Sunday, October 6, 2013

Never go to Makkah immediately after visiting Bangkok

Now that we are nearing to the biggest day in a Muslim's life, I would like to remind my fellow muslims - make it Malaysians, it is more appropriate to address ourselves than anyone else - that they should refrain from visiting Thailand prior to heading to Makkah - either for Umrah, Haj or for any reason irrespective.

I made the mistake early this year when I went for my umrah with my family. Just a week before, I had visited Bangkok for a couple of days for business reasons.

In Madinah, an uncle of mine decided to purchase perfume for himself. There are probably more perfume shops in Madinah and Makkah than any other cities in the world, which to my mind is a paradox, to say the least.

Ironic in the sense that while we are doing the umrah or Haj (i.e. religious pilgrimage duties), one is not supposed to use or be in touch with any form of perfume. The umrah will be considered null and void if you use perfume of any kind - accidentally or intentionally. So we tend to stay away from such fluid like a plague.

Anyway, going back to my uncle Pak Su wanting to buy perfume. He can be considered a world traveller, being a former Malaysian Airline captain and now captain for Korean Airlines for the past 10 years. So I know I can trust his judgment when it comes to shopping.

He wanted something soft and easy on the nose; so soon he had zoomed in on the Majestic. It was then bargaining time - the price quoted is SR600; he was asking for SR500. But the seller would not budge. Not even for a single riyal, I would say.

I was watching the proceeding intently. I had never bought myself this kind of perfume before, so this was new to me. But I was left wondering in my mind. Here we have a Boeing 777 captain earning in US$ and wanted to bargain on a SR600 item.

I thought it was unnecessary and I would not (bargain). SR600 is too cheap for this wonderful perfume. There was no need to bargain. In fact, I chipped in and told the seller that I would take two bottles for myself and Arif.

"You would not mind having a bottle, would you Arif? " I asked Arif. I thought he can make do with a bottle himself. After all he is an airline pilot and being in the airline industry, he meets a lot with people and it would be appropriate to have a good perfume.
The most wonderful perfume that cost me a bomb. But the scent would linger on for the whole day
So I paid for two bottles of Majestic perfume for SR1200.00 using credit card. I was satisfied - I thought it was of the best smelling perfume I had ever come across, and I got myself a bargain.

Bargain of the trip!

Coming out from the shop, then something struck to my mind. What was I thinking? Pak Su was not being cheap when he was bargaining for his bottle of perfume. The bargaining was perfectly appropriate. I was totally wrong with my math. The conversion for SR from Ringgit is approximately 1:1, so each bottle had cost me nearly RM600 (actually it is RM500.00), and I had just paid nearly RM1200 for my two bottles of perfume.

"La, Pak Su, silap kira la," I lamented to my uncle, "I thought the price is RM60.00 per bottle."

At RM60, there was no reason to bargain. But at RM600a bottle, and for two bottles?

It struck me then that I had confused myself with the Thai Baht. The Thai Baht conversion to RM is approximately at 10:1. So B600 would be about RM60.00, and the week before departure I was in Bangkok for a couple of days for business reasons, and everything in the city has to be divided by 10 for me to know the value in Ringgit.

Well what can I say? I thought I was smart and I thought I knew my math. After all I had taken advanced engineering mathematics at university level, and international finance at MBA level and breezed through them. I had just paid for two bottle of perfumes for RM1200, and I thought I was paying RM120.00 instead, and I guess I should probably be drinking perfume for the next 6 months to pay for that two bottles I actually cannot afford.

Aah, well. Luckily I have two sons and between the three of us, I am sure we can use and finish off the two bottles of the most expensive perfume I had ever bought! Why oh why do we have to have different currencies and not a single one to contend with?

Or for that matter, why can't we do currency conversion using Laplace Transform? It would be easier for us engineers!

Morale of the story - Never go to Bangkok before heading to Makkah or Madinah. It is totally inappropriate, I can tell you that.



PS I wonder what were you thinking when you read the title of this piece. ;)

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