“Guess who I just saw? I think he’s still there. Look!” My voice went up a couple octaves as I tapped on the window that was separating me from a tennis superstar. I was a little starstruck. With sparkling eyes, I quickly punched in my 4th tweet on Twitter, and considered moving closer, leaving the air-conditioned cafe. I could get his autograph — wouldn’t that be cool? We’d probably have plenty of things to talk about since his wife is from Canada. As I began to leave the comfort of my chair, my friend pulled me down to reality, looked away from his phone, and informed me, “Yeah, I think he lives in the area. So, I’m going to get an iced coffee. What do you want?”
I took a gulp. I’m not even into tennis, but Paradorn Srichaphan, the Thai sensation with the Miss Universe wife, is sitting out there in his black Harley Davidson t-shirt. Even my grandpa in Canada knows this guy, so why is my Thai friend so unfazed?! Are celebrity sightings so common in Bangkok? Why am I the only one that is surprised to see Paradorn sipping on an iced coffee at Au Bon Pain at 3 in the afternoon?
Thais aren’t obsessed with their celebrities. Well, maybe some are to a certain degree, but there’s a different kind of intensity and respect attached to it. Sure, fans might get a bit excited and request an autograph from their heartthrob, but they’re not going to maul him or follow him home. Famous people aren’t surrounded by bodyguards 24/7. In fact, it’s not such a far stretch to become friends with a semi or extremely famous Thai person. And Thai celebrity sightings in Bangkok are quite common, especially in Thong Lo, my old hood.
When I moved to Bangkok in 2004, the song topping the charts was I-Nam’s ‘Ruk Khon Mee Jao Kong‘. It was a catchy song about a guy in love with a girl who already has a boyfriend. At the time, I didn’t understand all the lyrics, but I liked it enough to buy a Thai compilation just because the song was on it! Fast forward 3 years and my lovely British friend meets I-Nam’s drummer at an English summer camp, and he introduces her to his best friend, who is studying at an international college. She hits it off with the best friend, and soon Thai musicians are attending our get-togethers. Honestly, I wasn’t starstruck, but there was a certain ‘cool’ factor to hanging out with typical Thai guys, who could also sing and cut records. The few lines I exchanged with the drummer were always pleasant, and now 10 years after listening to I-Nam’s hit song, we’re Facebook and Instagram friends. Gotta love technology!