Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bangkok reflections...

These are my musings from my recent trip to Bangkok. Much delayed, but still pertinent observations to be shared. These are just musings, so discover the truth on your own when you go Thailand and see if these bits are true.

1. Thaksin is toxic - As my friend Amir put it anyway. While the first night I didn't realise about it, the second night made me recall the 1am nationwide nightspot closure imposed.

Apparently, since we were there days before the general elections, the whole of bloody Patpong and the immediate Silom area nightlife came to a standstill after that time.

We got there on the second night after the MTV Asia Aid ten minutes to one, and everything was closing up! Fucking ten minutes to 1am! That's like the itme the party actually starts for the nightlife in Kuala Lumpur! Ridiculous!

2. Go-go dancers both male and female, should be observed at this time for how they REALLY look!

With the harsher white fluorescent lights kicking in at 1am, being caught off guard with the new closingtimes made me realise that, flaws are more often than not, extremely noticeable!

Best time to get your money's worth minus the illusion (Unless you're zoned out on drinks or dope)

3. Cars in Bangkok do have horns! - Strange as the few days spent there, I believe I heard only two cars honking! This despite the horrendously notorious traffic jams! In KL, not only you would probably be deafened by the sound of the incessant honking, you'd probably go blind with the amount of finger flipping sign language that takes place. KL drivers...

4. Thais are way smarter - Even places like Prathunam wholesale market area which is supposedly a safe haven, has been turned into a tourist trap! So don't expect to get your Dollar or Ringgit's worth anymore...

5. Sex is pretty much part of their lives - Dig the crazy nightlife scene happening while kids run about mixing with scantily clad folks! It's more embarrasing being a tourist and watching all this going on with the family run night markets businesses operating side by side with the sex industry.

6. Their traffic policemen have the kamikaze streak! - They step out of nowhere right in front of your vehicle to stop the flow of traffic to manage the flow. They seem fearless and invincible for some reason to do that - and we're not just talking about emerging in front of a speeding car - but also very possibly maiming buses and trucks!

7. Bribery is sitll familiar - And yet, when the cab I was in got stopped no thanks to me not wearing a seatbelt (so KL-lite) the driver got into a frenzy and started blabbering about how he (in almost undistinguishable English or some language with the semblance of it) would have to pay the cop off, and I would have to foot it. I agreed, and it turns out, the bribe was only a freaking 100 Baht! That's RM10 or less than USD$3!

In KL RM10 would be scoffed at, and not only you would get a ticket and a bribery charge, be sure that you'll probably end up with a helmet thrown in your face too for insulting the officer of being cheap! I then asked the much relieved cabbie (after paying him the additional amount) how much the actual traffic ticket would have been as he said 400 Baht. I WANT TO LIVE IN BANGKOK!

8. We all look the same - So goes the Caucasian belief. Chinse, Thai, Korean, Japanese...anyone oriental is not distinguishable....and who can blame 'em. I was endlessly mistaken for being Thai (how impossible!) by the locals and some didn't even believe that I was telling the truth about not being Thai.

9. I need to stock up on skin products and have cosmetic enhancement - They didn't stop me at all to check on my passport to ensure I was 21 going into the go-go bars. This despite my 40 year-old friend having been ecstatic before when they wanted to verify his age. This means? Am I losing it?

10. Everything comes from China - Walk through any of the markets, chances are, from the wide range of stuff being sold, you'll find that most of em are available in Chinatown in any part of the world! Especially in KL's Petaling Street! The labels declaring 'Made in China' or 'Made In Taiwan' should explain that mystery.

11. Gay culture is acceptable - My tour guide said something like Thailand means land of the free (thought that was America). Hence any ideaology or way of life, or belief or religion etc is tolerated. And it seemed so true!

It's hard to believe my Western friends have been telling me KL is more acceptable of the gay lifestyle (though I'm inclined people here are opening up more - despite playing our cultural norm of denying everything in public)

12. No one speaks English - Apart from the major hotels and several folks in the bars, I found it extremely true that Thailand is perhaps the hardest country in South East Asia to travel without a basic command of the local language. Which leads me to point 13...

13. Standard English - The most popular words in the English language are 'Sex' - 'DVD' and 'VCD'. Occassionally they'll throw in 'Boy' or 'Girl'. No less than 63 porn peddlers proved me right on that point as I went down the Patpong area.

14, Toilet paper is the choice - Do NOT expect hoses or similarly functional devices available in the loos when you take a dump - they do not subscribe to that belief, and paper is the way to go when it comes to the Thais. I believe in using more biodegradable methods of hosing -and erm...creativity has to come into place after some major investment.

15. They're the most gorgeous people around! - Thai men and women are like WOW! They have the best of Chinese, Malay and Indian features all rolled up into one...nuff said. Even the fugliest of them are like - way above the average scale.

16. Telecommunication rates! - Are way cheap! Get a prepaid starter pack if you get there.

Cheaper to call home as well as local rather than roaming!

17. Sad geriatrics form the core of tourists - The sex industry is admitted. But really...the amount of dirty old men there (especially from the West) is almost disgusting. Old white men ogling boys....dirty old men oglish girls...eww!

18. Our transvestites are prettier - Yup...Malaysian drag queens look more the real deal than Thai ones do. Even though the latter may have gone for the snip and closer to the original woman - Malaysia trannies are hotter and more gorgeous and sexier anyday!

19. A tuk tuk driver, that little motor-vehicle zooming past you and precariously weaving in and out of traffic - is the Malaysian equivalent of the local 'rempit'. While we have illegal motorcycle races here...there it's tuk tuk races. We decided against taking one after we caught one particular one near the Silom area, with a couple doing wheelies! (I kid you not!)

20. Singha is big - I knew the local brewery was big there...but I didn't expect their bottled water there to be...well...everywhere as well. Thailand's equivalent of the Indonesian legacy that is 'Teh Botol'.

So that's most of the main observations I made while in Bangkok for the second time...will update next time I go there and study their folks closer. Am planning another trip to ...ehem... for some bonding in the near future. off to see Constantine. Hope it's a good movie...



Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's very informative. I love to read it and do hope to read your next story.