Julia Knight

How's life?

How can one answer such a simple question?

Friends and family always ask how life is for me and my family here in Bangkok. This question always makes me smile.

Such a big question, written in a tiny two word sentence.

How's life?

The immediate answer is always, fab. And I really do mean it is fabulous.

Here's why I love my life here so much:

1) "There is always something beautiful to see or hear."

My friend Sue said this and how true it is. I wake up every morning to the sound of wildlife; morning song is just glorious. There's a tokay who made his home on the balcony, lizards and frogs hustle for the botanic spoils of our small garden.The back of my house overlooks a rice field and typically there will be cranes paddling around whilst swallows soar overhead. My garden is home to mango, banana and jack fruit trees- so much beauty in one little spot.

2) My expat friends.

I am very lucky to have made friends with other expats doing the same as me. Taking a punt on life. Life in another country is made all the more easy when you have people to laugh and cry with. Expats have a buzz about them, the cliched sense of adventure which makes us all equal in so many ways. I have found kindness and generosity from friendships which have formed not only faster but stronger.

3) Living my dreams, loving my job

I have always wanted to write and now I am able to. I have two blogs, one here on Ajarn and my teaching blog. I also write children's stories that my friend Rachel illustrates. The time and space here in Bangkok affords a creativity which I see replicated in so many other of my expat friends. Working in a international school allows me to be creative, to craft my profession, to enjoy teaching and have a work-life balance.

4) Bangkok is child's play.

What a fabulous life my three year old son has. We never struggle for things to do on a weekend. Bangkok has so much to offer children from ice skating to cinema, from ballparks to safaris. He has a freedom that would be curtailed at home in London. I love watching him run and play in our local park, regardless of the language barrier, he makes friends and it makes me wonder what life has in store for him

5) Going home.

No chance. I love London. I miss my mum and siblings, I miss my best friend, Jude and the closeness and familiarity of long held friendships. Luckily, social media, FaceTime and Skype provide me with details of their lives, it's not the same but that's what makes going home even more special. Long lazy lunches in cozy pubs, meeting all our friends and families makes appreciation of life back home even more meaningful.

I haven't mentioned the weekends away, the weather and the food because that's a given isn't it?

About me



I live in a lovely little cul-de-sac and it is great. A brill swimming pool nearby, a convenient shop, little traffic, children playing outside, beautiful flowers, old ladies cycling by with curlers in their hair, cute soi dogs lying in the shade, carts selling fresh fruit and vegetables, security ringing a bell every hour (and nobody knows why)...
So I definitely see your point about Bangkok being a better place to raise children than London as, in my experience, there are no neighbourhoods in London like the one I live in at the moment in Bangkok.
But then as soon as I step one foot out of this area it is chaos and stress. I go from loving Bangkok to hating it and then wishing I was in London, where the pedestrian is looked after. But I guess nowhere is perfect though.

My biggest Bangkok despair is that the main street from round the corner where I live gets turned into a market at night. I love markets but in the right place, not on the street. The pavement gets reduced down to single file and when one person stops to admire a dress then the traffic stacks up. When stalls are setting up or packing away they take up all of the pavement forcing the pedestrian onto the road. They also tie ropes to posts, forcing me (I am 6 foot 4) to walk in an almost permanent stoop.
I will have a think about my London despairs - I'm sure there will be many.

By Robert Davies, (11th March 2014)

ahh yes the cooking pots and blocked pavements! Well I live in a sleepy moo baan and I guess those hazards aren't really applicable but yep, I hear you, they are dangerous! I do miss pavements... my little boy plays out in the road with his scooter and the other children. The road is a cul de sac and very safe... ask me again when we move to downtown Bkk in Aug!

If I could replicate my life here and apply it to London, adjust the temperature and sunshine dial, then London would indeed be perfect. Maybe we should do our Top 5 Thailand V London despairs?

By Julia, BKK (10th March 2014)

I certainly think that children are well looked after in Thailand as many Thai people love children and they always seem to be welcome, whereas in London, sometimes children aren't made to feel welcome at all.
But I do think that children are allowed to be children in London as well. You can definitely take children to the park in London - as you can in Bangkok - and let them run around safely. There are also very few parks in Bangkok compared to London.
The only time I would keep my child in a pushchair is when there are big crowds, be it London, Bangkok or anywhere.
I also think London is safer in other ways - there are no mopeds riding the wrong way down the pavement in London, there are no big potholes on the pavement in London, there are no wild dogs in London, there is a lot less dog mess on the pavement in London, there are more street lights in London, there are no people cooking with hot stoves, boiling water or hot fat on the streets of London etc etc.

But you have obviously had a different experience to me. I don't want to come across as someone who thinks Bangkok isn't good for children as I do think it's great but I also think London is good for kids as well and the pros and cons of both probably balance each other out.

By Robert Davies, (10th March 2014)

By that comment, I feel that my child is allowed to be a child here, he can run, jump and play and isn't tied to a pushchair or holding my hand constantly. I also love the way in which he is looked out for by other adults and parents. It's a much more child friendly society.


By Julia, BKK (10th March 2014)

Hello Philip - yes I would agree with you about the cost of living.

Just to clarify what I was saying. I just disagree with the line from the original article that sates: 'he has a freedom that would be curtailed at home in London' as there are loads more things to do for children (or adults) in London compared to Bangkok.
The working hours are often shorter here, the work/life balance better and the cost of living is better - which all mean you have more leisure time - but that shouldn't be mistaken for having more things to do in Bangkok compared to London. It is just in London that you would have less time for leisure.

By Robert Davies, (10th March 2014)

Hi Christopher, I am happy to answer any questions you have about International a Schools, but let's make it private to ensure a candid view! My email is jmknight17@gmail.com. Email your Qs!

Robert, I think London can be the most expensive or the cheapest place it depends on what you do. That much I agree! I think the things we like to do here are a mix of both, swimming in the pool playing in the moo ban's playpark are all free. The cinema is def cheaper than the UK as are the ballparks. A day out to either of those is £20-30 in the UK. The big lack for me, is the theatre and the cultural places. I do miss that side of things, my local theatre in Greenwich and Deptord always had interesting stuff going on.

Still all can be squeezed into a three week holiday when visiting home.

By Julia, BKK (10th March 2014)

Hi Robert. This is a very interesting discussion topic.

I always tell people that generally (and the key word is 'generally') the cost of living here in Bangkok is a third of what it is back in the UK. I know you 'London boys' live in a different economic world to the rest of the country but would you agree with that very general statement?

So if a Bangkok museum costs you 100 baht (2 pounds) to buy a ticket, that's equivalent to paying 6 pounds in the UK for the same quality of attraction.

So actually I do agree with you - some of the attractions in Bangkok are scandalously overpriced. One example is the aquarium at Siam Paragon - is it called Ocean World? And I believe the entrance fee is about 600 baht (12 pounds) - in my book that's equivalent to 36 pounds for the same thing in the UK. Wow! That's a lot of dough.

I also agree with you about Cadbury World. It's a top quality day out. I've been twice now and enjoy it more than the kids do.

By philip, (10th March 2014)

Hi Julia. Very nice article. Enjoyed reading it.

I thought it was interesting to get your point of view on raising a child in Bangkok, as I live and work here in Bangkok. Although, I don't have any children. So it was good to get a sense of how Western families experience life here.

As I said, I don't have any children. But when that time comes, a decision will have to be made whether to raise a family here or back in the States. Quality of education is a hot topic for expats in Thailand. I was wondering. Could you divulge your plan for your child's education? If you'd rather not, I understand. It's a bit private.

Again, it was a nice read. Thanks for sharing.

By Christopher, Bangkok (10th March 2014)

I went to the Forensic Museum in Bangkok the other day - most definitely not recommended for children - and paid 200baht. My partner who is Thai, paid 40baht - something that I find incredibly annoying but let's not get into that. Relatively speaking, considering the low wages that are paid in Bangkok, this was very expensive.
Also, the exhibition was very poor. There were large sections that had no explanations as to what we were meant to be looking at, no guidance, sections blocked off, dusty shelves, out of date literature and an air of complete apathy from the staff. There was so little that was actually written in English that I feel the entrance fees should have been switched - the Thai people should pay more.
In comparison, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum in London are free and are amazing places. You could spend all day in those places and not the twenty minutes I spent in the forensic museum.
On top of that, the public transport to the museum is poor so we had to drive, which involved sitting in a long queue of traffic for a long time and then paying for parking.
Travel is free for under fives in London and there are many other discounts available for children - have a look on the visit London website.

The examples of Cadburys World and the petting park are very expensive I agree with you. Having never been to the petting park I can't comment on the quality but having been to Cadburys World, it is a great place to visit and to take children so you are paying for quality - which you cannot guarantee in Bangkok. I have been to at least two petting parks in London that are free and I wouldn't pay the prices you had to pay. Also, when I went we got discount because there were some vouchers in the local paper - otherwise we wouldn't have visited as it is, as you say, too expensive.
The transport museum does sound expensive and that could well be the reason I have never been as I would be interested to go, but not at that price. But you don't have to go there and if you had to eat round by Covent Garden then you will be charged an extraordinary amount for basic food.

I just want to make the point that London can be very expensive but it can also be surprisingly cheap and vice versa with Bangkok - it appears cheap but can actually be quite expensive.

By Robert Davies, (9th March 2014)

Hi Robert, I love London (last there at Christmas) but it is expensive. We went to the London Transport Museum at Covent Garden (Little one loves buses, tubes etc;) and it cost us 30GBP to go in, yes it was free for the child and entry lasts a year, but expensive nether the less. Add on train fares, food and you have a day out costing well over 60GBP.

Not all the museums are free... a lot have lost funding under the austerity measures and cuts to arts funding.

You mentioned parks, a trip to the park (our closest was Greenwich Park) doesn't come cheap either, parking at 2.10GBP an hour, buses at 2.00GBP each way, donkey rides at 3 quid or an icecream at 1.50 all adds up. Yes you can pop to the supermarket and put a picnic together but it is never going to be as cheap as bbq's chicken from a street stall.

Thanks for reading and commenting. JK

By Julia, BKK (9th March 2014)

Fair points Robert. As I said, I don't have children so I'm never personally in a position of having to keep children entertained. I'm only going on what a person with two kids, aged 6 and 10, is saying.

I do accompany them sometimes when I'm back in England - my brother and his two kids and his partner and her two kids from a previous marriage.

In October, we went to a local petting zoo - it was nothing special - and that was 8 pounds for adults and 4 pounds for children. A total of 32 pounds to go into a petting zoo. Yes, we took our own food but kids always want an ice-cream at some stage (and the adults don't want to be left out) so that's another 10-15 quid at least.

A day out at the very popular Cadbury World in Birmingham, is now 16 pounds for adults and 13 for children. I know. I treated everyone last time I was home. 110 quid for entrance fees.

By philip, (9th March 2014)

Point number 4 - all those things you can do in London and having lived in London for 10 years, I would definitely say that there are loads more things to do in London for kids (and for others) than there is in Bangkok. Most museums in London are free whereas museums in Bangkok often charge money (albeit not a lot for anyone on a good salary) and have very poor exhibitions. There are loads more parks in London, compared to Bangkok as well - indeed Lumpini is now out of action because of the protests, leaving very few public parks.
The point Philip makes about it being £20 to take your kids to a museum isn't true in London because as I have already mentioned - they are free. You don't have to spend £20 on food, you can bring food from home.
Philip compares going to the park in Bangkok with going to the zoo in London, which isn't fair. Parks are free in London and going to the zoo isn't free in Bangkok either.
I doubt if you would be able to go to the park in Bangkok all day as you state Philip unless you spend all day not moving and sat in the shade - which isn't much fun - because it is so hot here.

I agree with all your other points though - just not point number 4. I am certainly not saying that Bangkok is better than London for children but all those things you mention you can certainly do in London - I just wanted to comment to give the other side of the argument.

By Robert Davies, (9th March 2014)

Even though I don't have children Julia, point number four always interests me.

I have a very good friend - actually she's my brother's partner - who worked in Bangkok for three years doing the marketing for an international school.

She returned to the UK about two years ago and obviously I see her every time I go back and she likes to know how things are going in Thailand, etc.

Although she's now settled in the UK, she misses Thailand every single day. She loved it here because she thought it was a great place to raise her two young children.

I can't remember her exact words but she used to love how her kids could have a great time here for next to nothing financially. You could have a lovely day in the park, with the sunshine on your back, buy some lunch from the vendors and you've had a day out for less than 200 baht.

She got a rude awakening in the UK. Entertaining kids is so expensive, especially if the weather is iffy. Take them to a museum or a zoo and it's 20 quid for everyone to go in - then there is the cost of lunch and snacks and ice-creams, etc.

The low cost of keeping kids entertained is what she misses most.

By philip, (9th March 2014)

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