Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 76 of 113 › view all entries
October 29th, 2008 – by: afredrix
It was clear I was no longer in the middle-east and I welcomed the difference. I could go about my business--of walking, riding, somersaulting down the middle of an avenue if I so desired--without 50 pairs of eyes on me and my every move.
Thailand is appropriately dubbed the Land of Smiles, but there are a few additional elements of the culture that, sooner or later, also make themselves known. It could, for instance, be called "Land of overzealous masseuses and chase-you-down drivers.
My Thai adventure and education started in a backpacker hostel on a Bangkok side street. I dumped my bag and joined three other travelers to bake in the common room. John is a big, ex-rugby playing Aussie bloke with a well-groomed fu manchu and a story for every situation. His facial hair better qualifies him for a used car salesman than a realtor, but in the end, maybe there's no difference. Karl is another Australian with the remnants of a full Fidel Castroesque beard on his face and three consecutive years of life abroad under his belt.
The third guy was a young Canadian whose name remains lodged at the tip of my brain in exchange for his newly-acquired nickname "Cherry." Cherry had a head full of curls, a face pretty enough to be a male model and enough bushy-tailed enthusiasm to earn him the nickname and jump-start his 7-month trip.
The boys had all been in Bangkok for a couple days and acted as my personal guides to the nightlife. With the addition of Dave, the expat hostel owner and information source for all things Thailand, we set out in the direction of the infamous pingpong show. For anyone expecting to see a Forrest Gump style display of table sport talent, you'll be highly disappointed. Talent is still a factor. (I'd say anything that begs the question "How in the hell do they do that??!! --followed by however many marks of exclamation and confusion you deem necessary--can qualify as definitive points of "talent.") However, paddles are omitted in this version, and the part of Forrest Gump and his speedy Chinese opponent will be played by naked Thai girls with specially trained hooha muscles. I'll leave you alone with that description to ponder the details.
We never did make it to the pingpong show, though, and the answer to "How do they do that??!!" remains an enigma. We (and by "we", I mean Dave) were too distracted by the entire street dedicated to dancing naked chicks and the coordinated get-ups on the throng of greeters standing in front of each bar--attempting to lure and entice with a flash of the thigh. It's seedy as hell and slightly disturbing to picture the type of man that would seek out this environment in complete seriousness, but it's an aspect of Bangkok's nightlife and a source of amusement to say the least. We eventually tore ourselves from the grip of Soi Cowboy and hit up a dance club where we could all get in on the hip-moving action.
But not before a final wrinkly, naked creature could saunter down the street and distract us all. In the midst of all the vendors, prostitutes and gawking tourists, a little Thai man walked down the street with a baby elephant in tow. For a few baht you could buy some fruit and feed it like it's a completely normal thing to do in the middle of a major metropolitan city. Short of a witnessing a drunken rugby zulu or two, I've never been this close to a big beast, waving its trunk around for all of the bar crowd to see. I was in awe. And it was only the first night.
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