Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Livin' It Up On a Shoestring

Living in Central Isan, I cannot possibly spend all of my meager teacher's salary in one month! Here's my monthly expense breakdown in Thai baht. This supports two people minimum, although I’m often treating more than one friend at mealtimes. (U.S. dollar equivalent in parentheses.)

Spacious, new, clean duplex apartment: 2500 ($60)
Utilities (water/electric--including air con): 1200 ($30)
(that's on a hot-weather month)
Phone, including high-speed internet service: 750 ($20)
Food (three daily meals in restaurants): 3000 ($75)
Clothes: 500 ($12)
Toiletries: 250 ($6)
Household supplies: 500 ($12)
Motorcycle gasoline/petrol: 200 ($5)

When I first moved here, it cost me about $1000 USD to completely furnish an apartment: TV, clothes washer, stove, refrigerator, beds, desks, sofa, two floor oscillating fans, wardrobes, kitchen sink and counter (yup!), and three floor-to-ceiling wood bookshelf/cabinet units. All new.

Another $1000 USD bought my transportation (a new 125cc Honda motorbike), and I was set!

If one thinks about living in Bangkok (BKK) costs are many times the above. A BKK friend rents an apartment about one-third the space of mine on a 9th floor for a whoppin’ 6000 baht. From there, it's an inconvenient one-hour bus commute to his job in the central city. Monthly rent 10,000 baht and upward for an equivalent apartment to mine is the norm.

However, even better than BKK, here the air is clean, the water is purer, the horizon more spacious, people smile more, and no traffic jams. Rural living is very peaceful and laid back. (That might drive some foreigners crazy, I admit). BKK is an overnight bus ride away when you get lonely for the big city lights. Two nearby airports make it even quicker: a 45-minute flight for about $40 USD, Thai Airlines. ($20 discount airlines).

But please-- don't tell anyone else about how good it is here. We don't want it to get too crowded!


Chaichakri said...

JD, I have always wanted to work in Krungthep, it is a dream, and recently, I got an invitation to work in Bangna... thinking about it, but somehow, the pay packet is not too attractive...

What is a typical pay packet for graduates in Krungthep?

JD said...

Kitjar, it varies vastly depending on your field of study and the job sector in which you want to work.

Unfortunately, many of my English major students (with Bachelor's degrees) get jobs in Krungthep working for as low as 6,000 Baht a month (hotels, tourism, restaurants, clerical, etc.) Barely a livable wage in "The Big Mango."

SiamPhile said...

JD, which part of Isan do you live? NongKhai was voted as one of 7 nice place to retire. I am thinking of studying in www.mfu.ac.th I heard they teach in English.

JD said...

I live in Central Isan, not far from Khon Kaen. I've made many visits to Nong Khai (visa-related), and would have to concur with your poll. I love it up there!

him said...

Daaaaaamn. I pay close to 20k/month for rent (2 bedroom apt.) here in Asoke area BKK... but still, so much cheaper than home (london)

JD said...

Yeah, none of the Thai believe me when I tell them I maintained a 40,000 baht/month house payments back in the States for the first couple years I lived here! (It's called draining your savings account.)

Incidentally, your monthly BKK rental is more than my monthly salary was at the first school I taught at in Isan (17,000/month). I whined and complained until I found out my fellow teachers were averaging 6,000/month.

I can understand the great economic contrasts between the West and developing countries, but such huge disparities within one small country? No wonder none of our university graduates stay in Isan! Now, I could visit almost 100% of our last year's graduates in one easy central location--BKK!

him said...

Well, my rent may be high, but at least it's less than 1/8th our our combined income, so i deal with it best I can :)

I'm not an english teacher, but I have known them. 17k seems low, for BKK at least but yes, I know many Thais who earn 6k or thereabouts.

I know someone who worked in a local cinema and got 24B / hour. I find figures like that hard to believe and deal with.

JD said...

Like they say, Him, it's not what you make, it's how you spend it... I would also be comfortable with your rent, considering it's ratio to your combined salaries.

I have a Thai friend who just applied for work at a national drugstore chain in Thailand--23B/hour. He has a bachelor's degree and is working on his M.B.A. Here's the kicker: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week.

What a life.

He decided couldn't juggle it with his academic load (no kidding!), but what shocked me is that, otherwise, he'd consider taking the position.

I notice so many Thai in this situation share miniscule dormitory rooms, pool their food resources, wear each others' clothes, and basically do the full family support function although unrelated.

To me, it's a wonderful demonstration of the power of the group to willingly and happily pull the individual through tough times, which SE Asians are so good at. ...something we westerners could certainly learn from.

Anonymous said...

Like they say, Him, it's not what you make, it's how you spend it..

I would like to add
"it is not how much you have but how much you enjoy that matters"
As the later, the Thais definitely do it better than the westerners. :)