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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reflections on Thailand

Did you know....

...that running around Bangkok for a full day, then hopping on a plane at 11:20pm and traveling for 30 hours, and then eating a hamburger with your sister and spending a few hours with your inlaws before finally crashing at 7:30pm Central Standard Time is really, really exhausting?

...that sleeping for 11 hours feels AMAZING?

...that completely bamboozling your internal clock so that it does not know or care what time of day it is makes it MUCH easier to get back on schedule?

... that curry is still delicious even after you eat it for every single meal for 13 days in a row?

...that praying mantises...manti.... mantees...??? like to hang out in hotel bathrooms?

...that lying on the beach for eight days reading books is, in fact the life?

...that unfortunately, you have to come back to reality sooner or later...

And unfortunately, reality has returned.

Don't worry - pictures from Thailand are coming! They are on their way and there will be posts full of them. Oodles of noodles of pictures! But, this is not that post.

Here are some things about Thailand that really intrigued the marketer in me:

Value added = ??
In my business strategy class, my professor drove into all of our little brains the concept that, if a company is going to own two businesses/products/etc (i.e., Disney buying Pixar), they should create more value together than they would alone. I'm not sure this concept applies in Thailand. In the small village near our hotel on Koh Pha Ngan, every sandwich shop was not merely a sandwich shop - it was a Sandwich Shop-slash-Laundry Service-slash-Taxi Service-slash-Gift Shop. There was also the occasional Restaurant-Slash-Massage-Parlor, as well as my personal favorite, the Pharmacy-slash-Used-Bookshop. Come again? I think the economy of small island villages functions differently than that of the western world - in order to make enough profit to get by, you need to adopt a different strategy.

Same Product, Different Product
Another thing that amazed me was how a service that is literally exactly the same, can be marketed and sold completely differently, to two completely different consumer segments, in two countries that are not all that far from one another. In India, the Autorickshaw is by far the cheapest form of transportation. In Thailand, the Tuk-Tuk (which is exactly the same thing as an autorickshaw - a glorified golf cart) is by far the most expensive.

Ben and I took Autorickshaws everywhere in India, and it was dirt cheap. The ride isn't quite as comfortable and there is no AC, and the assumption is that foreigners and travelers will want the more comfortable, luxurious option. Taxis are for tourists, Autorickshaws are for the locals.

In Thailand, it is exactly the opposite - people see the Tuk-Tuk as a tourist thing. Even though it's not as comfortable or convenient, foreigners want to ride the Tuk-Tuk because it is a novelty - the best comparison I can think of are trolleys in San Fran. From what we saw, Tuk-Tuk passengers were almost exclusively tourists. Because the demand is switched, the prices are too. Madness.

Where are the 'murricans!!??
Over our entire stay in Thailand, Ben and I saw maybe 2 or 3 other travelers from the U.S. There were about a gajillion Germans, slightly less than a gagillion people from France, a handfull of Brits, Aussies and Irish, a few from China or Hong Kong, and almost no Americans. It was kind of refreshing. We talked to a lovely couple from London, had post-dinner drinks with a guy from Norway who had recently retired from the Norwegian Secret Service and used to play professional Soccer (excuse and picked up a tag-along German friend for part of the day in Bangkok. It makes sense when you think about it - getting to Thailand takes an entire day from the US, but for Europeans it is more like traveling to Europe is for us.

Well that is all! Again, sorry for all the boring words and no pictures. Pictures are coming. Wedding reception is coming. Have a lovely Tuesday - peace out.

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