You Can Get Anything You Want – Almost

January 1, 2017

Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice

When we were packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, went shopping, packed it all up in boxes, and sent it on its way. It turns out that we were way off with our list, and in today’s Thailand you can get just about anything you want or need – almost.

Thailand is now quite a modern country where just about everything is available. Maybe a little history will help us see why we were so mistaken about what is available here now. We’ll start with an anecdote about coffee.

I choose coffee because it seems that within just a 7-iron drive’s distance from my computer (for me that’s not very far) there are at least a dozen coffee shops. The shops have on their signs (in Thai) “Kafae Sot”. This literally means “fresh coffee”, but should be interpreted as “freshly brewed” coffee.

When I first arrived in Thailand coffee was rarely encountered. Maybe if you had a meeting with a high ranking official he would offer you a cup of coffee in his office. This meant Nescafe instant coffee, at the time the only coffee available. There were no coffee shops as we know them. If coffee was ordered at a hotel or a high end restaurant, it was Nescafe, the brand name that became synonymous with “coffee” itself. The reason the ubiquitous coffee shops today need to emphasized “fresh” is to differentiate it from the instant, powdered, variety so popular in the past.

I remember when the first real coffee shop was opened in Chiang Mai, circa 1970. Its very appropriate name, “First Coffee Shop”. And coincidentally, it was just one or two shops down from where currently sits the Starbucks on Tha Phae Road.

As with coffee, so many of the things we wanted or needed that were unavailable to us back then are encountered just about everywhere in today’s Thailand.  Here is an example.

My son on a visit here saw how much ice we used (it was the hot season) and he decided that we needed an ice maker. We couldn’t find one in the market here so back in the U.S. he checked out and got one for us and the next time he visited he schlepped* it all the way here in his luggage. It was 110 v so we needed a heavy duty electricity converter, but the thing works great.

We later learned that all we needed to do was a little on-line shopping right here and we could have found just about whatever we are looking for. Ice makers are here. So is the food dehydrator that we were thinking would be our next “schlepping” purchase from the U.S. All are available right on a number of Thai web sites and they are of the 220 v variety so no electricity converter is necessary.

The two on-line sites we have used are Verasu and Lazada. They seem to be reliable and fast, with good prices. Besides these two Thai sites there are Chinese on-line stores that ship directly here and so does Amazon and Best Buy and lots of other international companies.  For many items, especially foreign made, their prices are often much lower than the Thai prices. But to the lower prices must be added overseas shipping costs which can be quite high, and the possibility of having to pay taxes. Because of that our son is bringing a new Android tablet for me on his next visit. In this case, schlepping will be worth it. On Best Buy the price for the Android tablet I chose is 1/3 the cost here in Thailand.

The list of what I need from back home is getting shorter and shorter. But there are still some things that are either hard to come by here, are much more expensive, or the specific brand you like may not be available.

Here are a few examples.



Thailand seems to have a plethora of western sausages, none of which for me are edible (although Thai sausages are quite good). I absolutely love American hot dogs. Not to be found here. When in the U.S. I buy about 10 lbs. of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, freeze them, wrap them really well, and put them in my check in luggage when I travel back to Thailand. They make it here fine, still mostly frozen, but with all their nitrates and nitrites they stay fresh and are a great reminder of home.

We also pack a bunch of good quality cheese. You can get good cheese here but the prices are quite high and the selection is limited.

I also love those Blue Diamond almonds you can get on sale in U.S. pharmacies.

But the food I crave most is Trader Joe’s Belgian Milk Chocolate. I bring about a dozen 1 lb. bars back here with me, frozen. I eat two small pieces each night. It lasts me about 6 months that way. I have one 1 lb. bar left from my last trip. Just thinking about what happens when it is finished sends me into chocolate withdrawal. Locally produced Kit Kats just don’t suffice.



I am a little guy in America, but large for here. Luckily I am right at the maximum range for Thai clothes and shoe sizes so I can usually get what I need. Anyone larger than I am, and that includes most westerners, might need to get their clothes, and especially shoes, back home. This includes both men and women.


Electronics and sports equipment

As mentioned above, electronics, computer equipment, tablets, smart phones, computer games, and their like, are quite expensive here. U.S. on-line sites have much better prices. The same goes for sports equipment. I priced a Ping driver at a department store here the other day and it costs more than $1,000. It is more like $300 back home (I ended up buying mine used from a friend for 2,000 baht.). An archer friend of mine said he had the same experience with his bows and arrows.  Best to check prices.


Vitamins and supplements

These aren’t considered medication so they carry a big tax. Vitamins, even the one-a-day kind, can be quite expensive. I take one tablet of Glucosamine a day. Keeps my joints lubricated. Very expensive here. They are pricey at Costco back home but still lots cheaper than here.


Other stuff

We like good quality American tools, especially Craftsman from Sears.

I like a specific brand of after shave and deodorant that I can’t get here (It’s as Hannibal Lecter said after sniffing the Edward Norton character in Red Dragon, “The one with the ship on the bottle.”)

If I eat spicy foods for dinner I get stomach troubles at night and America’s Alka-Seltzer it’s the only thing that works for me, but it isn’t sold here.

We can get fitted sheets here but for some reason they don’t come with a matching flat sheet, so we buy good quality sets at home and bring them here. Be careful with these since the mattress sizes here can be different from those in the west.

What I really crave is good ice cream. Most Thai-made ice cream has never seen cream and is made with palm oil as a substitute. That is a big no no for an ice cream aficionado. You can get Haagen Dasz Ice Cream‎ here but a quart costs about as much as a good wristwatch and I won’t pay that much for an ice cream with a made up Scandinavian sounding name by two kids from New Jersey. I prefer Breyers Butter Pecan all natural ice cream and if I find a way to bring it in my luggage then the world will be spinning correctly.  (As a substitute, Thai coconut milk ice cream, sold in push carts, is quite good.)


Request: For those already living here, to help those planning on making the move, please leave a comment if there is stuff that you can’t find here and that you bring to Thailand whenever you return from a visit home.


I just checked and it turns out that Lazada website carries the stuff with the ship on the bottle.

I did another search and found ice cream makers and scoops but no Breyers Butter Pecan.


*schlep: to carry or pull (something) with difficulty: to drag or haul (something).  A Yiddish word that is part of the New York vernacular I grew up speaking. No standard- English word seems to carry the same feeling.


15 Responses to “You Can Get Anything You Want – Almost”

  1. Nuts and Bolts said

    I didn’t realize you could still get Craftsman tools from Sears here in the US? Hmmm probably be collector items pretty soon though..

    On Sun, Jan 1, 2017 at 5:32 PM, Retire 2 Thailand’s Blog wrote:

    > retire2thailand posted: “Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice When we were > packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand > one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we > just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, w” >

  2. dannyol said

    Hugh, you are a funny guy! I appreciate your posts but I am a little worried about the things you can’t get here that you want. As you know we all have to give a little in order to live here. Things just aren’t the same as “back home” as with getting used to roosters crowing at, well, all hours, dogs barking at….all hours, and drivers tailgating and ignoring those painted lines in the roadway.

    I would have thought that you, of all people, would have accustomed yourself to making do with what you can find locally. I find that other expats who return for visits “home” do the same as you and load up on specialty items from Cosco. I have one friend who brings “cling wrap” Saran type plastic wrap from America because the plastic wrap here clings to itself the instant it’s torn from the box. It drives him so bonkers he brings it from America. If your that impatient perhaps Thailand isn’t the place for you. Actually this friend spends less and less time here because things get to him.

    In my own case I’ve been here 4 years and have never returned “home” to “America” (I know, it’s North America), and frankly I am happy to be a little removed from that whole political do do storm. I have found substitutes for the things I loved in America or simply gone without. I just don’t eat sausages here or pizza or drink wine. Have you tried Bud’s ice cream? Doesn’t come in your flavor, but it does have cream in it. In searching for western foods I keep finding hidden vendors for such things a whole smoked ham and bacon, fresh eggs and organic coffee. Adapt and carry on is my motto.

    I do get vitamin supplements by mail from and if I run into a roadblock in finding something I’ll go on line, then usually give up because the shipping is more than I want to spend. I wanted a used $3 book from Amazon this week, but at $17 for shipping I just let it go.

    It is nice though when friends coming over will ask “do you need anything”?

    I guess my point here is that if you have access to things you are used to having then why not have them. On the other hand humans are really good at adapting.

    • Dannyo,

      Thanks for you comment.

      I could live on rice and fish sauce. But why? I was a serious mediator for many decades and because of that I have lost most of my serious attachments. The things I listed were things that I could live without but which gives me pleasure. But remember, the main theme of this post is, “You don’t have to do without because ‘You can get anything you want.'”

      Yes, have tried Bud ice cream. It’s okay but it isn’t “to die for”. Breyers Butter Pecan is.

    • Cling Wrap: Your friend is right in that it clings to itself very easily here. Here is what I do. I pull out a piece of the wrap without cutting it off. I wrap whatever and then cut the end, let it fall, and finish off the wrapping. BTW, there is a brand that has a slide cutter right on the box. Works great.

  3. steve wall said

    I wish i could find garlic powder or onion powder..have looked in tesco…big c…makro here in Phrae with no luck… other thing the HOT DOGS i buy are CP brand from makro and for me their em….

    • Last time I ate CP Hot Dogs I got violently ill. Don’t know if it was the hot dogs though but it sure put me off of them. Glad you like them though.

      You can get dried garlic and onions in any market. Maybe a blender or a mortar and pestle could make them into powder.

      Living in Phrae, way up country for those who don’t know, It sure would be hard to find lots of western style foods. Check out the Macro in Chiang Mai next you are here. Good luck.

  4. Rhys said

    No so much as what to bring but find yourself a good 2nd hand book store in BKK or where ever you end up.. Cheers Mate

    • Haven’t read a “book” in years. I’m an avid eBook reader and have thousands. Currently reading an F. Scott Fitzgerald book and next in line is the National Book Award’s Underground Railroad. So I am pretty much set with reading material.

      • BruceMacDonald said

        The second hand book store ob Sukhumvit, between sois 26 and 28, is great. Lots of good stuff there.

  5. Rhys said

    Then my friend you are blessed. Enjoy 2017…. I am working on finishing up some research on ELL.

  6. Frank said

    A friend in Chaing Mai makes great Soursop ice cream and he has a organic shade grown coffee farm. Another friend and neighbor has a small dairy so I don’t think I will have to worry about dairy products. Yogurt and ice cream are easy to make, cheese is on the list to learn. Now I just need to pack up that 40 footer.

    • Just found some homemade ice cream today that was great. It was at am OTOP fair and a young woman of about 25 made it. There is some very good yogurt (plain) sold here. Also some really bad stuff. You’ll have to experiment.

  7. BruceMacDonald said

    Peanut butter! Very expensive here. But peanuts are cheap. And if you get a high quality blender, you can make your own. My Dear Husband brought in a $200 Breville from North America, worth every penny for the iced blended lime, banana, mint concoction I make. But if you don’t want to own an expensive blender, you might bring peanut butter from home.

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