Thursday, 28 February 2013

Bangkok Thailand - What 10 things can YOU learn from it?

The Huffington Post got it so right and so wrong with its blog today, 10 Things that Americans can Learn from Bangkok.

The "Blade Runner" reference is accurate though tired, and we're only talking about a small part of the Sukhumvit and Silom areas. Unless of course you were referring to the other Blade Runner du jour, Oscar Pistorious!

But I must wholeheartedly nod my head in violent agreement that a lot of structures and practices would NOT pass cursory inspection the developed world. Everyday walking down the street I see a million different things that might prematurely terminate my life. And that's just my little soi. But this is actually what I enjoy most about living in an emerging country such as Thailand. It's not pre-ordained, and Buddha only knows what is around the next corner.

Point 7 is where the writer gets it horribly wrong: "International is a state of mind". I am sorry, but the one thing holding Thailand back the most is a TOTAL LACK of global mindset. They are constrained linguistically to absorbing mostly what their own culture and media throws up, circles within circles. And Korean soap operas. There is barely any interest in happenings in their own country outside Bangkok, let alone the rest of the region or world for most. Sadly the Thais are not hungry thinkers, and do not generally possess a curious mindset. That's the reality. But this probably won't concern someone just travelling here for some sun and fun.

Instagramming about Suvanabhumi airport does NOT equal 'international' mind set per se. That's like saying because I like ladies in tights I must therefore enjoy the ballet!

It just means that 22,000,000 inbound tourists are jamming their way through it.

And I am really sorry, Huffington Post, English has NOT "all been adopted as a common language". I have travelled to 55 countries and struggle to think of a country (except perhaps outer Mongolia) where I struggled to communicate on a daily basis as much as here. And I studied Thai -- although I am reliably informed that I speak it like a 16 year-old Cambodian boy. Unless the writer ensconced themselves deeply and solely within the tourist belt of Khao San Road (oh, sorry, I see you went to Chatuchak Market as well, which is an awesome weekend market but frankly just as touristed as Khao San Road).

Even in the heart of Sukhumvit Road, another tourist and expat enclave, I can barely get two words out of most 7-11 clerks, bank tellers, waitresses (in any language, let alone English) so I don't see where English comes into play.

AEC 2015 is just 2 years away now and Thailand will get its arse kicked by lack of competitiveness purely on a language basis. Note: I'm not taking an imperialistic/ colonial standpoint here -- I would equally advocate they study Chinese as much as English. But get with the program, Thailand ...

It's a global village and no-one else speaks your language!

Where the Huff gets Bangkok spot on is all about the street food, and the passion of Thais for food culture. See the earnestness with which an Isan lady pounds the many ingredients for a somtam to get the consistency and spice kick just right.

They also make accurate observations about the Chao Phraya River ... a real working river and always a pleasurable way to while away some hours watching barges ply upriver, or see long-tail boats blasting their way across. And the canals add a distinctive air (literally, sometimes!) to the urban landscape.

Spot on, too, about Bangkok's hip street fashion. But go beyond Platinum Fashion Mall and get into the labyrinthine Siam Square area, teeming with students and hipsters and the next wave of big name Bangkok designers.

Haha, I just read the Coconuts Bangkok blog on this, which referred to Huffington Post's effort as "a new apogee of strained credibility". That it sure is, when -- although the political protests rarely affect tourists directly -- I almost got caught up in the Great Red-Shirt Shoot-out of 2010, and I am not sure how tanks, burning buildings, squads of soldiers and scores of deaths qualify as a "peaceful" model of democracy in action.

Epic fail, Huff Post! Mai dee loei.


  1. Thanks for sharing , I really impress and happy to after see this article.

  2. It is really a nice sharing. It will help the all to know about the Thailand and its culture. It is one of my most favorite Asian countries, which not only attracts me but also attracts the numerous people all over the world. I have decided to visit it after the New Year celebrations because I am going to celebrate it in New York from the golden bus travel. I have heard about the best services of the Golden bus that’s why I have booked their one tour for this eve.


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