January, 2011

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Friday, January 14th, 2011

stray dogs in ThailandThais are predominantly Buddhist. There are tiny minorities of Christians and Muslims and 3 or 4 Jews. Buddhism is part of the Thai culture.

So naturally Thais do not kill as much as people in most parts of the world. Sure, killing animals to eat happens as much here as anywhere. But unnecessary killing is unusual. This sounds great, but leads to problems that perplex Westerners.

Stray dogs is the issue that comes immediately to mind. Step out of a car on some streets and you’ll see a few stray dogs eyeing you right away, Thais have become accustomed to this, but it’s just plain scary for farang. Obviously an aggressive effort to significantly reduce the populations of stray dogs and cats is culturally unappealing, even if they become a blatant hazard.

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Plearn Wan

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Plearn Wan

kanom wanPlearn Wan is a shopping area masquerading as a theme park in Hua Hin. Mostly there are people taking zillions of photos, because the retro decor has plenty of old-time picture taking venues at every turn. The place was setup with that in mind.

But the other main activity is eating. Or should I say snacking? Most of the food there has names starting with "kanom" although there are a few restaurants serving actual meals. We ate kang kiew wan, namprik pla tu and more. All passable, but nothing really noteworthy.

naprik storeThis place is perfect for young Thai facebookers who want to post pictures with their friends. I think Plearn Wan was the inspiration for Palio being built. Palio is a bit bigger but is similarly filled with picture taking young Thais posing in all the places provided by the theme creators.

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Culinary Crusades

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Ronald McDonaldFirst there was KFC and McDonalds. They were the early missionaries, harbingers of the upcoming culinary invasion. Starbucks was not far behind and now Burger King, Beard Pappas and many others have established themselves in Bangkok.

Other forms of cultural imperialism are understandable; iphone fever in Bangkok is really no different than in the US. Google just offers the nicest search, maps and more. The technology assimilation of the entire world makes sense in a way the “fast food” invasion never will.

America looks down upon the purveyors of “junk food” such as McDonalds. Yet in Thailand they compete with the mid-range dining establishments. They tailor their menu as appropriate, they build nice looking stores and generally do all the things they refuse to do in America, where they compete for the lowest common denominator dining dollars.

And still, I totally understand the obsession with Krispy Kreme. Same thing happened in the US when they first expanded, people just don’t remember. They quickly came to dominate their market because their donuts were just better and you could see them being made fresh.

But it is amazing to see entrepreneurial types reselling doughnuts on Thanon Sukhumvit, and those incredibly long wait lines at Siam Paragon are hard to fathom. Surely there will be more to come, like Bangkok Bagels or IHOP Bangkok. America’s junk cuisine onslaught will not be stopped until the average earth dweller is 10 kilos overweight.

Farang pricing

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Everyone knows farang pay more for everything in Thailand. Here’s the basic formula:

lowest price X 2 = stated price
10% discount if farang tries to bargain
10% discount if farang bargains in Thai language
10% discount for high bargaining skill
10% discount if first sale of the day, or is just plain lucky

If all the above happen the farang can actually get within 10% of the price a good Thai bargainer could get. Bottom line: 20% off stated price is easy, 40% off is hard.

This of course, applies to street vendors and services which involve mostly labor costs. Other places/products typically offer less possibility of saving money, as they tend to have less markup built into them.

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Squid mania

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Why is squid so popular?

grilled squid (where's my beer?)Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with squid. I’m neither a squid lover or a squid hater, but I just don’t get why this creature is such a huge hit in Thailand!

Most westerners encounter squid in Italian cuisine, cut in strips and served as calamari. Squid ink is popular in some pasta dishes and risotto as well. But Italians don’t love squid the way Thais do.

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