Monday, November 06, 2017

Your Bars, Your Temples, Your Massage Parlours

I am writing this in Sydney (and when this post goes live I will hopefully be near Uluru) that welcomed me with rain, just like on my previous two arrivals here. Before that, Mum and I were in Bangkok for 2 nights. It was a really lovely visit and I am so glad we chose this fascinating city as our outbound stopover destination. I had actually asked Mum which of many options to divide our long journey to Australia she would prefer and she chose Bangkok.
When I first visited Australia in 2011, I also travelled via Bangkok, but only experienced its (huge and very nice) airport. I have to say that I did so with quite a bit of apprehension and the fact that the Austrian airlines cabin crew reminds you that the import or export of drugs gets you the death penalty did not ease that. I suppose I have read one too many articles or watched one too many documentaries about allegedly innocent people whom someone abused as a drug courier. Let me just say I was glad my suitcase did not have any outer pockets...In addition to that mild paranoia, I had major prejudices that were again fuelled by media consumption.
For the longest time, to me, Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular stood only for one thing: sex tourism of the worst kind, where (ugly) Westerners exploit young girls or boys in the worst kind of way or return home with a wife several decades younger than themselves. I readily admit that this was pure ignorance on my part and while Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong always represented the cool Asia, Bangkok was "Third World Asia" in my head, with the only other association apart from abusive sexual relations being counterfeit luxury products. I did find the latter in the night market close to our hotel and also saw more than my fair share of explicit bar signs and dubious looking pills and sex toys being sold by the side of the road (not mentioning men that looked "the part"), but I also saw an infrastructure as modern and efficient as the one in Tokyo, clean streets and buildings, extremely friendly locals and overall a surprisingly international vibe. Those shopping streets could just as well have been in Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong. While Bangkok never made it to my list of must-see-places for the longest time, I have always been a big fan of Murray Head's iconic One Night in Bangkok (where the title of this post is borrowed from). Now that I ended up spending not one, but two nights there, I wish it had been more!
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