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Culture shock

overcast 30 °C
View Asia 2008 on Wardsan's travel map.

I flew back to Bangkok on Friday the Thirteenth. I'm staying in the shopping district and agonising over whether to splash out on a digital SLR. Given the number of photos I take I think it ought to be done, but the prices here are comparable to those on line in London, and I wouldn't trust a warranty. I'll probably wait until Singapore.

Some things jump out after Vietnam:

  • they drive on the left.

  • no-one uses the horn.

  • most people wear shoes instead of flip-flops.

  • the Thais – at least the affluent in the shopping centres – are significantly fatter than the Vietnamese. Coconut milk, second only to polar bear milk in fat content, may have something to do with it.

  • the watches and clothes on sale in the Siam Paragon are genuine! More interesting is MBK, which is like an indoor market with a younger clientele. Some of the shops on the periphery of the floor sell an 8GB i-pod nano for the official price of 7,590 baht. The stalls in the middle purport to sell the same thing for 1,000-2,000 baht - less than the price of 8GB of flash memory. How can both co-exist in the same market? The answer must be heterogeneous consumers who select themselves into different price bands. For the separating equilibrium to sustain itself in the face of such a price disparity, the cheaper product must be significantly inferior. Which means it can’t be the real thing: a fake, with pirated software. I intend to find out.
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The USSR under Gorbachev began to reduce aid to Vietnam in the late 1980s. It dried up completely in 1991. Around that that time the joke went as follows

Message from the USSR to Vietnam: “prepare to tighten belts”. The reply: “send belts”.

On which subject, I am reminded of a remark I once heard attributed to JM Keynes, although I have not been able to find it since.

There are two ways to tighten your belt. One, tighten your belt. Two, eat more.

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More French words in Vietnamese:

  • Pho mai, cheese

  • Ga, station.
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I hope someone will tell me if I’ve mentioned this before on the blog; I am becoming increasingly confused between conversations and the blog. Who Wants to be a Millionaire airs in Vietnam (and in Thailand). One of the questions had the following answers: (a) tau, (b) tau, (c) tau, (d) tau. The words were differentiated only by tone.

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In northern Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and southern Vietnam, it is the rainy season. Most days, it rains heavily for about an hour a day; the rest of the time it may be cloudy or sunny. Yet almost every day the BBC weather forecast for Saigon and Bangkok gives 'rain' as the predominant weather feature. Rain for an hour a day is not a predominant feature; nor is a forecast a useful guide to conduct when it says the same thing every day.

Posted by Wardsan 10:55 Archived in Thailand

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