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Detroit of the East

Last day of business in Rayong - rest and prepare for more adventure.

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Since Monday I have been the guest of General Motors Thailand and have spent many hours in class with buyers, supply chain managers and business process specialists. All are Thai nationals and certainly prove that Thailand is the "Land of Smiles".

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When first approaching GM Thailand I was expecting to see a few vehicles (assembled here in Thailand) displayed at the entranceof the HQ.

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What I did not expect was the huge portrait of the King of Thailand unfurled just right of the front entrance of the Administration Bldg. and the Spirit House (shrine??) on the lawn just left of the entrance. I have a lot to learn about spirit houses and the connection of Buddhism to Animism and Hinduism. There is a bit of all three religions in the Spirit Houses of Thailand seen throughout the cities and countryside. I will blog about this as I learn more. I am fascinated!

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As in all other regions where I have taught I find the students to be well-educated, skilled speakers of English and notable assets for their company

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(NOTE: left of the projection screen is a huge Chevy logo. Left of the Chevy logo is an altar for prayer!)

This is a first for me -- an actual altar or shrine with kneeling pads in my training room. I never did observe anyone kneeling or praying in the classroom this week. But, I truly enjoy the juxtaposition of the "shrine" with the poster of the Chevy Colorado. It would seem to be apropos in Thai culture.

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In Thailand folks are devout Buddhists (97%), but they also worship the pick-up truck. I have noticed housing along the roadside where the pick-up truck was probably larger than the residence!

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Although the business culture may differ from that found in China, S. Korea or North America certain characteristics are constant: the continual drive to improve processes and skills, the awareness that the automotive industry is fiercely competitive, especially in Asia-Pacific, and the high value placed on a job that offers meaningful work for good compensation. The Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate on its website:

Recognized as "Detroit of the East", The Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate (ESIE) in Rayong Province is the auto cluster . . . The industrial estate covers a vast area of 8,621 rai (3,448 acres).

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ESIE is home to over 109 automotive supply-line companies. This includes 9 of the world's top 10 automotive suppliers and over 25 Toyota group companies. General Motors manufactures Chevrolet sedans and one-ton pickups as well as Isuzu one-ton pickup export volumes. This industrial estate is a manufacturing base for export to more than 206 countries. Since created in 1995, ESIE's development has been a resounding success with USD 5 billion investment. At present, there are 25,000 employees working with over 218 international companies.

And, all of those 25,000 employees are on the road trying to get into the ESIE every morning. I am amazed at the skill of my fine driver, Mr. U-Thai. The workers who move along most quickly and creatively are those on motor scooters (sometimes detouring into parking lots of roadside markets, riding the dirt road shoulders and often resorting to the outback). It is a wild scene.

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It is not unusually to see three workers on the same scooter and the majority of them without helmets. Scooters are used by parents to take the kids to schools near the EISE. One mom was "scootering" her three children to school on Tuesday and passed my van on the left by resorting to a dirt shoulder and weaving around buses, trucks and scooters.

The traffic is simply awful and, at the same time, fascinating. I never heard a horn honking or a driver yelling. Very quiet people, these Thais. Unlike my experience in South Korea there is no road rage. No one cuts another driver off. They simply seem choreographed to move in and out of lanes and around buses. I am in love with Thai bus art and will be blogging separately on the subject.

The songthaew/pick-up truck is ubiquitous.

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(No, Mom. They are not wearing seatbelts!)

Then, there is the Toyota commuter van, usually silver and professionally driven with three rows of seating for middle management, executives and guests (like me!). There are hundreds of these silver Toyota vans. I have had the luxury of sitting back with my cell camera and letting Mr. U-Thai, my driver, manage to safely navigate our way to and from work each day.

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When I said, "Goodbye" to him yesterday I calculated that we had spent over 12 hours together this week. I guess that's longer-lived than many relationships! Always, he was on time, never lost his cool and made sure that I had a bottle of cold water when I stepped into his air-conditioned van.

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I gave Mr. U-Thai an orchid corsage to give his mother for the big holiday that begins today. (See blog: The Queen's Birthday/Mother's Day. I will post shortly.) Good-bye, Mr. U-Thai and thank you.

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Posted by MaryCWright 11.08.2011 21:51 Archived in Thailand

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