Are you considering worldschooling in Thailand? There are a number of reasons to consider Thailand as your home base while you explore South East Asia or take a sabbatical, or heck, flat out move here long-term. There are also downsides, and we’ll discuss those too.
What brought us to Thailand, long ago? Well, we vacationed in Phuket after Billy finished teaching in Korea, which is where we lived for a year. Our plan was to permanently move to Italy, but we ended up only staying there for 6 months or so; we all fell in love with Phuket on that one month vacation, and Billy had a job lead so we decided to take the plunge. Kaya was almost 3 when we moved to the island.
We’ve been based in Thailand for more or less 6 years (!!) now, and we’ve stayed for a number of reasons. For starters, it feels like home to us. Kaya has loads of friends here in Chiang Mai, where we’ve been living for almost two years. And let’s face it: Thailand is affordable. I can go shopping for organic veg here for less than half the price of what I would pay back in the US or US.
We have also absorbed much of Thai culture to the point where our own personal cultures have quite a bit of Thainess, a concept discussed in the book Very Thai. This is perhaps the number one reason we’ve stayed here, and it’s a wee bit hard to explain. But in essence, it is easy to live here. Life is slow-paced, and we like it that way!
I am however glad we no longer live in Phuket. As much as I adore that island ( and miss it), the social element was nonexistent for all of us. I was very unhappy living there towards the end, despite falling in love with Phuket Town. It just lacked the community element we were yearning for. This is why I hesitate on recommending Phuket or any island here in Thailand as a good base to worldschool UNLESS you have more than one child or you have a toddler or baby. I think the island’s extra slow pace of life makes for the perfect environment for really young kids, which is why we initially moved there.
One example of a family that unschools and has a home-base in Panwa is a French-Singaporean family that lives between Bali and Phuket. They have 5 children, all of whom are teens save for their youngest daughter, who is Kaya’s age. They own a condo in Panwa with a nice pool & in a great location, and both work from home. They travel often throughout SE Asia for work.
Phuket and smaller towns & islands are ideal for short worldschooling stays of between 3 and 6 months or less. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and perhaps other medium to large cities are better for longer stays as there are more activities for kids and adults, and more opportunities to make friends. Cities also have more playrooms in malls like Big C or Central.
If you are considering moving to Phuket or are already there, I’ve compiled a list of our fav kid-friendly activities and places in Phuket for you.
Chiang Mai is an ideal base for worldschooling and homeschooling families because of the amazing amount of activities your kids can be involved in, if they so choose. For example, Kaya goes to robotics classes at our local mall and takes taekwondo two times a week with her friends. When she’s not doing that, she’s playing with friends at family restaurants like Nic’s or Triplets here in Hang Dong.
Please note that Chiang Mai has loads of areas to live in outside the city center, for those of us who aren’t a fan of the touristy, traffic-jam prone parts. I highly recommend Hang Dong, which is the area we live in. It’s about a 20 minute drive into the city when there is no traffic, and there are excellent restaurants, temples, malls, and parks here that are family-friendly.
Related Post: Kid-friendly activities in Chiang Mai
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and extremely fast-paced. We typically go there a few times a year, and once we stayed for a month. I honestly found that month super stressful. But honestly, the amount of activities and things to do in BKK makes it a place to consider for your worldschooling home-base. It has all the amenities that any city would too.
Another reason Thailand is a great home-base for worldschooling families is because of how close it is to other countries in Asia, and the variety of cheap flights you can book to go to Japan, China, and other countries. When we vacationed in Phuket with Kaya years ago, we took a direct 5 hours flight on Air Asia from Seoul. Hong Kong is only about two hours from Chiang Mai, so if the kids want to go to Disneyland, you aren’t far from it! And dim sum. The trains and buses are also safe and generally clean, and you can choose various classes such as a sleeper cabin in the Chiang Mai to BKK train. My husband has taken the train maybe 10 times, and has also taken the night bus from Phuket to Bangkok on several occasions.
There are many types of long-term and semi long-term visas you can choose, including the visa on arrival, which gives you 30 days and can be renewed for another 30 days. Another option is to get the three month visa, which you can apply for at your nearest Thai embassy or consulate. You can get up to a years worth of 3 month visas, at the time of this writing. If you are moving to Thailand long-term, an education visa is a good option. I personally study at the Hand to Hand combat school in Chiang Mai and have previously studied at Chiang Mai University. I recommend both schools.
All in all, I think Thailand is a great place for worldschooling families, it just depends on what you’re looking for and in some cases, how determined you are with regards to finding kid-friendly meet up groups and activities. For example, if you’ve just moved to say Chiang Mai and have a teenager and are looking for things for him to do, start by getting a list of the schools in the area and contacting them about maybe having him doing sports or other extracurricular activities. Grace International school has a number of homeschoolers participating in such classes. This would be an excellent idea in Phuket too as I’m sure many of the international school wouldn’t be opposed to doing something similar, and I remember in a Facebook Group a while back, one sports coordinator invited unschoolers to join events at their school.
Are you worldschooling in Thailand or considering it as a home-base to explore South East Asia? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re in Chiang Mai, perhaps we can get together!