I lived in Thailand from 2008 to 2013, they were amongst the happiest times of my life. I came to Bangkok in 2005 to watch my football team, Man City, play in a tournament and my heart never left.

Though I was only in the Land of Smiles for 5 days, I would return less than three months later for a three-week holiday. I knew that I had to move. It took three years to put things in place to make the move permanent, but in that time I visited Thailand more than a dozen times, culminating in a three month stay in Chang Mai, before finally moving out in late 2008.

The three stages of your love affair with Thailand.

I have so many memories and made so many friends during my time there. The Thai people are delightful for the most part and some of their funny little ways simply endeared them to me further. When you first arrive you go through a three stage state of mind. At first everything is fantastic, every experience is one to be savoured, every quirk of the Thai culture is to be enjoyed and even the sometimes inexplicable, is to be respected. This is your honeymoon period.

When the honeymoon is over everything begins to irritate.

What is really going on, is that you are feeling homesick for the first time and it manifests itself in anxiety at all you see around you.

The way they drive, drives you crazy. The lack of good or in some cases any service, has the same affect. The way that you can’t go anywhere in a hurry because nobody else does, really irks. Thai girls have the best bums in the world, but you try getting past two of them, when they are taking a stroll down Sukhumvit Road in the afternoon. It’s impossible it’s like trying to overtake a rudderless ferry, in an oil tanker.

After this things settle down and you start to assimilate.

It suddenly dawns on you that in the searing heat of Bangkok, you simply don’t need to go anywhere in a hurry. This is not the land of the commuter, hurrying down Oxford Street to get to a meeting. It’s Thailand and nobody cares. Instead of trying to overtake those two pretty girls on Sukhumvit Road, you smile and stroll behind them enjoying the view.

Once you reach this stage of Thai immersion, you are lost. Never again could you possible return to your previous life in the humdrum, chaos of the West. Here the chaos is of a different nature and it is much more fun. When that motorbike comes towards you on the footpath, you smile at the driver and he smiles back. I threw away my wristwatch after about 9 months and have never worn one since.

Not like anywhere else in the world

I used to own and run a bar on Soi 33, one night a friend who was a regular customer came in after work and sat a the bar. He heaved that sigh of relief, that can only come at 5pm on a Friday night and said to my barman, who spoke perfect English,

“At last, I’d like a nice large glass of red wine, please.”

The barman swiftly opened a bottle of Heineken and placed it in front of him.

My friend picked it up, took a large swig and thanked the barman. I looked at him astonished and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Hey, This is Thailand.”. Something that I would hear at regular intervals in the coming months and years. My friend sometimes drank Heineken and as he said later, it doesn’t really matter, a drink is a drink. This was someone who has truly assimilated.

One night, when I had been in Bangkok for just a few short months,

Man City were playing in a cup match, midweek against, if I remember correctly, Portsmouth. I tried to find a bar that was showing it, but this was not a big game and it appeared that none of the cable TV stations had it. I tried for ages before eventually giving up and deciding to go home. It was about 2.00am as I walked dejectedly up Sukhumvit Road. As I passed a very small sub-soi I saw the unmistakable glow of a TV screen and the unmistakable sound of a Thai football commentary, surely not?

I walked up and found three guys huddled under a lamp post, watching a TV that was plugged into said lamp post.

The City game was on. I indicated my football shirt and gestured to ask if I could join them. They had no English and I had no Thai, but they beckoned me over. As I sat on the pavement watching, a woman appeared with a bottle of beer and then, ten minutes later, reappeared with food. This was spread out on the floor and we all tucked in. After the match, which thankfully we won, I thanked them profusely for the beers and food and asked how much money they wanted. They point-blank refused and nothing I could do would persuade them differently.

That friendship shown by perfect strangers endeared me, even more, to my new home.

Throughout this period, I travelled all over Thailand, lived briefly in Chang Mai and grew to love most things about the country. The things that irked me in those early days became merely a sense of amusement. The frustrations faded completely and I simply got used to a slower, calmer way of life. I got out of the bar business and turned to a lifelong passion of mine, writing. Slowly it has become my career and I consider myself to be lucky.

If you have to be ill, be ill in Thailand

Even a serious medical problem could not dent my love of being here. I had five and half hours of spinal surgery following the most grotesquely, painful week of my life. The Thai doctors and nurses were amazing and friends, both Thai and Expat, staggered me with their kindness. One day I will repay that kindness, but they know who they are. My recovery was both long and extremely arduous and again those friends were by my side. Several girls who I knew through working in bars, took it in turns to run errands and clean my apartment. Mates kept me company and pulled me through the depression that often follows major surgery.

And so it continued, these small incidents would become quite common. I made friends with some amazing Thai people and some superb expats, I had some fantastic times before work took me away from Bangkok to Saigon where I now live and write for my own website. I love my life here and I love Asia. At this moment in my life I cannot imagine living anywhere except in Southeast Asia. I am happy and settled here in Saigon, but Thailand will always hold a special place in my heart.

Just a side note regarding my operation: In typical Thai fashion, one doctor said to me as I was about to go under the knife. “I have to tell you that there is a 20% chance of complications.” “What kind of complications?” I asked. “Oh, Fatal”, he casually replied. After I came round I asked him why he had told me and he said that I needed to know. When I asked him why he said in case I had died. I said, “So I would know why I was dead?” . . . “Yes, he replied, “Exactly.”

This is Thailand, I love it.