purchasing power across cities

as a follow up–when comparing the price of public transport, a friend duly noted that it would be more interesting to see the relative purchasing power of people in these cities.

conveniently, UBS has published a 2009 report on Prices and Earnings in 73 cities.

using New York as the benchmark, here are the relative purchasing powers (income / price of basket of goods & services) of some cities of note:

City Net Hourly Pay Annual Income
New York 100 100
Chicago 96.3 88.8
Berlin 89.4 77.6
Montreal 88.9 83.9
London 86.7 76.9
Toronto 85.7 80.4
Tokyo 81.4 82.2
Paris 75.2 61.3
Taipei 57.5 58.9
Moscow 55.6 49.4
Hong Kong 52.3 58.1
Seoul 51.3 57.4
Kuala Lumpur 38.4 39.5
Shanghai 25.3 24.7
Bangkok 24.1 26.0

In its report, UBS notes that when comparing purchasing power, the basket of goods and services would be different in Asian cities versus European or North American ones. For that reason, they came up with a measure based on the Economist’s Big Mac Index: working time required to buy a big mac (this is from page 11–download the full report for more info).

cities BM

It’s funny to use Big Macs as a comparison, since going to McDonald’s in North America (as a cheap place to eat) is not quite the same as in Asia, where it’s more a gimmicky thing (since it would be much cheaper to eat, say, a bowl of noodles). I’m sure McDonald’s considers that when marketing (& pricing?) its menu…

food tent

posted in: bangkok, food 0

at phyathai there is crap all to eat compared to other BTS stations. still, there is a street food tent that’s open for breakfast and lunch:

(this is the entrance, right under the BTS station–you can see taxis and motocycle drivers waiting for fares under the stairs.)


And this is the view from inside. I’m eating congee here! it’s like HK style, but with fish sauce as the flavouring, and with meatballs and ginger…

better than a library

posted in: bangkok, food 0

where I’ve been studying lately for the NY bar:


the food court at amarin plaza
the food court at amarin plaza


amarin is conveniently next to a BTS (chidlom station is visible in the window), and more importantly, really close to the central world megaplex. which means that fewer people come here, so no one ever bothers kicking me out. bonus is that the food court is all thai and has all the stuff you could find on the street (except that it’s ‘hygienic’, as some would say).

cafe inn, paragon
cafe inn, paragon

this cafe is semi-hidden within the paragon department store (3rd, 4th, 7th floor? who knows) of Siam Paragon, probably the most exclusive mall in bangkok. but here it’s never busy (as you can see) so I always get a seat. and it sounds strange, but I like this place because it’s noisy: it’s right next to the CD/DVD section. keeps me awake. added bonus is that the entire basement of Siam Paragon is devoted to the most insane food complex ever (calling it a food court does it injustice, especially since the actual food court is only a subsection).

central world

posted in: bangkok 0
thai ordinals
thai ordinals

I just noticed in the pic it’s exactly “sihp-sorng” o’clock. time for lunch.

from here I cross the street to centralworld, the largest mall in bangkok (and larger than hong kong’s Ocean Terminal, according to wikipedia). there are over 100 restaurants in this mall, with shuttle golf carts that will take you on a taste tour, if requested.

ganesh & batman, forever
ganesh & batman, forever

by each of the malls in bangkok are shrines, often ‘wai-ed’ by passersby (I’ve even seen people do it from the skytrain). the one by centralworld has elephants everywhere, which I guess is for ganesh. batman looks on.


I’m not the most amiable towards shopping, but I have to admit that this place is always entertaining. scattered throughout the giant complex are several atria used for holding events, from vernissages to marching bands. but today they’ve really outdone themselves: they’ve brought in baby tigers (one of them albino) to amuse the crowd, while a jazz trio plays bossa nova in the background. incredible.

som tam & sticky rice

posted in: bangkok, food 0

the spiciest dishes I had in thailand were not the curries, nor the tom yams, but the *salads*. here’s the most popular, papaya salad (som tam):

som tam
som tam

(Recipes are from Vatch’s Thai Street Food by Vatcharin Bhumichitr.)

2 garlic cloves
3-4 small fresh red or green chilis
green beans
6 oz young green papaya, cut into fine slivers
1 tomato, cut up
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice

[Note: add some dried shrimp and peanuts, because I forgot!]

Get a huge mortar. Pound the garlic, then add the chilies and pound again. Add green beans, stir in papaya. Lightly pound. Stir in the tomato and lightly pound again. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, mix it all up, and then… eat it with sticky rice.


To cook 1 lb of sticky rice, cover in water and soak for at least 3 hours (overnight is better). Drain and rinse. Line the perforated part of a steamer with cheesecloth and place the rice on top. Bring the water in the bottom of the steamer to a boil and steam over moderate heat for 30 minutes.

…and if *that* works out, try STICKY RICE w/ MANGO:

250 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
275 g (10 oz) sticky rice, cooked and still warm
4 ripe mangoes
2 tablespoons coconut cream

-Combine coconut milk and sugar in small saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time until sugar is dissolved. Don’t let it boil.

-Stir in the salt and warm sticky rice and set aside.

-Peel the mangoes and cut into slices.

-Place a mound of sticky rice in a dish and arrange mango around it. Pour the coconut cream over the rice. Serve warm or cold. And drool, suckers.

how I miss the king

posted in: bangkok 0

…and seeing his face in every waking moment.

in a back alley near the democracy monument
in a back alley near the democracy monument

nakhon si thammarat

posted in: bangkok 0

in contemplating where to go for an extra long weekend, I thought about chiang mai, khanchanaburi, sukhothai, etc., but then realized I really just wanted to get away from as many farang as possible. so a place I had actually heard about just wouldn’t cut it.

so I settled upon nakhon si thammarat.

I of course referred to my hated lonely planet, but not too much in there about getting to my first destination: hat nai phlao beach, near the village of khanom.

an empty beach in thailand? who would have thought
an empty beach in thailand? who would have thought

(this is for people searching for deserted beaches. that speck on the right there is my sandals.)

there’s one bar and about 4 “resorts”, mostly empty. the american owner of the bar says the ‘crowds’ I see are typical. (I spent the day on the beach and saw a total of 5 people in 6 hours). apparently it’s just a little too adventurous to get here without knowing thai.

oh right. how I got there.

from the crappy map I had, I decided that Surat Thani was probably the closest major city to Khanom. from bangkok I hopped on a sleeper train that was due to arrive into the city around 6.30 am.

most tourists get off here to go to koh samui. so as soon as we arrived, I watched where all the foreigners were walking (and the opportunistic thais following them), and walked in the complete opposite direction.

the train station isn’t actually in the city. so when I bumped into this large orange bus that looked like a city bus, I asked the driver “Surat Thani?” He nodded and I got shuffled in next to him, as the rest of the bus was full of morning commuters. 12 baht and 45 minutes later the bus terminated in town at talat kaset bus station.

a similar trick of just asking people “bai Khanom?” landed me on two sownthiaws on my way to that village (costing 80 baht total).


after 75 minutes the 2nd sownthiaw dropped me off on this random road/highway (presumably near khanom), saying (I think) that I would have to find my way to hat nai phlao from here, and that a moto would probably cost like 100 baht. of course, a motorcycle guy promptly came up and offered. of course I promptly refused (dammit, I just drove over 2 hours for less than that price).

stubborn, I know.

so I walked down the road to figure out where I was. ended up at some car repair shop, and asked how to get to hat nai phlao (assuming there must be regular buses there). the guy working there offered to drive me for 50 baht. sure.

it’s only a 10 km road, and there are no buses–because there are no people there! even to get back out of the place, all the resorts were charging 200 baht for a ride to khanom (at which of course I scoffed and starting walking down the road until a lady at the little kitchen-building next to the big “Supar Beach” hotel offered to take me there for 50 baht).

so yeah, a little adventurous I suppose. and totally worth it.

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