A Travellerspoint blog

Microeconomics and Tacos

Winter Vacation 2008/2009

sunny
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For dinner tonight, we went for Mexican food again. This time we went to a more upscale restaurant, not the smoky pub like last time (the food at the smoky pub tasted better, though). We were seated outside at our table, and there two other couples were there too. Over the course of dinner we had one child come up and try to sell us a rose, one child come asking for money and another two sisters come and offer to sell us roses. The sisters were the last to arrive; we shook off the younger sister (who was maybe six years old) and she moved further into the restaurant. The older sister (about nine by our estimation) followed her little sister part way into the restaurant and stopped next to our table. I took a good look at her and thought, Wait. I teach students her age English in Japan. My students (well, their parents) pay ¥2500/hr (~CDN$25) to take a class with me and this girl of the same age is trying to sell me a rose for ten baht (~30¢). Why? Is it as simple that one was born in Japan and the other Thailand? That doesn’t seem right.

This isn’t the first time we’ve run into this in southeast Asia. When we went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia two years ago, we went to see the sunrise. It was early and dark; I could barely see three feet in front of me. But, I definitely heard the little voice in the dark that said, “Coffee, sir? One dollar.” I didn’t buy coffee then, but after the sunrise I bought a cup from one girl. While it was brewing I was swarmed and surrounded by five or six other girls selling scarves, pants, postcards, etc., all before they went to school. Why? Is it that tourists have a harder time saying no to children? That doesn’t seem right.

While I looked at the girl standing by our table clutching the bouquet of roses, I tried to figure out what she was thinking. Was she thinking, “Why aren’t these people buying roses? They have lots of money.” Or “Mom’s going to be mad that I didn’t sell a rose.” Or “I want to be like these people when I get older.” Or is she trying to take care of and help out her little sister. Or does she not know anything different and this is normal? I mean, I had a paper route when I was her age but I spent my money on hockey cards. Or I saved my money to spend it on hockey cards later. I only assume the money that they would get from selling roses would go to support their family.
This raised the question of how we, as tourists with money, deal responsibly with children selling us roses (or anything else). Do we not buy a rose in the hopes that the children, or their family, don’t become dependent on the money? Is it too late to stop the dependence anyways? If we don’t want a rose do we ignore them until they go away? Do we say “No, thank you”? Do we humour them? Or do we buy a rose hoping to create a dependency on selling roses and pray that they never get involved in the sex trade? Or as Courtney suggested, do we buy all the roses, give them a book and tell them to go home and read? What is the correct answer? More importantly, is there a correct answer to this problem?

Is poverty something that we, as individual tourists, can help to alleviate? If we buy all the roses from the children and give them a book, most times their parents will just give them another bouquet of roses to go out and sell. If we can’t attack this problem on a case-by-case basis, how can we solve this problem? Poverty is an issue that can definitely be solved. It’s just how to do we do it. I don’t know how; I hope people that are much smarter than me have some ideas.

All of these thoughts ran through my mind in about one minute. Discussions of philosophy and microeconomics over tacos and nachos.

Over the rest of the day we did do other things. We visited Wat Bupparam in the morning before proceeding to the river to try to catch a scorpion-tailed boat cruise down the river. We were too late to catch the boat we wanted, so we just walked back toward Ta Phae Gate in the blazing hot midday sun. We stopped at a couple of shops to poke at souvenirs along the way.

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This afternoon we got a taxi up to Wat Doi Suthep, located approximately 1600 m up the mountain. Our red truck taxi dropped us off at the bottom of stairs.

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306 stairs, specifically, and up we went. We didn’t realize there was a cable car until our way down. As we were hefting ourselves up the stairs everyone in front of us stopped and waited on the side for military members and a gathering of people to pass. Later we heard the Queen of Thailand was there today. We eventually made it to the top but it took us a while to recover from the ordeal.

This temple is one of the most visited and important temples in Chiang Mai; there were a lot of tourists, both Thai and non-Thai. One of the stories about this temple is that an elephant was carrying some relics up the mountain. When it reached the top of the mountain it trumpeted 3 times then lay down and died. Needless to say, they decided to build the temple in that exact spot. Here are some shots from around the temple complex.

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There were a lot of bells surrounding the central viharas, which everyone felt the need to ring. And they rang
them all.

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It got annoying the second time I heard all the bells. GAH! It would be fine if it happened once but almost everyone rang the bells. Well, here’s me ringing ONE bell.

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On our way down the mountain, we sat next to a retired teacher from Montreal and his friend, also a teacher from Montreal. He retired last year and has been travelling around SE Asia for a while. We did a little more shopping and finally got our new clothes finished. Now we are relaxing and putting off packing. We are heading to Luang Prabang in Laos tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by agc_cwm 20:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Cooking with Andrew and Courtney

Winter Vacation 2008/2009

sunny 30 °C
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Today was our Thai cooking course. Before we arrived we booked a course with the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. It was the first cooking school set up in Chiang Mai and has an outstanding reputation. By the end of the day, we agreed.

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We met at the cooking school at 10 am. There were 16 people in our session. Thankfully the cooking school is set up to handle lots of students and we each had our own work station.

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They divided us into two groups, and we were then shuttled off to the local market for our introduction to traditional Thai ingredient. Our teacher/guide took us around and showed us the different types of herbs, roots, and rice that are used in Thai cooking. Here are some shots of food Court took at the market.

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After we got back from the market we went into the demonstration room where the teachers showed us how to make the dishes. Once she went through making the food we went back to our workstations and tried to make it ourselves then we’d sit down and eat. Then repeat the process for all 6 dishes.
The first dish we made was tom kha gai, or chicken in coconut milk soup. It tasted excellent and everyone was amazed at how easy it was make.

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The second dish we made was raad nah muu , fried thick noodles with thick sauce and pork. There was a thick sauce on the noodles that tasted like a mixture of molasses and soy sauce. This was our favorite dish of the day.

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The third and fourth dishes we made were ( Gaeng Phed Plaa , red curry and fish and, phad hed ruam khao pod om, fried mixed mushrooms with baby corn. We ate these two dishes together for lunch. Not that we were really hungry after the first two dishes, but they still tasted very nice.

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The fifth dish we made was khanom kluay, steamed banana cake. It had to be steamed and it was dessert, so we ate it last. This was a very sweet dessert that was relatively easy to make. The consistency as similar to uncooked muffin batter, but still tasted great. It was also a good counter taste to the spice from earlier in the day.

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While waiting for our banana cakes to steam, we prepared our sixth dish, som tam, or green papaya salad. For this dish you had to crush garlic and birds-eye chilies using a mortar and pestle. The more you crush the chili, the spicier your salad gets. I thought I wasn’t crushing the chili pepper too much but then when we got to eating, it turned out I crushed it too much. The salad was a lot spicier than it should have been. Oh well. Next time. It still tasted good. We also forgot to take a picture of this. Epic fail.

We finished up the cooking course around 3:15. And we all went on our way. There was an Australian family of three that are heading to Laos tomorrow, we are heading there on Monday, so we won’t be surprised if we see them there.

We had some sunlight left and a nice blue sky, it was time to go look at some more ats , temples. These wats are usually a whole temple complex not just the temple. Most of them have a main temple area, living quarters for the monks, chedis and other structures depending on the location.

There were a few in the old town area that we hadn’t seen yet and set out in that direction. We got to the first temple complex and I realized I was wearing shorts. It is extremely rude to wear shorts into a temple. I had to run back to the hotel and put on my pants then hustle back to meet up with Courtney. We went to three different wats this afternoon.

The first wat we went to was Wat Phan Tao.

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The second wat we went to was Wat Chediluang Varaviharn. In this complex there was an enormous chedi that was slowly and painstakingly being rebuilt.

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The last wat we went to was Wat Phra Singh. We didn’t stick around here too long. We had to go for our second fitting at the tailors and, more pressingly, find a bathroom for Courtney.

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After this we made our way back to the tailor tried our clothes on again. They fit better this time. We also strolled through the night market and ate some Greek food for dinner. We were handed a flier for but decided to skip out on the Thai Ladyboy Beauty Contest tonight. Now we are back at the hotel getting ready for bed and another busy day tomorrow.

Posted by agc_cwm 21:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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