Pattaya, Thailand is a city unlike any other in the world. Ever year millions of tourists migrate here to escape the harsh winters of home to enjoy the plentiful offerings that the city has to offer. Tourists to Pattaya can find pretty much whatever it is that their hearts desire; from good food, relaxing beaches, cultural and historical monuments, spiritual retreats, massages, the hottest nightlife in Southeast Asia and much more.
None of the above listed activities come close to topping the importance of food. Thailand is a hub of culinary activity, with so much hustle and bustle however, it can be both overwhelming and difficult to find a restaurant worth dining in. Our advice to you, the tourist, follow the lead of the expats that live here. Many expats have been in Thailand for quite some time, they have generally done the filtering out of the crappy restaurants for you and know where the good places to eat are located.
One said establishment, where the expats occasionally gather is Laong’s Bistro and Boutique. Owner and restaurateur Robert Cameron spared some time out of his chaotic schedule to answer some questions for The Neverland Post:
NLP: Out of all the places in the world that you could have settled, why Pattaya?
RC: “Pattaya, or rather Thailand as a whole has a draw to it quite unlike any other country I have “settled in”. Having lived and worked all over the world, I knew, from my first visit to Thailand that this was a country that I could happily live in, at least for a while anyhow”
NLP: How old were you when you first came to Thailand?
RC: “My first trip, as a tourist was at the ripe old age of 42, but boy do I wish I had come at a younger age.”
NLP: How many years have you been here now?
RC: “In a professional capacity, four years. As a tourist, add a few years more to that.”
NLP: Do you have a business or are you employed? If so what is the name of your establishment?
RC: “My first professional Thai assignment was to establish a business near Rayong on behalf of a mature UK-based multi-national. Following completion of that contract, I decided that I’d like to stay a while longer and I established Laong’s Bistro on Jomtien 2nd Road in collaboration with Laong (Ong).”
NLP: What makes customers choose you over your competitors?
RC: “We like to think that our service, food quality and the ambiance of our little place is what keeps customers coming back. We don’t profess to being the cheapest in town but our consistency (most of the time) gives us an edge. We are still an infant business with many things to learn and feedback from our customers, be that good or bad helps us continue to improve what we offer.”
NLP: How would you say Thailand has changed since your first trip?
RC: “If you come to Thailand as a tourist then you see one aspect of the country. When you are here professionally, either working or running your own business, you see things in a completely different light. Personally as a tourist I had no idea about how strong the manufacturing base was in Thailand. It’s huge, many massive multi-national companies have established bases here and it’s only through working and networking here that you realize how strong a part of the ASEAN community Thailand actually is. It’s not all about the tourism.”
NLP: What would you say to the people believing the media hype that Thailand is a dangerous tourist destination?
RC: “As previous people have said, every country these days has its difficulties and Thailand is no different in that regard. Social media play a large part in highlighting the beauty that Thailand has to offer. There are some news agencies who like to jump on the band wagon and sensationalize the situation anytime something bad happens anywhere in the world, including Thailand. Having worked and lived in the majority of Middle East countries during the Arab Spring, I would have to say that Thailand continues to be a place where you should come, relax and enjoy a piece of paradise.”
NLP: What three pieces of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs that have their sights set on Thailand?
RC: “Come and live here for a while, get to know the culture, the people and especially the language. Too many people get frustrated because things are done here differently to how they would be done in their home countries. There is a saying, “This is Thailand” or “TIT” for short, and it’s true. Learn to adapt, treat the indigenous peoples with respect and courtesy and you will earn the same in return. Don’t come here thinking you can change the world and retire a billionaire.”
NLP: How hard is it to find a job that will pay enough to stay in Thailand?
RC: “If you have the qualifications (and/or) as set of skills that Thai people don’t have then you can find a job. It won’t pay what you are used to back home usually but it will be enough to sustain a lifestyle here that you can enjoy. For God’s sake, if you want to become rich, whatever you do, don’t open a restaurant!”
NLP: What would you say has been your most satisfying moment since arriving in Thailand?
RC: “I’ve always been a great advocate for improving the skills of the people who work with and for me. If the people you mentor become strong enough to do what is expected of them, it allows you to advance your own career safe in the knowledge that you aren’t leaving a big hole behind you. One of my most satisfying moments was seeing a fledgling team of 15 youngsters in my Supply Chain Team in Rayong taking the bull by the horns so to speak in a special project and demonstrating that everything I had coached and guided them on was now second nature to them, thereby making me effectively redundant and able to move on to pastures new.”
NLP: What are your hobbies? What do you do in your off time?
RC: “I became hooked on Golf about 8 years ago and still love to play, despite not having as much time since opening my own business. On our one day per week off day we love trying new places to eat, take in the latest movies that are out or simply relax on the beach (especially Bacco).”
NLP: Who has been your greatest inspiration? Why?
RC: “Without any doubt my grandfather. A great man who faced many adversities in his life and yet maintained a posture of collectiveness that to this day, I wish I could emulate.”
NLP: How important is it to learn Thai?
RC: “If you wish to settle in Thailand then it is vital to at least have the basics. Learn more advanced Thai language and you’ll never look back. The plus side being you don’t have to let it be known that you can understand what is being said. It helps immensely.”
NLP: What motivates you?
RC: “There has never been a morning I haven’t woken and wished I hadn’t. Life itself should be motivation enough. Get out there, learn new things, meet new people and succeed at something you or other people think you cannot. In my current role, there is nothing more motivational than to receive feedback from our customers. It gives us a great opportunity either to keep doing what we are doing right, or improving on something that we did wrong to make sure the next customer is happy with what we do.”
NLP: Do you read books? If so, what genre?
RC: |Self-Improvement or historical factual are my favorite reads, although most of my reading is done online these days, it’s easier, quicker and less cumbersome.”
NLP: Do you support any local charities?
RC: “We are always looking for ways to give back to the local community. We recently hosted a dinner at Laong’s where a raffle was carried out with all proceeds going to a local Soi Dog charity. We have donated free dinner vouchers to the local Rotary and other clubs who have held fund raising events in the area as well.”
NLP: Do you still participate in the party?
RC: “Not as often as we used to but occasionally you will still see us strutting our stuff down at Candy Shop or 808 and when that happens, clear the dance floor baby, Lob Yai is coming through!!!”
NLP: What is your biggest pet peeve?
RC: “People who bring their own fish to our restaurant and ask us to cook it for them.”
NLP: What is the most memorable place or establishment in Thailand for you so far? Why?
RC: “Although there are so many memorable places in Thailand, I would have to say my visit to Roi Et about 18 months ago. It gave me an insight into how the average Thai family exist, and how happy people can be who have virtually nothing but each other. It was a humbling experienced probably the most insightful of my time here in Thailand, thus far.”
NLP: If you had to start over, would you do it any differently?
RC: “Absolutely not! Having made numerous mistakes along the way which have been, for the most part, a great learning opportunity, I’d be a fool to think that I could get things right the second time around. Learning from your mistakes is part of the fun of life, frustrating at times yes, but never boring and always an opportunity to improve.”
There you have it everyone, Thailand is still a place to add to the list of places to visit and possibly retire. Thousands of expats live and do business here already and thousands more back home want to. The fact is, it’s not that hard to start your own business in Thailand, the hard part is maintaining the quality and consistency of your product. Thailand has been the focus of attention for many big companies as of late who are looking to expand into Asia over the next couple of years.
If you have any thoughts about wanting to live and work or do business abroad, Thailand is the place to check out first! Oh, and while you are here, stop on in over at Laong’s Bistro and Boutique and grab yourself some of the quality and consistency mentioned above.