September 28, 2010 will go down in the history of Krungthep (Bangkok) as the day when the scars from May’s political violence truly began to heal for the Big Mango’s shoppers. It will also go down as a red-letter day in the spreading influence of American fast food and the subsequent spreading of Thai waistlines.
To the first point, Central World Plaza, the largest of the buildings that were badly damaged in the fires set by angry protesters after their leaders surrendered to police on May 19, reopened today.
While about 70% of the mall reopened today, the 70% that suffered no damage in the attacks, the remaining portion depicted above is expected to be rebuilt and open next August. The portion opening today includes the Isetan department store, the 15-screen SFX World Cinema, and the grocery store.
Can a mall’s reopening indicate political healing? Of course not. That was just a banal attempt to hook your attention as a reader. Under the surface, the issues and power struggles remain, yet to be resolved. But for those of us who live here, whose lives were disrupted by the political events of April and May, the opening of Central World Plaza is another sign of life getting back to normal.
In other news – and possibly an attempt to draw away some attention from Central World’s reopening – the first Krispy Kreme doughnut franchise in Thailand opened today at the Siam Paragon mall, just down the street from Central World. Doughnuts have been popular in Thailand for at least a few years, as evidenced by countless Dunkin’ Donut and Mister Donut outlets. Last year, a Malaysian chain called Daddy Donut entered the market and they even have a mobile donut truck that sets up in different locations to sell donuts to hapless passersby.
Nonetheless, there is no lack of hoopla surrounding the opening of this first Thai Krispy Kreme. If you want my opinion, I think the fad won’t last. The Hong Kong locations of Krispy Kreme only lasted a few years before they closed and I don’t think the Bangkok crowd, which is quite fickle with its fads, will turn Krispy Kreme into an overwhelming success.
The big question is this: What’s the big deal? Thai culture has so many fantastic desserts and snacks and they are inexpensive, readily at hand, and perhaps slightly healthier than a doughnut. As I notice the Thai high school and university students in their uniforms, bigger, taller, and heftier than their counterparts were even a half-decade ago, starting to approach the bodily proportions of their peers in the American Midwest, I can’t help but wish the influence of Western style fast food chains would wane.
So here’s to progress, as it were. A reopened mall and a new fast food shop. Bangkok, you’ve come a long way.