Asienreisender - Loudspeakers

They are almost everywhere in Southeast Asia. Western tourists and ex-pats complain much about the noise harassment; local people rather feel it were kind of 'natural'.
Image by Asienreisender, Chiang Khong, 2012

'Loudspeaker in a Tree | Phetchabun | Thailand' by Asienreisender

Verymost rural neighbourhoods in Thailand are densely equipped with them, often in short distances of 50m to 100m. They are implemented by the local authorities and play everyday in the morning around 8 a.m. and 6 p.m the national anthem. But not only that. Often hours before, particularly on holidays, they are started and blair out pop-music or other music of all kind, advertisements, radio-talks or announcements of the community chief or a police officer. The volume varies between loud and full-scale. It's a daily brainwash for the people and claims the hegemony of the authorities over the human material. It's 'the masters voice'.

Image by Asienreisender, Phetchabun, 4/2017

Loudspeaker in a Cambodian Village by Asienreisender

The most popular contemporary Cambodian music instrument is doubtlessly the loudspeaker. When travelling in Cambodia, every few kilometers there is any din blaired out by them. Image by Asienreisender, in the Mekong Delta around Angkor Borei, 4/2014

'Khmer Music on CD' by Asienreisender

Another Khmer contribution to the sound level. The title speaks for itself. Image by Asienreisender, 8/2014

'A Man Cutting Wood with a Chainsaw' by Asienreisender

After cutting a sugar palm tree, the logger cut the wood into boards with a Stihl chainsaw. It's all done outside on a rice field. It took him half a day. The din was terrible, defenitely above a tolerable level for the health. Nevertheless, the lumberjack and the two bystanders didn't use earplugs for protection. Getting a hearing damage is probable. Image by Asienreisender, Kampot, 1/2015

Asienreisender - Library

Silence is required wherever people work and concentrate. Here: Mae Fa Luang University, Chiang Rai, Thailand. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2012

Asienreisender - Whistling Policeman Asienreisender - Whistling Policeman Asienreisender - Whistling Policeman Asienreisender - Whistling Policeman

Another source of noise: A policeman with a whistle. Whistling can be very unnerving over a time for neighbours who are exposed to it. The "Quiet Bangkok Group" suggested visual signs instead of whistles and the Thai police tried it already successfully. Images by Asienreisender, 3/2005 in Nakon Si Tammarat, south Thailand

Noise Pollution

As Louder, as Better!



A Hell of a Din...

Among all the pollutants we are exposed to, noise pollution is certainly the most nerve-wrecking. Here a party, there a marriage, a funeral, a disco, karaoke, temple festival, a mosque, private house music, a fair, a building site, a water pump, dog's barking and howling at night, traffic, TV, radio, advertisements, a workshop, a lawnmower, a truck's engine running while the driver is anywhere around... everyday over hours, day for day, week for week, month for month - it never stops here. The people of Southeast Asia don't know any limits when it comes to noise pollution.

There is no privacy for the people here, they are not individualized. All is a common matter, and basically family affairs. On the other hand there is no respect for public space or public concern. As much as they use the sidewalks in front of their houses for whatever they want, an extension of their homes or as a metal workshop, so much they make a hell of a noise, pesting squaremiles with it, just for - well, for what? Just so...?

Partying Villagers by Asienreisender

Partying villagers at Si Phan Don (4000 Islands), in Laos at Songkran 2013. The annual water festival is celebrated over a fortnight, and the locals barely silence down for a few hours at night. Often at 5 am the first neighbour starts the next session. Image by Asienreisender, 2013

What makes these miserable people so relentlessly noisy? Well, primitive people are noisy. That's an observation many Westerners documented already centuries ago. Friedrich Gerstaecker describes an evening in a Javanese village, when he couldn't stand the partying in the place where he had an overnight, but had to pack his belongings and to escape to the village's edge to find some rest there. Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn depicts a village in which he came after days of hiking through Java and where he actually planned to rest for a few days. He left it early instead, for the locals had a three-days festival and the party noise was not to stand (Licht- und Schattenbilder aus dem Innern Java's).

What was a nuisance in the 19th century or former times generally, is a monstrous pest in our days. Nowadays everybody can produce a hell of a noise with just a flasdisk and an integrated loudspeaker. Hours over hours over hours until deep into the night all kind of crap is blasted out now. Sometimes it starts already early in the morning, when the muezzin cries out his message (not seldom also mp3 based), Buddhists produce radio music, advertisements and long-lasting announcements via loudspeakers or the national anthem is played, accompanied by radio broadcasting. Or a neighbour can't sleep and starts playing his favourit techno music, high volume, basses turned on maximum.

A great deal of the population is dull and literally retarded. They suffer inner emptiness. They don't find any meaning in their lifes. They have no sense for what is good in life, no taste, have no values nor virtues. They suffer a very low IQ and have no morals. They can not love anything and they are not lovable. They are irresponsible and give a damn for the sake of others. Nobody ever cared for them, why should they care? Most people never ever read a book in their live, not even the lousy newspapers they have here. They watch TV of the lowest kind, not interested in anything of substance. The highest imaginable art for them is business, or better fraud. Cheating ranks high. Cheating and taking advantage of each other is common in families and among acquaintances. Gambling for money is a main passion. They live miserable lifes without any perspective. Lacked reason is replaced by superstition.

Expanded Workshops
'Expanded Workshops on Sidewalks in Southeast Asia' by Asienreisender

It's a usual thing that workshops of all kinds are getting expanded onto the sidewalks. It not only blocks the way for pedestrians and is often pretty dirty, the activities all too often unleash a lot of din. The favourite is always the iron-saw - IIIIIIIIAAAAAAEEEEOOOUUWWWWWWWW is a frequent noise all around in the whole world region. Images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, Yogyakarta, 5/2012; Sakon Nakhon (Isan), 1/2016, 2017

Deprivation plays a central role in it's explanation, but it's not only the material poverty what explains the misery. When people grow wealthy, what not seldom happens in booming Southeast Asia, they still remain dull. Deprivation is not simply material. Generation long deprivation is conserved in their heads and outlives wealth. Once wealthy, they want ever more and more. The dullness, the inner emptiness, the absense of anything what makes humans human, what creates a life what can be called somehow fullfilled, is replaced by superficial fun. Booze and din are a central part of that. The seemingly happy people with their superficial friendliness and smiles cover a black hole behind the facade. Happy looking people are not necessarily happy. They have little control over their lives, they are uncertain and know extremely little about the world they live in. They suffer oppression, structural and open violence, physical threats, fraud, humiliations, and can do little about it. That's scaring. Are they aware of that? Here and there it's certainly dawning, but it's not a nice feeling, though. But they can beat it down. Being noisy makes feeling powerfull. One can forget. At least for a short time. And then one can repeat it... and again and again and again repeat it. Don't think, feel...!

Parties, Parties, Parties...

To give a visual expression of what is actually audible.

Top image: A Leo Beer promotion in the olympic stadium in Kampot, Cambodia. It's early evening, there is nobody here yet, but the promoters make already a hell of a noise.

Middle image: The same spot later, filled with crowd. A trash band from Phnom Penh plays. The noise level is incredible. The whole town is pested, together with wider surroundings.

Here gathers the human material for the industries, the willing consumers of any crap they get thrown at. These dull people belive in ghosts, gouls, zombies, black magic, witchcraft, spirits, fortune telling, gods, demons and a great deal of more weired things. The real ghost which haunts them is their inner emptiness. And loudness is the powerfull weapon to fight it.

Some of the people even leave their small kids close to the loudspeakers, to make sure they won't hear much for the rest of their lives. The spot is in the center of the town, and there are a few hundred people gathered. In total Kampot town live almost 50,000 inhabitants. The din spreads out over several kilometers in radius. In one kilometer distance it's still brutally noisy. Ten thousands of people have to suffer the impact. The whole rattle lasted over five days. After a two days break Angkor Beer started another promotion of the same kind.

After the event the place was over and over covered with litter. One would wish then at least Leo Beer to sponsor a few jobs for locals to clean up the place, but of course they didn't do that. Their marketing promotion was over.

The third image shows one of the notorious marriages in Cambodia. In the dry season there is barely a day without at least one marriage. It's a big industry, companies supply the tents, the audio equipment and partially the food. As at any event the din is deafening again. Conversation among the guests is therefore impossible. Well, they don't have much to talk about.

All images by Asienreisender, Kampot, Cambodia, 2014


Noise as Pollution

Modern, contemporary life get's more and more noisy. Was it in the past the noise of machinery in fabric halls which harmed workers, it became more and more widespread due to the automobilization and increasing traffic. Tools for private households like lawn mowers, power saws and other equipment make neighbourhoods noisy. It's accompanied by the products of the entertainment industries who supply masses of people with music equipment and loudspeakers, huge ones as well as smaller and smallest ones as mobile phones. Noise is practically everywhere, and it's getting more and more. Noise pollution has future.

Noises are of course not always pollution. Noises from our surroundings are crucial for our orientation, they give us information. And the ear is not only an organ for receiving noises. It has key functions for the brain and other organs. It's necessary for our physical balance, for example. Particularly are noises used as means of communication, as talking, using language.

As a general approach to the problem, noise pollution starts when the natural reception of noises is disturbed by artificial noises from technical devices. Of course it's not all that easy, but generally spoken. Is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven noise pollution? Well, it could be, depends on the context. Music is very suggestive, influencing emotions and thoughts. That makes music powerful on one hand, but very annoying on the other hand, when it disturbes one from concentration on something else, or from contemplation or relexation. The impact of music one does not want to hear can easlily turn out as a mental poison.


Noise Pollution as a
Threat to Health and Well Being

The impact of noise pollution on humans (and animals) is still widely underestimated and / or seen as the price we have to pay for the development of our modern society. But there are serious concerns. The World Health Organization's (WHO) Guidelines on Community Noise listed up a number of noise-induced illnesses (1999). Among them are sleep deprivation and disruption, memory deficits, stress, high blood pressure, dizziness, cardiovascular diseases, ringing ear, frustrations, accidents, negative social behaviour, restlessness, moodiness, a tendency for higher aggressiveness and hearing impairment. Children become aggressive and shout to each other. Communication is interrupted or impossible, a society of aggressive and disturbed people grows up. Some people even become suicidal.

So, being repeatedly or longer exposed to loud noises leads to numerous diseases. One can not get used to noise pollution. The World Health Organization called noise pollution in spring 2011 as the second biggest health threat in the world.

I think it's not exaggerated to say that the massive noise pollution in Southeast Asia costs the upgrowing children and youngsters ten to fifteen IQ-points in their development.


The Situation in Thailand

Asienreisender - Loudspeaker Tower

A loudspeaker tower in a rural community near Chiang Khong. Politicians and sometimes police and army use them for announcements. Additionally they play radio, pop-music and advertisements.
Image by Asienreisender, 11/2011

So far I know there is no comprehensive study concerning noise-related health problems in Thailand. The WHO gave out a survey in 2001, which numbers the Bangkok population living around side roads by 21.4% suffering from "sensory neural hearing loss".

Another survey from 1990 found 13.6% of the Thai population suffering forms of hearing disability; 3.94% of the students and pupils in Bangkok and 6.08% of them in the whole country.

Other studies come up with numbers between 20% and 70% of the Thai population suffering from hearing disorders.

Prof. emeritus Suchitra Prasansuk, the director of the 'Bangkok Otological Centre' and president of 'Hearing International' spoke about her experience that among politicians there is a general lack of understanding and commitment to the problem of noise pollution:

The phenomenon is quite common among those in the corridors of power, even though they may have good working ears. They keep talking, but not listening to others. Or they do not really understand the issue, but act as if they do.

Here, in Thailand, we tend to address things in a rather superficial manner, and from the tail end of the problem. We only take up trendy issues. We do not follow problems seriously and continuously.

That's a rare statement in Southeast Asia.

Certainly also many Thai People are suffering under noise pollution, but, first they may not really be aware of the problem, and second, they wouldn't approach another person with a request to modify their behaviour. They find that impolite. It can cause conflict and 'loss of face'.

Other Thai People obviously think 'as louder as better' it is. They set the volume of their devices generally at maximum, as well as the basses. That makes the experience an earthshaking event. It's also an indication for that they lost their powers of hearing. Affected is mostly the reception of high frequencies. The phenomenon is also called the 'party effect'.


An All-Day Approach

Noise pollution is nowadays more severe and widespread than ever before. And it certainly will increase in magnitude and severity due to ongoing urbanisation, population growth and the promotion and distribution of entertainment equipment.

We are all the time surrounded by constant artificial noises in the streets, shopping centres, buses, schools, even inside our own homes. Take the non-stop bombardement of commercials as an example alone. However, among the masses of the people there is surprisingly little or no conscience concerning the din. It's not considered as an pollutant, as a source of disturbance, annoyance or unwanted sound. The People of Southeast Asia are astonishingly blunt concerning this problem.

Wherever I travel and stay, it's practically always noisy. On the streets anyway, but also in almost any place where I stay it's difficult to find a rest and to recover without being harassed by din. There is either 'just' a building site in the place, or there is a building site next door, or at least they make up a new building site after a few days, or they have a party, or the party is next door, or there are loudspeakers around, neighbour's air conditioner is rattling, a noisy temple or, worst of all, a mosque or karaoke bar is in the quarter. That I avoid to stay next to busy roads does not need to be mentioned, but still there are everywhere vehicles around, and they are always noisy. Silence is as precious as rare nowadays. It's practically impossible to escape the pest.

Noise Adolescent by Asienreisender

An adolescent in a village in north Thailand. In the left-bottom corner of the picture blares a radio, on his stomach, barely to recognice here, lies an additional iPod. The iPod is trumpeting out noisy, trash music (Thai pop). The youngster tries to rest (sleep) and to consume music at the same time. Two contradictive intentions. His face expression shows signs of stress. I watched the scene for some thirty minutes, and there was no change. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2013

And it's not only traffic, machines, entertainment devices and advertisements who are the source of all these noises. In the buildings of Southeast Asian countries are TV sets everywhere, even in the banks, the immigration offices, the police stations. Most powerful loudspeakers regularly blare out 'official' announcements and anthems, combined with longer playing of pop music, radio and advertisements. Religious institutions are most ambitious to dominate neighbourhoods with their noises - whatever it in detail is. Mosques are among the most noisy institutions, blaring out prayers five times every day and night. Not seldom they simply run tapes or mp3-files - it's not even a real person anymore crying out 'Allah's message'. I have heared whole services blared out from mosques - and they take 'their' time (Masjid Raya, Medan). Hours sometimes. In the meantime there was no conversation in the wider surrounding of the mosque possible. You maybe don't want to sleep too long next morning? Don't worry, they make you standing upright in your bed at 5 am.

As same annoying Buddhist temples can be. There are regular and irregular festivals at temple areas. That concerns mostly Thai temples. They are coming with a maximum of possible noises, including disco music, life-music, the permanent announcements which neighbour exactly donated how much money, boxing shows, half-naked girls dancing to pop music, stalls selling a lot of useless crap and many more rather more than less noisy performances. It's merely a fair. That can go so for a week, 18 hours per day. Sometimes 'Buddhists' justify it with the common phrase: "That's our culture. Foreigners do not understand it." Well, I see these things quite simple. For me it's just ordinary business. In other words: No culture at all.

Bhikkhu Nyanatusita, a Western Buddhist, gives the hint that loudspeaker sounds are used as a form of torture (see below). Under the sound of loud pop music for hours and days captives are forced to give up their will and intentions. That plays certainly in the hands of religious leaders. Noise pollution is brainwashing.

Other bad noise pollutants are motorbikes, cars, trucks. Traffic is very much rising in Southeast Asia, and the Orientals, who avoid any meter to walk and drive instead a vehicle, have no understanding for the and no interest to avoid the environmental impact of this very destructive technology. Some people here drive on a motorbike for distances not more than 15m, visiting their direct neighbours. I frequently hear neighbours noisily starting a motorbike just to hear them coming back two minutes later. Everywhere is the omnipresent impact of engine sounds, and in many cases they are much louder than they could be under proper maintenance. Not only that nobody here cares for that, some of the chickenbrains even cut the exhaust pipes of their motorbikes to make the sound bigger.

Party activities are also notorious. Indochinese people are 'fun-loving' people, and their fun comes compellingly together with a great deal of noise pollution and booze. There is always a reason for a party, and when one party is over, closeby another party starts. They all are similar, boring, dirty, noisy.

For a further understanding why the people here are so dull and blunt have a look for an introduction of the People of Southeast Asia.

For me personally, as a subjective experience, Chiang Khong is kind of a noise capital of Southeast Asia. Or, in a wider view, the very north of Thailand, the old Lanna, extending into the whole of Laos, is the noisy center of noisy Southeast Asia. The temple parties come together with almost never-ending private parties all the time. Every party is as noisy as possible. They build up stages and bring eight 1.50m high loudspeakers to play trash. Another bad example is the annual fair at the Mekong River banks at the northern end of Chiang Khong. One week non-stop noise of highest intensity. Among the worst activities are also the karaoke discos in Houayxay, Laos, on the other side of the Mekong. Although there is a larger distance between the two places, the sound overcomes most powerful the big river, and the Laotians, as notorious drunkards, do not know any limits as well.

It's also so that the dry season, particularly the time from January to May / June, marks the time with the most frequent party activities. Masses of marriages happen, and notorious Songkran (the water festival, lasts up to two weeks) is celebrated. It's hard to recover in these countries, one can not even sleep when one needs to - the din lasts until deep into night and often starts at four or five in the morning again.


Buddhism and Sound Pollution

Interesting is the contrasting view of Buddhists from outside who encounter the situation in Southeast Asia. Here is an elaborated statement of one towards the problem: it's quoted so detailed because it's a really reasonable considertation of the problem what I miss so much in Southeast Asia:

Western Buddhists who are visiting Buddhist countries in Asia for the first time are surprised on how noisy the environment is due to the blatant use of loudspeakers. They are even more surprised when discovering that a lot, if not most, of the noise is coming from Buddhist temples. Religious institutions of any kind, all attempting to assert their importance over others, are known to be noisy—a famous German statesman once remarked that church-bells are the artillery of the Christian clergy. The Buddhist newcomers though, having learned the original Buddhist teachings, expect Buddhist monasteries to be very quiet places, but reality is often otherwise. Buddhist village and city temples are among the worst sound-polluters in the world. In Burma, loud chanting of the huge Abhidhamma text called Patthāna is blared for hours and days from loudspeakers. In Sri Lanka very slow and long drawn “protective” (paritta) chanting is sometimes chanted through loudspeakers for the whole night until dawn. Many people in Sri Lanka don’t need to use an alarm clock and are automatically forced to wake up at 5 am every day because Buddhist “protective” chanting recordings are blared from neighbourhood temple loudspeakers for an hour. The Uposatha or observance days, when Buddhist laypeople come to the monasteries and take the eight precepts, are often the noisiest days because of the five-precept chanting and sermons blared over loudspeakers. Likewise in Thailand and Cambodia Buddhist ceremonies (and any kind of ceremonies and meetings) are not complete without loudspeakers.

Asienreisender - Loudspeakers at a Temple Tower

This pretty, ancient-styled temple tower is equipped with four loudspeakers, directing in four directions. Noisy pop-music is played here, advertisements and, at occacions, announcements of how much money which neighbour donated. That can start at 6 am already.
Image by Asienreisender, Chiang Khong, 11/2011

It is not only foreign Buddhist visitors who are suffering from the noise, Asian Buddhist meditators too are troubled. There are many forest monasteries where the meditating monks are regularly disturbed by loudspeaker noises from temples and houses kilometres away. For example, the author of this article could hear at the time of working on this article, early in the evening on a Saturday at a hermitage on a hill in Kandy, a strange multi-religious melange of the following loudspeaker sounds: Buddhist chanting from three temples, Sinhala Christian folk music from a church (which had been going on non-stop the whole day), and prayer calls from several mosques.

For anyone familiar with the original teachings of the Buddha, the deliberate sound-pollution caused by Buddhists appears to be in straight contradiction to the Buddha’s own example and advice. There are many instances in the Buddhist scriptures that indicate that Buddha and his disciples were lovers of quiet and peace, and were commending it to others. For example, in several discourses it is related that when ascetics of other sects saw the Buddha coming to visit them, one of them would say: “Be quiet, Sirs! Don’t make a sound! It is the ascetic Gotama who is coming. That venerable is a lover of quietness (appasaddā, lit. “without sound,” can also be translated as “silence”), one who praises quietness.” Similarly, when a disciple of the Buddha, such as Ānanda or Anāthapindika, would come to visit ascetics, one of them would say, “Be quiet… The venerables are lovers of quietness, disciplined in quietness, praising quietness.” The phrase “disciplined in quietness” suggests that the Buddha trained his pupils in being quiet.

There are two training rules in the Buddhist monk’s Code of Discipline, which state that a monk should be quiet while going and sitting in inhabited areas. The origin story to the rules is as follows: “The Buddha was living at Sāvatthī… At that time the group of six bhikkhus was going among the houses making a loud, great sound. People looked down upon it, complained, became irritated: ‘How can the sons of the Sakyan go among the houses making a loud, great sound?!’ [The Buddha came to hear about it, called the monks, and said:] ‘Foolish men, how can you go among the houses making a loud, great sound?! It will not lead to faith in those who have no faith; it will not lead to the increase [in numbers] of those who have faith’… [and he laid down the training rule:] ‘I shall go quietly in inhabited areas, this is a training to be done.’’’

In the Monuments to the Dhamma Discourse (MN 89), King Pasenadi said that he was greatly impressed by the discipline of a large assembly listening to the Buddha because there was not a single sound to be heard other than the Buddha speaking. In the Dīgha Nikāya (DN 25) the noisy members of other sects and the quiet, silent Buddha are contrasted: “Different are these wanderers of other sects, who, having assembled and come together, are noisy, making loud and great sounds, and are engaging in various kinds of pointless talk such as talk about kings …. And different is the Fortunate One who uses remote dwellings in forests, woods, and groves, which are quiet, free from loud voices, deserted, secluded from people, conducive to seclusion.’’

Temple Festival in North Thailand by Asienreisender

One of the notorious temple festivals in north Thailand, in a village around Chiang Khong. Some loudspeakers are already placed outside the entrance gate. It's certainly directed to blare out into the village who of the villagers donated how much for the temple and the monks. In fact, Thai temples are nowadays completely commercialized and the abbots and many of the monks are merely smart business men. Image by Asienreisender, 3/2012

In the Cātumā Sutta (MN 67), it is related that a large group of monks headed by Sāriputta and Moggallāna came to visit the Buddha. The monks, when arriving in the monastery, made some noise while greeting resident monks and setting up their lodgings. Hearing the noise, the Buddha asked his attendant Ānanda, “Who are these loud and noisy people? They are like fishermen hawking fish.” Then, after calling the visiting monks, the Buddha dismissed them and told them to leave the monastery.

Why did the Buddha put so much emphasis on a quiet and peaceful environment? The reason is simple: it is much easier to concentrate and focus the mind in a quiet environment than in a noisy one. Only a peaceful, quiet environment provides the right conditions for concentration and contemplation. This is why, for example, in libraries there are signboards forbidding library users to speak loudly and to make noise. In the context of Buddhist meditation, anyone who has tried to meditate knows how sounds draw away the mind from its object of meditation. Experienced meditators say that when the mind becomes quite calm, a sudden loud sound can be physically and mentally quite shocking and painful. According to the Buddha, loud sound is a major obstacle, a “thorn”, to the first deep and stable stage of meditative calm, jhāna.

It is part of virtuous conduct to leave one’s neighbours in quiet and peace. The noise one makes does not stop at the walls of one’s house but can affect the whole community. When one deliberately disturbs others and deprives them of the opportunity to study, think, meditate, or rest, it can be considered a harmful act and therefore unwholesome. The harmful effect of loudspeaker sounds is exemplified by a modern way of torture: loud pop music is blasted for hours and days from loudspeakers at suspects and victims in order to break their will.

Of course, there are occasions when the use of loudspeakers can be justified; for example when a monk gives a sermon to a large crowd of people who otherwise would not be able to hear him. But there is no need to turn the loudspeakers on louder than is necessary to reach the whole crowd and to turn them outward from the crowd so as to make the sound heard from miles away, as is often the case now. The sermon should only be audible to those who are motivated enough to come to the place where the speech is given.

The Buddha’s teachings emphasise compassion, tolerance and non-violence. The Buddha, the peaceful sage, would strongly disagree with anyone noisily blaring his teachings through loudspeakers, disturbing the peace and quiet of many, including those who try to practise his teachings in the way he most recommended, i.e., through meditation. Until recently, the Buddha’s teaching was quietly spread by way of mouth and writing all over Asia; there was no need for loudspeakers. The sound of sermons and chanting could not be heard from kilometres away, but instead was confined to the place where it belonged. There was no need to play loud “protective” chanting recordings in order to protect Buddhism and assert its importance over other religions. On the contrary, as is shown, in the passages quoted above, members of other religions were impressed by the Buddha and his followers because of their quiet demeanour.

The loudspeaker was only invented in the 20th century and there is no indication that Buddhists' faith has been strengthened because of its use. On the contrary, making loud sounds seems antithetical to faith. It does not lead to inspiring faith in those who have no faith and to the increase in those who have faith, which are the reasons for the Buddha laying down disciplinary rules.

Bhikkhu Nyanatusita



A Secularly View on
Noise Pollution in Thailand

Noise Pollution Causes Stress for Tourists and Expatriates in Thailand

People who visit Thailand for only a week or two usually question why the tourist areas and shopping malls are so incredibly noisy. Blaring advertisements and music is everywhere and the occasional tourists find this perplexing but quaint. Like all good tourists they adjust. They know that the human ear can only take so much abuse before permanent damage can occur. They cover their ears and wear earplugs because it's common knowledge that prolonged exposure to loud noise is no good for anyone. The tourists view that the adverts and loud music blaring everywhere is just part of the Thai experience however to the expat we recognize it as a threat to our long term health.

The Thai people obviously think that louder is better. When sound systems are used in a mall they are normally set to the highest volume possible. This reduces the chance that the target shopper will miss the message. I don't have a clue what the message is because the presenter is screaming so loud it gets lost in translation. Being somewhat educated I know to flee the loudspeakers ASAP and move away. Watch the Thais and you get a different perspective. It may have something to do with that two digit IQ or just a lack of educational knowledge but they will crowd around any presenter for anything. To make matters worse they will scream at each other to communicate over the presenter they were drawn to.

Construction noise rules are ignored like most other laws in a developing country. Those laws apparently do not apply to construction companies building office towers and condominium buildings. The restriction of overnight construction is totally ignored by developers. Evidently they were written for the common man not big developers. Failing to read my condominium rule manual I had the handyman drill two holes in some marble on a Sunday to hang a butt-washer. Five minutes later security was at my door.

Ever been to a Thai bowling alley. For $3 or more per game you will be assaulted by hip-hop music at warp 6. Helen Keller would easily be able to hear the filthy mouthed rappers objectifying and advocating violence against women just for the fun of it. On the upside, the Thais don't have any idea what the foul language means, they just know the words. If you're lucky the Thais will add to you bowling experience by letting you do it all in almost complete darkness.

The quaint Thai lifestyle includes some Thai men acting in some sort of security/traffic control capacity blowing those whistles and often and as loud as they can. They love those whistles. Other Thai men of questionable educational background and possibly products of inter-family Saturday night love making practices are the tuk-tuk and motorcycle drivers who open up their exhaust systems to make them sound better. In a banana republic who do you call to complain about these assaults on your quality of life? No one. Get used to it or move on. The reality of urban Thai quaintness is noise, noise on top of more noise.

by David Barkdull
Bangkok, Thailand


Asienreisender Up to the top!

Published on February 3rd, 2012

Last update on May 11th, 2017