I love it when people call Thailand a third world country. When I hear it I know a couple of things about the speaker. First off, they’ve probably never ridden the Sky Train in Bangkok or dined at a Five Star restaurant towering 50 stories above the ground. And, I know they probably haven’t been to Cambodia, Laos or Burma. If Thailand is third world then what is Cambodia?
One thing people need to get over is this incredible need to compare how things are here to how things are “back home”. I see it all the time. First-time or infrequent visitors to Thailand can’t help but blurt out, “Well, back home in (fill in the blank) we, blah-blah-blah”.
I’ll admit, when I first got here I was that guy. The first time I saw five people on a motorbike my jaw dropped and I marveled that nobody was wearing a helmet. A helmet … kind of a moot point isn’t it? The first time I witnessed stall after stall of street vendors selling spurious name brands like Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Luis Vuitton I was righteously indignant. Where were the jack-booted Nazis to squelch this nefarious activity? “Back home they would … blah-blah-blah”.
And when I witness some of the building and construction procedures my head nearly exploded. I witnessed a 20 story building go up with workers using nothing but bamboo scaffolding to support them. Hard hats and safety harnesses? Oh please, most of these guys weren’t even wearing shoes!
But things have gotten progressively better. Helmet laws are being somewhat enforced. Now at least one of those five passengers on a motorbike will have to have a helmet. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is a start. Well publicized crackdowns of fake goods take place on a weekly basis. While I could still walk a few blocks and get a pair of Calvin Klong jeans, it isn’t as in-your-face as it once was.
And as I have lived in the middle of two major construction projects for the last two years, I can offer first hand testimony to the radically improved safety standards on construction sites. Hard hats, safety tethers and honest-to-god steel scaffolding. One site even posts a huge sign boasting of X-amount of days without an accident. Slowly but surely, they are getting it.
The story this picture tells is about the latest modernization hot button for Thailand. We’ve all laid eyes on those menacing bundles of tangled electrical lines crackling and popping over our heads like alien octopi just waiting to grab us with a deadly tentacle.
In recent years, small advances have been made like burying the cables underground in tourist trodden areas. But, the process is too time consuming and costly to simply bury every cable in Thailand.
What we see in this picture is a compromise. To the first time traveler, it is another scary mass of wires. But, take a closer look at what these guys have accomplished. This isn’t the snarling hissing nightmare we are used to. The cables have been sorted out and trussed up in neat rolls. Nothing is hanging down … no menacing electric tentacles. It may look like chaos to most, but it is a controlled chaos.
It’s not perfect, but it is better. Progress is progress no matter the pace.