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March 27, 2015

The Void Looks Back: My Experience in a Thai Mall during a Pipe Bombing

Needless to say, it was strange to be at a Thai mall during a pipe bombing. On February 1st I stood in the middle of the ground-floor food-court at Siam Paragon shopping mall in Central Thailand, one of the most instagrammed places on earth, as a loud explosion echoed through the hall from outside. When it happened it was unclear what the noise was, only that it was very loud and possibly gunfire, or a bomb. Immediately, several dozens of families made for the back exit of the mall. Panic was not in anyone’s face, only in the rapid movement of the crowd, like a river born from a flashflood. In an instant the entire mall floor was empty, food still sitting on each vacant table, chairs tipped over, dishes scattered, an untouched pile of Kentucky Fried Chicken, someone’s glasses left on the table, a baby’s shoe.

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Nobody had paid for their meals, nor were they expected to. I walked against the crowd, towards the loud boom, and snapped a few pictures of the emptiness. Out front, where it was later determined by the police that two pipe bombs had been detonated behind an electrical transformer on the subway platform directly in front of the mall, there was a thick gray cloud of smoke hanging in the air like a giant fuck you. I walked out onto the street and watched it as its gray body moved through the night’s darkness, down the cleared street, silent, dissolving into the night like the last grains of a sand castle disappearing into the slow rhythm of time and waves. I found myself hoping it wasn’t some sort of chemical cloud, or radiation, or something worse, like a virus.

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I climbed the stairs to the platform, and moved towards the entry to the subway, as police officers pulled down the gate in front of me. They ordered me away. No one was around.

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Thailand has been under Martial law since May of last year. What the future has in store for the people of Thailand is anyone’s guess. The strange thing is, had I been in the United States when 2 pipe bombs went off at a mall, the area would have been quarantined for days. In Bangkok, people were back on the street within minutes, street markets carried on, the streets were not road-blocked, the subway returned to service shortly after, there was an eerie feeling that everyone just wanted to ignore it. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “If you look long enough into the void the void begins to look back through you.” Sadly, it seems as if somehow Thai people don’t want to acknowledge this darkness around them, or perhaps they have seen too much. It is a difficult fact to acknowledge, that as humans, all of our sand castles will inevitably fall into the darkness of the ocean, whether or not we choose to see.

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