Every year the Bangkok Post features the yearly horoscope predictions in its Outlook section. Their 2007 forecast for Geminis was spot on the money or lack of money. Today's paper predicted good news Jan.-March, Obstacles solved April-June. Money flies into my pocket July but out for the next two months and then it's smooth sailing to the end of the year.
Thais are big believers in palm reading and stars.
My wife smiled upon hearing the good news. My mia noi less so.
"Not say you leave your wife."
Everyone interprets the predictions according to their needs no matter where you are on the feeding chain.
Recently 2bangkok.com published the forecasts of Preecha "Por" Intarapalit, the author of thousands of books.
Not much use to present day Thais who read two books a year, but his vision for Thailand in Pai Su Anakhot (Toward the Future) portrayed a nation where cars flew at rather low levels. "There were propellers on their roofs. Sports or private monoplanes flew in scatters here and there not unlike birds. All of a sudden, everybody sighted a huge train, with two tram-like carriages joined together, running at no less than 60-kilometres-per-hour on tracks about ten metres above Sukhumvit Road."
"One could see skyscrapers with at least 20 to 80 stories, the top floors rising into the thick clouds. Fluttering from the top of each building was the tri-coloured national flag. The crowds on Sukhumvit bustled by in a hurry, men in their suits and women in their one-piece outfits. The people of Bangkok looked not so different from the Europeans or Americans."
The narrator asked his son in a hoarse, shaky voice ...
"Tell me, Nop, is this Bangkok or Paris? How come all these cars and planes are flying like dragon-flies?"
"This is Bangkok, Father. This is Bangkok of 2007."
Por described rice fields, orchards and canals giving way to massive buildings and spacious roads; tap water was in abundance and Bangkok was lit up day and night by a pair of "man-made moons". The affluent would spend all day trading stocks and shoppers in supermarkets could shop "'til they drop" - just dumping stuff from the shelves in their trolleys and paying at the exits. The citizens of Bangkok would be dressed in Western clothes and speak English instead of Thai. Transport would come in a variety of forms - from taxis to flying cars, helicopters, elevated trains and personal jets. The sick would receive swift and polite treatment from nurses and doctors ("no more scolding, threatening, and back-slapping!"). Those over 65 would be put in beautiful nursing homes under the constant care of medical staff with four meals a day, and last but not least, everything would be free.
"To say we don't have money [for the welfare programmes] ... no, our government has long stopped saying such things," a taxi driver of the future tells the Samgler crew. "What we earn from selling oil is more than enough for the government to put into developing the country. We recently lent 30 billion to the United States. During my father's time, we borrowed money from the World Bank to restore our country. Now, it is the World Bank that has to send people to borrow money from us."
In Por's book, Bangkok - and Thailand - in the year 2007 has become a heaven on Earth, Asia's number one nation (with Japan in second place) and a land of everlasting joy and peace.
And this is probably where hilarity sets in. The more exuberant Por's depictions of Bangkok are, the more ludicrous and laughable the story becomes. There might not actually be much difference between how readers of 1967 and 2007 could gain amusement from Pai Su Anakhot. It is funny because we know, and have learned to accept, that most of what's described in the book could never be true. The gap between reality and fantasy remains, so why not enjoy the escape?
General Direk said suddenly:
"All right, have no doubts, Korn. We have indeed arrived in Bangkok of 2007. All these things have not yet happened, but we now have an opportunity to see them beforehand. And they will certainly take place [in the future] the way we are seeing them now. Aren't you excited, Kim-nguan?"
The Chinese man gulped down his throat.
"I'm going insane. How could we get to see what has not yet happened?"
Nikorn and Kim-nguan have good reasons to feel initially overwhelmed. The future Bangkok confronting them was beyond their wildest imaginings. By the end of the novella, though, every crew member grew to like their new capital so much so that they wished to return to it again soon.
What were the attractions?
- Places, language, food, dress code, commercial billboards, greeting by handshakes and even boxing had literally become Americanised - "except for the presence of national flags, everything looks like New York ... which meant Thailand must have progressed rapidly, to become the world's superpower, on the same par as America."
- Every cabinet minister, "even the one overseeing the ministry of defense", was a civilian. "They served the country diligently, and there was absolutely no corruption."
- Every Thai citizen was well-educated - the two taxi drivers hired by the Samgler gang had university degrees in architecture and engineering; Bangkok boasted about 200 universities and no fewer than 5,000 primary and secondary schools did not charge for tuition, stationery or uniforms (a precise prediction of today's politicians' election gimmicks).
- Traffic problems in Bangkok were nonexistent.
- The Thai currency had the same value as the US dollar!
- The Thai economy was rock-solid: Rich oil fields had been discovered and Thailand suddenly became industrialised, producing and exporting everything from clothes to cars, planes and battleships. Heavy machinery was exported to China while China sent agricultural products and hordes of tourists in return. Also, Bangkok no longer had small-scale businesses or street peddlers that would allow developed nations to look down on it.
- Thai athletes had swept almost all the gold medals in the recent Olympics, which Thailand had hosted in 2002, and our national soccer team had won the World Cup three times.
- Every Thai farmer was a millionaire; each owned an average of 1,000 acres of land as well as tractors and private jets or flying cars.
- There were around-the-clock entertainment venues, some where all the staff, from chefs to waitresses and cashiers, wore practically nothing and had "attractive body with clean smell".
- The country had been free of war for more than 50 years: "The soldiers and policemen are brothers ... our country could advance this quickly because we Thais all share in our love and unity."
- The prowess of our defense was second-to-none: "In 2004, following a skirmish along the Thai-Cambodian borders, the three armed forces from Thailand placed Cambodia under siege within two days, but the United Nations as mediator asked us to pull out."
Of course Preecha "Por" Intarapalit wrote most of this book tongue in cheek. Kon yai didn't lthis ridicule and said the future will be the future just like he said and in some ways they weren't wrong either.