BANGKOK (AP) - Solutions to Bangkok's mega-traffic jams are nowhere in sight, but
relief for those stuck in them has arrived: Comfort 100 and, believe it or not, Easi
Available at gas stations, these bottle-shaped, portage urinals for both men and
women have become a necessity for motorists who can be trapped on the road for hours
at a time.
Taking the American "car culture" to new frontiers, wealthier Thais are
also buying vans and equipping them with telephones, video players, kitchen appliances
and seats that convert into beds.
An enterprising taxi driver installed a Karaoke machine so passengers can croon their
favorite tunes instead of seething with frustration.
Tales of how-I-Missed-a -wedding/conference/funeral because of traffic have become
staples of daily conversation. Newspapers publish advice on how to discreetly use
the portable urinals-and even portable potties.
Bangkok's traffic offers a fearsome preview of the auto-apocalypse that surely will
descend on any other city that fails to curb the car.
Almost around the clock, its once-lovely boulevards and quaint alleys are choked
with vehicles spewing tons of deadly emissions. legions of motorcycles dart through
the congestion, careening onto sidewalks and into pedestrians.
Too much traffic is not the only woe for this wildly mushrooming capital of 9 million
people. The city of Angels, as it is known in Thai, also suffers from too much sewage
being dumped into the once-romantic Chao Phraya river, too many brutal sweatshops
and too much sex, at least of the illicit variety.
Thai officials, keenly sensitive to the country's national image, expressed outrage
when a photograph of a Thai prostitute appeared on a time magazine cover.
They became even more incensed when a British dictionary described Bangkok in part
as "a place where there are a lot of prostitutes."
Replicas of Longman's dictionary of English language and culture were burned in front
of the British embassy. Chulalongkorn university purged it from the campus bookstore.
The foreign ministry demanded apologies and threatened to boycott British imports.
While some opinion leaders were upset about the Bangkok-as-brothel label, others
were mad at officialdom for expending more energy to protect images than to attack
Despite, or because of, decades of talk and bagfuls of bribe money, the world's 15th
largest city still has no mass transport system. About 500 cars a day are added to
the streets every day.
City authorities have yet to devise a zoning plan, leaving the city at the mercy
of real estate developers who line the narrow streets with multistory condominiums
Countering the official line that Bangkok is no different from other large cities
when it comes to prostitution, one columnist wrote: "Which city can offer the
best sex, with the widest variety, and at the most reasonable price 24 hours a day?"