Monthly Archives: July 2008

Foreigners & Tourist Areas = Lousy Service

After spending a few months working my socks-off in Bangkok, I’m finally falling back into the more mellowed and chilled-out routine of living upcountry here in Suphanburi.

This blog of mine today, is actually related in way to Richard’s one lately about the scammering Siam Ocean World at the Siam Paragon. Putting a two-tier price system in place is bad enough but when prices for locals are quoted in Thai numerals and for foreigners in Arabic, then that is just sheer deception. What is even more sickening, is that Siam Ocean World is run by Australia’s very own Oceanis. Do you honestly think that this friggin company would dare try that back in their hometown of Perth, if not, then what excuse can they give for pulling the stunt off here?

In fact, I looked into the legalities of the two-tier price system last week and contacted a lawyer I knew. Not surprisingly, he turned and said “Of course it’s illegal, you can not charge one person more than another, regardless to whether they are white, black, yellow or violet”. So, if you are pished-off too with the likes of Siam Ocean World illegally charging foreigners twice the price, then you have the right to complain – the folk in the government to contact about price scammers are the Office of the Consumer Protection Board, they can be emailed at: Perhaps an actual petition would really wake them up!

Now, during my few months in Bangkok, I was staying not too far from the Khao Sarn Road area, for a while on the early Samsen Road sois and then Thanao Road near Democracy Monument. I came back home every weekend to Suphanburi (conveniently, the passenger van leaves from that very area too) and since I’m already paying rent for a house here, cheap budget guest-house accommodation was enough for me in BKK.

Getting straight to the point, most service at tourist areas, is crap. Ranking top of the ‘Lousy Service List’ in tourist areas, winning hands-down is none other than 7-Eleven. I have noticed for years and years the two-tiered service system they implement. In other ‘Thai’ area of Bangkok or upcountry (just get away from foreigners) and you’ll be greeted with ‘Sawatdee Kha’, told the amount to pay and perhaps given a smile when you leave. On the whole 7-Eleven staff are usually pretty courteous, gotta give hem that.

Generally speaking however, in the tourist areas, most of 7-Eleven’s service is totally sub-standard in comparison. I have noticed this a lot, I Mr Farang walk-in, and the girl doesn’t bat an eyelid nor say a word, in behind me walks some Thai geezer and he gets a ‘Sawatdee’. What the heck! Next, I go to the counter and about to pay, after she totals the amount, she stares me blankly in the eyes, as if I were some kind of alien dork, and just waits for me to hand over the cash. Doesn’t say a word – just offers one of those ‘Yeah… what you waiting for’ looks. Geez… even if I was a fresh-off-the-boat Farang backpacker, I think I would appreciate someone just saying something regardless to whether I actually understood their language or not. Altogether, the service at most of the 7-Elevens in the Sukhumvit Road and Banglumphu areas, from what I have seen anyway, is lousy.

I actually have some stories about lousy 7-Eleven service over the many years here but the worst came this time around during my stint in Bkk. It was just on the stroke of midnight at one of their gaffs along Samsen and my buddy wanted a couple of beers (I had to get up early, so it was a little too late for me). Clearly in view was a Thai bloke at the counter buying about 4 bottles of Heineken. I’m stood outside like, waiting for my mate and 2 minutes later I sees him arguing with the girl behind the counter – she wouldn’t serve him – claimed it was past midnight. Even though I butted in and explained that ‘that Thai geezer’ had just been serviced in full view of us – she was having nothing of it.

A couple of weeks after this, I got such bad service that I contacted HQ about it and giving them a bitta praise like, they did conduct an enquiry and informed me after about the ‘corrective action’ they had taken. The story goes like this. At another 7-Eleven not far from the one above, I was in a situation similar to my buddy’s. It was on the stroke-a midnight and this night I fancied a bevvie for my room. Just as I opened the fridge door a hand came out of nowhere, grabbed the bottle out of my hand and stuck it back in. He was one of the two plain-clothed shelf stackers (rather strange not?). He then turned to his colleague and said something in Thai, along the lines of “Stupid Farang”. Right there I replied in English “Well, the beer fridge isn’t locked yet, so doesn’t that mean the shop’s still selling. On this, the whipper-snapper turns to his mate and completely insult me in Thais, words of which I won’t repeat here. To cut a long story short he found out I spoke Thai, but nonetheless swore at me directly in may face. As for the girl cashier, she was in hysterics.

After I complained to the head office, my friends in the guest-house noticed too that the staff in this particular 7-Eleven had suddenly transformed into ‘polite’ staff, just like they ought to have been in the first place.

When asking other expat long-timers in both the Sukhumvit and Banglumphu areas about their experiences it seemed that they too have been disgruntled about the sub-standard service offered by 7-Eleven in tourist areas. Moreover, over the years I have heard and read so many stories about their lousy service that I could write a handbook on the subject.

I have also had a couple of runs-in with that rather expensive fast food joint Burger King. The last one was also a couple of months ago with the one on Thanao Road opposite one of the far ends of Khao Sarn Road. I walked in and told the ‘boy’ that I wanted the promo special of Chicken nuggets and French fries.

“There is no such a thing” was the reply.

“What you mean? There’s a huge sign up outside and besides I’ve had it twice in the past couple of weeks” was my explanation.

So, there he was for the few minutes arguing in front of all the other customers (in Thai) that the joint didn’t have the promo I was after.

On seeing this commotion, out comes some young bloke who looked liked the manager-on-duty. After explaining the matter, he turned around to the ‘boy’ laughing and said “Of course we have it, there’s a big sign outside”.

Pretty pished-off by now, I give the manager about two sentences of opinion on lack of staff training; that was until (still smirking away) he raised his hand and gave me one of those hand gestures signifying ‘just leave’ and turned away while I was looking on in disbelief.

Giving the B King management at head office credit, they seriously looked into the matter and I was afforded a detailed email from one of the customer services managers about the disciplinary actions that were being conducted, and especially against the manager Mr Sombat. Then, a few weeks after, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a registered letter of added apology and 3 free whopper coupons.

This isn’t the first time I’ve got complimentary coupons after complaining. A long while back a waitress at Pizza hut swore at me in front of the wife (again one of those rather racist “f**kin stupid Farang” remarks). This happened after I refused to pay more for a spaghetti dish than what was stated on a promo sign ie… the promo was two days invalid but they’d forgotten to pull down the sign. I’m absolutely certain that she would have never sworn at a Thai customer like that. This kind of lousy service is given quite obviously cause the staff think they can get away with it, just cause you’re a foreigner. I have witnessed second-hand a lot of sub-standard service for foreigners in such places, but again too much to write here.

A lot farang folk will try to explain something like “It’s because a lot of foreigners are impolite”. I’m sorry, these kinds of places are not Pattaya bars where a lot of the foreigners are on the point of obnoxious, especially when they are drunk and in the company of cheap for-hire flesh. How can any cashier like this judge a foreigner they’ve only known for less than a minute. And besides, Thai customers are often much more inclined to be impolite to service staff than foreigners, and especially Farang.

As for KFC and Mc Donalds, I’ve never had any problems with them. Well done.

That said, the likes of 7-Eleven in particular, need to employ a board of top customer care management who are serious about their job. Since 7-Eleven is an international company, they ought to adhere to international standards. First and foremost, their staff trainers ought to be trained themselves into realizing that customers are customers regardless of age, creed, caste or colour.

Lunchtime Thai Menu 29

Sour and Spicy Mackerel

This is a continuation of our Friday Food blog. We are back after the holidays last week. Every week we bring you photos of the food that we are eating in the Paknam Web offices. If you didn’t know, Paknam means “river mouth” in Thai and that is where we are located. Paknam in Samut Prakan is the point where the Chao Phraya River enters the Gulf of Thailand after meandering through Bangkok. The first on our menu today was a variation of our favourite “tom yum”. As you probably know, this is more commonly eaten with shrimp though I also like the chicken version. The main ingredients are lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. To be honest I didn’t eat this one as I am not keen on fish. The dish cost 30 baht which is just under US$1.

Northern Thai Noodle Curry Soup (khao soi)

This is one of my favourite dishes from Northern Thailand. I always eat when I go to Chiang Mai. There are some places here in Central Thailand where you can buy this noodle curry soup, but you might not find it to be as authentic. Whenever I go to book fairs at Queen Sirikit Convention Center I always buy khao soi in their fast food center. This one was bought on Srinakarin road about 15 minutes from my house. The noodles used are quite distinctive. They are a bit like egg noodles but more curly. They give you two versions – the soft boiled noodle inside the curry and the crispy fried one on top. This is a coconut curry mixed with a curry paste. This dish comes with pickled cabbage and shallots. This was 30 baht. Not the best I have had, but always welcome.

Spicy Roast Pork Slices (nam tok moo)

This is a popular dish from Isaan, the north-east of Thailand. The name “nam tok” means waterfall which refers to the juices that drip from the meat and is then used in the dish. You can either get beef or pork. The meat is mixed with chilies, lemon juice, red shallots and roasted rice powder. Some people might find it a little spicy but it is a good dish for 30 baht.

Steamed Egg (kai tun)

This is a basic side dish which goes well with anything too spicy. It is basically steamed egg topped with some minced pork. This was only 15 baht.

Pumpkin in Coconut Milk (fak tong kaeng buat)

This is enough good Thai dessert that uses pumpkin as the main ingredient. To make, you need to mix sugar, salt and coconut milk together and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has all dissolved. Then add the sliced pumpkins and cook until done. When nearly done, pour in some coconut cream. This can be served either hot or cold though I prefer if it is chilled. This is only 10 baht.

These Friday lunches are starting to get expensive for the four of us. This one was just under US$4. Street food is averaging about 30 baht a dish now. Desserts are usually cheaper.

4 Day Holiday Plan for Thailand


My sister and her family will soon be coming to Thailand for their “once-in-a-lifetime” holiday. Well, maybe not quite true, but this is certainly their first holiday abroad as a family. They have been saving up for years to pay the air fares for their family of five. I have been put in charge of planning their short stay in Thailand. To be clear here, this is really only the stopover. The main event is the beautiful beaches of Queensland, Australia. They will be arriving late Monday afternoon and I will be taking them back to the airport on Friday afternoon of the same week. So, we basically have three and a half days to play with. What I thought I would do here is work out a rough schedule. Naturally, nothing is set in stone. Any holiday should be as flexible as possible. Even more so at the moment as we are in the middle of the rainy season. So, we could re-arrange the order of these days or even change things completely.

At the moment, the first day involves waking up at 5.30 a.m. in order to travel to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. It is true this place is a bit touristy, but if you arrive early then you can easily experience an “authentic” floating market from yesteryear. At least it will be possible to get some picture perfect postcard shots. We will rent a boat here and be paddled around the canals. Then a fine Thai style breakfast. From here we would probably head to Nakhon Pathom to visit Phra Pathom Chedi, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. There is also a fine collection of Buddha images here. In the market surrounding the stupa we will sample some of the delicious Thai desserts such as sticky rice in a bamboo tube.

The road back to Bangkok from here passes three major tourist attractions. We won’t have the time or energy to visit them all. These are The Human Imagery Museum, The Rose Garden and Samphran Elephant Ground. I think we will skip the first one as it is basically a wax museum of notable Thai and world leaders. The Rose Garden is good for the cultural show where you can see traditional Thai dancing, an ordination ceremony, a Muay Thai boxing match and a wedding ceremony. This costs 480 baht each. The nearby Samphran Elephant Ground has a crocodile wrestling show and a spectacular elephant battle show. This costs 500 baht each. It is possible to do both but it would be rushed. The tour groups do it but I think we should choose one.


Our second day would be spent in Bangkok. The highlight of any trip here is of course The Grand Palace and the neighbouring Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Hopefully we will get a bit of sunshine for this as the sparkling colours should be fantastic for photos. Very difficult to take bad pictures here. A tip if you are coming here by yourself, ignore anyone that tells you that the palace is closed for a ceremony until 3 p.m. If he says the code word “lucky buddha” or “big buddha” then you will know he is a con-man. Just ignore him. The police certainly do.

After the palace, we will probably head to the nearby pier at Tha Chang. This is where they used to take the palace elephants to bathe in the river. The plan will be to rent a long-tailed boat for a one hour tour of the Thonburi canals. Even before you reach the pier you will be approached by people who will try and tell you that it costs 1,000 baht each. Ignore them and keep walking. If we are lucky, we should get a boat for about 700 baht. The plan would be to stop briefly at the Royal Barge Museum and end up at Wat Arun a.k.a. the Temple of Dawn. After exploring here we will cross the river to Wat Pho a.k.a. the Reclining Buddha. If we made an early start then we should be very hungry by now. I think we would then head to one of the air-conditioned shopping malls at Siam Square for a late lunch. We could stop at the Erawan Shrine near Central World for some free Thai dancing. I think by this time they will be really tired so I won’t plan anything else other than shopping. I was thinking of taking them to Siam Ocean World. But as they are going to Queensland, I would suggest they visit the aquarium there instead as it is not only better but it is also cheaper.


This is a full day so hopefully they are over jet lag and they have plenty of energy. The historical park at Ayutthaya will be the main destination. There are about four or five different temple ruins to visit here. We will have our own transport so it will be easy to get around town. If you go there by train or bus then you can rent a bicycle for the day. There is also the option to do a boat trip if we don’t do the Thonburi canal trip the day before. I really like Ayutthaya and it is only about 90 minutes from Bangkok.

There are a couple of major tourist attractions that can be visited on the way to Ayutthaya. These are Bang Sai Arts and Craft Center and Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. You could do both but you would have to cut down on the number of places that you will visit in Ayutthaya. So, I would pick Bang Sai. The Thai village here has buildings from all regions of Thailand. A great place to compare architecture and way of living. You can also visit the factory buildings where you can see people doing traditional forms of handicraft as well as silverwork and bamboo weaving. It is quite a fascinating place to wander. There is also a large shop where you can buy their work. This place is supported by the royal family. It was set up to help people in rural areas of Thailand to gain valuable skills in order to help support themselves and their community.


The final day is a short one, but as I live in Samut Prakan, visiting the Three Headed Elephant at the Erawan Museum and the nearby Ancient City shouldn’t take us too long. If you are in Bangkok, then you would need to have a full day to come here. Both of these are highlights and you need to spend as much time as you can. We will go to the Erawan Museum first as you have to join a tour. The three-headed elephant is massive. There is a lift in the rear leg and it takes you up into the belly of the elephant. The Ancient City is a great place to go if you don’t have time to visit all of Thailand. Basically you can see replicas of all the most important buildings and monuments from around Thailand. It is a massive 300 acre park that you can explore on foot or by bicycle. If you drive around in a car, it would take you at least two hours to see the highlights. Really you need all day to do it justice. It is a great place to take photos of yourself and pretend to your friends how much you traveled!

That is the basic plan. I will let you know later how we get on. Feel free to post comments. However, if you have any questions or need help in planning your trip to Thailand, then please post on our forums.

Siam Ocean World Doubles Prices

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the Siam Ocean World in Bangkok first opened its doors to the general public. I remember visiting during the first week. I gave it a good review though I also said that I thought the 450 baht price tag was a little expensive for what they were offering. It is not exactly world class and I have certainly seen better elsewhere. America, Australia and even Singapore have better aquariums. But, it is one of the best on offer in Thailand. I also gave it a thumbs up because it was charging the same for Thai people and foreign tourists. But, not any longer.

Last week I found myself back at Siam Paragon. I wasn’t planning on visiting Siam Ocean World as it was a bit too expensive for a return visit. However, my sister and her family are coming to Thailand at the end of this month and I was doing some research. I wanted to check on the prices. Imagine my horror when I spotted that the prices had more than doubled for children and had considerably increased for adults. This small time aquarium is now charging a staggering 850 baht for adults and 650 baht for children! Not only that, they have gone down the road of double pricing. As usual, the management are ashamed of this so they try and hide the real prices from foreign tourists. Prices are normally written in Arabic numerals like Western countries. But, they decided to use the rarely used Thai numerals instead. Shame on them.

I don’t know what their excuse can be. Why did they choose to be so greedy at a time when people around the world are tightening their belts. I know many Thai people have this impression that all foreigners are rich. They say that if they can afford to fly to Thailand then they must have lots of money. But, what they fail to realize is that many of these people saved up for years for this once in a lifetime holiday abroad. That in fact, the airfare alone would have depleted most of their holiday spending power and that they would have little left for the actual holiday itself. For my sister, this is their first holiday abroad as a family. With five of them, you can imagine how long it took them to save up for this holiday.

One of the excuses that places like Siam Ocean World give for charging exorbitant prices for foreigners is that this is the kind of price you would pay back home. If not more. But, why do you think people come to Thailand? Ask any Thai person and they will say the beaches. That is not exactly true. I have seen more pristine beaches elsewhere. Others will say the national parks with the wildlife and waterfalls. Again, I have personally seen much better elsewhere. So, why do people come to a place like Thailand for a holiday? The answer is, because it is cheap. You can have a meal on the street for not much more than $1. You can buy the latest Hollywood movies for $2 and fake brandnames for $5. So, who in their right mind would travel half way across the world to visit an aquarium that is the same price as back home?

Quite frankly, I think many of these tourist attractions that overcharge foreign tourists are only hurting themselves in the long run. As word spreads about the double price policy in Thailand and how expensive it can be for families, then people will start voting with their feet. Thailand has had a good run with their “Amazing Thailand” advertising campaign but it is all starting to get a little stale. The paintwork is starting to chip and people are starting to see what is really behind the Thai smile. Just take a look at the increase on reports of scams over at

Come on Thailand, wake up. You have a beautiful culture and a beautiful land. Don’t spoil it with greed. It is time to face the truth and do something about it. Otherwise, emerging markets like Vietnam and to a certain extent Cambodia and Laos will soon overtake us as the regional hub for tourism.

UPDATE JANUARY 2011: The price for foreign tourists has now risen to 900 baht.

The Rains Retreat in Thailand

It has come to that time of year when we take part in processions around the temple and make offerings to the monks. The full moon in July marks the start of the three month long Rains Retreat. Thursday 17th July 2008 is Asarnha Bucha and the following day is Khao Phansa which marks the official start. These are public holidays and many people will go to the temple early in the morning to make merit. Then they will be back in the evening to take part in candlelight processions around the main stupa. They will also listen to sermons and many of them will make an effort to keep the Buddhist precepts. If you are on holiday in Thailand at the moment, you should be aware that this holiday is alcohol free.

This past week, many schools in Thailand visited one of their local temples to make merit. Our school went as well. We took along a two metre high candle which will be kept alight for the entire Rains Retreat. We also took buckets of food and basic essentials for the monks. And of course lots of money. The temples do very well at this time of year. On arriving at the temple, the school band led a procession around the ordination hall. We did this in a clockwise direction three times. We then went inside the sala to make an offering to the monks, take part in some chanting and then listened to a sermon from the abbot.

The tradition of the Rains retreat dates back to the time of the Lord Buddha. He made it a rule that during the rainy season monks shouldn’t go wandering around the countryside as they could damage crops and insects underfoot. So, for the next three months, the monks have to choose a temple where they will stay. This week has seen a number of Thai adults ordaining as monks. This is traditional for Thai males to become a monk at least once in their life. In fact, they are not considered a full man until they do so. If they work in a government office, then they are entitled to paid leave while they are in the monkhood. These days they usually only become a monk for a couple of weeks. However, if they become a monk during this time, they have to stay until the end of the Rains Retreat as no-one is allowed to leave during this period.

About 95% of the people in Thailand are Buddhists. However, a recent poll of Bangkok residents revealed that only 25% would make merit at the temple on Asarnha Bucha Day. Then only 19% said they would take part in the candlelight procession. That is sad to hear as Buddhism is more than a religion. It is a way of life here in Thailand. If people start abandoning Buddhism, what does this say about the state of the nation? How much of it can we blame on the economic situation?