I haven’t managed to take many pictures of Bangkok to show you, or rather I didn’t want take many photos of Bangkok. I think I was expecting more exposure to the exotic, that is what Bangkok is famous for after all, but it seems unless you are willing to brave the renowned horrors of Patpong the city is predictable and unsurprising. Patpong is the ‘tourist’ area of fabled ping pong shows (although I am reliably informed there are now cigar shows, frog shows and reverse ping pong shows – the mind boggles) and I have enough of an imagination to know that I would find the experience intimidating, disappointing, but worst of all tragic. People go to say they have been, or to genuinely look for the freak show vaudeville that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the civilised world, but once the curiosity or excitement has subsided they must see it for what it is: somebody’s daughter doings something disgusting for money because she has to or she knows no better. Social conscience removed by being away from home, westerners can justify the experience to themselves, and I think it would be the audience at such places which would disturb me the most.
So instead I met some colleagues eating in an Italian restaurant, but instantly regretted it – they were dour and made conversation difficult, so I escaped with two others that I actually do get along with. We walked around for a while taking in the street-side markets, the food vendors selling live animals and any sort of dead creature on a stick and decided to rest at a pavement establishment that looked suitably low market. The girl serving us played a good game of making us feel welcome with very limited English through fake smiles whilst insisting we pay over the odds for drinks. We obliged with glee, knowing full well we were paying tourist prices and hamming up the experience with other customers (“how much are you paying?” etc). We sat in the evening heat, cars rushing past, the diverse population streaming by and various animals circling our table. A cat insisted on first brushing against us and then violently attacking our feet, but then turned its attention to a frog that it pounced upon repeatedly and batted about the head. The occasional beggar walked past, or hopped past, with a cup, the horns blared but we were pretty content just chatting away over a Leo beer or two. An Indian family on holiday sat near us, obviously thinking that we had eaten there and it must be okay and proceeded to order all the seafood they could muster. Mussels, clams, prawns and squid: basically a Russian roulette of E.coli and botulism. We took a tuck tuck back to the hotel and got to bed at a reasonable hour, finally feeling liked have adjusted to the time zone, just in time to fly home!
I’m now in the business class lounge in Bangkok airport with a plate of sushi and a glass of whiskey, hoping that it will sedate me for the 10 hour flight ahead of me, taking me back to you.
More when I am next away in a few weeks