A Journalist’s Bangkok

Having long been a regular reader of this site ever since Mr Stevesuphan first began his blogging exploits months ago and having been encouraged by that same Mr Steve to “quit writing under all those darned fake names (I confess to having used the occasional and varied nom de plume) and try writing a blog a’ yer’ own!” I thought I’d give it a go.

By way of a disclaimer, I am sure Stevesuphan would like to absolve himself completely of responsibility for the content of this blog or any in the future that are written by me!

I have been living here in Bangkok, the land of silicone noses and hi-so poses (final tip of the hat to Mr Steve), for close to three years and have spent the majority of that working in the media, mostly as a print journalist.

I thought it might be interesting then to send out the occasional blog about a bit of Thai media, be it books, films, Thailand in the news (this will be a great fountain wonderful stuff) and as in this opener, tear a page out of my trusty velvet-embossed BKK journalist’s notebook.

That is a thick book as I spent a considerable bit of time as a writer for a lifestyle publication geared towards businesspeople and in that time I met some people and had some experiences that, barring something horribly unforeseen, I’ll likely never forget. From a social studies perspective perhaps nobody was more interesting than the photographers who went with me on every story to take photos of every primary source I interviewed for a story.

If sources were unlucky enough to be the subject of a profile piece they were obligated, after I had filled up my tape, to get their picture taken enough times to fill several thick catalogues, with the photographer telling them how beautiful they are the entire time he spent clicking away. “1, 2, 3, Su-way maak na khrap”. This once got us an odd look from a rather prominent female MP who grew a bit frustrated at being told to smile a little wider and not to look so frumpy for the lens!

Another source who probably didn’t enjoy his Cecille B. Demille moment with our photographers was the president of a rather massive Japanese auto-parts company’s Thai branch. The bare hint of a smile that was forming at the corners of his lips when the photograph session began, was slowly overtaken by a disapproving scowl by the time the photographer adjusted the poor man’s tie and told him to tuck in his shirt for the final time.

In a photograph face-off with a Khao San Road tourist.

I enjoyed the company of one photographer especially, we’ll call him Phom. Prior to every interview Phom would ask me how long it would take me to finish, and he would use this information to determine how long he had to take a nap. Having concluded a long and exhausting tour of a government IT project on one occasion, I was forced to wander the building that was by now mostly empty in search of my photographer friend. Both the source and I assumed that Phom had left early until we found him in a darkened corridor (further inquiries revealed that he had turned out the light himself ) sprawled out asleep on some small benches from which he had fashioned himself a bed of sorts.

Phom left journalism for good recently, having found himself a plum PR photography job for better money at another firm. I’m sure that one of our trips, this one to an air-conditioning manufacturer, helped ease the pain of parting for him. The head honcho of this air-conditioning company said that I would have permission to tour the plant to get a better idea of their production processes. Since my article was on an industry analysis, big-picture kind of thing, and also since I was somewhat pressed for time, I passed. He then suggested that Phom go to take photos of the whole works and so he did.

One hour later the interview is finished, I’m having a glass of ice-water, a cup of coffee, sharing some fruit and chatting pleasantly with the head of the company and in comes Phom, or the ghost of Phom as I thought at the time, pale, ashen-faced and sweating profusely after having had spent the past hour in the non-too-cool climes of that factory.

I had intended on writing about a recent excellent book English translation of a Thai novel that I had recently, but so it goes. That’ll be for the next time around. Look forward to hearing any feedback!

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