Well, that’s a fair enough question. What the hell ever happened to The Experimental Expats? Realizing it’s been almost a year since sharing anything other than Facebook rants and complaints about Trumpland USA with a few non American friends, I’ve decided to come back and answer that question. But first, my middle age rant about technology and how much I hate it. Having spent a large part of my scathingly long House Husband Days learning how to create, fashion and keep a WordPress blog updated, wouldn’t you know those bastards had the audacity to create an updated editor? Shuddering, panicking and almost running back into the unusually brutal Northern Thailand heat (more on that later), I decided to give “Block Editing” a shot. After discovering a fluke in my site that the Happiness Engineers first denied, then admitted needed to be turned over to the developers, I spent two days self tutoring so here I am again and to any millennials who think my posting is old and archaic for lack of fancy code, Jetpack shit or anything else besides actual words; Too Bad.
Feeling like we fell into a mode of real complacency after our trip back to North America, the hiatus felt necessary. Realistically, our lives as middle-aged early retirees living overseas aren’t great fodder for a digital world with two-minute attention spans. We don’t have “second careers”, haven’t gone back to school, opened a business or learned a new language (OK, we speak “nit noy“ Thai). Not yet finding “the next great thing”, we don’t even have Instagram accounts. Living here in Chiang Mai among the worlds’ biggest group of obnoxious expats anywhere on social media and the “digital gonads” who know everything about every topic, it seemed reasonable to take a long blog vacation until something worth writing about came along. Realizing that time is here now, I’ll share three significant things relevant to our little blog. I’ll cover one of the three issues in this post and come back to the other two later.
- Thailand’s Immigration Department made significant changes to the rules for extending visas based on retirement.
- The “burning season” which is a long period in the dry season that local farmers across Northern Thailand burn their fields has now turned into an environmental disaster so serious it requires more than the 47 days we escaped this year to avoid inhaling seriously dangerous particulates.
- As a result of the above two issues, we’ve decided five years in Southeast Asia will be enough and we’re leaving Thailand for greener pastures in Mexico next summer.
Although regular followers may remember, let’s recap why this decision is not only important in our lives but probably should be to you also if you’re contemplating a move to Southeast Asia for retirement. Having already lived through one of the worst man made environmental disasters in modern history during our first year in Penang, we researched the “burning season” in Chiang Mai and still decided to come anyway. Using it as an excuse to travel throughout Thailand, we borrowed a piece of Canadiana and coined the phrase Smogbirding.
Successfully avoiding the worst air for about 40 days last year, we hit the beaches down south and returned to the rainy season when skies cool down. That was then. Fast forward to 2019 and you’ll Chiang Mai often making international news as having the world’s worst air quality. Many Americans know the US media is so innundated with Trump, you’ll rarely find international stories in major outlets yet here’s the Washington Post telling the story of a once great destination being ruined by ignorance. Routinely beating out Bangladesh, India and all the world’s worst third world shitholes, this year’s record heat combined with a recent new trend of burning tracts of land to promote fast growth of illegally harvested mushrooms turned Chiang Mai into the world’s worst place for an expat to live for over 75 long days.
I could go on and on about the causes, solutions, and ramifications of unlivable air pollution but frankly, I’m so sick to death of breathing in smoke not caused by natural forest fires so I’ll simply summarize the way things are in Thailand. Although they had their first recent election since the current junta took power in a 2014 military coup, Thailand isn’t representative government by any definition. Instilling governors, heads of all departments and even the prime minister at will, the government is a military junta and citizens have no say in serious social issues like air pollution. Change starts with responsible government and there’s no sign of that here.
Ironically, they issue a “fire ban” that gets longer every year and on any given day during the ban, you’ll see and smell the defiance. Southeast Asian developing nations are what I call “nations of convenience”. Everyone does what’s convenient for them and they all understand that breaking laws is inconsequential so they do what they want. While lack of education plays a role, the government knows it can’t enforce laws or they’ll risk losing the support of millions of poor farmers. Like the criminals violating the US Constitution every day while enabling a billionaire Manchild, staying in power at all costs far outweighs everything else and the health of its own citizens (and the expats) is collateral damage. This year’s ban was 15 days longer than last year and covered 60 days. Solving nothing, the stench is not even the issue. If you’re new to Southeast Asia, you’ll need to learn about the dreaded AQI Index and more importantly, the term “2.5 particulate matter” which is an invisible mess of toxic substances too small for your lungs to filter out. Here’s a great PDF for anyone interested in learning more.
Plagued with similar pollution, the Trumpmerican nation formerly known as the USA set up the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. Enacting significant legislation aimed at cleaning up the air, they followed with decades of enforcement that carried deep financial consequences for noncompliance. Educating the public through media campaigns works despite now being replaced by ignorance and fake news and every sovereign nation needs to be responsible for its own mess. Legally unable to comment much because Thailand is a Kingdom with strict consequences for any criticisms of the Royal Family, let’s just say nobody sees anything changing soon, the farmers in the North will remain uneducated and defiant and the quality of life will quickly deteriorate, leaving many westerners to seek homes elsewhere. This leads into speculation over the second reason we’re leaving; why Thailand decided to increase the financial requirements for retirement visas (technically known as an extending a visa based on retirement).
Realizing the title of this post implies I’d discuss what we’ve been up to in my nine-month absence from blogging, I’d better leave the first topic for now because we have actually done some fun stuff like visiting Vietnam and covering almost 4,000 kilometers of Thailand’s southern coast and islands on this year’s escape. But before I get to that, I feel a genuine need to complain about several things in the WordPress Block Editor. Yes, I’m “set in my ways” and while I see a lot of great enhancements, it’s taken me three days to learn the nuances and accept the fact that the 20 something’s took away a some functionality I feel enhance my posts.
So without further ado, here are some suggestions to the post millennial developers from a middle-aged guy’s perspective. First, the new simplified links. Often linking text to earlier posts that refer to whatever I’m writing about, I hate the new “add a link” function of the paragraph block which now makes you remember the name of said prior post rather than bring up a chronological menu as the Classic Editor did. Understanding my brain’s not as sharp as a 26-year-old living in their parent’s basement, the chat guy in India asked me if maybe he should “switch me back to the old editor”. Um, no. The baby boomers (and early Gen Xers like me) may seem dead and buried when it comes to blogging like this article suggests but considering almost everyone in power is not yet a millennial, I’d suggest not ignoring us just yet.
My next pet peeve is the removal of text color in paragraph blocks. According to the hip guy I chatted with, color is too much for today’s audience. Responding with “Wouldn’t you rather use bold and italic? It increases the readability and improves the SEO of your text. “, my answer is no. Of course, you can always use the “classic” block as I did in my first paragraph but I guess digital nomads are too busy to bother with things like appearances. Based on what passes for journalism in America, it’s plainly obvious they’re all too concerned with submitting quality news with perfect punctuation and grammar. (HAHAHAHA)
And finally, the doozie for me is the removal of the proofreader. Sadly, most blogs really do suck when it comes to the text and I’m not being mean. Writing comes easily to me but I’ve learned a lot about sentence structure, how to use proper formatting and other suggestions that came right from the WordPress proofreader and it helped make me a better writer. And as one who’s been shattered to no end by the dumbing down of the world by a mass infusion of idiot “smartphones”, childish obsessions with selfies and a “president” that’s literally never read an entire book in his pathetic life, I shouldn’t have been surprised by my Chat Guy’s response when I complained.
Yeah, see how I used the cool new “pull-quote” block because nobody cares about crafting intelligent readable text but making it look cool is all the rage. Even given today’s world of instant gratification, the fact that the world’s largest blogging site refuses to include a proofreader for free in their premium plan is a sad testament to why Trump is president, so few young people have good jobs in the corporate sector, FOX News is somehow “news” and interestingly, why so many millennials drop out of life to Thailand where they can write idiot advice or sell some useless crap online and call it “work”. So like many others, I downloaded Grammerly and while I do think the free product isn’t bad, I’m not shelling out $116 a year on top of my WordPress subscription for something that my generation thinks is a no brainer as far as a necessity. Submitting to the 2020s may take some time.
And finally, it appears I didn’t get to chat about the post’s topic very much (as usual) so I’ll end by saying the experiment continues next year in Mexico. We thought about Playa Del Carmen but there’s a new phenomenon most likely caused by climate change that changed our mind. It’s called sargassum and it’s a seaweed that’s washing up in such mass quantities that it’s literally ruining the tourism industry along the Mexican coast known as The Mayan Riviera. Coupled with an increase in crime in the eastern Mexican coastal cities, we’re potentially heading to beautiful Puerto Vallarta. And while I don’t often post on financial matters, I’d add that our net worth is actually higher four years into our experimental early retirement thanks to a well-diversified portfolio and proper asset allocation. I’ll write more on that in the upcoming months given that The Orange Ignorant Toddler thinks he can win a Trade War with China and markets tend to react to his every ignorant tweet. He can’t beat China, but he will bankrupt thousands of American farmers. Oh well; collateral damage here in Thailand with burning and in America also but with pure ignorance and a very stupid population.
Cheers from blazing hot Northern Thailand
Comments and sarcastic banter are always appreciated