Letters from Thailand

{July 9, 2007}   What Not To Wear In Kao San

Yesterday I had the pleasure of resurrecting an old tradition from my first life here in Bangkok. At that time, my friends and I would spend our Sunday afternoons at Kao San Road, recovering from the excesses of the previous night, chatting, eating and people-watching with a few medicinal cocktails. It became such an institution that we christened the event, ‘Kao San Shitface Sunday’ and its associated rituals (such as declaring it officially open as soon as there were more than three of us present) were performed as solemnly and seriously as a holy communion. Since that time, we’ve become a bit lax in our observations – probably because we’re all a bit older and the recovery time is twice as long. But it was nice to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Kao San is one of the best areas in the world for people-watching, in my opinion. And sitting there, cocktail in hand, I found myself mentally composing a list of dos and don’ts (or rather, just don’ts) for visitors to the area. As it is here that the most heinous crimes against fashion, style and all-round fabulousness are committed, a mere sampling of which follow:

  • Dreadlocks. This is simple. Unless you are a black rastafarian, or on tour with the Levellers, don’t do it. Particularly if you’re blonde. You look ridiculous. You’ve just come from mummy and daddy’s middle-class suburbia, not the protest of a motorway construction, where you lived in a tree. If there was such a thing as ‘eco-warrior chic’ , it died a death in 1996.
  • ‘Same Same….but Different’ t-shirts. Should read, ‘Same Same…and bloody tedious’.
  • Fisherman’s pants. Should be banned as outdoor wear. They’re great for slobbing around in the home, as are pyjamas, but they aren’t flattering either and you wouldn’t set foot outside wearing them.
  • To all the Brits in football shirts, shorts and skinhead haircuts, guzzling Chang on the pavement – please go back to Magaluth or Faliraki, where you belong. The sight of you offends me and makes me want to trade in my passport.
  • To ladies who are bigger than a size 10 – don’t bother trying on any of the clothes for sale by the side of the road. No matter how much you huff and puff and try to squeeze into them, they’re not going to fit. They were not made for women like you (and me). I’m not saying you’re fat, you’re not, you’re gorgeous, womanly and voluptuous, but it’s a sad fact of life here, that the clothes are not. Trying them on will only dent your self-esteem and you’ll look a bit of a twit into the bargain.
  • To ladies of all sizes. Bras were invented many years ago, and for good reason. Use them.
  • To the idiot I saw yesterday in your persil white fisherman’s pants and navy blue tunic shirt, entering the establishment that I happened to be sitting in, slapping a poor girl on the arm as she was blocking your ‘entrance’ and forcing her to make way for you, waltzing in as if you owned the place, looking with disdain as the staff tried to find you a suitable table, then flouncing out with your nose in the air, as if ‘dressing like a native’ would do you any favours and ingratiate you with local people (it won’t – they think you’re a bloody idiot too). I hope you’ve left the country already. Go back home and tell all your friends what an ‘Asian expert’ you are because you’ve spent a couple of months on a whirlwind tour of the region. Go on, you know you want to.

Please note, that this(except for the fourth one and the last one!) ‘style guide’ is mostly tongue in cheek. I’m certainly not expecting anyone who reads this to follow my commandments. In fact, I hope some of these fashion faux-pas continue to be committed as it gives me and my friends something amusing to look at and bitch about while we sip our margaritas.


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