1982’s Bodacious Bangkok!

Published on: April 13, 2022

The world in the ‘80s was full of life and color. Follow Jaqui Deeon as she highlights Bangkok in 1982. We’ll get a peek at what has changed and what has stayed the same throughout the years.

By Céline (Jaqui) Deeon

It’s 1982 in Europe, America, Australia. We’ve got on our four-wheeled roller skate boots, with their big stoppers on the toes. We’re wearing cassette walkmans around our necks listening to music through small over-the-ear headphones as we roller skate around in our Cindy Lauper mini ‘tutus’. Our multi-colored punk hairstyles and chunky chain-link necklaces, along with studded knuckle dusters glint in the disco lights of the roller rink, defining our independent status as teens of the 1980s. The boys are here too, dressed in shiny, tight black pants with matching jackets, doing Michael Jackson moves to the sound of the music king’s new album, Thriller.

It’s 1982 and Prince William is born to Lady Diana and Prince Charles in England, Burger King is more popular than McDonald’s, and people the world over are flocking to movie theaters to watch E.T., the little extra-terrestrial who just wants to ‘phone home’ with his glowing red forefinger. 

It’s 1982 in Bangkok, Thailand. It is the year of the 200th anniversary of the Rattanakosin era.  This means great celebrations with parades and an international trade fair, as people pay homage to two centuries of uninterrupted progress as an independent nation under the rule of kings from the Chakri dynasty.

Bangkok’s 1982 is alive with possibility as more and more western families come to live in the shadows of its graceful temples and towering, newly built, glass-faced hotels and malls.  This beauty is interspersed with molding government buildings, as seen from the windows of taxis transporting awestruck guests to their various hotels along overpasses higher than the buildings themselves.

Jump ahead 40 years to the present, and many people who were teens and young adults living in Bangkok in 1982 can still recall a time of anticipation and excitement as Thailand fast-tracked itself to become a leader in many areas of society—in technology and also in the food and hospitality industry. 

Author, mother, and now loving grandmother, Sansanee Sitapan, recalls that in 1982 hamburgers and spaghetti were becoming well-known in Bangkok, and as a flight attendant, she was lucky enough to fly to the US, Sydney and London, where she got to sample KFC and McDonald’s before they arrived in Thailand. Sansanee speaks about movies in 1982.  They only watched a few western movies then, and many were quite old, like Mary Poppins.  The Thai moviemaker Prince Chatri Chalerm was famous and Sansanee’s favorite star at the time was a diva named Patravadi Mejudhon, who she still admires to this day. “And even in those days, people had to stand up in the cinema to pay tribute to the king,” says Sansanee, referring to the Thai ‘tradition’ of honoring the beloved monarch by standing through a filmed tribute, after which movie goers bow their heads and sit down to their movie, a coke and popcorn—still popular in the current times.

1982 saw families visiting shopping malls to cool down under the large fans and air conditioners, as very few homes were equipped with air conditioning in this era. “Another thing families would do was visit Dandaramit Amusement Park,” says a Scandinavian father who has also been in Bangkok since the ‘80s and used to take his children to the amusement park for fun.

A popular eatery, besides the ever-present street food in Bangkok, was Banana House restaurant on Silom road, which was well known for its royal, authentic Thai recipes. Long-time Thailand expat, Jean-Bernard, remembers Tamnak Thai restaurant, which he says was well ahead of its time because the venue was so big that servers went around on roller skates and radioed orders to the kitchen via walkie talkies!

There are tons of cool things baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) and Gen Xers (people born between 1965 and 1980) will tell you about the world back then and how ‘rad’ Bangkok was in 1982. One of these ‘rad’ events was the birth of this very organization, BAMBI, started by Mel and her team of seven other moms who came together out of a need to socialize with like-minded individuals and for their babies to interact with each other in a fun setting. 

The word ‘bodacious’ used in the title comes from ‘bold’ and ‘audacious’ and was coined in 1982.  ‘Rad’ is short for ‘radical’ which describes something ‘good’.  

40 years on and Bangkok has already embraced and moved beyond everything 1982 and what the years in between brought with them.  Here’s to 40 more years of excellence, camaraderie and learning from each other.

Photo from Canva.

About the Author

Jaqui Deeon (also known as Celine) is BAMBI’s assistant editor and comes from a background in education where she taught nursery level students aged 1–3 years old in Bangkok and Hatyai.  She’s the mother of three sons and became a very young grandma to Frankie, pictured here with her. She studied Journalism and Public Relations and enjoys combining her teaching and writing skills.

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects. BAMBI Magazine welcomes volunteer contributors to our magazine. Please contact editor@bambiweb.org.