"A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees." - Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Six Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty-Seven Dollars and Fifty-Six Cents

Day One in BKK hurt.  12 USD on the taxi from the airport, 10 USD for my bus ticket north, and about four  beers too many added up to 38 USD.  After exactly three months, I’ve officially spent my first thousand dollars.  I’ve already found ways to make it cheaper in the future, but 10 USD per day will be a difficult goal in Thailand. 

There’s something strange going on here.  I’ve been in Bangkok for about twenty-four hours, staying in a shithole, taking the bus everywhere, eating at food carts and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but somehow I keep being impressed by the luxury of the place, the unimaginable wealth of the country.  In Nepal the lights stay on for only eight to twelve hours a day unless you have a generator.  Here they’ve practically never heard of load shedding.   I’m shocked when I’m brought a cup of ice with my water.  “Wow!  Ice! And they’re just giving it away!”  There is very little garbage in the streets and consequently no cows and dogs eating from enormous heaps of trash.  The taxis all seem to be fully functioning cars, not liable to fall apart if you shut the door too hard.  I have visited Thailand before and remember seeing it as a poor place, an impoverished country.  In Nepal I was inclined toward the mentality that, although it is a developing country, everyplace seems poor compared to The States and Dubai.   After a day in Bangkok, I felt compelled to look it up.  As it turns out, no matter which source you prefer, (IMF, World Bank, CIA World Factbook) when you rank countries by per capita GDP, Nepal is about 100 spots lower than Thailand.   At the moment this gap is starkly evident to me.  The States, as expected, enjoys a spot 50 to 80 places above Thailand.  I’m finding it a little hard to remember what that kind of wealth feels like.            


  1. Perspective. I also thought Thailand was incredibly poor until we visited Cambodia.

  2. When I was traveling up towards Bangkok, everyone in Singapore and Malaysia was like "Oh, no! You're going to Bangkok? It's SO DIRTY!!!" (In all fairness, I'm pretty sure everywhere on the planet is considerably dirtier than Singapore...) I think that set up expectations well below the reality. Definitely a much harder life than most places in the US, but I thought it was funny how many other travelers found Bangkok to be unbearably dirty...