Thailand At Work – Isaan Hotel

Napalais HotelUdon Thani City gives out the impression of a busy, bustling city high on traffic and low on entertainment, but if you press the right buttons then the latter could give the former a saamlaw ride for its money.

A couple of years back the Napalais Hotel had arguably the best nightclub in Udon as part of its hotel complex, nowadays it’s closed and the hotel’s entertainment is a lone piano player who has a nightly spot in the hotel’s bar area serenading empty chairs, a routine karaoke bar and occasional restaurant singer.

In the entertainment race the Napalais Hotel wouldn’t get near enough to choke on the leading saamlaw’s exhaust fumes or hear it’s high pitched screeching brakes. Udon is a city where its top hotels, nightlife and falang cuddle together as one. So why would a modern middle aged woman, swap an international career at a busy Taiwan airport for work in a sleepy hotel away from the main drag.

Ying’s Story

YingYing had worked at the Napalais Hotel for a little over one month when I met her although you would have been excused for assuming it was longer because of her assured, confident manner. Ying is in simple words a bar girl but not one of the ilk that works the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya. Ying’s duties are bar girl and stock controller, the latter similar to her previous employment in Taiwan.

In my previous post in this series Thailand At Work – Pattaya Bar Girl language communication was a problem throughout my interview, at the Napalais it resurfaced once more making some of the finer details about Ying’s life rather vague.

China AirlinesTaiwan Taoyuan International Airport is the home base for China Airlines and Ying was one of the airlines employees for three years previous to her returning to Thailand. She was employed through a Thai work agency as a food and beverages stock controller for either the guest lounges or aircraft supply, which I am unsure of. Ying enjoyed her work and life in Taiwan but due to increasing agency commission severely restricting her ability to save money she returned home to her parents and two children.

Ying is 35 years old and like so many Thai ladies has the familiar tale of a failed marriage behind her. Her parents live in Nongkhai on the border with Laos and Ying travels the 50 km stretch of straight road to visit them and her young boy and girl on her four days of free time each month.

Home for the remainder of her time is at the rear of the hotel complex where living quarters and food are provided for those employees that require them. The cost to Ying will be about 1000 baht deducted from her 6500 baht ($180 US) monthly salary. Tips will still fail to push her earnings near to the 7000 mark. Not bad money for Udon Thani, but never a get rich scheme waiting to happen. The Napalais Hotel is rich in daytime conferences and low on tourist bookings, a cocktail of tipping woe.

Food Napalais HotelYing’s hotel duties include serving meals and drinks as well as maintaining that the bar is fully stocked. The hotel bar staff work nine hour shifts from 7 a.m – 4 p.m  &  4 p.m – 1 a.m.  I found Ying to be a charming, courteous lady who went about her work with a smile and a professional manner.

Her hopes for the future are to gain promotion within the hotel but from my five years experience of visiting the Napalais she may soon realize that her dreams are slimmer than her monthly pay packet. Very little change happens at the Napalais. Promotion is an emotion rarely heard.

What story could finish without mention of every Thai girls dream ticket, a falang. Ying wants to meet a kind hearted westerner who can take care of her as well as her two children. Her dream man would be English, German or Dutch. Ying I think your samlaaw is slowly going nowhere on that one…. good luck.


Photograph     Airline snack by taiyofj


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

6 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn this story reminds me of how little money many Thais have to exist on.

    Makes me feel a bit guilty too when I look at my monthly spend of around 45,000 Baht giving me a comfortable but not lavish lifestyle.

    You can see why it so easy to recruit reds or yellows to turn out in Bangkok for 500 Baht a day or indeed why so many girls head for the bar scene.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Thai Wat-Thai Temple =-.

  2. Catherine says:

    Martyn, the minimum wage in Bangkok is around 200 baht per day but many people are making half and less.

    So at 7000, she is making more than minimum but not by much. Some would even say that she is lucky.

    I read this week that one of the demands the red shirts are making is for compensation from the goverment for anyone not making 40,000 baht per month.

    But what government has that kind of money for almost an entire country?

    Neighbouring countries are in worse straights so I can only imagine what would happen if those living in Thailand suddenly become that much wealthier.

    It would be a repeat of California putting all those benefits in place for the poor. No surprise, the poor poured into CA and the state got to the point where it could not pay bills. Checks were bouncing all over.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Please Vote: Top 100 Language Learning Blogs =-.

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Mike – It does put your monthly spend under a bit of a inquisition type spotlight but at the end of the day many Thai’s would spend that amount if they had it. A very good point about how easy it is to rent a mob and the bright lights and money will always beckon the girls.

    Catherine – This is the first I have heard of the ridiculous red shirt demands and yes the country would be unable to fund such an idea. Ying is quite fortunate with the steady money she is earning but it will never enable her to buy and build the things she wants in life. I still can’t believe that 40,000 baht a month figure, some hard working Isaan villagers don’t make that in one year. Red shirt madness.

  4. Catherine says:

    Red shirt madness indeed. They have been congregating out here on and off in huge gatherings but I believe many people are now bored with them. Even Thaksin asked not to be remembered on his birthday.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Please Vote: Top 100 Language Learning Blogs =-.

  5. Talen says:

    I wonder how well I would be able to do on a Thai salary up North. I know jobs are hard to come by in Mukdahan and I’m sure it’s the same there in terms of promotion.

    The red shirts were smart when Thaksin first started out. They sent everyone up north with nice little bribes of money and Thai whiskey. To this day in all of Pookie’s relatives houses you see a picture of the King and Queen and right next to that is one of Thaksin.

    Luckily most people you see in Issan are very self sufficient when it comes to taking care of the family.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Little Brothers New Room =-.

  6. Martin In Bulgaria says:

    Hi Martyn,
    Without her hope what else is there to go on? they have to believe better times are ahead and things will change eventually that is the driving force surely.
    .-= Martin In Bulgaria´s last blog ..Bulgarian Well Water – We Are So Lucky =-.

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