I’m sitting in a coffee shop at the Maya Mall, waiting to see the movie Ben Hur. When I was young, and an avid reader of Life Magazine, I remember the photos of Charleton Heston behind the chariot. Now, I’ll get to see the story in its third film incarnation. Thankfully, it will be in English, with Thai subtitles.
It’s not the movie I would have driven across town to see, but it’s Wednesday, half price day, and I’m always looking for an excuse to leave the suburbs and come into the city. This mall is located across the street from the Honda motorcycle dealership, where they are servicing my bike. Bad bearing in the back wheel, belt needs changing, and who knows what else. Anyway, I’m glad to have it done, for I’m well acquainted with what happens to vehicles who lack proper maintenance.
This mall is popular with Chinese tourists, and if the Chinese were ever to stop coming I’m afraid it would have to close. It’s a silly little mall, with nothing of obvious value for sale in any of its shops, but it’s located in the trendy part of the city, and despite all the warnings in the press, the Chinese aren’t likely to stop coming to Thailand. They love it here, for them it’s cheap and unregulated, unlike where they come from. We get the young, affluent Chinese tourists here, and in the beach resorts they get the older, less educated Chinese who comes from the western provinces. They talk loudly, smoke and spit, and the women wear clothing with clashing patterns, sort of like a cartoon version of a bad tourist.
We get a few of those here, but mostly the young professionals, with iPhones and selfie sticks and two-thousand dollar SLR cameras. They don’t know how to ride bicycles or motor scooters, but eagerly rent them, and when they walk, they walk down the center of the street, blocking traffic but happily snapping pictures along the way.
I think it’s an odd turn of events that I have lived long enough to see two Ben Hur movies, both of which I doubt I’ll find to be transformative experiences, but I must admit that life has had a way of transforming me along the way.