Conspicuous Contrast

The streets around the glittering malls of Bangkok magically transform into a night market every evening, particularly during the festive season.

Walking back from dinner one evening, we were struck by the stark contrast between the little roadside stalls and the luxury brand hoardings on the facades of the malls behind. 

Bangkok Hoarding

A contrast of fantasy v/s reality, of practical need v/s aspirational yearning.

What is it I wondered, that makes us covet these iconic brands? Their exclusivity? Their superior craftsmanship? Or just a notion of authenticity?

You can find more posts on Bangkok here.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

52 thoughts on “Conspicuous Contrast

  1. tantalising glimpse madhu … the whole brand thing is a complete puzzle to me … i have no idea why people like it … one of the weird things about the world that i never ‘got’!

  2. Un giornalista e scrittore Tiziano Terzani che per tanti anni visse in Asia, nella sua biografia racconta di quando da bambino veniva portato dai genitori in centro città a Firenze e da dietro una siepe restava a guardare i signori che mangiavano il gelato.
    Le vetrine con prodotti di marca, irraggiungibili ai più, che in tanti desiderano e le bancarelle che offrono un oggetti simili a quelli che non si possono acquistare non sono un contrasto, ma l’offerta di un palliativo.
    Ciao 🙂

  3. Love your photos of the stark contrasts Madhu! They remind me of a picture that I saw on a local newspaper a few years ago showing a poor family walking in front of a billboard of a new luxury apartment in Jakarta. Such is the world.

  4. Bangkok is a prime example of this weird contrast – you’re right Madhu. But it’s happening everywhere – here included – and even the other day on surfing the TV the I heard some plummy voiced chick telling the young Indian wannabes who watch those programs how they simply must have a pair of (five hundred = US – dollar) Ferragamo shoes!

    Great post – stunning shots 🙂

  5. Great post on contrasts, Madhu. The iconic brands you’ve featured have been marketed to a clientele and lifestyle that most of us can only dream about. Maybe it’s a little bit of wanting what we can’t have, or simply appreciating, as you said, superior craftsmanship and design.

  6. Often, I’ve wondered about the questions you posed here today, Madhu. My borther-in-law is big on name brands and images on his shirts kind of guy. I’ve found it to be pretentious. Now, he is pompous so that may go along with it. I think the only people who benefit are the ones putting it out there for those who think it’s important to buy. Definitely, not my thing.
    The photos are terriffic, though. They depict the excitement that seems to go on at night in Bangkok. Good entry for the challenge — Contrast.

  7. I’ve seen kids in Haiti get their parents to buy them a certain Nike brand and wonder why their is little to eat. This commercialism of “you need this, or you deserve this” drives people into stupid choices. Just ask the credit card companies.

  8. Slick marketing. I get a kick out of the “knock offs” we can find on the street in San Francisco or L.A. I got a great “Louis Vuitton” bag for $25 in L.A. a few years back from a street vendor. I think that has become illegal now 🙂

  9. Your photo does capture the slick marketing that many of us succumb to. The contrast about “need” and “want” are what we should focus on – not conspicuous consumption. Many of my students firmly believe that they will play better ball if they have one of those expensive pair of sneakers with some top athlete’s name on them.

  10. Good choice and example of contrasts. I prefer the little market stalls to the designer stuff because I’d rather buy from the little people than a big retail giant.

  11. What an absorbing blog this.. …. The ‘urge to wander’ and quest for wannabes beckons readers..thanq..u are a go-getter of diff sort..

  12. Very telling photos, Madhu. We live in a world where wealth is accumulated, rather than shared. The rich and the desperately poor rub shoulders every day.

  13. Great photos Madhu! I believe the media/corporations wants us to believe that we are hip and successful if we carry or wear name brands. It certainly seems to help sell products.

  14. It’s crazy how much people will pay for a ridiculous price bag and any branded item. When people start talking of how much they want this or that, or they bought this or that. In my mind, that amount is more than enough to feed several hungry families for months. As for roadside vendors/market, that is my idea of an exciting adventure and not the huge malls.

  15. I am not a walking advertisement for Brands but they are a part of the culture not doubt. Nice interpretation Madhu!

  16. we cherish to shop in so called “flee markets’ where traditionally goods are displayed on make shift stalls and we pay in cash. It gives us some basic satisfaction.
    The BRANDS are created for those who have (or find that they have) loads of money and do not know how to spend. Not for us commoners.

  17. You made a very thoughtful post here. I ask the same questions you ask – why do people spend so much on the luxurious items? Then I wonder – whether it’s because I can’t afford them that I am astonished by the way others can splurge on those goods. 🙂

  18. spectacular clicks..and great contrast… nice post madhu ..very thoughtful!! xo

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