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some thoughts from Dozer
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The primrose path and other road stories

primrose path

One thing I realized during this project is that it is easy to be led down the primrose path. First off, our good friend the dirt man (dang) was suggesting just getting in there and doing it. A few pieces of heavy equipment and dirt and stone sold by the truck load would do the trick in a hurry. Good in theory, but you really can’t do a proper road without an engineer (should be elimental). Not to fault Dang at all, just a case of the carpenter will solve a problem by hitting it with a hammer, the plumber by flushing it away, the bricklayer by….., well, you get the idea.

why not have the government official do it

Next, at the suggestion of a participating neighbor, we entertained bids from a local government official. While we had looked a samples of his work and it seemed fine quality, there is really only so much one can pay for a tarmac (pressed gravel) road. It is like some chefs will always describe exotic food tastes as ‘something like chicken’. In this case the cost of any approach all were nearly as costly as doing a cement road. We didn’t want to do a cement road, because, among other things it is a public road, isn’t really necessary and a good gravel road will last about 7 years.

you can please all the people some of the time

There is a saying that goes something like ‘you can please all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can please all of the people all of the time’ (or was it fool all of the people…). A lot of prep work goes into doing a road. First off, we contacted the government official in charge of the area to coordinate with the neighbors, which he did admirably. Mrs. Dozer kept asking about the road application, shouldn’t we fill it out? No, said the official, I approve it, no need for any paperwork!

Maybe what that means is no need for any paperwork as long as no problems arise. After phase 1 of the road project was complete, one of the neighbors was complaining that the road level was too low. This goes to the ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time theory’. If you are growing potatoes, you probably would just as well have a high road. If you are building a house you would go for a road lower than the dirt level. In any event, the level of this road was in my opinion ‘choice’, about 30 cm. below dirt level.

In any event, an official complaint was filed and the upper boss said ‘Why didn’t you fill out a form 17 slash Bx4 before hand’. Because the government person in charge said not to. ‘Oh that’s not correct’. A long winded way of saying, no harm no foul, and thank goodness it is Thailand where Thai style solutions can be found for most everything.

I asked Mrs. Dozer, why didn’t you just insist on filling out that form. She said – that is another chapter in the book of learning and we won’t make that mistake again. Gee, not the book of learning again. By the time we get to the end of the book all the money we ever had will be gone and we’ll be living in a box under a bridge somewhere.

The other irksome thing about ‘non-participators’, those neighbors who benefit immensely by the project but refuse to chip in — that is bad enough. But to complain also is a bit of a slap in the face. You see, putting in the road is like sticking 10% of the value of the land in the person’s pocket – as it appreciates that quickly. Don’t chip in – OK – but slap my face – no thank you! Luckily I have two (out of three) good (and participating) neighbors!

don’t ask don’t tell

One day I was out looking at the road deep in thought about this project. Out of the corner of my eye I see a farang (Jack) and his Thai wife (Bo) making a b-line for me from the neighbor’s house. Sizing up the situation pretty quickly, I ascertained they are there looking at our neighbors one rai land plot for sale.

After a few niceties were out of the way, Bo cut right to the chase. How much was your land anyway? Still kind of in a blur and not really having time to talk anyway, the price rolled off my tongue. Now to describe the situation, I’d have to explain that the price of that particular piece of land meant very little, it was a large parcel purchased a while ago with no ready road access. The price per Rai was obviously going to be lower that a prepped up ready to go building plot at the current market prices. However, the price made her jaw drop — ‘so cheap’ she exclaimed.

At that moment I realized, sheepishly, that first off the price of our land plot wasn’t really her business and also that giving her the price certainly wasn’t very discreet. Kind of like trying to torpedo your neighbor with a ‘that land your looking at is too expensive’ (which I didn’t think it was). So after a few minutes of explaining about the differences and how much other land was selling for, we then went on to discussing the area in general.

The thought did cross my mind to say ‘keep what I said to yourself’, but I though that went totally without saying and also would have felt like it was a bit condescending to Bo had I said it. Wrong. She marched right in that house and beat the poor neighbor up with ‘Your neighbor, that farang guy there, says he bought his land for xxx and you’re trying to sell you land for zzz, how can you do that????’.

It all ended up OK, with the neighbor not irked at all in the slightest, but we both had a good laugh about the whole thing.

Note to self: when in doubt don’t blurt it out. Note to others: if somebody does you a solid don’t shaft them.

3 Comments

  1. I’m still learning too, dozer. In fact, I’m still at the stage where my wife says I’m sometimes “difficult” Although I haven’t made any overt societal mistakes other than to forget to say “Krap” sometimes after my feeble attempts at spoken Thai are blurted out – I know now how much I don’t know which is a lot.

    Out there in our little mooban the “pooyai’s” sister dropped by one day and proceded to “interrogate” me and the missus e.g. how much money does your husband make, give you, how much money you spend on house etc. I was cool but I forgot that damn “krap” a couple times!

  2. Thanks Boon Mee. That is one thing I like about Thailand, there is always plenty to learn – keeps me young.

  3. Primrose baht

    Some nice observations there D. May I add my 2 cents worth.

    Firstly, any common parts are likely to be the subject of disputes no matter where you are in the world. Yes, any formalities must always be in writing. The spoken word is pretty much worthless, anywhere (but is much loved across the pond btw).

    Distrust everyone on principle – essential for survival – and a way of life in the LOS.

    Never disclose information for free. This is a cardinal rule throughout the whole of asia. For example, try asking a South Asian the way to some part of town. He will always give you an answer and directions even though he hasn,t the faintest idea himself (I am speaking from years of experience here)

    Thais (especially womenfolk) always ask impertinent personal questions particularly about money. “How much money falang give your every month”. I told my wife to answer vaguely saying words to the effects “Oh he is very handsome and takes care of everything” or exagerate enormously ” 50,000 baht”

    Never quote figures

    Its a sad fact that, once Thais see a flang in the vicinity, the price and the mischievous envy increase enormously. The book of learning does indeed cost dearly and will quickly gobble up your money.

    I always cringe at the news that a flang is in the region along with his “tilak” and they want to meet up for a beer. From bitter disappointing experience in the past, such encounters have always been very much to my disadvantage. I have an arrangement with my duckling whereby she contrives to be “mai sabai” with bubonic plague and confined to her mothers house nearby. I am thereby able to deal with the encounter on my flang terms – have a moderately civilised beer with the clueless flang (usually at my expense – why are these flangs so mean?), say very little and ignore the bar girl in tow. She quickly realises that there is no profit to be made here and prods the flang like a buffalo off to her relatives somewhere else where she can presumably fleece him into buying the whole village beers and thereby give her much personal aggrandisement etc. Its also a sad fact that said clueless flang doesn’t realise that the whole village knows what his girlfriend does for a living and she, therefore, has zero status particularly amongst local officials and influential persons. Its an extreme handicap trying to live up country if your dahling has been a bar girl. The only progress you make is by paying through the nose all the time. I have seen several sad cases living reclusively as terminal alcoholics in their half built hovels. They gave up trying to finish their houses because the price kept escalating from an initial 100,000 to more than 500,000 and still rising. The tilak concerned contrives with local officials and suppliers to double the price and split the difference between themselves. One guy was paying 10 baht for a 3.5 baht cinder block. I bumped into him at a local festival one time and told him the correct price. This of course precipitated an enormous row and I have gained a mortal enemy for my troubles. You get my point here? Where did I benefit from my humanity towards another flang?

    Lastly, in respone to your postscript. My wife has always stressed the importance of getting to know the “Right” Thai people who can be helpful. By and large she has been correct about this and we have generally profited from such good relationships – at the very modest expense of some simple beer and snacks. WE are contriving to have a 1M baht 11kV power line run past our farm next year, largely at government expense. The proof of the pudding will be whether we achieve this objective – Watch this space, I shall report frankly.

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