Episodes

  • Because the first show was so fun to do - and full of great listener-generated ideas! - Greg and Ed revisit the idea of expat ‘merit badges,’ a recognition of classic experiences in Thailand that indicate you are more than just a tourist. I mean, try to come to Thailand as a tourist and not eat bugs, that’s easy-peasy! We’re talking about real skills or achievements that show you’ve not only been here for a while, but have actually gone out of your comfort zone to learn and get your hands dirty. So to speak. The guys go back and forth, discussing ten new ways to ‘level up’ your expat street cred.

    Examples include dressing down for formal events, Thai style, understanding the Thai system of measurements, as in ‘rai’ and ‘wa,’ knowing Thai years, especially for your date of birth, being able to recognize or speak a little bit of a Thai dialect, and knowing the formally proper way to give alms to a monk. Greg and Ed talk about their own ability at each one, and then go through even more experiences that prove you are not a noob in Thailand.

    Listen in for all the details and see where you rank among your expat peers!

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg and Ed interview expat legend Chris Baker, co-author (along with his wife Pasuk Phongpaichit) of A History of Thailand, in addition to several other well-known books on Thailand. Greg and Ed gush over the fact they have both read Chris’s most famous work, something that every serious expat needs to do at some point.

    Chris begins by relating the lovely story of meeting his wife in England and subsequently relocating to Thailand where he worked a variety of jobs before settling down and co-writing a book with her on the economy and politics of Thailand in the 1990s. He explains his fascinating relationship with his wife, which involves extensive arguing over the subject matter of their books, while somehow preserving their personal relationship. The guys joke that this is perhaps Chris’s greatest accomplishment.

    Chris continues with the story of his most famous book, A History of Thailand, how it came about and he and his wife’s shock and amazement at its best-seller status. Chris explains that a new, updated fourth edition is close to release, so all Bangkok Podcast listeners now have their summer reading assignment!

    Greg and Ed prod Chris for his thoughts on recent events in Thailand, and Chris gives his insightful take on the last few years. Thankfully, Chris agrees to return to the podcast for future shows. We can’t wait! :)

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

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  • It’s Greg’s turn for some reverse culture shock as he relates his return to Thailand from the Great White North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ed first notes the differences between his situation and Greg’s: he still has family in Ohio, while Greg’s family are no longer there. Plus, Ed’s habits tend towards the international, such as Starbucks and Subway, so he can feel at home around the world.

    For Greg though, Calgary is really another place entirely, especially in the winter, and he reacted similarly to Ed in Ohio: Why do human beings even live in this environment? Apparently, twenty years in the tropics changes a man.

    The boys then discuss some of the big differences noted on Greg's trip, from dull malls and rough-looking locals (something Ed noticed on his trip too) to the abundance of weed dispensaries and the sheer joy of bantering with waitstaff in your own language.

    Listen in for some deep thoughts on being a stranger in a strange land that used to be home.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Anyone who has been to Thailand knows the old “Ohhh, the temple is closed today, why don’t you come with me to this gem store?” Despite warnings in literally every bit of content about traveling to Thailand, thousands still fall prey to this scam every year. But why??

    To answer this we are joined by Ding Xu, a PhD candidate in tourism at Australia’s James Cook University. Ding’s research goes deep into understanding the culture, economy and psychology of the tourism industry as well as the tourists themselves. Putting hundreds of hours of study into the scams that are so prevalent around the world, Ding has a unique insight into not only how and why the scams are put together, but what causes a large number of tourists to part with money - sometimes a lot of money! - based on the advice of a random dude they met in a foreign country.

    Ding explains the four features that his research identified in being central to any scam - deception types, interpersonal trust, victim culpability and prevalence - to dissect how and why these scams are so ubiquitous.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Thanks to a suggestion from a listener Greg and Ed discuss the fascinating topic of games that are common - if not unique - to Thailand. Both guys have some familiarity with some games played in public such as ‘takraw,’ but many of the others are part of this strange world called ‘Thai culture’ that the guys apparently don’t actually know that well.

    Greg begins with a children’s game in which one child sings a song while counting by syllable on another child’s hand. When the singer stops on a finger, that finger is taken out of the game. The child with the last finger in is the winner. Greg even plays a cute clip of a video of the game.

    Next, Greg explains a Thai game very similar to the Western game of ‘jacks,’ which although relatively unplayed by children back home, still lives on in a Thai derivative.

    The boys then go deep into the Thai version of chess, called makruk (หมากรุก), which utilizes the same board and pieces but with modifying moving rules for each piece. This game is a quite famous pastime of Thai motorcycle riders, who can often be seen playing the game on the side of the road while awaiting customers. It should be noted that Ed’s friend - a noted chess lover - was broken by makruk, giving up in frustration after trying to tame the wild beast.

    Greg continues with several more Thai games, from the crazy sport of takraw, which is kind of like soccer and volleyball mixed together with a wicker ball, to bizarre practices such as beetle fighting, popular in the Northeast, and a game where you throw seeds with your knees. We also check in with a friend of Greg’s who owns Golden Goblin Games to hear about the role-playing side of things.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg interviews our old friend and recurring guest Phra Pandit, about public speaking as a Buddhist monk. Beginning with some public speaking basics, such as the three things that really matter when you give a speech: what you have to say, who you are, and how you deliver, our venerable friend emphasizes that how you deliver a speech is what you have the most control over and is also completely separate from the content. Using Trump as an example, he explains that Trump’s public speaking technique was excellent, even though he was turned off by the message.

    Next, Phra Pandit discusses the different types of speeches in Thai Buddhism, from the informal to the more formal. Interestingly, the more formal the speech, the more robotic the delivery is supposed to be, given that the content is supposed to be pure Buddhism as opposed to your own views or personality. But even in informal talks, humor and laughter is supposed to be avoided as can be seen in the recent hullabaloo over two Thai monks doing a stand up comedy routine.

    Phra Pandit continues with some more great advice for speakers of all types and concludes with some very funny stories about trying to teach Asian monks, who are almost guaranteed to be shy, the secret to overcoming the fear of talking in front of a crowd.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • In the wake of the 2022 World Happiness Report - which saw Thailand drop by quite a few spots - Greg and Ed jump into the fascinating topic of the happiness of Thailand compared to other countries. How can you possibly measure something like the ‘happiness’ of a country? Well, wannabe social scientist Ed claims it can be done, and Greg walks through the data from the report to discuss.

    The boys go through factors such as GDP per capita, social support, and life expectancy, among others, that the researchers used to figure out how happy people were in various countries. So what of Thailand? Well, its ranking was 61 out of 146 countries which could be worse, but it turns out Thailand has slid 28 spots in the last few years! Ouch.

    The guys then discuss various possible reasons for the drop, with of course the military government being a prime candidate, given that Thailand’s long slide started in around 2015. Could Thailand possibly no longer be the Land of Smiles? Well, at the very least, the hosts of the Bangkok Podcast are still smiling, so Thailand has that going for it. :)

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg interviews Dax Ward, an adventurous photographer best known for his beautiful photos of dilapidated buildings and abandoned places. Dax begins by explaining that he was a very late starter to photography, getting a DSLR for the first time in 2015. After a random trip to the airplane graveyard down Ramkhamhaeng Road, he developed an affinity for shooting forgotten and abandoned places.

    As it turns out, Thailand (and Bangkok in particular) are perfect places for this style of photography due to the number of unfinished construction projects from the financial crisis of the late 1990s. Additionally, there seem to be a surprising number of new business ventures in the area that fail for whatever reason or another, so there seems to be an endless supply of possible sites for Dax’s style of photography.

    The guys discuss how Dax discovers and gains access to his locations. It’s surprising what a couple hundred baht here and there will do to the attitude of many Thai security guards! Dax then details his research methods and how he manages to build a compelling story around each set of photographs, something that many other photographers don’t bother with.

    In a world where almost everyone has the technology in their pocket to take a decent photo, Thailand is lucky to have an intrepid, creative photographer like Dax to show us how to do things right.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg and Ed tackle the uncomfortable topic of self-censorship in Thailand, especially as it pertains to the podcast itself, and the churning, roiling issue of what you can say, when, and how, which seem to be in the news every day.

    Although it is unfortunate, the reality of working and living in Thailand is that the laws and culture are not the same as back home in the U.S. and Canada. Obviously, this means no discussion of the monarchy, and Ed explains how he always advises visiting friends to simply avoid discussion of the monarchy and royal family in pretty much any context. This is good advice for all foreigners in Thailand actually.

    Second, the boys concur that although they do criticize the government broadly, they make sure not to name specific politicians or policymakers. Although technically no law forbids it, strong and pointed criticism of the Thai government has a way of ending up poorly for the critic, from sudden problems with your visa to (in extreme cases) outright disappearance. On a podcast that is not centered on political issues, it just ain’t worth the risk, and while the guys feel comfortable critiquing the government broadly, that's about as far as they are willing to go.

    Last, Greg and Ed discuss Thailand’s defamation laws, which work differently than the laws back home where ‘truth’ is more or less an absolute defense. In Thailand, even if you say something true, you can be found guilty of violating another person’s privacy. As Ed put it, Thailand has a ‘mind your own business’ culture, as opposed to the ‘speak truth to power’ culture we have back home.

    All this being said, the guys admit that self-censorship is fairly rare and not really a problem for a podcast focused on the serious (and sometimes silly) aspects of living in Thailand as a foreigner.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg and Ed consider the tricky question of Thailand’s role in the global order. Sparked by a question from one of his students about what Thailand’s response to the war in Ukraine should be, Ed realized that he’s never really thought about the world from the perspective of the Thai government or even a Thai person. The guys do their best as non-Thais but long term expats to imagine what the world looks like to most Thais.

    Ed discusses King Rama V’s clever diplomatic maneuverings between the French and the British in the 19th Century that kept Thailand from ever being colonized. Greg brings up the classic example of Prime Minister Phibul during WW2, who sided with Japan when it was winning the war, but also conducting negotiations with the West as the tide turned. As a developing country, it DOES seem that Thailand has spent a big part of its history stuck in between larger powers.

    The boys try to relate this to the current crisis in Ukraine, recognizing that as a country that depends on tourism, Thailand rightfully may not want to alienate Russian citizens. Even some prominent members of the democracy movement have cautioned Thais about taking sides in the conflict. However, others have urged that if Thailand wants to become a real democracy in the future, it must support emerging democracies abroad, such as Ukraine. As two Westerners at heart, the guys couldn’t agree more! :)

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg interviews ‘Bangkok Pat,’ whose videos on Bangkok’s historical secrets uncover the hidden layers of this fascinating city. Pat begins with a bit of personal background, growing up in the UK with a Thai mother, and eventually losing touch with that part of his history. Undeterred,in his early twenties, he made the move to Thailand to re-discover his lost roots.

    The guys discuss Pat’s early days as a DJ in Bangkok’s club scene, before getting into the issue of how to survive in Bangkok as a new foreigner (especially when getting bad advice from other foreigners). Next, Greg inquires about Pat’s interest in history and how he got into making videos about Bangkok. A history lover since childhood, he developed a curiosity for different Bangkok neighborhoods, and due to Covid, felt an online approach would be most suitable. Due to a few lucky shares, even his earliest videos developed a following.

    The boys continue with a deep dive into a few of Pat’s most successful videos, and they trade advice on the best research strategies, and what makes Bangkok such a great city to get lost in.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg and Ed discuss the significance of the recent decision by the Thai parliament to accept a change to the official English name of Bangkok that was proposed by the Royal Society of Thailand. Initially, it was announced as a major change from ‘Bangkok’ to ‘Krung Thep Maha Nakhon,’ (that’s กรุงเทพมหานคร for you Thai readers), but Greg clarifies that the change really was just a matter of punctuation.

    Nevertheless, the announcement kicked off a huge debate on social media over what Thailand’s capital should really be called, as it’s an issue fraught with a surprising amount of subtext, as this great thread from Khun Phacha will show.

    Ed notes initially that the word ‘Bangkok’ is not a word made up by Westerners, but an old word for a district of the old capital of Thonburi. Greg points out that Bangkok has been used for centuries and is extremely well known around the world so it’s a bit strange for the change to be made now.

    The guys also discuss proper pronunciation of places, as most countries have the ‘international name’ (ie, Germany, Thailand and Sweden) and the ‘local name’ (as in Deutschland, Meuang Thai, and Sverige). Read more about this interesting concept with the name of Laos in this great post by Tim.

    In the end, the guys prefer to keep the podcast ‘The Bangkok Podcast’ instead of going through the trouble of renaming it ‘The Krung Thep Maha Nakorn Podcast.’ Lazy as always!

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • One of the great things about Thai culture is the many facets that make up the whole. One of them is the Indian community, and Greg is happy to welcome Ram Sachdev, a first generation Thai-Indian and founder of Masala Magazine, a leading voice of the Thai-Indian community, to talk about it.

    We begin by going over the many historical cultural connections between India and Thailand, from Sanskrit’s influence on Thai language to Buddhism’s origin in India, in addition to the myriad Thai holidays which can be traced back to ancient Indian celebrations. No doubt the Indian influence on Thai culture is more than it might appear on the surface, and more than most Thais might admit.

    Ram then expertly describes the Indian diaspora to Malaysia and later Thailand that resulted from the partition of India after World War II. This leads to a discussion of Thai-Indian identity in Thailand, which K. Ram contends is still misunderstood. This includes a discussion of the common word used by Thais for South Asians, “khaek”. Another common misconception is to group Hindu Indians along with Malaysia Muslims. Greg and K. Ram discuss the struggle of Thai-Indians to be recognized as truly Thai, but also of Hindu Indian descent.

    The conversation continues to cover many aspects of Indian-Thai life in Thailand, revealing Thailand to be a society that is more multicultural than most people realize.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • As Thailand starts to get back to bid-ness, there will likely be a whole lot of n00bs coming in to tour, work and live. Most who have been here for a while already remember what an overwhelming experience Bangkok was in the early days, and how helpful it was to make a network of friends that you could turn to for advice.

    Of course, not all advice is great, especially when you’re talking with random people about how your new foreign home works. We think it’s fair to say that most advice you get is subjective and can probably be taken with a grain of salt, but some advice…some advice is gold, and should be locked away for further investigation.

    Greg and Ed take a look back at their early days in the Kingdom and each come up with 2 bits of advice that they got that they did not lock away for further investigation, and now - in their wise old age - regret. From dating to geography, sometimes it pays to listen to old-timers to make the most of your new situation.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • We recount the fascinating story of George DuPont, the only Thai person who fought in the American Civil War. The first record of George in the U.S. is in 1859, but almost nothing is known of how or why he ended up in the United States. We know that in 1862 he volunteered for a New Jersey regiment to fight for the North in the American Civil War. Shockingly, he fought in and survived the battles of Antietam, Chancellorville, and Gettysburg, three of the bloodiest battles of the war. He was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1869.

    He subsequently returned to Thailand, or Siam as it was known, and worked a variety of jobs, from writer for an English language newspaper to a drillmaster to a timber dealer. He died at age 56, and you can still see his grave in the Bangkok Protestant Cemetery on Charoen Krung 72/5.

    George DuPont represents a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early Thai immigrants to America. Greg and Ed surmise that there must have been immigrants before him, equally or more interesting! One way or another, we’ll find them and tell their stories on the Bangkok Podcast. :)

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg interviews Benjamin Lord, an American who moved to Asia straight out of college at NYU. He is on the show to discuss life as a gay man in Thailand. After spending several years in Vietnam, where the pressure to hide his status was suffocating, he eventually relocated to Bangkok. At first, the prevalence of gay bars, trans people, and apparent acceptance of a gay lifestyle led Benjamin to believe that Thailand was a kind of gay paradise, a moniker often placed on the Land of Smiles.

    However, over the years he has developed a much subtler view of the acceptance of homosexuality in Thai society. Although Benjamin doesn’t fear for his physical safety in the same way he did in his birthplace of Arkansas, he is now aware that many Thai families stick to ‘traditional values’ and reject and may even disown their own children who are gay or trans.

    Further, the lack of true legal equality for LGBTQ people in Thailand has become more apparent in many ways, the most obvious of which was the recent Constitutional Court decision that stated that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Greg and Benjamin discuss the reaction of the LGBTQ community to the ruling and how a lack of ‘positive rights’ demonstrates that Thailand really is a very conservative society in many ways, regardless of the ‘niceness’ on the surface.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • With Ed being stuck in the US, he relates ten experiences he has had during his stay in Ohio that he doesn’t think he would ever have in Thailand, introducing them with his characteristic wit and charm. (Ed wrote this). From overly aggressive nazi guards at the airport to overly aggressive kindness from fellow shoppers, and all the way down to Covid carelessness, vaxxers of all types, and the sweet, sweet siren call to consume, consume, consume at all costs.

    While some of them may be trivial or only be special in Ed’s bizarre consciousness, the boys do their best to tease out truths about American and Thai culture and interesting insights into American society. At the very least, Ed’s been on an adventure that should be of interest to anyone who cares about the fascinating differences between the West and Thailand.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • Greg interviews Phra Pandit, the resident Bangkok Podcast expert on all things Buddhism, about negative emotions such as anxiety and anger and how Buddhism deals with them. Displaying his deep knowledge of Western psychology, Phra Pandit begins first by discussing the Freudian approach to anxiety, which separates out reasonable negative emotions from neuroticism, which is defined as anxiety that is irrational or inappropriate given the context.

    Greg brings up the sometimes casual attitude that Thais seem to have towards death, and Phra Pandit explains that the Buddha taught his followers to contemplate death and even encouraged monks to meditate in cemeteries and in close proximity to corpses. By addressing the issue of our physical death so directly, Buddhism aims to give us perspective on day to day annoyances, such as getting coffee that’s lukewarm instead of hot. :)

    The old friends continue with a wide ranging discussion of the differences between how westerners and Thais deal with traumatic events and negative emotions, and Phra Pandit weaves his general knowledge of human psychology in with his very deep and specific knowledge of Thai culture and Buddhism.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • It’s a COVID Christmas Craptacular! The guys discuss all the ways that COVID has made the holiday season difficult for expats and travelers to Thailand. To start things off, Greg plays a quick conversation with podcast supporter Ash, who is now more or less locked out of Thailand due to the recent tightening of restrictions. So much for planning ahead!

    Next, Ed details his absolutely epic adventure to Ohio. Despite a successful last-minute scramble to get the right health insurance and beat the deadline for applying for a Thailand Pass, he managed to test positive for COVID on Christmas Eve! So much for spending Christmas with his family for the first time in 20 years. Despite no symptoms whatsoever, he tested positive a week later and is now unable to get back into Thailand under the new rules, so he is stuck in Ohio for the time being. Never fear: the Bangkok Podcast will go on as usual.

    Last, Greg plays a short conversation with Scott, sometime podcast co-host. Unlike Ed, Scott does not have COVID, but what he also doesn’t have is a Thailand Pass, thanks to a lack of hotel paperwork. The result: he’s stuck in Canada for the time being. Maybe Ed and Scott can have a locked out of Thailand party! Woo hoo!

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.

  • When Greg and guest-host Scott moved here at the turn of the century, Bangkok had about 22km of train lines (not counting the SRT diesel trains). Now there are 210km in operation with a further 250km under construction. That’s huge!

    But it presents a problem - Bangkok is evolving very quickly, and unless you ride the trains A LOT, you are probably, like us, becoming more and more unfamiliar with how to get around the city you live in. Greg and Scott set out to change this, and spent a day riding around on various lines, visiting a few stations, and seeing what they could see from above (and below) the city. To get a better idea of how things look, check out this Google Map that Greg made of all the existing and upcoming train lines in Bangkok.

    From the confusing new Blue Line loop to the massive Bang Sue Grand Station to dusty end of the Purple Line, the boys give their impression on how things are progressing and why - if you live here - all of us should make an effort to get more acquainted with Bangkok’s train lines before we start to feel like lost, confused tourists in the very city we live in.

    Don’t forget that Patrons get the ad-free version of the show as well as swag and other perks. And we’ll keep our Facebook, Twitter, and LINE accounts active so you can send us comments, questions, or whatever you want to share.