Living In Thailand Blog
Wednesday 27th April 2016
When I was teaching at a high school in Thailand I sometimes had to write on the white board at the front of the class. My handwriting was the classic spider's scrawl written at any angle that wasn't perpendicular to the sides of the board.
I wrote things when there was a good reason to write something or when it helped me to explain something to the students. It never mattered to me that my handwriting wasn't 'beautiful' because in my mind that was irrelevant. Little did I know at the time, that wasn't the way it was perceived by my students.
It wasn't unusual to go into a classroom and find that the previous teacher had left writing on the board. The following is an example:
A Thai teacher's handwriting
Yes, this was written by hand by a human being. Perfect, isn't it?
It takes a very long time to understand Thailand and the Thais because nothing is ever as it seems at first. It took me about four years of living in Thailand just to start to see the reality of Thailand, and in my 13th year I never stop learning.
Many aspects of Thailand look positive at first, but when you learn more you start to see problems. When I saw this handwriting at first I was impressed. For a long time in UK schools no attention has been paid to handwriting and people these days simply don't have the same handwriting ability as my grandparents' generation. It's good that some parts of the world still consider it important, isn't it?
I didn't think any more about this until a couple of years ago when my daughter started Kindergarten. She's doing a summer camp now and in a couple of weeks' time she will be starting the third year of Kindergarten.
Every evening I have to endure the mental torture of my wife screaming at my daughter because her hadwriting isn't beautiful or because she hasn't memorised a word or tone of a word correctly. To me it isn't important as long as her handwriting is legible, which it is. However, the expectation from her mother and teachers is that it should be like the example above. She's five years old.
In the Thai education system this obsession with beautiful handwriting and rote learning are the most important things by a very long way. Everything else is secondary, including the things that I believe are important.
After my wife learnt to drive she started to chastise me if I parked without leaving all four wheels parallel to the kerb. Her driving instructor never taught her trivial things, such as what to do when she encountered a roundabout, but spent a lot of time teaching her to park so that all wheels were straight and parallel.
Thais have a completely different view of the world and completely different ideas about what things in life are important. Image always comes before substance. It doesn't matter that a student can't construct a proper English sentence, so long as the student's handwriting is beautiful. It doesn't matter that Thais get a driving licence without being able to drive, as long as they can park beautifully.
My daughter has lists of words, in Thai and English, that she must memorise and when she writes a word it must be written beautifully. The Thai value system always places image over substance.
A Thai student who can memorise words and write beautifully will be highly praised and will achieve excellent results. The student may actually be completely useless at language learning, but the Thai education system will not recognise this. They will go through years of education and receive top marks, but not actually be able to do anything practical.
A Thai teacher who teaches English may not be able to hold a basic conversation in English (I have met quite a few), but he or she can copy sentences from English text books and write them beautifully on the white board. This is the Thai value system at work.
At an early age rote learning can be very useful because it is a good way simply to get information into young brains. However, kids also need to be taught how language works and how to thing for theselves.
If a child learns how to spell 'cat' and 'hut', the same child should also be able to spell 'hat' and 'cut' if the teacher has taught the student how the language works. My daughter shows no signs of being able to do this. She will just be taught individual words by rote, rather than being taught how spelling actually works. I have been trying to fill this gap at home.
I have made the point several times that the culture gap in Thailand isn't about superficial differences, such as eating with a fork and spoon instead of a knife and fork, and wai'ing instead of shaking hands.
The Thai belief and value systems are diametrically opposed to Western belief and value systems and these differences are significant.
Thais are also extremely stubborn and if I try to make a point, my wife won't yield. Her opinion is that because we live in Thailand and my daughter attends a Thai school, we will do things the Thai way.
It's not easy for me when I hear my wife screaming at my daughter at 9:30pm and I can see that she is tired and just wants to sleep. If I interject it causes a rift between me and my wife, which can takes several days to heal, but sometimes I can no longer stand back and do nothing, especially when the beatings begin.
My wife isn't a bad person, but she is just so Thai. The Thai way is the only way she knows and even though she is married to a farang and has an opportunity to learn, she isn't really interested.
There has been so much nationalism in Thailand for so long that Thais honestly seem to think that nothing in Thailand is ever wrong. They live in a perfect country and there is never any need to change anything.
Foreigners who come to Thailand with fresh eyes see things very differently and realise that change is required, but then comes the problem with Thai arrogance and stubbornness. This is why most of the time I don't think Thailand will ever change. If Thais had the will to change things they could, but in most cases the will simply isn't there.
Tuesday 26th April 2016
I previously mentioned that while in a Bangkok taxi recently I saw a large convoy of motorbikes coming towards the taxi on the wrong side of the road. It was a strange sight ... even for Thailand, where strange sights are the norm. They had spotted some policemen ahead waiting to nab motorbikes and had simply turned around to avoid being caught and fined.
Of course, by doing what they did and driving the wrong way along a road they were then committing another traffic offence, but the police weren't concerned about that particular offence. Laws are enforced discriminately in Thailand.
I wasn't sure exactly what was going on and I know that motorcyclists in Thailand have no regard for traffic laws whatsoever. They break traffic laws habitually and drive the wrong way along one-way streets, etc.
I think I just found the answer in The Nation. There is now a police ban on motorcycles driving on 45 flyovers and underpasses in Bangkok and the motorcyclists aren't happy. The incident I witnessed must have been on one of the affected flyovers. The ban took effect on 1st April (not a joke) and I was in Bangkok a few days later.
Motorcyclist in Bangkok going the wrong way along a one-way street
When crossing a one-way street in Thailand you must always look both ways. Also, be aware that Thai drivers pay absolutely no attention to pedestrian or pelican crossings. Do not be deceived into thinking that it is safe to cross on a pedestrian crossing in Thailand because it isn't.
When I applied for my last visa extension there were more requirements to satisfy and more forms to fill in compared to the previous year. It was actually a very uncomfortable, unpleasant experience. I had to return to immigration several times and I also had to stay at home on certain days because I was told that immigration needed to visit my house. This ended up wasting my time because they never showed up.
Every year there are more requirements and forms, and now, apparently, there is yet another new form asking for all sorts of personal information that the immigration authorities have no right to know.
How long before they will want to implant microchips with built-in GPS so that they can keep a constant check on the whereabouts of foreigners?
Monday 25th April 2016
There was an interesting editorial (written by a Thai) on the Bangkok Post website. It was written on Friday, but I only saw it today. The author makes several points that I have made repeatedly in this blog. He talks about the frightening number of road fatalities on Thai roads (380 people killed over New Year and a further 442 over Songkran) and states that the road fatality rate during these two festivals isn't actually much different to the rest of the year.
He asserts that there is an 'attitude' embedded in the cultural DNA of Thais that is responsible for a lot of social problems in Thailand and he is absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. There is a big attitude, and it is a bad one. He also talks about something that I refer to as 'the path of least resistance', which he terms 'mak ngai'. This is where Thais will always choose the option that is easiest and causes them least work.
He also talks about the "me first and me only" attitude. I wrote about exactly the same thing using the same words in a very recent post. He says that observers are baffled why there is so much carnage on the road. I'm not baffled and I have a lot of theories why Thai roads are the way they are.
All of my theories are based on Thai cultural behaviour and when you combine them all together it is a recipe for disaster on the roads. When I get a couple of hours spare I will put these theories into writing.
Here's the editorial:
I know a Thai girl who is a councillor in local government and a few years ago she announced that she was going on a business trip to Australia. It was a fact-finding tour to see how Australian local government did certain things. That sounded fair enough.
After a few more questions, I discovered that about 60 people were going. Many were taking partners and using the trip as a paid vacation. Admittedly, those people not working for the local government had to pay their own fare, but I believe they were staying in hotels that were reserved for their spouses and paid for by the government.
It struck me at the time that any fact-finding mission should only require one person - maybe two or three - but certainly not sixty. When I was employed by a major multi-national American corporation in the UK there was a term for this kind of thing. It was called a 'jolly'.
A jolly was a paid for trip, ostensibly for business, but really it was unnecessary and regarded as a free benefit. When I moved to a job inside the company maintaining large computer mainframe systems there was one machine, the training for which was only carried out in the United States.
New engineers learnt a lot on the ground and from other engineers, so this formal training in the States wasn't necessary, but the training course was a big 'jolly' that everyone looked forward to. I spent two weeks in Chicago, flying business class with all expenses paid, and then had a virtually free two week vacation in the States afterwards. I don't remember much about the education course, but I had a blast watching the Cubs at beautiful Wrigley Field (1986 when Ryne Sandberg was a Chicago hero), eating Chicago pizza, getting drunk on Rush Street, and doing loads of touristy things in the Windy City. I then flew out to the West Coast and had an equally good time in California. It was great and it didn't cost me a penny!
Between the mid-80's and mid-90's I had lots of jollies. Despite living just outside London, I stayed at top hotels in London for months on end eating at top West End restaurants with an expense account and also spent several months in the US on all-expenses-paid-for assignments. I bolted on several personal vacations to the US assignments and this saved me a lot in air fares.
If other people can get on a jolly paid for by their employer I don't condemn it, and to do so would be highly hypocritical because I had so many. It's just human nature for us all to try to get as much as we can out of life and to pay as little tax as we can. We see evidence of this all the time all around the world. Thailand has a poor reputation regarding corruption, but the same things happen everywhere.
When the economy started to turn sour in the early 90's the jollies I was accustomed to dried up. No one should complain when this happens and no one should believe that they are entitled to free benefits; they should simply regard themselves lucky that they were able to take advantage of a gravy train when such a thing existed. When you are receiving these things you know it isn't right, and you always know that sooner or later the benefits are going to stop.
Thais are no different to other people in this respect and I just read that 200 Thais are about to go to Northern Ireland, Wales and England for an 'executive course'. There's no way I can afford to go back to the UK with my family because it is far too expensive, and to send 200 Thais to the UK for a course must be costing an absolute fortune.
The article also states, "The delegation is also scheduled to visit many tourist destinations in the three countries." Of course. And I would imagine that several husbands and wives are probably going along too. This is the Thai way.
I'm not sure if this trip will go ahead because an ex-politician is now trying to get PM Prayut to put a stop to these unnecessary and costly trips.
The Thai gravy train
That screeching noise you can hear may be the brakes on the Thai gravy train as it is about to come to a sudden stop - and not before time.
Sunday 24th April 2016
Wood from para rubber trees
I've used this photo a few times on my blog, but I see this sight often on the road near to where I live and I couldn't work out what was going on. The pickup trucks used have been modified to carry heavy loads by fitting extra leaf springs, however, they are all old and I have seen a few stranded at the side of the road with collapsed suspension. Recently, it was explained to me why there are so many trucks on the road carrying logs.
The logs are from rubber trees, but first a little background.
Para rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) are native to the Amazon basin and the term Pará comes from the state in northern Brazil of the same name.
In the late 19th century rubber trees were introduced to parts of Africa and Asia where they will grow, roughly, in a 1,000km belt either side of the equator.
A British botanist, Henry Nicholas Ridley, who was director of the Singapore Botanical Garden, discovered a method of tapping rubber in 1895 that didn't damage the trees and he helped to establish the rubber industry on the Malay Peninsula.
The first province in Thailand to establish rubber plantations was Trang. A person named Phraya Ratsadanupradit Mahison Phakdi was responsible for bringing this important and valuable commodity into Thailand from Malaysia in 1899.
There is a lot of wealth in Southern Thailand and one of the reasons is the rubber industry. Thailand is the world's biggest rubber producer and Songkhla, where I live, is one of the leading rubber producing provinces in Thailand. I see rubber plantations everywhere. Southern Thailand is the main producer of rubber, but now rubber is grown in other regions of the country.
The price of rubber has plunged in recent years and this has hurt many plantation owners. Rather than a few very rich people owning huge plantations, lots of fairly ordinary people (around six million, in fact) tend to own small plantations, and thus falling prices have hurt a lot of people.
When I worked at the local university a few years ago the staff I worked with weren't paid big salaries, but quite a few owned small rubber plantations and they were driving fancy cars and living well. In early 2011 one kilogram of rubber was worth around Bt180, but as I write it is about Bt57. It has been lower. China is the biggest consumer of rubber and as the Chinese economy has cooled down so has the demand for rubber.
Rubber sheet can cost around Bt64 per kilogram to produce so you can see that growers are no longer making much of a profit and some may actually be making a loss.
I saw a sign outside my daughter's school offering a rubber plantation for sale. Previously, this is something I had never seen, but now people are looking to get out of the industry and the government has previously advised growers to change their crops.
I have also seen rubber plantations cut down to make way for housing developments.
Rubber plantation for sale
This rubber plantation for sale is over six Rai in size (one Rai is 1,600 square metres), it is adjacent to a reservoir, and the price is Bt2.5 million. It's actually very near to where I live. Intriguingly, one part of the advertisement says that the land can be used to build birds' nest houses.
With so many ethnic-Chinese in southern Thailand (residents and tourists from Malaysia and Singapore) there is demand for birds' nest food products and this may be another business area into which rubber growers are moving. Birds' nests are expensive and elsewhere in Thailand birds' nest producers protect their property with armed guards.
Oh, I almost forgot ... back to where I started about those overloaded pickup trucks. Rubber trees can live for a hundred years or more, but their economic life is shorter - about 32 years. There is a seven year immature phase followed by 25 years of productive use.
When their productive life ends the trees are chopped down and used to make furniture. Some of the furniture in my house is made from the wood of Para rubber trees. It's quite durable and makes good furniture. It may not be that attractive, but the furniture I have is painted rather than stained or varnished. It is also a lot cheaper than other types of wood. The trucks I see are taking the wood from rubber plantations to furniture factories.
Saturday 23rd April 2016
One of you expressed surprise that I had been to Pattaya. This is hardly surprising, given the comments I have made about Pattaya over the years and, believe me, no one was more surprised that I actually returned to Pattaya than me.
My trip came about due to a particular set of circumstances in which I needed to take my family to a beach resort and because of time restraints the location needed to be close to Bangkok.
But it was fine. The hotel was very pleasant and perfect for our needs, the sun shone, the hotel staff and locals were friendly, a few expats smiled at my kids, and all the foreign tourists I spoke to were nice people.
I'd certainly go back if I was in a similar situation, but in normal circumstances from where I live I can drive to similar or better beach resorts in places like Trang or Khanom within a few hours and this is a lot more convenient (and cheaper) than flying around the country.
I first visited Pattaya 29 years ago when it was a completely different place to the one that exists today. Last weekend I put some of my thoughts and impressions down in a new page about Pattaya.
Friday 22nd April 2016
My post today isn't about Thailand, but I write about my life in general and not everything that concerns me is directly involved with Thailand. Some matters are universal.
I vastly underestimated how my life would change once kids arrived and even after recovering from the initial shock I have been presented with decisions to make that I hadn't never even considered previously. All parents have to make decisions concerning their children, but in this information age with such a huge overload of information it is probably more difficult to decide now than it was for my parents' generation.
My parents had limited sources of information. With the Internet we have a world of information, but there are so many conflicting opinions that most of the time I don't know who is right.
Last week I took my daughter for her MMR vaccination. In my parents' day it was a no-brainer. In the past millions of people had died and suffered from a multitude of nasty diseases and vaccination prevented these diseases.
These days there is a large anti-vaccination movement and some people reject the idea of vaccinating children for a variety of reasons. There is lots about this on-line, but basically they believe that vaccinations aren't necessary and that they can actually damage a child's health.
For a long time it was believed that the MMR vaccine had a link to autism after a research paper was published in a very influential publication, however, the doctor who wrote it was discredited and the article retracted. Nonetheless, belief in this link persisted. Is there a link? I don't know. All I can do is read other people's opinions and try to make a decisions based on their arguments and evidence.
There are even people with very extreme views who believe that in order for a small group of people to be able to rule the entire world, vaccines are being used as a tool to subjugate the masses. Is this true? I don't know for sure. It sounds far-fetched, but who knows for sure?
One of the reasons some people believe that vaccines aren't necessary is because they have been so successful in preventing disease that some diseases are now almost unknown in some countries. However, with so much international travel these days there have been instances of diseases that were once eradicated in some countries making a comeback.
I went ahead with my daughter's vaccination. I have looked at the anti-vaccination arguments and don't find them that compelling. In a book I have about Thailand in the early part of the 20th century serious disease was a major problem, but now many of those diseases don't exist as a result of vaccination and improved public healthcare and sanitation.
The book 'Twentieth Century Impressions of Siam' is quite fascinating. It has lots of early photos of Thailand and accounts of living in Siam in the early 20th century written by foreigners. These accounts aren't always totally accurate, but they are interesting nonetheless. The writers provide lots of advice to other people thinking about going to Siam at that time. Here's an extract:
"An important point to remember, but one which is too often neglected, is revaccination. This has been brought more forcibly to one's attention during these past two years in Bangkok. Quite a large number of Europeans have suffered from small-pox, and one fatal case at least has occurred.
How much trouble and even disfigurement would have been saved had all these sufferers resorted to the simple precaution of revaccination! In Europe, where, fortunately, small-pox is now so rarely seen, revaccination is advisable every seven years.
In a country like this, where one may often actually run against persons in the most infectious stage of small-pox, the neglect to have oneself frequently vaccinated is little short of criminal folly."
According to Wikipedia, "Smallpox vaccine, the first successful vaccine to be developed, was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796."
If I told my wife that our daughter wasn't to be vaccinated it would lead to, at best, a big argument or, at worst, divorce. She uses the Internet for Facebook and Sanook.com, and doesn't look at the same type of on-line information that I do. She has probably never heard of the anti-vaccination movement and would just think I had gone mad.
Another decision concerns our son and whether it would be a good thing to remove a small part of his anatomy, or not.
Male circumcision - Muslims in Southern Thailand
This is another very controversial issue and, again, there is no shortage of opinion on the Internet. There are lots of 'for' and 'against' arguments and I can relate to them all. It just seems that the 'against' arguments aren't quite as compelling as the 'for' arguments.
Yes, all operations carry a degree of risk, but a small one. Yes, it will cause some discomfort, but he won't remember it - I didn't. Will we, as parents, be violating his human rights by carrying out a change to his body that he hasn't consented to? Maybe, but parents have always had to do whatever they felt was best for their children and this will be best done before he is of an age at which he is capable of making decisions himself.
I'm sure that some uncircumcised men who had to have a circumcision later in life wish that it had been done earlier, but there are also many uncircumcised men who go through life without any problems. On the other hand, there seems to be good evidence that circumcision does reduce the rish of STDs, urinary tract infections, etc.
Do I know for sure what is best? No. Have I made a decision with my wife yet? No. Will my lad feel strange if he doesn't have the same appearance as me? I don't know. As has been said many times, the more we learn the less we know. I picked my five year-old up from summer camp today and she told me that now she knows everything. I am 50 years older and most of the time these days it feels as if I know nothing.
The statistics about circumcision are quite interesting. There is a very high percentage of circumcised males in the USA - much higher than in other Western countries and most of these are for non-religious reasons.
The only figure I can find for Thailand is 16%, bearing in mind that 5.8% of the population is Muslim and that most Muslim males will be circumcised. I took the photo above at the Institute for Southern Thai Studies in Songkhla province. Most Thai Muslims live in the southern provinces.
It doesn't help much asking other people for advice. Most people have a view, one way or the other, and they will just attempt to transfer that view to other people. Our closest neighbour is Muslim so, of course, she has a very clear view. Her husband, who converted from Buddhism to Islam, had a circumcision before they married.
As you read this, you will probably have a view too, but what is really needed is someone who has no view and can present a balanced argument for both sides. Our son is two now and a few articles I have read on-line say that it is best done very soon after birth. If we decide to go ahead it will be better to do it sooner rather than later.
Thursday 21st April 2016
Quote from the Bangkok Post:
"The first six days of the 'seven dangerous days' of Songkran has already set a record number of deaths, with yet another reporting day to go on Monday. In just six days, 397 people lost their lives through Saturday in road crashes across Thailand, a 30% jump from last year. Drink-driving was the major cause of accidents.
A total of 3,104 road accidents occurred nationwide from April 11 to 16, with 3,271 people suffering injuries, said Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith during a press briefing on road safety measures."
Full article here:
I don't know how Thailand is going to fix this serious social problem. It can be such a pleasant country, provided that you keep away from the roads. This, of course, is impossible because we all need to use the roads to get around and live our lives.
I met a delightful Thai man this morning who runs his family's car air-conditioning company. He was very polite, spoke excellent English, runs a good business, and he even drove me home (which was quite a long way) while his workers fixed my air-conditioning. They charge about half the price that the main dealer would charge.
When I spent time in a tourist area last week I met lots of pleasant Thais, as I do most of the time, but when you encounter Thai drivers it is a completely different story.
My daughter is nearing the end of a long school holiday and I haven't done much driving recently because there have been no school runs. It has been quite relaxed. She started her school summer camp last week and on Monday morning I had to take her to school.
As soon as I left the house I encountered the usual driving at excessive speed, weaving in and out of lanes, using the emergency lane to avoid waiting at traffic lights, ignoring traffic lights, tailgating, cutting other people up, etc etc etc. Driving in Thailand is anarchic.
One guy in a big pickup truck tried to pull out of a side road when it was my right of way. I didn't let him and consequently I got the usual angry response with him honking his horn, revving his engine, and driving aggressively behind me. This kind of aggressive response is so typical in Thailand. Thai roads are all about speed and aggression.
There are very good reasons why Thailand has the second highest road fatality rate in the world. Thais change as soon as they get behind the wheel and many become quite nasty. They want to get everywhere as quickly as possible and to hell with anyone else on the road. "Me first, me first, me first," is their mantra. I used to enjoy driving in the UK, but I detest driving in Thailand.
Driving in Thailand
There have been signs recently of the police trying to enforce laws, but they are just targeting static offences. For example, my wife was telling me that they are now checking whether drivers have their vehicle registration papers in the car and if not there is a Bt500 fine. I have no objection to this kind of thing, but the police need to do a lot more about speeding and reckless drivers. A lot more.
It saddens me. Life can be so good in Thailand, but the roads here are a nightmare.
Wednesday 20th April 2016
I've mentioned it before, but I downloaded a Kindle book sample a few months ago on the subject of living in Thailand written by a guy who lives in Thailand. It was terrible. His insights were superficial, he had no idea about many aspects of living in Thailand, and he made statements that were simply wrong.
Historically, writing a book has required a great deal of time and research. Self-publishing for vanity reasons has always been an option, but it can be quite expensive organising a self-funded printing run. Finding a publisher requires that the book is very well researched and written, and that there is a big enough market for such a book. You could therefore assume that the vast majority of published books would be worth buying.
That was the old days, but now the world has changed. For a long time it has been possible for anyone to publish anything to the world via a website, the only requirements being a computer and Internet connection.
The ability to be able to do this was liberating and will go down as one of the most significant inventions in man's history, but now the web is so saturated that it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. The major search engine companies have taken on the role of deciding what content is worth seeing and what isn't and they can easily promote certain web pages and make others virtually invisible.
Google, which has something like 60% to 90+% of the search engine market share in various countries, constantly changes its algorithm to decide what content is shown in searches and this has hurt a lot of people, including myself. The Panda and Penguin updates of recent years have put a lot of websites out of business.
I can give examples of web pages that have far less information than my web pages, yet those pages rank highly and my ones are virtually invisible. Some were made invisible overnight by an algorithm change. Some pages were written after my ones and I have evidence that my information was copied, but it is me that was penalised.
It's impossible to do anything against a mega-corporation like Google. Lots of people complain, but Google is simply a stock market listed corporation run by accountants and men in suits and its aim is to make as much money as possible.
In more recent years it has also been possible for anyone to publish anything for free in an e-book. The danger here is that although we are all aware that websites may have misleading information, we have been conditioned into believing that all information in a published book is valid. This is based on the historical perspective that books can be trusted.
This is no longer the case and any e-book we download should be treated with the same degree of suspicion as any website that we encounter.
Even before I started to read about Buddhism I had the cynical view that Buddhism tells us to develop. Don't believe anything you are told or read. Don't outrightly dismiss it, but do your own research and only accept it as a fact when you are personally satisfied that it is correct.
The big media companies aren't exempt, in fact, they are some of the worst culprits. They are all controlled by someone behind the scenes and they will promote that person's personal agenda. In this respect, people like Rupert Murdoch are very powerful.
The BBC is supposed to be an independent public service paid for by tax payers, but it has several political agendas. The BBC loves scaremongering about the potential risks of new viruses, it has a big man-made climate change agenda, and a strong anti-Donald Trump agenda.
Any small Trump gaffe will instantly become front page BBC news, as will any report promoting the idea of man-made climate change despite the fact that there is strong, scientific evidence to say that human activity has no effect on our planet's climate.
Cynicism, generally, isn't normally a very pleasant human trait. However, when we are all constantly bombarded with so much information from so many different sources and there is some kind of an agenda behind every piece of information we need to think for ourselves and not accept everything as being how it is presented.
The e-book I mentioned above specifically states that cars in Thailand are not subject to an annual roadworthiness inspection, as are cars in the UK that have to undergo an MOT test once a year.
All vehicles in Thailand over a certain age are subject to an annual roadworthiness inspection
I've been taking my car for its annual inspection since I acquired it, the most recent being yesterday. The test may not be as stringent as the UK MOT but, nonetheless, all cars above a certain age are required to be tested.
All vehicles on Thai roads must display a current road tax disc. In order to acquire a road tax disc you must present a document showing that the vehicle has its mandatory third party insurance (Por Ror Bor) and, if the vehicle is over a certain age, you must present a document to show that it has passed its inspection.
Whenever I took my car for its MOT in the UK I could almost be guaranteed that a problem would be found and would need fixing. That isn't the case in Thailand. The test yesterday took less than five minute.
My car inspection four years ago, but it is the same every year
The technician got in the car and tested the horn, lights and indicators. All OK. He put the front wheels on a rolling road to test the braking efficiency and then the rear wheels. All OK. Very good, in fact.
Finally, a sensor was put into the exhaust pipe to check emissions. That was OK and the test was over. Despite these checks I still see an awful lot of vehicles on Thai roads that have broken lights and indicators and others that belch out black smoke for the exhaust.
With my new inspection certificate in hand (Bt200) I was able to purchase the Por Ror Bor mandatory insurance at the test station (Bt640) and went to the drive-through tax centre. I handed over these two documents plus my car registration document and Bt3,384 and got my new road tax disc. It was all fairly straightforward, but I have done this several times before and know the procedure.
The next job is to get the car air-conditioning fixed. This is currently the hottest hot season that Thailand has experienced for many years and you don't want problems with A/C or fridges right now, but I have problems with both.
When I returned from Bangkok 12 days ago I found my fridge had stopped working. All the food had spoiled and there was a terrible smell. My wife contacted the Hitachi service centre and they still haven't arrived. The initial excuse was the Songkran festival and now they appear to have a backlog.
Sometimes customer service in Thailand is excellent, but sometimes it is terrible. Having to wait two weeks to get a fridge repaired in the hot season is not acceptable. Had I not owned another fridge it would have meant going out to buy another and money is a little tight at the moment.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand