on a snake you should pray it isn’t one.
But the good thing is that there are geckos. They are your best friends against bugs even though they shit all over your house and sometimes makes very high noises. You should be aware of the one called Tokay. They’re a very large geckos with a colorful and bumby skin and the sound they make might really scare you at first. But Tokay is harmess unless you drive it to the corner or decide to touch it. You won’t die on a bite but it will hurt like hell and it won’t let go unless you try to drown it.
Corruption. The best thing when it works with you. The worst thing when it works against you. We don’t actually have any personal experiences with any corruption cases but we have heard the stories of others. There might be a policeman stopping you and asking your driver’s license or checking your bag. When you open your bag for them they might find any item that is prohibited in Thailand and the only way you can get away from the sticky situation is by paying the fee. And you pay it directly to the policeman. It’s very difficult to say how bad is the situation here in Samui but we are sure that it still exists in some form.
Visa runs. This thing is usual in many countries around the Asia. Depending your countrys regulations you can arrive to Thailand and stay for a limited amount of time. That might be 30 days, 60 days or something else. Before the days are over you’ll have to leave the country. But you can come back with the Non B Visa using the Visa Run Companies. With that you can stay in Thailand for the next 3 months.
If you don’t have a work permit (or any other valid reason) you have to do the Visa Run for every 3 months. That means paying to the Visa Run Company and going to another country with their transportation. It requires money and time to arrange this and you’ll be away from the country for a couple of days. The good thing is that you can travel to another country like Laos or Malaysia but that’s pretty much it.
One example of Visa Runs
The income gap. We live high on the hog compared to locals. Even though our apartment is not a castle in the modern world or a fancy mansion it’s still “better” than the one on the other side of the road which is a small wooden barn without the windows. There are lots of these cases where there are two houses that are total opposites of each other. The other might be a large mansion with the electric gate and a swimming pool and the other one is made from wooden pallets, tin scraps, duct tape and some hardly-rain-resistant material.
It is somehow incomprehensible that there really are no “poor” or “wealthy” areas here but they are all mixed up side by side. Sometimes it feels a bit bad for us to order something using the home delivery to this kind of apartment when your neighbor seems like he can’t afford the basic things of life. ON THE OTHER HAND; he has a 2018 Isuzu D-Max pickup truck while we have a Honda Click rental scooter that has fixed with a duct tape.
Our first Honda Click. Now we have a better one.
Whoa, there was alot of text to write and things to say.
Like we Finns and people of many other countries in general; negative things are very easy to find in your everyday life, in your immediate environment, in your acquaintanceship and at work. But can you find just as many good things? That was bit more of a challenge for us. And actually while living here, we have both tried to get rid of this Finnish sin and the curse that we see and remember only the bad things in life. Luckily we have succeeded quite well during these six months.
At the moment we’re trying to get this english version of blog up to date compared to the finnish one. Some of the blogs content might be a bit older info since we are translating the finnish version of the blog here and telling the most interesting things. We are trying our best. We hope you understand the situation and the typing errors in these texts since english isn’t our native language. Thank you for reading. Till next time!