Friday, January 14, 2011

The Olympic Games of Cheap

In Cannes, where I go to the advertising festival, a beer will set you back 9 euros. A coke, eight. The prices are so outrageous that anything that is less than 20 bucks seems cheap (because nothing is). You get used to paying exorbitant sums. Crossing the border into Italy from Cannes, I was shocked I could buy two croissants and two drinks for only 5 euros.
Well, in Thailand and Cambodia the opposite happens. Prices here are cheap. Compared to US and Europe and even Mexico, you can travel in style for much less. We've had massages for 5 bucks an hour on the street but also for less than 20 bucks for an hour and a half at a very nice little spa and for 15 an hour in quite a luxe one. Food: we had 2 bowls of noodles and two fresh juices for $3 total. A plate of pad thai for $2. At Angkor Wat we had an amazing tasting menu of Khmer food with 6 courses for 15 bucks at a fancy place. We stayed at a guesthouse with pool, ac, and breakfast for $25 a night. Its the best cheap hotel I've ever stayed at. Feeling flush, we've paid more or less the cost of a cab from Manhattan to JFK for a three hour trip from the Cambodian border to Pattaya. But then, just as in Cannes you adjust for the overpricing, here everything that's more than 30 baht (a dollar) seems expensive. Money is funny that way. There are plenty of tourists here that sign up for the Olympic Games of Cheap, where they compete with themselves as to how low they are willing to go to pay the least amount possible, be it food, transportation or whores. And there's no tipping, a paradise for the miserly.

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