Trip Start Mar 16, 2006
35Trip End Sep 13, 2006
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Our hotel lobby was grand: high ceilings, elegant marble floors, and the occasional Thai art and fixtures to give it that local flair. A thin, tall Thai man whose outfit and hair made him look like a member of Wham! checked us in. Our room, unfortunately, did not match the state of the lobby. It was clean enough, the beds, comfortable enough, but the bathroom had spots of mildew, and the walls were on the crumbly side, and then there was the occasional hammering heard in the distance. As it turns out, our room was in the old wing, and as the Wham! man told us, all rooms in the new wing were booked. I suppose for about $35 a night, we shouldn't complain too much.
By the time we got settled in, it was around 2 AM. I hadn't ordered any food on the plane so I was famished. I wanted to venture out to the surrounding neighborhood instead of ordering room service.
It was like walking through a movie or a documentary about the sex trade industry in Southeast Asia. I knew it existed, but I hadn't counted that I'd be a first-hand witness to it. On our block were smaller stores, cafés, and bars, decorated with flashing neon lights and blasting loud clubbing music. Practically all of the all-nite joints had middle-aged and old men of different nationalities walking in and out of them, with many accompanied by young Thai women wearing way too much make-up, way too short skirts, and stilettos. Outside one bar, a balding man with a paunch walked out meekly followed by a young Thai girl. He gave a big smile and an equally big "thumbs-up" to the young Thai man waiting by the exit-a successful transaction. I was nervous and yet disgusted to be in the midst of it all. I felt an initial anger towards the girls for choosing this way of life. But then in this place, the point was, there was no such thing as choice. They have to claw and fight and do whatever it takes to try to achieve some semblance of a life. It was a heartbreaking thing to be a witness to this and not be able to do anything about it. At that moment I was painfully aware that I was one of the lucky ones. The frustration I had been feeling over the direction of my life suddenly became a great privilege.