Sunday, January 9, 2011
Letters from Thailand
Bangkok, the eternal city, the city of angels... My plane landed late at night, and it took me some time to be processed through immigration and to the sathorn house. I've been staying with friends whom I've lived with before. They moved from where we were living to a new spot in the silom business district. Next to the house is one of the largest office buildings in the area. While most of the international businesses run down sukumwit, the silom features most of the international banks. Droves of office workers flood our small little side soi during the day to eat at the local side street restaurants. The steady stream of hungry proles has inflated the price of food around here from the reasonable price of 30 baht for a dish to 35 baht. Unbelievable!!!
I've spent the last few days since my arrival having sanuk. This has meant lots of clubs both at appropriate hours and after hours. I've spent two nights this week at the after hours club Wongs, which is located close to the sathon house, a short 40 baht ride. Staying up til 5 am drinking at a bar with friends is an outrageous amount of fun but has been damaging to having a regular sleep schedule.
Along with my exciting night life I've been running and exploring the area. The house is located close to Lumpini park. I've enjoyed running to the park and seeing the serene crab grass landscape. They have a handful of ridiculous exercise machines that are for public use. Old people tend to like the weird contraptions the most, I guess age makes one more excited for oddities.
Coming back to BKK has made me interested in Thai politics once again. A friend and I were able to check out the mass gathering around Central World today. With over 30,000 people attending the protest shows the obvious strength and continuing divide within the country. The protest was peaceful when I was there and mainly were people hanging out listening to Isaan music, and/or the speakers. Former Prime Minister Thaksin spoke at one point via a cell phone call, evidently the red shirts do conference calls. The protest was to commemorate the deaths of protesters last year. There was a violent class between the red shirts and the police in which 90 were injured or killed. There has been an interesting class aspect to the red/yellow shirt division with the red shirts being composed of the peasant class and working class within thailand while the yellow shirts tend to be more middle and upper class.
A friend and I were talking about the take over of space between the two colors. The red shirts have taken over a main center of Bangkok business shutting down the high scale shopping in the area. This impact of local/urban business can be juxtaposed to the yellow shirts take over of the Suvarnabhumi airport in eastern Bangkok. While the red shirts impacted local economy the yellow shirts laid seige to the national and international economy of Thailand. The seizure of planes at the airport damaged travel tremendously and Thailand's economy is bolstered heavily by tourism. Looking at the take over of space we can see the class/cultural differences between the two groups. For the peasantry the appropriation of an urban area can be seen as an attempt to claim a "right to the city," removed from Bangkok itself the peasants have a spectacular relationship to the city. Most of the capital is centred in the city while little goes out to support the areas in which they live. With the growing popularity of the internet in the Isaan area the peasants are gaining a virtual access to the city without a physical port to plug into. The yellow shirt acquisition of the airport was an attempt to wrest national power back into their hands, it can be seen as a "right to the state."
The economic impact of the airport take over and the occupation of the Central World area was roughly the same, according to my Thai friend, a native Bangkok resident. While the economic damage is the same the amount of time the two occupations took have been starkly different. The yellow shirts were far more strategically savvy by taking over the airport causing more damage in a week than the two month siege by the red shirts. The red shirts caused a fair amount of terror though as they burned buildings whilst the yellow shirts engaged in no property damage. This is a class difference as well, poor people are always viewed as more violent than the cultured and non violent rich, who merely engage in systematic violence hegemonically.
The violence between the two camps will probably continue on. This will be unfortunate in the coming few years as the health of the 85 year old King is in decline. The King's reign has been a benign impact on Thailand and his regency has been a visible stabilizer within the country during its series of coups and instabilities. With the death of the King a power vacuum will be created. The next in line is the unpopular second child of the royal family, a son. The stabilizing void caused by his death is also not talked about amongst the Thais as they revere their god status king whom has an Orwellian Big Brother appearance throughout the country and abroad (next time you stop in a Thai Restaurant $10 says there's a picture somewhere in the place with a picture of the King. If not you're probably not in a Thai restaurant).
Politics should be interesting out here to say the least.
While running regularly I haven't been training. Hopefully I'll get to that soon. In the meantime I've been catching up on some great music. My latina musical swami Chimatli has been posting some great jams of late. Kid sister throws some solid beats, while Deux has bitching electronic. I of course like the Sisters of Mercy cover that she put on. In addition to the jams from Chimatli I've been listening to some new electronica. My friend recently suggested Boys Noise. Boys Noise falls into the same camp as Bloody Beetroots, Dj Steve Aoiki, and Mstrkft. Arguably this new "hard" electronic is distinctively punk as noted by my homie over at Dead Time Pacifies.
Given my copious amount of free time I plan on keeping the blog updated regularly going back to my once a week production schedule. Stay tuned for more awesome shit!!!