Value For Money – Euro Versus Thai Baht
If you take regular holidays in Thailand (like me) your social status will no doubt take a battering. Trying to pass off these frequent trips with "I stay with Thai friends" and "I visit temples" just doesn't cut it anymore, so I begin to consider an alternative destination just to repair some damage. Deep down, I know this is a mistake but I tell myself I need to change my thought process and "get a life" outside of Thailand.
Living in the UK, I fool myself into thinking 10 days in nearby Europe would be the refreshing change needed. Thailand is still firmly in my blood and it will never leave. It's therefore inevitable that when travelling I constantly make comparisons to the land of smiles … and it must be said the other places never measure up. In particular with regard to the cost of everything.
Just before we get into costs, a couple of paragraphs on the Dutch / German night scene as there are a few small Thai areas to be found therein.
O.K. first stop Holland. People here are relaxed and welcoming, – but … Burning Fires of Hell, since the "Euro currency" has come in the prices are off the scale. Everything has been "rounded up" and there are few divisions of the Euro, only "full" Euros i.e. 46 baht chunks. So it's my first night and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a tour of the red light district. The first thing that astounds me was it's proximity to the cathedral – right next door! Just across a narrow cobbled street from the church, girls are parading themselves clad in underwear in their respective shop windows. Then the logic of this hits me. The Dutch town planners knew what they were doing – into the brothel first, then nip across to church to confession, hence going from black soul to pure soul all in an hour! I'm way off track. Back to the red light zone and it's easy to lose direction as it's like a rabbit warren. Hoards of nationalities, male and female, of all ages wander down the narrow lanes gawking at what is on offer. It seems that nobody partakes of the service of these showcase women. Some girls smile, some wave and others look miserable. One section where the girls always smile is the Thai area. A few small rooms on a narrow walkway about 1 metre wide. Each room has a large clear window and right behind the glass is the bed. A curtain is drawn across whenever she has a customer. The Thai girls were all in their early / mid thirties and anyone can notice they have been around the clock a few times. Still, being the curious type I thought it would be a blast to negotiate a price using my limited spoken Thai. She smiled and looked at me and I read her mind "what an arsehole" .. then she said in plain English "1 hour … 60 Euros" (circa 2,760 baht). All very cold and mechanical and this makes it a turn off. In any case, it's a bit embarrassing to discuss business with all those tourists standing behind grinning and trying to listen in. In addition, I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if the curtain rod gave way and ten Japanese holiday makers get some great souvenir photos to email their friends. At that point I compare this scene with Nana Plaza and it's a million miles away.
Over in Germany the Hamburg Reeper Bahn night zone is bigger and easier to negotiate. A major road for about 1km lined on one side with bars, sex shops, peep shows etc. There is a side road with bars and banners which reminded me of a mini Soi Cowboy without the welcome girls. However, there are only about four Thai hostess bars each with a German male tout in the doorway. He tells me one small beer 5 Euros (230 baht), a bit painful in the wallet region, but I try to get a piece of Thailand into my life. No cover charge so I go inside. I'm the only customer and the place is staffed with three mid-thirties Thai girls. It's dark and tatty and I figured there could be insects crawling in the upholstery so I take a bar stool. Along comes a seriously overweight Thai girl and starts to massage my shoulders (something I always disliked) and asks me where I'm from and would I like to buy her a drink. How much for the lady drink? A very reasonable 30 Euros (1,380 baht), yes mate, you read that right. Sweet mother of all creatures great and small – with one hand on my wallet, I reach for my Prozac tablets. It's now time to break all Thai rules
of etiquette and yell out "WHAT? – 30 EUROS!", the price of the drink comes down to a bargain 15 Euros (690 baht). Well, now let me think about it … errrrr, …. not in this lifetime lady. Regulars to the Soi 33 hostess bars, please think about this next time you begrudge your little darling that 150 baht lady drink.
All in all, with morality put to one side, I found these particular night life zones to be more of an expensive circus attraction rather than any real attempt at creating a practical brothel service to the average red-blooded male sex tourist. Anyway, that's the sleaze part over with but stay with me because I'm coming up to an interesting conclusion.
Higher costs in Europe are by no means confined to the bars. I only visited two countries but I understand France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Greece etc. are all on the "Euro" gravy train price hike. Hotels and restaurants are dipping their fingers in the pie, so let's note a few approximated Thailand / Europe price comparisons.
As most readers can relate to baht I've done the conversion already at a rate of 1 Euro = 46 baht.
Air fare return from U.K. to Amsterdam 10,000 baht
Air fare return UK to Thailand: 33,000 baht
Mid range en suite hotel room: Europe: 4,000 baht,
Mid range en suite hotel room: Thailand: 1,000 baht
Chicken curry and french fries: Europe: 500 baht
Chicken curry and french fries: Thailand: 150 baht
Train fare per 10 km: Europe: 300 baht
Train fare per 10 km: Thailand: 50 baht
Taxi per km: Europe: 150 baht
Taxi per km: Thailand: 30 baht (depends on traffic)
Bottle of beer Europe, ordinary bar: 130 baht (not too bad)
Bottle of beer Thailand, ordinary bar: 90 baht
Bottle of beer Europe, hostess bar: 230 baht (getting painful)
Bottle of beer Thailand, hostess bar: 110 baht
Lady drink: Europe, 675 baht (financial extortion)
Lady drink: Thailand, 130 baht.
Pay for play Thailand: 2,000 baht
Pay for play Europe: Too depressing to think about it.
My total daily spend in Europe: 7,300 baht
My total daily spend in Thailand (would have been): 3,500 baht
Total spend for 10 days including air travel (Europe) 83,000 baht
Total spend for 10 days including air travel (would have been) Thailand: 68,000 baht
I guess you can see where I'm coming from. The bottom line is that if you live in Europe it IS possible to holiday in Thailand for a couple of weeks whilst spending around the same or even less money, and this is also taking into account the extra spent on air travel. Keep in mind I was away for only 10 days, whereas two to three weeks would have been a greater saving.
No prizes given for guessing my next destination.
If you disagree with my cost analysis let me know. All comments positive and negative will be entertained.