Reflecting On A Modern-Day Chronicler
Bangkok has a way of stealing the hearts of the unwary – it has done it to me for years and my heart will always be in Bangkok. No, it didn't really steal my heart – I gave it away, willingly. I'd like to start by saying that special thanks are due to what is seen through the eyes of Phrakanong in the loving care and talent that is recorded so professionally, yet unobtrusively, with such amazing ability to capture, on video, the essence of the vendors, street people and pedestrians who make Bangkok the Wonderland that I love. What is amazing is the welcoming smiles and greetings given by the subjects being filmed.
This person has given so much pleasure to people through those video clips and I am so grateful to be able to watch the newer HD clips of so many aspects of this wonderful city that many would never otherwise see unless Phrakanong had invested the effort to leave these images for posterity. Sure, there are others who have posted video clips on YouTube of different areas of Bangkok – but there is something very special contained in the work of Phrakanong along with the Thai music that is often set as a background to enhance the theme.
Twenty years hence, people will be able to look back and recall the Bangkok of 2014, if those clips remain posted on YouTube, or if some people have been wise enough to save them as downloads. It seems such a shame that there are not equal quality and quantity of images taken from 20 years ago that we of the present can view to see what Bangkok of 1994 was like. There are a few clips such as the early days of the construction of the Old Don Muang Terminal I and a few jpg images that have been preserved of some of the bar areas of older Bangkok, along with some street scenes – but nothing equals the quality that has been preserved through the lenses of Phrakanong's video cameras.
An equal Modern-Day Chronicler in the fields of jpg images and as a person providing a website for opinions and news of all happenings in Thailand – more specifically Bangkok – must certainly be Stick. The site stickmanbangkok.com has provided oh so much more than enjoyment to countless people who read the contributions from Stick and from general readers via their submissions to the site. Throughout the years that the website has been operating it has grown to become a ritual, for all readers interested in anything Thai, to hit their toolbar link to read the latest Readers' Submissions each Monday to Saturday – and each Sunday night to catch up on all that is new for the week just gone, along with hints from Stick of what to expect in the future. There has been nothing like this website and I don't believe that anything is capable of replacing it – many of us will surely-miss our daily dose of stickmanbangkok.com when the end finally comes. I don't think I am far off the mark by saying that anyone who has had anything at all to do with this site will feel a deep sense of loss and a very large void in their lives when this great institution closes.
I have never met any of the other contributors to this site – nor have I met Stick – yet I have this feeling that we are all part of a big family, brought together by a feeling of love/hate for much of what happens in LOS – but, let's be honest, I think it is mostly a bond of love for a band of brothers and sisters.
When I first went to Bangkok, I never even knew of stickmanbangkok.com – all of my explorations in Bangkok were "off the cuff" and it was the place where I met Natalise – the person I married when I first took her to Australia on her first Tourist Visa. Nat and her elder sister both ran clothing outlets – one in Silom and the other in Sukhumvit. Sometimes when Nat was really busy, she would dump me (like a bag of shopping) in a framing studio that was located near the corner of Soi 7/1 – and I think the front part of the building, facing Sukhumvit Road, was a currency exchange that offered good rates for AUD. I think she would dump me there so that a couple of the girls, who worked in the framing studio, could keep an eye on me to tell Nat if I had "hit" on either of them – and boy, weren't they stunners. I was sorely tempted. I suppose I passed the test. I guess the proof was that we were then planning the visit to Wat Arun to get a blessing by the monk on duty – but first, we had to go and buy this large, black wooden animal. I really can't remember if it was an elephant or a horse (along with other paraphernalia) that were to be a donation for the monk. Going to Wat Arun was a moving experience that I never forget – and it always remains a very special place for me in Bangkok. We also attended the Hindu (Sri Mariamman) Temple at Silom to have our fortunes read – but that didn't do a lot for me – I much preferred Wat Arun. I have always liked visiting wats and talking with the monks.
Meeting the family was a daunting affair, as I spoke very little Thai at that stage and certainly could not read or write Thai – and I had to be "vetted" by Papa and also by one of the brothers-in-law (from Surin – the Head Man of the village) who made a special trip to Bangkok to "interview" me. I must have passed his tests as we did drink a lot of Bia Singha and had plenty of snacks with a lot of aroi's and dee's being exchanged. The sin-sod was never even mentioned at that stage. From what I can remember, even after it was given, the family returned it to Natalise before she brought the children to Australia.
That was a good part of life – but it did have its difficult periods when we had to be separated for short times while waiting for Visa approvals or when I needed to return to Australia to sort out financial arrangements and to terminate music commitments. Sometimes I think it was a big mistake for us to return to Australia – I truly did love Bangkok and always wanted to stay there. I had a Non-Immigrant "0" Visa and had been offered a job at one of the English schools. Still, in hindsight, it was far better for Nat to get Residency for herself and her two young girls and then Citizenship for all three of them. I was so proud of them on the day they were given Citizenship at City Hall. Life in Australia was always going to be filled with better opportunities for all three of them than they would have had in Thailand. Time has proved that to be so.
It is almost a year since I was last in Bangkok and I do miss it badly – but, as I wrote in the last sub, we "Has-beens" have a treasure-chest filled with good memories where we can retreat and cogitate – hopefully sifting out the wheat from the chaff. Still, even the chaff is sometimes worth recalling. Then I have Phrakanong's legacy to view when I feel like a morale boost – and it is comforting to know that the submissions posted by so many writers on Stick's website will probably still be there to go back over. Part of me wants to go back again when health permits – but there is ambivalence there because I'm not sure I wish to confront the "new" Bangkok. It won't be what I want to remember – so many changes, even since last December, that I don't think I want to be part of.
I'm just a grumpy old man – a cranky old fart who should find another couple of disenchanted "Has-beens" so that we can all sit in a small bar here, ignoring each other and living in our past "glory" years in Thailand. Each of us sitting on our bar stools (well-separated) with a little sign hung around our necks "Do Not Disturb – But Keep Filling The Bloody Shot Glass With Doubles". Thank God they have Bia Singha here and Bia Chang – and good old Jackie (Daniels that is) is always available. I wonder if anybody has ever come up with the idea of opening a small bar with a Thai theme here – now that would be a "goer". I shall have to have a talk with a few of the monks down at The Thai Wat. Do you know it is impossible to buy Mekhong in liquor outlets in Australia – what the fxxk is going on? Apart from Jackie, Mekhong is one of my favourite agents to imbibe.
Come to think of it, I have "Little Thailand" in my living room – drawers full of Thai VCDs and DVDs – even a full-size Thai flag on the wall and large glass-framed photos of His Majesty. I don't need to go to a bar – I have a couple of friends who are (or were) married to Thai ladies and we could have a good old gnashing of teeth in pleasant surroundings. But it wouldn't be the same as the little nondescript bar in Chiang Mai, would it? No, the silence is more comforting with The Eagles playing softly in the background. And there, in Chiang Mai, if I chose, I could just walk up a little way to the bar that I remember so well.