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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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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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Plastic bags

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

trashWhy do people use so many plastic bags?

Every street vendor has a huge number of plastic bags with them. If I purchase something, and my large bag is full with smaller bags already, I can ask the vendor for a large bag so I can carry only a single, overstuffed bag.

We’re not talking super thin, biodegradeable bags here either. These are thick colored plastic bags – the kind that fill landfills and choke sea life. Everyone carries them. Big plastic bags, filled with smaller plastic bags!

And it’s not just limited to plastic bags. This is not China, yet there is a tangible disregard for the environment.

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Ordering way too much food

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

loads of delicious Thai foodWhy do Thais insist on ordering too much food, and then goading people into eating it?

There’s a universal pride in the cuisine in this culture, and deservedly so. And anyone who’s been to Thailand knows that celebrating the abundance of food and goodwill is inevitable.

But Thais really seem to overdo culinary celebration. My friends order too much food on the first round, wait until everyone has overeaten, then order more. Guests are routinely singled out for this uber-hospitality. And to be extra sure, snacks are procured on the street after the meal has concluded.

The food is great, mostly low fat and typically includes fruits and vegetables. That’s especially true if you eat the traditional fare, like veggies and namprik, or noodles on the street, or yum.

But big get-togethers, whether family or friends, calls for big food ordering. Nobody leaves hungry, or the cook should be fired!

And yet, even if you stay in Thailand for months, overeating the entire time, it’s easy to avoid putting on weight. Just stay away from western foods, like pizza and doughnuts.

So pack it in, and just say kob khun when offered yet another serving of som tam. You can walk it off and your waistline will remain the same.


Monday, December 27th, 2010

"napkin" dispenserWhy are there so few napkins in Thailand? I mean real napkins, made for just that purpose.

Paper products don’t seem to be the issue, I see napkins on every table in many Siam Paragon restaurants. But Thais universally use toilet paper in all but a small number of fancy Bangkok restaurants instead of using napkins.

I don’t even see paper napkins for sale in stores, undoubtedly because nobody will buy them.

Is this some longstanding, antiquated law that just never got repealed?

Did the cloth napkin cartel lobby to have paper napkins banned?

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Sunday, December 26th, 2010

does this have something in common with pizza?Why don’t Thais understand pizza?

There’s plenty of appreciation for Italian cuisine, just ask any Thai. This is a culture of cuisine like no other, and they revere other cultures which are fiercely proud of their cuisines. Italian, French, Japanese and Chinese foods are all respected and held in high esteem by Thais.

And there are some good Italian restaurants in Bangkok, except perhaps in the shopping malls where generic food seems to reign supreme. Yet there is only one place I’ve seen that even serves good and authentic pizza.

Nobody in Thailand even knows what makes a pizza good. That goes for crust, sauce, cheese and toppings. 0 for 4. I even see a few places with brick ovens, but they somehow manage to cook the most awful pizzas possible.

People here seem to want thickish, doughy crusts, if only to hold lots of toppings. Not huge pizzas with butter crust like Chicago deep dish. More like Pizza Inn generic pies that fill you up without satisfying.

The sauce is a joke, as nobody seems to want tomato based sauce. Pizza hut uses tomato sauce, but might skip the herbs, as nobody is going to taste the sauce once the weird toppings are applied.

And weird toppings are required in Bangkok. Grilled squid goes with pretty much any food here, so of course it’ll make a fine topping for a pizza. In fact lots of seafood works as a pie topper. Veggies are cool too, as are traditional foods like green curry or som tam.

And since nobody here seems to like cheese, fresh bufalo mozzarella is out of the question. Even the fake mozzarella is not generally used. Besides, it wouldn’t go well with the toppings.

More alarmingly, Pizza Hut is making big inroads in Bangkok. Stores are popping up everywhere, and the stuff they’re serving up only vaguely resembles pizza. Ugh!

Kanom Crok ขนมครก

Friday, December 17th, 2010

The making of kanom crok

Kanom Crok being cooked

Why on earth would anyone write about these sweet little snacks called kanom crok? You can find them in many places on the streets of Bangkok, all that’s required are those cast iron plates with round indentations.

They’re made by putting one of these plates over a fire, and filling the small sections with a sweet coconut mixture. Cook and eat.

Usually you can buy a dozen or so in a small box for around 15 baht. If not, try to bargain. You won’t regret it.

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Street Show at Lumpini

Monday, December 13th, 2010

main entrance to Lumpini ParkEach year there is a huge street show held in Lumpini Park, called the International Street Show. This is the first year I’ve gone for some reason, but I think it’s well worth the price of admission – free.

On saturday there were well over ten thousand people there. Lumpini is a pretty large place, and the exhibits/performers were spread out throughout the park, so it can hold huge numbers of people.

This event highlights what a wonderful place Lumpini Park really is. I can’t think of another place that is as perfect for this sort of event as Lumpini, although my second choice would be Suan Lum night Bazaar.

full crowd sceneUsually I think of Lumpini as a quiet, thoughtful place with joggers, Tai Chi, and people just relaxing. To my mind it’s NY Central Park with monitor lizards instead of muggers. Only it’s more convenient, with two MRT stations and a BTS station nearby, you really can get here from anywhere.

One thing that was really nice was that they kept vendors outside the park area. They were permitted at the entrances only, which made for a better experience. Of course the official sponsors like Chang Beer and Fuji Sushi were allowed to sell their products inside, but having only a handful of vendors inside the gates helped out a lot.

Outside were all the great food and drink vendors you’d imagine too. Ice cream on bread, grilled squid, roti, flavored ices, grilled pork and so much more. I had a taro ice cream, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was a vendor selling sushi just outside the main entrance as well, but I didn’t try any.

Palio at Khao Yai

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

PiazzaI recently had the opportunity to go to Palio, a small Italian-style complex in the mountains at Khao Yai. It’s up in that area where there are so many fancy resorts. You know, where the traffic is bad but the air is fresh.

This place is styled as a small Italian town, complete with piazzas, fountains and gardens. The buildings are close, with brickwork showing through patches of otherwise shiny new paint. The rooftops are stucco, and the winding, narrow passageways are indeed reminiscent of a small town in Italy.

What’s not consistent with the Italian theme are the hordes of young Thai kids posing for and taking pictures absolutely everywhere. They pose in every alley, making pedestrian navigation difficult. This must be one of the most sought after facebook photo spots for the young generation.

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