How Thailand Captures The Heart
Over 16 years ago, I lost my heart to Thailand – or, more specifically at that time, to beautiful Bangkok. I have tried to put my finger on the reason or reasons for that happening – but it still eludes me how and why that happened. For me, it has been like being “infected” by a condition that acts almost invisibly – until, one day, you realise you are hopelessly-addicted.
It has been almost 3 years since I was last in Bangkok – Christmas/New Year 2013 – but the addiction is still as strong as it was on that first time I saw Bangkok. Fortunately, I took the time to download and save every video clip of Bangkok that I could find on YouTube – and that has been a wonderful aid in keeping alive the love I have for, not only Bangkok, but Chiang Mai as well.
The quality of the video clips available now on YouTube is very-much superior to what was available in those early years – but I regularly play through those older clips, to keep my mind fresh about how things were back then. I still enjoy many of those old clips. The unfortunate thing is that almost all of those have been removed from YouTube. I think that is quite a shame. My suspicion is that this is because the music backing on many of those clips may have been seen to contravene copyright laws as monitored by DRM. How petty, if that is the reason.
One clip that I keep going back to is “Silom Square at Night – Beautiful Bangkok”. It is a simple, short clip by A. Mauj – but I love the music and camera work of the clip. It captures the mood of the Silom/Sala Daeng area and the overhead Skytrain that leads one into the area where Rama IV intersects Ratchadamri. It is nice to see how it was, back around 2000, at night. I always notice that there were only 3-car units on the BTS in that period – and one could normally get a seat on the trains. These days, even with 4-car units, it is very difficult to find seats on the Skytrain. Quite often one is lucky to get in the door for those standing inside or those wishing to get out. I guess that shows how Bangkok has grown – upward and outward – and it shows no sign of slowing down. One only has to wonder how chaotic travel would be without the MRT and Airport Link. Neither of those were built when I went to Bangkok in 2000. Even the Skytrain had not been in service for long in 2000.
In that first year, I made many trips to and from Thailand, flying QANTAS/BA through Sydney Airport – and it got to the stage where Customs started to pay more attention to me, due to my frequent arrivals and departures. That, coupled with the fact that I hated doing the domestic shuffle from Brisbane to Sydney and return, prompted me to switch over to Thai Airways International as they flew in to and out of Brisbane. Since making that change, I always say it is the best decision I have made for travel – the service on Thai is always good and so are the meals provided.
Another clip I watch regularly is a clip by A. Mauj again – “Baiyoke II Tower 77th floor View”. At that time, this was one of the best views you could get of Bangkok. I love the song background – ดอกไม้กับแจกัน – Dauk Mai Gup Jae Gun (Flowers in a Vase) – by Mai Charoenpura. A good friend of mine (Khun Rick) from New Zealand, worked on the construction of Baiyoke II Tower, as a concreter under contract. So I began staying at Baiyoke II Tower and found it a very welcoming hotel to stay. Mostly, I loved the view from the restaurant on floor 78, where I had breakfast each morning – looking out on what I called “my beautiful city” as it came alive. I remember Khun Rick telling me that he stayed at The Pranee Building while he worked on the concrete – and he recommended The Pranee to me as well. I did stay there several times as well and found it to be a comfortable and friendly place to stay, at very reasonable tariff. The bonus was that it is located right adjacent to National Stadium BTS station and very close to MBK and other Siam locations.
It was like the more I looked at Bangkok, the more I seemed to become part of it. I remember early in my first visits to the city, I was waiting at the old Don Muang Airport for a BA 747 flight to arrive on this wet afternoon as I stood in the departure lounge, looking out on the flight-side, where drops of rain were splashing into shallow pools out on the hard-stands. Away in the distance, I could see Bangkok City centre shrouded in cloud, with some of the taller buildings poking above the cloud – and it looked so beautiful. I really didn’t want to leave then – but I had to.
People have always complained about Bangkok – about how dirty and smelly it can be – how the traffic is horrendous – and how the noise and pollution are terrible. I never complain about any of those things. To me, all of those things are part of what Bangkok is and I take it just as it is and love it just the same. Nowhere feels like home to me as Bangkok does. I love the hordes of people on the side-walks (as pot-holed as they used to be); I love the smells (including the diesel bus exhaust fumes); the hum of the traffic feels good and the rumble and clatter of The Skytrain overhead sounds just right and very convenient. I never forget my first flight into Bangkok – looking down at the carpet of lights that seemed to stretch into eternity, as we lined up for the glide path into Don Muang International Airport. It was magic to me and, although I had never been to Bangkok previously, it felt like I was coming home. That is exactly what it felt like – and I will never forget that.
There are times when I wonder if my association with certain people in Thailand have influenced how I see Thailand and Bangkok in particular. That could be so, because I cannot recall even one unpleasant experience in all of my times in Thailand. Several ladies have been very important to me – and three of those ladies have been ground-shaking in their influence on my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have learned so much from each one of them.
I have done my share of mongering – but it was never a dominating influence on me because, for me, it was always about getting to know people for whom they are. I am interested in their stories, their hopes and their dreams – and, so many times, I have wished I had the means to change things for the better for them. Such are my dreams, I guess.
In an earlier sub to Stick, I praised the quality and empathy expressed in the wonderful video clips that are shot by that wonderful person Phrakanong. Thank you so very much for recording what I love so very much about Bangkok City – those friendly smiles of people in the street; the food vendors, the motorcy taxi men and all of the Thai travelling public who make it a joy to watch what Phrakanong has recorded for posterity.
There is one very special person for me in Bangkok and I am hoping to be able to make the journey back to be with her in early 2017. That will mean I will have known her for 10 years and, if my health issues will allow, I hope we will have another 10 years to enjoy together.
My thanks also go to Stick for providing this venue to express thoughts – and, of course, to Phrakanong for those beautiful video clips.
I used to really love living in Bangkok, I really did. At one time I wondered if I would ever leave and then, of course, eventually I did just that.
While there is much I still love about Bangkok, I feel the city has changed markedly and every year loses a little more of the flavour I used to like so much. Certainly it's more liveable now and has many of the conveniences of a 21st century metropolis. I'll be the first to admit that those 18 months I spent in Bangkok before the skytrain opened made getting around a hell of a lot more difficult than today.
I'm all for progress but I can't help but feel sad at the way that many of the older parts of Bangkok are being demolished and replaced by skyscrapers, old Thai-style buildings making way for European-designed towers soaring to the sky.
For those who love the Thailand of old, you can still experience it in the provinces and especially in the countryside, but in another 10 or 15 years, hmmm, I wonder how much of the old Thailand will remain?