In Transit at Bangkok Airport

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

I remember a cartoon in a men's magazine from the 70's. It had a caricature of a naked ventriloquist with a clownish hand puppet covering his private parts. The puppet lamented "Aw gee, do we have to have sex again? I always throw up at the end."

We weren't in Bangkok 20 minutes when I caught my first glimpse. Ellen was at the exchange counter buying Thai Baht when they walked by. He, a 75 or so year old white man. She, an 18-20 year old Thai woman. In blissful harmony they walked, hand in hand, through the departure lounge.

Prostitution became a major industry in Thailand during the Vietnam war. Used as an American air base for the massive bombings of North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, US troops soon realized that Thailand was more than just a place for strategic take-offs and landings. The business of prostitution has been booming ever since. It's estimated that there are 200,000 hookers of one sex or another in Thailand. It's probably the only place in the world where young men willingly undergo sex change surgery to meet the peculiar sexual needs of the Western male.

The last time Ellen and I were here, it was on the island of Ko Chang where we encountered a different kind of strangeness. - older white men in their mid to late fifties, usually with not so attractive Thai women in tow. Invariably these odd couples would have a child of four or five years old with them. They stood out. The usual bang for the buck wasn't there, so to speak. It wasn't until later,in southern Thailand, when we learned from other travelers, that white men often times use women as a front to gain easy access to the children. Once we saw an old white fellow with a young Down's Syndrome boy. Another time, during a slow day at the market, Ellen at my side, I picked up a book with a title that read something like "The Sex Trade in South-East Asia". I looked at the book for no more than 20 seconds. Not even enough time to open the front cover before returning it to the magazine rack. All the way out of the market female shopkeepers, old and young, gave me beckoning whistles and smiles. A signal had been raised. For a few Baht, each and all would have serviced me while Ellen shopped, watched or minded the cash register.

I'd loved to have taken a photo of the old fellow and his Thai trophy, but my camera was in my luggage being transferred from one plane to another.
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