Gift for someone moving to Thailand?
October 12, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

What's a good gift for a dear friend moving from the United States to Thailand?

He plans to spend the first few weeks backpacking around the country (with possible forays into Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos), and eventually settling in Chiang Mai to work and attend university. Depending on how things go, he may end up living there for anything from a year or so to forever. He is basically leaving all of his belongings with his parents or in storage, so I don't want to give him anything bulky or heavy that he'll have to carry around (or ditch).

He's lived in Thailand before, in his early teens, and traveled there extensively as an adult. So he's already familiar with the country and its general customs. He does want to learn to speak the language proficiently, so perhaps something to help him there could work. However, I don't want to load him down with a book, and he won't be taking a computer with him (only his Android phone), so lessons on a CD won't help. Are there mp3 language courses available?

Other ideas I've considered include Skype credit, or a nice camera (he's a good photographer, though currently without a camera), but even the cheapest digital SLRs are outside my budget. He's not a big reader of books, is into two-wheeled vehicles, loves music (and will be leaving behind an extensive vinyl collection), and also has a background as an artist and performer.

What would be a thoughtful and useful gift for someone making a huge life change like this, won't be a pain to carry around in a backpack, and won't involve spending more than $2-300, tops?
posted by Cailifetsipe to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Proper, safe storage for his vinyl? Or if he has to sell it, see if you can turn it into MP3's for him to take on a iPod?
posted by ShadePlant at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2010

Does he have an iPod touch? How about a nice phone that you're sure will work over there?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:43 PM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: An Asus EEEpc netbook is around $300, I think, and they're great for travelers. If he hasn't any camera at all right now, a nice point and shoot can be had for $200 or less, no need to go SLR.

Gift card from AirAsia
SkypeIn number so his friends in the States can dial him directly at a U.S. number
Flickr Pro account
posted by cyndigo at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2010

medical insurance
posted by the cuban at 1:56 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: He just got a new smartphone, and specifically got the one he chose because it takes a SIM card that he can use in Asia for both wireless and local phone service. So I think he's covered there.

I have no idea how I would even go about getting my hands on his record collection, much less turning it into MP3s, so while I think it's a great suggestion I think that one's out.

Great idea about a SkypeIn number and Flickr Pro account (which would be great with a camera, if I go that route). I was thinking SLR because he's always teasing me about my "toy" camera (a Canon point-and-shoot with minimal manual settings), but maybe something simpler could still work.

Thanks so much--keep the ideas coming!
posted by Cailifetsipe at 1:58 PM on October 12, 2010

You might find out if he plans to buy a small motorcycle when he settles in Chiang Mai & put the money toward that expense - everyone has a motorcycle there. Also - a small digital camera is within your price range, lightweight, easy to use & might be very welcome. I was in CM for 3+ months recently & took tons of pics. Fabulous place!
posted by jsslz at 2:01 PM on October 12, 2010

If he's interested in learning or polishing his Thai, the US government has made its language courses (used to train diplomats and the like) freely available:

You could load up something like an iPod Nano ($150-ish) with these language courses and give it to him. There are texts included that you could print and bind at a local print shop pretty cheaply, or he may have a way to view them on his phone. (Is there a PDF reader for Android?)
posted by jdwhite at 2:15 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I completely accept that this might not be helpful to your friend, but a few years ago my older brother moved to Thailand (Bangkok) and was living there (and travelling in the general region) for about 2 years. He had never really left the US before, and we grew up in a upper middle class white American family.

The one gift I got him over that whole time that he said was the best thing he got? A Starbucks card. He didn't even drink it when he was in the US that much, but I think it was more a matter of escaping the "other"-ness for a while, even if that while was just buying an absurdly expensive (and given that Starbucks is even more pricey in Thailand than in the US, really, really absurdly expensive) coffee.

However, you say your friend already lived in Thailand previously, so it might not be that he needs an escape.

In that case, I'd say a high end point and shoot could be a great choice. It won't have interchangeable lenses, but within your price range, you can definitely get something at least kind of nice (plus, a DSLR can be a huge pain in the butt when you are travelling since it takes up so much space - something to stick in your pocket can be a nice change of pace).
posted by CharlieSue at 4:35 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm, he's so focused now on looking forward to returning to a place that feels like home to him, I hadn't thought about things he might miss from here. Definitely something to consider, although maybe in the future rather than as a going-away gift.

Something like the Canon SD4000 IS plus a Flickr Pro account might make a nice gift, at the top end of my budget. I might need to feel him out about cameras first; I know that sometimes those are very personal choices. I have a strong preference for Canon, myself, but I don't want to inflict my preferences on him if he leans in another direction.

He will definitely be getting some kind of motorcycle once he's settled in, but I think a cash gift would make him uncomfortable, even if it were earmarked for something specific.

Apparently there's an Adobe Reader version for Android, so the idea of the government language courses is a fun one--definitely something to look into.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm open to more, if anyone has ideas! He's not leaving for a couple of months, yet, but I want to have time to choose a gift carefully.
posted by Cailifetsipe at 8:55 PM on October 12, 2010

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