Everything Else

Bangkok Dangerous

I’ve had the opportunity to work in Bangkok for an extended period of time since 2007, and have been making frequent trips up both on business visits and on covert vacations (when you have a regional office in the place you want to holiday in, leave applications must always be treated with high level confidentiality). Through the years, both my wife and I have taken an emotional interest in Thai culture and lifestyle, and have even considered migrating there.

These days, the question of migration to Thailand is a tougher call for us.

Photo: Reuters

My Singapore office called up our Thai director a couple of days ago, and asked him how things are going. Having been based in Singapore for 8 years himself, he is prone to communicating in Singlish with us as well.

Us: “How’s things in Bangkok?”
Him: “Like that lor. I’m ok.”
Us: “Were you out for Songkran?”
Him: “Ya, but now the tradition changed already. We dun throw water any more; now we throw blood.”

That same day, a Thai acquaintance was detailing in her Facebook status about how the riot had gotten dangerously close to our Bangkok office.

That, and the conversation with our Thai director took place before Central World Mall got barbequed.

I also read a tweet from Young Upstarts blogger Daniel Goh after the deed saying, “Dear Bangkok, stop burning my wife’s favourite shopping areas please”, reflecting my own wife’s exact sentiments.

But why am I writing about Bangkok when I’m supposed to be thinking Singlish? How does the Bangkok situation affect Singapore life?

You must understand, we are, after all, a country of mostly migrants, or descendants of migrants (4-5 generations and counting). Singaporeans are highly adaptable, constantly moving, and, most annoyingly, easily bored. Thailand has, in the past decade and a half, developed into a shopping haven for a people who earn livings developing shopping havens, and Bangkok is now our Orchard Road, whilst our Orchard Road is getting too expensive to drive and park our cars in.

Imagine, we would rather pay for an air ticket via Jetstar Asia to Bangkok than drive through the ERP gates all over the CBD area and park in Ion Orchard.

Imagine, for once we have discovered – and enjoyed – a travel destination true to the marketing tagline coined for it by its resident tourism board – a land of a thousand smiles. A country of earnest, respectable, humble and modest folk who greet you with nothing but the most gracious of courtesies, even as they struggle to make ends meet. That, in contrast to our own fast-paced lifestyle and “I-will-only-look-at-you-if-you’ve-had-an-accident, and-even-then-it’s-only-to-take-down-your-car-plate-number-and-buy-4D” attitude that has become so signature and expected of our kind here.

Imagine our respite from life in Singapore burned down in a moment of uneducated, uncontrolled vanity. The lives lost, the livelihoods ruined, the economy near completely disheveled, the confidence in a once potentially progressive country dashed like the torn, perforated lines of a crushed box of Pocky (made in Thailand, no less). See Channel NewsAsia – Thailand picks up the pieces after deadly conflict

I’d still go back to Bangkok in a heartbeat. My family is looking at October to head up for our annual Thailand pilgrimage. We just hope there’s still something there left to pilgrimage to.

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