Living In Thailand Blog
Monday 30th January 2012
If you're only in Thailand for a short time you may think that certain behaviour is simply a one-off occurrence, and consequently you don't give it much thought.
However, if you've been in Thailand for a long time you realise that certain things happen all the time.
Before Christmas I ordered a flash meter and put down Bt2,000 as a deposit. The shop told me they would call when it arrived. They didn't call and I forgot all about it.
I remembered recently and called into the shop. It had arrived but no one had called to tell me.
We bought some ceiling fans recently and one of them had a part missing. Again, the shop said they would call when the part arrived. They didn't call so my wife called them this morning. The part has arrived but no one called to tell us.
I had problems with my car air-conditioner last year and the service centre needed to order some parts. Exactly the same thing happened as I've described above.
This hasn't just happened three times; it has happened almost every time I've had to get something ordered. Many, many times. The shop says they will call when the item arrives but no one ever calls.
I don't know why this happens so often.
Thais have some very strange ideas about paying for phone calls. If a Thai wants to speak with you on the phone, quite often they will ring quickly before you have a chance to answer. When you see the 'Missed call', you are expected to call back so that you pay for the call.
I thought at first that just poor Thai girls did this but it also happened to me with a university lecturer who has his own private business, no children, and is rich by Thai standards.
Maybe the reason they don't call you is because they don't want to pay for the call? Maybe there's another reason? I don't know, but now whenever someone says they will call me when something arrives I never expect a phone call.
Money is an obsession with Thais, even a few Baht.
I've just had to pay the full amount for a fitted kitchen. The house isn't ready for the kitchen to be fitted yet and so the kitchen company has done nothing apart from designing it on their computer.
I couldn't understand why I had to pay in full before they've done anything. As far as I am concerned, they should finish everything to my satisfaction before receiving the final payment. I was hoping to get some support from my wife on this but she's also Thai and Thais always stick together, even if you're married to one.
This kitchen has cost a lot of money - several years salary for most Thais. When we first called the company to come over to the house, measure it up, and give us a quote, they wanted Bt300 for petrol.
My response was "********, if you want the business you pay for your petrol. If not, I'll give the business to someone else." They were afraid that after giving me a quote I would say I wasn't interested and they would waste a little petrol.
When I worked in IT in the UK, we had to write lots of proposals when projects went out to tender. Some of these things took months and involved a lot of people. The total cost was huge and there was no guarantee of getting the business. Doing this was simply a part of the overall business.
Given the chance of some business, the kitchen company here should have gone all out to impress me to ensure that they got the business. Instead, they pissed me off at the very first opportunity they had by demanding I give them Bt300 for petrol.
I never paid the Bt300. They ended up getting my business, but only because there isn't much competition in the fitted kitchen market here and I didn't have a lot of choice. If I lived in Bangkok or Phuket where there is more competition I wouldn't have spoken to them again.
If anyone could be bothered to ask me what is wrong with the education system in Thailand I could give them a long list. Of course, a mere farang would never be asked because farangs know nothing.
Two things wouldn't be on my list. Continually raising the qualification requirements for teachers and dishing out free tablet PCs to six year-old students won't help anything. Nonetheless, promising little kids free computers was a good vote-getter.
Nothing much surprises me about Thailand anymore, but what really surprised me in this report was to find out that there are still more than 2,000 schools in the country without electricity. Amazing.
I am well aware that many schools have no air conditioning but I thought that all schools must at least have electricity for fans and lights, etc. Apparently, they don't.
More complete rubbish from Lonely Planet.
Apart from Pattaya any time of the year, I can't think of a worse place to be in Thailand than Ko Pha-Ngan during a Full Moon party.
And eating a dessert for $640 in Bangkok? That's something else I won't be bothering with.
What is Lonely Planet about? It had a purpose 40 years ago when there really were very few tourists in Southeast Asia and there was no Internet. Now, I don't know who reads their guide books, or why.
Saturday 28th January 2012
From my inbox:
"Regarding the Thai drivers, I got so much bad experiences. Now I let my wife drive all the time. Just to tell you two bad experiences: one is a Thai pickup truck driver showed me his gun when he hit my car from back. The other one: four people with old motobikes chased after me and they had intention to make traffic accident, so that I could pay them a big mount of money or buy new motobikes for them. Those are pain experiences.
One thing worried about me is that one day I will become "Thai driver" myself. I mean I will be one of them if I continue to drive on the road."
And the Thais have got their guns out again in another greedy dispute over tourist money in Phuket:
Welcome to the Land of Smiles.
When you think of gun violence, you naturally think of countries that are notoriously dangerous. In Nationmaster's list of statistics for firearm homicide rate, the top two countries probably aren't that surprising.
However, what may surprise people is the country that comes in at No 3 in the list of countries with the highest firearm homicide rate.
Mexico has a bad reputation for drugs and guns, but the firearm homicide rate in Thailand is almost 10 times higher than in Mexico.
It really is the Wild East.
Friday 27th January 2012
Every now and again there's a big splurge on traffic offences here. There was one a year or two ago. Lots of signs were erected warning motorists and motorcyclists that they would be caught and fined if they didn't follow traffic laws.
There's some activity during the splurge but after a while the signs disappear and everything goes back to normal. The same thing has happened recently. I noticed a lot of signs last week about not driving while drunk, wearing crash helmets, etc.
Today we popped out to one of the local supermarkets and saw some cops pulling over motorcyclists not wearing helmets. It has been illegal not to wear a helmet for many years but lots of Thais don't bother.
Helmets are worn more during the day and on busy roads. At night, about 50% don't bother and very few bother on back roads. If you travel outside to the countryside a little way, no one bothers at all any time of day.
Even on busy roads during the daytime there are still quite a few people riding bikes not wearing helmets.
The cop we saw had pulled one guy over and was in the process of writing him a ticket. As he was doing so another bare-headed motorcyclist came racing around the corner.
The cop jumped into the road and told him to stop. The motorcyclist was having none of it and just swerved to avoid the cop and drove on. The only thing in the cop's hand was a clipboard on which he was writing the ticket, and with which he attempted to whack the motorcyclist around the head.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a strong enough whack and the motorcyclist just rode off. The cop gave a 'mai bpen rai' expression and continued writing out the ticket for the previous offender.
The whole episode was disgusting to watch but having encountered lots of Thai drivers with exactly the same attitude as the motorcyclist it didn't surprise me at all.
There is a sector of Thai society comprised of Thai males who are arrogant and defiant to the extreme. They will do exactly what suits them, and they won't take notice of anyone - even the police.
If they have no respect for the police, you can imagine what they feel about farangs, who they just treat with contempt.
If I ever make my feelings known to a Thai driver about their obnoxious driving they either laugh at me, want to fight me, or - like the minivan driver recently - want to shoot me.
What worries me more than their behaviour is that Thai society seems powerless to be able to deal with them. I told my wife that if someone committed a traffic offence in the UK they would have a fairly small problem, but if they run off from the police they would have a big problem.
In Thailand it seems that if you run off you simply get away with it.
My wife told me about a news report she heard recently which may help to explain things. A cop stopped a couple of kids on a motorbike for something. They telephoned their parents and the parents spoke to the cop.
They told the cop that if he didn't let the kids go he would be met by 10 people in a pickup truck and shot. Most policemen don't earn very high salaries and face very real dangers. Why should they want to put their lives into more danger?
If there weren't good things about Thailand I wouldn't live here. However, there is a dark, sinister, dangerous and wild side to living in Thailand that really worries me.
The Thai way - as I've learnt from my wife - is to regard everyone as potentially dangerous and never to react. I can see her point and understand the logic but it means that bad people will never change because no one questions them and they have no fear of the law.
The problem is so big and so entrenched that I can't ever see it changing.
With all the bad stuff that goes on in Thailand it can start to adversely impact your faith in human nature. As a result, nothing warms the heart more than when good people suddenly and unexpectedly come into your life.
Occasionally people contact me, having read my various ramblings, and a few of them want to meet. They are strangers to me and, to be honest, I have no great desire (and very little time) to meet strangers.
Some very good foreigners start a relationship with Thailand but because of the nature of the country and what goes on in some places, Thailand also attracts a lot of bad people. Being wary of strangers is a natural defence mechanism to avoid bad people.
On the other hand, being too wary or too defensive can also mean that sometimes you prevent good people from coming into your life. It's a mistake that I've made a few times.
A regular Singaporean visitor to southern Thailand got in touch a few months ago and was quite insistent about meeting. At first I was my usual reluctant self but because of his insistence we met. He came with his wife and a friend.
We have met subsequently and I have enjoyed our meetings very much. The kindness shown to me and my family has been quite overwhelming, not to mention our new friends' generosity. We received a huge hamper at Christmas filled with goodies and educational toys for the baby. We have also been treated for meals at some of the best restaurants in town.
Without mentioning any names - you know who you are - thank you and we are very happy to have you as friends!
It isn't only farang tourists that get ripped off in Thailand. It happens to Asian tourists as well. My new Singaporean friends were describing a variation on the dual-pricing scam.
At almost all tourist attractions in Thailand there is one price for Thais and another for foreigners. The pricing information for Thais is usually written in Thai, complete with Thai numbers, and therefore it is incomprehensible and hidden to most foreigners.
My friends went to a restaurant last week and chose some fixed-price dishes from the menu. When the bill came it was much more than it should have been. When questioned about the discrepancy, the restaurant said the higher charge was for Malaysians.
I'm sure that even in Thailand this has to be illegal. You can't print prices on a menu and then increase those prices when you write the bill depending where customers come from. Surely?
They said they weren't Malaysians, they were Singaporeans. This made it even easier for the restaurant because Thais think that all Singaporeans are very rich, in much the same way that Thais think all farangs are very rich. My friends weren't happy.
I am never happy when I get scammed. If I can't get the Thai price by speaking in Thai and showing my Thai driving licence, I walk away. If I get ripped off, it only happens once because I won't go back to anywhere that rips me off.
What many Thais don't seem to realise is that by making another Bt20 by ripping someone off they might actually end up losing thousands of Baht of future business because of the bad feeling that is generated. It's always a short term money grab with no thought about the long term business.
People talk among themselves about good and bad experiences, and with the Internet nowadays word gets around very quickly. If I get ripped off somewhere, not only will I not go back but I will advise other people not to go either.
Conversely, if I receive really good food, goods or service for a reasonable price I will very happily recommend somewhere. I'm not a powerful person but my regional guide is read by quite a few Malaysians and Singaporeans every day and they may be influenced by my experiences.
Yet more minivan passengers dead:
Expect the next major carnage on Thai roads in April during the Songkran festival.
Thai students are normally so laid back that they have difficulty staying awake in class. The big exception is technical college students.
The rivalry between technical colleges in Thailand is notorious and it often results in running street battles.
So you've spent a couple of weeks lying on the beach in Phuket, you think that Thais are the gentlest people on earth who just go around smiling at each all day, and now you want to live in Thailand.
Thursday 26th January 2012
Not just Thailand.
Wednesday 25th January 2012
Thais love to celebrate with fireworks.
Sunday 22nd January 2012
There are many reasons why I am looking forward to moving house. The extra space will be most welcome; having a room that I can actually call my own will be a luxury I haven't had since getting married; and not having to move everything upstairs every time it rains heavily will be the biggest bonus of all.
It doesn't stop there. One of the things I am looking forward to most is having some peace and quiet. The noise where I currently live in this rented house is enough to drive you insane at times.
Two things prompted me to write this today. It's Chinese New Year tomorrow and Chinese firecrackers have been going off all day. Few things are noisier. It's unlikely that many people living outside Thailand have heard these because they are banned (sensibly) in most countries. The sound is akin to being in a war zone.
Secondly, I saw an article on the BBC web site about unwanted noise:
Some of the examples in the BBC article are trivial compared to the noise in Thailand. My car bleeps at me for a while if I start the engine without fastening my seat belt but the noise it makes is the least of my worries.
I can't hear anyone practising musical instruments, and actually I hear very little from my immediate neighbours.
This entire area consists mostly of town houses. Thais build on every square inch of land and each house, or set of houses, butts up against the next set of houses. Gardens seem to be regarded as a waste of land and very few houses have them.
With no gardens, the kids' playground is the road. It isn't unusual when I'm driving home some days to turn a corner and find a one year-old child sitting alone playing in the road. There are young boys living next door and in the house opposite. They run around and scream directly outside my house all day.
That's bad enough but once Thai male children reach their teenage (and even adult) years it gets a lot worse. Thai males compete with each other to see who has the loudest vehicle. This is achieved by fitting non-standard exhaust pipes. The aftersales market for enormous exhaust tailpipes in Thailand is huge.
You would never believe the noise that a 125cc motorbike can make; the same kind of motorbike that my grandfather used to ride when he was alive.
These things can be made to sound like fighter jets taking off. My mother has remarked on the noise several times while talking on Skype. It's also really annoying when the teenage brats race past on their noisy bikes just as the baby is falling asleep.
Thai men do the same thing with cars and pickup trucks. Their vehicles don't go any faster after they mess around with them; they just make a lot more noise.
A popular method of advertising here is to hire a pickup truck with huge speakers on the back to crawl around the streets blasting out adverts. Again, the noise is unbelievable when they creep past your house.
When Thais have an event to celebrate it isn't unusual for them to erect a marquee in the street under which they set up tables and chairs. When I arrived home from Bangkok last year I found one of these in front of my house and couldn't get my car out.
Sometimes these marquees are so big that they block the road. This seems to be perfectly acceptable in Thailand and no one complains. A big part of the celebration is loud music (often with Karaoke singing) and this will go on for hours late into the night.
What I've described doesn't happen everywhere, but depending on where you live in Thailand noise can be a big problem. Many Thais seem to enjoy living on the edge of chaos and making as much noise as they can.
Thursday 19th January 2012
This is great news. Credit to Thailand for finally getting to grips with the issue, drawing up plans, and allocating a significant amount of money to fix the country's biggest problem.
Criticisms? This report only mentions the Chao Phraya river basin, although it does say that another Bt50 billion 'could' be spent in other areas. Did someone forget that the southern region also has major flooding problems? I hope not.
Wednesday 18th January 2012
Tropical fruit reminds me of insects. No matter how many you have seen, a new one always appears that you haven't seen before. However, I'm quite familiar with the two varieties of fruit on the back of this pick up truck. One of them (mangosteen) is my favourite. I'm also quite fond of rambutan.
Many rural Thais have land and if they have land they usually grow some kind of productive crop. My parents-in-law who live in rural Ranong grow various fruit and oil palms.
Oil palm and para-rubber need to be taken to a specialist market where they can be sold. Fruit is another matter.
The average person in the street may not be interested in a sheet of raw para-rubber, but they probably will be interested in a couple of kilos of fresh rambutan.
It isn't unusual for rural folk to load up their pickup trucks with freshly picked fruit and to drive into a local town where they will just park and set up a mobile shop. Note the set of scales in the back of the truck.
At certain times of the year I buy all my fruit this way without buying any in the supermarket. It's fresher, better quality and usually cheaper.
Prices vary depending on the time of year, quality of the fruit, and supply and demand. The mangosteen pictured here was selling for Bt35 per kilo yesterday. In the past I've bought it for Bt15.
I can get through 2kg of mangosteen in one sitting. The outer peel is thick and heavy, and there are stones in some segments of the fruit. Therefore, 1kg of fruit as weighed on the scales when it is sold isn't actually that much.
มังคุด (mung-kuut = mangosteen)
เงาะ (ngoh = rambutan)
Thais abbreviate the hell out of foreign words (for example, motorcycle = motosai, computer = com, science = sci, Mitsubishi = Mitsu, etc.) and kilo becomes lo.
A useful phrase is:
โลละเท่าไร (lo la tao rai = how much per kilo?)
Many Thais here rely solely on tourism for their livelihoods. The goods and services they offer are only of interest to tourists.
With a lot of tourists about to arrive, the excitement among the massage shop owners and stallholders is almost palpable.
I was told several times today by Thai men rotating imaginary steering wheels in the air that they have a taxi, and then asked where I wanted to go.
The staff in foot massage shops have been checking their massage chairs to make sure they are in exactly the right position, and market vendors have been fussing over the arrangement of their T-shirts and tourist trinkets.
The smell of money is in the air and you can almost see Malaysian Ringgit and Singapore dollar signs in their eyes.
This week I've been asking lots of Thais about Thai beliefs. I've learnt that Thais don't cut their fingernails at night and that menstruating women don't wash their hair.
When you invite someone into your home in Thailand you must use their name. If you don't and you simply say, "Come in," that is an invitation for the ghost hanging around outside your front door to come in. And nobody wants that, do they?
What I was really trying to find out was why Thais don't get their hair cut on Wednesdays. The vast majority of Thais I asked didn't know, but one confirmed what I was told in an e-mail last week.
I have known about this belief for years but until last week I never knew what was behind it. Thanks again to the reader who enlightened me.
If anyone has arrived at this page wanting the latest flood status for Hat Yai, everything is fine. There was a smallish problem in a few residential areas outside of the downtown tourist area over New Year but there has been nothing else.
I have heard repeatedly, and there have been assurances from the mayor, that the central tourist district area will be OK whatever happens. A lot of the underground waterways that carry storm water away from the city have been blocked in such a way to prevent flood water going into the central area from outside.
Today was very hot and it really feels that the change of season is underway. There has been a lot of freaky weather in the past year but even so, I am sure that the danger has passed for this rainy season.
I may be completely wrong - and I would never bet money on weather events - but I'm not anticipating more flooding problems until about October this year. October, November and December are usually the wettest months, although if a big storm comes in there can be a problem any time of year.
Monday 16th January 2012
The weather was fine this morning and there was nothing in the forecast to indicate more rain. At 4pm today the sky started to get dark again, loud thunder claps started to roll, lightning flashed through the sky, and there was more torrential rain. Unbelievable.
Looking at the weather radar, it's not a very big storm and should pass quickly. This rainy season doesn't want to end. By this time of year - getting close to February - it has usually started to get hot and the rain has stopped.
There are some interesting statistics on the Thai Meteorological Department website for rainfall last year compared to the average rainfall between 1971 and 2000.
There was a huge amount of rain from the beginning of the year until 31 October. Some areas had over 2.7m of rain during that period, and all through the country the rainfall was a lot more than average. I assume that La Niña is to blame.
The rainfall in Thailand has been exceptional this past year but nonetheless a lot more work still needs to be done to the flood defence infrastructure. Even with average rain, flooding is still a problem in many places.
Sunday 15th January 2012
First, the Hat Yai flood situation. It was dry most of yesterday and it has been dry today. As I drove past a big canal today I saw that it was about half full. The last flag I saw was yellow but I expect that a lot have turned to green now.
There are no problems now and hopefully there won't be any more flooding problems until next rainy season.
Considering that we are halfway through January, I am really hoping that what has just passed was the final big storm of this rainy season. The storm is heading north up the east coast of the peninsula and looking at the weather radar, it looks as if Samui island could be getting quite a lot of rain fairly soon.
A young lad I know was telling me today that he had his mobile phone, money, ID card and other stuff stolen last night. He went to play basketball and put everything underneath the seat on his motorbike.
What probably happened is that thieves saw him doing this and knew which bike to target. The storage compartment underneath motorbike seats isn't secure at all. You don't even need a key to open it. A thief can lift the seat up enough to get a hand in and retrieve whatever is inside.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of theft in Thailand. You need to be careful, especially if you have a motorbike.
He hasn't had much luck lately and to cure this his mum is taking him to give alms to monks on their morning alms round tomorrow. She believes that by doing this it will end his run of bad luck.
When my wife was pregnant she made frequent merit-making trips to the local temples. In her mind, there was nothing better she could do for our unborn child than to make merit.
The plumber who walked out leaving a job unfinished in my house last year did so because it was a 'big merit-making day' and he wanted to make merit at the temple.
The van driver who killed six of his passengers recently didn't want to go to prison. He suggested to the police that instead of prison they let him go to a temple to become a monk. By doing this he would accrue merit, which he would donate to the victims' families. He was quite serious.
I touched on a few things related to the Thai value system recently, but the Thai belief system is also very powerful. Some things in Thailand seem incomprehensible to foreigners but if you know a little about the belief system you can start to understand things a little better.
Last Friday was the 13th but this means nothing to Thais. Getting your hair cut on a Wednesday, however, is seen as being very unlucky. It's actually difficult to get a haircut in Thailand on a Wednesday because many salons and barbers close on a Wednesday due to this belief.
Our daughter's official Thai name is weird. We had no say in the matter. A friend of my wife's is into all this superstitious nonsense and chose the name because it is auspicious.
She also told my wife that our daughter needed to be born on a Tuesday. As the arrival date got nearer the doctor told us the birth would occur on a Friday. My wife convinced him to induce the birth three days earlier so it would be a Tuesday.
He obliged - no questions asked - and after the birth I was given instructions to give him Bt3,000 in a sealed envelope for his assistance.
Our new house should be ready soon and my wife has already told me about the animist altar we need to place in the house to bring good luck. She will also arrange for monks to give the house a blessing ceremony. These things are very important to her. She doesn't want a spirit house outside the house because the spirits will frighten her.
I just discovered another belief. Thais won't move house in April. To make this sound rational, my Thai missus told me it's because the weather is hot. Yes, it is hot in April but it's just as hot in May, June, July, August or September. This thing about April being the hottest month is a myth.
I tried to laugh this off at first but she is deadly serious. I tried to make her look silly in front of other Thais but they just agree with her. When you mention moving house in April you get a lot of serious looks and head shaking.
She tells me that moving to a rented place or apartment would be OK, but not moving to a permanent home. Therefore, if the house is completed early in April we won't be allowed to move until May.
If it is ready in April, I think I'll move in with the cats and leave her and the baby in the old house until she's ready to move.
While he was in office, Thaksin was alleged to have consulted with a Cambodian witch doctor and made important decisions based on what the witch doctor said. These beliefs are held at all levels of Thai society.
Once a year, the entire country stops and everyone holds their breath to see what type of food a few white cows will choose to eat. The cows' choice of lunch will determine whether the country has good or bad luck for the next year.
There are lots more.
It may sound a little unusual, but if you live in Thailand permanently some of these beliefs will actually affect you at times. You can't say anything because whatever beliefs you may have, in Thailand you will always be in a minority.
The carnage on Thailand's roads never stops. As I pointed out before, Phuket seems to be one of the worst places in Thailand for road accidents. The driving in Phuket is fast and very aggressive. The following incidents all happened in the last week.
I received the following information in an e-mail:
"About the barber thing, I was told that Wednesday is the day for King to get haircut, not bad luck."
This is the first time I have heard any kind of a theory as to why Thais don't like having their hair cut on a Wednesday. I will see if I can get this verified. I asked my wife but she didn't know anything about this and just looked confused.
I always appreciate receiving information about things in Thailand that I don't understand. Please feel free to send an e-mail if you can help to enlighten me.
Saturday 14th January 2012
There were no more heavy downpours last night; just a little light rain. Everything is calm this morning. There are no strong winds to indicate that a storm is near and the sky is quite light.
Just a few hours ago there was a fairly significant risk of flooding, but now everything looks OK. The water level in the canals is still quite high and therefore yellow flags are still flying.
Something has to be very wrong when - in a tropical country - every time a storm comes in it brings a risk of flooding.
Is the risk over now? I don't know. The Thai Meteorological Department's warning is still in place and says the storm won't pass until tomorrow. Everything looks fine at the moment but if more heavy rain comes later today and lasts several hours we will have to start preparing for a flood again.
This is what it's like living here during the rainy season. We had a bad flood last rainy season and we've had a number of scares this rainy season.
In my single days I didn't have a car or a baby and lived on the second floor of an apartment building in an area that was on high ground. Flooding didn't affect me at all. Since we moved to this house and the baby arrived it affects me very much. All I want to do now is move house. I've had more than I can take.
Friday 13th January 2012
Here's an update regarding the current Hat Yai flood warning status at around 9pm.
The yellow flags are still flying which means that the water in the canals is within 1.5m of the top of the canal, and that people are supposed to be getting ready by preparing food and water, storing their possessions upstairs, and parking their cars on high ground.
That's the official version but people living here rely on a grapevine system. Whenever someone gets knowledge that the water is coming, they let their friends and family know. This system works very well and word spreads very quickly. So far, we have heard nothing on our grapevine.
The rain stopped this afternoon and the sky lightened up. It was looking good. We went out to eat at a restaurant run by a German guy who teaches at a local school. The food is excellent and very filling.
Just as I had finished my dinner - feeling very full - my wife received a phone call from our cleaning lady who lives a few Sois away. She reckoned that the water was coming and that all of her neighbours were storing their things upstairs. We hurried home.
Our neighbours were a lot more relaxed and said there wasn't a problem. Our cleaning lady does tend to exaggerate and she is one of the people I've spoken about previously who likes to spread rumours about impending disasters. She's a lovely lady, but what she says isn't always very reliable.
The unsettling thing about the current situation is that no one knows for sure if it will flood or not. If you were to ask 100 people, there would probably be a 50/50 split and you would be none the wiser.
You can choose not to do anything but if there is a flood you will sustain damage. You can take everything upstairs but if there isn't a flood you waste a lot of time and effort. It's difficult to know what to do.
Despite feeling very full tonight, I started taking some things upstairs. It will save time if I have to take everything upstairs tomorrow.
As I was traipsing up and down the stairs again, I couldn't believe I was doing the same thing as I did over New Year.
If you have a trip planned to Hat Yai, I'm fairly confident you will be OK. There was tremendous damage as a result of the November 2010 flood and many big businesses suffered. The figure I heard was Bt10 billion for the amount of damage.
There will be a huge amount of pressure on the authorities not to let it happen again and measures have been taken this rainy season to protect the downtown area. The downtown area is where most tourists stay and I don't think there will be a problem there even if other residential areas flood.
As I said previously, the airport and bus station are on high ground so there shouldn't be any problems getting into or out of Hat Yai.
The local radio station is saying that everything is currently OK but that there will be more heavy rain around 11pm. I don't know for how long or what problems it will cause.
All we can do is stay alert and if we hear confirmed reports of flooding we will go into full flood preparation mode. I will have to get everything upstairs and store the car on high ground once again, just as I did at New Year.
The only thing keeping me from turning into a complete basket case at the moment is the fact we will be moving house soon and we won't have to worry about flooding in the new place. If I had to live with the prospect of going through this nonsense every year for three months a year I would probably need to get medical treatment.
The Thais are a lot more relaxed. It's just part of 'normal' life for them. Some actually look quite excited.
I don't know what I will wake up to tomorrow morning, or whether we will receive any emergency phone calls overnight. I can only wait and hope for the best.
Provided that there isn't a sudden emergency causing the loss of my Internet connection again, I will make another update tomorrow.
Anyone can check the situation in Hat Yai by clicking on this link:
My thanks to Bangkok Barry for pointing out this story. This is another example of what I've been talking about recently.
One of my wife's best friends was badly injured in a minivan crash in Prachuap Khiri Khan a couple of years ago. She sustained damage to her spine and at one point the doctors thought she might suffer from permanent paralysis.
She wasn't paralysed but she still isn't right and she doesn't know how her health will fare in the future. It will affect her for the rest of her life. She received about Bt100,000 in compensation. Big deal.
I talk about the problems on Thailand's roads a lot and I know that I get very repetitive. The reason is that many visitors to Thailand don't realise how dangerous the roads are.
The bird flu scare a few years ago killed a handful of people, yet lots of tourists cancelled their trips. There was no logical reason for cancelling because of bird flu.
The chances of being affected by bird flu or a tsunami in Thailand are very small. People want to know what the dangers are in Thailand but what many don't realise is that after their plane lands, the taxi or minivan journey they take from the airport to their hotel will probably be the most dangerous part of their vacation.
When a concept doesn't exist in Thailand, such as 'free', it is necessary to borrow a word from another language to express it. The same thing happens in English.
The German 'Schadenfreude' has made its way into the English language, probably not because the concept didn't exist, but maybe because it wasn't seen as a very pleasant concept. Deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others isn't very English, but everyone recognises the feeling and it's a convenient word.
The Thai are an emotional race and the part of the body associated with emotion is the heart - jai in Thai. There are, therefore, hundreds of expressions that contain the word jai to describe feelings.
There are some good expressions in Thai that encapsulate a feeling concisely in one or two words, whereas to describe the feeling in English might be a bit clumsy or not entirely accurate.
I am feeling neu-ay jai at the moment, or suffering from a tired heart. I guess that in English I might describe this feeling as being 'worn down', but I think 'tired heart' is a lot more accurate.
It's what happens when you are in a situation that tires you emotionally, but which you can't do anything about. English translations might be dispirited or discouraged, but I still prefer tired heart.
For several months of the year it rains heavily in Thailand. This happens with alarming regularity every year. There are flood defences, and depending where you are in the country the flood defences are better in some places than others.
When it starts to rain heavily you can't (or at least, I can't) just relax and read a book or something. You don't need to worry straight away, but if the rain doesn't show signs of stopping you then have to start preparing for a flood.
Preparing for a flood involves a lot of work and I went through the whole flood preparation exercise a couple of weeks ago. After the danger had passed, I then put the house back to normal. This exhausted me and wasted three days of my life.
Because of the storm that has just moved in, I still can't relax. There have been yellow flags flying since last night meaning that the canals are within 1.5m of being full.
It rained heavily last night and it has rained heavily a few times today. The rain stops and starts all the time.
While in this state of waiting I can't do anything. I can't go travelling anywhere because if it starts raining heavily again I will need to prepare for flooding. I can't relax or do anything enjoyable because flooding is always on my mind.
A radio announcer today said that up to six continuous hours of heavy rain should be OK, but if it exceeds six hours there will probably be a flood. It isn't unusual here for heavy rain to last a lot longer than six hours.
This storm is scheduled to last until Sunday. I therefore don't expect this to be a very enjoyable weekend ... again. Life in Thailand isn't exactly what I would describe as fun at the moment.
And from the US Embassy in Bangkok:
Thursday 12th January 2012
The weather forecasts here are very good. Sometimes I wish they weren't, and that the forecasters were wrong occasionally.
The big storm has arrived, exactly as forecast, and water is just pouring out of the sky. It is forecast to last until Sunday. If it continues to rain as it is raining at the moment there is a good chance of flooding within 24 hours. If it really does last until Sunday then things don't look good at all.
I am already preparing mentality to prepare the house for flooding ... yet again. This is wonderful. Of course, I'm not the only one. Many people I've spoken to this week spent their New Year first taking everything upstairs and then bringing everything back down again.
This is unusual. I don't keep daily weather records but by January the rains have usually stopped. In 2010 there was a big storm at the end of October that resulted in a big flood in early November. However, after the flood it was fairly dry until the end of the rainy season.
It seems right now that this rainy season will never end.
Today I mentioned my minivan incident to my farang friend who has lived in Thailand for over 20 years. His reaction was the same as the long-term expat in Phuket when I spoke about minivans.
Foreigners who have lived in Thailand for a while - especially if they drive - know exactly what minivan drivers are like. They are bad news.
My friend said today that you just have to let them go and don't get involved. Getting angry won't change anything and it could be dangerous. It's often difficult ignoring them when they carve you up for no reason or appear in your rear-view mirror flashing their lights but they are not nice people.
He said it is the same with bus and tuk-tuk drivers. It was a tuk-tuk driver who beat up a foreign tourist in Phuket last year over an argument about the fare. The tourist ended up in hospital in a coma.
Also in Phuket, taxi drivers were beating up other taxi drivers who they had accused of encroaching on 'their' territory.
You can't make sweeping generalisations about every single person in a profession. I can think of times when I've been stranded in a remote place late at night in the rain and then saved by a kindly old tuk-tuk driver who took me to my destination and charged me just Bt20.
On the other hand, after living in Thailand for a while patterns do emerge.
Early one morning a Thai man broke into her room and beat her black and blue, breaking her jaw in the process and inflicting other injuries. He attempted to rape her, and left with her laptop computer (containing her Master's thesis) and her money.
A nearby shop had a CCTV system and through this the police managed to track him down and arrest him. He was a sawng-thaew driver.
I haven't had too many problems with Thais since I've been here but most unpleasant incidents I've experienced have involved drivers of passenger vehicles.
There is definitely a pattern.
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