A Rant From A Poor Monger
It is a long and arduous trip. Crammed into a small seat squashed against a bulk head. Dying for a pee when everyone else is asleep and not wanting to wake two people up out of politeness. But then the descent begins and the new landscape comes into view.
You can sense the heat and humidity but unless you have experienced it before you have no idea what you are letting yourself in for. But before you can get outside you have to wait and queue and be nice to the immigration officer and then wait
again for the luggage to come off the carousel. Finally, out through the nothing to declare doors (don't buy any more than 200 cigarettes duty free on entry or they will fine you 35,000 baht. Nice start to your holiday eh ??????) and into
the mob of touts and humanity on the non air side. Beautiful little pooyings are everywhere. Some wait for their teeraks off of some distant flight, months of work and abstinence for two or three weeks giving it your
all and living like a king.
This is a poor country. My taxi driver, who I have used for years, charges 1,200 baht including the tolls to take me to my hotel. I always tip her 100 baht and bring a box of continental chocolates from home for her and her daughter. Yes, her. It seems the only gender with a work ethic in this place are the women. Whether it's work for the long haul or work for the quick returns, like all those beauties in the arrivals area. Two weeks and they will have enough money out of him to last the next four months before he comes again, plus the monthly stipend in between. Yes, a cheap country indeed for the indigenous population. It's a different matter for us long noses though. I can honestly tell you it's easy to get through £100 to £150 a day. Yep, I know you wouldn't spend that at home in a day, even a day on holiday in your own country. But here? Aaargh, it's too easy.
The average bird here will pay 150 baht a day for a room and 100 baht a day on food. I never see them spend more. All else is begged, ponsed, tricked, sometimes stolen or bought with your money. 100 baht a day buys 5 meals water, fags, clothes, whatever. It is it is borrowed and passed round from one to the next, down the line to the cherry girls or sent home as presents for siblings. Always recycled to the max.
Let me give you an idea of where that £150 a day goes. Your day will start off quite cheaply, not. You will awake in your luxury hotel with marble bathroom and Jacuzzi and icy air-con and 36" flat screen with DVD and hi-fi. You will wake for the cost of £30 per night (an absolute bargain) and you will then part with another £20 to get rid of the 7 stone stunner you had last night. The day is only 30 minutes old and you have done £50. The rest of the day, if like me you take it easy and go to the beach and drink water not beer and eat good food, not junk like McDonalds or KFC, will see you spend another tenner. This pays for poached eggs on toast with a bit of bacon or sausage and a cup of tea. You will also enjoy a packet of fags for a quid (breakfast is £2 by the way). Next to the beach, 50p for a deck chair to rent for the day, £1 for a pot of iced water, 50p for an ice cream, 50p for a fresh young coconut and its juicy interior, £2 for lunch, some good chicken curry or a noodle soup. The best bit is the birds. Freelancers wandering on the beach in front of you or sitting close by, showing bikinis and smiles that are the wonder of the happy monger / traveller. All this for free until the sun goes down and then you are under the spell again. So after a chat with the boys on the beach you retire for a little rest and a nice bubble in your Jacuzzi. If you are lazy you will get a motorbike taxi home for another well spent pound. A pound well spent might I add to escape from the blaze of the afternoon sun. Then a nice rest on the bed in the air-con and watch a film on the film channel until the sun goes down and things cool down a bit.
6 o'clock the national anthem on TV, another try at singing the words (Thai birds love this because they love their king and their country), finish the national anthem and delve into the wardrobe for some nice fresh cool cotton shorts and a nice short-sleeved shirt. You have these laundered for you which costs about 7 or 8 pounds a week or £1 a day. I think that rounds up to a tenner for today's activities.
So you haven't even gone out on the town yet and £60 has sailed off into the local economy.
Night time. My best tips are; hop on a motorbike instead of walking. You get hot and sweaty and it's not a good look! Don't plan anything. If somewhere looks good, stop, go in and have a beer. If you're not sure, on entering get a gin and tonic or vodka and orange, they're tiny and gone in two gulps if you want to leave quickly, or take 30 minutes, if you sip because something has caught your eye. So much easier than bolting a fizzy beer. Roam about with friends or get a little crew together and go bar hopping. Rent a baht bus all to yourselves and go to Jomtien or Naklua for £2 and check out something different. Let's face it, there are about ten different areas to visit from the aforementioned which are huge areas themselves. Or Walking Street, Soi Pattayaland 1 and 2, sois Post Office and Yamato, sois 7 and 8 and up to sois 2 and 3 and back down to the long stretch of Beach Road. So much to see and so little time to do it! Try a different area each day but make sure you change regularly. Don't go to the same bar in the same street every night. Cruise around, sniff about, travel to new corners of familiar spots, there's always something new to find.
So a few quid on transport, a beer or a short for a pound each and a few lady drinks while you have been chatting to see who is worth your time this wonderful evening. Find one, barfine and that's another £6 – 10. Taxi, food and a few more drinks, some plastic cardigans and two motorbikes home brings up another £10.
Now some say you should negotiate the price first. If she asks, tell her its 1,000 baht, no more and no less. Some will stay all night, some will go in the early hours – no matter what you pay or say. These have Thai boyfriends or husbands to go home to. Or they gamble or they have girlfriends or they go to all night karaoke joints and spend their hard earned cash on getting pissed and taking ya-ba. So when they want to go early, even if they said they'll stay all night, let them go. They are the hard assed ones, damaged goods, sometimes mentally and sometimes physically damaged (a lot self-harm and cut themselves). Some are afflicted by both of these clinical demons. Let them go!
The other types will stay. They may want to have a good night's sleep for once or twenty showers and baths in your posh room because to them it's all a new novelty to enjoy. These ones are normally quite new to it all or only go with guys they actually like or feel attracted to. Be nice to these ones. They still want your money but they are not so brazen about it. But good or bad, crazy or sulky, starfish or nymphets, when the sun comes up and you've had your fill they go home alone. Remember the old saying goes, "you pay them to leave in the morning, not to stay the night". It is a very true comment and should never be forgotten. So another day over and you've done £110 that day and you didn't have an evening meal in a nice restaurant with a bottle of wine and some cocktails. Another £40 for the two of you, but hey, eating and drinking on your own is "well sad" isn't it? Or you can drink another £40 worth, or you can have another little beauty queen (at the same time) or as an afternoon delight or after the first of the night who disappears at midnight so you go back out and get another one. Why not? You're on holiday! Another way to blow £40 is down soi 6 for the afternoon and a bit of short time or have an excellent swim and sauna and then be massaged for two hours by two girls with a happy ending for only £34. So that leaves £6 for a movie or an afternoon drink in a gogo bar where you just look and enjoy the air con. £6, pound a beer, 6 beers, three different gogos. Soaks up an hour or so perfectly.
So there's your £150 a day gone and with luck you will have nothing to show for it, ha ha, if you know what I mean. So if you're staying for two weeks that's £2,100. Then there is the other stuff, taxi to and from the airport, £50, some presents. Fake clothes, watches, handbags, jewellery, handmade suits, shirts, socks, silk ties, golf clubs, CDs, DVDs software, hardware, anything and everything is faked here. I usually buy a new suit at about £100 and a couple of new watches, the latest Tag Heuer or Rolex or Cartier, £35 x 2 for the good copied watches. Then some golf shirts, some nice board shorts, some arts and crafts for presents, some silk stuff for presents, some Thai carpets, a couple of statues, a bit of Laos silver, bangles or chains, an easy £200 more. Then your cheap fags – I always get 5 cartons – £65 and a bottle of good whiskey for papa – £40 and some orchids at the airport for mamma – £20. With me so far? That's another £550. Running total £2,650. Plus, wait for it, how do you get there in the first place? Yes, at least £500, if not £600, for a decent direct flight that doesn't leave you jet lagged for a week.
Grand total of £3,250.
£3,250 divided by 12 months is £270 / month to save up for just two weeks. If you go twice a year that's £540 a month. If you're sending one of the little cuties £200 a month (10,000 baht) to keep her going that's £740 a month plus your bills at home and food and beer and rent / mortgage and petrol and cigarettes (when you've run out of duty frees and have to pay £6 a pack) and you've got to be clearing £2,000 a month just to survive. That's £33,000 a year!
Doesn't look like such a cheap option now, does it?
Most other Asia Pacific countries are the same or more expensive if you want a semblance of first world service / attitudes / infrastructure. It's slightly cheaper if you go to Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam but they are third world and sometimes dangerous to say the least. So what other options do you have? Well there's Africa, some nice parts but decidedly dodgy, not much choice but cheap. There's Cuba but it's not cheap any more. There is the Philippines but that isn't cheap any more. In fact with the pound so weak, what £700 used to buy you in 2007 now costs you the best part of a £1,000 to get the same things / services. That was when the pound got you 65 baht. All the above figures are based on 50 baht to the pound. Two US dollars is now 1.40 dollars, 93 Philippine pesos are now 68. Most currencies in Asia against the pound are 20 – 30% stronger. I really think it should be the other way around. How can Thailand be doing better than us with a stock market that is down 48% (Bangkok Post, December 2008) and all this after basically another bloodless coup and destroying the tourist industry for this year by hijacking two international airports and PAD being left to it for ten days. Yet the pound has lost 22.5% and not gained 25%. Last year at Xmas you got 65 baht to the pound. Imagine if it was 80 baht now? £1000 spending would now be £600, that's most of your airfare saved or all your presents bought or your second week nearly paid for. Now that would make the trip worthwhile!
Now let's look at the budget trip to LOS. I mean a real strict trip with some fun but not every day. Flight £450 plus bus from Bangers to Pats £4 return. Hotel for £10 a night and £8 a day on food, fags, water, beach etc. Two weeks at 12,600 baht or £252. Every other day a skank off beach road for a short time (long time if you're lucky) for 500 baht £10 and ten beers for £10 every other day. That's £140. Total £392, say £400 plus £450 is £850 so round it up to £1,000 for some special extras. £150 that's 7,500 baht extra that's 8.3 massages with a finish or 115 good bottles of beer, 15 more skanks (one a day), a nice cutie every other day including bar fine and an extra 2 beers or 1 lady drink. The options are endless.
Now £100 is only £83 a month or £166 if you go twice. (If you're not supporting one of them.) It makes it affordable again. But would it be fulfilling? Only time will tell because it is not going to get any cheaper, just more expensive and that means a lot less visitors and a lot of sponsors drying up. Will it become just a playground for the rich? Will it reduce in size to just the Walking Street area? Will it be taken over by the Koreans or the Russians? Do we really care? If you compare Bangers now to even a few years ago it has changed dramatically. A lot of city lovers have gone to Pattaya on Sea and they may well move on from there. So we will have to see what develops. Perhaps the best way to get the fix is 3 or 4 months a year in one shot and do any sort of work in the homeland when you return. But that's if you can get a job when you get off the plane or if you have usable skills in this throw away age. Plus overland entry to LOS is now only good for 15 days (!).
So it looks like the two week holiday on the cheap is the way forward. Maybe if you fit in 3 trips a year you will get your fill but that's back to the £3,000 / £35,000 a year touch and a bloody good income and the numbers of visitors will fall again. Year on year they will become fewer and fewer.
Then there will be no more fun, no more 7 stone stunners, no more bright lights or neon left in the world.
Sawadee dee Pe Mai
Pattaya is getting more expensive, as is all of Thailand and if you're coming her on Pounds Sterling, prices have rocketed up. The great thing about Thailand is that you can do it on the cheap if you want to but then you have to ask if that is really going to be that much fun – as you allude to.