Remembering the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever
People always claim that Bangkok looks the same as any other fast developing city, but I disagree. These developing cities, covered in debris of overdevelopment, do not have many colours, both literally and metaphorically speaking. To me, these cities can be rendered in just black and dark grey tones whereas Bangkok, though carrying the same grey-ish tones, is accentuated with more colours. Maybe it was the colourful culture with its campy pink and neon colours or maybe it was the golden stupas and the orange robe of the monks that create the colour for the city. Maybe it is the friendly people and its smiles, too.
However, my perception of Bangkok has changed during my recent trip in 2015. I felt that Bangkok is not as colourful as what I remember her to be. It’s as though the city had lost her charm. The city is filled with shopping centres that carry international brands. My trip to Chatuchak Market, something that I was really looking forward to, ended up in disappointment. This is my 3rd visit and I remember both my earlier visits where I was awed and inspired by the many creative talents that Thailand had. This time around, what I noticed was mainly products that were bought from production factories cheaply being sold in higher prices to the tourists. There is no creative burst from the market anymore.
One of my friends felt that the people in Bangkok are less friendly now. Maybe because he looks like he is from Mainland China and they had mistaken him as just another ‘Chinese Tourist’. Another friend who is currently working in Bangkok claims that the Thais seem to be friendly in the beginning only to become less as time goes by. One of the reasons why the Thais are friendly to tourists is because of the ‘tourists money’. Tourism is important to Thailand and tourists who visit Thailand will usually have a lot of money to spend. When they realise that they couldn’t get money out of a particular tourist, their expression changes. The all-smiley and all-friendly Thais are allegedly for the tourists’ money only.
What really happened? Does it have to do with the various political coups that Bangkok experienced in the past few years? Or because of the booming market in Southeast Asia, leading to gentrification and causing living conditions to be tougher now that everyone is busy working to earn a living and have no time to stop by and smile to each other?
Beautiful Inside My Head Forever is the title of Damien Hirst’s exhibition at Sotheby’s a day before the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in the USA back in 2008. I was in Bangkok at that time and remember reading a newspaper article about the success of his exhibition. This was also my earliest trip to Bangkok as an artist and it was one of the nicest trips I remember of Bangkok at that time. It was a lot more interesting and adventurous.
Fast forward to 2015, I notice more grime and gritty colours in the city. The city has lost its pink and neon colours. The city has lost its smile, too. It’s like the city had past its prime and is dying. Wilting, becoming limp through the heat, loss of water or perhaps caught some kind of disease.
Some would say that the city has grown up, has become mature and stable, economically speaking. It is becoming a ‘rich’ city like Singapore, or Hong Kong. Growing up also means that the city has lost her childish charm and naivety adventurous characters to become boring.
Kuala Lumpur, 2016