Top 5 Things We Miss Most While Living in Thailand

Let's start this post with a beautiful photo in Chiang Mai - this is from Wat Suan Dok, the temple 50 yards from our apartment.

Let’s start this post with a beautiful Chiang Mai photo.  This is taken at Wat Suan Dok, the temple 50 yards from our apartment.

We’ve been living abroad for over three months now, and spent some time this week reflecting on what we miss most about the good ol’ US of A.  The thing we miss the most is definitely seeing our friends and family; it was so sad to spend 4th of July this year without our annual gathering of friends in our backyard.  It’s also tough to be over here so far from home when so many of our loved ones have babies who are growing up so quickly!  When we left, the newest baby in the group was the size of a small chicken.  We just skyped with those friends a couple weeks ago, and now he’s the size of a butterball turkey.  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!  Aside from our friends and family, we came up with a list of the top 5 things we miss from the USA.

The Top 5 Things We Miss:

#1: Good Public Bathrooms

My general frustration with the toilet situation in Southeast Asia has undoubtedly been apparent in some of my previous blog posts.  To get an idea of the despair I feel when I walk into a bathroom that is completely devoid of toilet paper and hand soap, please follow this link and press the blue button.  We’ve lived here long enough that we have a short list of public bathrooms which stock what we call the “Triple Crown”: hand soap, toilet paper and paper towels.

We’ve racked up quite a list of weird bathroom experiences since we got here.  To name a few: I nearly tipped over a toilet that was not bolted to the ground which caused all the water to flood out onto the bathroom floor, Kevin accidentally used a broken urinal that essentially just drains everything right out onto the floor, and I almost wiped out when my foot slipped on a wet “squat toilet” at a sketchy rest stop on the way to Pai (also, a cat was watching me in that bathroom, which I find to be extra weird).

#2: Regular Business Hours

In Thailand, there’s no such a thing as regular business hours.  If business isn’t hoppin’, it’s fairly common that a restaurant or shop will just close up for the day.  Most businesses here are family run, which means that staff are pretty single-threaded.  So if someone is sick, or if the family has other things going on, they just post a sign in the window saying they’re closed for 1 day.  This has bitten us a lot here since our favorite coffee shop only has one barista!  Even in the finance world, hours are really short – the bank we use regularly is open from just 10am-3pm.  We’ve tried to get used to this and roll with it, but it’s hard to be patient when you walk to your favorite coffee shop in 90+ degree weather, looking forward to their awesome aircon and iced drinks, only to find that they’re closed.  HULK SO MAD.

#3: Cleanliness

While cleanliness isn’t a huge issue here in Thailand, it’s enough of a problem that it might be slowly driving me crazy.  In Seattle, your neighbors will shun you if you leave put out your garbage bins when it’s not trash day.  In Chiang Mai, it’s pretty normal to walk past a big bin or pile of trash every hundred hards or so.  I have also become an absolute nut job about watching out for dog poop.  There are tons of stray dogs in Chiang Mai, so there is poop everywhere.  It reminds me of this video clip:

There are also just a lot more smells associated with a tropical climate – hot weather enhances the smell of everything, from the smell of durian fruit to the smell of the squid vendor.  And let’s be honest here, we don’t exactly smell awesome all the time in 90+ degree weather, either.  One thing is for sure, your cleanliness standards definitely adjust quickly when they have to – I am 100% ok with using bar soap in a public restroom now.  This is happening.

#4: Reliable Infrastructure

I miss strict electrical regulations.  We’ve become fairly accustomed to power outages, and we are unfazed at this point when we hear the familiar crackling and see electrical arcing in Chiang Mai’s electrical wire connections.  The electrical system here is a mess – in the old city I could reach up and grab electrical wires with hardly any effort.  Traffic was stopped outside a cafe one day because a live wire had fallen into the road.  And then there was the day we saw the electrical workers in the photo below run out into moving traffic with their bamboo ladder to work on a wire:

Don't mind me, just climbing on my ladder in the road...

Don’t mind me, just climbing on my ladder in the road…

I’m also getting tired of blocked or nonexistent sidewalks.  Pedestrians don’t get any respect here.  If you were in a wheel chair or on crutches, don’t even bother visiting Chiang Mai.  When did sidewalks become appropriate places to park motorbikes, anyway?!  It’s so tricky to walk around here – even if you’re in a crosswalk and the light is red, cars still won’t voluntarily stop for you to cross!  You have to force them to stop by bravely walking out into the road!

#5: Beer

Budweiser. So sad.

Budweiser. So sad.

The main beer brands in Thailand are Leo, Chang and Singha, and they are woefully inferior to the fantastic craft beer selection we took for granted in Seattle.  Nowadays we drink our beers on ice to take out some of the “slap-you-in-the-face-bad-taste”.  The situation is so dire that we picked up a can of Budweiser for the 4th of July and it tasted GOOD.  What is this madness?!

We want to hear from you!

Are you surprised at some of the things that made our list?  Are you shocked at something we left off?  What do you think you’d miss if you moved abroad?  Cheese? Peanut butter?  Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper?  I thought I’d miss cheese more than I do (good cheese here is outrageously expensive and reasonably priced cheese is outrageously gross) but I’m fine without it.

9 thoughts on “Top 5 Things We Miss Most While Living in Thailand

  1. Leo and Singha aren’t so bad and are appropriate for the weather, but if I had no other options I’m sure I’d change my tune pretty quickly.

    And Chang? Well that’s just awful.

    • We miss you too! I can’t believe we don’t miss peanut butter more – I guess it helps that peanuts are used in so many Thai dishes.

  2. Hi Melanie, am sure you are missing things and I know for a fact your Mom is missing you but so pride of you and your husband for living your dreams… Enjoy each day and know your USA friends are praying for you both to be safe. Lee and I were able to spend an evening with your folks to hear all about you and your wonderful husband. Be safe Mel.. Happy Travels..

    • Thanks so much Peg! My dad mentioned that you four went to a concert recently and chatted about our travels. :) Thanks so much for thinking of and praying for us!

  3. Hi there, I came upon your blog because I’m trying to think of a fun gift to give to our American hosts in Bangkok (I leave Sunday). Is there a particular product or food you miss from here?

    • Oh I wish I had seen your comment on time to help, Ann! (I’ve been on a blog hiatus after starting a family) There are so many “practical” things that I wished for during my time in Thailand (sunscreen, tampons, makeup/lotion/deoderant/hair supplies). But those might be strange gifts! I did miss peanut butter and homemade jam! I certainly missed the wide array of (comparatively) cheap, delicious cheeses, but those don’t travel well. Nice bath products could’ve been a fun idea maybe?

      I’m so curious what you decided to bring them as a gift!

      • Hey Melanie! It has been quite awhile.
        I believe we gave them a blanket with a verse/prayer on it (they were missionaries).
        It was a great experience, I just we had more time there. We were only able to stay a week, so you can imagine out jet lag.
        Thanks for your helpful advice! Next time.

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