Matt Forney
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12 Weeks in Thailand: Living the Good Life on the Cheap by Johnny F.D.

12-weeks-in-thailandJohnny F.D. sent me a copy of this book a few months back on a recommendation from English Teacher X. Its premise is depressingly familiar: another middle-class American guy gets sick of the 9-to-5 and heads abroad to live the Tim Ferriss dream. Frankly, I was dreading reading it. Do we really need another entry in this genre?

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

12 Weeks in Thailand isn’t a memoir, it’s a legit guide on how to survive in Thailand as a Westerner: how to plan your trip, how to make money, and how not to get ripped off. While it’s not mindblowing or anything, if you have any interest in the Land of Smiles, you should pick this one up.

And it’s clear that Johnny knows his stuff. The book discusses all of the major tourist hotspots in Thailand, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to Phuket, and everything you could possibly want to know about them:

In Chiang Mai there is a rice field burning season that starts around February 15th – April 1st where the air quality can get really bad some days. The biggest issue isn’t just the smoke that covers the air, it’s that it traps all of the car exhaust smoke. Unfortunately Thailand doesn’t enforce smog laws a lot of cars, especially tuk-tuks and trucks spew tons of toxic exhaust smoke which gets trapped under the blanket of smoke from the burning. It makes it difficult to run outdoors, gives people respiratory problems and makes it hot and stuffy. Everything in Chiang Mai is still open during this season, including all of the gyms, but if you have the choice I would avoid it even though you can technically train through it. However, I would definitely try to come back to Chiang Mai for Songkran, which is around April 16th which is the most amazing festival in the world. It is literally a nation wide water fight, and it’s far more fun in Chiang Mai than anywhere else. You can read more about the burning season by doing a search on my blog for it.

Johnny not only goes over cost of living and how to save money, but he broaches subjects that mainstream guides wouldn’t even approach, such as drugs and sex. Some of the side hustles he outlines are pretty creative and definitely make living in Thailand long-term a possibility for any man. Additionally, if you’re into mixed martial arts and/or scuba diving, 12 Weeks in Thailand is especially useful as Johnny goes over how to make a living doing both (the “F.D.” stands for “Fighter-Divemaster”):

Another way to avoid getting a tuk-tuk driver is to ask to fight another farang, which is what Thais call foreigners. The problem however with fighting another Western guy is it’ll most likely turn into a brawl with no technique. For beginner fights, it always ends up being a one sided boxing match whenever two farangs are involved. Sometimes it’s also hard for them to find another non-thai person to match up against you, which is why most first fights are against Thai people. I’d suggest fighting Thai guys for your first few matches and then fighting a fellow farang.

The book is rounded out with a chapter full of miscellaneous advice (such as learning basic Thai and meditation techniques) as well as some stories of debauchery from Johnny’s travels.

There are two big problems with 12 Weeks in Thailand. The first is the editing. I know I complain a lot about typos and grammatical errors in books, but that’s because if you’re going to expect people to pay money for your product, you should make sure it’s as professional and perfect as possible. While far from the worst I’ve ever encountered, Johnny’s penchant for run-on sentences tweaked my nose somewhat. Secondly, Johnny’s stories fall flat due to his bland and flat storytelling style, failing to captivate the reader in any way:

Back in Koh Tao, we spend the first night in my room, the bamboo hut in the middle of a coconut plantation. Aside from going out to eat, we mainly hung out in the room. The next day, I asked if she wanted to go explore the island, hang out on the beach, go snorkeling, hiking, whatever she wanted, but she insisted on laying around the hut once again. By the third day, she didn’t even want to go out to eat, she wanted to build me a kitchen so she could cook for me at home. I know some guys would love that, a nice girl that you would cook and clean for you, where you’d never have to spend money and take her out anywhere, you could just stay home watch tv, have sex and eat. I suddenly realized I had somehow ended up with a live in Thai girlfriend. The next morning I gave her 1,000 baht, put her on a ferry back to her island and said good bye. But she wouldn’t be my last accidental Thai girlfriend.

Additionally, while the book does have some solid info on starting online businesses, I disagree with some of the finer details of his advice, such as his advocacy of Blogger. As anyone who’s read Confessions of an Online Hustler knows, I advise using WordPress because it’s faster, more versatile and cleaner-looking.

But this is a minor point.

Bottom line, despite its flaws, 12 Weeks in Thailand is so chock-full of useful information that you can’t ignore it. If you’re planning to visit Thailand in the near-future, you would do well to check this one out.

Click here to buy 12 Weeks in Thailand: Living the Good Life on the Cheap.

Read Next: How to Survive Living Abroad by English Teacher X

  • Adam

    I read 12 Weeks in Thailand when I was thinking about where to go next and loved the book. Thanks for reviewing it Matt.