Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Living in a Bangkok Box
I don’t normally go in for self-diagnosis, but all the symptoms are there: I’ve got Bangkok cabin fever. While knocking around my room just recently, usually when hung-over, I’ve been overcome by this overwhelming sense of claustrophobia. Restlessness snowballs into this sudden urge to smash the contents of my room into a trillion tiny pieces. I can’t breathe, there’s no where to go. I begin conversing with the bugs that keep marching for the sugar-coated sanctuary that is my fridge top. As they climb down the walls, I’m literally climbing up them.
Why? Because like millions of others in Bangkok I choose to live in a shoebox. And, no, not a long Michael Jordan size 17 shoebox, but a narrow toddlers training shoe shoebox. A Bangkok estate agent would probably disagree: they’d call my 32 square metre studio ‘cute’, ‘cozy’ or ‘compact’; a ‘highly functional space perfectly attuned to the demands of modern city living’ or some such rot. It’s not. That’s a lie. It’s a fucking prison cell. Ok, I’m exaggerating, slightly. Take away the Hi-speed Internet, Cable TV and chic modular furniture, THEN it’s a fucking prison cell. “Yes, but it looks good” you say. Yes, I retort, but aesthetics matters not a jot when you can’t see straight because, instead of breathing God’s good air, you’re recycling your own for 12 hours on end.
A midget with a penchant for sniffing his own feet may relish life in here, but not me. I’m endlessly falling over tables, tripping over shoes, backing onto cupboard doors. The sound of a glass smashing, or of me yelping as I yet again stub my big toe (the left one usually) frequently echoes down my ironically much more capacious corridor. And this grim parable of 21st century Bangkok living only gets worse. In a SE Asian take on ‘Birdman from Alcatraz’ I’m forming bonds with my studio’s biosphere: playing chase with lost geckos, observing the behavioral patterns of ants, having mercy on those bugs that resemble cute cockroaches. This isn’t right. Humans SHOULD NOT be made to live in so confined a space. Not unless we’ve killed grandma anyway. Frankly living here it sometimes feels like I may as well have, when in truth my only crime is ranking only a couple of notches above pauper on the socio-economic ladder.
Don’t worry about me though. I’m plotting my escape. However, rather than furrowing a hole through the wall with my toothbrush (which I've considered), I’m taking the sane tack and looking for a new place. And what can I afford in Bangkok? Well, unless I move to the back-end-of-Bangkok, I’ve discovered the answer is another dull functional box. Arrrh! Another room I’ll struggle to swing a Siamese cat in without getting viscera all over the generic cream walls (that's probably a deposit breaker). Aarrh!!! This isn’t fair. Look around you – Bangkok is in the throes of a building frenzy. Glam new hotels and shiny new condo developments are popping up faster than genital warts after a Nana Plaza shopping spree. Many of the latter sell out in days, before they’ve even begun building. Who buys them all? Moneyed Thai and expat speculators who buy-to-let and, when they get around to it, lease them out. There seems to be plenty of space, so where’s mine?
Of course some of you will say ‘Oh, shut up’. But you don’t understand. I’m an Englishman. My home is my castle. I should be able to play King. Oh look! – there go more fucking ants. Off with their heads!