Bangkok Night One— Silom Soi Cowby
When I first decided to visit Bangok I was not sure what exactly to expect. The only thing I had to base my expectations on were scenes from the infamous movie “The Hangover 2″ and travel books, so my preconceived notion was that Bangok was going to be wild, a little dangerous, and that anything could potentially happen.
For this leg of the trip, I still had Sam to show me around. Also I met up with Tess, a good friend from high school. I only spent about a day and a half total in Bangkok, so I don’t really think that I can truly judge this city. But I can say, that of the four places I visited, it was my least favorite (though I still had a blast)
Readers be warned, some topics in this post are going to be R-rated (sorry Dad ), but I feel that, if I am going to capture the true essence of Bangok, I am going to have to write honestly.
After my trip to Ayutthaya (read previous blog to discover more), Sam took me downtown to have some dinner. I tried laab which was a spicy minced pork dish served with some noodles. The dish was bursting with sweet, salty, and spicy flavors! It was delicious!
After dinner, Sam met up with his ” boyfriend” and took me to the gay/redlight district. I knew previously that Thailand was very liberal and tolerant towards transgender communities and homosexuality, however no travel book could ever prepare me for the reality of what I was about to see. I was very excited, because for the first time I was in an environment that could be dubbed ” a cultural shocking” experience.
The streets were alive with glowing neon lights. Mopeds and Tuk-Tuk weaved around the busy street corners. People were bustling everywhere, and street vendors were persistently trying to haul in customers to sell their goods. Also along the side of the streets, were various club representatives trying to attract you to their shows. For me it was very exciting, but also slightly overwhelming.I was very thankful to have Sam, because he walked around as if he owned the place, and he did not let any of the persistent promoters bother us. We then found a smaller outside bar to enjoy some drinks and people-watch.
Lady boys pranced down the street in feather boas and elaborately decorated outfits. Very fit and attractive men paraded around in their underwear. Everywhere you looked was just sex. I could not help but laugh due to my awkwardness. I enjoyed watching all the excitement from my barstool with my vodka-tonic in hand. I really admired the free nature and kindness of everyone around me. No matter who you were, you were accepted. Culture, class, gender, religion, sexuality, race . . . none of these were an issue.
All the sudden a particular older man caught my eye. He was probably in his mid 60′s, but he was with a Thai boy that looked to be in his teens. I was not sure how to feel about this. I assumed the young boy had been paid to keep the old man company, which I found a bit disquieting. I wondered what is it like, and to have this be your life everyday? Do they feel shameful? Or are they content with selling sex? I am so used to prostitution being taboo and hidden from the public’s eye, so having it be so transparent challenged my perspective.
The rest of the night was filled with numerous drinks, Sam and I swapping memories and stories, and conversing with the Thai locals. It was such a fun time, but eventually the alcohol got the best of us, so it was time to retreat back to Sam’s apartment. Though my first night was a lot to take in, my curiosity still remained about what went on beyond the streets. Stay tuned, because later in the blog I will discuss “Silom Round Two”.
Day two– Saturday Street Market
The next day, I woke up and met my friend Tess in central Bangkok. Tess had previously been traveling on a sail boat in the Philippines as well as traveling through South East Asia, so I was anxious to catch up about her adventures. We met at a shopping mall to run some quick errands and have lunch, then we hit up the famous Saturday street markets.
The weather had been a little rainy, but that did not keep people away. The streets were bustling with tourists and locals trying to find the best deals. The streets were packed with fruit stands and a variety of delicious street foods. The aromas of fish sauce, noodles, and grilled meats made my stomach growl. It was a very enjoyable atmosphere.
When shopping in Thailand it is common to haggle with the vendors for the best deals. Tess was a pro at this, which made my shopping experience a breeze. I don’t know why, but I just don’t quite have the knack for striking a good deal. I was very amazed at how cheap everything was. My first purchase was a 60 litter backpack, which only cost me around 40USD. Normally backpacks like that range from $150-$300 or higher, so I was happy about the great deal.
After purchasing my backpack, the saleslady gave me some fruit that I had never seen before. It was called Rambutan. It is a really beautiful fruit with very vivid colors. I was not sure what to do with it at first, but then the woman showed me how to open it up. It had a very delicate sweet flavor with a soft and sort of chewy texture, kind of like a grape, but not sour. It was very delicious!
Next Tess and I perused the clothing and jewelry vendors, and we bought an array of different items. We had so much fun trying on funky clothes and jewelry. I was excited to buy some warm weather clothes, even though I was not going to able to wear them until it was summer time in Korea.
Once the sun went down, Tess took me to a district that was famous for street food. It was a funny environment, because you order from the street, then you go inside a shelter-like building to find a table. There is no AC, so it is hot and humid, but I did not mind at all. We enjoyed some local beers, Pad Thai, and some mango sticky rice for desert. I think I could live off Thai food for the rest of my life, because it was absolutely amazing!
After dinner, Tess and I checked into our Hostel. The place was called “Lub*d”, and it was super funky! In the main lobby, they had a bar, a computer lab, and a lounge area. There were four types of rooms (ladies dorm, coed dorm, double room, and single room), and they were very clean and comfortable. I stayed in the ladies dorm which cost around 10$. Here are some pictures from their website . . .
I really enjoyed the hostel environment. There were people from all over the world, and it was very easy to meet and talk to other travelers. I had not really planned my trip out throughly, so I talked to a few people, and they suggested I fly into Krabi, and skip Phucket. I logged into one of the computers in the lobby, looked up flights on Air Asia, and chose the early morning flight for the next day. Best of all, this only cost about 50$.
Once I organized my plans, Tess and I discussed what we would do for the night. Another guy from the USA also joined us. I told Tess about my adventures in Silom, but how I did not have a chance to check out any of the clubs or shows. The other guy also had not been there yet. We decided it was one of the things in Bangok you just had to experience, so off we went for Silom Round 2!
Silom Round Two
We hailed down a tuk-tuk, squeezed in together, and headed off . It was just like the night before, club promoters were hustling the tourists, and the streets were crowded with an array of people and a variety of street vendors.
We decided that we were going to the ping pong show (Dad, this is the part you might want to skip reading).
Tess worked out a deal with the bouncer to give us a free entrance since we intended on having drinks. We were then escorted to a seat, which of course was front and center. This made me very uncomfortable, as I kind of wanted to view this spectacle from a distance. When we entered, the room was dark with a dimly lit stage. On stage were about 3 or 4 girls/ladyboys dancing. All of the sudden the light became brighter and a naked lady came on stage with a variety of props.
For those of you who do not know, a ping pong show is a strip show where ladies use their pelvic muscles to do a variety of tricks with their vagina. This includes blowing out candles, smoking a cigarette, and many other unimaginable things.In one of the acts the lady put a tube to her pelvic region and shot darts at balloons. Once my mind decided that this was just a vagina magic show, I was able to feel a little more amused. However, I also wondered what these women feel everyday? I wondered if they were exploited or treated decently. Just like the night before, I was conflicted whether I should just accept this life-style for what it is, or should I feel sad?
Surprisingly the night scene in Bangok ends early. I assumed that on a Saturday night everything would be open all night like it is in Seoul, however things wind down around 2:30-3:00am. This was probably a good thing, because my flight left at 6:30am for Krabi the next morning.
Once we got back to the hostel, I only had about an hour to rest/nap, then I had to wake up again at 4:30am to shower and catch a cab to the airport….. stay tuned because the next blog is about my adventures in Krabi!