One night in Bangkok. .
Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
90Trip End Oct 01, 2006
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A slug's pace would be faster, actually, as the tourist walk so slow along the Khao San, they are passed up by the cockroaches, who are on generally better behavior. This is western tourist hell, but in spite of it all, I have met a few fellow travellers similar to myself, and the conversations have been memorable, some of them.
Arriving at the airport, of course I fell in with a couple, english, with the easy-to-remember names of John and Shon (sp?) The three of us were, of course heading to the main tourist ghetto with the difficult-to-remember name of Thanon Khao San in the Banglumphur. A cheap AC taxi ride later, and we were on a street which could just have been Bourbon street, Duval street in Key West, or Picadilly circus, or any other of places in the world too numerous to mention
Westerners walked around with glassy eyes, trying on cheap jewelry, browsing through shops filled with t-shirts, electronic gadgets, "handicrafts," bootlegged cd's and just about anything else you could imagine. The "natives" of the area had that same glassy and greedy look, with dollar signs nearly visible in their eyes like some old warner brothers cartoon.
Girls, both thai and western, were made so much up to look fake, that is the ones that were not pasty and dumpy from a soft life of self-indulgence and too much television, and all were showing too much flesh. Not that I mind the lovely ones doing so, but a couple of hundred kilos of flesh should not even attempt to squeeze itself into spandex, at least in my opinion. The lines just don't match up.
It was striking the number of soft city people wandering and moseying slowly down the Khao San, changing direction for seemingly no reason, and never looking where they are going. Makes it kind of hard for one who likes to walk with determination to try to find a place to stay.
Then there are the drunks. Sitting in the outdoor sections of restraurants on the sidewalks, sometimes passed out on the tables or even on the sidewalks, or just staggering around with the crossed eyes of an inebriated troublemaker
Yep. Bangkok. Pretty much exactly what I expected to see.
We did find a cheap guesthouse at the end of the street, Chada Guest house--the rooms are just simple tiled boxes with a bed, fan, and usually a window, but the family that runs the place, and the tasty restaurant downstairs is very helpful and nice, and they keep the place spotless. My new friends took a double, and I, a hot single oven on the fourth floor. .
Coming down for a coke, we met an interesting young fellow, Bulgarian, raised in Canada, now living in new york with his boyfriend, who had been on the trans-siberian express from europe and overland through china and lao to finally land in Bangkok. Mihel (sp?again. .) was a good laugh, and so we made a loose plan to meet up for drinks later. The Brits and I sat at one of the numerous sidewalk bars and people watched, taking the piss, as it were out of the passers-by, and playing the old "guess the nationality" game
We decided to take a rickshaw to the water taxi. .
I need to explain something about the rickshaws here in Bangkok, especially for anyone who has followed since india, and knows about the little underpowered tiny-wheeled Bajaj machines they have there, with their intrepid drivers willing to go over any terrain to get you there. The Rickshaws here in BK are souped-up machines, loud, with larger wheels, powerful and capable of carrying four or more passengers at breakneck speeds, carreening on smooth and organized roads through the Bangkok rush hour and taking advantage of every inch of space offered.
The rickshaws are an Indian three-wheel driver's wet dream, and the other stark difference is that there is almost no horn-honking going on, unless it is a real emergency. The prices are highly negotiable, the cheeky drivers trying to milk the Farang for all they can get, and the inexperienced often paying inflated rates, or, in the case of a cheap fare, brought to shops which give commission to the tuk tuk driver in return for his shanghai-ing of a mark
All in all, tuk-tuks are to be avoided, though everyone should take one for the novelty factor. The Air-con meter taxis, though comfortable, and generally a fraction of the cost, are not realy as fun, as you get a fuller sensory experience when riding in the open air.
The water taxi is only 13 baht, there are many other private companies which charge much more, but the public boat is the way to go. It will give you an unguided tour by river of the city sights, and cost next to nothing. Other boats are there, trying to get passengers, the most memorable are the equivalent of the rogue tuk tuks on land, except these are in the water. Speedy long boats with a man at the back, a full sized four-cylinder car engine and transmission balanced on the transom with incredibly loud straight pipe exhausts idle close to the piers, waiting a signal to come in and pick up farangs for an expensive ride down the river. They are controlled by the use of a handle, balancing the heavy engine on one end, and have about a ten foot shaft straight out the back where the drive shaft would have been on a car with a big mean propeller on the end. Looks like fun, but would be best with a group to defray the obviously high cost.
The water taxi finally came, and we got on, riding to the end past temples, and huge luxury hotels. The last stop was at the Hilton, or Mariott, or some such place which I always confuse together
After a couple of "Mystery meat on a stick" small eats, and another singha, we took a meter taxi back to our street, which by now in our semi-delirious state we had dubbed "white street," and had some laughs over the distinction, the kind of laughter that only the over-tired and semi-drunk can share or understand.
Of course, there is never any rest for the weary. We met our new friend, Mihal, in the guesthouse, and long after my buddies went to sleep, Mihal and I decided, in our inebriated state, to check out one of the famous "ping-pong" shows. After all, being in Bangkok, one needs to see the sights, as it were, and no trip would be complete without taking in one of the world famous 'sex shows' here.
Of course, women shooting darts and popping balloons, shooting bananas, opening beer bottles with carefully concealed devices, dribbling ping pong balls into a glass, and other things I will leave to the imagination, is the furthest thing from "sexy" that you can get. More of a freak show, and certainly the classic definition of "dubious talent."
Who came up with these ideas? Who were the first patrons? The industry for sex is huge here, and everything is for sale. The women, upon seeing two men there on their own (most of the rest, curiously enough, were couples, the woman usually staring at anything but the stage, and the man looking at the show with a sort of dreamy half-smile)
come over and sit, chatting you up, and trying, obviously, to make a little extra cash. Perhaps I am a bit old-fashioned, but the idea of prostitution does not make me "randy" in the slightest, and once she realized that I was not interested, and probably didn't have enough money anyway, she turned elsewhere, first testing the waters with Mihal, who actually told her flat out that he was gay
Among our other misadventures that night was Mihal's attempt to find a gay bar in Patpong. It seems that the homosexual underworld goes to sleep at an earlier hour than the novelty houses, as all the places were closed. I didn't mind accompanying my friend, I always get free drinks in such places, and going as two men, the others would maybe think that we were together, sparing Mihal the temptation of cheating on his boyfriend, far away in New York. Finally in a side alley we came upon a place that had thumping bass coming from it, and crowds inside. We could not go in, however, as the sign read--and this is verbatim: "NO GUNS, NO DRUGS, NO SLIPPERS!" Slippers apparently also referring to the rubber thong sandals that we (and three quarters of the population) were wearing, so we decided to call it a wash and head back to Farang street, wondering along the way why a little rubber sandal would be so much trouble in a place where sweaty men danced naked with each other. . Perhaps they would also have to wear closed shoes. Maybe they are scared of toes. .
It was all the same to me at that point, as I not only am not much of a dancer, I am not of the same persuasion as my friend, and was getting a bit tired at that point after being up for about 40 hours straight and having a head full of Bangkokian imagery. A couple of beers in the bar upstairs from mcdonalds, a bit of discourse with a grumpy scotsman on the immigration policies of europe, and Mihal and I parted company for the night, vowing not to stay up quite so late on the following night. It was growing light in the east as I tiredly dragged my sorry self to bed.
And that's just one night in this city. .