You know what’s great to do just before you go travelling? Breaking your shoulder. So that’s just what I decided to do! Two days before my flight to Thailand I fell over the handlebars whilst mountain biking and so I’ve had to adapt to travel with a sling and one arm… not quite what I had in mind! Unfortunately it also affects my photography as it’s an effort just to take photos and carry stuff around. Annoying but it isn’t stopping me! At least it’s a talking point and my current favourite explanations are Thai massage gone wrong or wrestling tigers to death at Tiger Temple.
Arrived in Bangkok at 6am, jet-lagged to hell. The cheapo hotel I’d booked in advance let me check in early. It’s in a neighbourhood close to backpacker haven Khaosan Road but it’s quieter, cheaper and less touristy. I grabbed a few hours sleep but forced myself to get up so I wouldn’t make my sleep pattern any worse. My friend Mark came to meet me – he was my tour guide on my first trip to Thailand and lives in Bangkok. The daily rainstorm descended, trapping us for an hour (it’s monsoon season in SE Asia). We braved the rains to have drinks at a wee local bar hidden in an alley at Khaosan Road. I love these kind of places, just a few chairs, tiny bar, ice buckets with bottles of beer, a couple of people. In Bangkok the bars and eating joints just spring out of the street. We went for food at a nice retro bar where a musician was playing. Many bars have live music which is cool.
On Friday night the streets are heaving and after Mark had to go, his friend showed me around the red light district to see the seedier side of Bangkok. Some of the bars are hostess bars, just like a normal place but the girls come and sit at your table and chat to you, you pay for their drinks and you can go off with the girl or perhaps hire them as an escort depending on the girl. In Thailand these places are are pretty common, you find them in most big towns and apparently it’s pretty common for married guys to have mistresses at these places. It’s actually quite a laugh, the girls seem to enjoy themselves and they pay the bar to work there. All sorts of people were in there including tourist groups and couples.
Then we went round some of the go-go bars in “seedy square” (well, that’s what I’d call it!). It reminded me of Amsterdam’s red light district with its weird variety of visitors from groups of western guys, to couples, to lone Thai guys. There’s dancing girls on podiums with number badges (for that personal touch) so you can pick one you want to have a drink with or be whisked off to the private rooms for some Thai hospitality. Unlike British strip clubs you don’t pay to get in and the drinks aren’t much more expensive than normal.
And lets not forget the ladyboys! Dotted amongst the girls in these places they’re sometimes easy to spot, and sometimes almost impossible. Some of these ladyboys look more like a girl than some of the genuine girls up there! One guy next to us was a bit drunk, having drinks with two of the girls and couldn’t believe it when he discovered they were ladyboys, haha! Apparently the trick is to look at the arms, men’s have a different shape which gives the game away even if everything else looks genuine. Getting a taxi home was a pain, some taxi drivers don’t like taking you to places away from the tourist hubs and quote stupid prices for doing so. Rolled into bed at 4am, not the best way to cure jet lag!