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Here in Thailand, I've yet to hear of expats leaving because of the
coup: we've had a lot of coups here, too. But curiously, tourism dropped off dramatically. I speak from personal observation here. I figure hotels in Chiang Mai, where Vicki and I stay, should be more than half full in early June (shoulder season). Yet, in my survey, occupancy rates came out closer to 10% or 20%.

In June, Vicki and I played tourist here in Thailand. We took a week-long road trip with friends to Doi Ang Khang (a national park), went to Mae Sai (a border town snuggled up to the Myanmar border) and to Phayao (a popular lakeside town). We mostly shared the scenic sites with a handful of Thai tourists. We noted the almost complete absence of foreign tourists.

I can think of a few reasons for the decline in tourism. The western world remains mired in no-or-slow growth with young tourists having less money to spend. Until recently, Bangkok and other nightlife venues were under curfew, discouraging those who come to party. The Chinese came in large numbers after a Chinese movie called Lost in Thailand became a hit a few years ago. The movie was filmed in Chiang Mai, giving Chinese a special reason to come to town. I figure the movie tourism may have run its course.

Perhaps the major blow to tourism was the coup and street violence that preceded it. Beginning late last year, those thinking of coming to Thailand saw riots on TV. Middle-aged tourists crossed Thailand off their list as they planned ahead for their summer holidays. And I suspect Chinese, in particular, stayed away because of the coup. Young Chinese have only ever known a stable home government. They may never have heard of coups, much less understand them. Ditto the Japanese.

In spite of apparent misgivings abroad, the coup here has had little impact on the tourist experience, in my opinion, for Chinese or Japanese or anyone else. Street life has pretty much returned to normal, and more tourists are showing up. Meanwhile, those of us who spend time here enjoy less crowded restaurants, better prices, lower airfares, a slower pace, and special deals.

Paul Terhorst

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We bought a small packet of kindling and incense. We slipped off our shoes and offered the packet at the temporary shrine. Behind the shrine, rested the ornamental funeral chariot holding the monk's coffin.

Before I had time to take many photos, my friend whisked me to our next stop, the lunch tent. Villagers had prepared gallons of spicy curries, flavorful soups, fried meat, and rice (both sticky and steamed). An early lunch had been served a couple of hours before we arrived, but there was still plenty of food for us and other latecomers.

After eating, we found a seat under a canopy, near my friend's mother and sister, to protect us from the sun or the rain. Women sat together in one area, men in another. During the next several hours, we listened to prayers, speeches, and more while watching the elaborate preparations for the burning. Children ran here, there, and everywhere. Between prayers, people chatted with their neighbors and attended to the children. Folks constantly came around to offer us cold water, sweet fruit drinks, coffee, and ice cream. I had the sense of being at a company picnic or large family reunion.

At last, the momentous final act began. First came a short dance ceremony. Then, many monks—and even more lay people—made their final prayers and offerings. Designated helpers removed the temporary shrine and placed flammable items, not meant for burning, far from the funeral chariot.

We all waited with quiet anticipation.

Suddenly, firecrackers, skyrockets, and whistling bottle rockets exploded all around. Specially designed pyrotechnics ignited. Colored smoke and sparkling lights enveloped the chariot. We heard a mysterious low, moaning sound. Finally, the chariot with the coffin burst into flames. Firemen sprayed water to keep flames under control. Everyone snapped photos as the all-consuming flames burned hotter and hotter, higher and higher.

It was over. We ate our soup (a final offering of comfort), said our goodbyes, and walked down the hill for home.

Vicki Terhorst

P.S. Thailand is just one of the countries we'll tell you about at the upcoming Retire Overseas Conference, coming up later this summer in Nashville, Tennessee. More details on this once-a-year event, here.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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