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Chiang Mai Night Safari - Here We Go Again

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Just seen this about the Chamg Mai Night Safari .......

Long-time expats call the ‘tourist price’ unfair. Businesses would rather not talk about it.

The long-running debate about the justness of dual pricing has again flared up with the opening of such venues as the Chiang Mai Night Safari and the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC), which charge foreigners up to four times as much as locals.

Many attractions in Thailand – public, private, religious and historical – charge locals a lower price than farangs. The practice has gone on for decades, but many say that doesn’t make it fair.

The people up in arms aren’t so much the tourists whom the schemes largely target, but those in the expatriate community who have had time to let the prejudicial practice sink in and fester.

They say their anger toward dual pricing has nothing to do with the money, but everything to do with feeling accepted in Thailand. The practice of dual pricing makes many feel shunned, like ugly stepchildren, by their adopted motherland.

The price difference can also be irksome because of the racial judgment involved.

Technically, anyone not holding a Thai ID card is a foreigner, but often only white westerners, being easy to spot, are singled out. “Two or three Chinese, if they keep their mouths shut, will get in for the local price,” complains one expat.

The double-standard also assumes foreigners have more money than Thais, but there are Thais who drive Mercedes and live in mansions, just as there are backpackers traveling on less than a shoestring.

Dual pricing is a hobbyhorse that brings like-minded people together. Internet chat rooms are devoted to the topic; there is even a website, fairprice-thailand.org, that reports on businesses and attractions around Thailand that “discriminate on the grounds of race, nationality or immigration status.”

The site gets about 50,000 visits a year and receives 40 dual-price-warning emails from the public each month, all of which contribute to a list of venues with price disparities that covers everything from temples to clinics.

Some in the forum question the legal ramifications of adopting an unequal pricing system (there are none in Thailand), while others want to know if their residency or work permit status gives them the right to Thai prices. The answer to the latter is as unpredictable as the weather; it depends on each venue’s guidelines combined with the likelihood that a ticket vendor will bend the rules when confronted with a reddening farang face.

Many farangs, though, might not even know they’re paying more than locals. Stickman is an expat teacher who has lived in Thailand for eight years and runs the popular website stickmanbangkok.com.

During his time in the city he learned to read, write and speak Thai. He says that many places with dual pricing will post the Thai price using Thai numerals, even though conventional Arabic numerals are customarily used for everything else.

“I think that is a bit sneaky, the way they do it,” he says. “It’s like they know that it is wrong.”

No doubt, dual pricing is a sensitive issue for proprietors.

Underwaterworld is a privately owned tourist attraction in Pattaya. The director declined to answer why Thai tickets are 180 baht, half the price foreigners are charged.

Public attractions such as national parks use taxpayer money for upkeep and operating costs. Their managers justify dual pricing as a subsidy to citizens, but are hesitant to discuss the issue in detail.

The director of the publicly funded TCDC, Chaiyong Ratana-Ung-Goon, set up an interview appointment, only to cancel it and shoot off a two-line email explaining that dual pricing is a common practice in Thailand and therefore okay. He also added that foreigners who contribute tax can get a membership for Thai prices.

He didn’t address how a taxpaying foreigner might be expected to prove his or her status on the spot to a TCDC representative.

Pisarn, a chief administrator of the Chiang Mai Night Safari, was the only authority to agree to a telephone interview. He refused to give his last name for fear he would be misunderstood, and approached the subject defensively – as if being attacked by one of the animals in his park.

Pisarn explained the price differential was necessary because of Thailand’s status as a developing country; because Thai people are poorer, they should pay less.

“If you go to Africa, they have the same thing,” he says.

The problem is this: Pisarn’s rationalization goes against the thinking of many of his fellow citizens.

Pongpitch Yangyuen, 24, says he doesn’t think dual pricing is fair, that it even goes against the welcome-to-the-land-of-smiles atmosphere that the Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes. “If it happened to me in another county, I would feel like an outsider,” he says. “They [farangs] should feel comfortable; they are coming all this way to visit our country.”

Thais worry that tourists won’t feel welcome, but it appears that the majority shirk off the price difference to get on with their sightseeing and hope that their inflated contributions are going to good causes.

David Palssom from Sweden has been traveling around Thailand for three months and says dual pricing hasn’t affected his travels or positive perspective of the country. “Everything’s still cheap,” he says. “I think it’s not a big problem as long as it goes to good things.”

But Gordon Sharpless, an expat of eight years, passionately believes that nothing good can come from charging people different prices based on the color of their skin. Not only does the travel writer believe the policy is racist, he thinks that it teaches discrimination.

Sharpless expects that many small businesses will think that because the government employs dual pricing, they can too. “It’s a negative message to the locals that its okay to discriminate against people who have another passport than yours,” he says.

What can be done instead of just complaining?

For starters, there is the website

fairprice-thailand.org, which has made some slight changes in the way things are done in here. The webmaster, who refuses to be named for fear of retribution by the government for his online activism, says change cannot happen over a beer and a rant.

“It is no good just bitching about things,” he says. “Put it out there and get people to discuss it.”

He regularly lobbies hotels and other establishments that practice dual pricing. So far, he says his website has managed to get the Bangkok Post to stop publishing dual rates for hotel rooms in its travel section. He also says he was able to change the Bangkok Marriott’s dual-room-rate policy. The hotel wouldn’t comment on the matter.

“This is not to tackle a financial issues,” he says. “It’s more than that. At the heart of it is Thailand’s accommodation of people from the outside.”

One email message came to the website that was particularly poignant. A man, half-Thai and half-western, wrote in that he and his luk kreung child had been singled out at the gates of a National Park. In front of his Thai wife, he was made to pay the foreigner price (200 baht), while she was accepted at 20 baht.

He didn’t mind shoveling out the money, but he told the website users that it made him wonder about the future – where his son would fit in Thai society, and whether he isn’t considered a member of the populace.

“Mixed-race is here in Thailand,” says the webmaster. “It is time for Thailand to accept it.”

While some boycott places that engage in dual pricing, others find a way around it. Stickman has several methods: have a Thai buy the ticket, give the exact change for a Thai-priced ticket (with a bit of Thai thrown in), show a Thai ID of some sort, and if all that doesn’t work, say it’s illegal and throw a fit.

But what Stickman recommends most of all (he says it works every time) is just being nice. Compliments, he says, will get you there.

At the end of the day, while the practice is still going strong, Pisarn from the night safari reminds each person that who they give their business to is a choice of their own.

“It is the right of any owner to set the price,” he says. “But the client, if they don’t like the price, they should not come and have a look.”

Meanwhile, fairprice-thailand.org is setting up a new consumer rights website that warns about places that don’t let Thais inside.

The webmaster explains that his fight has nothing to do with money; it’s about trying to get Thailand to change its perspective on “outsiders.”

“There are foreign people living in Thailand,” he says. “How is Thailand going to accommodate them?”

RedStain.................

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> “It is the right of any owner to set the price,” he says. “But the client, if

> they don’t like the price, they should not come and have a look.”

Indeed. No way would I visit that place until the policy is changed.

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> “It is the right of any owner to set the price,” he says. “But the client, if

> they don’t like the price, they should not come and have a look.”

Indeed.  No way would I visit that place until the policy is changed.

Agree 100%

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I went to a place once ..forget where and friend (yea lady ...longggg time ago)paid the Thai price of ..think 10 Bt while I was charged 50.

I seem to remember smiling,handing over the money,getting a tic...all smiles..and then walking away..

The little guy ran after me obviously trying to explain that since I had paid I could go in.I of course replied ..No Thanks...pop gun mai...krup..but he was standing there holding my 50 bt. in his hand .not too sure what to do ....so i took it said .gratefully.....korp khu..etc and walked away. :o

Last I saw he was walking back to his little office muttering something like...Mai co jai...Mo understand foreigners..almost felt sorry for him.

Friend got her 10 bt back as well.....

Agree.... Policy is Racist and is holding the country Back but TIT...and its been ingrained and will be difficult to change. :D

Still find 95 % of all Thais like most people in the World are GREAT....so.MPRai

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This is not just a Thai practice. I remember working in Hawaii, where if you had a local driving license, you could golf, etc for 1/5 the price the tourists paid. I'm sure it occurs in many other places in the western world.

I have also produced my Thai drivers licence at the pay booth and demanded the Thai price, and it has worked. :o

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A very well-written post on the often-discussed topic...

Perhaps more would go to the Safari if the price included some endangered species steak dinner.

"We charge you more, Mr. Foreigner, but we throw in a free dinner of snow leopard fillet."

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I'm from Scotland and in the popular tourist areas we don't believe in a dual-pricing system.

We simply have an over-the-top extortionate rate for everybody, regardless of race, colour or creed!

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A well-written diatribe of crap.

Now- Now Ajarn. I know what you mean, but it is a subject very close to us ex-patriates hearts.

Discrimination is nothing short of ugly, however it is dressed up and our esteemed PM is only making things worse with his original idea to charge one price for Asians and another, higher for Caucasians etc. Thanks be that he was quickly put right when it was pointed out that such a practice would be unconstitutional.

Must say I enjoy the night safari . Only about five minutes away, so we have been there a few times. Never taken one of the rides though. Queues are too long.

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A well-written diatribe of crap.

Now- Now Ajarn. I know what you mean, but it is a subject very close to us ex-patriates hearts.

Discrimination is nothing short of ugly, however it is dressed up and our esteemed PM is only making things worse with his original idea to charge one price for Asians and another, higher for Caucasians etc. Thanks be that he was quickly put right when it was pointed out that such a practice would be unconstitutional.

Must say I enjoy the night safari . Only about five minutes away, so we have been there a few times. Never taken one of the rides though. Queues are too long.

An article designed not to educate, but to muddle. Too much nonsense to even discuss sensibly.

Of course, I'm against unfair discrimination, but this article isn't helping that cause, in my opinion...

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Show your Thai driver;s licence if you have one. Worked for me.

I'm from Scotland and in the popular tourist areas we don't believe in a dual-pricing system. 

We simply have an over-the-top extortionate rate for everybody, regardless of race, colour or creed!

I certainly do share the opinion that all human mankind are equal regardless, of skincolor or nationality --- and that discrimination on these grounds are to be opposed.... However, I cant't see anything wrong in price-differentation rules, that dicsriminate between heavily moneyloaded TOURISTS - who generally think everything in Thailand is cheap - and the rest of us (the majority of Thais and resident expats) - who think that most things in Thailand are expensive.

Let me illustrate with an example - a private, public business of the kind that goes by the plenty:

Running a "shop" that aims at locals (Thais and expats) as well as TOURISTS, we have to keep our charges at level with our surrounding competitors --- i.e. pretty low. It must be - or we would have no customers of the local kind, who've had the time to get familiar with prices around town.

However, we also have quite a few TOURISTS coming into our "shop". Quite often, when these TOURISTS ask "how much", we have to repeat several times "19 baht" before they believe their own ears. They very obviously would have accepted "90 bath" as a proper charge for the service... So why not charge them appropiately?

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How would you train your staff to recognise 'TOURISTS' who'd be happy to pay more?

If I don't understand the shopassistant's attempt to tell me the price in English, I must be a TOURIST and be quoted a higher price? :o

Or first quote a high price and then ask to see the Thai Driving License for a "discount"?

Or better still, when someone asks for the price, tell them: "Up to you!" :D

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Thanks for the tips, zapp.

Of cource there won't be any simple bulletproof methods, that can be stated as a fixed set of rules, on when to apply what prize to whom. It would in most cases be up to the "discretion of the commanding officer".

Nevertheless, some smiling, polite variations/combinations of your suggestions might actually be an aid..... (That's why they are widely utilized by e.g. tuk-tuk-drivers and other business-folks of the considered kind)

e.g.

Talk to the guy. How does he like his stay...Where does he stay...how long time in Thailand?

If the customer two times refuses to understand "19 baht" - then ask him for 90 baht.

If the customer doesn't bother to ask for the charge, before using our service... then money probably isn't much of an issue to him

Edited by rishi

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