There's more than the usual frisson in the air this festive season in Bangkok, as we watch the baht do a fair impersonation of a roller coaster, the stock market wobbles then plummets, and the ghost of crises past looms large. Those who profess to know about these things have been up in arms for weeks about how strong the baht has become. Things came to a head this week when it hit 35 baht to the US dollar - a nine-year high, and a massive rise from the start of the year, when it was hovering around 41 baht. Those of us about to head off on holidays overseas weren't too upset, of course. Normally, when we venture abroad, our puny currency doesn't go too far at the airport currency-exchange counter. This year, armed with our big, butch baht, things were looking better: our Christmas shopping abroad was going to be far more fun. But the spoilsports at the Bank of Thailand were determined to stop the shadowy currency speculators apparently behind the rise and rise of the baht. Announcing the most drastic measures since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, they slapped a 30 per cent deposit requirement on anyone bringing cash worth US$20,000 or more into the country, in a bid to deter speculators bent on manipulating the currency for fast profits. Central bank governor Tarisa Watanagase said the baht had appreciated far above a healthy level. 'We think this measure will help slow down the short-term inflows as it would increase costs for speculators,' he said. Unfortunately, it worked a little too well. On Tuesday, the Stock Exchange of Thailand lost a staggering 800 billion baht (HK$174 billion) in value - the largest one-day drop in its 31-year history. With equally impressive understatement, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula admitted authorities had 'underestimated' how the controls would affect the market. Amid red faces all round, the new curbs have been revised to make stock investors exempt from the 30 per cent deposit rule. 'This was not a mistake,' Mr Pridiyathorn maintained. 'The central bank tried to address the problems. Without action, the baht would already have broken through 35 to the dollar.' As of Wednesday, the baht had weakened to 35.9 to the dollar, and a further weakening was expected. However the financial wizards try to spin it, it seems a spectacular blunder. Kongkiat Opaswongkarn, chairman of the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations, said the impact on the economy 'was worse than from the second world war'. So now we wait with bated breath for the next thrilling instalment. I'm off to Australia shortly and, selfishly, I won't be too upset if the baht continues to hover at its current level for a bit longer. But even the surliest Scrooge surely wouldn't wish us another crisis for Christmas.