Thais can't get enough of Blackpink Lisa's favourite meatballs from Buriram

Thailand, Blackpink

From meatball vendors to clothes stores, small business owners in Thailand have reported a rise in sales on the back of the success of Thai-born Blackpink member Lalisa “Lisa” Manoban’s first solo single.

The K-pop star last Friday released the music video for LALISA, a hip-hop track featuring scenes from her culture and hometown, to the delight of fans in Thailand and elsewhere.

Dressed in a shimmery Thai silk dress while donning a traditional golden headgear, known as a chada, Manoban performs rapid-fire lyrics as she dances against a backdrop featuring a Khmer-style Phanom Rung sandstone palace – the top tourist destination in Buriram, her home province northeast of the country.

“Being the greatest of all time ain’t fantasy,” she raps in the three-minute song.

Within 24 hours of its release, LALISA garnered 73 million views on YouTube, breaking the last record for a solo artist set by US singer Taylor Swift. On the afternoon of September 17, her YouTube music video had been viewed 160 million times.

So highly-anticipated was her single, the pre-orders for the physical album crossed 700,000 in four days.

The excitement in Thailand for Manoban’s first solo K-pop effort has been phenomenal.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha thanked the 24-year-old artist for presenting Thai culture to the world. Clothing vendors reported seeing more interest from customers in Thai-style silk dresses, and tour operators said the Phanom Rung historical park in Buriram has never been more popular with visitors.

But Buriram’s meatball vendors have arguably been the biggest winners. To promote her single, Manoban on September 11 appeared in an exclusive interview with popular Thai talk show host Vuthithorn “Woody” Milintachinda, during which she spoke about her hometown.

“I want to go to Buriram so much, because I have not seen my grandparents in a long time,” Manoban said, adding that she would also like to pay her respects to her late grandfather.

Thailand, Blackpink

Meatballs at a street vendor in Buriram, Thailand. Photo: Facebook

She said she also missed the local “Yuenkin meatballs”.

“It is a popular thing to do to eat the meatballs at the Buriram train station. The sauce is so special and cannot be found anywhere else,” said Lisa, referring to the chilli paste sauce that glosses the grilled meatballs on a stick.

Meatball vendors were reported by local media outlets as being very emotional after watching the interview. The Covid-19 pandemic had almost wiped out their businesses, but Lisa’s influence was helping them to survive, they said. Many reported their revenues had rocketed from 100 baht (US$3) to more than 10,000 baht a day, while there was also a rise in demand for deliveries to other provinces in Thailand.

In the capital city, one photo studio has also capitalised on Lisa’s popularity with a 1,990-baht photo package consisting of make-up and Thai-style dress as seen in the LALISA video.

The Bangkok photo studio said it was accepting bookings for only two persons a day because there was only one dress and it could not be worn too many times. “We won’t make more dresses because the fever might die down in a month,” said the staff there.

The effort to replicate Lisa’s pale yellow silk dress would not be easy. Thai designer Polpat Asavaprapha of fashion brand ASAVA hand-embroidered the brocade golden silk and adorned it with Swarovski crystal embellishments.

The Korea Times reported earlier this week that the rapper-dancer had expressed an interest to support the Korean Foundation for International Cultural Exchange which, in a partnership with Blackpink’s label YG Entertainment, will this year seek to build a 160-square-metre cultural compound at Non Suwan Phitthayakhom School in Buriram.

“I would like (children) to be able to play freely in a better educational environment and follow their dreams without constraints,” she was quoted as saying. “I want to encourage and support the precious dreams of many children.”

Lisa said her rise to superstardom was something she never thought possible as a child.

“I never imagined myself being where I am today,” she told Woody. “I came from the province. I only knew this much. But now this is just bigger than everything I dreamed of.

“Believe in yourself. Some people would say, if you want to be a superstar, “huh, you?”. Don’t listen to them. Believe in yourself that you can do it,” she said in the interview.

Government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said the prime minister admired Thai nationals whose success came from hard work and practice. He said Prayuth hoped to see Thai culture exported as a source of global soft power one day.

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