Like most Thai people, I am not a great walker. We hop onto our Honda Dreams, or in my case, Honda City, to go to the Seven Eleven three hundred metres away. Laziness? Sure. Convenience? Well, the store is supposed to be one of convenience, so I suppose a mode of transport could enhance said convenience. Whatever the reason, urban Thais, unlike their many foreign counterparts, are not great walkers. I am not bragging about this, it’s pretty shameful, but it’s just how it is.
But living on Nimmanhaemin, I do find myself walking about a fair bit…if only to fend off morbid obesity in myself and my pug Tiggie. We waddle our way to fitness parks, we pant and puff along city roads and sois, or, more often than not, we simply sweat and snort (her, I swear) up and down the roads around my house…it’s not a pretty sight.
I have heard many readers complain over the years of the state of the pavements in this city, and to be fair – to myself! – I even launched a campaign many years ago called Sign City, to try to pressure the then-mayor, unsuccessfully, to reduce signs and other noise along our busy streets. However, it did always seemed like such a small gripe when there are so many larger ones to fret over. But now that tourists are returning, the city getting busy, we need our authorities to do their bit to get us back on our feet and ready to welcome the world. And it seems others agree. A Thai Facebook page this week received thousands of shares and comments after posting about the hot mess that is Nimmanhaemin Road, sharing pictures of the wire nests and knots which loom over our heads as well as the pitted and potted pavements which threaten to twist and turn our delicate ankles at every step.
Nimmanhaemin, as you well know, is a fairly busy area with heavy traffic, wandering shoppers, trendy coffeecianados, busy locals and the hustle and bustle of daily trade moving back and forth. Navigating its craggy pavements is an exhausting exercise in balance which demands a level of alertness of a fighter jet pilot and great patience in dealing with the invasion of private space, as pedestrians squeeze past one another along cluttered pavements. With pavements dipping and tripping you up, you have to skirt sideways around a jungle-gym of obstacles and often find yourself slithering past someone, breathe held tight, chest to sweaty chest, while attempting not to fall headlong into the oncoming traffic, at the same time keeping an eye forward to be able to duck and dive, a la The Matrix, to avoid banging your head against signposts, dangling electric wires and tree branches.
To demonstrate my frustration, a few years ago, I counted the impediments along Nimmanhaemin’s pavements (OK, my lovely interns did) with quite appalling results. Along the 850 metres, from the Rincome intersection to the junction by Warmup, they counted on the west side of the road 26 electric poles, 31 street lamps, 20 advertising signs on poles, 7 potted plants, 26 trees and 4 telephone boxes, and on the east side of the road 34 electric poles, 6 street lamps, 26 advertising signs on poles, 35 trees, 4 telephone boxes, as well as the usual clutter from businesses encroaching onto the public pavement which include tables, chairs, signs and whatever mascots they use to draw in clients – so with a total of 219 pesky items blocking your walk, you are forced to bend, wend, leap, skirt, hop, and slither around something every seven metres!
I don’t have the energy – nor interns – to do the count now, but I think that my point stands.
The good news is that apparently change is coming. I interviewed the mayor last month who promised to removed all pavement advertisements by the end of the year, saying that he had already removed hundreds across the city. I just heard that on the 19th of July a deputy governor held a meeting with a whopping 15 agencies from the Electrical Department to various telecommunication companies, the municipality, etc. to work together to rid the city of pesky wires.
A day later, they kicked off the efforts, starting with works along Wang Singh Kham Road, promising to fix a total of thirty locations, starting with four: Wat Umong entrance, Chalerm Prakiat Road, Nimmanhaemin and Arak Roads. Each month one area will be addressed, we are promised.
Let’s keep an eye on this and if you feel that authorities are not doing enough, send us some pictures or letters and I would be more than happy to pass onto the mayor to keep the pressure up!