Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shopping for Culture

One of the best ways to learn something about a country is to go shopping.

Thailand is no exception.  As the mannequin above makes amply clear, Thais value a smile.  (Many of them also admire the narrow-nostriled Western nose, and if the nostrils on this cheerful girl were any narrower, she'd be in the mannequin hospital.)

Thailand is a culture in rapid transition.  Virtually all the historic stages of capitalism are in simultaneous use.  Until very recently, most Thais lived in villages, where exchange was often through barter and where a "shop" was likely to be just a tiny open-air operation with a few goods to paw through.  Like those above, which are part of Bobae market, set up on a bridge in Bangkok, or, below, in somewhat grander form, the floating market at Damnoen Saduak.

With the explosive growth of the Kingdom's cities (especially Bangkok) in the past 30-40 year, more polished forms of mercantilism have arisen.  These have been made possible in large part by great improvements in air conditioning, without which shopping malls like this one (in Surat Thani) would be insufferable.

But Thailand is still profoundly Buddhist.  Displayed in the window below are photographically accurate effigies of especially revered monks who have departed this plane of existence.  About 2/5ths or half of life size, they're reminders of lives spent on the Eightfold Path out of suffering and rebirth.

Yours for 6500 baht.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. Thanks for identifying the scenes, for a moment I thought it might be LA. Especially the Westwood Cinema shot.


  2. Very interesting. Is the pace picking up also? It seems to me that these markets encourage a slower pace of living, one which which we manic westerners have forgotten.

  3. Hi, Jeffrey, hi, Lil -- Yes, the malls in Bangkok are on a par with any anywhere, except perhaps Shanghai in, ummm, Communist China. Lots of invention, lots of whimsical architecture. And Lil, I personally love the big outdoor markets, especially Chatuchak in Bangkok, acres of small stands crowded beneath cloth awnings, hotter then the anteroom to hell, and offering everything in the known world. A great way to spend a day.

  4. I agree with you! it's all about shopping and walk around... that's the best way to know the new place, at the same time, you shouldn't forget their souvenirs, food and clothes.

  5. I like go shopping but go to shopping things that have to do with culture it's something that inspires me.