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Archive for the ‘Khon Kaen’ Category

I’m fascinated by the different ways people make money in this country. Almost every day, I seem to notice another bizarre business that someone can apparently make a living in.

There is a guy in Chaiyaphum that sells cowboy hats out of the back of his pickup truck (I have not yet seen a single cowboy hat actually worn or purchased in town, but I guess he has a monopoly), and a team of men who give massages in the men’s bathroom at the town’s only popular live music club (they literally walk up behind you at the urinals and give you a shoulder massage that you didn’t ask for).

The town has no fewer than two dozen fax/copy shops (small storefronts with three xerox machines and a computer) to handle the apparently large quantity of documents that need to be duplicated in a rural town in northeastern Thailand (I have xeroxed a few worksheets for class and sent a fax to my bank back home, but I have trouble imagining that the locals have enough documents to copy to actually keep all these places in business).

My personal favorite, though, is the feather-duster trade that we encountered on a trip to Khon Kaen. We were in town for the somewhat disappointing silk festival (the town is really great, but the silk festival was just another market that sold a bit of silk along with all the usual market fare), when I noticed an unusually large number of men walking through the market carrying dozens of cheap-looking feather-dusters (like the guy in the above photo).

So I did what I always do in these situations, turn to the person standing next to me and ask, “Do you think those guys really spend all day selling feather-dusters?” That was, of course, followed by the usual follow-up: “Are there really that many people in Khon Kaen that need feather-dusters?” And my inevitable third question: “They have to another job, right?”

I can’t answer any of these questions yet, but I suspect one of two things must be the case. The traveling feather-duster salesmen are either selling drugs with a not particularly complex front, or a person can actually feed his family on feather-duster sales.

The latter is still hard for me to believe, even after polishing off a two-egg omelet that cost me 33 cents, but who knows? These businesses may all be fronts for drug-dealing or some other illicit activity, but it just might be possible that a person can actually make a living here selling nothing but feather-dusters.

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