Bangkok. The very word oozes dirtiness. A place where everything goes, and corruption is just part of the system. Where the parties last all night, but cross the police and you might end up in prison for most your life. They say you can get anything in these streets, from drugs, booze, and prostitution. Male, female, gay, straight, bi, transgender, you name it, it’s all good here. For anyone who’s seen the Hangover 2 movie knows how crazy it is out here.
We arrived late at night, after a ten-hour bus ride, in which our bus broke down. Lucky for us one of the passengers understood mechanics more than the bus driver. We only had the weekend before our visa expired, and we were going to do it right. Yvonne had come here in her twenties with her sister Elaine, and I can only imagine what craziness those two got into back then. So she knew exactly where we needed to go. It was after ten, but we were more excited than tired. We drove down wide avenues, and I could see the top of a palace all lit up. We turned down a few more streets to one that was closed off, Khao San Road, the party street. We made our way through a crowd with our gear so thick that it was like New Years in Times Square. There were hawkers selling beers, gyros, t-shirts, booze, fake id’s, everything. Laser lights were shooting down the street and glowing rockets were shooting in the air. We had to wade through the masses in search of our hotel, but we walked right past it. After getting directions we turned around and found it. Right in the middle of it all, twenty-dollar rooms, and a pool. Sounds too good to be true, well it is, because it was booked. We went across the street and got a fifty-dollar room with no pool. After a quick shower we were ready to paint the town red and where better to start then right out our front door.
Grabbing a plastic chair at one of the food stalls, we had some beer and food and watched the entertainment. People were just sloshed, spilling beer everywhere, some could barely walk. There was people of all ages, nationalities, and color. A popular t-shirt for young and old, male and female, was of a blond girl flipping the middle finger. It was all the rage. A few tourists had decided to go native, buying really loose MC Hammer pants with elephant prints or wrapping sarongs around their body and head. Truthfully, it just made them look like tourists.
Stopping at a stall to get a beer for the road, I was having a lively debate about the price. While I was getting twenty cents more off my beer, another beer vendor was trying to get Yvonne to buy a beer. She politely turned him down so then he asks her if she wants to see a sex show, and pulls out a plastic card with all the prices and shows. The picture below is a listing of those acts, it’s crude, and if you are easily offended then I suggest you skip to the R rated sections coming up. Personally I thought it would be interesting to see some girls play Ping Pong with their girly parts, but Yvonne wanted none of that. Apparently if you don’t want beer, a suit, or a tuk tuk, then you must want to see a sex show.
All jokes aside, there is a really dark side to the sex industry out here. I have always felt the legalization of prostitution is the way to go, safer for the girls, safer for the guys, weekly check ups, done in a safe environment. It’s the oldest profession around, and it’s not going away. But for a lot of girls, it’s not a choice. Some get sold by their parents at a young age, others are kidnapped and forced into it, even being drugged to make them compliant. Human slavery is still around. A large amount of people are victims of it, especially children.
Wandering out of the screaming masses, we walked a few streets down to a quieter, more subdued area of Bangkok. There were rolls of cushy seats with armies of masseuses trying to get your business. It had been a long bus trip, and nothing puts a smile on Yvonne’s face like a good massage. I am not a fan of paid massages, they are so expensive in the states, and I really don’t like having someone hovering over me so much. But I had a beer in my hand, for four dollars, why not.
Well, seeing how my anti-pampering rules had already been broken, why not feed the fish. I’ve always been an animal person, and feeding fish with the dead flakes of skin and dirt from five months of traveling seemed like a brilliant idea. We plopped our legs into the giant aquarium and were instantly assaulted by a small army of piranhas, and we both let out a scream of giggles. Yes I said it, giggles. The sensation will have you giggling like middle school girls. After thirty minutes my feet looked all soft and baby-like. I am sure I saw some of those hungry little fishes go belly up after tasting my feet.
All this pampering was making me feel pretty lively. We wandered down some dark streets till we found a roof-top club with some live music. Being in a new place, I ordered a drink I had never heard of before. It had absinthe in it and it was brutal for sure. It looked a bit like anti-freeze, and tasted like chemicals. It was a nice spot though, with great views of the city.
It was getting late, around five in the morning, but the booze took hold of us, and we ended up in another club on Khao San Road. It seemed like your typical eighties club, modern, lots of neon, and screaming loud music. There were lots of dolled up girls, mainly Thai, and some western men. There was a bar in the center, great for people watching. The most dorky guys in the world appeared to develop amazing game and pick up good-looking girls half their age, not one, but two. Hmmm, perhaps this was a front for a much seedier business. Well, it was entertaining to say the least, but I was getting hungry.
We wandered back into the streets that were finally beginning to empty searching for food, when the reverberating bass of Gangnam Style started up. The crowd goes wild. I am not ashamed to say that the dance party was much better than the clubs, with the spinning, and singing, and good ole Gangnam hop. Why, if my tummy wasn’t rumbling so much I might have broke out the worm. Instead I found something as American as apple pie, Burger King. Greasy, fat, but so damn good, a yummy double cheeseburger. The sun was coming up, my belly was full, and our bed was calling. It was seven a.m. and people think we are too old to party.
The next day dawned early for me, around noon or so. Yvonne was too tired to move, or really say anything nice to me besides Shut Up, so I wandered out. This was a new city for me after all. I am not sure why alleys call me, but I always feel a need to explore. So I went a wandering and saw the backs of many interesting houses and businesses that most people never see. This particular alley went forever, and short of walking through someones house, or retreating, I had to keep going. It was only a meter wide, but eventually, after numerous turns and odd looks, I ended back on a main road. Apparently this road was dedicated to the king, because every shop was filled with framed portraits, some bigger than my hotel room.
At the corner I asked a man about directions to temples. He was nice enough to give me all kinds of insider info, about black pagodas, the hours they work, and which tuk tuk company to use. We even worked on improving my Thai. A really nice guy. So when I went to leave he kept insisting I take a certain type of tuk tuk. I graciously declined stating my preference to walk. A few blocks down a couple was getting the “same” helpful information, and being pushed towards a tuk tuk. Turns out it’s all a large scam where the drivers never take you to the temples, but instead take you to their friends stores, bogus gem shops, or other such scams. If you don’t buy into their BS, then you don’t get a ride home, and sometimes get mugged.
Near my hotel I spot the jewellery section of the city. Christmas was around the corner, and I needed a gift for Yvonne. I got her drunk last night knowing she would be out or the count, giving me time to shop, and seeing how we were in the Silver capital of Bangkok, there were heaps of stores. Thing is, I’m not an expert, and after the gem scam, I was a bit leery of spending a lot. I chose the most professional shop I could find, but to this day I am not sure if it’s real or not.
Around dinner time we decided to go for a walk. We had a bucket of Long Island Ice Tea, and that really brought Yvonne back to life. We wandered back to get another massage, and have a drink out of the back of a VW Van, which was converted into a bar with giant screen tv. Back on our street it was time for some dinner again, and Scorpion on a Stick sounded yummy. In Koh Sumai I had already had fried cockroaches, larva, beetles, and grass hoppers. We actually video taped it but that was lost with the camera. Now I was curious about scorpion. It was terrible, not the taste, but the shell was so hard, I felt like it was cutting my throat. Not very juicy either. I washed that down with another beer and double cheese burger from BK.
The weekend had been so nice that we decided to get a caricature of Yvonne and I. Not being able to sit still for too long, I borrowed one of his pencils and sketched him. He had no idea that I was doing that, but was blown away with the results. We had an early night tonight, going to bed at three a.m.
We woke up early on Sunday and went to the Grand Palace. Not doing my prior research on this, I did not know what to expect, but when I got there my jaw just hit the ground. Not even in my wildest imaginings would I have come up with this. I had never seen anything like it. I am used to classical European architecture, but this was so different, so unique, so amazing.
The walled complex is huge, 2,351,000 sq ft, and was built-in the 1700s. It has four main sections, the Outer, Middle, and Inner Court, as well as the Temple of the Emerald Budda. The first court we went to was the Budda complex. The complex is a series of temples, statues, gardens, and fountains. Each of the temples are uniquely beautiful. We went to the Temple Emerald Budda first. There were hundreds of soldiers taking off combat boots to go into the temple in addition to the tourists. The temple itself is covered in millions of orange, gold, and blue tile frescos, forming all kinds of mosaics that line the walls and pillars. Inside there is a gorgeous mural on all four walls describing the different stages of the Budda’s life. On a large altar sits the Emerald Budda. This Budda was originally thought to be plaster, till an abott saw a chunk chipped off its nose. Inside was a green stone that he thought was emerald, but discovered it was actually jade. They would cover the Budda in plaster to hide it from thieves. It was carved in the 1400s. The Budda was taken to Laos for hundreds of years by a Laotian prince till the Thai army occupied Vientiane, bringing it back to Thailand. There are over ten other temples located in this complex, with gold domes, multi-tiered roofs, stone roofs, you name it. There is also a stone miniature of the entire Anchor Wat complex. In the other courts there are throne rooms, audience chambers, residential palaces, libraries, and administrative buildings, it’s huge. Words really can not describe how amazing it is, and I’m not going to try. What I will say is that if you are in Bangkok, then this is a must see.