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.


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