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Land of Smog
Before I moved to Chiang Mai, I was warned that the air pollution could get quite bad here in the dry season, but I didn’t really believe it.
I believe it now!
As I look out my window at Doi Suthep, I see nothing at all…just a grey haze that totally obliterates the mountain…and I live close enough normally to be able to see the individual trees and contours of the hills!
Are the Governor and his officials completely blind and incompetent…or have they gone on a holiday to escape?
[Ed. A 50 million baht budget has been allocated to Chiang Mai province to combat this problem. According to Chiang Mai News, the first thing they did was spray water over the Governor’s Provincial Hall to reduce dust…]
I have cut and pasted two quotes from sites on the internet in reference to air pollution in Chiang Mai. I think they both speak for themselves:
In London, the United States and the European Union as a whole it is considered a serious pollution ‘episode’ if the PM-10 level exceeds 50.
For some reason, the Thai Pollution Control Department has set the ‘safe level’ to be anything less than a PM _10 of 120. Just to illustrate how high the levels can get in Chiang Mai, on 14th March 2007 PM _10 levels reached 303.9 _ catastrophically high by any standards.
Chiang Mai Air Quality Initiative Programme: Building Capacity of Thai Federal and a Provincial Air Quality Department.
This project is based on the cooperation and partnership between the United States of America and Thailand at national and local levels, to conserve and enhance air quality and to reduce noise level at the local level, namely Chiang Mai municipal area. It aimes for the municipality of Chiang Mai to be one of the healthiest cities in the world
The project which was approved in May of 2000 will officially started on July, 12, 2000.
Maybe it is time Thailand stopped resting on their laurels, realised the implications of their incompetence (health, tourism, jobs, world opinion) get over the fact that they are not a law unto themselves anymore, learn how to think ahead and catch up with the rest of the civilised world.
I appreciate that this is a developing country but many of the problems they are facing already have working solutions developed 50 to a 100 years ago in the west. All they have to do is get off their high horses and stand on the shoulders of giants. We need education, a sense of individual responsibility, alternatives to six water spray fans on Narawat bridge though it is good to see that the local thinktank has a sense of humour as well as a member who owns a fan factory.
Looking at the ridiculous welcoming sign at Chiang Mai airport, the first thing that visitors see when coming into Chiang Mai, it is obvious Thailand has a long way to go before admitting they need help though it is nice to see they do not mind being ridiculed.
Rose of the North, don’t make me laugh.
[i]Anon (for obvious reasons) I got to work here[/i]
Bad Vibrations Redux
A few weeks of mulling over the ‘bad vibrations’ article in the current Citylife magazine [March 2009] convinced me that doing nothing about excessive noise pollution is probably worse than sitting back and enduring it.
For what it is worth, it is my opinion that constructively expressing an opinion about something which is bothering, may well lead to improvement, whilst staying mum confirms the status quo and no improvement can, normally, be expected.
In other words, complaining is, or can be, the catalyst for improvement and not being heard means acceptance of a position and confirms stagnation.
It is axiomatic that farang, as a rule, come here for a quiet and pleasurable life. Acceptance of the local lifestyle is part of this and complaining about things which bother should perhaps not be high on the list of prerogatives.
But, for the sake of improved life quality for all concerned, I see nothing wrong in bringing unacceptable situations, such as for instance noise pollution, to the attention of controllers, in the hope and expectation that something positive may result.
I, for one, can state that I can count the nights of undisturbed sleep, in the moo baan where I live, on the fingers of one hand. Is there perhaps someone who can suggest positive action in order to improve the situation? That would be very welcome.
[i]Dr. HLJJ Meevis[/i]
Noise Pollution is an Age Issue
The noise level will decline in Chiang Mai over time due to the aging of the Thai population. The decibel level
tolerated by a group of people is a function of the age of the group. Your readership would no doubt prefer to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a western senior citizens’ home than at a rave party for western teenagers. According to the
CIA; the median age of the Thai population is 32.8. In the U.K. the median age is 39.9 and in Germany 43.4. The Thai king mentioned the noise level in bars when he was a coeval to half the local farang population, not when he was a young man. Older people have been complaining about noise since time immemorial in every culture.
For those who think Thailand is noisy; I suggest they go to Laos for a refresher course in Noise 101. There is a lovely bus that runs at night in between Vientiane and Pakse. The median age in Laos is 19.2. There is a gentleman who is armed with a machine gun who stands beside the bus driver. He leaves the bus only when it runs out of fuel and he then takes the motorcycle off the roof to find fuel. He controls the decibel level on the bus, which he adjusts each time the bus stops. I refused to be the cranky old man and suggest a lower level but the backpacker farangs who were about 20 years my junior took turns complaining successfully so, at each arbitrary stop made for the bus driver to sleep, eat etc. The turning down of the noise level was always met with a round of chuckling from all the Laotians. The decibel war between 17 year old Laotians and 25 year westerners was quite entertaining for them and for me, with the younger farang not seeing any humour in it. The young Laotian behind me asked me if all farang hated music and I told him that the backpackers were just a lot older than the locals. In the fullness of time, I am sure he will be complaining too.
In the meantime; if you want to live quietly; there are lots of gated communities in Punta Rassa, Florida where virtually all sources of dreaded noise have been eliminated and the decibel level is age appropriate and the median age a mere 79.7. The man with the machine gun there will no doubt be on the side of the low decibel lovers.
[i]Name withheld [/i]
Thank you Citylife and James Austin Farrell for highlighting one very ugly aspect of life in Thailand, i.e. pricing discrimination. [The Cost of Being Farang, March 09]
The story contained some very useful information and some revealing comments by Thais in authority.
For example, the anonymous lawyer said that tiered pricing is ‘illegal according to Thai law …’ That should be it; end of story. But no, as the lawyer said, ‘public and private businesses were sub-navigating constitutional Thai law’. Sub-navigating? Only a lawyer could come up with that term. Equals ‘breaking the law’. Say it, ‘public and private businesses are breaking Thai constitutional law’.
It’s not at all surprising that our Lady Mayor declined to comment on this ‘sensitive topic’….’at the moment’. I wonder when she will comment, if ever. I won’t hold my breath.
On to the Zoo Director, Khun Tanaphat, who said, ‘…if they look Thai they will get in for the Thai price’. There we have it, straight from the horses mouth. If you are Asian you won’t be penalised with farang prices. My dictionary defines racism as ‘prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races’. I suggest this is a ‘sensitive topic’ because it is intrinsically a racist practice.
What a pity the Director of TAT Chiang Mai, Khun Chalermsak, also declined to comment on this ‘sensitive topic’. His Bangkok office wrote to me last year describing discriminatory pricing as ‘unscrupulous’. I showed Khun Chalermsak the letter and we dwelt on the word ‘unscrupulous’. He knows what it means. To his credit though, Khun Chalermsak has assigned a colleague, Khun Auttapon, to communicate with the Provincial Governor, the Municipality, the Provincial Office of Tourism and Sport and with the Zoo Director in an attempt to end the discrimination.
Bottom line? Tiered pricing is illegal yet it has been common practice throughout Thailand for decades and no-one is enforcing the law. Why should they when it doesn’t affect them? They are Thai. Perhaps the Red Shirts might take up this issue in defence of we farang victims?
Over the years I have read many letters from foreigners, about being ‘Ripped off’ by Thai people. Well it is nice for me to show the other side of the coin.
I recently went to Phra Singh Post Office to collect a package from my mail box, which a friend had sent from abroad. When I picked up the package, I noticed that despite the top being well wrapped with strong parcel tape, the bottom had come undone. When I checked the contents of the package I found that three items were missing.
I approached the man in charge and explained what had happened and asked if they had been found, but he said “No.” He asked me what was missing and I told him “Some vegetarian food including mixed nuts.” He said “I am very sorry, this is for you,” and from his desk he gave me a small packet of nuts, that he had obviously bought for a snack. Despite me thanking him and declining his kind offer, he insisted that I had them in compensation for what I had lost.
This was a very generous gesture and made me realise why I love Thailand and the wonderful Thai people so much.