The British government doesn’t treat its exiles very well. For example, whilst the pensions of pensioners living in the UK increase every year in line with inflation, the pensions of most expats are fixed at the time they retire. Inflation erodes the pension’s value over time, and what starts out as a trivial sum becomes a pittance.

But then expats don’t have a vote, and since governments are driven by expediency, rather than a moral compass, the expat will be done over every time.

For example, there’s the the discriminatory taxation of expats. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew is famous for proclaiming “no taxation without representation”, whilst James Otis put it a little more directly: “taxation without representation is tyranny”. Both these gentlemen were American just before American independence. They had no vote, just as I have no vote today. I guess British taxation was as odious then as it is now.

There’s discrimination in the treatment of inheritance tax for people with foreign spouses: whilst someone with a British spouse can leave ₤300,000 to their partner tax-free, a foreign spouse only gets a ₤65,000 allowance.

Now, I don’t like the idea of the tax man taking 40% of my hard-earned cash when I die. One way of getting around this is to be non-UK domiciled. Basically you have to prove that you’ve severed your links with the UK. Then only your UK assets are subject to UK inheritance tax. There’s no way I’d ever even consider returning to the UK to live – in my mind my domicile is now Thailand. If for some reason I had to leave Thailand I’d relocate to somewhere else in South East Asia. The tax man, however, may have a different idea – particularly when the prospect of stealing my savings when I’m gone arises.

In an attempt to clarify my domicile I wrote to the tax man. He was written back, refusing to comment on my domicile because … I’m not UK resident. Quite frankly, I think that’s outrageous; there shouldn’t be such uncertainty when it comes to taxation.

Anyway, I’m now in the process of moving my pension to Guernsey, where it will be beyond the tax man’s greedy grasp. I’m also contemplating moving the bulk of my investments to Luxembourg. This won’t exempt them from inheritance tax if I’m deemed to be UK domiciled, but will if I’m not. Such are the hoops we must leap through.


There are a few restaurants around town that proclaim they serve Vietnamese food. The ones I’ve been to have either had Vietnamese dishes on the menu, but they’re not actually available, or have had regular central Thai menus. It was therefore with an air of skepticism that I went to another self-proclaimed Vietnamese restaurant last night. It was a simple place, shielded from the street by a screen of bamboo poles with cast concrete tables and benches, the tables topped with inlaid ceramic tiles.

There were quite a few customers there already eating, which is always a promising sign.

The menu when it came was all in Thai, and I’d forgotten my glasses, so I asked my companion to handle the ordering, adding a few suggestions from happy memories of past trips to Vietnam.

The first dish arrived quickly. It was simple, thin slices of pork rib topped with crispy fried garlic and a spicy dipping sauce.

Next to come was minced shrimp wrapped around a sugar cane stick accompanied by a large bouquet of herbs and leaves, some bitter, some aromatic, some peppery. I recognised coriander, mint and holy basil, but the rest were a bit of a mystery to me. There were also lettuce leaves and a large plate containing pieces of star fruit (carambola), sour green mango and cucumber, slivers of garlic and small, fiery green chillies as well as small coils of thin, cold wheat noodles. The idea is that you peel the shrimp mince from the stick and place it either on one of the lettuce leaves or on a larger herb leaf along with a selection of the other items. You then add a little hot/spicy/sour peanut sauce, roll the whole thing up, and pop it in your mouth.

Then arrived a thin, crispy pancake filled with stir-fried minced meat and vegetables accompanied by a small salad of cucumber and chillies in sweetened vinegar and another spicy dipping sauce.

And finally we got fresh spring rolls: thin sheets of moistened rice paper lined with lettuce leaves and topped with minced shrimps, lots of holy basil and tiny pieces of other vegetables and noodles, then tightly wrapped and sliced into bit-sized pieces. And, of course, there was yet another dipping sauce.

The food was pretty good. OK, they’d mixed minced pork with the shrimp wrapping the sugar cane to keep the cost down, and they’d used holy basil in the spring rolls rather than the more traditional mint and coriander (mint is quite difficult to find here I find). A Vietnamese traditionalist might have frowned, but for five pounds for two (including a large bottle of beer), it was excellent value for money and a very pleasant change.


I celebrate each fourth of July (or “Thanksgiving” as it’s known in the UK) by taking a worming pill. It’s a common precautionary measure here in Thailand. Each year schoolchildren are lined up and fed one of these foul-tasting preparations by their teacher. What makes it worse is that you’re supposed to chew the pill, rather than swallow it whole.

Much of the risk comes from eating undercooked meat. Particularly in the north east (Isaan), salads are prepared with raw minced meat or fish, or only very lightly cooked meat. Here in the central plains when they make Isaan food they cook the meat more fully, but there’s still a risk. I suspect the Isaan tradition stems from two things: (1) the available meat is very tough and stringy, so mincing makes it more palatable. (In the case of the fish, freshwater fish are very bony, so mincing means you don’t have to pick out the hundreds of tiny bones.); (2) fuel has traditionally been in very short supply, and even now is expensive, so minimal cooking keeps down the cost.

The shortage of wood for fuel has also historically accounted for the rise of stir-fried and other quickly cooked dishes; slow-braised dishes are almost absent from the cuisine.