Finding Friendly Farangs, Part II ...

I find it enlightening to look back on how things have unfolded over the last three years.  The first year was pretty much taken up by the construction of our house.  The second years was an extension of that, with moving in, finalizing the relocation from Bangkok, internal decor, garden and various other projects.  The list of hobbies and interests grew as I settled in.  Eventually, a greater curiosity about the local expat community began to surface.

Of course there were still Bangkok, Hawaii and internet friends, but lacking was the sense of companionship and intimacy that comes from having a best friend or the sense of community that develops when one casts a broader net, allowing for spontaneity and casual interaction.  Our trips to town are now brightened by chance encounters, friendly smiles and casual greetings.  Small things that mean a lot to me.  Some would find the constant press of people in the village, sufficient for their social needs.  My wife and I, unfortunately perhaps, have grown to want and expect more than what can be found in the village.

Thought I might share, briefly, what has worked for me, here in the Rai.  Keeping in mind my established status of lone-wolf and non-joiner by nature, I have found groups and organizations still have there function even if not a member.  I met a couple of friends and a few acquaintances by attending two Hash (HHH) events.  Not a fan of the whole Hash House Harriers thing, I still got what I wanted from it.  The same can be said of the Chiang Rai Expats Club.  The event itself is not that interesting but I have met a couple of interesting people there.  With just a few connections, a network begins to grow.  It is no longer uncommon to bump into people we know in BigC, Makro, various coffee shops, and even at the veterinarian. 

Not being a golfer or an elbow bender in the local bars, I cannot comment directly, but do know people who indulge in both, and claim to enjoy the company they find there.  There is a book club and art events but due to our distance from the city, we have yet to attend any late night events.  Well, there was one evening party recently at a friends house in town, but that was an exception as it included my birthday and his son’s.  Parents with young children will benefit from school activities and the friends their kids bring home.  I’m sure the religious could join churches and there are missionaries a many in these parts.  They figure the locals need saving, I guess.  I had best refrain from heading down that path, so moving on...

Most of my friends are aghast that I frequent the pages of Thai Visa, but they do have a Chiang Rai Sub Forum, through which I have met a few interesting and a few not so interesting members.  Not having previous experience with online forums I have approached it as a sociological experiment and a form of entertainment at times.  In spite of the nastiness that can surface in these online environments, I have witnessed people both giving and receiving help on many occasions.

Some old-timers, myself included, will warn against hanging out in certain places or with certain groups or types of individuals.  I have softened my position on that more recently, not for myself but for others.  Given the preponderance of men who discover Thailand late in life, burdened with failed marriages back home, meager pensions, and questionable choices in Thai partners, there is a good chance they will indeed have much more in common with the average punter in the bar than they would have with me.  For them, taking my advice or emulating my life choices, would no doubt bore them to tears.

My new and improved advice, would be to give it all a go, and formulate your own opinion about others and where you fit in.  There are no universally right or wrong answers in life, or in Thailand for that matter.  There is just what works for you.  My route has been a little bumpy at times, but it has suited me overall and I am burdened with few regrets.  I now have a best friend in the Rai, an ever growing network of acquaintances, expanding interests, and my wife once again has a visa for the States, after surrendering her Green Card a few years back.  Perhaps we will start to travel again, as our home base has been firmly established here in the Rai. 

I think we made the right choice moving here.