The final day was spent shopping – or rather, in my case, watching other people buy stuff. We started in a ginseng shop where, for ludicrously large sums of money, one could buy capsules filled with dried root powder. If the promotional materials were to be believed, ginseng is not only a universal panacea, it also lightens your skin (a major preoccupation with many Asian people). The medical “proof” was ludicrous. For example, they cited a famous Frenchman (Mitterand, if memory serves me right), who had prostate cancer. He took ginseng tablets … and lived another six months! (Prostate cancer typically develops very slowly.) Being French, I suspect he was also puffing away at Gitanes and wearing a beret whilst carrying a string of onions. Shouldn’t The Powers That Be be telling us all about the miraculous medical powers of Gitanes, beret-wearing and onion-carrying?I would like to say I was surprised at how many people opened their wallets and purses to buy the magical powder, but I wasn’t. There is a quotation (almost certainly mythical) attributed to Einstein: “They say the most prevalent element in the universe is hydrogen; it isn’t, it’s human stupidity.” I was surprised, however, by how much money people were prepared to spend. One woman must have spent at least 800 dollars (US) on these pointless pills and potions.

Given people’s gullibility, do you think I could make a fortune promoting the virtues of Welsh leeks? I’d have to turn them into dust and package them in gold-coloured boxes whilst making outrageous medical claims, but I think it could be a winner. Millionaire row, here I come!

The only respite during a day of consumerist excess was a brief visit to a temple.

Buddha figures at a temple in Seoul

Then there was more shopping: luxury goods shopping mall; duty free shop outside the airport; duty free shop inside the airport. But it’s all too tedious to relate.

(That said, I was surprised to see the duty free shop outside the airport do a good trade in kimchee. I was only too glad never to have to eat the (literally) rotten stuff again.)

The flight eventually landed in the small hours of the morning, and the coaches arrived back in Ayutthaya shortly before the first light of day. It was good to feel warm again.


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