Friday, May 30, 2014

Bumrungrad Hospital gives infos about health in Bangkok

I just discovered a very handy app from the Bumrungrad Hospital; It is called Healthy Living in Bangkok, and as the name suggests, gives basic information for newcomers. It is aimed on expats, but can be useful for tourists as well.

As you can see from the table of contents, the app informs you about vaccination cycles, hospitals, common diseases and gives some basic tips how to stay safe. It also provides a simple map with major POI in downtown as well as BTS/MRT lines and parks. And of course you can make appointments with the hospital right from the app.

Although helpful, it could provide a bit more tips about healthy living, like where to buy organic food, healthy Thai dishes, fitness advice and so on. But since the app is just the frame for the several issues (English and Japanese, by the way), maybe more is yet to come.

The app is free and available for iPad users on the itunes store. 

Introducing: The Thai country burger

When I made some spicy sausages yesterday (Xai Ua, or Chiang Mai sausage), it had some leftover filling. Why not fry it in the pan like a burger paddy I thought? I did, and since I had some sticky rice left and veggies, I started creating the  Thai country burger.

Sticky rice
Snake beans
Lobo Xai Ua spice mix burger paddy (chicken, beef or pork)
Chinese cabbage
Spicy sauce

You can buy a very good Xay Ua mix from Lobo's at Big C, Tesco Lotus or Villa Market, it comes actually with sausage casings. 

Take off a big cabbage leaf and use it as a pocket. Put in the paddy, then sticky rice on top, a slice of tomato, a layer of processed cheese and a bit to taste of spicy sauce.  Snake beans left and right of the paddy give some stability. Ready to eat.

Costs are cheap: 500 gr chicken is a bout 50 baht, spice mix 18 baht, sticky rice 7 Baht, cabbage 30 baht, snake beans 18 baht, tomato 20 baht - lasts for 8-10 burgers, depending on the size of the paddies. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You can get angry, frustrated or cynical

Found this tweet today by @bkkbase:

Thai Facebook block was quite possibly the funniest 30 minutes of social media angst ever. #ThaiCoup
Similar post appeared today, making fun of people not having Instagram or Facebook access. On twitter, of course. It seems for some people Facebook and Instagram is for the kids, and Twitter for the adults. Even if, it doesn't matter. They all use the internet as communications tool the same way we used the telephone back in the days when we were young (and in the free west).
It doesn't matter if it's foodporn or a review of the latest The Voice episode, a selfie or a link to a Youtube video: Freedom of speech means that you are able to speak, no matter what tool you use - and also whatever you want to say. Looking down on those who may not fill their accounts with political statements is exactly what we witnessed when urban PDRC people looked down on the "buffalos" in the north east.They may not have the same education there (or better university names on the certificates, since Khon Kaen is actually a quite good institution), but they are the same Thai people as everyone else. 

There are different ways to deal with the current situation: You can get angry because of the feelings of injustice, you can get frustrated because it is yet another coup, but getting cynical means you gave up - not only the country, but on people. 

Thailand in Transition

I found a quite interesting article in the Bangkok Post, describing the different states of development in the Asean countries.
As you can see Thailand is efficiency driven, but not yet in the transition status to become an innovation driven economy. I am wondering how many years that will take, because right now there are only little signs of innovation. Thailand is quite good in executing/producing, as the hard disk, automotive and camera manufacturing shows. It does have a huge service sector as well, 52 percent of the GDP. Wikipedia lists the sectors:
Automobiles and automotive parts (11%), financial services(9%), electric appliances and components (8%), tourism(6%), cement, automanufacturing, heavy and lightindustriesappliances,computers and parts, furniture,plasticstextiles and garments, agricultural processing,beveragestobacco.

Also, Thailand is spending 4 percent of it's GDP (or 20 percent of the state budget) on education, according to a official statement in January (that might change after the coup):

So why is Thailand not further developed? I think the answer is in the paragraph above: While spending a lot of money, it isn't spend wisely. Otherwise innovation would be much higher, as you can learn from Singapore, where education is considered the best in ASEAN.

As long as Thailands (and it's neighboring countries) education system is based on transferring knowledge rather that understanding there is little change. Certificates doen't tell anything about your ability, as we learn everyday when we try to speak English with Thai people. 

I visited a science and reserach fair last year and it was emberrassing to see how little science was done there. It looked more like a vocational exhibition. From what I know about software and app development in Thailand, cloning and copying is still considered the best way instead of developing something unique. And if done so, it is most likey to be a local version instead of targeting at least a regional market.

But, the good news is, the situation is changing. I see a lot of young people setting up small businesses, from coffee shops to bicycle dealers, having the entrepreneural spirit that is required for a society to develop further and cross borders of traditional ways of doing business. 

So, let's hope the coup and the currrent crackdown on critical thinkers doesn't last long and Thailand can go back to business as soon as possible. And someone start's questioning the curriculum and the education of teachers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Protest today at Radchadamn Road and Victory Monument

Just some picture I took from the protests today. I wanted to get an impression what the situation is since media is censored and international media has always more a focus on clashes than on the big picture.

My summary: Right now it's peaceful and police and soldiers did everything to de-escalate (beside soldiers in riot gear not looking too friendly). Some protesters although did provocations, and I am concerned how the whole thing will develop in the next days. About who are the protesters: Some (even many) redshirts for sure, but I think also ordinary people opposing any coup.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wildlife exposed and trafficked in Thailand - and authorities don't care

You would think that Rihannas instagram picture with a gibbon would have emberrased Thai authorities enough to start a crackdown on wildlife trafficking and exploiting to tourists. Or that the uproar had an impact on tourists. But nothing actually happened. Two people were arrested on Phuket, but I don't even know if they ended up in jail, what would be unlikely.

Yesterday we walked down the main street in Chaweng on Kho Samui Island. In plain sight two thugs with gibbons, hanging them on tourists shoulders and making money from taking an instant photograph. When I took my first picture of them, they looked quite uncomfortable, but went on with the business.

It is very sad to see that tourists still go for it. I talked to one guy that he shouldn't do that and that it is illegal, and he responded "so are many things in Thailand". Even our friends were not much interested in the incident.

We later had a beer at Bondi Grill, and the guys showed up, standing in front of the restaurant and looking for business. I asked the waitress what can be done, but she said she can't do anything because it is outside. I told her it is illegal to do that under Thai law and if she please can call the police. She said "They will run away when they see police" and denied to call. 

So my wife called the police, and the officer sounded quite excited, repeated location and said they would send officers. What actually came some minutes later were two guys on a motobike, stopping in front of the gibbon mafia, speaking shortly and drove away. Suddenly the guys with the primates went into a side street. What was also interesting was that they stood together with some promoters for a Muay Thai boxinf event, and those promoters were nervously looking around. It seemed they worked together.

Police of course never showed up, the gang disappeared in a side street, when we left the restaurant. It shows that Thai authorities have zero interest in fighting wildlife trafficiing and exploitation. The only thing these officers want is bribes. And a coup, or any military rule, will not change anything - it may even make things worst, since there is even less enforcement of any law with the power struggle in the capital still going on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Under martial law

So finally we have not only martial arts in Thailand, but also the long  expected martial law. Its not a coup, they say, because they only took control about the TV stations and streets. It might actually be a smart move, since the numbers of protesters in both camps were growing, and it was a matter of time when they would clash.

So another kind of coup in paradise. So far it seems life goes on, at least in my hotel on Koh Samui. Althougn there is so much green in the garden, a soldier would be difficult to spot.

 The Nation published a list of the restrictions or what the Army is allowed to do:

- Take action against war or riots;

- Use arms to suppress unrest;

- Search, confiscate or occupy any premises or vehicles;

- Censor information;

- Block, search and control postal services;

- Activate the military court to judge on crimes within the area under martial law;

- Mobilise civilians to help the military;

- Procure resources such as vehicles or logistical materials to support military operations;

- Prohibit public gatherings, publications, broadcasting, transport,

communication, travel, the movement of people or any action that the Defence Ministry deems necessary;

- Enforce curfews;

- Destroy, remove or adjust any premise or location for the purpose of military operations;

- Arrest and detain suspects for a maximum of seven days.

- People are not entitled to any compensation for damage incurred during such military operations;

- Martial law can only be ended with a Royal Decree.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Comicon 2014 at Siam Paragon

So the comic people are gathering these days at the 5th floor at Siam Paragon for Comicon 2014. Do not expect too much: Some small promotion stages, two manga stalls, some video games and and event area. It's nice, 60 baht entrance isn't too much, and you may find some nice photo motives.

The PDRC is marching again

No further comments. I am just tired of them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Impressive customer service at Coffee Beans by Dao

We went for lunch to Coffee Beans by Dao at Paradise Park today and I ordered chicken laap with sticky rice. Although they use a ready made spice mix, it's still good food there and we like the service there. Unfortunately we had some uninvited guests: Shortly before I finished the sticky rice, some small bugs were crawling out of the basket. That can happen, we call them rice bugs, they sometimes make it into the rice bags and you can spot them as little black dots.
The ones today were not in the rice, but had been in the basket. I called the restaurant manager and wanted to just tell her that I have spotted some bugs and she may check the other baskets. Not a big deal for me, it wasn't disgusting or disturbing - I buy a lot of street food, so a bug is nothing for me, and some I actually eat some.

The reaction was very surprising: after a few minutes she came back, with a phone in the hand and ask me if I want to speak to her boss. I told her it's not a big deal and I just wanted to inform her rather than complain. But when we asked for the bill, she insisted that we didn't have to pay - a meal worth around 30 USD. Very impressive. And we will come back, for sure.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Management of finance in Thailand: I still don't get it

When I left school and after my civil service, my parents insisted that I should study something useful, so I decided to give economics a try. In the first 2 years you learn a little about macroeconomics, but a lot about business management. So I do understand business a bit.

When I watch the way people do business in Thailand, in particular the SMEs and how people manage their private finances, I always wonder how that works. It is quite different from what I learned. In our compound all houses are soled, but 10 percent is empty. Not rented out, not for sale. And as you know, buildings aren't getting better over the years, if not maintained. And the houses aren't, nature slowly starts taking over. Or the small shops, where a fruit seller just opened next to a - fruit seller. And as I mentioned earlier, 8 Seven Eleven in my street.

I learned price calculation includes all costs, like purchasing goods, rents, taxes, expected profits, salaries. That doesn't seem to apply here: it almost seems that price is made up by what the neighbour sells it for. so the business part is a big secret for me.

But even more is personal finances. Average income in Thailand is 12.000 Baht per month, with higher salaries for office workers and lower for manufacturing. Thats about 400 USD. An iPhone is 800 USD, that's two salaries. TV, iPad, washing machine, IKEA furniture, Starbucks coffee - how the hell can urban Thais afford this?

They maybe can't. The Kennan Institute published a research about Thai financial management skills.

Thais have scored very low in regard to their financial management skills, according to Piyabutr Chonvicharn, Vice-Chairman of the Kenan Institute Asia.

Mr. Piyabutr cited a recent survey by the Bank of Thailand and the Finance Ministry as showing that three groups of people most at risk in piling up on debt were students, low-income people, and farmers. Shockingly, they make up at least 70 percent of the Thai population. He said that their poor spending habits resulted in higher household debts, which had risen from 55.6 percent in 2008 to an alarming 82.3 percent in 2013.

And these are just the official numbers. Urban people may have more debts through family channels - the informal sector is huge in Thailand and you can only guess how big. Also, higher incomes have more access to corruption.

Consumption is still high in Thailand, but it comes with a price: "Thailand's Bubble Economy Is Heading For A 1997-Style Crash" wrote Forbes in November last year. Add the political situation and the related downturn in some economic sectors, and you have a recipe for a disaster.

One indicator is that while I read that banks say bad performing loans are around 2-3 percent, I remember a quote of a motorbike seller in Issan who said that 25 percent of bike sells are never paid.

Let's see if Thailand becomes a problem in ASEAN or if it can survives this crisis.