Year In Review

2023 Year in Review

Time To Mosey

2023 Year in Review

Thailand > USA > Thailand

28 Dec 2023 | Thu

As we bid farewell to 2023, we reflect on a year that was filled with unexpected twists and turns. It was a year of change, of love, of loss, and of resilience.

We started the year in the bustling city of Bangkok, only to find ourselves relocating to the serene Mekong River landscapes of Nakhon Phanom (bordering Laos). This move, though challenging, brought with it new experiences and learnings. We had a beautiful home on the Mekong River but unfortunately, we moved there during the worst time of year – Thailand’s Hot Season! Also, with this, we didn’t factor in how bad the air quality would be during the “Burning Season”.

However, 2023 also brought with it some heart-wrenching news. We learned of my father’s declining health, which led us to make the difficult decision to return to North Carolina. The silver lining in this cloud was the invaluable time we got to spend with him and our family before he passed away in July.

Just as we were coming to terms with this loss, we received news of a close family member of Kanchana’s facing health issues. This led us to make another tough decision – to make a quick return to Thailand. Our dreams of traveling full-time (without a homebase) had to be put on hold, but it allowed us to have an extended stay in Bangkok and spend precious time with Kanchana’s family.

As we look back, we realize that while 2023 was a year of ups and downs, it was also a year of growth. It taught us to value our relationships and to cherish every moment. As we step into 2024, we carry these lessons with us, ready to embrace whatever comes our way. Here’s to a year of new beginnings! 🥂

2023 Year in Review

DECEMBER 2022

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Our Condo at ICONSIAM (31 Dec 2022)

Kanchana’s family (from the US) arrived in Bangkok near the end of December 2022 – just in time to spend New Year’s Eve with us at our condo at ICONSIAM on the Chao Phraya River. With our condo being on the 37th floor, we had “front-row seats” to the awesome New Year’s Eve fireworks put on by ICONSIAM. Below is a video we took of this event.

JANUARY 2023

Begin Family Trip, Ayutthaya & Pattaya (02-08 Jan 2023)

After celebrating New Year’s Eve, we hit the ground running by spending time in Ayutthaya (just outside of Bangkok), and Pattaya. I covered these activities in the following posts:

Getting Sick, Cancel Family Trip (09 Jan 2023)

Unfortunately, I (Dean) got sick about the time of our return to Bangkok. This was terrible timing as we had big plans of continuing to Hua Hin and then to Kanchanaburi. Not knowing (at the time) if what I had was COVID, Kanchana and I decided it would be best if we just returned to our condo and waited things out. Thankfully I tested negative, however, my sickness (terrible cold and cough symptoms) would continue for the next couple of weeks. By the time I got better, it was too late to join Kanchana’s parents in Kanchanaburi before they returned to the US.

FEBRUARY 2023

Contemplating a Move to Nakhon Phanom (Feb 2023)

In May 2022, we returned to Thailand, a country just beginning to open its doors again after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government had only recently started allowing people back into the country, a cautious step towards recovery.

However, upon our return, the impact of the pandemic was still very noticeable. The once bustling streets were eerily quiet, with many businesses still shuttered and no tourists in sight. The tourism industry, a vital part of Thailand’s economy, had not yet restarted, leaving popular tourist spots deserted.

We found ourselves returning not to the vibrant, lively Thailand we remembered, but to a ghost town, a stark reminder of the pandemic’s far-reaching effects. It was a sobering experience, but also a testament to the resilience of a country on the path to recovery.

Because of this, we were able to find a good value on a luxury condo on the Chao Phraya River (covered in our post: Magnolias Waterfront Residences at ICONSIAM).

Early Morning Sunrise View from Our Condo at ICONSIAM

Our time here was amazing and it spoiled us beyond belief. If purchased, this condo would be worth well over one million USD, yet our rent was the equivalent of what we spent on a small condo back in the US. We had incredible views overlooking the Chao Phraya River and the skyline of Bangkok. The condo building provided private access to ICOMSIAM Mall along with easy access to river taxis and BTS Skytrain. ICONSIAM gave us unlimited options for shopping, food, and entertainment. We could leave our condo and walk to the mall’s IMAX theater in less than 15 minutes! The mall held special entertainment events weekly at their large riverwalk area. The highlight of our time here was watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks put on by ICONSIAM.

By February 2023, (after 9 months of living here) we started getting itchy feet to do something new. It was at this point that we had an opportunity come along where we could live in a part of Thailand we had never been to before. It was a town located in the far northeast Isan region of the country called Nakhon Phanom. The home we were looking at was located directly on the Mekong River, facing Laos. We found this place through some friends on YouTube who live in that region.

Before making our final decision, we needed to make a trip to Nakhon Phanom to make sure it was the right place for us. We made this trip at the end of February 2023 and quickly fell in love with Nakhon Phanom. Another thing that was amazing at the time we were there was the weather – beautiful clear skies and temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 15°C)- it was amazing! Due to our amazing first impression, it was an easy decision to move here!

Our River Home on the Mekong River – Nakhon Phanom
Awesome View of the Mekong River and Laos

MARCH 2023

Closing Out Our Condo in Bangkok, Move to Nakhon Phanom (09 Mar 2023)

After returning to Bangkok from Nakhon Phanom, we only gave ourselves 10 days to pack and get everything ready to move. Nakhon Phanom is a long way away from Bangkok – 11 hours by vehicle. Lucky for us, everything we owned would fit in a smaller moving truck. For this service, we got a moving company out of Bangkok to do the move. We got everything ready ahead of time, all they had to do was load up and head out.

We then closed out our condo and got a taxi to a hotel near Don Mueang International Airport. The next day we took a short flight to Nakhon Phanom (1.5 hours). The movers drove all night and dropped our stuff off the day we arrived.

Gallery | Bangkok Movers Packing Up

Moving to Nakhon Phanom at the Worst Time of Year (15 Mar 2023)

Our move to Nakhon Phanom went well and smoothly. We quickly settled in and got adjusted to our surroundings. Unfortunately, circumstances changed and our awesome “honeymoon period” quickly dissipated!

So what went wrong? Thailand’s hotter-than-normal warm season arrived!!! The sudden shift from the relatively cooler weather to soaring temperatures caught us off guard. We are talking temperatures in the 110°F-115°F (43°C to 46°C)! It was a 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 16°C) rise in temperature from just a few weeks earlier – it was crazy!

And then add on top of this, terrible air quality caused by Thailand’s “Burning Season”. We knew that northern Thailand has issues with the burning season but we didn’t realize how bad it would be in the northeast region. Here the burning comes across the Mekong River from Laos. It is intense and constant – taking place 24 hours a day.

Before moving here, we just didn’t factor in how bad these two events (intense heat and bad air quality) would be during this time of year. From what we gathered, both were a lot worse than normal this year. We made do but it was not fun.

The burning season in Northern Thailand, also known as the smoky season, is a period of 3-4 months during which the air quality drops significantly due to various factors. This period usually begins in mid-February and lasts until early April.

The primary cause of the burning season is agricultural practices. Farmers in Northern Thailand practice slash-and-burn farming, where they burn their agricultural fields to prepare them for the next year’s crops. This smoke, along with that from forest fires, fills the air with toxic particles.

The burning season poses challenges for both residents and visitors. Poor air quality can cause serious health problems, especially for the elderly and children. As a result, many people avoid traveling to Northern Thailand during this time.

The burning season usually ends by the second week of May when the rainy season sets in. The rain washes away the pollution and brings the temperature to a bearable low. However, the recurring nature of this event underscores the need for sustainable farming practices and effective waste management strategies.

Dean’s Father Declining Health, Decision to Return to North Carolina (25 Mar 2023)

After being in Nakhon Phanom for a few weeks, I got the news from my brother that my father’s advanced dementia was getting much worse. Even though we had just made the move to Nakhon Phanom we decided it would be best for us to close everything out here and return home so that I could spend more time with my father. So just as quickly as we closed everything out in Bangkok to move here, we repeated the same process for Nakhon Phanom. Luckily since we travel light and do not have a lot of possessions (and something we’ve got used to doing), it was a fairly easy transition to return to the US.

APRIL & JUNE 2023

Spending Time with Dad & Family (Apr-Jul 2023)

Returning home from Bangkok to spend time with my father and family was a pleasant experience. The familiar surroundings shared meals, and conversations made the visit enjoyable. It was nice to reconnect with everyone and create new memories. Overall, it was great to be back home.

Spending the last three months with my father was a precious time. Despite his battle with dementia, we shared stories, laughter, and love. It was a time of togetherness with family, cherishing each moment. It was tough, but those memories are a treasure we’ll always hold dear.

JULY 2023

Dean’s Father Passes Away (27 July 2023)

When my father passed away, it was hard, but we found comfort in knowing we had spent those last months together. We remember him as a strong and loving father. His memory lives on in our hearts. His battle with dementia was difficult to witness, but it showed his resilience, something we’ll always remember.

Planning Our Future Travel Plans, Travel Full Time Without a Home Base (Jul 2023)

After my father’s passing, Kanchana and I discussed our future travel plans. We had kicked around a lot of different ideas:

  • Take a road trip to see fall colors in Northeast US
  • Spend time in Europe – maybe visit some Christmas markets in Germany, etc.
  • Spend extended time in New Zealand (during the Spring)

These were just a few ideas we were thinking about. But that all changed when we got news from Thailand…

Close Relative of Kanchana Declining Health, Decision to Return to Thailand (Jul 2023)

As we were still grappling with our loss, we were informed about health complications concerning a close relative of Kanchana. This necessitated another difficult choice – to hastily return to Thailand. Our aspiration of continuous travel (without a permanent residence) had to be temporarily shelved, but it facilitated a prolonged visit to Bangkok and invaluable moments spent with Kanchana’s family.

AUGUST 2023

Family Visit in Tampa Before Flight Back to Thailand (16 Aug 2023)

Our plans were simple – leave Asheville for Tampa, pay a short visit to Kanchana’s family, and then fly to Bangkok. However, the impending threat of Hurricane Idalia began to cast a shadow over our straightforward itinerary, stirring a sense of unease within us. Our simple plans were suddenly affected by the unpredictability of nature

Hurricane Idalia Ruins Our Travel Plans (30 Aug 2023)

Our simple plans were disrupted by the unpredictable force of nature – Hurricane Idalia. The hurricane led to the cancellation of our flight out of Tampa, throwing our plans into disarray. We quickly arranged for a replacement flight from Sarasota/Bradenton, only to have it canceled as well due to the relentless storm. The situation seemed dire, and we feared the worst. However, in a turn of events, we managed to secure a flight out of Orlando (to Los Angeles). Despite the initial setbacks, we were finally able to continue our journey!

Cat 4 Hurricane Idalia Makes Landfall in Florida

SEPTEMBER 2023

Arrival in Bangkok Thailand (01 Sep 2023)

Upon reaching Los Angeles (from Orlando), we were faced with a lengthy 12-hour layover before our next flight to Taipei. This unexpected pause in our journey was a test of patience and endurance. Eventually, we did make it to our final destination, Bangkok. However, the cumulative effect of the disrupted plans, the hurricane-induced stress, and the long layovers had taken its toll. Needless to say, when we finally arrived in Bangkok, we were extremely tired and worn out.

Now That We Are Back | Contemplating Our Future Ahead (Early Sep 2023)

After arriving in Thailand and spending time with Kanchana’s family we were still not quite sure of our future travel plans. Do we still try to travel full-time (without a home base) or do we go ahead and settle in Bangkok for a while so we can visit family? In the end, we decided on the latter.

Need to Spend More Time with Family in Thailand, Decide to Get Condo in Bangkok (15 Sep 2023)

This meant we needed to find a condo in Bangkok – so we started the search. Previously, we’ve always been very lucky when looking for a condo – we’ve always run into the right person who has the perfect place for us. This time was a little different as I found it on my own on Facebook. It’s the smallest unit we have ever stayed in – 34 square meters but it was brand new, never been lived in. It came with a lot of nice upgrades that we had never seen before (in condos here) – higher-grade appliances, a 55″ 4K TV, an adjustable height computer desk, a king-size bed, custom lighting, and custom built-in storage throughout the unit. It is located in an area of Bangkok that we’ve never lived in before – Ha Yaek Lat Phrao. Central Mall Lat Phrao, Lotus’s, and BTS Station are all within a 10–15-minute walking distance.

Gallery | Our Condo

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER 2023

Start Process of Getting Retirement Visa (05 Oct 2023)

After getting our condo, I was able to start the process of getting my Thailand Retirement Visa. I’ve done this so many times now that I can do it in my sleep. From start to finish it’s approximately a 3-month process – which I’ve covered before.

DECEMBER 2023

Completed Retirement Visa (06 Dec 2023)

In early December 2023, I was able to finish the process of getting my Thailand Retirement Visa. This also included getting my Multiple Re-Entry Permit. So, I’m now good for a 12-month stay in Thailand.

…And Just Like That, the End of 2023 Approaches!!! (Early Dec 2023)

Where did the time go?!?!?! We can’t believe it’s December already and Christmas is fast approaching!

Christmas Eve Brunch at The Market@5 at Eastin Grand Hotel Phayathai (24 Dec 2023)

This year we tried something new for our traditional Christmas Brunch in Bangkok – The Market@5 at Eastin Grand Hotel Phayathai! It was fantastic, especially the unlimited lobster!!!

Unlimited Lobster at The Market@5 Eastin Grand Hotel Phayathai | Christmas Eve Brunch

Celebrate New Year’s Eve Shangri-La Bangkok on Chao Phraya River (29 Dec 2023 – 01 Jan 2024)

It’s been a while since we spent New Year’s Eve at Shangri-La Bangkok (we were here in 2015). This year we decided to return here due to their awesome location on the Chao Phraya River and the perfect view of the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

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