This was our last full day in ChiangMai and one that was not on the official tour. However, our guide was so nice and came to bring us around on his own anyway. We wanted to go to a local morning market to buy some Thai rice and other sundries such as dried longan. Since we did not have the tour company minivan, we went about on local transport (i.e. songthaew). It was during this ride that I noticed a PETRONAS petrol station in Thailand! I have always known that they had operations in Thailand but it was still a surprise to see a familiar petrol station there. So, I took a snap of the local pump prices. At the time of this photo, our pump prices for RON97 was RM1.90/L (about 18.64 baht/L). So, as you can see, we’re not paying less for petrol than our Thai neighbours and we are an oil & gas exporter! I would certainly like to hear our government explain this away, seeing that they loved comparing our pump prices with Thai pump prices during the oil inflation.
Anyway, I do not want to sully this entry with my political ramblings. Let’s talk about something related to local Thai politics instead. Another thing that our guide informed us was about dress. According to him, there were two political factions in Thailand, the ‘reds’ and ‘yellows’. Seeing that northern Thailand is a red base, he said that if you wore red, the local people will like you more. As a result, you can get a better price at the market. If you wore yellow, the local market people may not even want to sell you anything. Seeing that we were tourists, it probably wouldn’t affect us one way or the other. However, our tour guide was curiously dressed in a red shirt that morning, when he took us around to the local market. Well, there are a curious number of red dressed people in the random photo. So, maybe he was right!
Something else piqued my interest at the market – Thai motorcycle parks. You read that right – motorcycle parks. There were designated zones for motorcyclists to park their bikes and these zones were manned by a parking attendant or two. When a motorcycle pulls up, the motorcyclist would park his or her bike and then wait for the attendant to come along and give them a parking coupon, which was affixed to the brake handle of the bike. The cost of parking is 2 baht per entry and you could park for as long as you want. How terribly entrepreneurial! We need the same system in this country to prevent motorcyclists from just dumping their bikes randomly on the streets, constantly causing traffic problems for everyone else.
It also occurred to me that the Thai people were extremely honest folk. Well, according to our guide, Thai people are “always happy with big smile on face”. This can be visibly seen from the way that they behaved. When a Thai motorcyclist parks, he/she would actually wait for the parking attendant to issue a ticket while their Malaysian counterpart would probably take-off. Furthermore, they leave all kinds of things lying in the baskets of their motorcycles while our Malaysian cyclists cannot even leave their helmets behind without it being stolen. I guess it comes from the fact that the Thai people are not poor-poor and are not driven to desperation. We sorely need some sort of social welfare system to help the poor in this country.
Oh I give up, let me go off on a short socio-economic rant. The main difference in our social-economic situation is probably due to income disparity. The GINI index for Thailand is about half of ours. You can see this clearly in the kinds of entreprises that I have quoted in the last few blog entries. While the average Thai may be poorer than the average Malaysian, there is a better spread of wealth so people do not become desperate. You can see all sorts of little entrepreneurial things in Thailand that wouldn’t work in Malaysia. Although these people may not earn very much, they will at least make enough to feed themselves. At the very least, they have the monasteries and missionaries to help them. Our NEP needs to go back to its original roots and fix itself to make this work!
Anyway, this was effectively the end of the trip for me as I fell ill later that day. I vomited quite a bit and spent most of the day lying in bed. It was probably something I ate. The next day, we caught our flight back to KL and had to go through the whole debacle of poor LCCT service again. It was chaos in there!
Oh, there was one other curious thing though. My family randomly met another family that we had known donkey years ago. They were holidaying in ChiangMai and took the standard package tour. So, we spent a while catching up with each other. We were checked into the same hotel and met each other during meal hours. Their eldest child studied mathematics and is now working in Bank Negara. This surprised me as most of my other Bank Negara friends seemed to be terribly busy (you know who you are!) and would probably have a tough time trying to take a 1 week leave to go holidaying in ChiangMai! However, it was nice to catch up with some old acquaintances you’ve not met in ages. I seemed to be doing a lot of this lately!