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November 1992

This was my first trip to Thailand.

The aerial view on approach to Bangkok consisted of a flat farming area with rectangular plots & tree lines, much like some areas in Alberta. Fields appear dry but trees are green. On landing the airport appears like any other. Clearance was quick & easy.

I meet the company driver and went to the office. Bangkok covers a large area with many low buildings, mostly old, however the business districts are newer and have a lot of high-rises. Traffic is very busy and not well controlled and the road system appears confusing. Very few English road or advertising signs, almost all in Thai.

There are motor cycles everywhere. At a red light or in a traffic jam they thread their way to the front of the line-up and form a pack at the front, sometimes by the dozen. When the light changes they all race away in a pack with engines screaming and much smoke from the exhausts. Most bikes are small (50-70cc) and they rev very high & loud.

The air is quite warm (30C) but quite dry and very dirty with fumes, dust etc. Most vehicles are diesel and many trucks belch black smoke. The pollution is enough to irritate my eyes and throat. Some people are wearing face masks.

There appeared to by very heavy security in one area with lots of army and police. Apparently the King was in a passing cavalcade and security is very tight wherever he goes.

Weatherford’s office has a nice outer appearance compared to many of the surrounding buildings, however, it must be reached by way of a narrow passage way to the back of the building and up three flights of narrow stairs. This type of "low key" entrance seems to be normal as the hotel entrance is arrived at through a dingy alleyway, as was the SGVN building that I visited later.

All buildings have security guards and gates. Many of the guards are dressed in impressive uniforms, boots etc. and carry whistles which seem to make them feel important.

It is almost impossible to get anywhere on time because of the traffic. The car that was to take me from the hotel to SGVN was 1 hour late then drove like a mad man to get me to the meeting.
It took over 15 minutes to find a cab after the meeting and the driver took over an hour to drive back to the hotel as compared to 20 minutes going the other way. Addresses and directions to drivers must be in Thai and even then they tend to get lost.

The local people are very friendly and hotel staff understand English to a certain extent – the most common expression seems to be "one moment please" as nobody does anything fast (except drive).

Lack of work safety is amazing and evident everywhere. I saw:

  • welders without masks
  • workers walking along power or phone lines with saws in order to cut tree branches. There were several layers of wire so they made like a tight rope walker between poles and slung the saw over their shoulder, walked along the bottom level and held on to a higher level, arrived at the next branch and cut.
  • on the road to the airport a new elevated toll way is being constructed directly above the flow of traffic. Workers, cranes etc. operate above and beside the traffic which is very heavy because it is a major roadway.
  • scaffolding on the face of a 5 story building under repair consisted of 2x4s nailed together.

I walked around the area in the vicinity of the hotel.  Most buildings are 3 to 4 stories facing small narrow lanes (which are actually busy streets). The ground floor is commercial and is mostly dark, dingy and dirty. There are a few food areas which are darker, dingier and dirtier. The whole area appears to border on a slum and most areas I passed through do not seem much different. The hotel and some other buildings stand out because they are clean and well kept.

The Taxi drivers are bandits. They will not give change or receipts and will not understand English. I gave one driver 120 baht for a 105 fare which was only that high because he got lost and the money was in his pocket in a flash with no offer of change. I arrived at the airport with the meter reading 120 baht and the driver insisted on 200 baht (this much English he knew). He had turned off the meter as soon as we stopped so I had no way of arguing. The hotel had estimated 300 baht so I accepted the B200 fare with only a little argument.

For lunch at the airport I had "Green Thai Chilli Beef" which was described as medium spicy. It was hotter than hell!!. It consisted of beef strips in a gravy with a few vegetables and what I thought were green peas. These turned out to be small green chilli peppers.