No westerner who comes to South East Asia for the first time can walk down the street without standing in awe of one thing. The wiring.
Whether it is telecommunications or electrical lines, the calm, orderly, now largely invisible infrastructure of wires in the West is hardly even noticed. Not so here. It is on full display in all its bewildering glory.
To the unfamiliar eye, the tangled mass of wires draped from each post seems incomprehensible. How could anything, let alone everything crossing in those wires possible get where it is going? Why isn’t everyone electrocuted in the first rain storm?
And does it all even work? The answer seems to be a resounding “yes.” Though it seems improbable when you look at the poles, in a month of being here, we experienced only one power outage, and internet service to our condos went nearly uninterrupted.
What is more, it is a system continuously in refinement. On multiple occasions, sometimes in the dead of night, we saw workers grooming this living, changing mass. Trucks of every level of formality, and sometimes just two guys and a ladder could be found pruning and tending to the wires or attacking the vines that creep up to bring them down.
Despite all the attention, the tangles of wires, some saggy and old, some shiny and new, can reach epic proportions. The concrete light poles used in Thailand seem to withstand a limitless load, but there are times when the mass begins to stretch the bounds of credulity.
Nature too, has its ideas on what should happen with the wires. At every turn, the jungle that once inhabited this area leaves little reminders of what came before us. Unlike the prosaic oaks and maples that threaten power lines back in the States, the plants here are simply exuberant about their invasion.
Like so many things in what is classified by some as a developing nation, the infrastructure here is in a state of flux and … development. The change and improvement is nearly constant. The leap may have skipped the steps in the long march of industrialization with which we in the West are familiar, but that is no impediment to progress. Here in Thailand, residential internet speeds can far outpace those available in much of the United States. Fast, reliable wifi is nearly everywhere in larger cities. And much of the fiber that provides this most modern of services has been hung by men standing on bamboo ladders.
This is just one example of a pragmatism we have found hiding around every corner in Thailand. In ways many Westerners would dismiss out of hand, an efficient, ingenious (if not strictly to code) solution often presents itself. End caps for severed wires are made of plastic the world over. Why not let a little recycling provide a cost effective and handy option?