Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Avana Hotel on Bang Na Trat

Any reporter worth his salt would have photographs to go along with this post. And then there are reporters like me.

Bang Na Trat is a well-traveled thoroughfare in the Bang Na District of Bangkok. No, not Bangkok, it's actually in Samut Prakan, the neighboring province to the south of BKK. A few decades ago you had to leave Bangkok and go for a while over minor roads before you got to Samut Prakan, which was an agricultural area at the time. Now the border is invisible, and the Bang Na area is being built up in spectacular fashion. Samut Prakan is now the freight container capitol of the Bangkok Metro Area. There are millions of the things stacked all over. The Sky Train already goes there, and more lines are planned. It's all pretty cosmopolitan by now.

The Avana Hotel tells an interesting story, a story with a distinctly mixed message. It's a good sized place, with nice signage, and it's been there for a long time. I have no photos to display because I've only ever laid eyes on it out of moving taxi cabs, and it is not well placed for efficient mobile photography. I've ridden by frequently though, so I've seen it very often, at different times of day, and in different lighting. The signs haven't changed. The hotel is set back about twenty meters from the street, on a street that turns at an oblique angle, and there are signs on the top of the building and at the end of the small street where you would turn in to go to the hotel.

The narrow side of the building is best visible from the main street. There are two messages at the top of the building, both reading vertically from top to down, one on the left side and the other on the right. The left side says, “Avana Hotel,” and the message on the right side is, “Jesus Loves You.” Those are large, permanently affixed, well lit signs. It's unambiguous; the hotel's owners must be Christians. That's unusual in Thailand, but not unheard of. About 2% of the population report as Christians.

The Twilight Zone music starts to play when you see the giant neon sign at the front of the access street. It's lit up like an arcade sign, on an arch that goes from one side to the other. Along the top it says, in very gay colors, Avana Hotel. Below that, in lettering of the same size and the same vivid colors, it says, “Massage 24 Hours.”

Thailand is full of massage places, and they come in a full range of the services provided. All of the massage places have signs that provide all of the information that any initiate will need to understand what kind of place it is. I'm going to leave you hanging here, rather than spell it out for you, but take my word for it, “Massage 24 Hours,” displayed so prominently, is a clear description of the place. They are serious about it. They want to improve your circulation in the worst way.

And some of the proceeds go to Mr. Jesus! How great is that? Everything in Thailand is Thai style, and that is really one of the best things about the country. Don't be so serious, let's have some fun, life is better if everyone is comfortable. Why would Mr. Jesus object if you wanted to relax with a special massage? Jesus loves you! He wants you to be happy! For Thais, there is zero tension in this mixed message. It's all about the love.

And the money, of course. I've been seeing the Avana Hotel and its lovely signage for ten years now, so it's a going concern. I wish them well. They are providing several valuable services to a grateful community.

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