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Bangkok 101 (Reasons to come - Reasons to stay)


Bangkok, what a place.  Even though I抳e been here for over thirteen years, I am still a stranger, and westerners are never fully accepted into Thai society, our noses are too big. Things happen very quickly here; one minute there is a thriving local market on the corner, next there抯 a fire one night, then it changes to a major underground rail station, in what only seems a blink of the eye. Thais have a very direct way of dealing with problems. 


People come here for all sorts of reasons; they stay for just a few. Living here can be such a pleasure, but it can also lead to all sorts of problems.


Let me give you an example or two of my observations over the years.  For western men Thailand is a paradise; you can be whatever you want to be, and there are so many natural attractions working in the city in three main areas for tourists in particular.  There is the infamous Pat Pong, the first of the 揼irlie bar? areas to spring up during the Vietnamese war. Then came Soi Cowboy, a similar area to Pat Pong, but with a less commercial feel. Then along came Nana Plaza.  This is the new queen of the foreign bar scene.  They are all different in their atmosphere, but all share one thing in common, GIRLS.  By girls I mean females between sixteen and thirty, be careful however, they aren抰 all female.  Some of the 搇adies?are in fact men.  Here they are called Katoys or Ladyboys.  To be honest some of them are more feminine than some of the girls, and very difficult it can be to tell them apart, until you get them back to your hotel room.


When western men, locally called Farang, arrive here they are hit with the easily availability of female company. This for some reason has a tendency to rob a normally sensible, clean living man of his senses.  They turn into some form of Jekyll and Hyde, becoming monsters, driven only by their libido and the need to satisfy their most carnal instincts.  I抦 not talking about men in their twenties, but men well into their middle age and even their twilight years; all behaving like boys in the first flush of pubescence. 


One of my good friends here is an Englishman in his mid fifties.  He is a professional businessman earning well over the national average. He regularly goes to one of the bars that caters to the farang men and goes home with one of the bargirls working there.  He would never consider using the services of a prostitute in the UK, but here it is a regular occurrence.  When asked about it, his only response was that here it is different.


Men often ask these bargirls to marry them after only a few nights together.  Quite often the girls says yes, just to get a few more baht (Thai currency) from the poor deluded man.  Some girls will marry these men in the hope of escaping Thailand. It is a dream of many Thais to find greener grass in the West, which they only see through Hollywood films. It is a case of the deluded marrying the deluded, which invariably ends in disappointment for one or both parties.  I know, I did it myself, all those years ago. I was lucky, I escaped that marriage of inconvenience, but soon my senses were gone again, but that抯 another story.


Anther main reason why a great many Farang stay in Thailand is the easily available narcotic drugs. Here, while drugs are illegal they are also readily available for those willing to take the chance of being caught. 


I won抰 dwell on this but I have seen men who have never even smoked a cigarette suddenly start smoking twenty joints a day.  Their life in ruins, they turn into a creature of the twilight. Totally unrecognizable from the person who had come to Thailand they do things ever more dangerous to feed the habit; eventually disappearing, never to be seen again.  Few escape this life, fewer still return to a normal life in their own country.  I do remember one Englishman who took two thousand valium back with him to England, to, as he put it, finance a year at home.  I often wonder whether he got caught, stupid idiot.


Thailand and in particular Bangkok is not all girls and drugs.  There is a normality here that can be found in any big city in the world, there are also things that just don抰 happen anywhere else.  Bangkok is a city of contrasts, slums and mansions side by side, motorcycle taxis and Mercedes Benz both engulfed in the choking fumes of a bus抯 exhaust.  Street stalls selling a complete meal for twenty baht (twenty eight pence) outside five star hotels.  You either love it or you hate it, quite often both at the same time, there is very little in between. A population that fought for democracy, then voted in a dictator.   


There is no city I feel safer. I have walked and traveled round most of this sprawling metropolis, and only on two occasions have I felt threatened.  I can not say the same for London or Manchester, New York or Los Angles. 


This is the city I now call home.


?nbsp; Robert Newman


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