Bangkok is a huge city with horrendous traffic. Its a good example of what happens when there isn’t a great deal of urban planning along with little or no pollution controls. Here’s a typical example of Bangkok’s idea of urban planning. This picture was taken from the Skytrain platform on the main street in Bangkok. There are 5 star hotels within a few blocks.
Most of the streets are lined with vendors where you can buy pretty much anything that can be copied. Among the more unusual things were switch blades, brass knuckles and a telescope. DVDs are about $1 CAD each for all the latest movies and I’m sure music is even less. Knockoff watches are supported by their vendors so if they break, you take it back and they fix it for no charge.
One of the most surprising things about Bangkok was the fact that there is a 7-11 every block or so. These are tiny little stores, always really busy stocking food and a few groceries. Above the counter is 3 different types of scotches at least and not bad scotches at that. They also have lots of convenient phones to call hostels when you get lost or when Sharon needs to call home.
The seamier side of Bangkok is also highly entertaining. As you walk down the street, touters show you a card with all the sex acts that you can see if you go see a show. On the menu are pins, bananas, ping-pong balls. The most famous of these clubs is called Super Pussy. The show is “free” but beer is outrageous (just like back home) and you get swarmed with women trying to hustle you as soon as you step foot in a place. Then they try and charge you to see the show (I walked out at this point). To say that they are seedy is an understatement and so far they hold the prize for the worst bathroom in Asia.
The bars in this area function as brokers for the hookers. They are on stage moving (swaying would be a better term) to music and each has a number. If you are interested in a girl, you ask a waiter to bring her over by number. You then agree on a price for service. The bar gets a fixed fee for bring her to the table and after that she’s on her own to negotiate a price. Walking down the streets, there are lots of really ugly men with Thai girls hanging off them. The sex tourism industry is alive and well. I later discovered that you can actually rent a hostess, shall we say, on a full time basis. The cost of this is about $600 CAD per month and they fulfill all the duties of a wife and more. We came to see quite a bit of this in the condo building we were stayed at in Phuket.
At the small hostel we are staying at, they will not let sex tourists stay and go to great lengths to keep them out. A restaurant we were at threw a Brit and his “girlfriend” out as she was clearly in the business. At the hotel, they also don’t want wood writers and gum chewers. First thing we did was buy padlocks for the door…
Food is dirt cheap and very good but you have to be wary of the tourist traps. Everything within a few hundred metres of the hotels are designed to take your money as fast as possible. Walk a few blocks and everything becomes reasonable. Carts sell all kinds of food stuff, the fruit is amazing. Breakfast today consisted of mangoes, leeches, mangostiens (purple fruit with a white centre, really, really good) and a hairy looking thing that tasted a bit like a leechee but wasn’t worth the effort.
Internet cafes are all over the place and cheap about $1-2 per hour for use of Win XP Pro. The other great thing about Thailand is all the massage places. We had a foot massage yesterday which consisted of acupressure mostly of the feet but they also did the legs, back, hands, arms and shoulders. About $7/h. We are going to try Thai massage today, I’m looking forward to that.
The weather is hot and steamy and it rains everyday, not a bad thing otherwise Sharon would be walking my ass all over Bangkok. Sitting in a restaurant yesterday, it started to storm and blew branches off a tree and into traffic. The Thais just drove around it.
We were doing temples and the Grand Palace yesterday. We went to get a cab home and while all the cabs say they have meters, most will try and set a fixed price that is way over the real price. It cost us about $2 to get to the Grand Palace by cab, they wanted $7 to take us back to the Sky train. We finally found an honest driver and give him a huge tips for being honest. There are 3 types of cabs, regular cars, tok toks (3 wheels and a little covered area in back) and motorcycle cabs. We haven’t tried Tok Toks yet, they constantly try and rip you off. Motorcycle cabs are just that. You hop on the back and weave in and out of traffic (I hate being on the back of a motorcycle). Sharon’s keen, I’m not.
Round the attractions, touters will tell you the attraction is closed, then say they can get you a ticket because they know people. They get a commission for bring people into the attraction. In some cases, they are downright annoying following you around at the slightest sign of interest.
On Monday its off to Vietnam and Cambodia…