In Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore are arguably two of the most upwardly mobile cities. When it comes to excitement however, I would have to bat for Bangkok and Manila.
If one were to ask which sister is more well-adjusted overall, it’s tempting to reply Bangkok. Manila has spent long enough being perceived as a burnout that she has pretty much internalized the role: lethargic, ill groomed (even if she “cleans up nicely”), oversensitive to criticism, and too far gone to bother doing anything about it. But she’s rarely ever too unpleasant to deal with, so loved ones just kinda put up with her quirks and nuances, on an everyday basis. “She’s okay when you get to know her”, they say.
Living with Manila means having guaranteed access to interesting social events or cheap vintage finds, but accepting the lingering prospect that she’s gonna do something carelessly dangerous. She’ll get mugged late at night. She’ll send lewd drunken text messages to allied nations with more prim sensibilities. Or she’ll impulsively change her status with another city from “In A Bilateral Relationship” to “It’s Complicated”, because she was feeling particularly emotional that day.
Bangkok, on the other hand, exercises a nigh Zen level of self-control that her Sister City lacks… and with good reason. See, charming, sociable Manila is all too willing to give time, energy, and resources to often conflicting sets of friends, from douchebag aristocrats to well-meaning mob bosses, from savvy evangelists to vigilante military generals; all that matters is she knows who her *real* barkadaof friends are. In contrast, Bangkok will attempt to do what’s right by her King, first and foremost. This is usually fine, when the rest of the various factions surrounding her (chiefly the Army, elite local business magnates, and populist groups) are willing to play nice and share their influence. But every so often, tensions will risk spilling over into violent episodes, as Bangkok acts out its bottled up anxiety. Granted, she makes a very conscientious effort to avoid involving outsiders with her inner turmoil. But just the same, it can often become awkward for relative strangers when the visible and bloody signs of her internal conflict manifest themselves with explosive force. So who’s to say this behavior is any ‘healthier’ than Manila’s wanton appetite for self-destruction?
And so we have a quintessential tale of two fascinating Sisters. One of them I know quite well; the other, a very memorable acquaintance. I’ve had crushes on each, at different points. Think of them as ice cream makers churning out different flavors: it all depends on your taste.