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Bad Vibrations

February, 2009

On my first day back from the holidays, Children’s Day, I was enjoying a quiet bowl of noodles down one of the Nimmanhaemin soi. From the distance, what started as a distant strumming sound suddenly roared into the most thundering of crescendos, ending in an almost sonic boom, sending fellow patrons around me into a flutter and setting off car alarms up and down the street. It was the Airforce 41 jet planes, demonically skimming over our city, sending heart patients into ICU and residents into foul humour.

Fair enough, the airforce was putting on a show for the children, and what a thrill it must have been for them all. But this is not a once a year occurrence, if it were, I would shut up. Every year, as the clouds clear and the skies turn robbin-egg blue, jet planes exercise over the city, ending important phone conversations, disrupting business meetings, rendering teachers soundless and generally creating a complete nuisance of themselves. Yet, on this loudest of social issues, the activists seem to be oddly quiet. In spite of the endless letters to the Bangkok Post by frustrated farang, noise pollution does not seem to be an issue of major concern to Thais.

Nearly every month I receive complaints by our expat readers about a neighbourhood karaoke bar, an ongoing (and seemingly never ending) country fair, overly enthusiastic parking attendants (what is it with those whistles?) and other unbearable sources of noise which, from the sounds of it (cymbals clash…), can literally drive a farang to a different continent. Yet, when I ask my Thai friends about the issue of noise pollution, it is often met with a bewildered, “what do you mean?”

Do Thais have a higher threshold for noise? Does it all simply become white noise, there to be ignored? Is it the krengjai factor which keeps complaints to a minimum? Or is it that Thais are simply more patient?

Surely it must be a combination of all of the above, judging by the raucous noise one hears at shopping malls, the never ending chatter from events commentators and the general apathy about volume. What are your thoughts on noise pollution? Should we deal with it the Thai way and simply shrug and smile or is it something to get riled up about? Email [email protected] with your opinions.