Sunday afternoon – clouded over and another 4 days of showers forecast in Oz. I am playing the Thai CD "A Taste Of Potato" and doing a lot of thinking. Already played a raft of other CDs of Thai artists from 2004 that I particularly like, while reflecting on periods that have been so special in Thailand.
I will be in Bangkok in December and could stay for 3 months – or perhaps for always. That is the way I am thinking at this moment – it is the only place where I am truly happy. Each day in Oz, for me, feels as if I am wasting what life there is left by being here.
How many of you guys feel the same way (wherever you call home) when not in Thailand? It really is like catching an infection that you cannot cure once you have been there – and you don't want it to be cured. What is it about Thailand that makes feelings run so strongly that you never want to leave there?
There are so many things I would like to say but I don't know where to start – but I will try.
In my living room, all the walls and bookcases are lined with photos of people whom I regard as so very special in my life – but all of them are Thai – I do not have a single photo displayed of any of my original family or of my two grown-up children. It is as if life never began for me until I went to Thailand – the apartment where I live is "Little Thailand". I live and breathe it 24/7 – never even considering going to bed without a Thai CD playing through headphones. Crazy part is that I usually fall asleep before 3 tracks are played on any disc.
My computer work-station is a networked set-up of the latest Linux Distro on a Dell machine and Windows 7 professional on an Intel custom-built machine. I refuse to run Win 8 – and both operating systems are set up with LibreOffice (open source) software to be able to write Thai script. I waste a lot of my day at this work-station. Still, it enables me to do tasks allied to all things Thai and fills in an otherwise black hole.
It's strange – but each time I go to Thailand now I tell myself "This will be my last time" – yet it is not long after returning here to Oz that the longing sets in and I am once more down at my usual travel agent to book again. It is always a battle to decide if it will be to Chiang Mai or to Bangkok – but Bangkok has always come first since 2010. Still, there are places I wish to go and wander over again in Chiang Mai – stay for a few nights in some of the places that were significant, or maybe catch up with a few people from way back when.
The danger is that the longer you stay away from a place, the more distorted the memories become – and you start to ask yourself "Was that really how it was – or is it how I wish it had been?" My friends always tell me I have a photographic memory – and yes, I do recall things very accurately on long and short-term memory. The truth of the matter is that we see things very powerfully how we want them to be and that is not always reality. I like the old saying: "The older I get, the better I was". This one is not bad either – often said by one of my long-gone workmates: "The hurrier I do, the behinder I get". That sure seems true in our modern world.
Bangkok is my first love and always will be – but that's not to say that Chiang Mai is a lesser place. It is different and has beautiful places to visit – but the frenetic madness of Bangkok is what I miss up in Lanna. There's nothing better (to my way of thinking) than the noises, smells, hordes of people walking, street vendors with loud voices, even the touts and often totally-chaotic traffic. I love the sounds of Thai people speaking and the easy availability of almost anything you could imagine.
People from Lanna seem more open and friendly than some of their Bangkok counterparts and there is an element of intrigue about Chiang Mai. Still, I suppose that is not surprising as Lanna always was a separate culture-base before the railway connected it to Bangkok in 1919.
Many writers of these subs write of the changes happening in the bars, clubs and gogo establishments – but not being one who ever frequents gogo bars or clubs, I do notice the many changes happening in so many other parts of Bangkok away from the bar scene. A case in point is a fact that Stick has highlighted a few times: It is almost impossible to get a seat in any skytrain these days – you are lucky if you can even get in the door for the throng already inside. I remember when it was very easy to get a seat on both of the skytrain routes in either direction. The extension of the BTS from On Nut to Bearing and from Saphan Taksin to Talat Phlu (with a further extension under construction – or perhaps even now finished – to Bang Wa) are causing this overcrowding problem that even some 4-car services cannot handle comfortably.
Bangkok is growing so fast – outward and upward. The trip in from Suvarnabhumi to Ratchaprasong shows the amazing expansion outward to the east, with so many condo and apartment blocks built where once there was bare, swampy land. Yet, with all of the expansion upward and outward, I still have to smile whenever I see the concrete-agitator trucks trying to battle their way out into the traffic to turn left on Ratchadamri. That concrete batching plant, squeezed in between Central World and Klong San-Saep, seems so out of place in this modern Bangkok – almost like a living museum artifact but, no doubt, a very real and valuable contribution to Bangkok's new expansion.
Then, there is the future to consider. What will the Bangkok of the future look like? With melting Pole caps and rising sea levels, there is a very real prospect of inundation from the Gulf Of Thailand – and already not much leeway between ground level and high tides. Currently Bangkok's average level above The Gulf ranges between 3.5 and 5 feet – and added to that is the fact that Bangkok is sinking at an average rate of 4 inches each year due to the underlying ground being mainly clay with no bedrock where its teeming population and factories pump some 2.5 million cubic tons of cheaply-priced water, legally and illegally, out of its aquifers. This compacts the layers of clay and causes the land to sink. In fact, parts of Bangkok are already below sea level.
I cannot imagine what the Bangkok of the future will look like – or, worse still, what it will cost to make the city habitable and still provide traffic infrastructure. Could it be that the only answer can be to abandon the present site of Thailand's capital to higher ground – perhaps on the Korat Plateau – with access to ports and the Chao Phraya River by high-level rail links to access high-level port facilities.
Whatever course of action is embarked upon, one thing is certain – the Bangkok that we now know and love will not be the same. How do the words go in the old Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi"?
" . . . Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone . . . "
Fifty years, or maybe 100 years down the track – there will be some who will ask "What was the old Bangkok like?" So, to all you guys and ladies who love it – or to those who just take it for granted – appreciate it now, while you still are able to. There never will be another place to equal it, just as it is.
I think there are many with the Thailand bug, people who long to be in Thailand and many of whom who live vicariously through Thailand-centric websites.
Call me a bore, but I am not sure this is particularly healthy. I think many forget that their homeland DOES have much going for it and I question the way some almost idolise Thailand as if it is the only place they can be happy. I've seen many such people relocate to Thailand and sooner or later they realise that getting on a plane is not the secret to being happy!
I can understand someone who loves hot weather year round preferring Thailand. I can understand those for whom money is tight and Thailand might offer a little more lifestyle-wise. I can understand those who want endless sex with women who would be out of reach with them at home preferring Thailand. And there probably countless other reasons why one may prefer Thailand. But living in the country is not without its challenges, and many inevitably end up missing not just things from home, but home in general.