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Friday, 3 October 2008

Supermarkets and Accidents on Samui and Phangan

This blog should have been published at the beginning of August but I had to leave on an extended overseas trip and did not get back until early September.

There is an interesting article in this months Newsletter about Koh Phangan, an area I generally stay away from, but which highlights the issue of large international chains and their effect on the local economy. There were many objections to Tesco Lotus coming to Koh Samui and even more when they were followed by Makro and Big C. Yet anyone who goes to these stores will see that they are frequented predominantly by the local Thai population, many of whom own small supermarkets around the island and buy at wholesale prices and continue to make a living because they can. In the years since Lotus Tesco opened I have not been aware of any of the small supermarkets that we used previously closing so the fear was unfounded. Now they have Lotus Tesco on Koh Phangan and the effect appears to be dramatic. Competition has driven prices down and the local supermarkets are having to compete. There will undoubtedly be critics who decry the “commercialisation” of the island but why should the population there be denied better choice and lower prices. Word has it that the stocks sold out so quickly in the first few days that many shelves were soon bare. That is a problem that I am sure Lotus Tesco will get round as it is part of the logistical supply chain problems they experienced here on Koh Samui when they first opened –and still occasionally have here – and it will take time for the supply/demand equation to settle down. In my view the bigger threat to the local supermarket is the increasing spread of 7-11’s and Family Mart stores which are appearing on every corner. Not necessarily cheaper, but being open 24 hours and with a steady inventory, good supply chain, air conditioning etc. are more appealing than some of the older supermarkets. Some have taken up the challenge such as P&P in Bangrak which has identified local foreign demand and offers European foods not easily available elsewhere.

Last month I reported on the accident I had and the importance of having good accident and medical insurance whether as a resident here or as a tourist. I came across this “Blog” which makes the point again.

“Having travel insurance which covers every eventuality when you are abroad is not cheap but it is a prerequisite. I know from personal experience - my son was on his ‘gap’ year, travelling round the world and had got as far as Thailand where he had a horrific accident on the motorbike he had rented. To cut a long story short he was picked up from Koh Samui by a private jet and flown to Bangkok, as there were no hospitals that could deal with the extent of his injuries in the south of the country. He was on the slab for 10 hours - every bone in his head had been broken and there he stayed for at least two weeks - the bill - zero, de nada, rien.
The message for me is clear - this is the case of the well spent pound, dollar or euro - just do it.”

Now the other point that arises from this is that you should check your policy for exclusions. Many may specifically exclude motorbike accidents and certainly in Koh Samui, the frequency of those is alarming. I still wonder at the mindset of the tourists in particular (residents who do this should know better) who ride around without helmets and with young children on board. Traffic here is quite heavy now and the general standard of driving leaves a lot to be desired. It does not matter how good a driver you are, how careful you are, you cannot control the actions of others. Samui has many other pitfalls for the unwary visitor. Sand on the road is the same as ice and can have similar consequences. Palm fronds and coconuts falling from trees, potholes in the road, dogs running wild, all add to the dangers that will be encountered. My advice? Forget the bike. Hire a small Suzuki car and even then make sure your insurance is up to date and adequate.

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