Working remotely from Thailand: first week

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My first week of working remotely from Thailand has just come to an end: time for an initial assessment. Leaving Belgium for a 3 month stint in Thailand did feel like kind of a gamble. While packing, all sort of questions popped into my mind. Would the internet connection be up to par? Would I be able to call Belgian telephone numbers without my location being noticed? Would the time difference be problematic? Would customers notice and have objections? Would it be problematic leading a team remotely? Was I gambling with my career? Personal issues also lead to some pondering. Would I be able to adapt to living in a completely different culture? Would my rental house be adequate? Let me reassure you: all is well. More than just well. Let me tell you why.

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Before I even left Belgium, our rental house and high speed internet connection had already been arranged. We (that is: my girlfriend and myself) chose to live in Phimai, which is a town in the Nakhon Ratchasima province of Thailand with about 10,000 inhabitants. Even though it is the home of the Phimai Historical Park it is not quite on the tourist trail yet. Most people do not speak English, nor are comprehensive tourist guides available anywhere. This leads up to an initial impression that not much is available here. I can tell you: this is not completely accurate. Over the next few months I will explore the town and its surroundings and report back. I am even considering composing a new tourist map. More about that in future instalments of this blog.

The house we are renting is a little out of town in a municipality (‘Tambon’ in Thai) called Rangka Yai. It is very quiet, has even less foreigners (‘farang’ in Thai) around and is about a 5 minute motorcycle ride to Phimai town center. Small unfurnished houses are available here from EUR 75/month. Ours is quite big at about 90m², is sparsely furnished and comes at about  EUR 125/month. It is clean, comfortable and has two a/c units. Most Thai (rental) houses have a kitchen with counter top, sink and fridge, but without any kind of hot plate. We purchased one at the Big C supermarket in Korat for about EUR 20. Pots, pans and cutlery were not available either, but can be bought at low prices. A folding table and office chair cost about EUR 15 in total, at the same supermarket.

The internet subscription we selected was 3BB’s VDSL 30M plan for about EUR 30/month. Why this exact provider/subscription?

  • Previous users confirmed that this provider works well in this area
  • Lower plans offer 1 Mbps upload speed, which is rather slow, for intense professional use
  • It is the entrace level VDSL subscription. Upgrades do not call for a hardware swap.

As a backup I have also gotten a 3G/4G connection for my smartphone, by AIS.The connection plan I have chosen is called Traveller SIM, costs about EUR 7.5 and can oly be purchased at Suvarnabhumi airport. After one month, it can be topped up at any 7eleven store. It allows me to update my blog on-the-fly and when I acivate my phone’s wifi hotspot-functionality, I am able to work perfectly over this connection. Both the mobile and residential internet connections are very fast and far exceed my expectation.

My first experiences working remotely are positive across the board. The 6 hour time difference (5 hours with daylight savings time in Europe) gives me a quiet start to my day, enabling me to focus on complex tasks that need my attention. Around noon (when Belgium awakes) I start interacting with clients and colleagues. Calling Belgian telephone numbers works like a treat over Skype, and work even swifter with an app called Triiing from my Belgian provider Telenet. The app allows you to call at domestic Belgian rates (using your belgian subscription), are added to your monthly invoice and (best of all) make you pop up on caller ID with your home phone number … no one even knows you are working remotely. My office line has been switched over to my (Belgian) cellphone number. On top of that, Telenet even froze my internet and television subscription, so I don’t need to pay those while I am abroad. Kudos, Telenet.

Every day at lunch time, I jump on the motorcycle and head over to the center of Phimai. For about EUR 1.5, I can have a tasty lunch at a restaurant. Phimai also has a daily night market that has both fresh produce and take away dishes. Every Tuesday and Sunday afternoon, Rangka Yai also has a market, right in front of our door, actually. Ingredients we cannot find there, we get at Big C or Makro, over the weekend.

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Over the upcoming weeks, I will keep you posted on my life here, continue posting amusing observations and write about Thai culture and society. At the end of November, I will report back on the cost of living in the Land of Smiles.

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