Holy City vs. Sin City
18.11.2008 30 °C
When in Bangkok, I wanted to see some temples. Unfortunately the Grand Palace was closed on the day I tried to visit (and two days after that) so I had to leave that for my next stay in Bangkok.
Instead I had a look around the nearby Wat Pho, best known for its enormous reclining Buddha. The pictures obviously don't do justice, but it was quite incredible to walk around there and be completely surrounded by those amazing buildings. It's like a tiny village, made entirely of temples in all imagineable colours.
The temple that hosts the reclining Buddha is the most popular spot to visit, basically a corner full of tourists elbowing each other to try and get a good picture of the Buddha. The statue is supposed to illustrate Buddha falling into final nirvana.
Before getting to this area I had come across another fenced selection of temples. I went through the gate to have a little look around, and as I was walking the quiet paths I was met by two dogs sleeping in the middle of the road. There's loads of dogs around here and they're all friendly and kind, so I was surprised when one of them started to bark like crazy and got up to his feet showing me his sharp teeth. I tried to move calmly but there was not much time for that as he attacked towards me like a madman. I galloped away in panic, just waiting for his teeth to dive into my skin. That was until the monk saved me! Suddenly the cutest old monk appeared, looking kind and ushering me into a building full of paintings and Buddha statues. He and his friend - or his boss as he called him - were so sweet and spoke both good English. There were several different Thai dishes on the table and they gave me some lunch. It was nice experience to sit there chatting with them. Apparently there is such thing as free lunch!
I also saw the big standing Buddha statue. There were some Thais doing their rituals and saying their prayers which was nice to see, although I felt a bit stupid being there with my camera when those people were trying to have a spiritual moment.
Bangkok obviously has many different sides to it and is a city of big contrasts. After seeing the glorious palaces and holy temples, I was curious about the seedy part of the city. I wanted to see Bangkok's red light district as sex tourism is so big in Thailand. Even though I felt a bit guilty about wanting to see it, feeding my curiosity with someone else's misery. I was wondering whether that made me just as disgusting as the creeps on a sex vacation.
I went to Patpong night market with Marcel and Stefano, two guys I had met earlier in Bangkok. It really was more like an ordinary night market, only it was surrounded by go-go bars and ping pong shows. We were soon joined by two Americans, Michelle and Adam, and we decided to go and see a ping pong show.
Our experience with the ping pong show was horrid, and not only because the shooting banana landed directly on my legs. Now, I'm not gonna explain in detail what the ping pong show is all about as I don't wanna start writing anything X-rated, but you get the picture. Ping pong shows have nothing sexual about them, they are a freak show and circus, a sad one at that. I wouldn't think that those having a sex vacation went to see them - they are for curious tourists who do it for a laugh. Which is kinda ironic cause there's nothing funny about these miserable looking girls getting stuff out from their, er, special storage. The show we went to see was mostly with middle-aged women looking bored beyond belief. Then again, that's hardly surprising.
After a while we were presented with a bill of 5900 baht, which is more than 100 euros! And all this for seeing the show (which was supposed to be 100 b/person), beers and some drinks they had added on the bill "for the girls". This was outrageous and something I'd been warned about, and we weren't having any of that. At that point it all turned a bit scary, the doors were closed with guys standing in front of it, and there we were in the darkness with the owner lady screaming like a maniac. She was getting straight to our faces looking like she was gonna get violent any minute, yelling: "You think this free?!" The whole situation would have been quite comic if it wasn't downright frightening!
I really can't tell how we got out of there. Somebody was coming from outside and the door was opening just a little bit, which was our chance to force our way out. Some of us threw some money on them but I managed to escape without losing one baht. Going there was a BAD idea.
When we were safely back in the market, we decided to go and have a cocktail together to calm down and put the fiasco behind. Me and Michelle still had shaky legs so I suppose that was good enough an excuse to waste my money on Singapore Sling.
Apart from this brief visit I haven't been exploring Bangkok's night life. It's been nice just to hang out at the hostel with the people I've met. As for alcohol, it isn't cheap here in comparison to other things, and it's something I haven't really budgeted for. A night out here would probably end up costing just as much as an ordinary night out in Spain. As a cheapskate extraordinaire, it shocks me that for a price of one drink I could buy 5-6 meals from the street kitchen! Needless to say, I've stuck to water and fruit shakes!