HAVE been coming to Thailand since 2001 with my first wife, a Thai national I met in the UK. Over the years, we stayed for long periods in Pathum Thani, Khon Kaen, Koh Chang and eventually Ubon Ratchathani. I enjoy Ubon, despite being only 41 in a mainly retired expat community, though it does include a large number younger foreigners working as teachers.
After the divorce from my first wife in 2013, I came to Thailand and pretty much lived here full time, and the inevitable happened I met the lady who was to become my second wife: Khun Siriwan. She opened a restaurant in central Ubon, but as we weren’t sure whether I would be travelling back and forth to the UK, so we decided to close the place. In the end, I stayed here full time.
Instead, we moved to Muang Sam Sip, a village some 30 kilometres outside of Ubon Ratchathani, where my wife was born. It was the best decision of my life. Muang Sam Sip has very few foreigners but has a thriving local economy, and you can see firsthand the good the military government is doing on the ground for ordinary Thai people flooding subsidies, poor people’s cards and farmland subsidies. That is not to forget the many
provincial government officers who are simultaneously trying to help the local economy through new strategies and ideas, which are now coming to fruition.
Nowadays, my wife runs a very successful turkey farm here, selling them to foreigners throughout Thailand, and I grow and train wild boars as pets. I have too many boars now, however, and my wife is complaining, so I think in the
new year we will cut back to our original two. I also raise geese, chickens and ducks.
I am heavily involved in the local community and try to help as many expats as I can, whether they have intermittent problems because of their age or face other issues by just being in Thailand. I think that is because I was heavily involved in my community back home. I love to help people, but I also know when the time is right is to back away and let them resolve issues themselves.
Ubon Ratchathani is a great city where you can eat anything you wish, from full-on Mexican to German and Italian food. Of course, there is Isaan food, which many expats enjoy here. Ubon also has an excellent infrastructure, and the provincial governor is very approachable, as are other influential people in Ubon Ratchathani.
Ubon Rajabhat University is one of the best universities in Isaan. It is led by its
president, Thamarak La-Ongual, who has done so much to promote sports in the province as well as redevelop the university as a centre of excellence in many degree level subjects.
He is also involved in charity work across Southeast Asia. There are a large number of other people who work tirelessly in the community, including Siriya Thavorn, Vice Director of Area 29 Secondary Schools, where she not only looks after nearly 3,000 schools in the province but also takes on voluntary work and helps others in the wider community.
I would also say that the tourist police in Ubon Ratchathani is the best I have ever met throughout Thailand as a whole. They integrate well and know the
expat community thoroughly.
Ubon Ratchathani was once a main US Air Force base during the Vietnam War. It closed in 1975 when the war ended, but the city’s role at that time is well documented. Some of the Americans working at the base stayed on and settled here while others make frequent visits. This former GIs comprise a large percentage of the 4,000 or so expats living in the province.
My wife, her family and a friend also own a resort and restaurant on the popular island Koh Chang in Trat. It is called The White Elephant Restaurant and The White Elephant Resort and enjoys an occupancy level of around 64 percent on average per year. The restaurant is a western-style Scandinavian sports bar, which is popular with both the expat and Thai communities. I must say, outside of Ubon, my favourite place of tranquillity is Koh Chang. If I feel like meeting up with the large network of expat friends I have in Bangkok, then it is Bangkok. That said, I do not feel out of touch being so far away from
Bangkok. To me, it is just another city in Thailand.
wherever that might be, and I have travelled the length and breadth of this country over the past 16 years. If you asked me to choose between Pattaya or other places that are popular with expats, I would choose Ubon Ratchathani any day of the week. You can do anything here that you can in those places but without the crime levels and hassles.
Surprising to some outsiders is the fact that Ubon Ratchathani is home to many foreign families. They are mainly from Europe, but there is also an equal balance of all nationalities, including a thriving Sikh community. Among a large number of expats are young teachers and old retirees who enjoy the thriving social scene. There are also expats who do not mix hugely with other expats, preferring to make friends with local folks. I must say that although I have a very good base of local expat friends here, I also have a much larger number of Thai friends who speak relatively good English or put up with my broken Thai!
What I would say as a final note is that if anyone reading this article has not been to Ubon Ratchathani, they should. If you are looking for a place to retire or work, come here. Everything you need to do in Bangkok, you can do in Ubon Ratchathani, you just have to be prepared to ask around for it. Among the expats living here are current or former CEOs of large companies, teachers, chefs, oil workers and many more interesting and welcoming people.
Work cost me my marriage in the UK
Adrien Bray was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, UK and holds an MBA from Liverpool University. He is 41 years old. Here’s his story:
“At the age of 15, I joined the Conservative Party in the UK and worked on several national and local campaigns, including Edwina Currie’s European election bid in 1994. I also assisted Parliamentary agents and was elected vice chairman of South West Bedfordshire Conservative Association and later as a councillor to a local authority all before the age of 24. On reaching 24, my day job was managing a manufacturing plant for an American ophthalmic manufacturer.
Shortly afterward, I was given an opportunity to work in the recruitment industry, which meant a huge drop in salary. It was a daunting prospect at the time as I had recently met my first wife: a Thai living in the UK. I was planning to settle down, however, I quickly took a liking to the recruitment
industry and built a logistics desk supplying truck drivers.
It achieved a turnover of £1.5M in the first six months, and I was quickly promoted. In 2009, I decided that I could do this myself and earn more money, so I founded my own company,
which proved very successful after winning a multi-millionpound contract with a derivative of DHL, supplying all their staff to one of the largest hubs.
In 2012, I was approached by one of the major competitors in my industry, and after 12 months of negotiations, I sold my business. I also had an interest in a truck company and business but withdrew from them successfully in 2013-2014.
Unfortunately, my workaholic life took its toll on my home life. My wife, with whom I have two children – Katareya (11) and Louis (10), divorced me shortly after I sold my business.