The Bliss of Bangkok

An Oxygen Bar inBangkok where you can get a daily dose of clean air

After a quick series of shorty blogs posted this week, I thought I’d do the righteous thing and gives yous all, another one of those darned lengthy postings of mine. Looking through me notebook, it was pretty tricky having to decide on what to bore you with this week, and settled in the end to go back to one of me fave subjects of and that is the ‘Bafflement of Bangkok’.

Not long back, I mentioned the Thai ladies’ craze for walking around freezing cold department stores just to show off their lovely little babies to all the onlookers. Well, for all the childless ladies lacking such companionship they can always take a cute little mutt of a dog instead. We all know that women from all over the world can spend two hours in front of a mirror doing their make-up but here in Bangkok they spend another darned hour doing their pet-dog’s hair, tale and fur and not forgetting to stick in a big fancy bow on top of it’s head. All in order, the next stop is the nearest Mall where they can spend the complete afternoon walking around showing off their fluffy friend.

Well, the Bangkokians these days have gone for more than just a fascination for little dinky dogs. The Weekend Market is a haven for pet lovers wanting the likes of an enormous Madagaskar Cockroach or a Guatamalan Death-Witch Spider. As you could well have imagined the local authorities in charge have enjoyed arresting quite a few of these so-called pet-animal dealers and one was charged just last month for supposedly dealing in pet-tigers! Well, one of those would certainly deter any burglers!

There are plenty of energetic yearly events held in the country, we have the juicy ‘Miss Jumbo’ competition, the ‘As much as you can scoff durian’ festival’ and then we have just hundreds of big shows put on in the capital by the government aimed at supposedly helping the poor. Most of the nation’s male population however, wait in excitement, while dribbling at the mouth for none other than the ‘Motorshow!’ It’s that time of the year when all the men leave their loved-ones at home (of course their wives’ think their off to dinner with some important customer from Osaka) and go to ‘check the quality’ of the Motorshow Promo Girls. It doesn’t matter whether the guy has little more than 10 baht in his pocket he can stroll around for hours talking to all the Promo girls about the cars on offer while admiring their shockingly revealing attire! Without of course having to buy them a drink.

Now, these Promo Girlies are popping up everywhere and if you would like to check for yourself whether they are ISO 14001 passable, you need only visit any old fancy shopping Mall on your weekend off. These Promo Girlies can be found just inside the entrance wearing a three-inch long skirt, knee-length boots with an eight-inch heel and standing at the height of 6 foot 2 passing out lots of brochures on ‘Dry Deo Deodorant’ or ‘Flashy fingernail clips’. Once I had one of the darlings, who on promoting AIDS prevention, stick a contraceptive into my hand and when on returning home I was on the receiving end of a right shouting at by my girlfriend then, to the likes of ‘You scoundrel, why are you carrying one of them around, I knew I could never trust you!!’. Now that’s pretty bad luck.

Every four years in the ‘City of the 7-11 and Starbucks’ the capital’s folks have the dreaded task of having to elect a Governor to listen to the whims of the Bangkokians and ‘solve all their problems’ (of course easier said than done). As most of the former governors who after winning the election decided instead of having to go to the office every day and walk around the slums of Klong Tery, go instead to play tennis, start a collection of imported wines and enjoy the sites of the yearly Motorshow.

As for one of the last governors, every plan of his flopped or ended up in the garbage can. Glad they did. As for probably the worst environmental cock-ups he accomplished had to be about two years ago at Loy Krathong when he asked all the Thais to use artificial foam Krathongs instead of the traditional ones made from the banana tree. On asked why, he replied that the so-called banana tree Krathong was dirty and caused eye-pollution. “Nevermind” he said “I will order the local Bangkok authorities to collect up all the garbage foam Krathongs in the morning so as they won’t all float out into the ocean”. Sounded great but of course it didn’t work and instead it was reported that tens of thousands of these artificial foam Krathongs floated away down river into the Gulf of Thailand and never seen again. The next year it was a return to the traditional ways.

That year too he invited all the city folks to float their Krathongs from under Rama 8 bridge where a big pompous party was also put on too. Stevesuphan went too and what a farce that was! The lacklustre governor had failed to realise the strong current of the river and so 90% of the Krathongs, when on being floated, did a backward-flip instead and sunk to the bottom. This former governor got so cheesed-off that all his plans failed, quoted to the press in his last year “I won’t bother doing anything this year, it’s a waste of time trying to get anything implemented!” and that’s exactly what he did do and became famous instead for his cooking skills which he enjoyed showing off to a stack of reporters on a weekly basis. Bored of politics, he’s now a TV chat show host.

Talking about the local authorities. One of the most splendid well-thought out plans by the capital’s police over the years to boost their spending powers has been to ‘sucker some cash out of the foreign tourists’. Of course they had to find a legal excuse and so for a darned long time they enjoyed catching and fining millions of tourists who had dropped anything on to the sidewalk, from a 7-11 receipt to a cigarette butt. Of course there were a few big warnings and the ones on Sukhumvit and Silom Road read in English ‘Litter Droppers will be Fined 2,000 baht or $100’. It didn’t take a degree in mathematics to work out (then 25 to the dollar) that you would have to be pretty stupid to pay in dollars!

They were hundreds of complaints when the Rangsit police, who on realising that a lot of the foreigners were getting to know about these fines went instead to catch all the dumb foreigners who had just arrived in the country. So, there they were just outside the airport arrival terminal fining all the foreigners who had just 10 minutes before got off the plane in need of a quick smoke before they got the taxi downtown! Welcome to Thailand!

Bangkok has many an awesome site for the foreign tourist to gaze at in a state of disbelief and two of those have to be the capital’s manholes and electric lines. I can’t imagine just how many drunk tourists have fallen down one when returning to their hotel room, only to be found the following morning 10 foot under by some office workers. It would only make sense to put a warning sign up but then the construction workers would say “It’s your fault, you should have been watching where you were going”. As for the state of some of the electric cables around, many-a foreign tourist has had a right laugh at the cowboy-job of the capital’s supposed technicians who have arranged some of the cables to be hung just 3 inches above your head. Again, if you get electrocuted and drop-down dead, it’s your own fault for not keeping your eyes open!

And finally, to end my series on Bangkok, howabout the great BTS Skytrain. For all of you foreigners interested in meeting English teachers for some info on teaching in Thailand don’t even bother wasting your time contacting the likes of me and Richard, the skytrain is full of them. Its quite simple to spot the difference between a foreign teacher and a foreign businessman, just look at them. The Farang teacher usually wears a pair of trousers that are three inches too short for him, carries all his books in a Tesco-Lotus plastic bag, has a 6 baht biro in his shirt pocket and hasn’t brushed his hair for a week. As for the businessmen, they look respectable.

Then, there’s the bedraggled condition of some of the foreign tourists who look ‘even worse’. You can witness all the Thais step five foot-back when they see this big sweaty Farang who, on getting on the skytrain and reaching up to hold-on, fouls the air with natural body odour oozing from his armpits.

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