Bangkok Phil

The slow but steady demise of a suburban luxury apartment building

It all looked so nice when you moved in.

A piece of prime land is purchased ‘just a few minutes' from the BTS (provided your jet pack is fully charged or you are Usain Bolt).

Boards are erected to hide the construction work and keep out prying eyes.

After a strokey beard executive meeting, the luxury development is given a pretentious name - something like ‘The Emerald' or ‘The Passion' or ‘The Dog's Goolies'.

There will also be a tagline. Something like ‘where your dreams, aspirations and heaven become interfused' The tagline will make absolutely no sense whatsoever except to the person who thought it up. And even he is beginning to have doubts.

The name and tag line are put up on an advertisement hoarding in large letters alongside the image of a young and beautiful Western woman with impossibly white teeth. She's lying on a made bed and pissing about on an Apple Macbook. She's also wearing what look like white pyjamas. In fact everything in the room is white. Ah, that's it - she's waiting for the cleaning lady.

After twelve months of cash flow problems, wage disputes and the odd construction worker falling from the ninth floor, the apartment building is ready to open.

It's time to lure in potential residents and buyers using that time-honored combination of commission-hungry sales staff, footpath flag wavers and those giant inflatable figures with the flailing arms.

A glossy brochure is produced with photos of what your living space could look like if you had any taste. There isn't a zip-up wardrobe in sight - or anything frilly and fluffy on the refrigerator door handle.

The reception staff are all young, attractive and smartly dressed. They greet you with the type of wai that you only ever see on ‘Visit Thailand' promotional videos.

You see a room you like. "I'll take it!"

The monthly repayments and service fees, etc can be worked out properly on pieces of scrap paper at a later time.

You move in.

You decide to give the gym a try. When you unleash your full power on the pull-down lat machine, the whole room starts to shake. But at least you're getting a nice smile from the young guy in the corner who's working on his triceps. I think you've made a friend.

The accountant is the first member of staff to quit. She found a better job closer to home so a new girl Friday has the task of totting up your electricity and water bill and coming up with a total. Alas, this doesn't turn out to be her strong point.

The cheap gym equipment quickly falls into disrepair and the gym becomes a storeroom for spare chairs and unwanted filing cabinets - and also a sort of graveyard for cheap gym equipment.

The receptionist quits. Oh no not the receptionist. You really liked her didn't you? You spent three months trying to ascertain whether or not she has a boyfriend and it's all gone to waste.

The new receptionist looks like Elsa Koch, The Butcher of Buchenwald.

The security guard has also disappeared. For two months he gave you a theatrical salute with an accompanying click of the heels as you left the building each morning. Then he was replaced by an older guy who spent most of the day sitting on a plastic chair. Now there's just the plastic chair.

The plants in the lobby start crying out for water.

You know that residents' manual that you were given when you moved in? The one that said ‘under no circumstances should residents place bags of garbage in the corridor' and ‘the hanging of washing on the balcony is strictly prohibited' - well, you've now realized that rules are always there to be broken.

You try to make an appointment to see the building manager but staff say he's gone to play golf. That guy you saw unloading boxes from a car half an hour earlier must have been his identical twin brother.

The Olympic size, infinity pool has suddenly taken on a distinctly greenish tinge and Lord knows where the four sun loungers have got to. Actually make that three sun loungers. The fourth one is floating in the deep end.

Notices crudely typed out on A4 paper start appearing next to the elevator with alarming regularity. They invariably begin with 'please be informed' or 'with regard to' and then continue to let residents know about forthcoming power outages that will last 12 hours and elevator maintenance that will last even longer. But the management does apologize for any inconvenience. The notices are written in some strange, mythical language. English it certainly isn't. 

The 24-hour convenient mini-mart on the ground floor seems to be in darkness. Your enquiries to the reception staff are met with a collective shrug of the shoulders but the industrial heavy-duty padlock really should have been a clue. The owner has clearly decided that one customer an hour popping in for twenty fags and a bottle of washing up liquid isn't going to make her rich and she's gone back to her relatives in Udon Thani. It looks like the woman who runs the laundry shop might have gone with her.

September comes and the floodwater in the soi - a soi that never floods according to the sales person - is almost waist-deep. You seriously contemplate buying a boat.

‘A peaceful haven for business people looking for a luxury lifestyle' is what it said in the brochure but that first sighting of a bare-arsed toddler racing across the car-park on a toy tricycle is always a defining moment. Someone get some pants on that kid!

Later that day you get news that your view of the distant sky-train line is about to be blocked by another condo development.

And repeat.


Brilliant! Your best blog for years.

By Richard Constable, Bang Na (1st July 2021)

On point. The story is almost the same for the latest night club, restaurant, mall, job etc etc.

By John, Bangkok (21st October 2016)

Haha, Very much on the mark. I visited a property fair the other day and it is quite befuddling. MC's in short, challenging skirt-dresses announcing out the winner of the latest lucky-draw; female sales? staff tinkering with their hairdos and push-up bras etc.

I tried to sit down with a loan officer to discuss mortgage loan conditions, but it was futile due to the overwhelming wall of noise emitting from every sales booth, each one trying to drown the others.

I spent an hour there but all I saw was a sort of youth-party with sales staff of opposite sexes trying to flirt with each other, sales staff eating pork-ball skewers and listening to the Filipino Live band, playing Whitney Houston hit's from the 90's.

By Paul Briton English, Bangkok (20th October 2016)

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