One thing that's common to all trade and consumer shows is how rapidly they end.
One minute, the exhibition hall is filled with people, the low rumble of background chatter, and booths crammed with equipment, brochures and other knick-knacks.
But as witching hour approaches, a barely perceptible, but omnipresent low-level hum inevitably resonants through the venue as exhibition attendees...weary from days of standing, smiling and talking...grow anxious in anticipation of dismantling their temporary homes.
Like sprinters tensing at their marks, exhibitors ready themselves for a fast-and-furious escape. The moment the show ends, people spring into action and everything comes down: Posters fall; structures collapse; displays decay into shambles.
I took a moment to walk around as the Thai Travel and Dive Expo wrapped up yesterday and marvelled at this process. Amid the hustle and bustle, I came across a lone sentinel standing witness to the end of the show.
Limbs ripped asunder, wetsuit and BCD packed away. A perfect visual metaphor for the final moments of the exhibition.
After everything was packed up, I went out for a celebratory/ thank-god-we're-done dinner with a few friends. In keeping with the culinary irony theme of this trip, they took me to a branch of the Tawandang German Brewery for...you guessed it...beer and sausages. (Can you hear me whining about wanting Thai food?)
By the time we got there, it was quite late...a little after 22:00, way past my normal dinner time.
Actually, the beer was good (served in enormous quantities), and we ordered some Thai food, including two servings of som tam (one of my favourites dishes) so I was happy.
The highlight of the evening, besides the company of friends of course, had to be the live entertainment. The restaurant is outside the main Bangkok area, near the new airport, sitting on a large plot of land.
The interior is laid out like a large German beer hall, complete with side-by-side wooden tables, large steins and plenty of beer.
At the front of the venue is a large stage, on which a band was performing when we walked in. Let's just say the sound level was loud enough to knock the thoughts out of your head...before you have them.
The smiling restaurant staff seated us nice and close to the stage, no doubt thinking that this arrangement would be to our liking.
Fortunately, with a bit of discussion and finger pointing (since the staff were probably too deaf to hear a word we were saying), we were able to move to the second level, a bit to the side of the main speakers, so the sound level was only skull-splitting.
One of the reasons I enjoy visiting Thailand is the tendency for people to be happy, at least outwardly so, and quite friendly. There's a Thai word for this...sanook, which roughly means staying happy, being happy, etc. It's an approach/ outlook on life that's built into the culture.
Had I been anywhere else, I probably would've felt a bit tense (mild understatement), given the lateness of the meal, the blaring music and the fact that I wasn't in a Thai restaurant. Perhaps due to the pervasive and high happiness quotient in Thailand, however, I'm generally more relaxed when I'm here and find it relatively easy to go with the flow.
If you've never been to Thailand, it's difficult for me to describe this feeling in words, so this short video clip might help communicate the point:
[flv:http://www.tonywublog.com/videos/2008/dancingduo.flv 480 270]
The drunk dancing dude was amusing enough, but having the kid spontaneously join in sort of encapsulates the mood. You can't help but smile when you see this.
There were other silly antics, some of which I caught on video, but mostly I sat back, enjoyed the music, the unusual atmosphere, and the company of good friends.
Finally, here's another short clip which I think encapsulates both the surreal experience of having dinner at a German brewery while in Thailand and the feeling you get when you've finally finished a long dive show.
[flv:http://www.tonywublog.com/videos/2008/finalcountdown.flv 480 270]