Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Supernatural Dolls of Thailand

The Supernatural Dolls of Thailand

Just when you thought the world couldn’t get any more weird, along come the supernatural dolls of Thailand. These often child size dolls are selling as fast as cold beer at a Flame’s game.

These childlike dolls have been allowed their own seats on airplanes and their own portions of food in restaurants. They are something of a cultural phenomenon in Thailand. Not linked with any particular religion, the dolls are popular with superstitious members of the Thai population, who believe the dolls possess the spirit of a child, and, as such, are considered lucky.

The dolls have been around for several years now, but have gained popularity in recent months, as businesses cash in on their popularity by offering services for the dolls. It is reported that the dolls were thought up three years ago by 'Mama Ning', a woman from west Bangkok, who said she calls on a Hindu goddess to create a new soul for each Look Thep.

She also states that her first ever Look Thep, Petch, helped her tame the behaviour of her teenage son after she began treating Petch as her own child and taking him with her to temple.

But many owners of the 'child gods' or 'child angels', known  locally as Look Thep, are not content with merely keeping one of the dolls. Instead they believe that the better the dolls are treated, the luckier the owner becomes. This belief has led to owners splurging on designer clothes, meals and even plane tickets for the angels; in short, treating them as their own child.

Thai Smile Airways recently stated that child tickets could be bought for the dolls, to save them travelling as hand luggage or carry-on, on the understanding that they wore a seatbelt for take-off and landing, and didn't sit in an exit seat.

Meanwhile restaurant Neta Grill in Bangkok announced it would provide child-priced meals for Look Thep, provided all of the food was consumed, and therefore not wasted.

Ownership isn't cheap with dolls reportedly costing between $50 and $450 Canadian, before the expense of clothing, feeding and flying with them. But it's a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down.

I now have acquired the Canadian distribution rights to the supernatural dolls and am taking orders. They will be delivered upon our return to Canada in two weeks. And no, they will not be sitting next to me, they have their own charter plane!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Greatest Fears Of Living Overseas

The Greatest Fears Of Living Overseas

All of our experiences living abroad in Turkey, Poland, the Bahamas and now, for an extended time, in Thailand have all been memorable and 99% enjoyable. There is however, always a small nagging concern that something might go wrong and lead to an unsettling problem. During our travels I have developed a few minor fears. 

It may seem silly, but one of my biggest fears is that we will have a computer or Internet problem, thus disconnecting us from the technology that we have made such a vital part of our lives. In Turkey I severed my computer charging cord and in Thailand an iPad fell and the glass face shattered. In Canada, the simple solution would mean a five minute trip to the Apple Store for the quick fix.

In a foreign country, there are no quick technology fixes. First of all, if your own technology is unusable, your access to information whether the location of an Apple dealer or a computer shop is not easily available. This usually breaks me into a cold sweat and panic mode. Fortunately, with perseverance and fortitude I have always managed to find a dealer and solve the problems. But it is no easy task especially if you don’t speak the language. You can experience the same feeling by going to Chinatown in Calgary and entering an obvious Chinese herbal store and trying to ask for a remedy for hemerhoids from a merchant with limited English. It’s no small challenge!

In the same domain of anxiety, is an Internet problem. No email, no Google, no communication, no Skype, no fun! Usually Internet problems are local provider problems, but how do you know that? When the Internet goes down in a foreign country, the end of the world as we know it, is at hand. At least it is for me!

One of my biggest frights occurred in our first year living in Turkey when our bank in Canada froze my debit card. Since then however the banks have implemented security programs that can actually detect the validity of debit or credit card charges made overseas. As of this year, you don’t even have to inform your bank that you will be travelling overseas as you had to in the past. That is one fear that has now been eliminated. Not having access to your bank account can be very unsettling.

Sometimes we fear that we will be unable to obtain such things as proper medications, or emergency medical access. I have found that the pharmaceutical companies have recognized that there are customers for almost every product they manufacture everywhere in the world. Pharmacists in many countries are so well trained they are skilled at diagnosis and prescription for many ailments. 

Many travellers have concerns with potential natural disasters that might occur such as earthquakes or hurricanes, while some have become paranoid by the media coverage of local political issues and terrorist activities in some countries. While neither issue can be ignored, I have never been overly effected by these fears. Most of these dangers occur in a very short time frame, in a very specific location, and cannot be generalized to imply that an entire country is unsafe at all times. 

When I first went to Uganda I was asked why I would want to go there (the year after Idi Amin had been exiled) and my reply was that I had never been there. I am still motivated to visit any country or location if I have never been there. It is a force that continues to drive my travel plans today. When I first went to Turkey I was asked if I wasn’t afraid of the earthquakes (the previous year a major quake had killed over 17,000) and my reply was to ask if they had ever been to Disneyland and weren’t they afraid of earthquakes in California. 

So my travel fears are few. Perhaps strangely they do not include fear of terrorists, nor fear of natural disaster, nor fear of flying, but have been reduced to more simple things like access to technology. In my mind, the world is a pretty safe place if you take sensible precautions and do your pre travel homework. At least, that is my approach and I am going to stick with it.