Personal appearance is important to most Thai people and there are plenty of reminders to this fact if you look around you on your visit to Thailand. Every town and city in Thailand seems to have an over-supply of beauty salons and barber shops. They serve as a testament that for a number of Thai people, personal grooming is almost as much an obsession as food. Earlier today, I saw a man who had managed to combine these twin Thai obsessions in his own unique style.
Walking past my local 7-Eleven convenience store this morning, I noticed a man outside shaving. With a bag of groceries at his feet, he was using the window of 7-Eleven as a mirror as he shaved using a blade, but without water or foam. He was a middle-aged man and neatly dressed and as the only non-Thai person walking by, I was probably the only one who found the scenario amusing. I’ve no doubt that the man in question didn’t give his behaviour a second thought because this sort of public grooming isn’t out of the ordinary in Thailand.
No self-respecting taxi or tuk-tuk driver will take to the road without a pair of tweezers. Parked up in between fares, the side view mirrors are re-positioned as the tweezers are whipped out to attack any offending facial hair. For the younger generation, the mirrors on a motorcycle don’t seem to be there to check for traffic, but instead are there to check on hair and make-up. Naturally, wearing a motorbike helmet will only mess up carefully arranged hair-styles, so helmets are often shunned by younger riders.
I took the photos shown on this page at Hualamphong train station in Bangkok where one of the platforms also serves as a barber shop. There is something distinctly Thai about the whole scene and is one of the contradictions that makes Thailand a joy. Male and female barbers are dressed in immaculate white jackets complete with face masks as they serenely cut the hair of clients with a backdrop of smelly old diesel trains. Food hawkers mill around, passengers shuffle by and it is all very Thai.