A Thai Trilogy
As regular visitors to Thailand already know, Thais have their own special ‘logic’, which the Farang, if he lives to be a hundred will never understand. In fact, even referring to it as ‘logic’ at all is in itself, something
of a paradox.
This subject has been covered before in many previous submissions but like all things Thai, I still find it fascinating.
Whenever the Farang encounters an example of Thai logic, he will invariably be left bewildered, frustrated, bemused or upset or more likely, a dizzying blend of all four. Better accept it and go with the flow whenever possible. Hell, this is Thailand!!
Before I go on, I must say that holidaying in Thailand can be one of the most pleasurable experiences you can have. Whatever your reasons for coming to LOS, you will almost certainly find what you came for. If you don’t and you go home disappointed, you’re probably a miserable sod who doesn’t enjoy anything, anyway.
Apart from the pleasure overdose, you must expect the occasional brush with ‘Thai logic’. This need not be an unpleasant experience as long as you remember where you left your sense of humour.
Five. Not Four.
I had made reservations at the Ambassador Resort in Pattaya via the internet. Easy really. For five adults, I had booked two twin rooms with an interconnecting door for my mother and my two sisters and one double room for my wife and me. That’s three double rooms, right. (How I came to be in Pattaya with four female members of my immediate family is a completely different story, which I will go into on another occasion). To continue. The rate was two thousand, two hundred baht per room per night, including breakfast.
On arrival, a charming young lady greeted us in the lobby. The gold badge pinned to her shoulder, proclaimed her to be “Arisa. Reception Manager”. Arisa, smiled, wai-ed gracefully and directed our party toward the reception desk while the bellboys took care of our luggage.
The women sat down in the reception area while I approached the desk to complete the registration formalities.
Registration forms completed, the receptionist handed me the keys and breakfast coupons for FOUR people. I explained that there were actually FIVE of us and could I please have another set of coupons. She just looked at me with a blank expression suggesting she did not understand.
I smiled at Arisa who was still hovering around the general area and I asked her if she could help. In the split second that it took for me to glance at the receptionist and then back to where Arisa had been standing, she had disappeared. Evaporated. Vanished.
This is reception management, Thai style.
Thai Management Rule #1 : Look great, smile warmly and make everyone feel special. At the first hint of any problem (real or potential), make yourself scarce.
Anyway, I tried again with the receptionist explaining that we were in fact a party of five, not four and could I please have another set of breakfast coupons. I have trained myself to be patient in Thailand. Always be prepared to say everything at least twice and try not to show any hostile intent. I smiled.
This time the receptionist went into the back office and returned with a printout of the internet booking form. She studied it carefully before laying it out on the desk in front of me. She pointed to the part that said the reservation had been made for four people. So we were getting four sets of breakfast coupons.
I persevered, explaining that maybe the reservation form was wrong. I pointed to the registration forms that I had just completed and motioned to the four ladies seated behind me. ‘Five, not four’ I said.
She pointed again to the booking form and tapping it with her pen, said ‘Four, not five’.
It was a hot day and it had been a long journey so in frustration, I picked up the internet booking form and screwed it up into a little ball. Again I pointed to the registration documents, smiled and said “Five, not four”. This time, the receptionist looked at me as if I just grown another head. She retreated into the back office and did not come back out. This conversation was now terminated and I was getting four sets of breakfast coupons, not five!
Of course we resolved the matter later. I decided the best solution was to wait until this particular lady had finished her shift. I then approached a different receptionist and innocently claimed that I had just discovered that we were short of one set of breakfast coupons. She produced another set for me immediately, no fuss.
He OK. He Get Up Already.
Usually I drive myself around in Thailand. The traffic looks chaotic at first and to most casual observers, it looks downright dangerous. I’m not about to suggest it is not chaotic or dangerous but there is a kind of order to the chaos that you can gradually get used to. Of course, it is dangerous. No mistake.
This particular day, I had arranged a golf day with the family. My sisters, my wife and I all play golf and we were off to play at the Phoenix Golf Club. Mother was going to relax by the pool. Because there were four of us with golf bags, I had arranged for the hotel minibus to take us to the golf course.
All aboard and off we set for the Phoenix. The minibus driver was no worse than most Thai drivers with his total disregard for other road users and his penchant for extremely high speeds in built-up areas. Barely three minutes into the short journey, I had asked him to slow down about half a dozen times. His response had been to completely ignore me.
As we approached a road junction I was unnerved to see that the traffic lights were out of action. Thai drivers see any kind of road hazard as an excuse to step on the gas and flash their headlights. This was a golden opportunity that our little James Hunt was not going to miss. We needed to turn right. Our driver approached the junction at speed, without indicating and made the right turn into the stream of on-coming traffic. Almost inevitably, he drove the minibus right into the side on an on-coming motorbike knocking the bike and the rider onto the pavement.
I hurled all kinds of abuse at him. I was very concerned for his victim and I demanded that he get out to see if the bike rider was hurt. We were not able to get out of the back of the minibus quickly because of the seating arrangements and the pile of golf bags. The driver stayed fixed firmly behind the wheel, then pointed and said, “He OK. He get up already”.
Then he slammed the minibus into gear and gunned it up the road in the direction of the golf club.
We never found out if the bike rider was hurt or not.
We were probably on the fifth tee before we had all relaxed enough to enjoy our game. My guess was the driver had no such pangs of conscience and was probably having a snooze while waiting for us in the car-park.
Traffic Laws and Other Anomalies.
Then there was the time I traveled upcountry to visit the wife’s family in Ubon. Usually we would fly up, spend a few days and fly back but this time we took the car.
While I was driving along the outskirts of Ubon in a perfectly respectable manner, a fourteen year old kid on a motorcycle pulled out of a side road without looking and collided with the front wing of my new Audi. As I was not traveling at speed and could take some evasive action, I got away with just clipping him but he did come off his bike.
Fortunately, the kid only sustained some minor cuts and a bruise or two. I was about to get first hand experience of traffic law ‘up-country style’.
The wife suggested we call the police to explain what had just happened. I agreed. She did this while I picked up young Barry Sheen. He of course was feigning injury with more conviction than an Italian soccer player.
The police duly arrive and find my driving license, insurance, passport etc are all in order. This provides them with the excuse they need to arrest me. Oh yes, you read that right.
At the police station, I was told that I must pay for the boy’s hospital treatment and the damage to his bike. I knew the answer already but I asked if the boy had a license to be riding the bike and where was his insurance.
The police informed me that the boy did not have a license or insurance. He didn’t need them because he was not old enough to be riding the bike anyway. The accident was therefore entirely my fault.
Then the boy’s mother and father turned up at the police station and declared that they would accept ten thousand baht in compensation, the entire matter could then be closed.
I wanted my insurance company to deal with this but the police and the boy’s family insisted that this was not possible in these circumstances. I offered the boy’s family five thousand baht to cover all damages. That is, a sticking plaster and repairs to a ten year old scooter that was already held together with string and masking tape.
The family held out for the ten thousand baht so I told them one last time that I would hand the matter to my insurance company if they did not accept the five thousand on offer.
They declined and left angry and empty handed. I am left looking at the policeman across the desk who I could see was still looking for a way to make an earner out of this situation.
Eventually, he said “OK you pay me five thousand baht and I make everything OK with boy and his family”.
I considered this for a moment before handing over the five thousand baht. Thirty seconds later I was pointing the car in the direction of Bangkok. I have not been back to Ubon since.
This is actually a bloody damning submission and makes a good argument for NOT living in Thailand.