Monday, November 30, 2009

Ploenchit Fair

So, this past Saturday I took myself along to the annual Ploenchit Fair at the Shrewsbury International School on the Chao Praya River. This is the international community’s annual fund-raising blockbuster event for Thai charities. The Fair is arguably the biggest such event in Asia and is a traditional day for all the family and has been one of the biggest events of the social calendar in Bangkok for many a year. The whole thing remaindered me of my old school fairs back home in ye’ ole Tasmania, only on a much grander scale and with around 20,000 people in attendance, as opposed to the few hundred at Taroona Primary School.

Although it started at 10 am (ending at 8 pm-ish), I didn’t make it there until a fashionably-late 3 pm. Which actually worked out rather well as that was about the time that stalls started discounting their wares, ha ha ha! Everything you would expect to find at a British fair was on offer: ferris wheel, bouncy castle, shoot ‘em gallery, clown, Santa, arts ‘n’ crafts in Petticoat Lane, games, rides, raffle and so on...

On the F&B front, things were none too shabby either. Attendees were able to feast on home-made cakes, fish ‘n’ chips, pies, Thai food, Indian samosa, pizza, burgers, and, of course, plenty of beer! A pint of cider set me back 140 baht and was very delicious, and I found three of them went down quite nicely! I managed to score a lot of my other favourite thing too – books! And boy were there a lot of good ones, particularly of the second-hand variety. I scored a plethora of titles for a few hundred baht. I also managed to weasel my way into free ice cream, popcorn, tea, cheese and muesli....

I was pleased to discover that the “entertainment” side of things was well taken care of too. Although I arrived too late in the day to catch the pipers, choir, yoga performance, belly dancing and magic show on the main stage, I did take in the surprisingly good blues, soul and rock band Celtic Colours and the rock/pop outfit Retrovision.

I do however have to make one small quibble; despite a comprehensive search I was unable to find a toffee apple. This was not acceptable, that was the one thing I felt I had to have to really reminisce about my childhood. Still, I know who the organisers are now, so I’ll be having words with them ahead of next year’s shindig. Or, I suppose I could stop being such a damn winger and open my own store in 2010, selling said item (‘tis for charity after all).

Speaking of, how about a little “background” info for those not in the know. Previously, the Fair was held in the gardens of the British Embassy, which are located on Ploenchit Road in Bangkok. The name has become so well known that is has been retained wherever the Fair takes place. As over 20,000 people attend every year, the size has often forced a change of location. The Fair is planned, organised and managed by BCTFN (British Community of Thailand Foundation for the Needy) along with an army of around 2,000 volunteers! It can trace it roots back to garden fete at the British Club in WWII, with the first full-blown Fair being held in the grounds of the British Embassy in 1956. BCTFN has raised over 45 million baht at the Ploenchit Fair since 2000. This has enabled the Committee to support a vast range of diverse charity projects in all regions of Thailand. The fundamental aim of our support is to promote self-sufficiency and to improve the lives of the needy.

And so... as the sun set behind the stage and out over the river, I settled into my lawn cheer with my pint of ale and enjoyed a rather good Thai cover band do their thing. All why watching a plethora of poor parents try to calm their manic sugar-high tots. Ahhhh, good times. And when the beer ran out and we were all told to 'bugger off' I joined the crowds to catch my pleasant 5-min ride on the ferry back to reality...

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