August 07, 2003

Thailand on a shoestring

A few words about Thailand on the financial side. As you probably noticed, this is a hell of a tourist spot. No surprise here unless you have been living in a cave for the last 50 years. The most difficult thing is to pay attention about scams (been there, done that, you will obviouslly get caught once and even more). If you want to buy, clothes, bags, etc.. be prepared for some tough bargaining.

You are in Asia. Compared to Africa, they are tough guys in bargaining and they will act like if you had kill all their family when you ask a lower price and they still do a 200% margin.

You want to shop for a nice branded backpack, say North Face or Jack Wolfskin. Ok. The starting price is often around B1500-B1800 depending on the model. I thought that the lowest price they could give me was around B550-B600 after some tough bargaining. I had some basis though, as I bought a shit backpack in Egypt for the equivalent of B350. I did a few shops (not especially looking). One was even ready to sell it for B400 !

Food. I found it more difficult to find really cheap food in Chiang Mai though I might not know the real good spots. The street stalls are selling Pad Thai at about B20-25 ($0.5) while it is about B10-15 in Bangkok. However in Chiang Mai it includes meat as well (chicken, pork or beef) which would explain the price difference. As for the local restaurants, think about B35 or something like this. For the record of the BigMac index, I think that a full menu is around B90 ($2).

Surprinsingly, internet is cheaper in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok. Most of them charge B20/h ($0.5), I even found one at B15. The issue however is to be sure about the bandwidth. Sharing a bad 56K connection between 10 users can be really painful and will not save you money, even if it is B10/h....

Water. It is critical here. Obviously like in Europe like now where a heat wave is striking hard. I think that I'm drinking about 5L of liquid a day. If not more. I can tell for sure that most of it obviously does not go through my kidneys but is lost through sweating. No big deal though as mineral water can be found mostly for B5 ($0.12) even in 7 Eleven shops (which you find really everywhere here).

As for sleeping, I do not have much references yet, but a B80 / night ($2) in Chiang Mai is perfectly bearable for a traveller. It looks like most of the places charge a minimum of about B250 for a nice room though.

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