Central World Shopping Mall has reopened. A taxi driver told me about its reopening earlier this week when we were stuck in traffic but it took seeing the bright lights and the milling human traffic from the BTS this evening for the news to sink in. While I applaud the spirit it took to drive a quick reopening since it was burnt badly in the protests this spring, I worry about the consequences of a badly damaged building being patched up too quickly to address safety standards.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Central World. The restaurants there are not particularly good. The stores are all too pricey. The layout is confusing. The only feature I enjoy is the cinema, which I rarely go to since I watch most of my movies on planes. So when Central World was forced to close in April, I wasn’t particularly bothered or affected.
Many Bangkokians were, on the other hand. Central World was one of the many shopping malls locals like to frequent. Centrally located, it was convenient, a getaway from the heat, and a place to socialise. To have it shut down and later torched was a horror and embarrassment for many locals. By being the “victim,” the site then became a symbol. Making the symbolism of its partial reopening even more important.
The Western part of my thinking still worries about the stubbornly quick rebuilding. Considering that structural integrity and safety standards in Thailand are already questionable to my admittedly censorious self, I would rather see the building razed and started from scratch. Take a look at the videos of the fire and its aftermath, pulled from various YouTube sources.
I do understand the desire to bring things back to normal as soon as possible. Americans stubbornly insisted that we will not be bent or changed as the result of the terrorist attacks. As humans, proud ones at it too, we want to put the bad past us as quickly as possible. The blackened remains of Central World that laid bare for all to see for a rather long while was a painful eyesore that served as a constant reminder of the protests. I just hope we remember to resume “normality” smartly, rather than just superficially.