Mobi-Babble – 22nd November 2015

Mobi-Babble

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A New Mobi-Truck

I suppose the real highlight of the week has been the grand change out of Mobi’s transportation.

To those of you who don’t live in Thailand, this will probably sound a bit crazy. Last week I decided that there was a brief ‘window of opportunity’ when I might be able to ‘trade in and buy a new vehicle’ to my advantage, before the chance of doing this for a small cash outlay would be gone forever.

As we approach the end of the calendar year, both our vehicles – the Nissan March, and the Mitsubishi Triton are  roughly 3 1/2 years old and are still in pretty good nick.

If we sold them prior to the New Year they would be regarded as three-year-old vehicles rather than four, which has quite an effect on their resale price. (Thais tend to look at the calendar year of a vehicle, rather than the month)

For a similar reason, anyone buying a new car towards the end of the year will get a pretty good deal as most people prefer to wait until the New Year before buying. New car sales are slow in November/December.

On top of this was the fact that our Nissan March can consider itself lucky if it gets driven once a month – and even then only to make sure it is still running.

I rarely – if ever – go out by myself anymore. Even if the family goes away for a few days, I stay at home and carry on with my writing and other internet activities.  

In an emergency, I have a motorbike which I can use to potter around the lake.

So my plan was to sell the Triton and the Nissan and replace them with a single vehicle – a new pick-up truck, hopefully with minimal additional outlay.

We spent several days visiting each pick-up truck dealer in turn, checking their prices, discounts and trade-in values and finally came up with a pretty good deal.

In Thailand, new vehicle dealers don’t put traded in cars on their forecourts and sell them – nor do they calculate the going trade price and sell them later through the used car ‘trade.’ 

Everything is still cash; so what they do is find a dealer who will come to their showroom, inspect the used cars and make an offer for them there and then. The used car dealer pays cash for the car(s) and the new vehicle dealer collects the balance from the buyer of the new car.

So we were able to play off all the Pattaya dealers against each other; both on discounts for the new pick-up and on the trade-in value of our old vehicles.

After dismissing Toyota, Isuzu, Nissan, and Mazda it came down to a shootout between three dealers: Ford, Mitsubishi and Chevrolet.

All three companies had launched ‘new models’ in 2015/6 and in the end, we managed to get the best deal on a top of the range 4 door Chevrolet Colorado High Country.

It really is a nice piece of work with its brand new, punchy 2.8-litre diesel engine, leather seating, electric driver’s seat, built-in satellite navigation system, cruise control, hands-free blue tooth phone, rear view cameras, a great six-speaker sound system and much, much  more.

It has by far the best specs of the three contenders, and  it is pretty much as good – if not better – than my old BMW that I sold three years ago. We also obtained the highest discount.

So it cost me a bit of my remaining cash – but not a lot – and in return we have the running costs of one vehicle rather than two, and the Chevy should run pretty much free of cost for at least a year. We have a year’s free insurance, extended warranty and free service.

Yes, I was reluctant to part with the extra cash, but in the long term, I think it will save us money. If we had kept the old vehicles their values would have dropped appreciatively once they were four years old. Also, the maintenance costs would have risen sharply. This year, I have already had to fork out for 4 new tyres and a new battery for the Triton.

There is also the ‘feel-good factor. There’s nothing like having a new vehicle to play with, and this one is a doozy. It drives and feels just like a luxury car, with the added advantage that we are way above the ground and can see over most traffic.

It’s the first American vehicle I have ever bought – but there again it is made in Thailand….

What do you think?

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 Loi Krathong leaves us sleepless

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The other highpoint (or I should say low point) of the week is precursors to forthcoming of the Loi Krathong festival next Wednesday.

Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year it falls on 25th November.

As opposed to Songkran, where everyone throws water at each other for good luck, this is the festival where everyone makes or buys a Krathong, a sort of decorated floating baskets, and launches them in water – usually a river, canal, lake, or the sea – to bring them luck for the coming year.

Thais seem to have an obsession with water.

Loi Krathong has its roots in a Brahman festival that was adopted by Thai Buddhists some two hundred years ago.

But along with Songkran, (Thai New Year), and countless other high days and holidays, Loi Krathong has become a time to have a right old drunken knees-up – Thai style.

So what has all this to do with me? You may ask. After all, the festival isn’t due until next Wednesday…

I’ll tell you why.

When I first moved to east Pattaya, near to the Mabprachan Lake/reservoir, some ten or so years ago, this little part of Chonburi province was a very quiet backwater, with only a few foreigners and peace-loving Thais, living their rural lives in the traditional ways, very much in tune with nature.

Unfortunately, no sooner had I put down roots in the tranquil locale than the whole area seemed to take off with uncontrolled, unregulated development. In the past ten years the population of this area – both foreign and Thai – has exploded.

There seems to be no end in sight to the rush to build new gated communities, three storey shop houses, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, karaoke joints, convenience stores, hardware and other stores, huge open air markets, and God only knows what else besides.

It has also become rather lawless. The number of violent crimes and burglaries that occur on a daily basis is quite alarming. It is dangerous to drive a motorcycle – even in the daytime – as marauding gangs of drugged-up youths lie in wait to rob and rape.

Even so, it is still much safer than downtown Pattaya – but that’s another story.

I digress – back to Loi Krathong.

It was a few years back that the good monks at Wat Tuang Tong, which is situated near the shores of Lake Mabprachan, first started to hold its annual festival on the night of Loi Krathong. They fenced off a large area of the lakeside bank and built little wooden steps upon which the public could walk and reach the water to float their krathongs.

But the venerable monks’ coffers are always in need of replenishment, so they decided to provide musical entertainment. They fenced a large area off and engaged Thai bands to play there. But these outdoor concerts weren’t free. Oh no, the public had to pay an entrance fee, and the good monks even did a nice little earner on charging to park your car. This was to park in a public area, which for the remainder of the year would be completely free.

After all, the monks do not own the lakeside land – it is the property of the water authorities, but this irrelevant when it comes to extorting cash for spiritual purposes.

In addition to the live concerts, they set up an open-air fairground – an open-air venue where the public could play silly games for prizes and buy rubbish from the fairground stalls. No doubt the stallholders paid a pretty penny for the privilege of gouging the unsuspecting public.

For the first year or so, the ‘festival’ would commence on the eve of Loi Krathong and run for two days. The live music would not be too loud and could only be heard within the immediate location of the lakeside venue.

But year by year the monks became more and more ambitious. All aspects of the festival – especially the number of days it runs – has grown exponentially.

It has become a popular place for the young people of Pattaya come and spend a night in the ‘country, spending their hard-earned money and listening to loud music.

Last year the festival lasted a full five days, and the music was so loud that anyone who lived within a three-kilometre radius, (and believe me, there are many who do so), would be unable to sleep until the bands called it a night.

In earlier years, the bands had finally stopped their deafening ‘boom booms’ between midnight and one am, but last year, there seemed to have been no restrictions on when they turned off their gigantic sound systems.

As long as the punters were still willing to stay and spend their money, the entertainment continued, well past 3 or even 4 am. This meant that everyone – including yours truly – couldn’t sleep until they stopped.

We recently moved about another kilometre or so further away from the Wat, and I had thought that I would be spared the worst of this abomination. Surely the noise can’t travel that far!

But I was wrong. This year, the festival started last Monday – some ten days before Loi Krathong. The music commences around 6 pm and is so loud that even with all our doors and windows shut, we can still barely hear ourselves speak. It is utter madness.

Maybe next year the punters will set up tents and the music will carry on all day and all night – it will become Thailand’s answer to Glastonbury.

Honestly, if I had the money I would move out and go and stay in a hotel until it was all over.

The funny thing is nobody ever seems to complain. Everyone hates it, but they never say anything or do anything about it.  It’s not the Thai way….

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The Infallibility of Amazon 

IMG_2653 CROPRESIZEJPGAZZY, my latest novel, went live as scheduled on 16th November, and many thanks to those of you who pre-ordered a copy. I hope you are now enjoying reading about Mobi’s fast moving journey through war-torn Nigeria and the women he meets along the way.

The next step for my book promotion was to set up the 5-day free download promotion offer.  It’s simple enough to do – I’ve done it twice before for my earlier novels. Just click on a button on my dashboard and enter the dates and Hey Presto! It’s all done. It takes less than a minute.

Yet when I tried to click on the appropriate button, all I could get was an Amazon ‘FAQ’ page about ‘how to do it’. I tried and tried and tried, but to no avail – I couldn’t get into the web page to set up the free promotion. I tried getting there via other routes, but each time I was blocked.

So I sent a message to Amazon, explaining my problem in full detail. What did they do? They simply sent me an email which contained the ‘generic instructions’ on how to set up a free offer.

I wrote them back again, explaining that I had tried this, I knew how to do it, but it didn’t work.

I won’t bore you with all the  details, but suffice to say that the emails kept flying backwards and forwards, and finally, on Wednesday, Amazon admitted there was a ‘glitch in their system’. They promised to resolve it by Friday.

Friday came and they sent me an email telling me exactly what they had told me five days earlier – i.e. to follow their standard instructions.  I tried again, thinking they had fixed it, but no… still the same problem.

I completely lost it and sent them a blistering email together with copies of screen-prints to prove my point.

Finally – about midnight on Friday they admitted there had been a problem and told me the only way resolve it was to set up my book again from scratch on the system.

Once I had done this they told me everything was now OK and I would be able to set up my free promotion WITHIN THREE DAYS!!

I told them that in the circumstances three days further delay was simply not acceptable.

My book became available for free promotion three hours later….

Sometimes technology threatens to destroy my very soul, but I keep plugging away…

 

 

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