I’ve drunk more in this past week than I have in the last few months. In all honesty, that doesn’t say much considering I try to stick only to wine, and you may be lucky to find that I’ve had three drinks throughout any given month. So let’s say I’ve had a total of four drinks in the last seven days.
Two nights ago, I found myself drinking an Asahi (Japanese) beer (that I never even tried while living in Japan) while having a convo with Jean-Pierre and one of the field producers on crew. Truthfully, I hope a nice part of this conversation gets aired because it is a very honest account of initial reactions to Bangkok.
It started in the hostel lobby, until Jean-Pierre offered to show me around the red light district of Bangkok, as if it needed one. We walked, and sure enough came along the strip of go-go bars, transvestites, male tourists, and red lights. Simply put, the prostitution is everywhere, but this was its main hub of sorts.
When you walk through the streets of Bangkok, in a decent neighborhood, the street vendors line the sidewalks with the essentials: pants, t-shirts, shoes, souvenirs, porn, Cialis, Viagra, and dildos.
Walking past pharmacies that have huge signs reading “All Medications, No Prescriptions Ok” gives a minor glimpse into how Bangkok gets down. It still baffles me how people could ever come to these parts on a family vacation. We joked that bringing our kid to these areas of Bangkok is the equivalent of scared straight. My kid would be on a leash and blindfolded.
As a female, and as a decent human being, I feel a sort of way about seeing teenage Thai girls, or boys that look like girls, being courted into a 7-11 to pick up condoms and lube before being sexed by 50+ year old White men. It is the creepiest, nastiest shit, in regards to prostitution, that I have ever seen in my life. You will see (99%) old Caucasian men with these prostitutes. That is the demographic, plain and clear.
I think about those of these men who are here on business, sleeping with these prostitutes and bringing the residuals home to their wives. It is infuriating! If you have an ounce of decency, the wrapping of your head around this is mind numbing. Luckily, for me, the men I am on the trip with feel the same way I do.
After getting some Pad Thai street food, we parked it a block away from the red light district, ate, and watched. We guessed the youngest to be around fifteen years old. It’s like you can taste the STDs in the air.
Men, foreigners, walk up behind some of these ‘women’, trying to pat in between their legs, checking for a scrotum. Yes, it’s like that.
The street I’ve been staying on is actually known for Bangkok’s third sex. Our hostel is right next door to a clinic. Jean-Pierre warned of the pop up bars that accumulate on the side streets, after hours. I got a taste of it on my own while walking to a club to network with the owner about potential photography.
Focused on not catching eye contact with any men on the street, for fear they’d think I was one of them, I kept stride but not without noticing these bars. Imagine taking the top shelf of a regular bar, putting it on a crate, and stationing it on the side of a street. Multiple by 6 on any given road, add standup tables and a few chairs. Insert prostitutes, and watch the number of foreign men grow. It works here. They even put a little streaming light on the side of the crate for the club effect. Little by little, you’ll see ‘couples’ or ‘threesomes’ form in drinks and conversation, only to eventually leave together.
As a woman, it’s like living in a strip club. You see things that you don’t want to, for fear you will never trust another many in your life ever again. Yes, we are animals. We have urges, but at what point does regard for your health and moral fly out the window so you can reach a climax? My mind is a little jacked up here, not going to lie on that. It’s a different kind of culture shock.
Prostitution is a part of this city’s infrastructure. It fuels their economy and stimulates tourism. I couldn’t help but have two thoughts while sitting at that 7-11.
1. The power, and lure, of what is in between a woman’s legs runs the world. Men risk their health and lives for it. Economies are built upon it, and empires have collapsed because of it. Yet, most women have no idea how much it is worth.
2. I see Amsterdam as the antithesis of Bangkok. Here, you have two places (both of which I’ve been to) both known for prostitution and their red light districts. In one, you have some of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. In the other, prostitution is legalized, the government mandates health screenings and you may (actually) be safer sleeping with a prostitute that you are picking up anther tourist at a bar. Regulation vs. non-regulation. Developed vs. non-developed countries.
So here, with the mind heavy, 2 guys and 1 girl sit on the front steps of a 7-11 in Bangkok’s red light district, thinking to themselves…how did we get here?