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Baht trip 

September 8, 2017

Opinion and engagement editor, BusinessWorld

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

My girlfriend threatened to kill me.

Good thing her version of Operation Tokhang failed to launch, for better or for worse.

This explains why I am still alive as of this writing.

In any case, when my girlfriend unleashed her inner Duterte—“I will kill you if you don’t shut up”—we were visiting Bangkok, a city whose language, customs, and environs were relatively new to both of us.

Had her threat been made anywhere on Philippine territory—excluding Chinese-occupied islands—I would have certainly been emasculated, psychologically and socially, with a cardboard stuck on my back that said: Certified Schmuck.

Don’t get me wrong: my girlfriend had her reasons for losing it.

After all, at the time of her apoplectic attack, we had just paid top baht for what we considered as a fairly regular meal at a food kiosk right by the city’s Chatuchak market.

In short, on the third day of our visit, we were ripped off, just like the clueless, gullible Bangkok virgins that we were.

We must have been spotted from a mile away—a couple of pseudo‑professional Filipino tourists, traipsing around the city with a confident air, bragging about budget airfares and discounted but nevertheless decent accommodations.

Just a few minutes before, as we sauntered to the entrance of the city’s weekend market, we chanced upon a row of eateries whose walls were plastered with colored pictures of food. Poorly‑shot, badly‑angled, and generally unsavory, the food pics did very little to whet our appetites.

But a small thin man with a loud voice did.

Accosting us with a menu, he led us to a table, and, using a combination of Thai and English phrases and emphatic hand gestures, talked us into having a late lunch at his establishment.

We never knew what we had gotten into.

That is, until we were handed the bill.

It was enough to make Benjamin Diokno shudder.

When we were handed the thin, wrinkled piece of paper that served as the receipt, we learned that papaya salad, potato omelette, and Thai fried chicken cost us the equivalent of half the Philippines’ foreign debt.

My girlfriend, who handled our finances (and generally controlled my life), went absolutely postal.

And like the good boyfriend (and tourist) that I supposedly am, I tried to ease her frustration. I told her that there was no use crying over partially digested papaya salad, however overpriced.

But that set her off even further.

She went on a rantfest that sounded disturbingly presidential. It didn't help that her companion was not very sympathetic to her concerns and generally indifferent to the kiosk’s prices and practices.

She eventually calmed down not long after, realizing that her energies were better spent scouring for discounts than going on a rampage.

Upon settling the bill, we immediately went off, shopped our hearts out, and enjoyed ourselves. No meal was ever going to be bad enough to ruin Thailand for both of us.