Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jet Airways - Value for money ?

A quick scan of the internet for the cheapest flights between Thailand and the UK will invariably throw up the name of Jet Airways (india) as offering the best deals. But could paying less cost you more?
            Not put off by the chaotic transit process in Mumbai, i recently flew with Jet Airways for no other reason than it was the cheapest flight i could find.    A few days before departure i decided to change my travel dates. I phoned the Jet Airways office in Bangkok and, after being assured that i was entitled to a change of dates free of charge, i changed my itinerary with no fuss or bother.
               The next day i received an e-mail to confirm my new dates and a notification to say that i would be charged 1500 Baht at check-in for the change of date.  I phoned again and i was told that if i didn't pay the charge then i wouldn't be allowed to travel on my new dates.
                 On the day of departure i pleaded ignorance and poverty at the check-in desk but they stood firm  and weren't prepared to check me in without payment. So it was a simple case of pay up and shut up.
                 Let's fast forward to the return leg of the journey.   The young lady at the Heathrow check-in desk told me that i had to pay £31 for a change of date. I told her that i had already paid the fee some 3 months ago in Bangkok. She said that the payment wasn't showing on her system and the same rules as before applied.  So i had no choice but to pay AGAIN !       So, in summation, i payed TWICE  for a service that was supposed to be free of charge. (over £60)
service with a smile
Just to finish the story and properly besmirch the name of Jet Airways, I've one more thing to add.   On the flight to Deli, the attendant served everyone but me with their in-flight meal. She returned after 20 minutes to clear every ones trays and it still didn't register with her that i was sitting with an empty fold down table in front of me. The penny still hadn't dropped as i stowed the flaps of the table and told her "That was delicious" while sarcastically patting my tummy.
                                   You will all be familiar with the expression "service with a smile", well, i only got the smile !!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Floods in central Thailand

I went into Nakon Sawan city yesterday. It's the biggest place of note in the area and it watches over the Chao Praya river as it flows south to Bangkok where it spills into the Gulf of Thailand.    Rivers bring many good things to an area. But apart from the obvious benefits they also bring the threat of flooding when not properly managed.  Most rivers are almost impossible to tame and the Chao Praya is no exception. At this time of year mother nature reminds everyone that she is still in charge as the water rises to bank- breaking levels.
The local authorities in Nakon Sawan have dumped thousands of tons of ballast along the most vulnerable sections of waterfront. The second line of defence is a wall of sandbags. The third line, and this is what i witnessed first hand yesterday, is hundreds of people armed with buckets and basins. I edged forward to see that the water had seeped through the ballast but was held at bay (for the time being) by the sandbags. Ripples licked at the top of the ramparts and from time to time splashed over onto the defenders feet. I had seen enough. I wished some of the people "good luck" and made my way back to the truck that was parked close by. Some of them gave me a forced smile through tight lips but most of them had a look of resignation to their impending fate.
On the 45 minute drive back to Takhli, i noticed that most low lying areas had already succumbed to localized flooding.

not recommended
In several places, just the apex and a foot or so of roof gave a clue to the presence of the dwelling beneath. Several pumps were optimistically pumping water back into ditches whose sides had already been breached. But all efforts seem to be futile in the face of such a powerful and unforgiving adversary.

certainly not recommended
 Today, my thoughts are with the people who will have to put their homes and lives back together after the inevitable. Most of them on an annual basis.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Save money in Thailand

We are all looking to save money here and there whenever we can. In that respect, rural Thai people are no different than the rest of us. One way of saving money in Thailand is to manufacture your own fuel for cooking. Namely, charcoal.
          The method seems to be as follows:   First, dig a pit in the ground. The size of the pit all depends on how ambitious your plans are. Some people produce just enough charcoal for personal consumption while others have turned this process into a commercial enterprise and produce enough to sell on for profit.
           When the pit has been dug it should be lined out with a stack of wood. The wood is then covered with a layer of straw. The straw is then piled high with a mixture of straw and dirt. A length of drainpipe or any sort of hollow tube is inserted to allow an oxygen supply. The waist high pire is then set alight. My limited understanding of the process is that the wood inside is "baked" rather that actually burnt, thus charcoal is produced.
                         So just how viable is this activity as a way to save money? Let's do the maths.   A re-fill for the propane gas bottle that we use to cook with costs 300 baht. This lasts about 3 months. My wife assures me that ,if we cooked exclusively with charcoal, we would consume 3 large bags over the same time period. The charcoal costs 100 baht per bag. So there's no difference in the cost. This is where Thai and western thinking part company. The Thais think that no matter how much time, sweat, toil and getting covered in black soot from head to foot is involved, as far as they are concerned they have acquired the charcoal for "free".      As a westerner i subscribe to the theory that there is always a cut off point that makes any potential saving "just not worth the effort".
                So am i being practical or lazy by paying 300 baht for the gas?     What would you do?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Under cover of the night

For the past few weeks i have been coming home from work in darkness. There are a number of problems associated with this,       In this part of the world, the light starts to fade buy there is very little twilight time. Within 25 minutes it's pitch black.    Just 20 minutes difference in the time of your journey will dictate just how many insects you swallow along the way.   Apart from ingesting the creatures, i've also been hit full in the face by larger bugs. One of them had particularly hard wing cases and was very painful.
                          Another thing that makes my journey fraught with danger is the amount of people that don't seem able to distinguish between day and night and travel the pitch black roads with no lights. I've had a few near misses with such people. Some of them continue to think that it's ok to ride on the wrong side of the road if they are only going a few hundred yards before turning right. This practice is dangerous enough during the day. But at night with no lights is a recipe for disaster.
                          The closest call i've had to date was with an elderly gentleman pushing a handcart that was piled improbably high with logs and branches. His cart was unlit and appeared from nowhere out of the gloom. I just managed to swerve at the last second to avoid him. I came close enough for a twig on one of the branches to throw a scratch across my left cheek. Of course, in the finest traditions of being a farang in Thailand, it would have been "my fault" if i had ploughed into him!
                          Then there is the surface of the road itself. Traveling the same route to and from work every day, i pride myself on knowing where all the potholes and cracks in the tarmac are waiting to damage man and machine. It's amazing how very different everything looks after sunset. My headlight throws sinister and unfamiliar shadows on the surface. The beam has to be dipped and my concentration confined to just a few yards in front. Under these conditions hazards appear out of the darkness almost before it's too late to avoid them.  Add to this confusing mix the odd pedestrian wandering aimlessly along the unlit rural roadways and you have a dangerous and stressful journey home at the end of the day.
                      My timetable at work doesn't change again until the end of April when i will again be coming home in daylight. Until then i will just have to take my chances.    Wish me luck !