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Face masks and Endless Markets

THAILAND | Thursday, 3 May 2012 | Views [670]

Today we took a Tuk Tuk to Siam Square and strolled around MBK, an unecessarily large shopping mall. We went because A) its free, B) its air-conditioned, and C) malls always make for great people watching. MBK has seven floors, each with three "zones", and is packed with shops and food options from one end to the other. You quite literally need a map, and they provide you with one! 

While we were in the area, we also checked out Bangkok Arts and Cultural Center, which is also free and air-conditioned. The museum is obviously modeled after the Guggenheim in New York City but with a few more signs of aging.

The art was typical of what you would see in most modern art museums. The exhibit that we found most compelling was called "You Are Not Alone." The subject has been a re-occurring topic on this trip already it seems.  

The exhibit dealt with the ever present issue of HIV/AIDS. One particularly striking set of images entitled "I didn't ask for it. I don't want it. I was born with it," showcased kids ages 14 and under with their "reality" listed as.... "has HIV... parents passed away.... no relatives...still alive." Still alive, reminding the viewer that death is almost certainly eminent and nearing. In addition were their "dreams".... I want to be a policeman.... I want to be a doctor.... I have no dream."  "I have no dream because I am uncertain and scared of what the future holds."  

Over the past two days, and especially during our tuk tuk rides through the city, I have begun to understand why we have seen so many people wearing face masks.  By the second night my sinuses were throbbing, mucus was draining, my eyes were itching and watering. The level of pollution present here is palpable.  

Bangkok is a busy, sprawling metropolis with many of the same characteristics of many other cities around the world.  A question I always have, and is particularly confounding here, "how did that many people, jam-packed in like sardines, make any kind of a living, essentially offering the same product/service as the person two, or even one stall down from them?"

As you ride around the city from one end to the other you see markets after markets, with stalls after stalls, selling the same things... along riversides, on bridges, in alleyways, beside the train tracks, in the train stations....  it's like looking into a mirror that's looking into a mirror and so on. 

Tags: bangkok, markets, museum, siam square

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