Monkey Abroad

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Live in Thailand

5 Reasons Why I Left America to Live in Thailand

| 62 Comments

Out of 193 possible countries to inhabit, why live in Thailand? A good question. Check out these 5 reasons why I left America to live in the “Land of Smiles.”

Travel the world

Koh Ngai, a small island near Koh Lanta, Thailand. This place almost looks UNREAL!

1. It’s cheap

The U.S. dollar carries a lot of weight in “The Land of Smiles.” If you’re low on dough, come live here to stretch your meager dollar further. Not only will you get the opportunity to experience a new, friendly culture, but you’ll be able to eat like a king and try new foods every day without breaking the bank. Food is extraordinarily cheap and diverse, but I’ll touch more on that later.

2. It’s beautiful

If you’re into beaches, Phuket is a hub of the most incredible beaches and islands in the world. If you’re into mountains, the northern regions of Thailand surrounding Chiang Mai abound with scenic mountain ranges and national parks. If you’re into temples, Thailand has over 30,000 of them you can visit! Transport to and from these various locales is made easy thanks to Thailand’s excellent public transport system.

When I left America, I wanted to get my TESOL certification so I could teach abroad. I hopped onboard with the American TESOL Institute (ATI) and took part in ATI’s  “Special Thai Project” in Phuket, Thailand. It’s easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited in my life.

3. It’s filled with employment opportunity

After a month of living in lush Phuket, I began teaching ESL (English as a second language) in far north Pua, Nan, Thailand. Essentially, an ESL teacher is a full-time game show host. I show up to work, walk into the classroom, then orchestrate some new exciting game every day to get my students learning. It’s truly been the most rewarding experience of my life creating games and watching my classroom get so enthusiastic about learning English.

You can teach english anywhere in the world outside of the U.S. but few places offer opportunity like Asia. Thailand, China, Korea and Taiwan (just to name a few) are practically begging for educated English speakers to live and teach there. But of all these countries, Thailand is the friendliest of all. The people here are so laid back. I mean, c’mon, it’s called the “Land of Smiles” for a reason!

Live in Thailand

My students posing for a mid-class photo.

4. It’s got a wild night life

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble,” according to Murray Head from the musical Chess. So what kind of self-respecting young American expat would I be if I didn’t indulge in Thailand’s finer things? The nightlife in Bangkok and Phuket is a worldwide attraction and I’m drawn to it like a moth to flame. If you’re like me, then you’ll dig the Thai nightlife that’s available. I’ve had my share of wild nights out in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

If you’re not into the bar scene, you can still admire Thailand’s vibrant nightlife in other ways. The night markets in Chiang Mai and Bangkok are a sight to behold. Thousands of vendors, street chefs and artisans selling their foods and wares at stunningly cheap prices. If you’re like me, after a few beers you’ve gotta have a late night snack. Thailand’s streets are always open, and there’s always food available.

A photo of yours truly, snacking on a scorpion in Bangkok.

Yours truly, snacking on a scorpion in Bangkok.

5. It’s got food – Lots of it

Thai street food is plentiful, diverse, and the best part: it’s cheap. Thailand truly has some of the best cuisine in the world, and it’s available to anyone and everyone. The freshest tropical fruits and Thai delicacies are available around the clock. For adventurous foodies out there, Thailand is a hub of flavor and texture experimentation. If you’ve never tried durian, you’ve got to come to Thailand and sample the world’s smelliest fruit!

Hungry, I walk to the market. A street fruit stand intercepts my path. Freshly picked bananas and mangoes. Lots of ’em. I hesitate for a moment, then point at the bananas. The woman behind the stand smiles at me and says something in Thai. I nod. She grabs at the yellow pile of fruit and stuffs more than a dozen bananas in a bag. She hands the bag to me. “Sip baht!” she says. She wants 10 baht (34 US cents) for the bag of bananas. I only wanted one banana, but I got fourteen. I sit down on a bench nearby and pluck a banana out of the bunch. I peel it, take a bite. It’s sinfully sweet. I reflect for a moment. This single banana would’ve costed more than 34 cents in the States. Thai street food: 1, American food: 0.

Thai Street Food

A street vendor in Phuket sells her fresh fruits to passersby.

Conclusion

After a couple years living an unfulfilling work life after college, I left for Thailand and haven’t looked back. Today, I’m very happy to be living in here and teaching English full-time. As they say in Thailand, “Mai pen rai” – It’s all good!

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!

62 Comments

  1. Uhm…I don’t know Kevin. Brazil looks rather tempting..

    • It certainly does. But Brazil won’t go anywhere while I’m gone. After I experience the life of a teacher abroad maybe Brazil will be my next stop!

    • Brazil is expensive but a good place to be. I personally prefer Asia, but Thailand is much different from what most westerners think of as “Asia” (China, Japan, etc.). That said, I don’t think Thailand is so cheap now. Most expats will tire of eating fish balls on the street soon enough.

      • Thailand is just as cheap as it was when I arrived in 2007. Only 2 baht difference on the exchange.

        • Cheap as 2007. — Complete BS. The exchange rate does not take inflation into account.
          These blogs about a dirt cheap, beautiful place with perfect weather are such BS and do a real disservice to any reader.

          • Monkey is correct about rate. Inflation is only relevant in tourist traps. That must be what your reply is about because it’s cheap in thailand but not if your a rookie

          • I agree, just another way to get clicks to their useless blogs… full of total unrealistic garbage.

      • true, but bums think they can teach English by speaking some version of it.

  2. Sounds like a great adventure, Kevin. Smart to do it while you’re young and have the energy to “perform” as required -:)))
    Good luck and safe travels.
    Joel
    (Dad’s classmate)

  3. Thought I’d post a comment here since I can’t over on Ajarn where we met.

    I got surreptitiously banned from the forum this weekend. I’m not sure why, and they didn’t tell me. I hate sneaking around under a fake name, but if you don’t see your future ATI classmate there in the near future, that’s why.

    -Joko

    • That’s strange. You were very active on the forum from what I could tell, but none of what you said was anything offensive. But as long as you can read the forum, you’re set. Most every topic has already been covered at some point or another on that niche forum.

  4. Came back from Thailand, I love everything about the country and the smiles that I receive from the local people. I definitely agree that it was cheap to buy food and it was so tasty and delicious. Plus the nightlife is fun and I love the crowds of people going throughout the day.

    Yea I also do want to teach English in Thailand after I finish university(which will be 1 year from now) and I also live there long term as well. How is the TESOL course in Phuket?

    I am also getting tired of living in the states. Everything here is too expensive, people are not that friendly, too stressful, too generic, and I find life too boring. I am now saving money so I could get out of here and live forever in the land of smiles.

    • Alex,

      I agree with your comment about the States being expensive and stressful. It’s a tough place to live as a young person.

      The TESOL course in Phuket was incredible. 3 weeks in paradise while you learn how to teach ESL (AKA sustain yourself abroad). The only downside to taking a TESOL course in Phuket is that it can be difficult to concentrate in class while you hear the waves crash against the shore!

    • American tourists keep saying Thai food is great…… true if you like the hottest spicy dishes this side of India. First bite, be sure to have TWO bottles of clean water to try to put of the fire in your mouth and stomach.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    I’m a development producer for an international television production compnay in Singapore. I’m looking for American’s Abroad (or Brits, or s) who live and work in Thailand – doing some really incredible jobs (flipping bikes, running seriously cool scuba schools, antique hunting etc…) I don’t suppose you know of anyone that I can get in touch with? The shows I’m looking for are to be pitched to networks like Discovery, AETN (History and the likes), Nat Geo and more.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated sir!

    Best,

    Lindsay

  6. *(or Brits, or Aussies, or locals – as long as they can speak good English)

  7. Kevin, can you tell me how you decided where to live & went about setting up a home base? Did you go abroad with a program and then just decide to stay? Did you pick one city and settle there or did you travel around a bit first? Son will be graduating soon and is looking at abroad opportunities. My younger daughter spent 3 weeks volunteering in Chiang Mai this past summer and loved it. Any info would be much appreciated! Thank you – Roseann

    • Roseann,
      I signed up for a 120-hour TEFL training program in Thailand. Once the course was complete, I was assisted with placement in a Thai school, assisted with my work permit, and had my hand held for the first 2 months. There are tons of similar programs available that your son could sign up for if he wants to teach for a little while in Thailand.

      • Thanks, Kevin! Phenomenal blog! Will refer it to my kids – sounds like you are having a wonderful experience & I enjoy your writing style. Good luck! 🙂

  8. I’m assuming you didn’t need to know Thai to teach there correct?

  9. I have a few questions.

    1) How much did it cost to take the TESOL course?

    2) How much does teaching English pay, how any hours a week do you work doing it, and how adequately does it cover your cost of living?

    3) Seems your article describes many things that might be cool to a person upon first arriving, ie. beaches, temples, night markets, street food … but what about community and english speaking friends? Do you have enough social interaction to prevent you from feeling like a lonely nomad in a foreign land?

    Thank you for any and all insights.

    • I’ve got your answers.
      1) $990
      2) Depends. My first job, I was paid $1000/month with a free apartment for 20 teaching hours of teaching per week. It covered my living expenses adequately enough that I was actually able to save a little money from that.
      3) In Thailand, I lived with two other native English speakers, so if I was desperate for some native English conversation, I could always talk to them. I made friends with locals and spent a lot of my time eating and drinking with them.

      • Major BS to say Americans will be happy working all day for $1000/mo– “teaching” is a giggle. That $$$ gets you a rental flop (bring your own lock), only Thai street food, no medical, no phone, no Internet, seldom taxi, and partying quickly consumes your pay. That level of money turns you into a constant hunter for cheaper, cheaper, cheaper and destroys the fun of being here.

  10. I lived I Thailand for 5 1/2 years while I was working in West Africa 28 on and 28 off. All my time off was spent in Thailand. I’ve been to all the places you talk about and a lot more. Pattaya is also great for the night life and other things. Korat is awesome as well. I loved it so much that I am now married to my Thai wife who is back with me in the states (she’s one of the good girls as there are only 2 types in Thailand). Looking forward to going back this November for 2-3 weeks as I miss the land of smiles.

  11. Great article. I have a question for you if you can help. I plan on going and doing the digital nomad thing in chiang mai. I make enough but I can be well off in chiang mai. However to get residency is hard I heard and one way to get it is by teaching. Were you able to get residency by teaching?

    • Teaching can get you a work permit for the duration of your job, usually one year or less, renewable is yr by yr. That allows you to live legally in Thailand, but engage in the only permitted work, teaching, not typing on the Internet for pay.
      CM and Korat are B O R I N G. “Well off” yes if you like street food, a flop, and constant hunt for cheaper.

    • Aaron I’m thinking of moving to Thailand in a few years I may. Need to borrow a little money. I’ll have abt abt 125k w me looming to buy nice house and 10 acres. My question is r there banks there that I can get a loan and what are the interest rates. Thanks for your help I’m tired of the cold winters in Ohio. Thanks

  12. It’s possible to find a non-teaching job? because I study management and I would like to live in Thailand but maybe for a few months to see how it is. But also, if I wanted to teach english, I’m not a native english teacher, it’s a problem for people who’s not from North American, by example?

  13. Hi there! I’m due to leave the US for Thailand in January as a peace corps volunteer. 🙂 I subscribed to your blog. I’d love to hear more tips / info if you have any. Thanks!

  14. Great article and I agree with you 100%! I also moved from the states to Thailand a few years ago. Actually I’m in Vietnam now but Thailand is a great place to live. So many interesting destinations in this region. Chok Dee na Krab

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  16. Are there opportunities for those American who don’t want to teach English?

    • Basically NO. Thailand has full employment. Let me repeat, FULL EMPLOYMENT, and have no need for foreign labor except maid and septic emptying.

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  18. Hi,
    Could you please give me the link to sign up for the certification course in Thailand? Once you complete the course, do they place you in a school?

  19. Another hippy dippy selling other hippy dippies the dream of Thailand. When a foreigner says he is teaching English here, we all know he is a bum. Get job in first day; lose job next week due to incompetence.

  20. This guy sounds like he likes to “live off the land.”
    Problem is that it is other people’s land, hee hee.

  21. I live in Thailand and Run an export business in Bangkok, Thailand is cheap if you don’t mind living in a rental room and taking the bus or motorcycle taxi and eating street food with no medical etc. If however you expect a decent car health insurance, Electric , Water, Eating out and a decent house with a maid forget it cheaper to live in Europe. Don’t get me wrong I love Thailand but the roads are hell and getting decent service on anything can be hard and the land of smiles often does not happen on a day to day basis outside of the tourist areas. Inflation has also increased the cost of many items with many of them cheaper in Europe than Thailand.

  22. I’ve been living in upcountry Thailand for years. I speak, read and write the language, Lao too. Lao is easier than Thai, if your interested in knowing. To the communist credit, they reformed the language and it’s easier, especially the spelling. Thailand? It all depends on your lifestyle. If your frugal and the wife is frugal and you’re willing to bend and adapt, then Thailand is cheap. Recently, land and labor prices have gotten ridiculous, so other parts of SE Asia might have better opportunities, at a lower cost. Really,, Thailand is a good place to live, but please be willing to learn the language, customs and adapt a little. Life will be much easier if you can integrate a little and understand the ways, understand why the Thai do what they do.

    • Bravo to you Glenn. Very few Farang bother to learn the Thai language in the way you have. It shows that you have respect for the country, culture and people. I feel the same way. I came to Thailand back in 2001 and began learning Thai language on day two of my arrival. Eight years later I could read the most advanced Thai books. I’m back in California now but I still read Thai newspapers online and listen to Thai podcasts. What a wonderfully rich language Thai is!!

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  24. Planning our first trip to Thailand starting next month. A few days in Bangkok then the overnight train to Chiang Mai and 10 days or so up up in the hills. We are in our early 50’s and have retired (or semi retired cus people still keep asking us to do work). Baically we can live anywhere in the world and are looking for that special place that we can sell everything in thr US and move there. Could be anywhere but wa told Thailand is definately a place to check out.

  25. Hey Kevin I am really thinking of moving to Thailand next year, I am 25 I have a good job in London but I am not entirely happy. I have been to Thailand few times now and everytime I’m there I feel at home and cry so much when I have to go back. I would like to ask you a few questions.

    • Ask away, Thomas. What’s up?

      • Thank you for your reply 🙂 basically I am 25 years old and going to be 26 years old in November, I am thinking of relocating to Thailand next year and teach English. I worry I may be too old to do such a thing as I have a really good career in London as a social media specialist, however I just know I need to live in Thailand to be fully happy. Do you think I may be too old to start my online TEFL course and relocate to Thailand next year?

  26. Good stuff! You did a great choice moving to Thailand. Best place ever.

    • Thanks so much man. Thailand is a great place to enjoy the Land of Smiles while earning a little money, but it’s hard to do more than break even unless you’re a previously qualified teacher.

  27. hi guys, OK, I agree: it is expensive and stressful in many places in West, and life can be sh* boring, in many western countries as well. but are you planning to stay in Thai and have a family? It looks you are young and just testing the waters. But where would you live in the world, if you could earn a living and chose your place? Australia? California? Vietnam? Japan? Thailand? I am 36, well-educated, working for a US blue chip right now, but also started my online business about training. trading and consulting. I am SERIOUSLY thinking about the best place to live in this world, as an online entrepreneur, and raise a family: I want fast internet, sun, food, nice people, not too high taxes, safety and good looking ladies. Any suggestions ?

  28. I want to come there so bad. I am a mother of two girls. 8 yr and 8 mo. I am trying to figure out how to make this move happen. I prefer to be away from my children as little as possible to make the money that we need to survive. I am looking into online work for money. Right now we get public housing and food stamps in the US. We speak only English as of now too. If you have any advice or ideas, please share. Thank you and congrats on your happiness !

    • Sarah,

      That’s a bit tricky. Having children and receiving food stamps is a tough platform to launch from, but if you have a decent amount of savings, it’s possible. My suggestion would be to focus on countries where the income will be more substantial than a place like Thailand. It’s a lot of fun to live there, but you won’t make a lot of money in most cases, honestly. If you have a degree, you can get a teaching job in most countries in Asia, and places like China and Korea are particularly good for saving.

      I hope you can make your travel dreams come true, and I hope this advice was helpful.

      -Kevin

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  30. Beacuse you “farang”(Thai call you ) If you are thai or chinese They will hate you It a trick with thai They want your money several day ago I cycling and bad biker and bad driver try to kill me I want to leave thailand to USA. Beacuse Many thai bad and many thing in here I can’t do

  31. Hi Kevin, what do you think about my decision to make an investment in US through Eb5 program, which allows you to immigrate legally into the States with a Green Card. I have lived in Thailand several times in past 5 years. Every year i spend 2 months there and i loved everything about Thailand. Living there was like a holiday everyday. I learned Muy thai. I wanted to invest in Thailand, but just wondering as if it would be a good decision keeping the quality of Life & Work in Mind. You could really provide me an insight on this, and anything from you i would highly appreciate.

Let me know what you think

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