7-eleven, blessing or curse?
7-eleven is a frachise chain of small supermarkets, between 50 and 100 square meters I guess. To be found in many countries in the world. They might be called convenience stores as well, and that's what they are for us as bike-travellers. It's a formula shop, so all 7-elevens are similarly organised, selling the same articles for the same prices. Staff is mostly young, dressed in uniform and working according to standard protocols. So you know what you get and how you will get it, very convenient for us. The shops are to be found in any town of more than a couple of thousand inhabitants and at the bigger petrol stations.
The products they sell are the same as those you would expect in any supermarket, though the choice is somewhat more limited and quantities are smaller, the shops are simply too small for more. But the articles they have are just the little things you daily need, except for fresh meat and vegetables. What we especially like is the coffee and the steamed rolls. You can make your own hot (instant) coffee or ice coffee, and in different sizes. The steamed rolls (in Holland often called Bapao) are hot and together with the coffee they offer an excellent alternative for a noodle-soup breakfast. When we are riding in the heat of the day the ice coffee is very welcome.
So for us 7-eleven certainly is a blessing.
On the other hand these shops (there are more) are one of the expressions of the growing influence of “western” culture. Though the shops are mostly run by local entrepreneurs, there's non-local investment involved, as well as the consequent profit drain. The shops compete with the traditional local retailers, who have their food and fruit stalls and who loose customers. It's uninevitable, happens and happened all over the world, but still, things get lost. So in this sense one might not consider developments like these a blessing.
Another thing we think we noticed is the number of Thai people with overweight. We remember from our first visit in 2006 that at that time it struck us when we saw a obviously too heavy person. It rarely occured. Now this is a regular phenomenon. Is the growing impact of western “civilization” going to have the effects that we know too well from our own country, or from big America? Seems inevitable as well, and is no blessing at all.