Saturday, September 12, 2009

Banging Heads In Bangkok

This place is headache inducing. Really, it is.

You desperately want Bangkok to show its true colours, as you walk around, treading over rubbish, as you are constantly approached by thai men telling you that they can "show you" where to go on your map. You want to truly believe that in amongst all of the deceit and corruption, there there is a heart and soul to this city that any Asian city should have. On most accounts though, I believe that Bangkok lacks that heart and soul. I believe that somewhere along the way, Bangkok lost its true cultural identity.

What has arisen in its place is a city that thrives off two things - sleaze and foreign cash. Does this sound a little unfair? Perhaps, but maybe it is the foreign money that is to blame. I remember when I was young, I would notice that everything seemed to be made in Thailand. My dolls, my clothes, everything. Now that all of this has moved to China, Thailand needs to get its cash from somewhere. When things were good economically in Thailand, those in Bangkok were able to see the necessary evils that foreign money could buy. Sex, drugs, alcohol and opportunities to make a little bit of money into a lot of money.

It may sound like I am being unfairly critical of Bangkok, and of Thailand in general, but when you go to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo and even Hong Kong, you want something more from an Asian country. Yes, much of Thailand manages to avoid being defined by Bangkok's bad behaviour, but the seediness is still present. It is sad, because I know that many Thai people, when not being forced to beg, borrow or steal, are incredibly hard working and kind. However, its capital city does nothing to assist Thailand's cause.

I spent time thinking about why it is that Thailand and other poor Asian countries are so shrouded in corruption. Well, you look around Bangkok and you are unable to even begin to think about where to start in order to clean it up. To do this city a service would mean cleaning the rivers, requiring everyone to keep their shops and houses in reasonable order, and start punishing those who are involved in black market trade and service. This would be an enormous task and you begin to realise that keeping the black trade and operating in a corrupt manner keeps this city running. The damage it causes is insgnificant, as long as the days keep going by and those who 'matter' get kept in the ife to which they are accustomed.

Its important not to feel sorry for me, for having a not so great experience here in Bangkok. Why? Because I see this as just as important as coming away from a weekend feeling relaxed, with clear thoughts of happiness, calm and serenity. My time in Asia is not about living the hgigh life, squeezing people's service and facilities to my benefit. Its about seeing the world through my eyes, in good times and bad times. Asia is not all about orchids, massages and luxury hotels. Asia is gritty, hot, dangerous and shrouded in poverty and over population. This is just as much about experiencing Asia without the gloss and charm afforded to you because of your wealth.

Maybe the deceit, grubbiness and sleaze of Bangkok IS its true heart and soul, and the cultural delights are secondary attractions. Maybe Bangkok will always be the place you go to for thai sex shows, prostitution, drugs and parties and anything more is just an added bonus.



  1. Ummm - what came thru to me while reading this was the uncany similarities to USA. Wow! Despicable sleaze, greed, corruption, ugliness, cruelty; beauty, unfathomable generosity and kindness, luxury, wealth. All in one package. Hmmmmmm....