Bangkok Phil

The joys of keeping a garden in Thailand

In short, there aren't any.

If I ever need a daily dose of excitement or a sudden rush of adrenaline, I don't need to parachute from planes or dive naked from clifftops as other thrill seekers tend to do. All I have to do is go outside for a spot of gardening.

I spent an hour this morning sweeping up leaves and generally just pottering around but I've now returned to the safety of the house, sweaty, exhausted and battle-scarred.


I got off to a bad start by trying to move a large earthenware jug full of water to a shadier part of the garden, without realizing I was disturbing a frog's home. Admittedly, it wasn't the kind of reptile you'd see in picture books on the dangers of the Amazon, but as the frog leapt out and flew inches past my right ear, it was enough to make me jump up and hit my head on a tree branch.


Then I made the foolish decision to try and re-arrange a small, wooden bird-house. It was perfectly OK where it was but I'm one of those irritating people who move things for the sake of it. I don't know what crawled from out of the bird-house, but there was no evidence of wings. Or legs for that matter. Whatever it was just dropped to the ground and slithered silently away.

And rats

Although I got another fright, it was an altogether preferable encounter to the one I had with the same bird-house several months ago, when an enormous rat jumped out of the hole, ran up my arm and danced its way across my shoulder-blades. And I swear I'm not making any of this up. Just ask my wife. She was there when I ran screaming into the house.

Pond biters

And finally this morning, I climbed into the fish-pond to re-align some lotus plants and something has bitten me under the water. For a split second, I actually felt its teeth sink into my right calf. And I know it's not my solitary koi carp because I kept him in my eye-line at all times.

Truth be told, there isn't a single ounce of pleasure to be derived from owning and maintaining a garden in Thailand. You can admire it from an upstairs bedroom window or you can show it off briefly to visitors before you all scurry indoors for some air-conditioning - but the act of actually setting foot in a Thai garden is purely for masochists.

And it pains me to say this because I come from a long line of green-fingered family members. Both my mother and father, health permitting, have always taken great pride in their gardens and my grandfather regularly won awards and rather nice certificates from the Birmingham City Council for his pristine front lawn bordered by prize begonias.

The smart people

I know I'm not alone with these opinions. One only has to wander down some of the more affluent Bangkok sois and peek through imposing security gates and you'll never see actual family members enjoying quality time in the garden. No one is sitting under ornate gazebos sipping gin and tonics. You never hear the sound of toddlers splashing around in an inflatable paddling pool.

There might be the leisurely-paced activity of a couple of elderly gardeners as they trim shrubs, cut lawns and sweep driveways but the hi-so family are all inside watching movies on wide-screen TVs and playing with pet poodles. They aren't stupid enough as to venture outside where there is every possibility of being squeezed to death by a python.

Not forgetting mosquitos

On a recent trip to England, we had one evening when the weather was decent enough to sit outside in shirt-sleeves and enjoy some late autumnal sunshine. I know there are not many opportunities to do this in the UK but if you make hay while the sun shines, it's a most agreeable way to spend a couple of hours - all sat around a garden table with ice cold beers and enjoying the great outdoors.

You can never do this in Thailand. Not unless you want every mosquito for miles around to join the party.

I suppose this is a big advantage of living in a serviced condominium that has one of those communal gardens, usually with a well-tended flowerbed and perhaps a wooden bench or two.

Although sitting outside in the sunshine might seem like a good idea at the time (and let's face it, you're going to have the communal garden to yourself anyway) the moment you feel the first nip from a flying insect, you can return to the cool shade of your room - just like all the other sane residents. And you don't even have to worry about the upkeep. That's someone else's responsibility. Sounds like the perfect arrangement to me.


Every weekend, I spend about two hours out in my yard, trying to turn it into something pleasurable to enjoy. The time frame is 6 - 8 a.m. since the heat starts pouring on, so when I came across your blog, I about peed my pants! You are so, so right... about everything Hahaha!
** Thanks for enlightening me!
Nancy Jo Marcet, Chonburi Thailand

By Nancy Jo Marcet, Bowin, Chonburi Thailand (23rd January 2020)

Loved the article. I found it while searching for some tips on how to tackle gardening in Thailand. Having lived here in a condo for 15 years, I recently decided to tackle the garden of a friend.
Worried about snakes, stepping over red millipedes, and frightened by a squirrel, I did not notice a hornets nest the size of a football and got viciously attacked.
Not completely healed from that, I found the courage to go back and this time I was greeted by a scorpion.
But I will soldier on and tackle this jungle to become a proper garden.

By Suzanne, Phuket (30th June 2017)

Completely disagree!! - I have jammed every square inch of our balcony with plants and we sit out there most evenings for our pre dinner G&T, often joined by the neighbours. And every afternoon our communcal garden is packed with kids playing and often parents who bring their G&T downstairs for a chat. But I'm in the process of looking for a house to move in to because I am out of space for more plants and want a proper garden. But then I come from sub tropical Australia so I don't bat an eye at snakes, spiders, lizards and other wildlife. In fact - I'd welcome a snake - they keep the rats away!

By Sarah, bangkok (3rd June 2016)

"squeezed to death by a python" ? 555. This may be somewhat of an exaggeration but you are correct; the one factor that people don't count on when in Thailand is the "wildlife". Here is dry Las Vegas I can go out in my backyard, under my Pergola, and enjoy the sunset or drink my coffee in the cool mornings without having to worry about the wildlife attacking me.

Mosquitos love my blood and they will find me no matter how much repellent I put on my skin. I get quarter sized welts when I get bites from mosquitos or ants.

In the States we are missing the wildlife aspect of the Thai experience so we romanticize about the great Thai outdoors, gardens and picnics which are European constructs.

You know those pretty little flowers on your balcony? You know who sleeps there? About 10,000 mosquitos!!!!

I had a house on Khao Pratumnak that had that issue, the flowers on my patch were right next to my aircon unit. The skeeterz would get suctioned into the unit and they would be blown into the house!!! Surprise when you wake up to find 5000 mosquitos chilling in your living room. God!

No more flowers for me!!! Hahahahaha

By MorPhan, Las Vegas (24th November 2015)

Good to see the whinging Pom is alive and well.

Next time. Take a few photos of what you find. Take them to school. open your curricullum and find where these things are found in Science and other subjects.

Use these photos to have your students talk to you.

We really need more creative people in the world and less whinging people waiting to be entertained.

By Asian Aussie, Chantaburi (31st October 2015)

I'm with you. I have a garden and it's a hassle. Thai landscapers are cheap and enthusiastic - let them do all the work. I've never known a country where the grass, weeds and trees grow so fast. I made the mistake of trying to do it myself once and even bought some tools in HomePro to help me do it. I gave up within minutes. Just a massive headache... and I suspect it's a health risk, too!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (28th October 2015)

Although I enjoy reading your blog post, it's fun and humorous, I have been doing gardening for 10 years here in Thailand and never encountered a single (dangerous or scary) animal. But perhaps I like cobras creeping up by back :). The only thing that bothers me is the temperature. There is only a short span of time usually in the morning (6-7) and evening (5-6) that allows Westerners to withstand the Thai heat.

By Rolf, Bangkok (28th October 2015)

Great read, Phil. I've actually lusted after several of my neighbours' gardens, but wondered if anyone ever actually enjoyed them. I guess this answers my question... I'll just stick to a mini-garden on my balcony, within arm's reach of the beer fridge and fan.

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (28th October 2015)

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