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Thoughts On Living In LOS



China Hotel Guide
• Spring Hotel Beijing
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• Yue Xiu Hotel Beijing
• Zhongmin Plaza Hotel

There’s no question that living in Thailand has many attractions. It’s possible to live very cheaply, and few would turn down that opportunity. And the weather. I went to Europe in December and suffered 10 straight days where the temperature never rose above six degrees. I was out sightseeing each day, and for much of the time I got so stiff I couldn’t walk properly. It may be too hot here in Thailand sometimes, but I’ll take that over months of grey skies and chilling temperatures. Strangely, I’m more comfortable in the heat than my Thai wife. But I do miss the change of seasons, and nothing beats the crisp air of a frosty morning. But then, when I was a kid I loved going out into the old ‘pea-souper’ smogs we had in London back in the early 60’s, when you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. Imagine that.

But being in Thailand is very different to visiting as a tourist. No matter how much research you do before you come you can never do more than see what’s on the surface. Too much has been written already here and in other places about the way foreigners are sometimes treated as second-class citizens and we are never allowed to feel we are really at home. Well, we aren’t, I suppose, but if we have a wife and family and live in the place, we ought not to be treated as strangers, tolerated at best. The name of the Thai Rak Thai party – Thai Love Thai – says it all, really.
The attitude comes from the government, but of course it filters down to the masses. A well-documented example is the double-pricing policy of the government regarding entry to national parks, where foreigners are welcomed with a charge 10 times that of the locals. Sets a great example to their citizens, huh? I would really, really love it if Thais went to, say, the Eiffel Tower, and were told they had to pay 10 times more for entry. But then, I know that many Thai people are ashamed of the double-pricing.

On the subject of second-class citizens, I guess we foreigners are not the only ones to suffer discrimination. There can be no more class-ridden society in the entire world than Thailand, where people are still, incredibly in the 21st century, judged by the colour of their skin or the way they dress. I come from England, which has the reputation of being a class-ridden society. Maybe it was, 100 years ago, but that diminished after the First World War and was finally pretty much killed off in the Swinging Sixties. It is absolutely staggering that countless thousands, probably millions, of Thais are looked down upon by their own people for nothing other than what part of the country they come from or the way they look. That leads to an endless succession of problems, mostly financial, which leads to lack of proper schooling, less job opportunities, the need then to go into prostitution, and so on.

Class distinction even extends to the grave. Back in 1998 a Thai Airlines flight crashed upon landing at Surat Thani, killing 101 people. The families of the victims were originally told that each family would receive $100,000 compensation, but then the insurers decided payments would only be made on a ‘class’ basis, or as they put it, payments would be based on the victim’s ‘station in life’. They decided a dead stewardess was only worth $80,00, for example. Incredible.

By the way, one of the contributory factors leading to the crash was that half the runway lights had been turned off to save money. TIT.

Another hopelessly outdated aspect of Thai society is seen in the workplace, where the oldest person knows best. There are exceptions, of course, and a relative of mine is bright and smart and appears to be receiving good opportunities at work as a result. Part of his work is designing toilets. Bet he didn’t dream of that when he was growing up. ‘Well son, what do you want to do when you leave school?’ ‘Draw toilets, dad.’ He even has very dark skin (and of course wishes he had my white skin. He’s married a girl who is one of the whitest people I’ve ever seen, anywhere). But it’s no wonder the country struggles when merit in the workplace is often based on age rather than ability. Tell me one thing that Thailand has given to the world. Silk? The industry was established by an American. Food? It’s based largely on Chinese and Indian. Prostitutes? Let’s not go there.

None of this, though, is why I wanted to put fingers to keyboard. It’s just that, no matter how long I live here and how hard I try, I will never be able to understand the Thai mindset.

Example. The skytrain. It’s great, up to a point, but the trains are now very overcrowded much of the time and they refuse to add more carriages. But let’s look at buying a ticket. It should be easy, but nothing, nothing, ever is here. Apart from a couple of stations that have big new ticket machines, if you only have banknotes you have to go and queue at a window. So far, so good. Same as anywhere. But they won’t sell you a ticket. They’ll give you change, which you then have to take to a machine (one at least of which is not working), check from the chart how much much you need to pay, join another queue and when it’s your turn insert the money in the machine (one coin always drops through). Unless you want a multi-ride ticket. The window will sell you that. They’ll sell you a multi-ride ticket, but not a single ride ticket. Why?

Example. We have two air-conditioners and pay 3000 baht a year for service. Not bad. Every year, a man from the company shows up on his motor bike with the invoice. I pay and he gives me a receipt. No. Too simple. He has to take the money back to the office, collect the receipt from them and return with it. For some reason only clear to Thai logic he cannot bring the receipt with him, ready to give me when I pay him. Why?

Example. Most of us have ridden the bus to Pattaya. So we’ve all seen the bizarre seat numbering system. For those who haven’t yet played the game, the seat that is yours has the number on the back, so you have to walk past your seat to see the number, and then back up, pushing against the people lining up behind you, to take your position. It confuses a number of people every time, Thai as well as tourists. On the last trip I had to get a confused Thai to move to the seat in front. Why can’t they put seat numbers on the rack above the seats, like on a plane? Too simple.

Example. Thai Airlines. The stewardesses wear probably the most striking uniforms of any airline anywhere. They are distinctive, eye-catching, a great advertisement for the country as they stroll through airports around the world or check into their hotels in foreign cities. Except .. they don’t do that. Before the flight lands they change into a plain, dull, purple coloured uniform. A perfect chance to promote the country, eclipsing even the famed Singapore Girl from Singapore Airlines, is lost. Why?

I could go on, but you get the idea. It all means that Thailand can be an enormously frustrating place to live, but the free-for-all, the general atmosphere of anarchy about the place, means you can get away with a great deal more than you might in most other countries. And it’s never dull.

Stickman's thoughts:

Trink said it – TIT – This is Thailand!