Burma is supposedly opening to foreigner tourists and businesses. I call it Burma because of the Burmese I know tell me they never did like their country being called Myanmar. "The name of our country is Burma, it always will be," said one young man who shall remain nameless.
Whether the so-called changes make a difference for the average Burmese citizen remains to be seen. For now, what I see as a tourist is higher prices. Everything is priced 100-300% than it was five years ago. On one of my first trips to Burma, I stayed in The Traders Hotel. It's a four or five-star hotel depending who tells you, but my cost was a paltry $55 a night. For the money, it was a fantastic hotel with the best breakfast in Yangon. So things have changed in Burma.
They've also changed at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.
It used to be that you would walk in, talk to the guard, and for 200-baht, he would take your passport, fill in your information, and tell you to come back the next day. Even though there were rarely more than four or five people applying for their visas at any time, for 200-baht, it was convenient.
Two trips ago, I talked to a Thai at the embassy who was clearly applying for multiple people. We walked down the street to a little shop and paid him the 810 application fee and 300 baht, maybe 400, and he delivered the passport to my home in Bangkapi. I went to the same shop this time, they wanted 2000 baht including the fee, and they weren't budging. So being cheap to pay 150% of the application fee and too stubborn to understand how their fee went up from 400 baht to 1200, I did it myself. I should have just paid them. As you'll see in the video below, the days of an empty embassy are long gone. Go early and be prepared to spend a couple hours to get your visa...unless you would rather take the easy way out and pay an agent.
Pattaya is the sort of place you either love with all your heart or despise enough to wipe it off the face of the map. I fall into the latter category but still feel everyone should go there at least once. In the videos below, I talk about an email I received from a guy who had problems with a particular maid at his hotel. Is he full of it or a dunce? Decide for yourself.
When people talk about Thai-Foreigner relationships in Thailand, for whatever reasons, they tend to talk about the bad and forget the good. There are always stories in the news about Thai women leaving foreign men with nothing but the truth is, many Thai-Foreigner relationships do work out.
For some reason, the interest in relationships is akin to the car accident on the side of the road. Everyone wants to slow down and take a look. What do you think sells more newspapers, Thai Woman Leaves American Man Homeless or American Man and Thai Woman Live Happily Ever? People take pleasure in seeing people or relationships fail, only to come back and emerge stronger. It is true that a good number of Thai women have taken foreign men for everything they owned. Sometimes the men are foolish, sometimes the women are greedy, and sometimes it is a combination of the two.
Sometimes, it is the foreign male who leaves the Thai woman in a worsened state. We rarely hear of this though. We rarely hear, 'She got half.' No, in Thai society, the wealthier party provides a lump sum payout instead of alimony and child support.
In this video, a man tells of his relationship with a Thai woman. By his own admission, the couple has had their share of ups and downs and communication breakdowns, but rarely is a marriage perfect. Rather than talking about the same old story, 'She broke my heart, she left me with nothing,' we hear about a man who has been in a four-year relationship. Although still cautious, he is in love and optimistic about their future.
Once in a while, happily ever after is better than drama.
What makes it even better is the low cost. The last time I got my hair cut in the United States was when I actually had a full head of hair. It's been nearly 20 years. A simple haircut ran $10-$12 plus a $5 tip.
Here in Thailand I get a hair cut, shave, nose and ear hair trim plus the wax cleaned out of my ears for 100 baht or $3.25. I get a manicure, pedicure, and foot scrub for 500 baht, or $16.60. It took me a while to accept going into a beauty salon but I deserved to be pampered. Thailand is one of the best places to be in the world if you like being pampered. Not many men are going to disagree with this.