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?