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Update  October, 2019

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Grapevine  The Associated Press

Grapevine - October 18, 2019 - October 31, 2019

The Changing World

Here are some predictions about how life in Thailand will change radically in the next 20 years. On transport, new transit systems and rail routes – including the one to connect U-tapao with Bangkok airports – will usher in ever expanding urbanization with greater commuter convenience. Pattaya is likely to be part of a huge Bangkok metropolis called a “Smart” city. Expect to see big data technology creating new sharing-economy businesses such as Ofa Bike, Panda Delivery, Uber, Grab Taxi and You Drink I Drive. It goes without saying that smartphone applications will play an ever-increasing part in people’s lives. QR code payments and e-tickets will replace cash for all forms of travel. Traffic congestion is likely to be eased as the cost of parking in city centres skyrockets and private vehicles are banned from downtown areas. Driverless traffic will be the norm by 2050.

Cashless Society

There is already a consumer switch to digital platforms which indicates a move away from Cash is King. PromptPay, the Thai government-inspired money transfer and payment scheme, was launched in 2017. Banks have largely scrapped digital transaction fees whilst the number of merchants accepting QR code payments is jumping annually as are all mobile banking transactions. Meanwhile, Thailand’s central bank is joining with its counterparts in ASEAN to develop cross-border digital banking whilst improving security measures. Bangkok Bank, for example, offers cross-border payments via standardized QR code in Japan and aims to extend digital payment services across ASEAN in the next phase.

Thailand is Ageing

Within two years Thailand will become an “aged society” in which one person in five will be 60-plus years old. Within 20 years, the elderly will make up 30 percent of the total population. New technology will enable family members to monitor their elderly relatives in real time, allowing them to reach out to medical staff in case of an emergency. Universities are offering “elderly classroom” programmes to boost the health of retirees by teaching the importance of proper nutrition, physical therapy, exercise and dental care. New senior-housing projects in major cities have already opened for both Thais and foreigners. Loneliness in old age may be partly compensated by robots who will be able to offer a range of skills, such as performing household chores and offering mechanical friendship. Indeed, robots are no longer just toys for children or imaginative machinery in movies. They have become key contributors to everyday social and work life.

Obsession with Social Media

Our obsession with social media and mobile application technology is fast creating a socially isolated society. Facebook, Instagram and the rest have begun to replace actual conversations between people. Applications such as food delivery services have become tools which users welcome to help address the issues of being stuck in traffic during meal times. More generally, social media often consumes people to the extreme point where their sharing, posting, liking, commenting and selfie-ing become obsessional. We increasingly worry how to perfectly filter photos so that we appear attractive to friends, acquaintances and strangers. Subconsciously, it may all be about keeping our “following” count lower than our “followers”. The overall result can easily be that users keep coming back to social media even though it doesn’t necessarily make us feel better and, indeed, can make us feel depressed. Some psychologists see the social media downside as one of the biggest social problems of the 21st century. The only answer can be to find outside activities to indulge and to meet people.

The Farang Future

How will Thailand’s tourists and expats be affected by the mammoth changes under way? The expat population here is too an ageing one. For them, the country is likely to become more expensive as traditional currencies – such as the pound, the euro and the dollar – depreciate against the baht and other Asian currencies. China’s regional influence will grow massively as she invests in infrastructure projects and technology throughout the region via huge loans which, of course, will have to be repaid. As the Thai workforce declines because of the decline of the birthrate over the past 20 years, workers from neighbouring countries will be recruited for the construction industry and for the services sector, especially food and hospital support services. While cities such as Pattaya will remain cosmopolitan, the emphasis will be on Asian tourism rather than the traditional sectors from Europe, America and Australia. Pattaya itself will continue to evolve into a high-class destination with the emphasis on business affairs, family entertainment, good class hotels, posh restaurants and exotic malls to equal any in Bangkok or other Asian cities. Pattaya is changing radically and those who still think it is essentially a venue for bachelors seeking a good time can’t see the wood for the trees.

September 06, 2019 - September 19, 2019

Unwelcome Restriction

The much-touted elite card visa allows farang to live in Thailand for 5-20 years on payment of between 500,000 and two million baht. It also carries perks such as fast track immigration and hotel and spa discounts. But, surprisingly, holders can obtain only a two year extension driving licence rather than the five years available to those with a one year visa or extension of stay. This is because the elite card visa has to be renewed every three months either by visiting an immigration office or leaving the country.

The Eyes Have It

While on driving licences, we hear that the Land Transportation Department has toughened up its policy on eyesight when you apply for a permit, or need to renew it. Apart from a brief exam for colour blindness, there has long been a vision-depth test where you have to determine when two moving sticks are parallel by moving them around on a hand-held device. The margin of error is a mere five percent and a lot more applicants are failing these days. Or so we are told.

Early Bird Necessary

Still at the extremely busy and overcrowded Land Transportation Department near Pattaya, the office opens at 8.30 am. If you are seeking a driving licence, the advice is to get there around 7 am to ensure you are within the quota for foreigners on that particular day. You will find an official seated just outside the locked office giving out queue ticket numbers. If you don’t believe that, then try arriving mid-morning and see what reception you will get. Come back tomorrow Mister.

The New Riviera

About 10 years ago, Pattaya was designated in marketing brochures by the tourism ministry as Thailand’s Riviera. The general idea was that our fair city could compete with the real Riviera on the Mediterranean coastline as a holiday and leisure resorts. But the same ministry has now earmarked the term Riviera for an area near the Malaysian border. There will be, eventually, a new highway connecting the Chao Phraya River with the Kolok River providing a scenic route to a tourist haven. Can’t compete eh?

Unfounded Rumour

Sorry to disappoint avid viewers but it is simply untrue that the prime minister will be resuming his half-hourly fireside chats on TV which were an integral part of the communications strategy of the military government for five years following the coup of 2014. To his credit, prime minister and ex-army chief Prayut always insisted that his speech in Thai carried an English translation underneath. It was a rare example in government of an international approach. After all, English is the language of ASEAN.

Retirement versus Marriage

Some farang are switching from the extension of stay based on retirement to that based on marriage to a Thai citizen. The reason is that the income or cash qualification for the latter is half the 800,000 baht for the former. But don’t forget that they are two quite separate visa types. At the risk of slight exaggeration, the retirement option requires a few papers whereas the marriage options needs an armful, including signed statements by two neighbours that you really are living together.

Poor Brits

In answer to a query, the British embassy has confirmed that Thai widows cannot now claim any state benefits from UK unless they have a British national insurance number. Just to confirm: no state pension nor widow’s allowance nor any help with funeral expenses without that key number which proves the lady in question lived and worked in UK at some time. However, it is sometimes possible for the surviving Thai widow to apply to receive part of her husband’s occupational pension. Choose a lawyer who knows what is going on.

Certified Brits

You no longer have to visit the British embassy in Bangkok if you need a certified copy of your passport or UK driving licence. According to the embassy website the whole process can be done by post and takes about a week. Given the long waiting lists for vacant embassy slots, this is a useful option. Is it free? Of course not, you pay through the nose as usual. Incidentally, the fees for embassy services are set in London for worldwide and not in Bangkok as is often believed.

Thoughts for the Week

Concerning men and women: “A man can sleep around, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes, she’s a tramp,” (Joan Rivers). “Behind every successful man is a surprised woman,” (Maryon Pearson). “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, whereas a woman must do what he can’t,” (Rhona Hansome). “The most important thing in a marriage is that one partner is good at carrying out orders,” (Linda Festa).

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Grapevine - October 18, 2019 - October 31, 2019

October 6, 2019