Bangkok Phil

May I look in your bag sir?

McDonalds cafes and MRT security

McDonalds cafe
How wonderful to see that everyone's favorite corporate clown has seen fit to bring the McDonald's Cafe concept to Bangkok. I'd previously been to their cafes in Hong Kong and Singapore and was suitably impressed. I'm delighted to say that the newish McDees cafe at the Erawan intersection near Central Chidlom is every bit as good. It's an oasis of early morning peace and tranquility where you can relax on a Mcsofa and savor the delights of the sausage burger or perhaps even a blueberry muffin. I've become quite a regular here, and at 6.20 in the morning there's usually just me and a handful of bleary-eyed counter-staff. The breakfast menu is extensive, the coffee is decent and the staff are charmingly incompetent, but it just adds to the charm of the place. There's one girl who's my particular favorite on account of the fact that she seems unable do anything right. I've watched her warm cheesecake up in the microwave, spill coffee all over a customer's tray, and spend thirty minutes wrestling with newspapers and gripper rods. When it comes to adding up 70 baht for a coffee and 45 baht for a chocolate chip muffin it's like watching someone try to split the atom. Heaven knows what she's like under pressure as the day gets busier. And it does get busier. I was so enamored with my first morning visit that I decided to pop back later in the day for a strawberry sundae - and psyche myself up for the rush hour sky-train journey. My word, how things change. There wasn't a spare seat to be had. The place was over-run with schoolchildren. I skulked away hands in pockets and adjourned to the vastly inferior Burger King about a hundred yards away. It was the same story there - hordes of pig-tailed schoolgirls doodling on exercise books and copying each other's homework. I realize this might be a tad controversial but don't you think a law should be passed stipulating that once school-kids finish school at 3.30 or whatever time it is, they are by law, required to go straight home immediately. Let's take it a step further and say that failure to do so would result in a small fine or perhaps a black mark on a school attendance card. Or someone could just shoot them.

May I look in your bag sir?
Isn't it weird - not to mention a little unnerving - that security checks become more and more lax the longer stories of terrorism stay off the front pages of local newspapers? I'm talking about the checks made on our bags and briefcases as we enter Bangkok department stores, office buildings or descend down into the capital's MRT system. Security was beefed up all over town after a series of explosions in late 2006 and on New Year's Eve itself, but with thankfully nothing major to report this year, we're slowly getting back to normal. But is that what's supposed to happen? The security guards are still there at the entrance to every MRT station but to call their barely cursory glance into your computer bag a 'security check' is just plain absurd. I have a laptop case with three separate compartments. I'm no expert on these matters but I would say any of them is spacious enough to hold an explosive. I walk through those MRT security checks and open whichever compartment I fancy. The other day I just waved my bag in the air and they motioned me through. What's all that about? Is it because I'm in a shirt, tie, and business slacks rather than sandals and a flowing white robe. Perhaps I don't look the sort. At the Emporium Department Store they've given up altogether. The guards used to check your bag carefully and then attach a brown baggage tag to it. You were then free to wander around the store without fear of suddenly being wrestled to the ground in the bedding department. When was the 'red alert' situation called off? and by who? And more to the point - why did nobody tell me?


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