Living In Thailand:The Mark Stephens Interview Part 3

Trevor:  I know you are a constant student of the Thai Language. Do you have any tips for beginners?

Mark:  As the Aussies say, ”do the hard yards” There is no substitute for hard work with the Thai language….. no short cuts, no miracle prescriptions. It takes a long time, but the rewards are great. Few foreigners ever get beyond a few mispronounced phrases, even after years and years here, so you will be placing yourself in a select few if you take the trouble to learn Thai well. Move on to learning written Thai as early as possible and that will help you with your conversational Thai. If you learn written Thai you can pronounce any Thai word correctly which, with Thai being a tonal language, is a major step forward. My other piece of advice is to get a friend like Trevor Bide, who has steered me in the right direction with great books for learning Thai on a number of occasions.

Trevor: Your too kind sir, but that is a key point you raise about learning written Thai as soon as possible. I messed around for a long time reciting sentences on a daily basis, but it was not until I actually started to read and write Thai that my Thai learning took off. You have to become really serious about learning and as you say putting in the hard yards. I needed direction in my learning and took some lessons with a wonderful Thai lady in the south-west of the UK called Khun Siriluck who got me back to the basics of learning the alphabet, tones and starting from scratch. I actually walked in at the start thinking I was not too bad already, but Khun Siriluck soon got rid of my ego and got me learning properly. This was a lady who translates and interprets all over the world and a member of Linguist institutions, so it was time to listen. I continued after as I continue today on my own, but always giving my Thai language learning attention as I am still very much learning.

Trevor: Is there anything you miss about the UK at all?

Mark: I miss family of course, a few friends, going to Anfield to see Liverpool (rather than watching it live on ESPN here in Thailand), roast dinners, British comedy and occasionally I miss a snowy day. But that’s about it.

Trevor:  Sorry mate, but me being a massive Manchester United fan all my life and you being a massive Liverpool fan I think it best we give the football a miss as there could be some heavy football banter here as there is ”how can we say” a slight rivalry that exists between the clubs. Football is massive in Asia though and especially the English premier league and there are loads of live matches to watch.

My Tuk -Tuk awaits don’t know where yours is mate!

Trevor: Do you find it easy enough keeping in contact with family and friends in the UK and are you able to see them from time to time.

Mark: As well as visits to the UK, most of my family have visited Hua Hin in the past few years….and there’s a few more on the way later this year. Being a very family orientated town, Hua Hin is always enjoyed by the casual visitors who come here for 2 or 3 weeks away from the UK….my parents, brothers and sisters are no exception. They all had wonderful visits here and, if the economic situation in Europe was brighter, no doubt they would have been back again by now! I manage to keep fairly regular contact via email and skype. My wife owns one of the busier and better equipped Internet cafes in town….called MK Internet Cafe (opposite the Tanawit condos in the centre of town) so bridge the distances between ex pats and their loved ones back home. I remember living in Australia before the days of the internet and the sense of being ”far away” from family was much starker than it is nowadays living in Thailand with the internet.

Looks like everyone has turned in for work at the MK Internet Cafe in Hua Hin

Trevor: Can you see a day where you may no longer want to live in Thailand and further more could you ever see yourself and your family moving back to the UK?

Mark: I suppose we should never say ”never” but it’s very difficult to picture myself living back in the UK. I’ve been away for too long …prior to my 7 years in Thailand I spent almost 10 years living in Australia. So the UK hasn’t really felt like ”home” for many many years. I still like to visit there when I can, as I have family and friends there – and my wife Kwang enjoys visiting them too – so I hope I will always be able to go back for a few weeks, but I generally feel far removed from UK life. If I was to move from Thailand I think it would be more likely that I would return to Sydney than return to the UK. Opportunities and lifestyle over there are more attractive to me. But moving from Thailand would require quite a major upheaval both emotionally and physically. Not to say that’s impossible, but this feels like my ”home” and it would take a massive sea change in thought to tear me away.

Home in downtown Hua Hin

Trevor: Foreigners I talk with have this paradise picture of owning property in Thailand and that is after one or two visits. However Thailand and property for foreigners looks to be  a dangerous occupation. I mean is the best a foreigner can hope for a condominium ten stories high, or is renting property a better option.

I’m not the best person to talk to about property as I’ve kept out of it for the most part…but I do know a lot of people who have bought over here. There was a big rush on Hua Hin property a few years back and in the frenzy I think a lot of people moved in with the aim of making big bucks quickly. Consequently a lot of investors, developers and buyers got their fingers burnt when the economic crash happened a couple of years ago. Of course you rarely hear about success stories but over the past few years I have heard too many accounts of deals going belly – up…and some more publicised ones that turned ugly and tragic. Anyone interested can check things out on forums…I am not going to go into details here. Rental is under-rated everywhere, if you ask me. Rental prices in Thailand are always reasonable and to me it’s far better for someone moving over here to spend a year or two renting and, during that time getting to know the right people who can be trusted, before entering into any buying venture. Anything rushed in Thailand is liable to end up messy, so my advice to anyone moving over here is to take time to learn the lie of the land before making any big decisions that you may end up regretting. That applies to property…. as well as other business ventures…and also relationships.

Trevor: That really is some sound advice… excellent. I have not tackled relationships as that is probably a blog on its own. In fact I know where you can learn masses on relationships from a lady by the name of Kaewmala who is an expert on the subject. Kaewmala has written a book  called ”Sex Talk. In search of love and romance”. Kaewmala and the world of knowledge she provides can be found at and also her blog at all about love and relationships, How to find the right Thai woman and even some great Thai learning features.

Trevor: Finally Mark: What in your opinion are the 3 most important things for successful living in Thailand.

Patience, respect and a good network of people you can trust.







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