The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Acknowledging the Sleazy Side of Bangkok

Days 292-298, September 15-21, 2011

Bangkok tends to get a bad rap nowadays. At least with a lot of people. It’s a huge city, comprising its own province in Thailand. Its sheer size has the unfortunate consequence of creating a ton of pollution, thus giving it the nickname “The Big Smoke.” But by far the worst reputation Bangkok has is for it being Prime Central for the sex tourism industry in Thailand.

Before I even got to Thailand I had many people who had been there before exclaiming that they hated the city. It was “dirty,” the people were “rude” and “crooks,” and the city as a whole was “sleazy.” But having had the unfortunate opportunity to spend a few hours in Bucharest with an Englishman that goes there often for business(and could not say enough bad things about the gypsy’s and Roma), I listened to these opinions and promptly threw them out the window.

It is a bit funny to think that I’m now telling you to be wary of other peoples opinions as no one can be completely unbiased. Even myself. But I’d like to think you readers are of the smart bunch that can understand that everything opinion on here is my own. It’s best to just take it with a shaker of salt and come here yourself.

Like many cities, my first impression is usually on how easy it is to get around. Bangkok immediately impressed me with having a Airport Rail Link right outside the Arrivals/Departures area. It was pretty cheap(45 baht[~C$1.25] maximum from Airport to Main connection to the Skytrain) and heavily air conditioned. I was already sweating. Damn humidity.

IMG_3123My hostel was easy to find and located right near one of the main night markets in the city, Patpong. That also meant I was right near one of the main Red Light districts of the city, where the sleaze is hard to avoid.

In that first week in Bangkok, whenever I ventured out to the market for cheap street food or to just wander the market, the sleaze was rampant, and depressing at times. Wandering down Patpong, the street is lined with strip clubs that are completely open to the street. The girls on the bar and the poles didn’t even look much older than 21 or so, and none looked entirely enthusiastic. Sex toys were being sold in the night market beside bathing suits and watches. Men with brochures for the Sex Shows and Ping Pong Shows would go after any and all men if they were obviously a tourist.

IMG_3136And being gay wouldn’t dissuade them at all. I think eventually they recognized me and instead of the Ping Pong shows being advertised, I had offers to go to “Gay sex show!” Yeah, no thanks. Mind you, I was quite near one of the main gay streets in the city. And it’s certainly always busy there.

I think the most disturbing/depressing thing I saw though were the numerous older, white gents walking around with much younger Thai girls. These were the people keeping the sex tourism industry alive and well. It’s a strange feeling I have when I see that. These particular girls do look happy and healthy. They’re making a damn good living. And it’s not completely about sex either as many of these guys will hire a girl for their entire trip. Take them out to dinner, shopping during the day. Basically, they date for the time that the guy is in town.

An interesting aspect though is the laws within Thailand/Bangkok. One law makes prostitution completely illegal. Another law though states that if you are a prostitute, you must be at least 18. A little strange.

IMG_3137Another fixture in this area is the infamous “ladyboy’s.” Here, the ladyboy’s, in order to save up money for their transitional operations, have to work the sex trade and tend to be quite aggressive in their sales technique. All those girls I mentioned earlier in the strip clubs? The majority tend to be ladyboys. I actually feel really uncomfortable calling this segment of the population lady boys, being a part of the LGBT community back home. But here in Thailand, that’s just their term it seems. I even heard one identify herself as a ladyboy. Though, I can’t tell if they just don’t know the term Transgendered or even if they would consider themselves such. It’s much more prevalent here than at home so it makes me curious as to where the culture grew up from.

But there’s way more to Bangkok than just that sleaze. It just needed to be addressed considering I was staying so close.

IMG_3124So many people mentioned that a couple days in Bangkok would be plenty. I stayed a week and found something to do or see everyday. This is also my first Asian city I’ve visited. I’m far from the bored enthusiasm I felt with seeing so many churches in Europe. This is all so new and exciting. So many temples and Wats to go see and explore! I’ll go through those in a separate post as there’s just too many to list here of what I saw.

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