THAILAND – BANGKOK

For 30 hours I had nothing else to look at but the same wall.  The bulkhead wall of our A380 aircraft.  We left Columbus, OH around 5 am on Friday morning and landed in Bangkok around 11 pm Saturday.  I’m not sure how the time zones translate out, I just know it was a long journey and I was excited to be figuring out how to get a cab in a foreign land.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at our hostel.  One flight of stairs to crawl up, a small elevator up another three floors, and a bed was calling my name.  I was travelling with Tony and Amelia (my mother) on this trip, so there was a double bed and a twin bed in a moderate sized room.  We paid something like $20 USD a night for the room and couldn’t have asked for a better hostel.  (For reference, our total lodging costs per person for the entire week would end up being $74.10 USD.  Thailand is a very cheap place.)  We woke up around 6 am, so excited to see Thailand.  I had spent dozens of hours planning this trip and reading about the culture.  It was a trip of a lifetime.

Our first stop was to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets.  This is exactly what it sounds like – a local market on a river.  The locals sell fruit, souvenirs, gadgets from the side of the river or from their boats floating around.  It gets crowded during the day, so it’s best to get there early, which we did.  About an hour outside of the city, it cost 1,200 baht (about $40 USD) for a taxi.

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We paid 600 baht ($20 USD) for a woman to float us through the market in her boat for an hour, which is definitely enough time to be floating on this river.  We stopped for fresh bananas, fresh coconut ice cream, and the best part – to hold a slow loris!  This was happenstance and completely unexpected, although probably my most favorite part of the trip.  We learned later that slow loris’ are on the verge of extinction, only residing in Southeast Asia.  They are also the only primate with venom.  Looking back on it, it was probably not the safest thing we did.  But they were so darn cute!

Amelia also had the chance to hold a python, probably about 10 feet long and weighing 40 pounds.  This python was particularly restless and wanted to wrap both ends of its body around her.  If you didn’t know, pythons kill their prey by suffocation, wrapping their bodies tightly around their potential food.  At one point, the python’s tail was grabbing her from behind, attempting to go, well, up her butt!  It was a comical experience, if nothing else.  We all got a good and loud laugh out of it.

After we finished at the market, we stopped at a 7-Eleven next door to get coffee.  There are 7-Elevens on every block in Bangkok!  In fact, there are more 7-Elevens in Bangkok than there are Starbucks in Seattle.  I had failed in planning on transportation back to Bangkok from the small village we were in, so we wondered around a parking lot for about 20 minutes asking if there was a taxi that could take us to the city.  After several failed attempts, a very nice man offered to take us about half way.  He seemed to have a solid plan for us, so we just went with it.  “I help you out.  No worry.  I good Christian man.”

We got about halfway to the city and he stopped and pointed to another taxi that would take us the rest of the way.  I offered him some baht for his service but he declined over and over, saying “God let me help you today.  It is free.  It is my duty as Christian.”  Our next cab was not cheap, so I guess perhaps the second guy was not a Christian?!  None the less, I will never forget our taxi driver, Bal (uncertain of the spelling), and his very good heart.

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There are an infinite number of temples in Bangkok, and while I’m not big into seeing religious sights, we had to knock out a few on this trip.  Wat Arun is probably the most famous in Bangkok, so it was our next stop.  The visit was quick as it was scorching hot, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with roughly 90% humidity.  And, like many religious places in the world, women had to be covered, which meant I blanketed myself with a scarf to intensify the heat.  The temple itself was massive and gorgeous, built in the 14th century.  I didn’t get far up, though, since the stairs were equally as old and extremely steep.

We also visited Wat Po, also known as the reclining Buddha.  He was gold, bigger than a semi-truck, and reclining, sprawled out in a massive building dedicated only to him.

By now, it was 3 pm in the afternoon and we were beat.  The heat in Thailand is something like I’ve never experienced before.  It will take the energy out of you so rapidly and unexpectedly.  We managed through it each day, but it’s something I wasn’t prepared for, despite my light fit clothing and sunscreen.

We stopped across the street from Wat Po for our first local Pad Thai!  It was definitely authentic, a small shop with four tables and one man serving everyone.  The Pad Thai itself was good, but had more of a vinegar bite than what I was used to in The States.  I learned later that this was just a unique dish.  The Pad Thai I had each day after that was absolutely delicious.  My favorite was in Chiang Mai, at a little shop next to our hostel.

That evening, we took a taxi to Nana Plaza.  When I told the driver where we were going, he laughed and said, “You drink lot there.  You have lot fun” and imitated being drunk.  Nana Plaza is one of the well-known places for nightlife and people watching in Bangkok.  We found a little bar along the main path, ordered some Chang beers, and just watched for a few hours.  Across the street from us was a Beer Bar.  It was an open-air bar where prostitutes stood at the entrance.  If a man approached, the woman would ask him to buy her a drink.  If he said yes, she would get a drink and bring it back to him.  She would chat with him for a bit, and then ask if he will pay the bar fine.  If he says yes, that means that he wants to go with her to have sex.  The bar fine is usually about 600 baht ($20 USD).  The bar keeps half and the other half goes to the woman.  The woman can then charge the man whatever she wants for sex.  In my research, it is usually about 1,500 baht ($50 USD) for an hour or so (essentially however long it takes the man to finish).  When she’s done, she will go back to the bar and do the same thing.  She will often have sex with 2-3 men a night, if she’s lucky.  I say lucky in a loose term, because for these girls, 2-3 men a night is a great thing.  They can bring in a huge amount of money, which in most cases goes back to their families in rural Thailand, who have no idea what the women do for work.  In a month, the average prostitute can bring 50,000 baht ($1,600 USD).  An office worker in Thailand brings about 20,000 baht ($650 USD).

Anyway, we watched half a dozen men stroll into this bar, most of them Westerners.  A few left together, and a few sat and talked for quite some time.  It was an organized and smooth-running business.  While I don’t know that I’ll fully understand the culture behind such an industry, I’ve learned that the women often choose this lifestyle, and when given the chance to leave, they often return by choice.

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We made our way over to the Patpong market area.  There was a market here, much like any other market or bazaar, and we found a few trinkets here.  But the most cultural experience was the ping pong show.  Yes, I went to a Thailand ping pong show with my boyfriend and my mom.  We paid something like 500 baht per person to get in, which included one drink.  Up a dark and dirty flight of stairs, there was a small stage with less than a dozen tourists watching two women perform.  The first women put two cigarettes into her, well, her vagina and ushered us to come up to stage to light them.  She ‘smoked’ them both to the end.  They put ribbons, and razor blades, and whistles into their lady parts.  They blew candles out on a cake.  They opened beer bottles with their parts.  It was quite incredible, an art form I suppose.  But the best part was the actual ping pong balls.  One of the women, both appearing to be in their early 20s, grabbed a bowl of about 30 ping pong balls.  She took a giant bottle of lube and slathered the balls in sliminess.  She laid on her back and put something like 14 ping pong balls inside of her.  Laying on the small drink tables in front of us were ping pong paddles – one for each of us.  We were wrong in thinking these were just for show.  The first ping pong ball came flying towards Amelia and me.  And then the second, and the third.  It was nonstop for a few minutes.  I leaned to the right and buried myself in Tony’s arm.  Amelia had no shield, and one hit her smack dab in the middle of her nose.  I couldn’t stop laughing, and when the girl finished, she sat up and was roaring in laughter.

I highly recommend this experience.  It is not sexual or offensive in anyway.  It is truly a cultural experience like none I’ve had before.

 

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