In the red corner. Bangkok, Thailand

April 2, 2010 at 7:28 am 2 comments

Anyone arriving in Bangkok over the last few weeks would have been excused for thinking that they were witnessing the homecoming of a World-Cup-winning football team. Entire blocks had to be closed off to accomodate the traffic of a thousand trucks carrying flag-waving supporters; Chinatown was alive with the sound of music pumped from speakers mounted on motorbikes; and for every gyrating body hanging off the back of a pickup truck, there seemed to be twenty on the street cheering them on. Every street-facing window, shopfront, stoop and laneway was awash with the colour red – sometimes that of the official supporters’ shirt but more often just any old undershirt or dress pulled out of the bottom of a wardrobe.

The atmosphere was electric. Police and army officials charged with overseeing the demonstrations were hard-pressed to maintain their stoic expressions as teenaged girls tucked roses into their pockets. For our part, standing and waving vigorously to all the smiling faces didn’t suffice for long and we were soon dancing up and down the road, wriggling our hips in time to the latest Thai hit and clapping along in time to the supporters’ chants. Later we were to hear that the gathering became violent in the small hours, a point we could hardly believe after our early evening experience.

Far from a football victory however, the demonstrations were part of the ongoing protest happening all over Bangkok – a call from the people for the Prime Minister to dissolve the government and set a date for a general election. The Redshirts had organised mass demonstrations, offering free food, accomodation and even pocket money to supporters willing to travel cross-country to the capital. For all of its indignance, and political intent though, the protest often came across as one more excuse for the Thai people to get together and celebrate on the streets. Smiling faces, bouncing babies and outstretched hands replaced the stern expressions and hostile vibes that one would normally expect from a gathering of this nature. Even in their outrage it seemed that the Thai people were incapable of being anything less than lovable.

Surprisingly (well, in our opinion anyway), the protest showed Bangkok in a much more flattering light than that of daily life. Having spent 12 hours in the capital a few weeks earlier, we were dreading our return to what had come across as a souless, commercial captial. Basically just another Big Asian City. This time though, we were forced to abandon our tuk-tuks and walk blocks through the protests, being greeted by everyone as we passed. The whole city slowed as it struggled under labour shortages and the strain of having half its roads closed but to us, it just felt more lively and less cold. I can only imagine what it’s like during the King’s birthday every year when all businesses close, everyone dons yellow clothes and the sky lights up with bursts of fireworks.

Once we warmed up to the idea of Bangkok, it didn’t take us long to see through its ugly outer shell and cold (yet stiflingly humid) air. With the help of Julia and Caroline we explored the spectacular Royal Palace and temple, oohing and ahhing at its dazzling golden spires, glass-encrusted walls and intricate murals. We trekked through the local malls and markets again – MBK for its tshirt stalls and cheap Mac makeup, The Siam Centre for its local designers, The Paragon Centre for its awesome foodcourt and Khao San Road for the cheapest of everything. But more than anything, we ate our body weight in baked goods, pad Thai, kebabs, fried rice, curry and papaya salad (washed down, of course, with a some delicious cocktails and less delicious Chang beer).

Note: the following paragraph is not for the faint of heart or parents. If you are insulted by nudity, prostitution, x-rated porn, lewd acts or by the idea of us being involved in any of the above look away now.

Okay, if you insist but our lawyer has advised us that by reading this you have waived your rights.

Everything was going just dandy until we asked Jules what she felt like doing for the evening. “There’s only one thing that I want to do in Bangkok…” she said, innocently enough. A few hours later (with Gary’s full support for the plan) we were propped up an empty bar called Super Pussy with half a dozen middle-aged hookers and one throughly unconvincing ladyman cooing over us, massaging our shoulders and offering us 2-for-1 deals. Giggling nervously we eventually managed to shoo them away and just as they strutted off in their waist-high gstrings and we started to relax, Gary let out a blood-curling scream. It turns out that one of the performers who was currently lying naked on the stage with her knees curled up to her chest had… ahem… ‘fired’ a peeled banana at him and it had smushed all over his tshirt (black, of course) and shorts.

Once Caroline, Julia and I had picked ourselves up off the floor, recovered our composure and dried our tears, we ran screaming out of the bar and onto the street. With our Ping Pong box firmly ticked (pun fully intended) we jumped in the next tuk-tuk and screeched our way out of Patpong as fast as three wheels could take us. Back in the tourist district sipping on daquiris even Gary was laughing over his soiled tshirt as we recounted our red light night of razor blades, fairy lights, flowers and various other things that should never, ever be used out of context. When in Rome, right?

Advice: If you can ever eat again after reading that, one good food spot we found near Th Khao San was an aptly named street canteen on the next street called Very Nice Thai Food.

More pictures from Bangkok are available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. unstranger  |  April 4, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Superb post guys. Really gives the feel of the place out there. your ability to relay even briefly your experiences is seriously well done here. Good stuff from you.

    • 2. yearlongbreakup  |  April 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Unstranger. We’re glad you are still enjoying what we’re doing. We’ve got some cool pictures from Bali in Indonesia coming soon, so stay tuned!


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