A peak hour “stroll” within the Silom district in Bangkok is met with deafening levels of noise “pollution” with cat-less pickup trucks (or “rod-kaba” in Thai speak”) and tuk-tuks blasting through sois, seemingly unaware of baby strollers mere centimetres away. It takes a while to get used to the morning buzz, which could take a toll on your health given the high amounts of pollutants you’ll be sniffing on a daily basis. But after a couple of months on repeat mode, I find this lifestyle rather addictive, in a positive way of course. It might be tough to convince first timers, but beneath the layers of smog (literally!), you’ll be greeted with warm blankets of smiles from street vendors and friendly gestures from fellow commuters.
This culture brings me to ponder about how it can affect the in-car entertainment (ICE) culture in Bangkok. With a society that emphasises relationship building and camaraderie (a rare trait for big cities nowadays!), it helps to breed a collectivist mindset, one that strengthens bonds over individualism. For the ICE culture to thrive, I feel it’s of utmost importance to share openly your projects – from the number of times elbows are greased to customise the perfect amplifier mount, right through to sharing how many meals were skipped just to ensure your rides are up to scratch for an audiophile-grade competition the next Sunday.
It might sound cliché to label the Thais as immensely passionate and emotional, but this speaks volumes of the pride they take to ensure what they believe in are expressed in their prized possessions – a vehicle that serves as an extension of their personality without being overly ostentatious. In an economy that is arguably more “in-house” than globalised, especially when compared to Singapore, it comes as no surprise that a fair number of the audio products and accessories are made in Thailand. They are experts at making do with what they have, plonking decades-old subwoofers at the back of tuk-tuks, hooning down the streets of Siam accompanied with cheers and laughter by foreigners. They truly fully utilise their assets, even if they do not sound the best.
In comparison, some are too often caught up by the numerical arms race, eyeing on the latest products to be installed in their new SUV – only for these high-end systems to be used once a week. We are by no means dissing their love for ICE, but by understanding how the Thais view mobile media allows us to appreciate what we have much more than before!
By indulging in the experience, we will learn to appreciate how the ICE culture has evolved in whichever market we belong. It is easier said than done, but Bangkok has taught me to take a step back, relax and appreciate the art of sound on a daily basis. Yes, unregulated decibel levels of exhausts could far exceed some others with top-notch ICE products latched on the rear third, thus impeding our level of enjoyment. But the overall buzz within the Land of Smiles is certainly unique and one to savour. With no lack of creative projects trotting down the major street of Sukhumvit or even through the narrow sois of Ari, you’ll be hard-pressed not to label Bangkok as the ICE capital of ASEAN…
Photos: Vince Carlo Photography