Living In Thailand Blog
Thursday 29th December 2005
A Thai friend in Bangkok informed me today that the tropical fish in the new aquarium at Siam Paragon shopping mall have started to die because the aquatic environment isn't right. I don't know the details but it strikes me as being quite typical for Thailand. Having the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia is all about face and image and no doubt the money-hungry owners were keen to start collecting the Bt450 entrance fees. The whole thing was therefore built in a hurry and the basics completely overlooked. So Thai.
Monday 26th December 2005
Today is the first anniversary of the Asian tsunami that killed many people in Thailand a year ago. Many foreigners have returned to Thailand to remember lost friends and relatives. According to a blog I found, the event, far from being a sombre and respectful remembrance was turned into a massive tourist promotion show featuring 'firework festivals, a beach volleyball tournament, a seafood fair and Thai film awards.' This was apparently the brainchild of the PM. Nice.
Sunday 25th December 2005
Christmas Day in Thailand and this has to be the most un-Christmassy Christmas Day I have ever spent but it's hardly surprising being in a Buddhist country. One of the local hotels was doing a 7-course turkey dinner for Bt600 a person which included a glass of wine. It wasn't quite the same as my Mum's cooking but it wasn't bad. The restaurant was deserted, save for a few other farangs.
Yet another Brit has been murdered on one of Thailand's islands. The 57 year-old Englishman was murdered by three young Thai labourers who had been building a bar for him on Koh Chang. They killed him for 150 euros. Life is cheap in Thailand.
Saturday 24th December 2005
I think that The Nation is a great newspaper but, as I have said elsewhere, the news in Thailand (especially political news) just started to depress me so I stopped buying newspapers. My new rented room didn't come with a TV and as I watch so little TV anyway I decided not to buy or rent one. I therefore do not have a television.
My main source of news is from the BBC web site which is generally very good apart from a tendency to be sensationalist about certain subjects, Bird Flu in particular. The BBC don't cover Thailand in very much depth apart from when there is a big story. I therefore have to rely on other sources for news events in Thailand and my girlfriend is never short of stories from the Thai press.
After a while in Thailand the stories involving foreigners begin to sound quite familiar and of course now, coming up to Christmas, we are well into farang season. Here are a few of the stories she has told me about recently. Because these were related third-hand, some of the details are sketchy but I will do my best.
Story 1 involves a Canadian couple living in Bangkok. The guy apparently is in his 40's but his wife is around 60. She is fed up with Thailand and wants to go back to Canada. He, on the other hand, doesn't. Now, reading between the lines a little, could it be anything to do with the fact he has an old wife to go home to every night but in Thailand he probably gets smiled at by sweet young things in their 20's every day and he quite enjoys this aspect of living in the Land of Smiles?
Looking for a solution to his dilemma he decides to do what any respectable, right-minded person in his situation would do. He bumps off his missus. Next, he goes to the police with tears in his eyes explaining that his dear beloved wife has disappeared. A body is found later which he identifies as her - with more tears. However, the police smell a rat, interrogate him and he finally admits that he killed her.
Story 2 involves one of the classic partnerships in Thailand, that of a German man and an Isaan girl. They are only young apparently, he 25 and she 21. Hermann the German falls head over heels in lust, sorry love, with Noi from Nakhon Somewhere and they decide to rent a room together in that quiet, idyllic, classy little Thai haven known as Patong Beach.
Hermann is a randy little bugger though and on a quiet romantic night out in Soi Bangla his lustful eyes stray towards another Isaan temptress. Back at their love nest Noi enters into a jealous rage and produces a knife from her handbag which is obviously there just to remove stones from the hooves of the family buffalo. A fight ensues and Noi ends up with the knife in her belly.
Story 3 involves a charming man from the Middle East and, no doubt, an equally charming Isaan hooker plying her trade in that other tranquil haven in Thailand known as Pattaya. After paid-for sex, the kind that most of us would describe as conventional, Mr Arab decides he would like to reverse young Daeng and invite himself in through the back door.
Daeng, being the respectable girl she is, tells him she is no Posh Spice and refuses to comply with his evil wishes. Another fight ensues and another knife is produced. My, those buffaloes must have a big problem with stones in their hooves because there seem to be an awful lot of knives in Thai girls' handbags. No one is killed this time but Mr Arab is stronger than our heroine and she sustains a stab wound.
Welcome to Thailand.
Tuesday 20th December 2005
For the last month or so there has been an incredible amount of rain in southern Thailand and many areas have been flooded. There was a minor flood in Hat Yai recently but while I was in Singapore there was quite a serious one.
The flood defences had been holding out pretty well but on Sunday morning they reached their limits. I took a little tour of the worst affected area this morning - Hat Yai Nai. Click here for photos and to read about what I saw.
Monday 19th December 2005
I got back from Singapore today and something has changed. I have not enjoyed my last few visits there because it seemed like a very greedy place but I really enjoyed this trip. What has changed? As my brother who lives there pointed out, Singapore hasn't.
It is me that has changed and I think the reason is because after two years of living in Thailand I am getting quite disillusioned with Thailand. Is it the easy way of life, the good food, the warm weather, the cheap prices, the pretty girls who smile at me every day, the wonderful people who make up 90% of the population? Funnily enough, all of those things are fine.
What has started to piss me off are the 10% of the population who control the other 90%, those people who have lots of money already but are greedy for more and don't care how many people they walk over in their efforts to get it.
I am also getting tired of the Thai way of doing things. The Thai way is trying to get the most 'face' and the biggest return from an investment in the quickest possible time with the minimum amount of effort and money.
To me, the new airport and shopping centre in Bangkok (Siam Paragon) sum everything up. While trying to model the capital on Singapore the Thais have just tried to copy the bits they like. A fancy airport and designer shops are ridiculous ways to spend vast amounts of taxpayers money when a huge percentage of the population remain uneducated and live in squalor.
But why should the policy makers be bothered about the poor when they have money to escape poverty and can send their children abroad to be educated? The development of Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew's guidance was carefully planned and took many years to accomplish but it was the right way to go about developing a Third World country.
Thailand just can't be bothered when there are easier ways to achieve the image of being a developed nation. Keep telling foreign businesses that the country is a 'tiger economy', keep telling the tourists it is a 'tropical paradise' and the 'Land of Smiles.'
Keep the poor people downtrodden so there is a plentiful source of cheap labour to make the rich richer and a plentiful supply of prostitutes to staff the brothels and massage parlours. The sex industry is a huge money-spinner (worth two-thirds of the total national budget according to the Rough Guide) so we don't want to upset that, do we?
Perhaps these things shouldn't concern me but unfortunately they do. Sometimes I would be a lot happier if my only concerns in Thailand was my next beer and next prostitute but unfortunately that's not how I think.
Friday 16th December 2005
What a frustrating day. My taxi to the airport to get down to Singapore didn't turn up this morning. They thought I requested it for 7pm and not 7am despite the fact that 7pm in Thai sounds nothing like 7am. "Don't worry," they told me when I called, "It will be there in 10 minutes." It arrived almost an hour later. By the time we reached the airport the gate had been closed and there wasn't anyone available to plead with. For the first time in my life I missed a flight. I returned home to book another flight for the evening but a whole day has been wasted and it is an unnecessary expense that I just don't need 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