Bangkok Air Quality is Really Bad Right Now

 

A lot of people are sending me links about how bad the air quality in Bangkok is thinking I live there (I don’t – I spend most of my time on the beaches, the islands or Chiang Mai). And yeah, it’s awful. Really awful. The Air Quality Score (AQS) has been close to or above 300 which is dangerous for almost anyone to inhale for an extended period time. You can’t even run outside. I mean, you could, but you’ll probably develop all sorts of health problems from it. People are wearing air masks and the city is scrambling to create clouds to force rain to relieve some of the pollution. Kind of crazy.

Bangkok Air Quality Index

According to Thaiger.com, “the PM2.5 air-quality index (AQI) in Bangkok this morning reached a peak of 183, an unhealthy level, while some areas such as Bang Khen district were at ‘hazardous’ levels, with PM2.5 AQI at 396.”

The smog in Bangkok is what I expected to see when I lived in Los Angeles but never actually saw. This is proof that it is possible to reduce air pollution and improve air quality over time.

Bangkok is a cool city but it reminds me too much of New York City (but at the same, makes me realize NYC isn’t anywhere near as dirty as I thought it was). Bangkok is dirty, the traffic is godawful (the worst I’ve ever seen) and now this air pollution is just disgusting. Plus, outside of the nightlife areas, Bangkok generally looks grey, dark and depressing, like an empty cement jungle. And let’s not forget about the hundreds of exposed electric lines everywhere (some even dangling into the street) making it feel generally unsafe and in need of a massive upgrade.

Bangkok Electric Cables
This looks safe.

However, there are some really wonderful things about Bangkok too. The food scene is absolutely incredible. The rooftop bars offer nice views. The prices for services (massages, vets, doctors) are amazingly affordable. The nightlife is awesome… so awesome in fact that Bangkok to me is best treated like Las Vegas : get in, get out. With places like Soi Cowboy, Khao San Road and Nana, what happens in Bangkok should stay in Bangkok. Luckily I’m here alone with my dogs and I know they won’t say anything.

If you’re willing to live out of the way or in a mostly Thai neighborhood, you can find apartments for $200 USD/month. The nicer areas like Thonglor or luxury buildings will cost you $1,000+/month (basically on par with some US cities) but you’ll have all the amenities you can dream of. You never have to leave your apartment if you didn’t want to. With the air quality this bad, you might not want to (if you have an air purifier).

Bangkok is great, but it is not one of my favorite cities in the world. I recommend it for those with a Bangkok-based full-time job. Otherwise, the islands, beaches and Chiang Mai are more along the lines of what I envisioned the Thailand experience to be.

As someone who tries to live a relatively healthy lifestyle, living in a city where breathing can make me sick is not something I want to do or should do (just like New York City air during winter hurts my face). 

Tokyo Mask 2016

Some Pollution Solutions

  • Buy a protective facemask : Japan is known for them. It’s time to bring the trend over to Bangkok. The city has handed out 30,000 masks so far with another 300,000 on the way, but they can’t give them to everyone. If you can find a store that has some in stock, buy a few extra for your friends. 
  • Invest in an air purifier at home : if you live in Bangkok, you’ll want to at least be able to breathe clean air when you’re at home. Your body needs relief from the pollution.
  • Leave Bangkok : Take a vacation and head up to Chiang Mai or go to the islands. Give your body a break from the pollution.
  • Get more electric vehicles on the road : the country can offer aggressive subsidies to individuals who invest in electric vehicles. 
  • Work remotely: I know that not everyone can do this, but if your job is mostly accomplished on a computer or mobile device, ask your company if you can work remotely.
  • Grab Pool : Currently, Grab does not offer a service equivalent to Uber Pool. This could be challenging given how spread out Bangkok is, but maybe in specific districts this can be a service that’s available.

All these “pollution solutions” (forcing rain clouds, handing out masks) are band-aids to a problem that is only going to get worse as Bangkok continues to grow.  Tighter regulations and punishments for those contributing to the air pollution are going to need to not only be created, but strongly enforced. Electric vehicles will also help (just look at Los Angeles).

I can sleep at night knowing I’ve helped the problem by choosing not to live there.

Do you have any other pollution solutions for Bangkok? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

 

 

My First Time Trying A Fish Spa Pedicure in Thailand (SO WEIRD)

I only did 15 minutes because like the fish, I was hungry. Ironically, I ate a mango catfish salad afterwards. Fish eat human, human eat fish. The circle of life.

Hey guys! Have you ever tried a fish spa pedicure? Read about my first time trying a fish spa pedicure in Thailand.

I’m a huge fan of pedicures and spa treatments. It’s the ultimate me-time. If you’re a gentleman and you haven’t gotten a pedicure before,  DO IT. It’s one of the most relaxing, cleansing experiences. And trust me – nobody wants to see some crusty ass feet.  I also love spas and massages so much that it’s partially why I moved to Thailand … 1-hour massages here are only 200 baht (roughly $6 USD).

When I hear the word “spa” I think of a relaxing, serene experience surrounded by candles and lemongrass or lavender aromas. I do not think of tiny little fish nibbling at dead skin cells, bacteria and fungus. But that’s exactly what a fish spa pedicure is.

I don’t know what compelled me try it today. After all, I have seen fish spa pedicures offered around the world from Mexico to the Caribbean but I’ve always politely declined the opportunity.

Perhaps it was because I remember reading an article that went viral about a woman who got a fish spa pedicure, and then her toenails fell off a few months later. Allegedly, this was caused by “onychomadesis, a condition that causes the nails to separate from the skin of your fingers or toes and ultimately fall off.” Sounds pretty gross but YOLO! One reason this happens is because many establishments do not properly clean the fish tanks. This potentially exposes you to contagious bacteria that other customers may have had. I confirmed with the owner that she regularly cleans her fish tanks daily.

Hua hin Thailand fish spa owner
Aora, the wonderful owner of the Hua Hin Fish Spa.

I was anxious about putting my feet in the water because I had no idea what hundreds of nibbling fish would feel like. But it’s exactly what you’d think it would feel like : an army of tiny creatures deliberately and delicately biting your skin. The closest sensation I could compare it to would be a ticklish vibration. After a few minutes, your body adapts.

These fish, called Garra Rufa (“doctor fish”) do not have teeth so they can’t bite you, just nibble at the dead skin cells that you don’t want anyway. The owner told me that 30 minutes is the recommended time for a full treatment. I only did 15 minutes because like the fish, I was hungry. Ironically, I ate a mango catfish salad afterwards. Fish eat human, human eat fish. The circle of life.

I was shocked at how quickly the fishies attacked my dying skin cells. Like moths to a flame, they quickly encapsulated and ensnared my entire leg. My leg was like smokeshow walking into a bar at 2am.

It’s been a few hours since my fish spa pedicure and my feet feel super smooth. And yes I still have all of my toenails.

Overall it was a great experience and I would totally do it again.

Watch the video below to see the full experience!

Would you try a fish spa pedicure? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

If you’d like to check out the spa I visited, you can visit BangkokDrFishSpa99.com

Be Free My Sheeple!

@BearWilliams Survives Storm Pabuk in Koh Phangan, Thailand

 

One of the best parts about not having a 9-5 job is being wherever you want to be in the world. And sometimes that means being caught on a tiny, isolated island while a massive tropical storm is coming.

This week, Thailand was hit by Tropical Storm Pabuk. BeFreeMySheeple Correspondent Bear Williams was on the scene in Koh Phangan during the storm. You might recognize him from PUBG’s latest commercial. Not only does he act like a tough guy on TV, but he actually is a tough guy too.

Were you caught in Storm Pabuk too? Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Also follow guest correspondent @bearwilliams.

Be Free My Sheeple!

The Best Advice Before You Rent A Rental Car

 

Hey guys ! This is the best advice before you rent a rental car. As someone who regularly rents a car when traveling, this is the best way I’ve been able to defend myself against extra charges and sometimes even fraudulent charges.

Take a video of the entire exterior of the car

I strongly recommend you always use your phone to film a complete 360 virtual tour of the vehicle before driving it off the lot. I like to do this in front of the rental agent so that they see that I’m a knowledgeable and educated consumer. I want them to know they’re not dealing with a schmuck. What I’ve noticed is that they’ll sometimes even proactively point out hidden damage, damages that you may have been liable for if you did not protect yourself.

Below is a video from the Europcar pick-up location in the Sofitel Bangkok lobby. You’ll see at the :25 mark, the agent points out some paint damage on the passenger side mirror (remember, I’m in Thailand – the cars are opposite here lol).

Below is another video I recently took of a car rented from BizCar in Don Muang Airport. I wanted to make sure the agent saw with his own eyes that I was giving a very detailed search of the car for scratches, dents and damage. As you’ll see I found a number of scratches and dents that the rental car company might have otherwise passed the blame onto me for.

So has a rental car company tried to screw me before?

YES.

Let me tell you about experience that I had in Reykjavik, Iceland when I rented a car from Flizzr. When I picked up the car, I was warned by the agent not to go off-road as gravel and rocks are a guaranteed way to scratch up the car. I specifically made it a point to drive only on paved roads.

When I returned the car, the agent pointed out a number of scratches on the front bumper. For a moment I was scared. I thought that maybe when I was driving on the highway some gravel might’ve hit the bumper. I really thought I was going to be liable for this damage. But then I remembered that I had the Chase Sapphire credit card which includes collision protection.  When the agent went inside I quickly called Chase to confirm that the damage to the rental was covered. Confirmed! Phew. This gave me momentary peace of mind. It calmed me down enough to think, “Let’s take another look at the scratches.”

Below is the video and you can hear my genuine reaction.

Would you believe it? Turns out that the “scratches” weren’t scratches at all. It was dirt! I was able to use my finger (and some saliva) to remove every single mark that the agent circled in white chalk. When he came back he looked absolutely baffled. He said “What happened to the damage?” and I said “Come on man…you knew those weren’t scratches. You knew that was dirt but you were trying to charge me for it.” He awkwardly smiled like an idiot and said, “You just saved yourself $3,000.”

Unfortunately I did not make a video before I rented the car even though in this instance it wouldn’t have helped as it was dirt, not damage. But this experience taught me a very valuable lesson :  Always film a 360 virtual tour of the car in front of the rental agent and point out any damage you see, no matter how small or trivial.

Please share this article with anyone you know that is going to be using a rental car! You might end up saving them a lot of money.

Did you find this advice helpful? Have you had any similar experiences?  Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple!

Celebrating a 35th Birthday in Bangkok, Thailand

One of my best friends (also named Adam), landed in Bangkok on December 9th, which happened to be his 35th birthday. We thought about driving to Pattaya to party.  But after a 24 hour flight from New York City to Bangkok, he didn’t want to add any additional travel time. Here’s how we celebrated his 35th birthday in Bangkok, Thailand.

Khao San Road, Bangkok

A great place to pre-game in Bangkok is Khao San Road.  You can get delicious street food here like pad Thai, meat skewers, spring rolls & smoothies. After a long 24 hour flight of eating only airplane food, Adam jumped on the first food cart he saw (spring rolls). The hot sauce was too spicy for him, but not me because I’m Mexican.

After filling up on spring rolls, there’s no better way to digest than a foot massage (along with a vodka soda bucket). I also showed Adam my newest magic trick (appearing beer).

Before we left, I had a fresh mango & banana smoothie and it paired perfectly with my lukewarm vodka soda bucket.

Riding a Tuk Tuk in Bangkok

The most efficient way to travel around Bangkok is a motorbike because they can weave around traffic. The most fun way to travel around Bangkok, especially if you’re with your friend, is a tuk tuk. And from my experience, almost all tuk tuk drivers speak at least a little English.

The only negative is that there’s no meter so you’ll need to negotiate a little bit on the pricing. The first driver we asked to take us from Khao San Road to Patpong Night Market (a 20 minute ride) wanted 500 baht ($15 uSD). The second driver we asked wanted a more reasonable 300 baht ($9 USD). In the US, a difference of $6 during a night out is almost irrelevant (I used to spend $200-300 every Friday/Saturday night in New York City), but here in Thailand, that’s the cost of a 1-hour massage.

Patpong Night Market, Bangkok

After Khao San Road, we headed to Patpong Night Market, a fun place to shop for clothes, electronics, souvenirs, etc. Lining the streets along the market are bars (some with go-go dancers), live music, restaurants, massages and the infamous ping pong shows.

Now I’ve been living in Thailand for almost 3 months and I never really had any interest in checking out a ping pong show. For those of you who don’t know what a ping pong show is, you can read more about it here. You’ll understand why this form of entertainment isn’t high on my list of priorities.

We got to Patpong Night Market a little too early as many of the bars were empty. We asked one of the bar managers if there was a busier bar. She led us to a staircase leading to a bar upstairs and I told her that we did not want to go to a ping pong show. She confirmed that this was not a ping pong show (“no ping pong show”) but of course as soon as we sat down, it was a ping pong show. A good rule of thumb when you’re at Patpong Night Market is if the bar is on the 2nd floor, it’s probably a ping pong show.

Looking back we should have immediately left. Instead we figured that since we were already there, we might as well have a quick drink. Adam got a beer and I ordered a vodka soda. I told him to drink as quickly as possible and not to engage or stare at the performers as if this would prevent us from being scammed (as I read these places tend to do online). The performers ignored us as we sat in the corner trying to quickly chug our drinks and GTFOH.

Ping Pong Show Scam

The bar was advertised as “no cover charge” with drinks being 100 baht ($3 USD).  What they failed to mention is that there isn’t a cover charge for entering, but there certainly is a cover charge for leaving. This is referred to as a “looking fee.” The looking fee (the fee for looking at the performers) at this fine establishment was 1,500 baht per person ($48 USD). There was also a 1,200 baht “service fee” per person ($37 USD). Our bill for 2 drinks (which we finished in under 10 minutes) … 6,000 baht!!! Roughly $180 USD. LOL.

We explained to the cashier that there was a misunderstanding :  we were told by the bar manager that this wasn’t a ping pong show (which is why we were leaving after 10 minutes). We settled on paying 1,000 baht ($32 USD). Still too much, but not on the scale of 6,000 baht. Had we engaged with the performers at all, we would have understood the charges. Our experience was consistent with many others that I’ve read about online here.

Soi Cowboy, Bangkok

After avoiding being fully scammed at a ping pong show, we went to the legendary and iconic Soi Cowboy. Like Khao San Road, Soi Cowboy was named in my article The Craziest Party Streets I’ve Been to in the World!

Soi Cowboy is a great place to have a few birthday drinks while looking at bikini-clad bartenders and hostesses. There’s also live music and restaurants so you can eat between drinks.

Pretty soon after we got there, I stopped vlogging. In keeping consistent with my vlog, I’ll end the article here. Let’s just say it was a wild and memorable night.

Bangkok is a great place to celebrate a birthday or bachelor party. I wish we had time to hit up a rooftop bar or RCA, but there’s always next time!

Have you celebrated a birthday in Bangkok?  Leave a comment or you can e-mail me adam@befreemysheeple.com. If you enjoyed reading/watching this, you can follow me on Instagram, @adamfrancisco & @befreemysheeple.

Be Free My Sheeple.