Everything wrong with Thailand

I have only spent 2 weeks in Thailand and my experience was limited to Phuket and Bangkok. This post is not a comprehensive analysis of Thailand – it’s simply my experience.

The cornerstone of a strong economy is trust. However, trust in Thailand is somewhat of an issue. One big example I saw was the massive use of fictitious prices (where you always need to haggle) – I could never trust listed prices. Another “trick” taxis used was to list prices and not specify that these were per person and not for the ride. The mentality seems to be that you’re a sucker if you pay the advertised price.

One annoying thing was the taxi mafia, who have claimed various territory and other taxis are unable to pick people up from the “wrong” territories. This means that if you had a longer journey booked, you would effectively have to pay for the journey to your destination and back as the cab driver is unable to pick up any customers from my destination. It also bothered me that one taxi driver kept his hat on the meter during most of our journey, preventing us from seeing the price. This all left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Similarly, at some tourist attractions, they charge foreigners more than locals. One example was The Grand Palace in Bangkok where locals had free entry but foreigners had to pay £12 (500 BHT). This kind of discrimination rubs me the wrong way and if Thailand wants to be in the 21st century, they should end this practice.

Another example is the lack of trustworthiness. When we booked a taxi in advance to take us to the airport, it simply didn’t show up and nobody made an attempt to notify us. We had to book an alternative taxi. Similarly, we stayed in a hotel which advertised they have reception open 24/7. However, when it came to our check-out time (around 6 AM), nobody was at the reception and nobody picked up when we called the numbers on the door to contact staff. We had to say goodbye to our room deposits. I hope the scum hotel staff buys themselves something nice.

I also heard a lot of stories about getting scammed when renting something as they’d claim there’s damage to the scooter/jet-ski/car etc and you could end up with massive bills to pay. I heard the police seemed to always side with the locals in this kind of matters, which means it’s better to simply avoid renting anything.

I’m sure you have heard of geo-arbitrage i.e. moving to a low-cost area when retiring so that your money lasts longer. However, based on the above, I would not recommend Thailand as the destination.

Haggling

Alright, I’ve made my way to Phuket, Thailand. The journey was long and I’m happy to have arrived.

Most of the journey was with Qatar Airways, which was my first experience with them. They flew me to Doha, Qatar and after a 90 minute gap I connected to another flight to Bangkok, Thailand. I got a very positive impression of them – the staff called me “sir”, each flight included a meal with drinks (I always opted for Heineken beer) plus teas and coffees. None of that cheap budget airline shopping or lottery ticket crap required.

The staff asked me if I enjoyed my meal and later one girl took an interest in the book I was reading and asked me about it. The overnight flight provided an eye mask to hide any lights, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste and of course a pillow and blanket. This was all very nice.

The onboard entertainment was good – I watched three movies, listened to music and enjoyed my book. I could get used to this…

I met up with my mates at the airport in Bangkok. And within 2-3 hours we were on our final flight to Phuket. That was a short journey (1 hour in the air) with a very cheap budget airline. It was nowhere near as nice to my previous two flights but OK due to the short duration.

We got to the hotel, which is a bit of a dump. We expected better but maybe it’s what it should be for £33 a night in a twin room. For example the bathroom seems to be someone’s “project”. The showerhead has been plastered or fixed an ungodly amount of times. I’m too scared to adjust it as it’s likely to fall off the wall. We have similar issues with the tap over the sink – the metal tap part hasn’t been secured to the porcelain sink. So every time you turn the tap the entire thing moves. Also, the picture on the TV is horrendous – how do you mess up that? Finally, the walls seem to be very thin – we can hear all the noise from the hallway and neighbouring rooms.

Those things aside, we have a working air conditioning unit and water comes out of the tap.

After making ourselves beautiful, we decided to go check out the beach. As we walked, we discovered how dirty and smelly Phuket is. I expected it to be more Westernised as it gets many tourists but I was wrong. We also decided that we need to buy some travel essentials – beach towels, flip-flops, sunscreen, sunglasses etc.

It wasn’t easy to find flip-flops for my size 45 feet. They didn’t have anything my size in the first few shops. Somehow, as a joke, we decided to haggle with the price when we kinda found something we’d like to buy.

Haggling was very entertaining. For example they asked for 450 THB for flip-flops, I say 250, they counter with 350, I say 275, they say “350 is good price”, I start walking away and then they drop it to 300. I didn’t buy, it was good fun though as we discussed what our next offer would be each time they moved on the price. I did the same in two more places as they priced flip-flops similarly.

Eventually, I ended up with flip-flops at 120 THB (£3) where the lady asked for 150 THB (£3.75) originally from a shop a bit further away.

Out of curiosity, I walked into a few tailor’s shops as well. I wanted to know if I was able to snatch a bargain custom tailored suit for myself.

The first tailor was a poor fit as the chap struggled with English and I didn’t feel comfortable doing any business there. He said good suits start from 6,000 THB (£150).

The second place was similarly priced but the chap had decent English. I spent at least an hour there talking about suits, styles, materials, sampled fabrics etc. I had a much better feeling about this chap even though we noticed he had a massive cockroach roaming around in his shop as we discussed business. He said it would take about a week to get the suit.

His initial price for my selected suit with Polish linen was £200 (the alternative with the cheaper linen material would cost £145) but I got it down to £175. He took my measurements and I gave him a deposit for half of the cost. I will need to come back in two days for “fitting” and then later again to pick up the final product.

In retrospect, I think I should have paid a smaller deposit and visit another two or three tailors before making my consumer purchase decision. Although the Polish linen felt much thicker and the texture was nicer, I’m not sure if it actually is any better or should be more expensive than the thinner type of linen. I will keep you posted.

I must say, although haggling started as a joke and that normally I feel hugely uncomfortable when somebody suggests I should try to get a discount on something, I had a lot of fun and it was so easy. I think the locals expect it and everything is up for negotiation.

Try some haggling, I’m sure it will help you on your FIRE journey. You might even have some fun with it.

My most stressful holiday

As part of my FIRE strategy, I try to keep my expenditure relatively modest. However, this year I’ve got a big holiday coming up. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time but never pulled the trigger. It’s OK to treat yourself every now and then. #SelfCare

I’m due to go on holiday to Thailand but as you can tell by the title of this post, things aren’t exactly going my way.

For starters, I needed to get various vaccinations done before leaving the UK. That was annoying as I booked an appointment with my GP, but should’ve really booked a nurse. For some reason, GPs are incapable of operating a syringe it seems. Therefore, I had to return to the GP surgery on another day and take time out of my working day. To make things even worse, I wasn’t seen until 20 minutes past my appointment – this makes me wonder why we even have appointments if these aren’t being followed. I can’t imagine a client coming to my office for a meeting and then not getting any updates or apologies/explanations why they can’t see whoever they arrived to meet. I believe poor service is just the way the public sector operates these days. They clearly have no incentive to improve because where else would people go for “free” healthcare. It’s not really free as we all chip in with our taxes… I wish it was possible for me to opt-out of the NHS and put that money to use in a more productive way.

I hadn’t had any vaccinations in more than 10 years and felt like a stray dog picked up from the rain outdoors when I was talking to the nurse. I got three jabs for 5 diseases and a resulting sore shoulder for a couple of days. Apparently I need to return again in 6 months for another Hepatitis A dose to get immunity for something like 25 years or so…

Not long after my GP visit, we had the Ukrainian plane crash near Tehran. It wasn’t just a crash – the Iranian army shot it down after the Americans murdered some kind of Iranian general who nobody had ever heard about. Guess who’s flying over Iran soon?

My trip to Thailand is with Qatar Airways, who fly to Doha, Qatar and then I need to make a connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Apparently it is not possible for Qatar Airways to avoid the Iran/Iraq airspace, unlike other carriers, due to political differences between Qatar’s neighbours. Many other carriers would simply fly over Saudi Arabia.

My worried brain started a mini-panic and looked into my cancellation rights and stuff but I didn’t find anything useful. Luckily, over the next following days, things seem to have normalised in that part of the world. All that stress for nothing.

And now, the big issue with Asia is the coronavirus situation (pandemic?), which is giving me a headache. The latest news was that Thailand had 19 confirmed infections of this new virus. No doubt that this will increase in the coming days and weeks. Should I travel and risk contracting a deadly disease (it seems it mostly kills only old and frail people) or call the whole thing off and have a staycation instead? Why can’t this be easy? Aren’t holidays supposed to be relaxing?

I really hope that everything sorts itself out and that I can go enjoy my trip but so far it’s been nothing but a source of concern. I want to read something positive about the situation for a change and am tired of the sensational clickbait articles.

In other news, it’s Brexit day and a few minutes past 11 PM in London, which is when we “left” the EU and our transition period started. Let’s see how all this plays out.

I expect to spend a bit of my cash reserves on my holiday, but it’s manageable and only a one-off event. It will be OK and I will be soon back to normal with my monthly contributions to my portfolio.

Good night!