38 The Light and Dark of Bangkok

A hot day greeted us in the morning. From the comfort of an air conditioned room outside is beautiful and comfortable but looks can be deceiving. Stepping out into atmosphere the city is already buzzing with activity. The food stalls on the side of the road are grilling and the hawkers are already selling their wares. The first tough decision to make is where to have breakfast to gain the energy to start the day.

It didn’t take long to spot a place that looked decent. The sports were on and the emptiness of the Irish pub drew us in because of the menu and the prospect of good coffee. They didn’t disappoint and over breakfast a plan was formulated and a direction set.
We jumped on the metro and travelled with the crowd towards the center of the city. The cost is very reasonable and the elevated trains offered a glimpse of the modern Bangkok that has emerged in the roughly three hundred years since its foundation. We passed through the malls walking towards the direction of our destination. The malls were filled with people and sights both comical and interesting. The cool interior offered respite from the heat outside. We passed through numerous malls through different passages and walkways. We ended up at one that seemed to have no way out.

My companion was having difficulty with the heat. While she haggled with one of the sellers at the store over presents I perused my app and noticed a curious museum nearby. We needed to do something away from the heat and the Jim Thompson museum offered something interesting for both of us. She is not interested in going to temples and I don’t really feel like shopping all day but we still wanted to see what is out here.

Jim Thompson was a former military officer and architect who was sent to Thailand and eventually moved here permanently after his service ended. He is responsible for reviving the silk industry in Thailand and popularizing it in the west. He supplied the silk to the movie “The King and I” and from the money he made over time built up an impressive collection of traditional art. The house he built serves as a home to his collection and is impressive as a representation of traditional architecture with a western twist.

Jim Thompson disappeared one day in 1967 and his remains were never found. The mystery surrounding his disappearance formed a mythology around him. Over time the contents of his home as well as the home itself have been donated to the Thai people. The grounds are immaculately maintained and they have a great restaurant serving delicious and visually appealing food.

On our way to the Jim Thompson museum we passed along shops selling some great souvenirs. For some reason these were the ones we purchased. The ladies at the shop were very nice and my friend got some good deals. Since we were laden with purchases we went back to the hotel to drop the stuff off. By this time it was already late in the day and we were going to check out the Red Light district later on. My friend was still feeling the effects of the heat and cooling off in the room would be beneficial.

The Red Light district or Patpong is a curious place. Reading about its history offered an insight into its development. It is located on land bought by a Chinese businessman back in the day. Over time the shops were slowly infused with clubs and bars that  focused on the sex industry. Today it is a tourist trap that caters to westerners curious about the reputation this place has. The stalls outside sell a huge variety of stuff including things I know wouldn’t pass through customs.

The area is as seedy as you can imagine. My friend was curious about it and I myself had some interest too. There are plenty of promoters enticing you with laminated cards listing all the things you could see. We had a drink to soak in the atmosphere to decide what we were going to do. The area is essentially filled with strip clubs and it’s not like the Red Light district in Amsterdam where women are displayed in windows for enticement.

We went into one of them at the encouragement of one of the promoters and sat down for a drink. We saw women gyrating on stage and performing curious acts with their bodies. Ping pong balls were flying and I tried to hit some of them back with the paddle they provided. Their aim with the pea shooter is pretty good too. The thing is though none of it is very enticing sexually. The other thing is the bill was quite high as well. It was the costliest beer I’ve ever had. The women ask if you could buy them a coke and that forms part of the way they get paid. We spent maybe thirty minutes inside. My friend cunningly took a photo to document the experience. Obviously such activity is forbidden inside such a fine establishment. Going inside constituted a tick in a box for her. Afterwards we went back closer to where we are staying and enjoyed the atmosphere at one of the clubs close to our hotel.

The DJ was playing some decent house and the drinks were cold. We talked about our experiences late into the night as we watched the nightlife in our vicinity.

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