Panic While Shopping for Furniture

Panic, or maybe just good old-fashioned anxiety, has set in.  At first it was caused by the cost of buying furniture.  Looking at the different furniture we’d like to get in our basically unfurnished apartment, it seems that it could cost between 40,000 and 80,000 Baht (US$1,000 – 2,000).


Part of the challenge: most of the faux furniture (laminated particleboard) costs nearly as much as it does if purchased in the United States.  This is possibly because most of it is imported from elsewhere.  For example, a dining room table and four chairs at Index Living Mall (similar to IKEA) is on sale for 9,100 Baht.  It will last a few years as the quality is only so-so.


If I go to the furniture district, Bang Po, I can pay about 20,000 Baht for a custom-finished teak hardwood table with hardwood chairs padded in my choice of fabrics.  Twice as expensive but it will literally last a lifetime.


Part of the equation is answer the question, “How much do we want to invest in furniture for an apartment we might stay in for just a year or two?”  No sense in making a huge investment in furniture that may not fit in whatever home we eventually end up in.  At the same time, I hate to spend a fair amount for temporary furniture when the “real thing” isn’t that much more expensive.


The anxiety is heightened when I start thinking about the costs of flying back to Kansas City for the holidays.  At first, Tawn and I had taken it as gospel that we would go back to KC and make a side trip to San Francisco over Christmas and New Year’s.  There are many, many reasons we should do this.


But as we’ve been researching air fares, even for flights that depart on Christmas Day, we’ve been shocked.  To include just a trip to Kansas City may run a minimum of 95,000 Baht and as much as 155,000 Baht (US$ 2800 – 3800) if we include a side trip to San Francisco.  That’s the equivalent of between five and eight months’ rent here in Bangkok.


It really puts the furniture issue into perspective, doesn’t it?


It is now 5:00 am and I’ve been awake for about two hours.  My stomach is a gnawing pit and I’m sitting in the hotel bathroom writing this journal entry.  Through the vent I can hear music coming from the room of some other sleepless visitor.


For the moment, I think consideration of the Kansas City trip needs to be set aside.  I can worry about it in another week or two.  In fact, I can work at more options once I am back in the US.  In the meantime, the focus needs to be on getting the apartment organized and furnished to at least a minimal level.


Maybe we can take up a collection for our trip back to KC and SF at Christmas: for $50 a person we’ll come visit you.  If was can get about 60 people to contribute, the trip will be paid for.


See what living overseas will do to you?  And I haven’t even moved here yet.



Wednesday, September 28, 2005


In the United States, it has become quite popular to express disdain for the so-called “big box” retailers.  Named for the large concrete shells they occupy in suburban strip malls across the country, Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and others are seen as homogenizing the American landscape and undermining independent, family-owned businesses.


In fact, I’ve jumped on that bandwagon to some extent, especially in the case of Walmart, a company whose sheer size gives it incredible leverage in determining what products vendors manufacture.  Additionally, their workforce practices are very anti-worker, forcing the larger community to absorb the extra costs of healthcare for their tens of thousands of uninsured employees.


Nonetheless, it is the process of setting up a home overseas that cures me of some of that big box phobia.  Trying to answer questions as basic as, “Where do I buy plastic clothes hangars?” leave me wishing that there were a nearby Target to which I could drive.


Sure, some of this is just a matter of landscape unfamiliarity.  I’ll learn soon enough just where the Thai populace buys plastic hangars (surely they don’t use wire?) along with towels, clothes racks, futons, and paint brushes.


And I’m aware that even Thailand has its share of big box retailers, although they are noticeably European in nature.  So I may be heading to a Carrefour, Big C, or Testco-Lotus sooner rather than later.


But in the meantime I’m taking a deep breath and savoring this moment of sublime self-awareness, as I appreciate the contradictions that moving overseas brings to the surface.  Now if only I had some plastic hangars, I could unpack my suitcase.


Signing the Lease on the Bangkok Apartment

Bangkok, my new home.  I arrived on Monday evening after a very long 24-hour journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Bangkok.  The LAX-NRT leg was not upgraded so I was squeezed into Economy class.  Not so bad as it could have been but I was unable to sleep and arrived in Bangkok very tired.

On Tuesday Tawn and I went to our new apartment to sign the lease and pay the deposit plus the first month’s rent.  The apartment that was decided upon is at Asoke Place tower, about a 5-minute walk north of the Sukhumvit / Soi 21 (aka Asoke) intersection.  At the intersection is both a Skytrain station and an MRTA (Subway) station, so it is quite convenient to everywhere.  Also, traffic is not too bad along Asoke and we’re on the side of the road that heads into the city.

The apartment is quite large (about 700 square feet) and is a 1-bedroom with an additional small storage room.  Tawn was able to choose paint before the handyman repainted, so the walls are a light yellow in the living area and a light khaki in the bedroom.

We spent most of Tuesday shopping for furniture and have so far made absolutely no decisions.  The big question is, how much do we want to spend?  Furniture of decent quality is cheaper in Thailand than the US, but that doesn’t mean it is inexpensive.  At the same time, we don’t necessarily need to buy permanent stuff right now.  So we are going through the joint priority-setting process.

There’s also a few odds and ends that need to be ironed out.  Anyone with any expertise in these areas is welcome to provide advice:

  • The refrigerator (about 2/3s of full size) sits more than 10 feet away from the nearest power outlet, which it would share with the TV, stereo, etc.  I get the impression that there wasn’t a refrigerator there before and it was placed there as a selling point rather than a practical consideration.  Can you put all that equipment on one outlet without a problem?
  • Similarly, the plugs in the kitchen (which are all under the counter, no idea how you run a cord under the counter as there are no openings!) all feed into one circuit, if I’m not mistaken.  So that would be a 2-burner stove, microwave oven, rice maker, and coffee maker (or combination thereof) on one circuit.  Problem?
  • Our clothes washer was originally in the bathroom, but it takes up a lot of space and was on a wall that have no drain, no power, nor a water supply.  The next logical place is on the balcony (makes more sense that it might sound) but there is no water supply and the power is just a closed junction box.  Landlord seems to think it is an easy problem to overcome.  I’m curious to see how.
  • There’s no hot water heater in the bathroom.  Cold showers, anyone?  We’ll ask the landlord on Friday whether we can pay for installation of a water heater, which will run about 5,000 baht plus another 800 for installation.

Truly, none of these are challenges we cannot tackle, but they are interesting “oh, I hadn’t considered that” situations.

Another lesson I’ve learned.  If you want to pay your credit card at one bank with money in a bank account at another, the only way you can do this is to withdrawl the cash from the first bank and then take it to the other bank and deposit it.  So we went to the bank to withdrawl our deposit, first month’s rent, and money for paying some billes.  110,000 baht total.  It is worth noting that the 1,000 baht bill is the largest denomination available.  Yes, we were carrying 110 bills in a wad in my pocket.  That’s pretty crazy.

Well, the adventure is just starting, I’m sure.  I’m extending the hotel stay by a few days because we won’t have all of the necessary arrangements made by tomorrow morning.  Plus, other than a bed and an armoire, we have no furniture.

First of Three Trips to Move My Things

So I packed my bags for my San Francisco – Bangkok trip last night.  This is the first of three trips on which I’ll move most of my things to Bangkok in order to set up residence there.

This is where I’m at: three suitcases, two large and one 22″ trolley bag packed with clothes, six bottles of wine, and several hundred CDs in cloth binders and CaseLogic pages.  Bag 1 weighs 60 pounds; Bag 2 weighs 50 pounds; Bag 3 (the trolley) is a more respectable 25 pounds.  Add to this a backpack and a small carry-on bag for a glass vase I want to move.  That’s a lot of bags to handle.

As a 1K on United, I’m allowed three bags weighing up to 70 pound each, so I’m technically on safe ground.  But the bags are still quite heavy considering I will need to handle them in San Francisco by myself.  So my first thought is that I should take a few things out and lighten the load a little.

Here’s the problem: if I take some of the heavy items out, that will just create more heavy items I need to move on later trips.  This is especially true because the quantity of heavy items far outweigh the quantity of lighter items.  In this trip I’ve already moved many of my clothes, but I still have two more boxes (10x13x4) of CDs plus about 8 binders of DVDs.  Not to mention a few kitchen implements I’d like to move.

And I thought I had thinned out my possessions when I moved from San Jose to Kansas City a year ago!  Time for a more ascetic life!

Breaking the News of My Move

Sorry for the delay in posting – I spent most of the weekend at Jennifer and Kevin’s new house, painting shelves, lining other shelves with contact paper, and trying to make myself useful.


Last night I babysat Emily, my 2-1/2 month old niece, as Jenn and Kevin were off at a training class at church for people who work in the nursery.  Emily was quite well behaved (a change after the past few weeks of “terrible twos” behavior) and we watched the Kiki’s Delivery Service by noted animator Hayao Miyazaki.  She was very engaged with the movie, which may be just a year or two over her head.


Yesterday I conducted a conference call with my team of 10 employees and announced that I’ll be moving to Bangkok at the end of October and taking on new role with IKON.  I’m very fortunate that my manager has a lot of faith in me, and has found a position as a Program Manager that I can fulfill remotely.  It is quite similar to what I currently do, minus the management of trainers.  I’ll focus on designing, developing, and updating the various programs and training materials we use.


The reaction by my team of employees was largely stunned silence.


I guess this makes it real, doesn’t it?  The train has left the station and is chugging towards the future.

Mileage Run on United’s PS Service

Yesterday I returned from a 22-hour mileage run on United Airlines’ P.S. service from SFO-JFK.  The trip report is here.  Lots of pictures of planes, especially some of jetBlue just for Michael, Patrick, and Bill.


It was a good trip, getting to experience some of United’s best service.  It also was an inexpensive way for me to maintain my 1K Mileage Plus status.


Back in San Francisco today, I’m going to try to catch up on some of my movies.  I watched Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 after arriving back in SFO.  It was a visually beautiful film, DP’d by Christopher Doyle.  I’ll also try to meet up with Anita and with Paul, so it should be a busy day.

Visiting Friends in SF

Out in San Francisco this weekend to visit friends.


Paul and I took BART out Friday evening to see Bruce and Howie.  They live out in San Ramon, 45 miles east of the City.


Bruce’s parents were in town from the central California coast – the area where “Sideways” was set.  I’ve wanted to meet them and was glad to have an opportunity.


Dinner was supposedly a “simple” affair.  Not the case, really, as Bruce is a passionate cook and his simplest meals are actually very grand.  This evening, he prepared four different gourmet pizzas for us, preceeded by an amuse bouche of mussels – the recipie came from this book.  Very tasty indeed.


This morning (Saturday) I woke up early and had breakfast at Miss Millie’s restaurant (24th Street and Castro) with Bob, Anita’s roommate.  Bob’s partner is also in Thailand, so we have lots in common.  Bob looks a lot like my friend Albert.  I’m going to make it a project to get a picture of both of them together.


After breakfast I headed to the airport where I did a fun overnight trip to JFK.  More about that tomorrow.