Photo: Wong's Bar, Bangkok.

Idle banter forum

people with who work in SE Asia

Posted by christay2009 on 23/6/2009 at 23:52

it seems that quite a few travelfish posters live/work in SE Asia...

i thought it might be interesting to see what jobs people do and how they came about doing them???

it seems that the most obvious form of work is teaching but i wonder how many on here do teach?


#1 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414

Posted by MADMAC on 24/6/2009 at 00:19

I live here, but I do not work here. I have sufficient funds coming in to keep me going, but if I need more, I'll go back to Africa and make real money. My skill sets don't match real money making potential in Thailand I'm afraid.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Tilapia on 24/6/2009 at 02:21

My work time in Thailand finished a few years ago and I decided to come home to work (in Canada.)

I used to work for Thailand's Department of Agricultural Extension in Prachinburi as a Plant Protection Officer. Basically, we traveled around the province stopping in villages and at farms to give info on proper pesticide usage, and stopping their use entirely. We helped farmers create and maintain organic farming practices.

This was counter to what the pharmaceutical companies were doing, and still do. They come into places where there has been crop trouble either from disease, infestation, or something else that might require a quick chemical fix. Product is given away for free ("the first one is always free") with little to no training on how to use the product(s). Enough product will be left for a crop or two, and then reality kicks in ... the farmer has to pay for the product which he now believes he cannot do without. Dependencies are formed, and we were supposed to be the addiction coucellors.

But like many instrumental social programs that make a difference in peoples' lives, it was gutted and all that remains is a thin shell of a department with a skeleton crew. It seems to be maintained now just to keep a few people on payroll.

I saw the job and applied for it. Having traveled for a couple of years in Thailand before, being an entomologist, a licenced pesticide applicator, and a public health inspector got me the job that paid more than a Bangkok police officer. Being single and out of debt made it easier to move.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,499
 Where has Tilapia been? 

Posted by MADMAC on 24/6/2009 at 02:59

I've heard this before... so there must be truth in it. But I asked my father in law, who's a rice farmer, if he uses pseticide and he says no. The only feretilizer he uses is Buffalo manure. He can't afford to do anything else. I asked him about the other people in the village, and he said they all do what he does... but admitedly it's just one village.

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by DLuek on 24/6/2009 at 04:42 TF writer

I don't work in SE Asia now, but I did a stint with an import-export business in Bangkok a few years back. I used to want to start my own business, importing from Thailand to the States, but I'm just not interested anymore. In the future, I do hope to move back to SE Asia indefenitely and do some teaching/volunteering/refugee related work/writing/photography, but we'll see.

#5 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,176
 Website   Twitter 

Posted by somtam2000 on 24/6/2009 at 08:25 admin

I run a website for travellers to SE Asia ;-)

Before Travelfish both my wife and I did a bunch of different jobs (we're both Australian), both worked at the Oz embassy, both worked for different of a newspaper group, both freelanced, I taught English for one term.

I think the English teacher - freelancer - working at either the Bangkok Post of the Nation is a particularly common path.

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
 Where has somtam2000 been?   Website   Twitter   Facebook    Flickr    Google+   Instagram   Pinterest 

Posted by somtam2000 on 24/6/2009 at 08:28 admin

Meant to say re Tilapia, it reminds me of how the sales people for breast formula work. When we had #1 in Bangkok, we'd heard about these people -- they'd show up, explaining that breast feeding was too much hassle etc etc and that formula was easy -- and here, here's the first week's worth for free.. Thankfully the hospital we used (Samitivej) didn't even let these people in the front door.

Madmac - oil or military? (in Africa I mean)

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
 Where has somtam2000 been?   Website   Twitter   Facebook    Flickr    Google+   Instagram   Pinterest 

Posted by MADMAC on 24/6/2009 at 13:55

Military, now private. I'm looking at a job offer now with Xe (formerly blackwater) in East Africa. My son is applying to Univerity in Thailand and guess who pays for it? So I have to put the money together. Figure I'll do that and put money on the side at the same time for my little girls education as well.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by christay2009 on 25/6/2009 at 00:47

this is all very interesting!!

Tilapia - its a shame about what happened to that department but it sounds like you did some good work when you were there!

i've always wondered about working abroad but not sure what i could do other than teach

Somtam - do you just work with travelfish now and maybe some freeland writing? or do you have a 9-5 as well?

anyway, I hope more people repond!

#9 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414

Posted by somtam2000 on 25/6/2009 at 07:31 admin

christay2009 - Travelfish is full time for me -- and has been for roughly the last three years. I do do a little freelance on the side, but I'm pretty picky in what jobs I take.

Do want to add though, that while English teaching is the obvious "in" for someone wanting to work in SEAsia, there are lots of other openings -- especially if you have professional skills.

It's not like Europe where you may work in a guesthouse or a bar -- the wages tend to be way too low -- but for other skills -- be it IT, writing, management etc there's more openings than you may think.

The other path, which some opt for, is starting their own business -- be it a guesthouse, bar or whatever. Of course there's no shortage of horror stories in this route, but lots work out really well as well.

A lot depends on what people REALLY want to do. Many friends who ended up teaching, were happy as while the wages were low, they had lots of time to travel and they enjoyed the lifestyle -- in many cases they could have got a more full time full time job -- but that wasn't what they were really after

#10 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,576
 Where has somtam2000 been?   Website   Twitter   Facebook    Flickr    Google+   Instagram   Pinterest 

Posted by Tilapia on 25/6/2009 at 08:14

Somtam ... breast milk formula pushers (a.k.a. Nestle), Monsanto, Pfizer, Ciba Geigy, GlaxoSmith, Dow, Novartis, Merck, J&J, crack and coke dealers, etc. ... the first taste is always free! There isn't much difference between these model citizens most of the time. Sometimes I think that they do not exist to supply markets, but to create them in order to supply them. That is probably a worn-out saying, too.

MADMAC ... I have to admit that I was blown away by the number of farmers NOT using chemicals. I thought that, aside from bananas and a couple other things, most of the stuff that was grown over there was verging on toxic. I was sadly/happily mistaken. I was working on durian, mango, rambutan, and pomello plantations that were completely organic, and whose owners taught the people working for them about how to farm organically. These were massive suppliers of fruit from Prachin. It was amazing.

Chemical misuse, mono-culturing, the salination and eventual death of paddy fields from shoddy shrimp farms, etc., was creating a lot of both agricultural and social problems. Farmers were, and still are, taking out loans just to put a crop in the ground thereby putting themselves and their kids in unsupportable debt (as Bruce Cockburn would say), with a hefty helping hand from the World Bank and IMF. This topic could go in a multitude of directions (eg. why poor farmer families give up their kids, or send them off to the big cities to see what fate awaits them.)

Finally the King stepped in and put the wheels in motion which lead to the creation of the department that I worked for. In many situations, probably like your father-in-law's, there was no need for any direction or help or anything of the sort because these folks were following time-proven farming methods, and surviving that way. Not everyone was, or is.

Chris ... you are Bill Shatner? I LOVE "Has Been" and your Bran Flakes commercials.

#11 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,499
 Where has Tilapia been? 

Posted by christay2009 on 25/6/2009 at 17:14

Somtam - i have a degree in Business Management from a good interntionally regarded uni [although i didnt do that great] but i'm not sure if thats enough. Perhaps i'd need some experience before i try and look abroad. Like your friends, i'm not that interested in massive pay-offs but would prefer [if working abroad] to do something that made a difference, however small, to the local/national economy OR become a travel writer and start a website on SE Asia :-) I'm actually considering contacting travel-to-teach [i think you reccomended them on this site once] and heading abroad next year for a coupe of months

Generally, when you google "jobs in [insert country]" you just seem to get countless hits about teaching - are there any sights that list other jobs that you know of?

Tilapia - live long and prosper

#12 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414

Posted by Tilapia on 26/6/2009 at 09:29

I plan to, with lots of green alien babes!

Thanks very much!!!

#13 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,499
 Where has Tilapia been? 

Posted by BruceMoon on 27/6/2009 at 08:44


A (far) left field approach is not to go looking in SE Asia for an employment opportunity, but to the west.

Many aid agencies want qualified people to act as managers, etc., in country. The sort of people they want are chasing other dreams, and the sort of people that are available don't cut the mustard.

It does help if you are fluent in the local lingo, but not always.

- - - -


The gutting of the dep't may not be from domestic corruption (though it may), rather, from a concept in supply-side economics for public administration known as 'hollowing out.

Rooted in the Lafferian economic approach, which was founded upon Hayek's ideology, supply sider's believe(d) that tax reduction per se released unproductive capital that could effectively advance GDP. The spread of this (IMHO, insidious) ideology into public sector management was inevitable as the western world coped with stagflation (following the global oil shocks). Mundell advised Reagan that the adoption of supply-side economics would stimulate revenues, and thus cutting taxes would result in an increase in economic activity such that government revenue increased.

Across the Atlantic, the Iron Lady found that the cost of public administration was the largest 'consumer' of taxes, and so cutting taxes meant also that administrative activity had to be wound down. The 'solution' was to hollow out public sector departments. That is, keep the department with token workers so that taxpayers believed all was OK, but deny it an applicable budget to undertake its work. Hollowing out became the catch-cry in public sector 'reform' throughout the 1980's and onwards.

Note that supply-side economists opposed Friedman's moneterism, largely accusing the latter of promoting inflation (and, when coupled to the demand-side Keynesian approach) and stagflation. As an aside, the way the G8 are now dealing with the current fiscal crisis is monetarism (ie. just print more money, and let inflation take care of the current levels of fiscal stimulus).

Interestingly, while Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman called supply-side economics 'Peddling Prosperity' in 1994, both Bush administrations scoffed at his ground breaking research that showed tax cuts merely advantaged the wealthy at the expense of the lesser able and depleted national economic wealth. That the current fiscal crisis is a direct result of supply-side economics, hopefully western nations will move on to better ideas.


#14 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2009 at 13:30

I hate to say that your analysis was overly simple - I am sure you are aware of that. After all, there isn't space here for a dissertation.

In fact, there are times when the Laffarian economic approach is sound.

Krugman's work, is, quite frankly, not intellectually honest. He is an ideologue and as such he cherry picks his information to suit a thesis. The Nobel Peace Prize was given to Henry Kissenger!!! A Nobel Prize doesn't mean you are right.

This last economic meltdown was not caused by a certain economic approach, rather it was caused by lack of sufficient regulation, poor (and possibly corrupt) application of existing regulations, and an unfortunate tendency in American culture to approach personal finances in a very undisciplined manner (i.e. you save for your purchase, then yu purchase it). The crash of the housing market stemmed from two bodies - the Banks, who wanted to make money without due consideration of risk, and provided unsound loans without sufficient down payment. The American people, who bought these homes without sufficient down payment and without sufficient funding in their banks to cover their mortgages should they become unemployed. This artificially inflated the value of homes as homes were being purchased at an increased rate. This is a pyramid scheme, doomed. A very hard lesson has hopefully been learned (or not).

There are also times, however, (when we have insufficient money moving through the system) where a stimulus approach is necessary. High taxes DO limit the potential for investment in the private sector - so the question for economists and politicians is how you find the right mix at the right time for optimal economic performance.

Ideologues like Friedman and Krugman want to believe that one size fits all. That's just not the way it is. Different economic times call for different economic approaches, and a system needs the flexibility to deal with it.

Also, remember that when a government collects taxes it is essentially extorting it's citizenry. "Give us 'x' percentage of your take or else." I understand the necessity of it, but because it's so ubiquitous, we have come to accept it without giving it a thought. A just government (which I admit truly just government is tough to find - we're lucky if get reasonable) takes only that what it really needs from it's citizens pockets. Redistribution of wealth is not the role of government. If you leave it to government to do that, I can guarantee they will not do it in a just manner. The more wealth you take from the rich, the less you leave them to reinvest in projects that put people to work and the more incentive you provide for a "gold Flow" - the moving of capital out of the country in question (legally or illegally) to places where the country in question can not tax any of it.

#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by BruceMoon on 27/6/2009 at 14:34



#16 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 27/6/2009 at 23:05

I am not being contrarian here. I am simply saying that if governments lean right or left consistently in economic policy - they will get it wrong. There has to be flexibility in the approach.

#17 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by BruceMoon on 28/6/2009 at 07:08


Describing facts is one thing, a polemical on policy correctness is quite another.

Dr Bruce Moon
BA, BSc, B Env Sc (Hons), GDURP, Grad Dip Ed, M Pub Pol, PhD

#18 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 28/6/2009 at 13:00

I don't disagree. Facts are usually used to buttress positions. But, of course, one can cherry pick their facts to support their arguement, discarding those facts that speak contrarian to the desired position.

#19 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somsai on 28/6/2009 at 19:19

Christay I did teach when I lived in SEAsia, often it was the only skill set needed in the places I wanted to live. I like to be far away from large towns and cities. I found Bankok, Hong Kong, and Taipae to be so too similar to American cities. In smaller towns without large expatriate populations I felt as if I was unmistakably in the country I was residing in at the time.

The pay was much much worse than in the big towns, and sometimes I was forced to work in the cities just to fund another year or two outside of them.

I did like working though, it allows one to be a contributing member of the society besides just spending money. Other work would arise also. Being the only resident foreigner of native English speaking ability you can be helpfull in unexpected ways.

Looking at ones own country from a distance often gives a perspective. (I'm looking up at the last few comments)The changes become easier to see when you've been gone for a while. I was out of the US during the middle of one of the largest redistributions of wealth the world has ever known in terms of pure money. My country has moved a lot closer to Thailand than Australia.

Krugman sometimes misfires when talking politics but he's called the shots in economics correctly for quite a while now.

#20 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 29/6/2009 at 18:55

I've only spent two years in the last 25 in the US.

But I still don't think Krugman is intellectually honest. Reminds me of George Monbiot.

#21 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.