Got together over a cup of coffee with a dear old friend the other day. The topic of conversation was Thailand's free trade agreement talks (in our more serious moods we talk about string theory experimentation).
Somehow we ended up on the subject of Suvarnabhumi Airport, that gargantuan edifice outside Bangkok. This architectural marvel neatly captures the combination of qualities admired by large swathes of the Thai population: beautiful and expensively ornamented, but dysfunctional and a huge waste of money. A white elephant in both the Thai and English senses of the term.
A few of our complaints:
- The tiny toilets (3 stalls and 1 urinal seemed to be the norm in the domestic wing);
- The predatory pricing in the food court;
- The pedestrian unfriendliness of the place, particularly considering its ridiculous size;
- The one-way-only moving walkways;
- The narrow corridors which would make installation of an additional moving walkway difficult, if not impossible;
- The mysterious steel pillars that are supposedly for ventilation but also do double duty as PA speakers and from which no air flows (but which I suspect may actually serve a more important purpose: to act as obstructions in the event that a terrorist should commandeer an explosives-laden luggage cart down the corridor);
- The open-roof exclusive lounges;
- The heat.
What's puzzling to me is that the people who were supposed to be in charge of building the airport had actually paid many visits to modern airports in other countries, including Malaysia's KLIA. And yet they get even the most basic things wrong, at least from a functional standpoint.
From a kickback-maximizing standpoint, of course, they may have gotten things just right.
Commiserating about the airport was so therapeutic that I suggested my friend start a blog on the subject. So she did.
Suvarnabhumi Tales is a new blog that documents the idiosyncracies and idiocies of Thailand's latest and possibly greatest architectural folly committed in the name of travel and tourism promotion. If you know someone in the travel industry, tell them about the blog and ask them to contribute their horror stories.
Maybe one day the airport people will understand that being "75% successful" (to quote an official who was commenting on the massive complaints of delays and lost luggage in the airport's early days) is nothing to be proud of in a zero-defects world.
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