I'm flying out to Bangkok tomorrow to attend a PROCAP training course. I've been looking forward to doing this course for close to a year now, and it will be a great opportunity to not only develop some new deployable skills, but also meet some interesting aid workers and learn from their experiences.
I've flown through Bangkok airport way too many times to count, but had never been into the city. I was looking forward to checking out the sights (and by sights I mean markets) in the free day I have before the course starts, but certain protests have put a stop to that. The course has been moved down to Pattaya, so hopefully there will be plenty of shopping opportunities to be had there.
A few weeks after I started my first job in the humanitarian sector, I was sent to Thailand for a conference about philanthropy in disasters, with a particular focus on the Asian tsunami of 2004. The conference was held in Phuket, and after the stress of facilitating my very first workshop, I was then free to enjoy the presentations and the sights of the beach town. That was my first experience with bargaining and I quickly became a hard talker. The process of bargaining: the polite exclamation at the first price, the ridiculously low counteroffer and then the back and forth until an agreement was reached was so fun for me.
But I still remember the bargain I couldn't get. There was a particular t-shirt, with a pop-art style cartoon of a woman with a thought bubble coming out of her head. She was thinking "Global warming is coming....now where did I put my bikini?" I thought it was fantastic. I bargained. I bartered. But the woman just wouldn't budge. So I walked away, thinking I'd find it at another store. I didn't, and when I went back a couple of days later, the top was gone. In my quest for the best bargain I could make, I'd let it go over a price of about 30 cents. It wasn't a particularly bitter pill to swallow, and I learned a valuable lesson: yes, it's important to bargain (and fun!) but at the end of the day the storeo wners need that 30 cents much more than I do.
Hopefully I'll have some interesting stories and photos to share while I'm away. In the meantime, take a jump over to my other blog, The Travel Tails to see a post by a very special guest blogger: my Mum! :-)