The Bustle of Bangkok

Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

I arrived in Bangkok Thailand, exhausted, sick, and culture shocked. It took me one week, two Thai massages and four days on the island of Ko Chang to regain my composure.

My first night out in Bangkok, I was treated to dinner at an Irish pub with three Thai's and my first glance of Patpong. Patpong is home to the hottest he-she's I've ever seen and you've never seen a sex change look this good. My first thought was that this area of Bangkok reminds me of Chinatown in New York. Sweltering alley ways with Louis Vitton and Prada look a like's, but I don't ever recall NYC's Chinatown with an abundant amount of transvestites. Thai's line the sidewalks luring in weltered German men and rowdy American frat boys on holiday with lists of sex shows offering an array of unique viewing opportunities. The rule of thumb goes as such: The hot women dancing were at one point really men. The not so hot chicks are real women. When I was told of this ambiguous distinction, I brushed it off in disbelief, until I went and saw for myself. These he-she's make for a hot piece of tail, with a seriously bad case of camel toe. When the real women get up on stage there is a stark difference in overall appearance, but not in a good way. Their thighs clad with cellulite, their breasts sagging, and their dance moves atrocious. I found the men, turned women, to be more feminine than their a-la-natural counterparts, and much more entertaining to watch up on stage dancing a go-go.

This is no American strip club. I had a transvestite drop her G-string to show her man-made thing to a French man who spoke no English but was able to muster up an "oh la la". A go-go dancer with multi-colored polka dotted nail polish, crimped hair complete with a scrunchee, and braces with colored rubber bands attempted to seduce a 70-year old David Letterman look alike. He wasn't giving in to taking her number and meeting her upstairs. Each woman is adorned with a number that corresponds to a room upstairs. You want it, you call out their number. You are allowed to buy them drinks, grab their behinds and stick your face in their chests; all actions that generally warrant a "get the f-ck out of here" in an American strip joint.

My first day out and about, I visited Phra Borom Maharachawong or the Grand Palace.

The Grand Palace was unlike anything I have ever seen. Reflecting hundreds of years of Thai culture, the intricate detail of the structures, composed of gems stones, mosaic tiles, Chinese porcelain and real gold, glisten in the sunlight. The palace is situated in three divisions with the outermost inside walls painted to depict the Thai version of the Indian epic of Ramayana, known here as the murals of Ramakian.

The most cherished of the more than 100 buildings is the Wat Phra Kaew which houses the Grand Palaces primary attraction, the Emerald Buddah. Sitting atop a golden altar, the diminutive figure is always cloaked in royal robes reflecting one of the three seasons of Thailand. As I walked inside Wat Phra Kaew, it was not so much the Buddah that intrigued me, buttThe sounds of those praying which vibrated off the walls and echoed through the air bouncing off each structure and into my ears. It brought a true sense of Thai to the experience, which was almost hard to focus on given the amount of tourists.

One thing that interested me, was the European influence of some of the buildings. The main building, used for entertaining purposes is three stories. The bottom two constructed like a French chalet and the top adorned in typical Thai architecture. It was a pleasant mixture that was brought by King Rama V who was the first King to travel from Thailand to Europe. He brought back with him a love for French culture, so much so that he replicated Champs Elysee, though not in the slightest resembling the famous French thoroughfare. Another building, known as Chakri Mahaprasat, or the Grand Palace Hall is a peculiar blend of Italian Renaissance and traditional Thai architecture. This style is referred to as farang sai-cha-daa, or Westerner in a Thai crown.

Bangkok is a bustling capital that seems just as Western as Los Angeles, but makes you feel like you are walking on the campus of UCLA. 7-11 convenient stores line the streets, Ford's and Honda's wait in traffic that puts LA's rush hour to shame, and I felt as if I had yet to arrive in Asia. With that being said, I needed an escape, so off to the Island of Ko Chang I went.
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lisa-ashley on

Reader's Write
'I thought that your writings were so reflective of the culture in a very unique manner. You captured the underside of life as well as flavor of the culture. Having been in Bangkok, years ago, I am deeply appreciative for your thoughts.'

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