Thailand Search Engine Q and A
November 15, 2010
My blog provider (WordPress.com) allows me to see lots of search phrases that bring people to my site. I thought I could occasionally take the opportunity to respond to some of these in a regular blog posting. Search phrases like “the cost of living in Thailand” and “studying Thai?” have been answered in detail in past posts. But here are some responses to search topics that were just mentioned in passing. I have put the search inquiries in the form of questions.
What is the winter like in Thailand?
My winter officially started on November 1st when at about 11am I was riding my motorcycle down a country road here in Chiang Mai. There was a nip in the air, temperature 21° C (about 71° F), and not a cloud in the sky. The word “glorious” kept going through my mind like those scrolls running on the bottom of a CNN broadcast. The nights are now in the Celsius teens or 60s F. Enough to require a nice warm blanket.
It will be like this for the next 4 months, every day the same, clear skies, cool days, chilly nights. But remember, this is the north of Thailand. Although Bangkok and the south will be cooler than they usually are, they won’t be “heavenly” like it is here. Why “heavenly”? Because, when you die, and if you have lived a really good life, and you’re lucky enough to enter those “Pearly Gates”, you couldn’t ask for better weather than the weather here in Chiang Mai in the cool season.
Are dogs a problem in Thailand?
If you are older and your ears cease to hear high frequencies, especially if you were like I was and bought the first Walkman in the 70s and every other personal music system invented since, including the latest MP3 players, and you blew out your hearing, then maybe you won’t be woken in the middle of the night by your neighbor’s barking canines. For others, dog barking can be a serious disturbance in what otherwise should be a tranquil Thai night with only the sounds of tree frogs and cicadas lulling you to sleep.
But dogs can pose a much worse problem. My son, who works in Phuket as the manager of the Friendship Beach Resort in the winters and as a sea kayaking guide in the San Juan Islands in the summers (I really want to be like him when I grow up), was getting down from his motorcycle the other day when a stray dog came right up and bit him on the ankle. It drew a little bit of blood. So he called me and asked my advice.
If you do a Google search on “endemic disease of Thailand” you’ll see that prominently mentioned is “rabies”. It has been that way here for as long as I can remember. Years ago a schoolmate of my wife’s got a small scratch from a dog. She neglected to tell anyone including her physician father. A week later she came down with a high fever. By the time she was brought to the hospital she was dead, a victim of rabies.
So it was off to the hospital for my son to get a series of 5 anti-rabies injections (Thank you Louis Pasteur.) Years ago the stories of the extremely painful anti-rabies series were known to all. They had to inject you in the stomach because they had to give you around 15 injections and they hurt really bad. There were also serious side effects. Later they changed the rabies horse serum to one made from human serum, which was better but still a huge bother and quite a bit more expensive. Today, there are quite good drugs with few side effects. The cost in Thailand is about 500 baht per injection.
So, if you are bitten in Thailand by any mammal that you don’t know, dog, cat, rat, mongoose, it’s time to get to a doctor. The alternative, you would probably agree, is quite unacceptable.
What is the Loy Krathong festival?
Seems like all around the world at this time of year there are “festivals of light”. There’s Diwali in India and of course there’s Chirstmas. It’s probably been this way since early peoples leaned about the winter solstice coming at this darkest time of the year (Yes, it even gets dark earlier here in the tropics.) Loy Krathong is one of these festivals of lights, and coincidentally (or not) comes at the time of the highest river levels, and the height of the rice harvesting season, and the beginning of the cool season and the 8 month dry period.
Chiang Mai is one of the best places to see the Loy Krathong celebrations (called Yi Ping in northern Thai). Thousands of people from all over, many coming up from Bangkok, go down to the river on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month, usually in November, with their “krathongs”, small rafts adorned with flowers, incense, and candles (the lights), as well as their sins for the year, and float them all down the river. It’s a beautiful sight, seeing thousands of tiny lights on the darkened river. The sky will be filled with floating lanterns (Khom Fai) which are really small hot air balloons made of paper with a burning light in the middle. Looks like the whole sky is full of red stars. Fireworks sail through the air and all over people line their sidewalks and walls with lit candles.
We’ll have a party at our house and since we have a small stream flowing in the back we will all float our krathongs after the sun goes down.
A friend just sent me this link of some of the large floats we saw last night around the city moat. Loy Krathong Floats
Thirty nine years ago this Loy Krathong my wife and I were married. We specifically chose Loy Krathong Day to do this, and now, as well as back then, we love it when the whole country celebrates with us.
What is the current exchange rate?
This is beginning to be a problem. As of yesterday when I checked at the bank, I could get 29.15 baht to the dollar (46.91 baht to the British pound). Check here for the latest rates.
This is about 25% less than when I began this retirement sojourn. I saw the Thai minister of finance on TV the other day saying that he didn’t think the rise in the baht was a problem and that it would only have a small effect on the country’s GNP and didn’t see any reason for intervention.
Not a problem? Tell that to someone on Social Security (which will not have a cost of living increase again this year), or some other government pension plan, who has to continually bring in money from abroad to exchange for Thai baht. I do hope the dollar’s slide (It’s really not a rise in the baht.) will end soon but with the amount of paper money the United States is printing, I am not going to bet on it.
I can’t really complain though since in Thailand I live at a much more comfortable level than I would in the U.S. on my Social Security. (Consider the difference between living in a comfortable 4 bedroom house here as opposed to living under a bridge somewhere in America.) So we will just have to tighten our belts – which is now more work for me since I have lost so much weight.
And speaking of losing weight
What is the best thing about your weight loss?
One of the rarest sights you will see is an American man in his 60s where his chest sticks further out in front of him than his stomach does. Usually the stomach leads the way. Don’t believe me? Just look around. I am happy to say that after about 20 years, my chest now is in the lead.
More Q and A in a later post.