Thailand "Guru" is Relative
Our domain name, Thailand Guru dot com , is of course not meant to imply that the author of this website is the best guru of Thailand. Nobody else is the best guru in every way, either. However, here is how the name "Thailand Guru" came into existence:
The author of most of the text content is me, Mark Prado. I was initially relocated to Bangkok to work as a consultant to an Asia regional office in 1994 (USAID), and since early 1995 has worked as a self-employed consultant (under my own company) with countless purely private sector multinationals, often the only American in the company, and I moved my residence around suburban Bangkok as well as adjacent provinces. (I lived in the Sukhumvit expat area only the first half year I was here.)
As a consultant with numerous customers, I got around quite a lot, activity I relish. It is my role to provide solutions and fill in gaps where fulltime employees cannot or do not, and of course to seek out new business and relationships as I see fit. It's my livelihood. (I was also a consultant in Washington, D.C., from when I quit a good job in 1987 to explore new horizons, and in fact I came here in 1994 to solve some organizational communications problems.)
I like different kinds of people, and help out when I can in many ways, so my more diverse exposure was appreciated and utilized by many newcomer expats. I openly welcomed quality referrals, and reciprocated by giving lots of referrals, as normal. At some point, one of my referral groups started calling me "the Thailand guru", many times in ways such as "Ask Mark, he's the Thailand guru". I think was a combination of my known broad exposure and experiences in Thailand, but could have been influenced by my favorite discussions on philosophical matters ("guru") including my background as a physicist and my open discussions about the universe and life, often an expansion from an initial conversation on Thai culture, the world, western schools of thought, or something else ... I often gravitated (or digressed) to metaphysical topics.
"Hi, Mark, my name's Roger. I've been referred to you by Joe. Everyone says you're the Thailand guru. Could I have a few minutes of your time? Let me tell you my situation..."
I found it a little humorous because I always thought of a "guru" as some Indian sage sitting crosslegged and giving advice on life and your place in the cosmos. However, the word "guru" has become popular in business circles, e.g., "management guru".
Up to that point, most of my advice was verbal at the workplace, during social gatherings, and over phone calls. However, I had been documenting some of my Thailand stories, analysis and help on a section (subdirectory) off of my main website, www.permanent.com (which I still own, albeit that one's badly outdated now). As internet was picking up in Thailand, it became time to get a new domain name and move all my Thailand stuff there. (Thailand.com was gone by then.)
Naturally, the second domain name to come to mind was ThailandGuru.com and it was still available!
That was around the turn of the millenium. Thailand Guru has come a long way since then, and it's no longer just me, but now includes over a dozen Thai staff!
I still get the occasional comment like "I hate gurus" (as one guy put it). That's OK, as I hope the domain name automatically filters out people with a negative attitude. ;-)
A few comments:
When I arrived here in 1994, I came with some printed paper guidance from my US government associates (this was before the advent of the web) and upon arrival I found it woefully inadequate, sometimes erroneous, and many parts out of date. The tour books were for tourists, not people living and working in Thailand needing practical help along those lines.
Being a writer and internet pioneer, I was already scanning photos and writing about my adventures on a personal website, and I started taking notes and created a guide to help other people new to Thailand to benefit from my experiences. The first entries were in 1994, and rewrites of this are incorporated into this website.
Out of my usual frustration with government related projects, I jumped ship and consulted to a lot of purely private sector multinationals starting in early 1995, especially in the engineering, construction, architecture, project management and property development field. (Indeed, in 1995, I met my first wife when she was working for an architecture company...)
I found out that the private sector prepares its staff even less, when it comes to relocation. Now, they often just tell them to go to ThailandGuru.com , e.g., inquiries such as "My company is relocating me to Thailand for [general purpose] and they've referred me to this website to get started ..."
This is a role I'm accustomed to, as back in the US, I had already become a "go to" guy, both as an analyst and as an action-oriented kind of General Generalist for sorting things out, troubleshooting, coming up with creative solutions, and so on. In Thailand, it's much more routine and less challenging for me to fulfill this role, and I even have staff who can do it as well if not better than myself! All my main staff speak excellent English, and some have lived or gone to school in native English speaking countries.
It's important to understand that I am an "analyst" and "creative solutions" kind of person. I don't mind giving professional people a little bit of my free time to analyze and suggest solutions for their problems, learn a little bit about their life along the way, and make a friend. Sometimes, I get hired as a consultant to implement solutions. Usually, however, I just make a friend or good contact.
If you knew my career path, you might laugh. Physicist by degree (after being a professional student winding thru several fields, including a minor in political science), worked in advanced planning in the US space program in Washington, D.C., self-taught in the early internet and modem communications starting in 1985, quit my space program "dream job" to consult to a wider range of private sector and government operations, private people and businesses in modem communications solutions and general computer stuff in the 1980s (which is a wide-ranging story in and of itself), which got me into quasi-project management, eventually sent to Bangkok to get some entities up to speed, quickly got frustrated and jumped ship to the purely private sector, consulted to engineering and construction companies in Thailand in a few different roles/capacities, started up my own company in Thailand, have done private investigations, offshore outsourcing of services, exports of goods, language translation, legal setup of companies in Thailand for other people, property purchases and rentals, and various other things. I'm also the owner and writer of www.permanent.com which is my longterm goal in life (and wrote that when I had free time after the 1997 Asia economic crash).
I prefer to do things that nobody else is doing and which need to be done, or else to provide better quality of service where I experience frustrations or see serious shortfalls. Copy cat I am not.
However, in Thailand, many foreigners come here and have problems with the basics, so I created Thailand Guru plus the solutions below which started as subsections of Thailand Guru but have eventually grown to where they needed a website of their own, too:
After the 1997 Asia Economic Collapse, I helped various businesses to "offshore outsource", i.e., to export services from Thailand to the US, Australia and Europe, to keep some customers' businesses from going comatose and to keep some Thai people employed, but after the Thai economy recovered that dissipated.
We also have always run a web design design business, but we no longer advertise it, as the bottom dropped out of the market whereby it's just not worth our time to advertise to strangers just like other web design companies out there, so we now do web work only for ourselves, established customers (usually as part of a wider business service), and ssBKK.com newcomers.
This particular website is based around my writing. More than ten years of writing!
I get a lot of compliments about my writing style, but I also get some criticisms and suggestions for style improvement. For example, I'm asked why I don't use a more narrative style and more colorful language as I do in private emails. I know that a lot of websites are enjoyable reading for their stories. The problem is that this website is already very big. It's main purpose is to help people, more than entertaining them (though hopefully both, but help is more important when I must choose). In order to shorten pages, I have cut out a lot of colorful commentary and tried to give a structured, balanced approach to each topic. I also try to simplify the language for people who are not native speakers of English and don't know a lot of idioms and slang, which takes away some flair for native English readers.
As the website has grown, some topics just got too big, whereby they really needed a website of their own. So I branched out new websites, and new divisions of my company. Property at the abovementioned www.kkBkk.com . Thai-English translation. Company setup. Thailand private investigations. And now ssBKK, about specific good places to go and things to do.
I still get around a lot, and keep my "guru" qualifications up to date.
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