Champ: “What are we gonna do?”
Ron: “There’s only one thing a man can do when he’s suffering from a spiritual and existensial funk.”
Champ: “Go to the zoo, flip off the monkeys?”
Ron: “No, buy new suits.”
So yeah, I got a new tailored suit like mentioned at the end of the last post. You can see me looking god-like in the gallery displaying a rather sporting two piece summer linen masterpiece including daring casual yellow shirt. Ok, maybe even a nice tailored suit can’t overcome my flaws, but like Ron and the lads from Anchor Man, it sure makes you feel good. I got on so well with my tailor that we took pictures of each other. He even has the sort of details my doctor doesn’t have. Close, real close. For advertising purposes I will point out that he’s Sam of Crown Tailors, Soi 8, Sukhumvit Rd, Bangkok. Ok, ok, I got a discount for doing that.
There’s two people beside me here in the net cafe talking spanish and it’s making me think funny. My brain is wiggling in and out of spanish mode. So what else did I get up to. Well I visited the Grand Palace, getting there via Bond movie load of options: skytrain, subway, river boat and, erm, just plain old walking. The scam merchants were pretty blatant around here. Every so often I would look at a confused couple being pointed away from the Palace entrance by some helpful local. Seriously it would make your blood boil sometimes. There you are on your way towards the entrance of some tourist sight and some git is saying to you “Watt Po, other way, come come I show”. At one of the smaller entrances to the palace but with still room enough for a car, a guard standing there bored, I go over and ask is this the way in to an official looking woman standing right in the entrance. “Sorry can you come tomorrow” she starts, next sentence going to be about how she can point me to some other wonderful sight (a second rate temple where a jewelry scam is staged) and I throw here a “piss off” look with my eyes to the heaven and walk on. Ask an English couple walking out of another entrance where the official one is and they point me in the right direction. Yes, it was open. It always is. It’s unfortunate because as a tourist you come across a high percentage of dicks like this and it gives you a biased view of the locals. Similarly I’m sure they think we’re all sex tourists, drug smugglers and beer swilling morons. Well we’re not all sex tourists or drug smugglers!
The palace was nice.
Bangkok is a weird city in many ways. It has lows. You’ve got the sex tourism thing. I met several guys in my dorm who didn’t admit it openly, but with a few drinks in, accidentally let loose encounters with the go-go girls. Another more long term guy pointed out that the tourists were only a small part of the brothel scene. They got the second rate girls because they couldn’t tell the difference while the rich local Thai guys and upstanding ex pats like himself would go down to the RCA and meet dancing show girls. These girls, with skin chemically bleached were considered hot totty and not the sort of girl to be found in the seedier areas. The Thai’s can’t understand these sick foreigners who want to hang around with their prostitutes and treat them well. But what’s happening is many of these foreigners wouldn’t get a girl back home (seriously, 50+, fat, loud etc) and here for a small price they can have an exotic one. Then the line starts blurring a little doesn’t it. A lot of these tourists want to make a real go of it, looking for a story line similar to Pretty Woman. Many of the girls need a man with money, they’ve got a child to support and one of these guys is a ticket to a better life. How many marriages back home don’t have an element of necessity about them? Anyway off the third rate philosophy and back to discussing Bangkok.
Another low is the clear disparity between rich and poor. You’ve got the sky train riding two stories above the dirty streets and all the rich kids and professionals can use that and afford it (20-40 bhat, $0.60 – $1.20) for a ride. It’s air conditioned, nice and of the same standard as anything in Singapore. Then below that you’ve got the congested main roads, clattered in taxi’s, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, suv’s, company cars and buses. Along the main roads (th’s) in touristy areas are plenty of stalls, eateries, hotels etc (and on one occasion about five Bangladeshi workers up to their knees in shit cleaning out the street sewers) and on the side streets (soi’s) there are food carts (on the pavement), 7-11’s, poor tailor shops, smaller restaurants, cheap bars with working girls out the front, rows of bike taxis and an assortment of touts with pictures of naked girls asking you if you want a “sexy massage with happy ending”. Btw “same same only different” means “just as good as the rest but better”. Gotta love broken english. The side streets are often wet with from the last downpour, at night they get garishly neon lit and the sweet sickly smell of the sewers is ever present. Oh yeah, there’s no air conditioning out side. In fact the laws of thermo dynamics ensure that while the AC’s may cool interiors, it only heats up the streets more so.
Yet some how all those things are part of what makes Bangkok good. You’ve never quiet experienced it before. Poor, industrial steam punk sci-fi like, but at a level only a big rich city can put on. You don’t need to be a lively person what so ever, this place is enough on it’s own. It’s like watching blinking Christmas lights, sort of tacky but mesmerising and fascinating. Add to this the fact that stuff is pretty cheap by western standards and because they’ve been used to the western influence for so long you can (if you know where to go) get all things western to a standard you’d appreciate, perhaps even more so. As example I found new books to be a good bit cheaper than in Australia (somehow). Or if you like shopping in big malls, it’s hard to beat the Siam shopping center. I’d dare say it’s better than most in Singapore and definitely Ireland (Imax cinema, Ferrari show room, all the big designers etc, all the electronics that you can get in Japan etc). If you have a bit of money this city really makes life easy – the cost of living is bloody low. I could see many professionals doing a year out here without much a worry that they’d be leaving civilisation behind.
So just this morning I arrived by sleeper train from Bangkok to Chang Mai. Tomorrow I head off for a two day organised trek in nearby hills. This will be different from my usual treks due to the tour nature of it. I’ll let you know how I got on next time.