She Bangs She Bangs
“Bang bang bang!” The Chinese drums banged endlessly in the shopping area as a mock battle between a young Chinese hero and a powerful dragon was put on for all and sundry. My companion was eager to show off this custom to me and pulled me towards what could only be described as a sound like a piece of metal hitting a trash can repeatedly. I shrunk away and made a bee line for whichever way took me as far from the disturbance as possible. When we finally made it to freedom my bewildered escort looked at me like a puzzled puppy not understanding why the loud noise would have such a negative effect.
“God I hate it when Thais blast that luk toong music at full blast for hours on end,” my Thai language school colleague announced to the class of farang from around the world. This was met with a resounding affirmation and an exchange of anecdotes from around the country of the noise polluting offenders. When the teacher made her appearance they bombarded her with questions for an explanation as to why the polite Thais seemed so dense in the area of respecting others' ears! She offered no explanation beyond, “I never see that before.”
“I hate Khao Sarn road,” I told her as she dragged me to yet another night in the Thai hip-hop club. She was Khao Sarn’s number one fan and loved to come here to dance all night to the foreign hip-hop music. “Why don’t you like Khao Sarn? There are so many foreigners just like you here!” I gave her a sideways glance and responded, “First off these hippies are nothing like me, and secondly Thai hip-hop clubs are horrible. They play the music far too loud distorting the songs and making it impossible to socialize in the club, and as much as I like Kriss Kross I don’t know why every club has to play ‘Jump Jump the remix’ 400 times a night. That song got played out 15 years ago.”
I was playing pool in an open-air beer bar on Walking Street in Pattaya (Tuna something) with a lady I had met the evening before. The music was so loud that it was uncomfortable to stand in the room. I couldn’t hear anything except the music. It was her turn to shoot, but suddenly her head perked up and she ran to her handbag. Out came her cell phone that she answered and proceeded to have a full-blown conversation.
I could go on and on and I am sure most of you could too. For some reason when it comes to things like music Thais are a lot like children. I remember in my younger years wanting to get bigger and bigger speakers and always wanting to blare the music, but now I really do appreciate a quiet calm that allows me to lose myself in thought and just relax on a sunny day. I have done some thinking on the subject of why must things always be so loud for Thais to have fun and have a few theories.
Theory 1 Speakers came from Farangland
In my second two examples the source of the disturbance came from a farang based area playing farang music. It is quite possible that Thais in their inability to understand us must think that by allowing us to hear our music louder and louder it will convince us that this venue must in fact be farang friendly with staff that really “gets” our style and interests. Some clubs have gone pretty far to make us believe they are really down with the foreigners. One sign on Walking Street advertised, “American What’s Up Style Go-Go Bar.” To my dismay none of the greeters could answer the simple question of, “What is ‘What’s Up Style’?” Their answer to every question was of course (transliterated for your reading pleasure), “Mini lady, cho mill, cho ewyting.”
Theory 2 Religion
Before I was old enough to question conventional thinking and have my own opinions I learned that if you want to hear God you must become quiet enough to let his voice enter your soul. How can God speak to you if 1000 other things are also entering your head? It is not the same in Asian cultures. They believe you have to get God’s attention with firecrackers, bells, and drums. This is why the two are employed so much around festivals. It would not be a stretch to think that a child growing up in this environment would associate loud noises with happy feelings and actively seek and provide venues where this ear splitting could take place.
Theory 3 A Show of Wealth
Nothing makes a Thai feel more sanuk than knowing that he has more money than you. If anyone has had the displeasure of associating with some of Thailand’s more social elite you will quickly learn that if they suspect they in fact have more assets than you then their attitude will immediately change towards you and not for the better. Bigger speakers cost more money so if my club can drown out your club with our music or my wat can afford a bigger gong and more people to come bang on it then I must be doing better in my back pocket than you are.
Whatever the reason the fact remains that especially when you let your Thai friends choose the venue chances are when you go out to the nightlife you will be bombarded with unpleasant noise. I always bring ear-plugs now and pop them in as soon as those decibels start to creep up.
NOISE is a massive problem in Thailand…