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Beijing vs Paradise

That’s when it hit me – I genuinely missed my life in China. I missed my friends, the convenience of daily life, and the fast-paced city living

By Leila Hashemi Updated Sept.1

Living on a tropical island, with waves lapping up on the sand and the sun shining – sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, for me, it was a 100-percent no. After seven years in China and always wondering what it would be like to live in paradise, I decided to take the plunge and move to another country, destination Thailand.  

I had it all planned out. I’d work remotely, travel and live in a bungalow on the beach. It was quite a process. I sold all the things I had hoarded during my time in Beijing, downsized to three suitcases, rented out my apartment, and sorted out my Thailand visa. I was all set to go. 

Don’t get me wrong, Thailand is amazing. A friend and I moved there at the same time, and we spent the first month and a half traveling. We explored tiny islands, chartered boats, and even went on a fishing trip. I visited some of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. However, little did I realize that my honeymoon period in the Southeast Asian country would soon come to an end.  

After traveling and visiting home (which meant spending a lot of money), it was time to start my job and life in Chiang Mai. Initially, everything felt new and shiny – driving on the opposite side of the road, discovering local bars and hangout scenes, and going on weekend trips to nearby tourist spots. But after a few weeks, reality sank in, and I noticed how different it really was.  

Life moved at a much slower pace compared to Beijing, and there were numerous different laws to get used to. Thailand has stricter regulations on drinking. Alcohol sales are prohibited before 12pm, suspended between 2pm and 5pm, and cease after midnight. As a result, nightlife activities typically wrap up around midnight or 1 am.  

I also realized there was much less to do. I guess I had gotten spoiled living in a big city like Beijing because there was always something going on. From craft and food fairs to art shows and VR and even Universal Studios theme park, I had become accustomed to having a wealth of entertainment at my fingertips.  

While you would think that as a tourist destination there would be many offerings, but most are just that, tourist activities. It seems fun in theory, but it would be equivalent to visiting the Summer Palace and Forbidden City every weekend.  

I also started to feel a bit isolated. While there are friendly locals and other expats, most of the people I encountered were tourists on vacation mode. It made it difficult to find friends or have a sense of community.  

I thought it was just growing pains but my friend and I agreed that it wasn’t what we had imagined at all and started to think about what to do next.  

That’s when it hit me – I genuinely missed my life in China. I missed my friends, the convenience of daily life, and the fast-paced city living. In Thailand, things move at a more leisurely pace, which could be charming in some ways, but I found myself missing the hustle and bustle of big city streets.  

So, after much contemplation and internal debate, I made the decision to try and move back to China. I realized that I may be romanticizing a time gone by, but since China has opened its borders, I was able to get a tourist visa. I made arrangements to stay with some friends until I decided if moving back was right for me. I got my documents in order, got a Chinese visa and booked my ticket back to Beijing.  

I was so excited the day I came back. The feeling of returning to familiar streets, hearing the buzz of the city, and being with my friends again was priceless. I knew then that I had made the right decision.  

As I am settling back into life in Beijing, I appreciated the city even more than before. And, of course, I indulged in all of my favorite restaurants starting with lamb leg, hot pot and dumplings.  

Reflecting on my time in Thailand, I realized that it was an essential chapter in my life. While living in paradise wasn’t what I had expected, it allowed me to grow and gain a new perspective.  

So, here I am, back in the ’Jing, with a renewed sense of appreciation for the life I had left behind. I will always cherish the memories of my time in Thailand and the friends I made there. And who knows what the future holds? Maybe someday, another paradise will call my name, but for now, that paradise is Beijing.