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Dreadlocks and Ladyboys (Bangkok Part 2)

Bangkok, Thailand


Through all the dazzle and glory of Bangkok's economy and culture lies massive amounts of pollution and Western influence. The photos above were taken from a longboat on Bangkoks main river, Chao Phraya. Los Angeles has nothing on this! The taste of pollution and raw sewage in many places are enough to give the average person headaches.

Although the boat tour through the city led us through some of the most pollution infested areas of town (Chinatown and industrial areas), once we got towards the suburbs of the city I was able to experience scenes, normal people living, that you would never get in the touristy and city areas. Interestingly (to me at least), the suburbs of Bangkok are surprisingly integrated in their mixtures of social classes, especially up against the model of US cities. Rich estates and their gardens reside next to farms, peasant shops and makeshift housing peacefully. An upper-class house averages around $200k, about half is the land. Their gardens sit right next to subsistence farmers, who live almost completely unaffected by modernity, and only sell meager amounts of their crop to the market if they have extra left over.
Riding my bike through the elevated sidewalks/roads which snake around the suburbs, kids would shout friendly 'Herro's to me, as I am guessing they don't often see white faces, something completely different from the city. Life is calm here, and not much seems to have changed over the centuries in these parts.

Western influence has affected full-force the high-society and upper/middle classes of Thailand, and although I am standing in front of a special walk for chinese new years, it is a part of a megamall that is perhaps the greatest symbol to Western influence in Thailand. Siam Paragon, a recently built megamall features multiple McDonalds, Dolce & Gabbana, Quiksilver, H&M etc, etc, etc. It is completely and absolutely indistinguishable (creepily so...) from a USA mall scene...except all the people are Asian. From flirtacious and gossiping teenagers, to desperate housewives, to young adults on dates at the movies, to prep students finished with school, and every other mall stereotype, it can be found here 5000 miles from Los Angeles.

This was the only place where I felt really awkward, like I didnt belong. My school group was not part of the actual makeup here, this was no tourist site, and they didn't specifically need our money. The art installations and center-mall galleries were absolutely stunning on a scale not seen in America. Hands down nicest, cleanest, richest mall I've ever been to...and I am in a 3rd world country. (Side-note: I actually walked into the mall during a Thai movie premier happening there which added to the feeling of being in my native Los Angeles, very glitzy)The one quite different aspect from American malls is the presence of many white-Thai couples here on dates.
The amount of prostitutes in Bangkok (in the downtown area near the nice hotels, not where the other backpackers and I were staying) is absolutely insane. Tens of thousands of women come from all over SE Asia to be sold for about $30 to Western customers coming from mainly around Europe, Australia, America and the Middle East. The amount of creepy old white men walking around with their Thai 'girlfriends' is stunning, mainly because it is such a common sight. Places like Starbucks, mid/high-end hotel lobbies (nice hotels are around $100-600/night) and street promenades are very populated by such dates. Although it is sad that women feel the need to sell their bodies, I feel it is also an equally bad problem that generations of men have been raised unable to successfully bed a woman, or achieve a happy relationship, that they must resort to a 3rd world country for a relationship.

Overall, Bangkok has been quite a trip, it is a fast-paced, multifaceted city full of delights, joys, beer, women, tourist attractions, culture, cheap goods, and something for anyone and everyone. I highly recommend a visit to Bangkok for all, it is an incredibly safe city (the laws protect foreigners more-so than the native Thai), and I never at once felt at unease.

At the same time, I am glad to be out of the smog, traffic, sellers and commercialism and out in the country now.


permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on January 25, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Temple, Buddha, Thailand, Bangkok, Watpho and Dreadlocks

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As the large retailers expand around the world you have to expect to see the "mall" concept expand to far reaches of the world.
Did you get sick from any of the food or water?
Glad to hear you felt safe in Bangkok. It should be interesting to see your comments when you get out to the far reaches of the hills and jungles of Thailand and the other countries you are visiting. If you see any animals take their picture, I read they have a lot of monkeys and rare tigers where you are going next....


permalink written by  bc on January 30, 2009

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