While the world churned, many of us kept busy finding new obsessions to keep us happy.
As the Year of the Monkey passes and past fads like craft beer and food trucks fade into memory to join the likes of donuts and charcoal food, new addictions emerged through our smartphones, wallets or stomachs.
1Haunted Child Dolls
It wasn’t new, and it didn’t stay long. But for a few weeks, one of the more bizarre fads to burn the psyche was everywhere.
Luk Thep, or child spirit dolls, were minor thing of 2015. When a budget airline announced they could fly as passengers, they exploded in the imagination and national media. Soon the dolls, which cost up to 100,000 baht and are consecrated with black magic, were everywhere and even drew international attention. Students brought them into classrooms, hotels banned them and before long young, female luk thep were being exploited as drug mules.
Fortunately the trend died after a few weeks. But this led to a new problem, as the life-like dolls – believed to contain a child’s soul – could not be thrown away. Those unsold or abandoned by their humans were abandoned at local temples like they were stray animals. Soon major temples such as Wat Phai Lom and Wat Sawang Arom in Nakhon Pathom province were stuck with up to 10,000 luk thep dolls.
A powerful, imported drug cooked up in a San Francisco lab arrived mid-year to devastate communities nationwide.
Nothing hit the smartphone-toting youth of Thailand this year quite like Pokemon Go. When the GPS-powered, augmented-reality game launched in July, it was an instant hit and national productivity plummeted as millions discovered “outdoors,” a place where they could catch’em all.
Suddenly the under-35 world was divided between dedicated Pikachu hunters and anti-Pokemon Go haters who said “Get a life!” Feeling insecure about an obsession they couldn’t fathom, government officials were quick to take action – despite their inability to do anything about it – threatening to “ban” the game unless its maker obey their demands that certain locations be made Pokemon-free.
To the surprise of no one, the developer ignored them, but by that time the fad had faded almost as quickly as it came.
It was a great year for couch potatoes, who no longer needed to go out to experience concerts or events only to meet friends complaining about traffic or the government.
Facebook launched its livestreaming service in March, and the nation didn’t look back.
Suddenly everyone was livestreaming what they were eating, dancing, seeing, playing, discussing or selling. It made everyone a reporter and drove huge online engagement, what today’s media calls “organic reach.” New media jumped on the bandwagon also, using it to bring audiences to street protests and swing-dance parties. Some reporters even combined their Pokemon and Facebook Live passions and called it “work.”
4Malls Grow Up, Go ‘Community’
Love or hate them, a lot of us went to malls. But in response to changing tastes and shoppers suffering CentralBurnout, some developers are building more human spaces like the six community malls which opened in the capital. Massive investments went into spaces where mallrats can escape the same-old-same-old vibes to eat, drink and chill.
First there was The Commons on Soi Thonglor 17. The four-story complex skipped chains like KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks in favor of independent food artisans. Same down the street at Soi 4, where Maze Thonglor gained fame for fairy tale-themed bar Mocking Tales. Night owls got The Street Ratchada, a loft-style mall open 24 hours for late-studying students and after-party washouts feeding at Foodland’s Tuk la Dee. Bangkok’s nightlife got an upgrade with Beam, which is located in 72 Courtyard, also on Thonglor. Pet culture continued to spread, and Habito Mall on Soi Sukhumvit 77 opened in August as a trendy place for people and their fluffy buddies to roam. The #SlowLife set got the lush Naiipa Art Complex in the heart of Phra Khanong, where they can enjoy a quiet afternoon coffee under some shade.
5Goodbye Honey Toast, Hello Bingsu!
History has proven that importing something sweet for sale at Siam Paragon is a surefire way to guarantee long queues and a feeding frenzy.
Our stomach were in for many treats this year. After digesting honey toast and drooling over Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream and Pablo Cheesetart, dessert lovers decided Korean-style shaved ice was the 2016’s Most Valuable Flavor.
It was a perfect storm combining our love of fads, Siam Paragon aircon, sweet things, social media and – most of all – craziness for anything Korean.
The Bingsu trend turned into a snowy-sweet treat blizzard also because it’s a dessert made for Instagram and Facebook feeds. Just look at it.
While Thai Bingsu offers the same strawberries, cheesecake, brownies and Oreo toppings found elsewhere, try some local flavors such as mango, durian and Thai tea.