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Alphabet condos

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by Andrew Biggs

There’s a new condo project being advertised on the side of the road I noticed on my way home from Rama 9 Park. It’s called White Wall and the giant billboard says: “Passionate Living starts at 33 million Baht”.

The figure of 33 million, while steep, is not unusual in this modern frenzy of Bangkok real estate. It does seem an exorbitantly high price to pay for passion — and would surprise Nana Plaza patrons who are used to paying 1,500 baht plus a bar fine.

It has been my experience that those fortunate enough to be passionately living are not defining their passion with a price tag. Passionate living is all about exploring the bounds of experience with energy and zest — and would you look at that, dear reader! Just then I created a sentence that would fit comfortably in any advertorial for a new Bangkok block of flats!

Oh but we don’t call them flats here. We don’t even call them apartments. They are condos, or in the case of White Wall, “home offices”.

The top end targets foreigners. With so many projects going up there is naturally great competition, and not just in advertising budgets. It’s hard enough having English as your second language; to then have to think up new and creative ways to describe those condominiums must be beyond difficult … which is why so many of them are beyond ridiculous.

At present near Ploenchit BTS there is a new project which trumpets from a billboard: “Bangkok’s Newest Shining Beacon.” I didn’t know we had treacherous rocks and crashing waves around Ploenchit but then again, I’m a Samut Prakan boy and don’t get out too much.

Meanwhile Saladaeng One explains, in full capitals, that is is “Invincible in its location, with Bangkok’s financial district on one side and stunning Lumpini Park on the other”. Invincible? Are we under attack? And from what … the kimodo dragons that have overtaken the park?

It’s not the only one that is a portent of impending calamity. Over at The Hyde, things feel a little threatening. “Life will NEVER be the same” it explains in its advertising brochure and website, with an emphasis on the word NEVER. That to me sounds like the catch-line for yet another M. Night Shyamalan disappointment.

The problem is this: it is 2018. We’ve been advertising luxury high rise projects for 30 years. The variations on names and snappy slogans explaining rooms that resemble shoeboxes have run their course.

This explains why we have the weirdest titles for new condo projects. There is one going up in Thonglor called “Eyse”. Is that a typo for “Eyes” or are we just being a little trendy? There is “The Parq” opposite Bejakitti Park. I don’t think “The Parq” is a spelling mistake. The letter Q is on the opposite side to K on the keyboard, so we assume the error is intentional.

Next year Sukhumvit 19 will have a complex called “Shaa Asoke”. I’d read that as “Shah” but hold your horses, dear reader. Have I got news for you.

That word “Shaa” has two acutes. Yes. You heard right. There’s one over the first “A” then one over the second. I’d type it here but I have no idea where to find an acute on my Macbook keyboard. I’ve seen many things in my life, but never have I witnessed such a word and last night this conundrum sent me to the liquor cabinet in my quest for proper pronunciation. Even worse; realizing “Shaa Asoke” is not even on Asoke. It’s on Sukhumvit! That’s when I started mixing my drinks.

Copywriters around the world are would-be novelists and poets. They don’t have the talent for the Great English Novel but they can put together a few sentences to express a notion or, more realistically, the abstract desire of a condo project owner who wants something “big” and “luxurious” and “grand” as he waves his hands around in the air.

They should feel happy about their not being able to write great literature. There’s no money in that. Copywriters can make much more. And so they lock themselves in rooms with cigarettes, whisky bottles and thesauruses, churning out new ways to describe the same old thing.

But the problem in the copywriting world is the same in the modern music world. We have run out of combinations of notes. This is why every new Ariana Grande or Justin Bieber song reminds those of us who are, er, a little older of something that was on the charts from the 70s. It also explains the rise in hip hop music, which relies more on rhythm and drum beats rather than melody, a thing noticeably absent in most songs about homies in bling-bling dissin’ their bitches.

This content overload also affects the condo world, as copywriters push and shove for the best slogan to outdo the competition. We will one day look back and study this era as the time when things got a little out of hand. Catch-phrases have gone beyond over the top. They are now unreadable.

“BE AT LEISURE IN YOUR FASCINATED WAY.” That’s what the massive billboard says at aforesaid Eyse. I had no idea I had to be fascinated when I was at leisure. Or is that sentence like pondering the universe itself — trying to make sense out of catastrophe?

The Hyde — the condo that warned me that my life would NEVER be the same — has this opening paragraph: “Experiece the glamorous residence that blends splendid structure with unrivalled style.”

It’s not the sentence’s superfluous rhetoric that bothers me. My concern is more simple than that. Pay attention to the first word in the sentence. That missing N makes me think twice about parting with 20 million to purchase a condo there. If they cut corners on the copy editing, where else are they slashing?

I’m not complaining. I am in awe of anybody who can think up, and be brave enough to submit, a sentence such as the following that can be found in The Hyde’s advertising: “Luxuriate in spacious privacy equipped with every conceivable comfort, thoughtfully designed to chic sophistication with the best of contemporary elegance.”

I needed to stop and grab a quick power nap in the middle of reading that. It felt like wading through a pool of porridge. And why, later on, after reading “a steep ascension to the summit of residential elegance,” do I immediately think of the elevators at Ikea?

As already mentioned, this absence of anything new, combined with the sometimes dubious way English mutates here, has created all sorts of interesting condo names. The Trendy. The Exclusive. The Resident. The Line. The Cube. There is an alleged luxury condo block called “The Diplomat.” Heaven knows what clandestine, socially unacceptable and alcohol-filled shenanigans go on in that place.

But my very favorite is a block going up right now as we speak. It’s 33 floors and 331 units. How on earth will they fill it up, I wondered, until I saw its name and location.

It’s called “Siamese Exclusive Queens”. Even allowing for the word “exclusive” in its title, being situated on Rama 4 Road, a stone’s throw away from Silom Soi 2, they will never be starved for customers.




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