Wednesday, December 28, 2005

All that glitters


If I had to fault the Thais at all, it would only be to note that they put far too much stock in appearances. And we all know how deceptive those are. You are unlikely to be completely disrespected anywhere in Thailand, but you will also find that the respect you are accorded is in direct proportion to your external get-up. Some of the most standup chaps I know in this world look and dress like the Big Leibowski, but look like that and see if you can get the time of the day in Bangkok.

Thus it is that I no longer go by my former slob-like ways. It is but a small price to pay for the improved treatment at shops and other establishments.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Empirical irregularities


As a scientist, particularly as an empirical economist, one is always seeking regularities and generalizations. A self-evident one is that income inequalities breed crime. Except this seems to go out the window for the most part in Thailand. There is much inequality here, even if poverty is not acute. There are plenty of people making ridiculous amounts of money - many of the owners of flats in the condo I live in, for instance, are so rich they don't even bother to rent out their apartments. They just buy them and let them sit indefinitely. And yet, there is very little violent crime, and in fact, there is hardly even any fear of petty crime, ie, having your pocket picked or your chain snatched. Intriguing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Riverside Muse


I just love the Chao Phraya river, by which I live and work. It is wide and usually serene, and it brings gusts of refreshing wind in its wake. At work, I am periodically treated to the sound of short, sharp whistles blown by boatsmen as they approach the nearby pier. At night, we sit out on our 12th floor balcony and watch the splendindly lit skyline and the shimmering water. Barges carrying goods travel up and down the river relentlessly. Tourist boats, decorated with chains of light, meander past.

Travelling by Chao-Phraya boats is not for the faint-hearted. Yet I, faint of heart and incapable of swimming, commute everyday by these. And that is not all. My commute also involves taking a ferry across the river, which is as perilous an exercise as can be imagined. You have to hop on and off a crazily swaying tub of steel that was built circa world war two. I do this because it is a heck of a lot more charming than taking a taxi and spending endless hours stuck in a traffic jam. Besides, you would have to pick a river over a road any time, wouldn't you?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A legal alien


It's been an odd month. I thought I'd desperately miss the UK and my daily routine there. However, I've only missed specific aspects of it, particularly the delicious freedom inherent in academic life, and the creative buzz you get from working on papers. And some of my friends. I don't miss the early fall of darkness. I certainly don't miss the staggering cost of living and the town-centre mayhem on weekend nights. Yet, something about that country has a way of creeping in and wrapping itself deep inside of you - if you've lived for any length of time in England, I reckon a little bit of you will become and remain English. It's in the Sunday newspapers, the reassuring sound of the BBC newscaster, the sound of blackbirds in early spring, the way occasional summer days will find a perfection and balance to be found nowhere else in the world..