Posted by: goliver | January 22, 2010

Leaving Thailand

Well I am about to head to Bangkok International Airport. It has been a great 3 weeks and I have learned alot and made a lot of new friends. This is not the end of the blog yet. I didn’t have time to post a lot of posts and I will be finishing them up and posting them over the next few weeks till it is complete.

It is a long trip back home with layovers in Korea (14 hours, yes we will be visiting Seoul) as well as in L.A. I will post what I find in Korea when I get back state side.

Posted by: goliver | January 20, 2010

Krazy about Korea!

Talking with my Teen aged niece grace I wanted to find out about something I had heard, that Thai teenagers are crazy about everything Korean. And they are! Korean music and bands, fashion and movies are all the rage! Some even study Korean to be able to understand the music and movies with out translation.

This appears to not be by accident. It seems Korea is actively promoting korean cultural exports: fashion, music, movies, throughout asia. The government and their industry seems to be trying to actively control Korea’s image abroad and works hard to make sure surrounding countries see them as not just advanced, but Cool…

I had mentioned to Grace that american teens did not listen to Korean bands, or watch Korean movies and pay attention to Korean fashion, which quite surprised her (considering that they are so cool). Even more so I mention that most american teens probably only have a vague notion of what Korea is like. (and given national geography test scores an even more vague notion of where the country is on the map.)

Posted by: goliver | January 20, 2010

A Great day in Bangkok (Especially, if you are an engineer)

A great day in Bangkok for an engineer. First a tour of a freinds plastics manufacturing company followed by a round of golf (Thai Style).

“One word, Plastics!”

P.P. Pack is owned by our friends family. They make a variety of injection molded and formed food packaging products. I can’t show you any pictures from inside but can say that is it is quite large (covering serveral acres) and very interesting. The firm is vertically intergrated with almost all aspects of the manufacturing of the products, including CAD and CAM capabilities and a CNC Machine shop to make their own forms and molds! I won’t bore any one with all the details but you can ask offline.

Factory Feng Shui and labor in Bangkok

The fountainin front  is more than just something pretty in the front, it is part of the layout based on the principles of Feng Shui to bring good luck and wealth, (they seem to be successful so I can’t say it doesn’t work.)

Minimum wage in Bangkok runs about 7 dollars a day! ( in the US it is around 7 dollars an hour). Less outside the city. On a side note this underscores the need for US manufacturers to be highly efficient and embrace lean and automation. Being off by having one unecessary employee can cost more that 100k dollars in the US, But only ~2k dollars in Thailand. (the cost of a golf club membership). As such hard automation is not as common here since labor is quite a bit cheaper and the cost to automate does not provide much return.

Taking Care of employees is very important to the company, one of the ways in which they do this is the cafeteria. They way it works is local vendors can set up shop on the top floor of the building and they pay no rent or utilities, but are required to give a deep discount to the employees who eat there. Thus allowing the employees to stay on site and save money. (The food is actually very good, we had some for lunch)

The factory operates near 24 hours a day, but the family still had time to treat us to a game of Golf!

Golf, Thai Style:

Wow, What a difference from the municipal courses back in the US. Tropical paradise would fit. A couple of differences. Golf is quite expensive here and memberships cost are very high. the cost per game is a little bit more than in the US but given the wage differences it is huge to the average Thai. Given that the climate is tropical the course is covered by a variety of Palm Trees, flowers, beautifully landscaped shrub, etc. and this is the dry season which is not as pretty as the rainy season.

One of the many views around the golf course.

The big difference is the service and the Caddies.  Traditionally, caddies are women here. They vary in age from young to mature. Our host prefers the older experienced caddies, at least 2 for him, one to carry the umbrella to protect him from the sun, an another to pull the clubs. they also carry a chair for him to sit on when he waits for the other golfers to catch up. (with my wife and I playing it was a good thing he had the chair). Oh, and he gets an arm massage while he is waiting! I only had one caddy(No massage for me).

Our host and I, and our Caddies! They made sure we had an enjoyable game of Golf!

The caddies job is to make sure you play your absolute best game. He prefers the more experienced Caddies due to their detialed knowledge fo the course. They advise on which clubs to use, how far, where to aim, whether the green is quick or slow, and how it breaks. They also keep score for you. He had asked my caddy to give me lots of advice on my game, I am sure it was good advice just all in Thai. She seemed a little frustrated that I never seemed to do any better, but was cheerful and friendly.

Me and my caddy

On the green

My wife and I Both had a Great Time! I wound up with 60 on a par 35 for the first 9 holes. I blame borrowed clubs, unfamiliar terrain, and lack of skill.

While traveling you get a chance to talk to other tourists from other countries. I have found two sure fire phrases that will kill a conversation with them almost instantly.

The first:
“No, I didn’t vote for Obama.”

And the conversational kiss of death is:

“Actually, I think George Bush did a good job as president.”

Posted by: goliver | January 12, 2010

Singapore – A Nation without Napkins!

Not sure why but it is really hard to find napkins in Singapore. Even the restaurants don’t seem to give them out or have them available at the tables or by the disposable silverware troughs. They don’t even wrap the silverware with them. Be sure to bring your own when you go out. (or grab a bunch at Starbucks, they still have them)

Posted by: goliver | January 11, 2010

Dinner time in Singapore

 

Finally in Singapore with the family: my wife, mother and father in-law, sister in law and nephew all here for the first time. So after arriving we first walked down Orchard road, known for its stunning high end malls catering to world shoppers. The family was tired and hungry and my sister in-law insisted on stopping at the first restaurant available. So having traveled halfway around the world and through three countries what was for dinner? 

The Best St Louis Style Ribs in Singapore and Jakarta!

St louis style Ribs! 

Yes we stopped at a place called Café Cartel serving authentic American food. (The windows were covered on the outside with advertisements for a Chinese restaurant which I believe led my sister in law to choose the place where my parents in law could get food they were familiar with) 

The Cafe Cartel (Sounds Ominous)

“The Best St Louis style baby back ribs in both Singapore and Jakarta Indonesia” now that is something to brag about, given the cutthrought baby back ribs competition in south east asia! My in-laws ordered seafood pasta so it would be familiar to them. The Ribs came first and when my mother and law tried one bite and liked them so much she finished them. No matter how old you get you can always try new things. 

Posted by: goliver | January 11, 2010

Patong Beach (Phuket)

Beautiful unspoiled white sands drifting down to crystal clear waters remind one of the beauty of what nature can achieve. Now lets shift gears and talk about Patong Beach. This beach was once what you might picture in the above description but it is now a tourist party place. Crowded, commercialized, and willing to cater to the baser instincts of westerners, if you are looking for a tropical paradise this is not really it,(there are still other beaches on Phuket that are very nice). If you are looking for perpetual spring break with drunk Europeans and Australians, this is the place.

The Beach itself is very crowded during the day but we could still find a place to relax and the hotel we are in is very nice, more in another post on the hotel.

In the evening the swimming was very nice, sand crabs scurried along the beach and luminescent plankton would get caught and glow on our clothing, every once and a will a school of them would be seen leaping across the water, it was quite spectacular.

Another evening activity is sending up flaming hot air balloons. Vendors have plastic bags with a ring around the opening in the bottom. Held in the ring is fuel soaked paper that burns with a bright red flame. The hot air fills the balloon and it rises into the night like a flaming star, indeed they get high enough that the look like new red stars in the night sky.

Most people have left the beach at this time and are dining and many of the extremely expensive restaurants in the town. All of the major chains are there, Hard Rock Café, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. Many restaurants are western themed. (Not sure why I would travel to Thailand to eat in an Irish Pub?) But all are crowded. The party shifts to:

Bangla Road

This is a long stretch with bars, dance clubs, improper clubs, HIGHLY improper clubs, and restaurants. We walked down the street to see what the hype was about and were beset by Coyote dancers and bargirls trying to get us into their establishments. Even worse were the guys who run up with “menus” for the Highly improper clubs, all set against a backdrop of drunken tourists. In short it is a good place to get in bad trouble. We bypassed what Bangla Road had to offer and had tea at the hotel instead.

Bangla Road, Still a party even after the thunderstorm a few minutes earlier.

Note: If you do go there I would recommend not going alone and keeping your wits about you in any of the bars. Also I have been told it is very dangerous to take the “menu guys” up on there offers or to enter any club or building not fully open to the street. Apparently it is much easier to go in then to get out safely, and they often have rather tough persuasive types at the door to charge you an exit fee.

The amount of money Phuket brings in from tourism should be amazing. My wife said that it has made a lot of people very rich on the island and created a massive economy and jobs for the area, which even after the Tsunami shows no signs of slowing. New Construction is everywhere.

Posted by: goliver | January 11, 2010

Coyote Dancers

Long Long Ago….

In a country far far away from Thailand….

A movie was made that filled me with such disinterest that I have never bothered to see it…

It did however have a dramatic affect on this country…

The Film

Coyote Ugly

Basically the idea of having pretty young women (scantily clad) dancing on top of bars and stages, at bars, nightclubs, auto shows, and Temple functions(the last has stopped since the Queen commented that she thought it highly inappropriate especially considering the monks have taken a vow of chasity and gyrating young women isn’t making their lives any easier ) has swept Thailand by storm.

They are hired to attract paying customers and keep a party atmosphere going at most night spots and events. Bangla road here in Phuket is no exception, where coyote dancers and bar girls desperately try to corral drunken tourists into their bars. There appear to be more girls than customers. If you read Thai you can see signs that they hire coyote dance positions paying ~10000 baht a month (300 dollars) which given the qualifications is pretty good money for the area.

Coyote Dancers facing Bangla Road in Patong

Posted by: goliver | January 9, 2010

Corn, its whats for Dessert!

One thing that I have yet to get used to is vegetables we would normally serve at dinner being used as dessert, especially in ice cream and snow cones.

Ice Kachang, amazingly priced at 2 singaporean dollars!

Yes, that is creamed corn on the top.
It is an ice kachang and it is the singaporean equivalent of a snow cone on steroids. It is huge, 4 flavors, covered with creamed corn, peanuts and some other types of beans and nuts. And that is justthe top the bowl is filed with sweet beans palm seeds and a variety of other dessert type dishes. It was delicious and reasonably priced too.

KFC, we do corn sundaes right!
Yep they have three sundays: chocolate strawberry, and corn!
Creamed corn on the top with a layer of regular corn in the
Middle. Not to bad, not that great but not to bad.

Corn Sundae! Creamed corn and regular corn, yes it is very popular

 I asked my neice Grace (13 and practically fluent in english) if she liked Ice Cream. Her favorite place for ice cream is Swensons.

Me: do you like corn on your sundaes?

Grace: Yes!

Me: did you know americans don’t put corn on their sundaes?

Grace: Really?

Me: We eat corn as a vegetable with dinner

Grace: (giggles and has an expresion of” thats strange!”

Posted by: goliver | January 7, 2010

Working Wi-Fi Finally!

Sorry about the lack of posts but Internet connections were poor in Phuket and the last couple of posts were lost while uploading. Just arrived in Singapore, land of excellent Internet infrastructure! And extremely high prices!

1 singapore dollar = .72 US dollar

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