Yet another City Hall makeover of a famed Bangkok locale has failed to wow those who preferred things the way they were.
The same people who drained the color and life from Saphan Lek, Khlong Thom, Pak Khlong Talad and even the Sanam Luang are back with “improvements” to the backpacker mecca around Khaosan Road that are best summarized by stunningly out-of-place pine trees surrounded by low fences.
“Beautiful but utterly useless. I wanna know who picked this kind of tree,” @Justin_th_th tweeted, noting their absolute lack of utility beyond justifying the construction of a low metal fence.
Months after Khaosan’s 3.0 treatment was unveiled, City Hall doubled down on its “be more like Singapore” campaign yesterday with the addition of the fenced-off conifers at eight locations on nearby Soi Kraisri.
Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang yesterday posted a dozen photos promoting the new landscaping. To be fair, it’s a bid to attract more people to the neighborhood which has been devastated by the disappearance of foreign tourists during the pandemic.
While fake tattoos, forged diplomas, big bottles of Chang and general disorder put Khaosan on the map globally, there are many residents who prefer the tidier and quieter streetscapes you get by evicting vendors and strictly regulating commerce. So the far-from-native species may find a few fans yet.
You’d be hard-pressed to find them on social media, though.
“Why did you select this species of trees? [Pine trees] are only decorative, but they do not make any shade for pedestrians,” Somboonsak Choomsanong wrote in a comment to one of Aswin’s pictures.
A prolific Twitter expat personality was less circumspect.
“Absolutely stupid, pointless and obstructive ‘beautification’ of Khao San Road. It just looks weird, ugly and awkward. Who came up with this nonsense?” James Buchanan tweeted.
Absolutely stupid, pointless and obstructive "beautification" of Khao San Road. It just looks weird, ugly and awkward. Who came up with this nonsense? https://t.co/AmMD8z9BfL
— James Buchanan จิมมี่ (@JBuchananBKK) January 12, 2021
Over on Khaosan proper, the city’s THB50-million revamp was officially unveiled on Halloween. It included leveled footpaths, collapsible steel traffic posts, improved drainage and limited vendor areas.
The campaign was led by Sakoltee Phattiyakul, a leading anti-government campaigner once charged with treason before his elevation to deputy governor by the post-coup regime. Sakoltee spent months battling local street vendors opposed to the changes. (City Hall won.)
What’s up next for the next uninspired makeover? Aswin said City Hall’s sights are set on two nearby roads: Soi Ram Buttri and Tani Road.
Of course, one person’s dispiritingly bureaucratic “beautification project” is another’s welcome change of scenery. Go check them out and let us know what you think.