Seeing Red

Gregoire Glachant, editor in chief, 2008-2017

BK Magazine’s old office was at the corner of Silom and Rama 4 roads. During the 2010 protests, we’d start work to the smell of burning tires. Lunch could be spent exploring the fairground atmosphere of the Red Shirt camp. Afternoons were punctuated by loudspeaker announcements I couldn’t understand and the occasional helicopter. To this day, we’re convinced Major General Seh Daeng was sniped from our roof. BK Magazine was on the top floor, 22 floors above Lumphini Park,so our graphic designers sitting next to windows were a bit jumpy after that. Bullets did hit the Dusit Thani, across the street. To minimize risk, we’d often had to close the office early—a good call when that grenade hit BTS Sala Daeng at rush hour.
In the final days of the Red Shirt occupation, we had to shut the office down entirely. I didn’t want to skip an issue of BK Magazine as the rest of the city was functioning normally. So a few brave volunteers gathered at my apartment and made the issue from there. But my place being in Ratchatewi, it too eventually became a no-go zone cordoned off by the army. I ended up closing that issue alone, at my computer. I even made the cover, a simple “We love Bangkok.” 
By that point, nearby 7-Elevens had long closed and the local food sellers had finally run out of eggs and rice. I was beginning to consider our CEO’s offer to stay at her place, in Sukhumvit Soi 43. But on May 19, the army marched onto the protesters to the sound of automatic rifles being fired continuously. The death toll for the past couple months, already at 85, climbed to 91. (To this day, another 51 protesters are still “missing.”) Then the sky turned purple and black as columns of smoke taller than the Baiyoke Tower rose from some 35 buildings around Din Daeng and Siam Square, including CentralWorld and the Apex Theatre.

BK Shutdown

Nick Measures, managing editor (special projects), 2008-2014

I was lucky enough to spend six years in various, usually quite undefined roles at BK and it holds the clear record as being the longest, weirdest and most fun place I’ve ever worked. Six years means a lot of memories and makes choosing just one nigh on impossible. From dressing up as a giant sand ray at the aquarium and following the flamboyant politician Chuwit Kamolvisit on the campaign trail to getting the chance to sample Gaggan Anand’s food, it ranged from the strange and surreal to the distinctly sublime. 
But, when thinking back on those six years, the truth is that it’s hard to look beyond the crazy political times the country was going through in 2013-14 and how they impacted the day-to-day life of the magazine. It would all have been memorable enough for anyone working on a magazine about a city that seemed semi-permanently locked down by some form of political protest. But at BK it was ramped up yet further by our office’s location on the corner of Silom Road. Our vantage point, from the 22nd floor, not only offered us to-die-for views over Lumpini Park and the city, but also meant we had front row seats for the main protest camps when they rolled into town.
For the most part that simply meant our offices were often filled with the sounds of angry ranting from aggrieved protesters and some seriously weird music choices, all pumped through heavy duty speaker systems that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Pyramid Stage. To say it was a tad unsettling for everyone at the magazine was something of an understatement when every firecracker, loud cheer or approaching helicopter had people running to the windows.
At the lowest points, just going to the office felt like entering a militarized zone. Goons in dark glasses would check your bag before ushering you through the checkpoint and then you’d have to step over sleeping heavies just to get into the lift. Time your lunch break wrong and you could end up caught up in an impromptu walkabout, and the potential of a 30-minute wait just to cross the road to the tom yum noodle stall. On the flipside, the soi shopping did also improve drastically. 
Despite those turbulent times, BK definitely came out even stronger for it and I wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world. They were six years I would never forget, the chance to work for the hippest, funniest and most honest magazine in Bangkok. Don’t go changing, BK, and happy 700th issue.

Restaurant Rants

Mrigaa Sethi, sub-editor, 2010-2012

There were three major highlights of being the food critic at BK Magazine. The first was the Bangkok food scene itself. The years I worked at BK saw the opening of now-institutions like WTF, SoulFood Mahanakorn, Gaggan, Nahm and dozens more, and I feel extremely lucky to have been there when they threw open their doors for the first time. 
The second great thing was our amazing restaurant review policy [see below]: we went unannounced, we did not hobnob with the PRs and the owners, we paid for our meals in full and we wrote the truth anonymously. As you can imagine, this made us a bit unpopular with restaurant owners from time to time. 
I’ll never forget a begrudging three-star review I once wrote for a new, run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant in a community mall. The day after the issue came out, the owner called the office in a fury. “I demand to know the name of the reviewer,” he said. “I know her face. She will never work in this town again.”
Which brings me to the third best thing about having worked at BK: the then-managing editor, Gregoire Glachant [see above]. He never told him my name, never put me on the phone with him. Instead he calmed the restaurant owner down with his inimitable blend of assertiveness, irritation and reason. Needless to say, I went on to keep working in our fine town.

Viva Bangkok

MonruedeeJansuttipan, features associate, 2010-2017

I was, and still am, overwhelmed to have worked at this wonderful city-living magazine, where I have no pressure to be someone I don’t want to be. BK has allowed me to explore the greatest aspects of Bangkok through the hundreds of people I’ve interviewed over the last seven years. If you count up everyone, including the numerous Street Talks, BK Asks and Cover Stories, it’s probably over 700—like our issue number. 
There have been countless assignments where I’ve thought, “I f***ing love my job.” I’ve been blessed with the chance to talk to people and let them express what’s often the untold side of a story. I was amazed to learn that a poor roti guy living on the street was actually determined to send his kids to study in Malaysia, where they would receive the best Muslim education. Other times, I interviewed 2010 finance minister Korn Chatikavanij and Red Shirt leaders like Jatuporn Prompan and Thida Thavornseth, as well as one of the anonymous Guy Fawkes mask-wearing guys who roamed the street to protest Yingluck Shinawatra’s government in 2013. 
I have also been responsible for reporting on how Bangkokians really feel during some of the hardest struggles the city has faced, like the 2010 red shirt protest and 2015 Erawan bombing. On both occasions, I followed up the events with “One Year Later” issues. Our awesome interns helped me go out and speak with people who were somehow victims of the events: the brother-in-law of a soldier who was left disabled after being shot in the head; a father who lost his son; a student who got blinded; even the daughter of Khattiya Sawasdipol, aka Seh Daeng. It was inspiring to return to the Erawan Shrine a year after the bombing and speak with the dancers, motorcycle taxis and shrine officials about how the incident had affected them.

I was moved by how their lives carried on, and also by how they kept up their spirits no matter what hardships they had faced. I’ve learned from my time at BK, that no matter how many dreadful situations get thrown in Bangkok’s way,the city always comes back stronger than ever. Viva Bangkok!



A timeline of great and not-so-great BK ideas


Thonglor street food
Thanks to a late birthday night spent chatting to stallholders and eating too much bah mie haeng, we were one of the first magazines to get a story that sadly turned out to be all too accurate.


China officially hated BK for one Mid-Autumn Festival back in 2009, when we rubbished mooncakes. To this day, all you will find if you Google our ex-editor's name is irate Chinese message boards.


Coldplay cabbage
When some guy brought a cabbage to Coldplay, we managed to track him down, resulting in one of our biggest hits of this year so far. 


Nope, Tomorrowland EDM festival was never coming to Thailand. We learned that the hard way after publishing a completely false rumor picked up somewhere or other, probably at a bar.


Bangkok’s homebrew scene
It's awesome to see how much the local beer scene has boomed. Back when we did our first story in 2014, we struggled to find five brewers. 


Thai Wine taste test
This blind taste test was a disaster waiting to happen. After rubbishing the efforts of a local billionaire’s passion project, we got the scariest phone call of our life.


50 Reasons to Love Bangkok
Straight after the Erawan bomb, we were all ready to go to print with a story called “50 Reasons to Hate Bangkok.” Bad, bad, bad. In the space of two hours we switched it out for this and voila! One of our biggest hits of the year. 


Our first ever cover
Everything about this is just a trainwreck. How did we survive?


Launching Top Tables
It's grown into Bangkok's top restaurant guide, and all from a little cover story back in 2007.


Top Tables 2015 launch party
It was on a hotel rooftop, it rained, everyone left, and we were left alone drinking the free booze in a sad convention room. 


Shabu Lab 
Somehow, this one-minute video about a shabu restaurant has been watched by over two million people and rising. We can’t even. 


Can BK writers tell premium from cheap vodka?

We spent an afternoon getting drunk on vodka and recorded our efforts for you to watch—only no one actually watched it. Probably a good thing. 

Reviews: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Food reviews remain one of the most controversial parts of BK Magazine. Tucked somewhere near the back, just before BK Now, we run two restaurant reviews every week that are conducted completely anonymously. We pay for our food. We don’t listen to the spiel from the owners or PR. And we write bluntly about what we think. Sometimes they piss people off. Actually, a lot of the time they piss people off. But not always because the reviews are bad. Readers are never slow to call “Paid for!” on a place which we reckon is great but which they think sucks. But we promise you, if it said “Review” then it wasn’t paid for, never has been, and never will be. (For more on BK's review policy, click here.)  Here are a few stories from past dramas. 



BK Star Rating: HHHH
Gasp! The restaurant which BK praised for the best part of a year was actually one of the most contentious four-star reviews we’ve ever given out. Claims of bland flavors, tiny portions and eyebrow-cocking prices were heard loud and clear by a whole heap of Bangkok foodies who disagreed with everything we said—including some in this office. 


Hyde & Seek Peek-a-Boo

BK Star Rating: HHHH
When the pioneering Phloen Chit gastro pub followed up its success with a mall restaurant doing bad burgers and worse fusion food, we said so. All would have been business as usual—restaurant sends passive-agressive email asking what went wrong, we tell them to read the review, they tell us we don’t know how to write—had the reviewer not found himself two days later sitting in an otherwise empty waiting room with the restaurant’s owner. Awkward.


For fear of legal reprisals, we’re not going to mentioning any names here, but when we gave one star to the debut branch of a restaurant which went on to become a citywide chain, things went nuclear pretty quickly. Lawyers were called, editors had sleepless nights, salespeople had sleepless weeks, and in the end the restaurant went on to become one of the most successful in the city. Which just goes to show: most of the time, people pay no attention to what we have to say.