One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster. The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free.You’ll find a God in every golden cloister. A little flesh, a little history. I feel the devil walking next to me (Murray Head, RCA)
The quote above is a song by British actor Murray Head, written for a musical about playing chess professionally. Confused? Good, now you’re getting a good idea of how you are going to feel the entire time you are in this crazy city!
Anybody who has traveled the popular backpacker route around South-East Asia will tell you that no matter how much you attempt to avoid a whistle stop in Bangkok, you will always gravitate back towards it – in my last trip, I ended up there four times.
Apart from being SE Asia’s central hub, therefore creating a necessity to pass through there to get most places, it also has a bizarre pull to it that no matter how hard you try and divert, you will always be sucked right back in to its seedy underbelly.
Despite the negative start to this post, I have to make it clear that I don’t hate Bangkok, in fact quite the opposite. However, like taking home the sluttiest girl at the bar, you feel great at the time but you leave the next day feeling dirty and nauseous with the unsettling knowledge that it probably won’t be the only time you ‘go there’.
Khao San Road – ‘Like a non-stop carnival of debauchery, fisted into a single street’
For most, this is where it all begins – the legendary street that starts so many doe-eyed novices on their debauched adventures. Without even telling them, if you load a backpack into the boot of the taxi, the driver will almost always take you to the bright lights and dark heart of backpacker central.
The first thing that you will notice as you enter the mouth of Khao San, is the human traffic flowing both in and out of the crowded entrance. Singlet-wearing backpackers scoffing cheap pad-thai from polystyrene containers, glamorously tacky lady-boys walking tall in needle-heeled stilettos and bloated middle-aged IT nerd types walking hand-in-hand with petite Thai girls who look young enough to be their granddaughters – these are just a few of the walking, breathing Thailand tourism stereotypes that frequent the famed road.
To sum it up in a crude sentence, it’s like a non-stop carnival of debauchery, fisted into a single street.
Bangkok – Round One
The first time I rolled up into the city of sleaze was back in October of 2012. After a long and interesting flight from London’s Heathrow Airport, I arrived with a travel card full of cash, a belly full of surprisingly satisfying plane food (thank you Oman Air) and the uncontrollable excitement of knowing that this was to be the first night of my new, nomadic lifestyle.
I got to my hostel (3HOWW Hostel – pricey, yet worth it), dropped my backpack, skipped the shower, threw on a new shirt and strutted out into the humid Bangkok streets. As I neared Khao San, the lights grew brighter, the ambiance grew louder and the once modest food stalls were replaced with stands selling fake Beats headphones and neon bracelets proudly displaying bad language and even worse spelling!
I managed to weave through the chaos and sit myself down at the bar promoting the most potential for meeting my first travel pals (ooooooh travel friend!) I sat down, I lit up an insanely cheap Marlboro Light, ordered a beer and quicker than I had time to realize, the seat opposite me had been occupied.
It was a Thai girl, heavy on the make-up yet still extremely pretty. I smile and exchange awkward conversation with her, eventually leading into her taking one of my cigarettes and ordering us some beers (on my tab, no less). Her English was impeccable, yet she still had a foreign innocence about her – occasionally using the wrong words in her analogies but getting the point across nevertheless.
The casual conversation over beers takes a sudden flirtatious turn as I feel her foot grazing my knee, and for a split second I felt that my first night as a traveling man would not be spent alone. It wasn’t until I took a glance under the table and spotted what she was wearing – or not wearing – below what was visible from my upright position that I realised – she was a total prostitute.
I mean, I imagine everyone reading this is harmonious in an orchestra of duuuh‘s, but I was new to this whole thing and I didn’t think the idea of an attractive Thai chick flirting with me was too far-removed from lateral thinking. However, her fast-moving progression from initial greeting to foot wank and the lack of any garment below her waist just screamed ‘companionship for sale’.
Having not budgeted for Thai hookers and not feeling desperate enough to even remain civil with her, I slid my pack of cigarettes over to her, put far too much money on the table to cover the drinks, stood up and walked off, leaving behind my first friend in Bangkok.
Oh wait, and then I ended up sitting with two awesome Irish girls…
…making some Thai friends…
…making some Canadian friends…
…getting drunk and dancing a lot…
…then, ditching all my plans to travel to the north to follow aforementioned awesome Irish girls and Canadian friends to Koh Pha Ngan for more insane, drunken adventures…
…funny how a half-naked Thai rent-a-shag can dominate a Bangkok-based blog piece!
One of the worst hostels I have ever stepped foot in, eating bugs and my vague, yet disturbing recollections of a Bangkok ‘ping-pong show’ are all coming soon in He Belongs To Bangkok Now (Part Two)