Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Personal Banking with Kasikorn - better ask twice

As soon as we arrived in Thailand we went to a Kasikorn Bank to ope an account. We went for it mainly because we liked there ATMs, they have a higher withdrawal limit. Opening the account was a piece of cake, they didn't even ask for a work permit. Contract and passport of my wife were enough. To make sure that I as the spouse have access, we set it up as a joint account. BIG MISTAKE. The only advantage is that I got a Visa debit card. BUT: None of us can use cyber-banking, we cannot make standing orders, and every cheque must have both of our names (even my middle name) if we want to deposit it.

And then came another disappointment. I received a reimbursement cheque from Buffalo (they kept it actually for nearly a year until I picked it up). At the time they issued it, they had only my name from the credit card. So they wrote Thomas Wanhoff on the cheque, and issued it as a A/C payee only. BIG PROBLEM. That actually means that this cheque can only be deposited in a bank account under the name of Thomas Wanhoff. There is no way to get it into our joint account.

I went to three different branches, and at every branch I was told to open an account under my name. What is not possible, because I don't have a work permit. Then they said, I should come on the date mention on the cheque (that was today) and they can do a "quick cheque". But today, neither Kasikorn staff at Tesco Lotos nor at Paradise Park could remember this. No personal account, no deposit. I spent close to 400 baht for the taxis, just to be told the cheque will be not valid anymore after tomorrow.

They also blamed Buffalo for not changing the cheque (but Buffalo staff was already so helpful that it is too embarrassing for me to go there again). Okay, that's the Thai way, let the others solve the problem.

But there seems to be a problem in the work flow. Why the hell I can't deposit into a joint account? I actually wonder how Thailand made it to the money laundering list if personal banking is already so difficult.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Learning Thai in Bangkok

So, after doing some research, I subscribed to AAA language school. Main reasons were that a friend recommended it, and its easy to get there (just a few meters from Chitlom BTS). They are operating for a while, got approval from the Ministry of Education, and are reasonable priced. I booked 20 hours private lessons, twice a week 2 hour sessions. As a beginner, I have to start with pronunciation, and this is taught through phonetic language. A big minus. My experience with learning Vietnamese and Lao is, that is way better to learn read and speak right from the beginning.

I understand that this school may want to prepare people for daily life, and that should be mainly speaking. But it isn't, actually. How to understand all the signs, all the promotion messages, the bills etc? Also, one of the first words I had to learn were Ruler, Pencil and Eraser (Whats Abacus in Thai?). Clearly a sign that it is a while ago when the last updated their textbook.

My teacher is good, and at least my pronunciation will get better. In Laos people didn't care so much about it, as long as they got it from the context, but the Thais are like the french: Their language is art, and no derivates allowed.

To be continued....

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My new short movie "Handful of love"

Before I left Laos I shot another short movie. Thanks to my wonderful actresses Chitta Phosithath, Phaknapha Phosithath and actor Tar A'Pacts and the help of Marsolon Chan I could realise an idea that came in my mind a while ago. I always like movies where things don't have to be shown in all details, films that still leave room for imagination. So I was thinking about telling a love story just showing the hands, because hands are the most powerful impressions beside the face. It also means more in Asia than in Europe, people holding hands are expressing (and showing) way deeper love and feelings.

I also challenged myself using nothing else but an iphone and the Smoothie Steadicam. It is still a bit shaky, but thats just lack of experience I guess. Next one will be smoother, promised.

Enjoy the short movie and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dog street behind Paradise Park

Whenever we move to a new country, we have to look for good vets, dog supply shops and a safe environment for our dogs. It looks, compared to Cambodia and Laos, Thailand is dogs paradise. Not only that we can walk the dogs pretty safe in our compound (yet still on a leash), we do have a lot of vets and clinics around the corner, many of them offering a taxi service as well.

What was kind of a surprise was the pet and garden section at the back of Paradise Park shopping center. We couldn't find any gardening shop, but it is a street full of pet shops. Most of them are focussed on dogs and cats, mainly grooming, but there is a dog restaurant (what means a restaurant FOR dogs, not serving them), a clinic and lots more.

I case you need anything for your dogs, try this place first!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Points, Discounts and Promotions

When I was a kid, my mum sent me sometimes to a small grocery store called Seifenplatz, and always insisted to not forget collecting the stamps. Not that she was passionate in writing letters, the stamps she meant were discount stamps. The more you have the more discount you get (or sometimes certain items for free). I thought it was ridiculous, but who will stand against mums order?

Now, about 35 years later, I find myself sitting at the kitchen table and sticking stamps from BIG C into the small brochure. I am quite close to get the whole knife set, made in Germany, for free.

Points and discounts are a very important sales technique, that works all over the world, but it seems to me that Asia is even more responsive to it. Purses of the average shopper are full of membership and discount cards rather than money. Park a truck full of cheap Chinese shirts on the street and shout "Discount", and the whole village is on gridlock. When I left BIG C a couple of days ago, an old women asked me for, no, not money, but the discount stickers.

It goes even further: Yesterday, after dinner at a restaurant, we queued up behind a big family at the cashiers counter. They ate a lot, but for some reasons decided to split the bill. But right before grandmas bill was payed, they spotted the sign: 10 percent discount if you pay with a credit card of a certain bank. Bingo, the whole family has accounts with this bank, so the poor cashier had to cancel all payments and bill it again, this time carefully watched if every bill has the discount on it. In the meantime we made friends with the Thai couple behind us, and already considered where to go for breakfast next.

People even cheat for points: When I was asked at TOPS if I have a member card and said "No" (of course I have one, but forgot it at home), she instead typed a different number (I guess her's) in the system, before start to scan the products. And the next guy, apparently forgetful as me when it comes to hardware, remembered his member number and told it the cashier. I saw similar incidents at TESCO LOTUS.

UPDATE : stupid me. They just give the phone number. And database connects to their account.

It is kind of fascinating that we do not remember the phone numbers of our family members anymore, since we just ask Siri to call them. Instead, we fill the empty room with membership numbers. Times are changing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

App wakes the driver up - and show next Cafe Amazon

I heard it today on Radio: 95.5: an app that detects if the driver falls asleep and then wakes him up - with a parrots sound. But not only that, it also shows you where the next Cafe Amazon is, to get a bit refreshed.

The App is called Drive Awake, is programmed by 1Moby Co for its client Amazon Cafe. These are part of the PTT network, and nearly every PTT gas station on the highways does have a Cafe Amazon.

The app is free and available for iPhone 4S and iPhone5. The phone needs to be mounted neer the steering wheel, so the camera has a good sight on you face. The software will then recognize your eyes and will be on constant detecting mode.

Once it detected the eyes a closed, a parrot starts shouting (the coffee shop chains mascot), and then the app calculates where the next coffeeshop is.

When I was testing it the eyes recognition rate was pretty low, and it warned me all times even with open eyes (to the annoyance of my dogs who where looking for the parrot) . It does offer a Night Mode as well, haven't tried this yet.

But I like the idea behind it, at least it shows that a company is trying to take social responsibility seriously and - more important - take soe kind of action.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"All about dog spa" offers a swimming pool and therapy for dogs

Our dog Yoda has a deformation on his front legs and got a surgery some months ago in Khon Kaen. Now it's time to remove the nails that still stick in his bone. But after the X-Ray the doc recommended to gain some more strength in his muscles. How to do it? Get a swimming therapy. 

Coming from Laos that sounds a bit funny, but it turned out (thanks to Jan's hint) that there is a dog swimming pool right around the corner in Soi Bearing. It's called "All About Dog Spa" (on Facebook you will find it as "Moobrador"). The owner speaks fluent English and is really dedicated to dogs. He is breeding Labradors as well, in case you want a puppy.

But let's get back to the swimming. Yoda never ever was in a pool or anything different from the puddles in the street after the rain. So we were a bit nervous about him. But it turned out to be easy: staff is treating the dogs very well and carefully, moving him slowly into the water. A safety vest is mandatory, as well as a shower and a "toilet visit" previous to the swimming lesson.

Although I understood that you can make an appointment for just an hour of swimming, the main focus seems to be on swimming therapy. A lot of dogs coming there have problems moving their legs, mainly the beg legs. Cause can be an accident or an disease. I witnessed several dogs not able to move the legs will lying down, but when they went in the pool they paddled like a baby. 

Costs depend on how many times you want to come. There is a membership fee (1500 Baht), and we payed about 600 Baht (20 USD) per hour. That includes showering, shampoo, dry blowing  and ear cleaning after the  swim. 
Opening hours:

Mon - Tue: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Thu - Fri: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sat - Sun: 7:00 am - 4:00 pm

Phone: +66 81 626 8169

Soi Bearing (Sukhumvit 107). From Srinakarin Road turn into Soi Bearing, watch for a Mercedes Dealer on the left side and then it's about 50 meters down the road, a small gate on the left.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A sense we can't post on Facebook

When you come to a new place, then there is a lot to digest new impressions. In the age of Facebook and Instagram photos and short texts we invite high for each of our friends (and enemies) know how beautiful it is here. But that's only half the truth. The sense that we use in new places most is the sense of smell. With the eyes we perceive mainly movements, with the ears we check the environment we can't see, but with the nose but we scan for danger.

 When I came to Laos, I walked every morning around our village. It was not a nice experience for the nose. Almost every house had a fire and burned the garbage that had just swept along. Then there were barbecue stands, which was mostly fueled with wood soaked in kerosene. Passing by an undeveloped plot of land usually meant walking along a garbage dump.

 Bangkok is a already completely different experience. For one thing, the food street stalls smell better. It is not just grilled chicken or other grilled meat. Actually, passing by food stands in Bangkok is one of the best olfactory experiences ever. And then there is this mix of nature, in our compound, the fragrance of flowers of frangipani and jasmine and other flowers.

 The house where we live smells like a new house, a bit like IKEA. The little Minimart has its own smell of dried fish, which is sold at the door. The laundry smells of the very own fragrance that is added to the washed clothes - whether or not the customer wants it. Somewhere it stinks from the sewer and the wastewater in Bangkok smells different than in Laos or Vietnam.

 I know that Google made a nice Aprils Fool joke with Google Nose. In some way, they are right: without our nose, we can't smell (and taste as well). That means, we can't experience the world around us as it is. Sometimes, we should close our eyes and walk around by just using our nose as a guidance.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

So here we are.

When I moved to Cambodia, the blogosphere was quite small, and the one for expats even smaller. All foreign bloggers knew each other. It Vietnam, it wasn't any different. Actually, because of Kevin Millers blog I got connected to the IT community there. Same story in Laos: Just a few people blogging. For me, that was always an advantage - Google sent me a lot of visitors. In Thailand, the story is much different: A huge and very active expat community, not only in Bangkok, but in the whole country. Most stories about the expat life are already told, from 10 course dinners at the Mandarin Oriental to street food in Soi Cowboy. So, for now, I will focus on photo storys. A little bit about my life here, things I see, but also some bigger picture. Stay tuned....