Architect’s Life in Bangkok, Thailand
Moving away from home can have its challenges and is a life changing experience. It’s a tough decision and you can miss your friends and family. Especially and architect’s life in Bangkok, Thailand.
In this episode, Russell talks about
1. How to get a job in Thailand
2. Working in Bangkok
3. Living in Bangkok
4. Having a Thai girlfriend
5. Leaving / losing job
6. Why leave Thailand?
How to get a job in Bangkok
Right. So I was leaving UK. I become registered, decided to leave the UK and I was heading to Australia to get Australian Architect Experience. I called it like a working visa to work in Australia. I applied for this migration visa to work in Australia, which takes a couple of years. But I had a if you’re under 21 I think, or under 30, I can’t remember. You can apply for a working holiday visa allows you to work in Australia for a year. So I left the UK, I went in, went to Cairo with a friend, I went and I went to Thailand. It was just kind of supposed to be a couple of weeks. I was going to go to Thailand for before I went to Australia. This is when I left England. So it must have been about 13 years ago I became a registered architect lifting. Then I thought, right, I’m going to leave. I was heading to Australia to work there but I ended up just kind of on holiday to Thailand and just for a week and I was in Bangkok for a few days. Then I went around some islands and stuff. I really liked it and I thought, I wonder if I could get a job here, like as an architect. And then I went online, have a look, and I found this agency they’re asking for, like senior designer for this firm in Bangkok. I’m not going to say which firm it was, but it’s quite a big international design firm. They did a lot of architecture and interior work so I applied for that is for an agency. I don’t know what the name, the agency, nothing big. And like literally they like they called me the next day I think they’re apply the email and they called me the next day because I had a had a local telephone, I had the local Thai number so they called me on that that. So that helps if you have, if you’re there, this is what I say to people. If you want to have find a job in a foreign country, you got to be there and you got to have a local number for people to call you. So, um, yeah. So they called me and said, yeah, yeah, they’re interested. And then he contacted the, the company and they want to have an interview.
So at this point I think I was in Krabi, down south, I was in Bangkok for about five or six days and I went down south to these islands and they called me there and said, Come for an interview.
And then I thought I would have one in like four days when I come back from the islands. So it give me a bit time to prepare. So I went to the islands and then came back, for the interview to Bangkok and , the interview went quite well and, they offered me the job like literally it’s a start.
Whats it like working?
Work was more interior design work than architecture. There was like a Senior guy, he was Australian and he was an interior designer really. And there was some Thai people in the team, four people. It was like the hospitality team.
So it was an international company. So there was a big boss, Indian then there’s my team leaders, Australian and the other guys were Thai. My boss he was like the Australian guy he was doing all the interior.
There was a lot of refurbishment work. There was a car park in a hospital, like one of the car parks by car park floors. And the hospital was getting converted into a hospital floor. They already did a floor. Loads of floors already looked really nice. It was like a hotel, but a hospital in Bangkok. It’s like a, like really posh hospital. All the Sikhs from Dubai go there.
So the company designed the floors as interior work. So it was difficult to understand what they actually did because it was interiors, like refurbishment. Like what did you design here? But it’s really nice. Mostly lighting and furniture and stuff like that. It was really weird because there was a lot of design of furniture I finishes, it wasn’t really my thing, but I was prepared to do it because like, hey, it’s like I’ve got a job and Bangkok. So it was more of a senior interior designer role, really.
I didn’t really have much experience in Interior and didn’t really expect it during my architects life in Bangkok. It was mostly the Australian guy that was doing all the concept design work and I was more or less drawings up construction details really and do the detail technical drawings and stuff. But yeah, it was a bit strange like this. Yeah. What furniture design and yeah, I learnt a lot about materials in the laminate and stuff like that
I’ve been working there about a year less than that and then um, um, I come up for, I come into like the bad part is like what happened?
So living in Bangkok. Jesus Christ, you’d never get bored in that place. It’s got everything. So much fun, nightlife, stuff to day. You can go to islands if you go on a time or go to the country at weekends if you have time and the girls -they’re freaking hot. I know there’s lady boys but like the girls there as well. Like, I mean, yeah, I’m like young in like walking to work and like, oh, the girls are so hot. Like, walking around. It’s like, it’s that place that if you’re a guy, that place will eat you up..Some of the places, not just Bangkok. There’s other places like Pattaya and stuff. For guys, those places they’ll eat your soul. If you’re if you’re a single guy and you’re at those places, that place, those places will eat you alive. I’m telling you, you have to be really careful at these places. If you’re a young guy going to like Thailand, you have to be careful. But like you can have a hell of a lot of fun, but I mostly I didn’t really hang around the expat areas that much really. I was still into the touristy areas.
You can have so much fun like, oh jeez, you never get board of that place anyway. It’s like some of the best times in my life and some of the worst times in my life as well, which you’ll find out later and I go on to.
So I had a girlfriend after a while, I had a girlfriend and we were together. Oh, what a nightmare, man. She stole my first paycheque. Can you believe that? So I hardly had any money. I finally got some money. My first paycheque. She took it because I didn’t have a bank at that time, so that came by cheque and they paid me by cash. When I cashed the check out. So I hid that money but she found it, took it and left. And me being young and naive, she was like…all these excuses. Uh, . Anyway, I took her back. I was stupid. What an idiot. And then, like she says, she’ll give me the money back. So then I continued worked and stayed with her.
Christmas came up my thai girlfriend and I went to this place called Chang Mai and a place called Pai, which is up north in the mountains and stuff. It’s where they filmed the Rambo movies, and then had this scooter to rent. The Stupid Me, another stupid thing, rented out. Uh, Scooter went up to this spring in the mountains. And, like, Jesus Christ, it’s like 45 minutes, an hour drive on a scooter up in the mountains. I’d never even driven this scooter before. On the way back, crashed, had an accident, didn’t break any bones, but I nearly died. It was pretty scary. Um, like, my hand there was, like, ripped the lost skin off it and a big hole in my hand.
Went to hospital to, like, bandages, grazes on my knees and legs. And same with my girlfriend. She was on the back. She wasn’t as bad as me. Um, so I was bandaged up and everything, and they got infected. My hand. This big hole about the size of a well, about half the size of a golf ball like flesh, completely gone off my hand.
I didn’t think I’d be able to write again or draw again. That was pretty scary. So I called my work and said I won’t be in for a week. All of the hospitals around were awful. I had to get my hand cleaned every day in a clinics and stuff and it got infected and green shit came out of it.
Every day I had to go to this clinic and they put this bandage on. They always put this crappy bandage that would stick, like this net bandage. And every time, every day I had to get it cleaned and they’d ripped it off and it fucking hurt. Like, like pulling off. Half the wound would come with it and then, like, doing that every day for weeks.
My girlfriend would take me to these shitty hospitals or shitty clinics. Something to do with like she wouldn’t, um, because, her friends told her don’t take her to this hospital because the girls are pretty there. So, so she took me to shitty clinics, shitty hospitals with all the ugly nurses.
I called work and told them I will be coming in the following week. The Managing Director told me to go to this Christian hospital, which is a decent hospital near work. So I went there. My girlfriend would tell me not to go there. I got pissed off so I went there and it was so much better. They had all the bandages and everything. They made it all clean. So I was going into all these shitty clinics for like weeks because of my girlfriend. This all cost money also don’t forget, which I was running out of.
Anyway, I went back to work and, um, I didn’t think the boss was that impressed, he didn’t think I was that bad. Like I never been that injured before. So I was a bit of a pussy. So I kind of took it the wrong way. And I went in, said, Uh, I’ll be in in a couple of days, I think. I think you got bit suspicious or something, I don’t know. But, um, so I finally went back to work.
I worked a couple of days and I noticed the other guys on my team, the Australian boss guy, he wasn’t around. That was another thing. Just before I had the accident, when I joined, they said,
Oh, we won’t throw you in the deep end, blah blah blah. We will gradually let you in and teach you the ins and outs of the place and stuff. After two weeks of being there, they said the Australian guy boss was leaving and I had to kind of replace him. I was like, I didn’t know that. When I joined, the company said, You won’t be put in the deep end. And then like literally two weeks later they siad I’d be put in the deep end and the guy’s leaving.
So by the time had the accident, I went back to work. After a couple of days, the rest of the team members were like having, they’re having discussions and I can see them in the conference room. They were having like meetings with the big, managing director, and they were talking about me, I think.
Leaving my Job
And the deal was, they were going to get me a work permit. Once you’ve been there a year or six months, it’s a temporary one and then they’ll get your permanent one. So waiting for that to come through. So they called me and after I had come back working after five days. That’s where they took me into a conference room.
They said, So we’ve talked to everyone. We’ve got your work permit now, we’re going to offer you literally half the salary. Plus we just want you to be like a CAD manager or something like that. Like, not a designer. Um, so I was like, well, I didn’t quite get what they were talking about, and they kept saying it to me, and I was trying to figure it out out. It feld like they had got a work permit for you, but now you’re going to get half the salary. So I was pissed off again and they asked me if I agreed. Of course I said, no, not really. And and I said, I don’t really agree.
Now, this is I said that, and I start to lose my temper a little bit, which is a big mistake. I learnt never to do that again. So they went off. I was still in a conference room. They came back, they said, okay, you can you can leave. Then they say, you must sign this. And I was reading it and it was like basically saying, I’ll leave and I won’t sue the company. That’s what it basically said but in twisted words.
So and then I said and that’s when I started getting a bit angry. It’s like saying, I don’t agree with any of this. Like I’m not signing this. And like the girl that was with the managing director said like, Oh, you must sign that. I said no. So they went off and left me in the conference room. Then they came back again and they had a cheque.
They offered me something like three or four months of my original salary to sign the letter saying I will not sue them and then just leave? I think it was three or four months salary. I can’t remember four months salary, maybe like nearly double the amount. So thats like equivalent to at least six, six months pay of the new salary they were proposing for me. So I decided I just signed it and got six months pay -so like paid me off basically.
So I got six months salary or it was like three months of my original salary and I thought to myself, Oh fuck these guys, I can get a job here easily. I was only here like a week. I already got a job as loads more companies in Bangkok, so I just left. I thought they were pissing around.
So the company had to like get rid of me, like get rid of my work permit. All this paperwork they were doing – they’re trying to sort that out. They had my passport and they wouldn’t give me my passport back until I, um, so left sort it out the work permit exit and stuff anyway after that was a bit nasty that.
After that, I had so many interviews and it went on for four months. I saw just about all the big firms in Bangkok. All wanted to interview me, but they didn’t offer me a job. I think it was to do the work permit. It’s like a miracle. I got that job. I didn’t realise like, um, they had all these interviews all go really well, blah blah blah. And at the end you guys said, What about your work permit? I guess I haven’t got one. I got okay at the interviews. You’d have an interview and they wouldn’t reply. I will let you know… and then they wouldn’t reply. It like pisses you off -I must have had at least 10-15 interviews. All the big firms in Bangkok.
I think it’s just the I think it was the work permit thing. There was one guy that offered for me to do freelance, but like that was just weird. So yeah, I just, I think it was and I think it was me. They were all interested. There was even one guy who interviewed me. He used to worker, he used to study at Huddersfield University, same as me. He was a student there like me. He worked there in Bangkok. He was one of the team leaders or something. I thought I was going to get jobs there, but I didn’t hear back from them either. I had to write to them several times, to ask them what happened?
If you ever have an interview, make sure you find out the reason why. Because I don’t know all I can think of was the work permit. Um, and then like for some weird reason, I ended up applying for university job at one of the top architecture universities. Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. They offered me a job, but like, Oh my God, much my girlfriend at the time. She’s went apeshit and didnt want me to work there because of the students there. So she beats me, making sure I wouldn’t work there. She wouldn’t let me work there. I should have got rid of that fucking girl. Um, so she ruined that for me. She’s like, she wouldn’t let me work there unless it was a job until I found another job. So there’s, like, six months now I can I didn’t have a job, and so she she ruined that. So I thought it might work at the university for a bit. I didn’t really want to do here. I didn’t want to work at university, but it was the only thing that came up. So there and then so screwed that up because she screwed that up for me.
And then I had another interview. This firm, they seemed really interested but I had a big fight with my girlfriend and I had like freaking bruises on my face and there was blood coming out of my mouth as I went to the interview. This is on the way to the interview. I was on boat or something. And I jumped off the boat, leftmy girlfriends on the boat and went to my interview and then I went but the, when we went quite well but um, I don’t know.
So I didn’t get that job. And then, and then it got really bad. I started running out of money and my girlfriends said she was going to give me money back from the money she stole from me. So I never got that back. And then I had no money whatsoever. And then I had to leave my apartment because I got chucked out of there because I couldn’t pay the rent anymore.
I had a condo with swimming pool that didn’t last long enough for a loss of a job, then had to check into these guest houses where you pay every day. And I was there for a while and my girlfriend started paying for the room because I was completely broke and ran out of money completely. And I couldn’t even leave the country.
And I was going on visa runs for a while. They cost money. Then I couldn’t afford the visa runs. I overstayed my visa for like months, months and months and I was worried about a police catching me and putting in a Detention Centre. I couldn’t pay for the room, for the guesthouse, where my girlfriend was paying for a while.
I don’t know how she paid. She wasn’t even working I don’t even know what she was doing to getting money. She kept saying she was going to get money from brother family, from a brother in law or something. So I was waiting for the money so I could do something. And then we had another argument and like she ripped up my passport.
So not only overstay my visa, I didn’t have a passport now. So I couldn’t even get passport now. I couldn’t even afford to get a new passport. So I had to call my parents up. They gave me a bit of money, but they only give me $100 like under dollars, and that would last me like a week or two weeks at the most.
And then I’d run out and then like she was paying. That went on for ages and I kept asking family to send me money, Western Union. And then they thought I was on drugs. So they stopped sending me money, my parents. And there’s like points where I was like in a park and wondered where I was going to stay that night, but always managed to get a room. God knows how.
So that was probably the lowest point of my life. That was pretty bad. And then so I must have been there a year overstaying my visa, not having a job. It’s like stuck in a routine, like reading books and stuff because I had no money at all, maybe just for two or three meals a day and on the streets and stuff was just terrible.
That’s like really bad point in my life, but that the kind of thing. You look back at that and you think how good your life is now.
Leaving Architect’s life in Bangkok, Thailand
So after while, after all this shit, I got an email saying my Australian visa came through. It’s been like two years now since I applied and it said I had to get a chest scan in a hospital for the health inspection thing. So I begged my parents for money,, my dad wouldn’t send me money or my mum anyone. But they offered to send me a flight to the UK, but I didn’t want to go back to the UK. So I had a friend, a move to Perth, Australia and he offered me, offered to stay there if I got to Australia. So I will have to do is get to Australia really basically. And then I think I could do it.
So I managed to convince my dad to get me a flight to Australia and some money for the health thing, which wasn’t that much. And like I got out of there and said goodbye to that crazy girl as other shit that happened with that crazy girl.
She got pregnant like three, like three times. She had to get an abortion and just say, this might cut it out. And I, I, I didn’t even know if she was actually pregnant or not, cause she could have been lying just to get the money. That was the other thing at the time. And get money from parents of that fucking bad times men. And then, like, god, there’s so many things that happened like terrible went to her village for a while because the brother in law, they had a big tobacco business and she was supposed to give me my money back.
She never did. And like that went on for months. It’s like literally like dangling a carrot in front of me next week. I’ll give you your money next week. Give me money next month. I’ll give you the money next week. Just really the money so I can get out of this country. Went on, literally went on for a fucking year anyway.
Got out of that place, got the flights and then I was worried when I left the country that they’re going to check my passport, like overstayed my visa of one year because I got the money for the passport as well. And parents got me money for a new passport. Before that I went to the embassy and I asked them, this guy came in this room.
He said, You better watch out, you’ve overstayed your visa. There’s a cop outside. If they catch you, they’ll put you in the detention centre. So I was like shitting myself. That’s when I first went to the embassy to ask them about my situation. But then I got flights to Australia from my parents.
I can’t remember if my mother gave me some because my parents are divorced. So, so basically I got enough money for the health care scan, get a new passport and a flight to Australia which was paid by my parents. So once I had those three things, I got out of the country. I was worried when I got to the airport, Jesus Christ, because she she says she knew the girlfriend I had. She said she knew somebody who worked at the airport to bribe them. So that let me get out of the country when I leave. But she went to meet some guy. I didn’t go with her and I don’t know if that was bullshit as well because she said like he’s he’s going to leave the country, just let him leave. Don’t put him in a detention centre.
So when I went to the airport to finally leave a lady saw my passport that overstayed my visa like one year, like, illegally. And like, they took me in this other room, this guy. I started crying more or less and they just let me go. I think they just they just saw me and they just let me free. And I gave the phone to her and like, a friend was like, just let them. She was crying. Just let him go. Let him go. Let him go, let him have a good life or something.
Then they let me go and I left the country, got to Australia and like I literally sorted myself out within six months I paid everything off and I had a car and I had a good job. Got my shit together.
So that’s the story of an architect’s life in Bangkok thailand. Bare in mind this is from personal experience only.
Russell M. Henderson is a practicing RIBA Chartered Architect based in Tanzania, East Africa.
Architect Russell Uncensored is podcast talking about an architects life unfiltered. From the over long education of 7 years to controversial topics such as RIBA and ARB to unusual architect experience abroad like working in Bangkok and Tanzania. This is content never before released on any platform and you can only get it here first. The truth through the eyes of Architect Russell, unfiltered and uncensored.