Forget Shanghai, Try Emulating Bangkok First

In praise of Bangkok: "Forget Shanghai, Try Emulating Bangkok First" - Express Hotelier & Caterer , August 26, 2005
...Was it clean? Impressively clean. Was it polluted? I didn't feel any smoke fumes burn my chest. No potholes on the roads, footpaths to walk on, no hanging outside the sky-train or metro, clean streets and very helpful people...

[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from just a few years ago, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Nothing prepared me for the pleasant surprise I witnessed when I drove out of the Bangkok airport.

Just a day before I took off on my flight from the Mumbai airport, my colleague who has had the opportunity to circumvent the globe regularly, happened to mention that on his last visit to Bangkok, he saw no difference between Mumbai and Bangkok. Both were filthy and dirty.

Nothing matched up to my friend’s ramblings about Bangkok. Was it clean? Impressively clean. Was it polluted? I didn’t feel any smoke fumes burn my chest. No potholes on the roads, footpaths to walk on, no hanging outside the sky-train or metro, clean streets and very helpful people (even though their English seem like a kindergarten student) – this place certainly didn’t look like the Hell’s Kitchen, Mumbai looks like.

Having been impressed by my observation, I called all my friends and relatives who had visited Bangkok recently or before to gauge their experience. And not to my surprise this time, everyone seemed impressed by the transformation a city like Bangkok had undergone.

Can you imagine ten years ago, Bangkok was notoriously famous for being a cheap sex hot spot – I am by no means advocating that sex isn’t the mainstay of this resurrected city – it still is. But now, the government and its citizens have decided that ‘while we continue to unceremoniously promote our sex tourism industry, let’s also get our city to look good and concentrate on other businesses. Let’s change our sleazy image to one of panache’. In fact when I asked a close friend who works for the Thailand Tourism Authority, what brought about the change in Bangkok everybody seems to be raving about? His response was crisp, ‘I guess our government started to care’.

In the year 2004, the tourist arrivals into Bangkok alone was 4.2 million. India as whole achieved 3.3 million. But that didn’t stop the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) from going tom-tom about how great we fared against the previous year. May be the tourism industry will do itself good if the comparative set is against a competitive set with other nations in the region.

Take a look at Mumbai; sex doesn’t even feature in the top ten industries that supports the economy of this city. Our commercial capital is the powerhouse of money and talented resources. Sadly we have no political will to achieve even half of what a poor country like Thailand can. Our ministers and other self-professed social crusaders have been mooting the idea of turning Mumbai into Shanghai.

Leading international brands have started to look at India to further their hospitality and travel business but in Bangkok, they are already there.

Before we want to get to be Shanghai, I hope our ministers and corporate bigwigs realise that we should try and get close to being Bangkok…

- Savio Rodrigues
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