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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chiang Mai: An Expensive Day

I was working off-line on my laptop, and since I was only going spend a few minutes on the computer, I didn't plug it in. Of course I got all wrapped up in something, and suddenly, boom, my machine shut down. I assumed the worst. The work was lost. So I decided to ignore the problem and do some errands.

I traded my book, and then, full of self-pity, bought another. Then I noticed a skirt on sale at a small shop. It looked big enough. I tried it on. It fit. Following worldwide shopping laws, I bought it. Then I picked up some medication that I needed. While I was exerting all this effort I worked up an appetite, a big one, a couple of times. So I further indulged myself in expensive meals.

Now, before you think I have totally lost my mind, let me go over these extravagances. Not counting the medication, of course.

First, the books. On the face of it, used paperbacks cost as much here as new paperbacks at home. That is a result of the shops setting prices at about half of their original cost. Most of the books here are published in the UK, where a regular paperback costs about twice what it would in the US. Half of the UK price turns out to be the same as the US price for a new book. However, if I trade the book on a new book at the same store, I will get half of what I paid back as a credit on the new book.

Today I traded in a book and got 100 baht in credit. I then bought one that cost 200 baht, for a cash outlay of 100 baht. When I return that book, I'll get another 100 baht credit. It is certainly a system that builds customer loyalty. The second book also cost 200 baht, but at a different store. When I trade it in, I will again get a 100 baht credit. I guess the profit comes from the tourists who move on quickly, never collecting their half, and from that first puchase.

My total book cash outlay today was 300 baht, and I will get 200 baht credit, so I really only spent 100 baht, or about $2.88.

Second, the skirt purchase. I liked it, it fit, and it was on sale, so I was compelled to buy it. I paid 150 baht, or $4.89, for it.

And finally, food extravaganzas. My huge lunch was 180 baht, and my glass of wine and gnocchi at dinner cost 210 baht. So the two extravagant meals cost 390 baht, or about $11.14.

On top of all of this, my travel pocketbook died a dreadful death last week, and I bought a new bag. Of course this wasn't exactly an extravagance, but it still feels as if I have been spending a lot.

No wonder I feel guilty! And it turns out that I didn't lose anything I had been working on, so I had no real reason for such over-the-top outlays.

Obviously, I have mentally adjusted to the Thai cost-of-living.

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