Stickman Readers' Submissions February 4th, 2004

A Thai Nightmare

I had a dream. In the dream I was visiting Thailand after a break of about three years. I walked down Soi 4 Nana tai past what was N.E.P, it had become a shopping centre. There were pictures of Premier Thaksin everywhere, Thailand had become a Republic. The open bar in front of the Nana Hotel had become a fast pizza franchise. I then caught the Skytrain and Subway to Soi Cowboy. The bars and gogos had gone and except for a couple of restaurants it was a pedestrian street full of ladies clothes and shoe shops. Another trip on the Subway and Sky train with their warnings of heavy fines for dropping chewing gum and cigarettes brought me to what was Chatuchak Market, it had become a large bus station. Undeterred I travelled to Patpong in the evening to look for some designer copies and cheap CDs. Patpong had become a couple of streets with expensive shops and the market stalls had disappeared. A fading sign said 'Fight Piracy !' The shops had closed at 6pm and there was not a cheap CD or cheap anything in sight. Everywhere the Thais looked wary and glanced away not wanting to return eye contact. Cowed and serious the smiles had gone. I took some money from an ATM with retinal recognition, the money exchange shop next door quoted Euros, the pound sterling had disappeared. As in Hong Kong the Thais mostly used electronic cards instead of money. Bangkok had become as expensive as Europe. The streets were spotlessly clean and the beggars and stray dogs had disappeared.

A smartly dressed policeman seemed to be on every street corner, they were checking bags as there had been a terrorist alert. CCTV cameras were beginning to sprout like mushrooms and monitored the progress of cars digitally. Cars were charged to drive in Bangkok, their journeys tracked electronically. In the dream I watched a policeman fine a pedestrian for dropping a cigarette end. On the way back to my hotel I passed a book shop, the newspapers outside had full front page coverage of European Federation President Blair meeting Premier Thaksin to discuss the Asian Union, big smiles all round.

He Clinic Bangkok

My hotel was quiet and the staff appeared polite but subdued as if frightened of something. A sign in the almost empty hotel bar said 'Closes at 10pm' the staff looked bored or sad.

The next day I took a luxury aircon bus to Pattaya to look up an old friend. I walked through Soi Diamond to get to Walking Street. The gogos and bars that were left were closed and boarded up. A sign outside my friend's gogo had faded with age. It stated that he had gone back to 'NZ' and then gave a barely readable address. Walking Street had become a fashion shopping precinct rather like Bond Street in London. Again pictures of Premier Thaksin dominated public areas, they had replaced Rama V, echoes of North Korea. There was not a farang in sight. The bars had gone.

Where the Thai Boxing ring and 'Dolls House' Go-go had been there was now a shopping mall. The escalator that led to the 'Peppermint A-Go go' now led to a designer shoe shop and a McDonalds. Stone faced security guards stood where once there were 'service girls'. The ladyboy disco now sold ice-cream. I saw shops offering 'Traditional Massage Only'. The word 'only' was made to stand out. No girl asked if I wanted to come in. Just like Bangkok the Thais looked serious and cowed, afraid to make eye-contact with a Farang, I felt like an outcast. A group of neatly dressed school children scurried past, they wore badges on their uniforms which said 'Young Pioneers' in English and Thai. Suspicious eyes flicked in my direction. I awaited denouncement.

CBD bangkok

Beach Road was full of families from India, Australia and what looked like Malays or Indonesians with their muslim attire. At least there were a few Australian farangs, I couldn't miss the accent. A large sign invited you to 'DisneyAsia'-Pattaya only 10 kms away. Accompanying that sign was another, triumphanting Thai rice production for the 'Asian Union'. Most of the bars on Beach Road and the sois had gone, the girlie bars had been replaced by either hotels or expensive shops run by Indians. There were a few Swiss and Belgian restaurants but few Farangs in them. Other bars had become fashionable ice-cream parlours all fighting for trade. Like Bangkok everywhere looked spotlessly clean. One bar had a sign saying No singing, No dancing. There wasn't any music and the televisions showed endless football matches or programmes on farming. It reminded me of Greece under the Colonels. Dismayed and with a heavy heart I returned to Bangkok and then to the airport cutting my holiday short. Arriving at Don Muang another sign proclaimed that the new airport 'Thaksin International' was due to open on time in 2010, they were now using the western calendar.

A awoke in a old sweat, it was after all just a dream.

Strange dreams and nightmares are made of unusual things.

Stickman says:

wonderland clinic

Scary stuff!

nana plaza