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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bangkok, at Night


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Bangkok is one of those places where at the moment the day slowly progresses to the night you still have enough to see as long as you are not tired. The scenic spots, the palaces and temples, are best visited during the day, but at night, Bangkok takes on a whole different face. Parties, night markets, nightclubs, street food and unique shows come to life luring the visitors to experience the night in the city.

Street shopping by day is exciting despite the heat of the sun in this city, but as the day cools down in the evening, the night markets opened up like blooming night flowers offering so much more than the day markets, clothes, shoes, handicrafts, fake designer goods, accessories, beachwear, souvenirs and of course snack and drink. In the narrow alleyway brightly lighted with portable neon, you can see row upon row of stalls lining the street markets. Colorful goods are displayed on the stalls as attractive as possible, and energic vendors raise their voices to promote their goods. When buying, don’t forget to bargain, generally you can get a merchandise somewhere between 25% and 50% cheaper than the first price offered by the vendor. So don’t hesitate to bargain and bring home some memorable souvenirs from here.

Many of busiest night markets are located alongside the popular red-light district, such as the Silom Night market. It is in the middle of the Patpong district, a famous red light featured in the movie The Deer Hunter and in James Bond Goldfinger movie. Patpong is two parallel side streets, between Silom and Surawongse Roads, occupied with shady strip bars offering adult shows and pole dancing. As the evening turns into night those bars come alive with the start of loud dancing music. You can see through the open doors the girls started gyrating at the poles and dancing, under violet neon lights. The loud voices of the street vendors are replaced with the whispering touts offering everything from “ping pong show” to “massage”.

Undoubtedly the face of this Patpong contributes to the name of Bangkok as the Sin City. Prostitution may take place in many places in Bangkok, massage parlours, restaurants, saunas, karaoke, go-go bars or beer bars. The names to the bars are so bold, such as Pussy Collection, Super Pussy, Pink Pussy… hard to miss. The original “discreet” or “underground” nightlife in Patpong doesn’t seem to exists anymore. The go-go bars at the backdrop of the night market even became a tourist attraction.

So what happened to the face of Bangkok which name means City of Angels, where orange robed monks wander the streets in the early mornings with a bowl in their hands, where mothers since more than 2,500 years ago have been cooking meals to give to the monks, where there are thousands of temples inside the city, and there are altars in every crowded corner of the city to placate the spirits….?

Does Thai Buddhism tolerate such widely spread prostitution by not correcting the attitudes toward women whom are regarded as inferior and even dangerous to men, or does the religion contribute to the view that women are viewed as inherently impure and therefore not eligible for enlightenment, and are thus locked into degraded positions ranging from sex trade laborers to nuns as a means to generate merit for themselves and their family?

Although Buddhism has played a significant role in shaping law, cultural frameworks and social life in the kingdom of Thailand, I think many factors contribute to the wide spread prostitution, let’s say the World War 2, the Vietnam War, the poverty in the country where prostitutes can get 10 times more than the minimum wage, and not to mention the corruptions, the lack of law enforcement, and the Mafia  that is also involved in the political parties.

Despite the wide spread prostitution here, it is actually prohibited under Thai law. But karaoke bars, go-go bars and massage parlours can be registered as normal, legal businesses. Police usually treat the prostitution at such premises as an exchange between the prostitute and the client, an exchange to which the owner of the business was not a party.  So in practice it is tolerated, sometimes because local officials have financial interests in the prostitution. Some corrupt Thai authorities may turn a blind eye on this USD 6 billion industry, involving some 2 million women in Thailand.