IMBAs Onto Thailand
The morning of the New Year of the Horse, we left Cambodia and flew to Bangkok. Here we encountered the local custom of throwing water on passersby as part of the holiday celebration. This does not involve squirt guns or water balloons; we are talking about people with large buckets and hoses. We dodged the drenching on the way to dinner, but succumbed to the inevitable while returning to our hotel. This continued throughout the three-day holiday. The 100 to 110 degree temperatures at this time of year actually make this ritual sensible. There were super-soakers for sale, but they cannot hold a candle to buckets of water. I warned everyone to close their mouths.
We spent what was the third day of the holiday and water-throwing touring the highlights of Bangkok. We were only sprayed once, while touring the famous canals of city, and this was quite refreshing in the midday heat. More intriguing from a business perspective was the activity at the Buddhist Temples. To start the year auspiciously, locals come to the temple and present offerings. This food and money donated must support the temple and monks for the entire year, so there were lots of entrepreneurial twists to generate additional cash. The temples were packed with people and took on a carnival-like atmosphere. Venders sold food, flowers, incense sticks, special blessed water, special coins to be deposited into special buckets, totems to be rubbed, and even forms which visitors used to erect cones of sand which they brought from their local districts. The monks collect and use this sand. Beyond its practical use, this sand symbolizes the unity of all Buddhists.
Bangkok is a bustling and sprawling city; in this sense it reminded us of Beijing. Its highway system, plethora of automobiles, shopping malls, neon signs and upscale hotels were in sharp contrast to our experiences and observations in Cambodia and Vietnam. This infrastructure and marketing activity signaled additional discretionary spending and an emerging middle class. Our local specialists told us, however, that the malls are built in anticipation of this growth and development. “If we build it, they will come” seems to be the philosophy. We shall see if investors are patient enough to wait for returns based upon anticipation. Thailand is certainly a country we will continue to watch.