The Beauty Of Bangkok
Love it or loathe it, our nation's capital is a kaleidoscope of colours, crowds, crack-pots and characteristics which are sure to have a serious effect upon anyone’s nervous-system and leave them with a flurry of upbeat emotions. To say that Bangkok is not Thailand is like summing-up that London is not England or Paris is not France.
Everyone knows that Bangkok ranks right up there in the world’s top five for a series of innumerable feats, including for example, the amount of taxis per person, drivers fleeing the scenes of accidents and the excruciatingly long-time length of its red-lights. Then, just last week, while watching one of me favourite morning chat shows, us viewers were informed that Bangkok now ranks third in the world for the amount of Billboards that plaster the city like the plaque.
For all the women in search of the perfect man there is an assortment of advertisements telling them what is needed: ‘get a nose job’, ‘ use armpit whitening lotions’ and ‘have a zitless forehead’. Then for us lonely men needing a wife and two kids it is statutory that we buy ‘a new house’, ‘a flashy new car’ and ‘a thoroughly fancy set of new furniture’, stressed-out cause of the finances involved? Never mind, there are dozens of billboards advertising ‘Bury yer problems! Big loans on-the-spot – guaranteed!’
The major concern, concerning the billboards is the darned awkward size of them and so a major public safety concern – should one fall down! Countless times over the past couple of years has it hit the news headlines to the likes of ‘Sidewalk beggar banged on head and hospitalised by big billboard’. Next, after a series of recent accidents, our PM has decided that all ‘dangerous and over-sized’ billboards be taken down before the end of the month! Let us wait and see!’
The same was said about the now near legendary New World Department Store in Banglamphu. Almost a decade ago now, after parliamentary deliberation, it was decided that this shopping centre was a serious health risk and that the owner had illegally added 7 floors without building permission. After a floor collapsed and a couple of dodgy deaths, the owner was ordered to knock-down the top seven floors immediately. Rather short-of-cash, the owner just didn’t have enough money and prolonged the demolition by taking the matter to court. Then last year, the infamous New World Department Store hit national headlines yet again with the likes of ‘8th floor of New World collapses, lots injured and one fatally’.
‘Til this day, New World is still stuck there for us to ‘walk past quickly’ with stacks-a massive warnings plastered around the building with the likes of ‘Darned dangerous place, enter at you own risk’.
Nearly every foreigner on arriving at Bangkok’s airport and on riding into town has been perplexed to those enormously useless concrete pillars which stretch for miles on the right-side of the highway. They are of course the ‘Stonehenge’ of Bangkok and are the ruins of a once Hope-Well Co, Ltd. construction project, who on having run into a stream of contractual problems half way through completely gave the project up to the eye-sore of the capital. They will probably be there for the next ten thousand years.
The stevesuphan award for ‘mega-mission construction cock-ups’ is afforded to the company that built Thonburi’s tallest condominium blocks. For all of you familiar with the areas surrounding Pinklao Bridge may well have wondered why on earth those two soaring twin-towers are and always have been virtually unoccupied for the past decade. Well, the condo company on having spent billions of baht completing the project didn’t have the brains to realise that the top 30 floors looked over the Grand Palace and most importantly The Emerald Buddha! The Ministry of Culture soon declared it a virtual-sin for any Thai wishing to relax with a beer and have their feet swung over the balcony with the nation’s most revered Buddha Image in view!
One Bangkok feature that certainly isn't in any ‘Unseen Thailand’ brochure has to be the precarious condition of Bangkok’s buses. Every year the government is out there on national TV advising all the capital’s 'supposedly selfish car owners' to ‘use public transport’ and that includes the buses! Well, I'm sure a darned lot more people would use the buses if all the passengers weren't so squeezed on with rough looking bus-conductresses constantly bellowing to the likes of ‘Chit Noi, chit noi’ (Move-up, we can fit another hundred people on!).
The capital’s bus drivers, famous not only for their consumption of ‘Energy drinks’, falling asleep at the lights and driving like lunatics are also famed for fleeing the scene after a passenger has been run-over by the buses’ back-wheel after they fell off the bus when the driver decided to take off before the passenger had actually got safely into the thing. I've heard the government raving and ranting over the years about the so-called deadly drivers that curse the roads but all the end results have been ‘Well… what else do you expect when employing the drunks at 200 baht a day? Michael Schumacher?
Tortured at the furnace-like heat of a Bangkok bus and red-lights that change once every quarter hour, there have been more than just a few people who have certainly ‘lost their rag’ and that includes the capital’s traffic police. One, a few years back, who on trying to manage the hellish Silom/Rama IV junction literally ‘blew his nut’ and turned all the lights green at the same time and left for home! So, there for the next hour is complete chaos at this downtown junction with half the cars piled on top of each other! This certain traffic police officer soon struck it lucky and was immediately transferred to one of those most enviable of job positions ‘inactive duty’, where he has nowt else to do but sign-in and read a cartoon-book all day long.
Then, there was one traffic police officer a few years back who decided to put on a bit of a show for all those infuriated drivers stuck at the red-lights. So, there he was dancing around for a few months juggling his gun in the middle of the road and being interviewed by all the news stations about this certainly ‘unique act’. The gun-juggling officer was so popular with the local drivers that a bunch of other so-called officers impressed by his skills were soon out there copying the likes of him all over the capital. That was until the Head of Bangkok’s Traffic cops put an end to it all after he declared that ‘just one too many accidents had occurred’ what with the drivers more interested in the cops juggling skills than the car actually in front of him!
Not only famed for scolding the capital’s taxi drivers parked illegally outside of shopping malls all day, the officers have made quite a name for themselves by helping the local motorists pay their traffic violation fine ‘on-the-spot’ instead of all that hassle of paying the fine at the station. Realising that this can be quite a ‘money-making-scam’ I can remember the story of two villains over the past few years (one just last month) who had been arrested for ‘impersonating a cop’. Supposedly, the cop-wannabes had taken it upon themselves to buy a cop outfit and then flag-over as many motorists as they could possibly do in order to sucker money out of them. That was until one of them unfortunately tried to score some money out of the district police chief’s wife!
Very nice indeed.