Was it a flash mob? I guess, kind of, but it doesn’t matter whether it was a semi-spontaneous dance party in front of MBK Center or a rehearsed event. To me, it was simply a fun exhibition of the youthful exuberance and sweetness of Bangkok’s pop-culture crazy teens, perfectly captured in a mashup of synchronized spinning and strutting. It was adorable, it was silly, it was so very Thai.
There must have been 150 or more teens there. Every single one of them knew every single word to every single song the DJ was spinning in what felt like random succession. As the first two- to four-second notes of each tune blasted out over the loudspeakers, group-wide identification of these sugary-sweet pop tunes was registered with shouts and screams and bug eyes and hands in the air. And butts shaking.
It wasn’t just that everybody knew all the lyrics by heart. They also knew the song’s dance routines from the accompanying video and were completely comfortable mimicking them with jaunty, choreographed precision. Some of the teens would jump into and out of the main group swinging through the motions, some would break off into smaller dance circles on the side, others were content to watch and lip sync and clap. Everybody was palpably psyched.
You’d never see anything like this in Western countries. There were no factions of too-cool kids smugly watching from the side, no self-conscious posing, no awkward inhibitions: just dancing and laughing, shouting and singing, Thai teens hamming it up like only Thais can.
When people ask me why I like Bangkok so much, I usually mumble something about the insanely good food, the jovial people, the everyday hilarity, and the visceral assault of sounds, sights, and smells that for whatever reason nourish me in ways no other place I’ve visited so far can. That’s all true, but my connection with this place is much deeper and not so easily quantified or dropped into black-and-white buckets; if you’re lucky enough to have a similarly unique, personal connection with a place, you probably know what I mean.
But if you had asked me that question as we watched some 150 teens break out into this extended dance party in front of MBK Center on a hot, breezy afternoon in late July, I would have pointed and gave you a simple answer: That. That is why I love Bangkok.