Some Mobi-reflections on the ‘Land of Smiles’.

6 months, 29 Days, still sober

Mobi-Babble

No more naughty trips to see horny whores in bars since my last blog, so I think I am really starting to get this addiction in hand. Like all addictions, the longer I keep away from it, the easier it gets. I will try to behave myself until I go to the UK in 2 weeks, and then maybe a month of total abstinence, (both booze and sexy young women), will either kill me or cure me!! I have loads of little projects do before I get on the plane, so that will also help.

They say its better late than never, and after promising myself for months that I will try to do something about my fitness levels and my weight gain, I have finally started doing a daily walk.  To be frank, I have no allusions that I will lose even one gram of weight before my trip to the UK, but my overall fitness has become increasingly troubling.

Since I moved Noo in with me last November I have become totally inactive – a total ‘couch (or should I say) ‘computer chair’) potato’. She never lets me lift a finger to do anything for myself, and I confess that I have allowed her to pander to my lazy instincts.

Day after day, I rarely walk further than from one end of the house to the other, or to the car or around a store in Pattaya or to a bar on the Darkside. Even shopping in places such as Tesco will sometimes leave me breathless with that tell-tale tightening of my chest. I know that when I go to the UK I will have to walk a lot more than I have been doing in Thailand and I am worried that I simply won’t be up to it. So it may not be much, but hopefully even two weeks of daily walks will at make some inroads into my state of fitness. Once in England I can continue the daily exercise, which of course will be much easier to do in the cooler weather.

The second reason that I have forced myself into action is because of my golden Retriever, Cookie. She has put on an enormous amount of weight and has become every bit as lazy and lethargic as her master. She has been on a reduced food, high calcium diet for quite a while now to help with the rheumatism in her front legs as well as to get her weight down. But again like me, it doesn’t seem to have had much effect on her weight and the only solution is daily exercise.

I would never forgive myself if Cookie died before her time, due to being overweight, so the two of us have been puffing and panting around the lake for the past three evenings in a 20 minute walk. As our fitness levels increase, I plan to slowly extend our walk time. The calcium diet seems to have done the trick on Cookie’s front leg joints and she no longer ‘favours’ them, but just a 20 minute gentle walk is enough to leave her at the point of collapse when she gets back home. She slumps down on the front porch without even enough energy to walk to the side of the house to get herself a drink of water, even though she is obviously parched with thirst.

What a disgusting pair! Let’s hope we are both in slightly better shape by the time I get on that plane.

I’ve just received notice of a huge increase in my annual health insurance premium. I was paying around 65,000 Baht per year, (which included a USD500 deductible), but as I have now moved into a higher age bracket (65-70), the premium has almost doubled to over 130K Baht.

I am not covered for pre-existing medical conditions which means that anything connected with my diabetes or coronary conditions are excluded, so at best, the coverage is only of marginal benefit. Sure, it covers me for major accidents and cancer, but not much else.

As an alternative, I am thinking of topping up the medical cover on my auto accident hospitalisation, which is currently at 500,000, and maybe taking out some additional general personal accident insurance to cover me if I am knocked down, mugged or suffer some other misadventure requiring medical treatment and leave it at that. There is no history of cancer in my family so I will probably escape that menace, but if I do contract it, then if it is operable, I will probably go back to the UK and take my chances – which is something I would most likely do even if I did have medical insurance.

Ah!  The never ending problems of growing old……

Some Mobi-reflections on the ‘Land of Smiles’.

I am one of those ‘optimists’ who truly believe that Thailand is slowly being transformed from a third world to a first world country. The signs are everywhere, and no matter where you go in this land you cannot fail to notice the relative affluence and the burgeoning middle classes that simply did not exist 10 – 20 years ago. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a village or an area of the country where the majority of the local populace are desperately poor.

Sure, you will always find malnourished and desperate people in slums, be it Pattaya , Bangkok, some far flung village in Issan or the war ravaged south – but is that any different to most western countries? Go to some parts of the USA, the so-called ‘greatest nation on earth’ and you will see similar signs of poverty, and don’t forget, that unlike most western countries, it costs very little to survive in Thailand.

The hot, all year round climate means you need very little in the way of clothes or even a roof above your head, and the country is just teeming with fruit and other produce which can provide sustenance for those who are at the bottom of the pile.

Try travelling to Issan: to Korat ,(what a massive city!), Khon Kaen,  Roi Et,  Maha Sarakham,  Udon Thani,  Nong Khai, Loei, Yasothin, Ubon Thani; or further north to Chaing Rai, or southwards to Petchabun , or Nakhon Sawan or eastwards towards Prachin Buri and Sa Keo. When you go to these provinces, don’t just stick to the provincial city centres,  drive out to the villages situated off the beaten tracks and look for signs of poverty, as I have done, over the past few years.

In the main, you will find fertile fields, and villages full of well-dressed young people with shiny new motor bikes, pick-up trucks and even a surprising number of saloon cars. You will find that a vast majority of roads are in remarkably good condition and you will find villages where the sois are clean and have been beautified with trees and plants, where homes with  little gardens that have been walled or fenced off, and where lawns have been sown, flowers and plants grown and pet dogs kept clean and loved. You will see satellite TV’s, and air-conditioning in many of the houses. A far cry from barely 10 – 15  years ago when many villages were still dirt poor and the people were still struggling to fill their bellies.

All this is a sure sign that the general population is no longer purely concerned with their daily fight for existence, but has now moved to the next stage, which is the acquisition of luxury possessions and the spare time to indulge themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of local markets, the length and breadth  of the land, day and night, are packed with customers; every  provincial town centre has  at least one hyper store;  aTesco-Lotus, or a Big C etc which are so packed that you often cannot get into the car parks. Then there are the western style ‘home produce’, hardware, Macro and Furniture stores, most of them enormous cavernous buildings, all packed at weekends with the middle classes loading up their pick-ups and ordering stuff to be delivered to their homes.

I have yet to  mention the incredible and inexorable  advance of the  7-11’s and Family Mart mini-stores which now seem to occupy the streets and lanes  of every city, town , road junction and gas station, the length and breadth of Thailand. And did you ever hear of a single one that went out of business?

As dusk falls, drive along the main and minor roads that link the towns and villages of this fair land and you will see the people at play – in the restaurants, night clubs, karaoke bars and massage houses. I challenge you to drive more than ten minutes along any major road in Thailand and not come across at least one major Thai restaurant, full of happy revellers.

I well recall driving through the outskirts of muang Roi Et last year and noticing the dozens upon dozens of pretty looking cottages nestling neatly in rows on the nearby hillside. The new development seemed to spread out for several kilometres. I enquired as to who might live at such places. I should have guessed what the reply would be. It transpired that nobody lived there; they were all rooms available for rent to facilitate the  great and good alpha males of Roi Et for entertaining their mistresses and ladies of the night. They were , in effect, ‘short time villages’. A sure indication, if one was needed, of the increasing affluence of the local populace.

Note that nowhere in the above have I mentioned Bangkok, Pattaya or Chiang Mai.

Bangkok is surely one of the world’s great mega cities and the infrastructure in that incredible metropolis is on a par with many of its western counterparts.The Sky scrapers are truly mind boggling; the Sky Train and the underground train system are state of the art; the complex, multi-layered network of 6-8 lane express-ways with their seemingly never ending expansion, together with on-going master plans for a sophisticated public bus commuter system, all point to the fact that the City of Angels never rests and the City Fathers are forever in expansionist/improvement mode. The vast number of 5 star hotels, international restaurants, futuristic 21st century shopping malls, cinema complexes and other modern shrines to the leisure seeking public, are all testament to the fact that this is not a city which is stuck in the ‘third world’.

Power cuts are virtually and thing of the past, flooding is largely under control, probably to a greater extent than some western cities, cheap mobile phone networks are plentiful, internet speeds are becoming as sophisticated as in the west and there is no doubt that technical innovation in this city is as advanced as any in the world.

Even my own ‘beloved, ‘Sin City’ is rapidly cleaning up its act and moving into the 21st century. I wrote about Pattaya a week or so back, so I don’t wish to repeat myself, (see my blog of 16th July; http://tinyurl.com/3omeroj), but I will just add that the Pattaya today is not the Pattaya I knew even 10 years ago – let alone 20 or 30 years ago and the authorities have stated over and over again that their long term plan is to get rid of Pattaya’s seedy image and turn it into a truly respectable world class resort.

Despite the claims by many farang residents, that it will never happen, I personally believe that it surely will and that Pattaya will slowly be transformed for the ‘better’ over the next 10 years. It already has moved so much, but few of the farang residents, supping their bottles of Chang on a bench outside their local ‘seven’, don’t realise what is going on under their very noses.

Currently, in spite of all Thailand’s recent problems and political instability, its economy continues to go from strength to strength and it continues to  boast a massive trade surplus.  It is still the largest producer of pick-up trucks in the world, many of which are exported; its agricultural exports are increasing despite the appreciation of the Thai Baht.

And if you ever doubt the Japanese, Korean and even the European and American commitment to industry in Thailand, I suggest one day that you take a drive through many of the dozens of massive industrial areas on the Eastern Seaboard; somewhere like Amata City for example. Amata city claims to be the ‘Detroit of the East’ which is a pretty lofty claim and one that I used to laugh at – until I went there. It has to be seen to be believed: hundreds of kilometres of six lane highways, built in the middle of virgin countryside, bordered on each side by literally hundreds, if not thousands of factories and industrial complexes.

The workers live there in specially constructed housing complexes, and whole communities have sprung up to service the insatiable demand for labour. And Amata City is just one of many.

I haven’t even been to view the industrial complexes in Rayong but I know they have huge car assembly plants plus all those chemical plants that have been causing a few pollution problems.

All this tells me that if Thailand hasn’t yet made the cross-over from being a developing to a developed nation, then it isn’t too far off. Sure, we can point to things like endemic corruption, but as I mentioned the other day, Thailand is by no means the only country in the region to suffer from this and it is unlikely that it will ever be totally extinguished as it is so much part of the culture.

Unfortunately, on the minus side, Thailand is still rife with nepotism, crony-ism, a corrupt and moribund education system where 99% of the students come out of the system with little or no knowledge of English – or indeed the world around them – and where the qualifications for the kids of the elite are purchased rather than earned.

There is still a reluctance to promote on the basis of merit, rather than on ‘connections’ and the possession of  bullshit qualifications, but there are signs that this is slowly changing. Modern business leaders are learning the hard way that they need to get bright, hardworking people into the key positions if they are going to hold their own in an increasingly competitive world  and  that they can no longer sustain the old inefficient staffing sysytems.

Sometimes it may be difficult to believe, but the democratic, legal and bureaucratic institutions in Thailand are very advanced and sophisticated. Not only are all the relevant rules and regulations in place, but Thailand is signatory to many key international conventions on such subjects as world trade and human rights, all of which signal that Thailand is not far off being a proper, civilised member of the international community.

But in practice, the country’s day to day actions and rhetoric don’t always match its lofty ideals with regard to its judicial system, democratic institutions and internationally agreed obligations. Clearly there is a way to go on this.

We only have to look at thorny subjects such as the abhorrent use of ‘slave’ labour in the Thai fishing fleets and in sweat-shop factories and the widespread exploitation of children  to know that there is an unpleasant ‘underbelly’ to Thai society which is deplorable and has no part in any modern, civilised world. 

I will be writing in detail about some of this soon, but even in these regrettable areas of concern, there is a general acknowledgement that ‘things must change’ – sooner rather than later – if their country is to continue to develop and to be allowed unfettered  trade with the world community.

But for the most part, Thailand has come a very long way, and to those farangs who have lived here many years and think that Thailand never changes and is the same sleepy, undeveloped, ignorant, poor society that they discovered many years ago, then one day they will be in for a rude shock to their system.

BUTT…BUTT… BUTT…I don’t give a hoot….

4 thoughts on “Some Mobi-reflections on the ‘Land of Smiles’.”

  1. Mobi,
    thank you for the indepth and articulate summary of your views and observation of the LOS and it’s future prospects.

    I have plans to retire in LOS so I wonder just how far I could expect to stretch my hard earned USD given the future you see for Thailand. What concerns would you have in the shoes of an individual like me attempting early retirement at 50 with a fairly healthy but not extensive nest egg?

    If you had a few extra minutes to give your opinion or direction as to the aforementioned it would be surely appreciated.

    ~Pholoen

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  2. “the never ending problem of growing old”?
    Maybe you haven’t noticed, but growing old does in fact have a definite end.
    It’s only a matter of time and, as the song says, it’s later than you think!

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    1. Hmm… what I was referring to was the day to day living and health problems that one has to deal with as one gets older, not the fact of age itself.

      I actually give myself 10 years at best, so another issue is how to balance my time and the money I have left. If I assume I will die at 75 but if I actually die at 85 then I may have some serious problems in my extreme dotage.

      These are the kind of problems I am talking about . I have no idea how old you are but for those of us on the other side of 60 our fragile mortality and pending demise is never too far from our thoughts – its part of the ageing process.

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