Hear Ye! Since 1998.
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Dec 01

Day 4

Net access at 120 baht an hour. That’s AU$6, not too bad I guess. So… impressions in brief:

Chiang Mai is a city in Northwestern Thailand, population 1.5 million. Although Thailand is categorised as a newly industrialising economy (2nd world nation), it is lesser developed than other countries such as the bordering country of Malaysia. There are patches of places which may pass off as being Western, such as shopping malls, hotels and the highly touristed places, but move away from those immediate areas and you see the rest of Chiang Mai is not as well developed. Pretty typical for most NIEs, though.

We’re travelling on a package tour, the 21 of us having chartered out a bus. Yesterday’s activities comprised visits to Doi Suthep (atop which sits a Buddhist temple) a handicraft area of the city (Silk factory, jeweller’s, leather factory, etc.) Unlike the tour I went on in Shenzhen, China, a couple years ago, the commercialism wasn’t so evident. In China, it was clear that the tour guide had a cut in any purchases made at the shops visited, acting much like a salesperson at each shop visited. Here however, our tour guide by the name of Bob (I’ll explain another time), slept on a chair while we shopped. Today included novelty elephant rides, novelty ox cart rides, a novetly bamboo raft trip down a brown river, and a visit to the orchid factory.

The night markets are vaguely reminiscent of Nepal’s Thamel district. The main difference is that the merchants are not as persistent in soliciting passer-bys. The sales routine is the same world wide, though: “Hello, cheap cheap… I give you special price. Because you friend, I give cheap, today only.” The bargaining process is a bit more refined than in Kathmandu, and the prices a little more rigid, but otherwise, it’s the same stalls selling knick-knacks and baubles (being 2nd world instead of 3rd world only means that the baubles are slightly more intricate), and the same type of people selling them. We’ve got knowingly ripped off more than once here, but all in all it doesn’t matter. We may overpay in this country, but I’m sure that, due to the marvels of capitalism, if the same goods were for sale in the “first world”, the prices would actually be higher. And most likely not negotiable.

We haven’t had very much opportunity to sample authentic Thai cuisine (the tour throws in a lot of buffet meals, and other meals follow set menus), but generally the food here is mostly appetising. Tomorrow we’re off to Bangkok, followed by Pattaya. Tonight, however, I have a two hour massage booked. Mmm… relaxing…