Monday, 29 June 2009
Bangkok has a long history of serving culture. That includes the sex business. It has ever been and will last as long as it exists. The Thais are in general conservative and rude behaviour, slutty outfit, porn etc. is not welcomed at all. Prostitution is forbidden by law as well as pornography. So how comes that Bangkok is seen as the Red-Light hotspot in Asia? The short answer is that the sex business is financially supporting many families and enough people are willing to work in this business.
How It Works:
Today there are mainly three areas that are full of clubs and bars: Patpong, Nana and Soi Cowboy. These places come to life when it gets dark. Lights go on, Girls with short dresses hawk for guests and customers go from door to door. It’s the same as going on the market – walk around, select, negotiate and get lucky. A potential customer will check out bars and clubs either by getting pulled in by the girls at the door or by hawkers who run around with prints of “sexy” girls. Once inside there is an unexpected setup. Girls dance on stage, sometimes with a number, and others a sitting around, in special cases on a tribune to be selected. If a man is interested in a girl, or vice versa, the girl comes over and a little conversation starts. As many girls are from rural areas of Thailand they just are able to talk some “business English”. During this conversation the customer should order a drink for himself and a “lady drink”. If they show mutual interest (sex and money in most cases) the customer has to pay a bar release fee (600 – 800 Baht, 12-17 Eur) and can go with the girl to a hotel. Of course the girl changes her sexy outfit to normal clothing before she gets out of the bar. This is also the trick or flexibility in Thai law. The business proposal in the bar and the physical separation between bar and hotel is ok for the authorities. What two people do behind closed doors in privacy isn’t of interest of the public. The customer pays then usually 1000 Baht (21 Eur) for the girl. This can lead to a short or long term engagement. Some happy couples stay the whole vacation together.
The clubs and bars provide for hundreds of girls a working place. The biggest bars have up to 300 girls who work there. Of course there are also other clubs in different areas. Some are hidden and protected by heavy walls and security. The guests there are mainly from Thailand or the rest of Asia to fulfil their needs. Also street prostitution exists. Ladies stand around in common places and wait for customers. They also can be very aggressive in self promoting. I had a hard time doing research for this special report. It made it a bit easier for me carrying my big camera around and taking photos. I also have some experience dealing with all kind of hawkers on my travels.
The business itself is just a business but what matters are the people behind. Usually the girls come from poor families in Bangkok or rural areas in Thailand to work in the city. Because of the high competition on the job market and the lack of education the only job they really can make good money is the sex business. When a girl is sent to make money in the big city the family at home doesn’t want to know how she gets the money – she just shut participate in supporting the family. For the girls it means hanging around in a bar or club, selling themselves and living with other girls together so save on the rent and have more money to send home. If a sexworker gets older the situation gets personally critical. The customers choose younger girls and working in a club gets more and more difficult because of the younger competition. The solution for many is to get engaged with a foreigner who doesn’t care to have a “older” woman (>24!!). The “normal” Thais marry relatively young and girls who miss the right time are left over. Also Thai men like to have younger woman.
If a woman also fails in getting a foreigner it gets tricky. Either returning home to the village and back to the family or in the city and also wait daytimes for a customer on the street. I have seen so many in Chinatown today. It’s very sad!
Of course not only girls work in the business. There are also a lot of boys, ladyman, and chirurgical changed. I have also visited the “Boys” area in Patpong. It was very interesting there – A lot of young man, some gay stereotypes but mostly young teens. I’ve forgotten to mention that there are also a lot of shows for entertainment. Speaking with a hawker he offered me to attend a show for 200 Baht (4 Eur) to see the famous ping pong, writing without hands and so on ;-) Needless to say that most of these shows are illegal but corruption is widespread and the police love to take money. It happens that, if you visit these shows, you have trouble leaving the place because more money for security reasons is requested.
For me all this is fascinating and disgusting at the same time. Speaking about disgusting I find this the proper description for many sex tourists. My favorite disgusting sex tourist is tall, big beer belly, tiny legs and wears a shirt stretched over his belly with of course the upper buttons loose so that the chest hair pushes out, shorts and of course full strapped sandals, most preferably with socks. Of course going hand in hand with a skinny, young Thai! It seems to me that many people who have no luck at home with the ladies go to Thailand to get laid. It’s for them easy, cheap and satisfying. I also have to mention that many Asians from other countries are coming to Bangkok and also Thais are big sex tourists. It’s just not so obvious for foreigners! There is also another curiosity connected to the Asian issue. Many Thai ladies prefer Westerners over Asians because their behavior to woman. I have spoken to a Thai businessman, a rich lawyer, who didn’t get laid because the ladies didn’t like him. It was not matter of money. They just refused to go with him because they didn’t like him!!
I just recognized that this is a long post and still many side stories can be told. It’s interesting doing research on something everybody talks about but few have the full picture.
This is the first time I write an update to my blog from the plane. Dinner just has been served and I enjoy my time in the business class of Austrian Airlines. Today I have decided to limit my excesses just to a nice meal and a desert. The 10 big coffees from Vienna to Bangkok made me paralyzed for half a day. Now everyone is asleep and for me it’s the best time to get creative.
My final day in Bangkok was quite relaxed. I had a long sleep in the morning, packed my stuff at noon and checked out of the hotel. My program for the afternoon was to check out the historical center of Bangkok: From the main train station to the royal palace. As often I’ve decided to go off the beaten track and find interesting sites by my own – And I found them! Chinatown is rich of culture, beautiful and ugly at the same time. The food stalls and restaurants are amazing and colorful. I love the smell of cooking and now I can even identify, or at least get close to it, what dish the smell belongs too. The ugly side was many rotten houses, old hookers and people with no future, just living from day to day. By walking zigzag through Chinatown I have seen so many temples as never before in an Asian city. But most of them where closed or just frequented by a few worshippers. The busiest temple – I don’t know the name of it – was one run by a sect. The worshippers donated a lot in favor of this sect! In the temple four counters had open to receive donations. Another temple that I found interesting was one that has been built by donations of prostitutes of the 18th century. Some businesses have a long term success!
Outside of Chinatown I have visited a distribution center for retailers. The goods come into town by truck and then distributed to different markets or directly to end customers. That was a quite nice scenery for me. Very lively! After the market I’ve visited Wat Pho and then headed back by boat. Arriving at my “home” district I wanted to go for a traditional Thai massage. Luckily I found one directly on the big Sukhumvit road where the BTS (Skytrain) runs through. A traditional Thai massage is difficult to find. Most of the time luscious oil-massages are offered but not the traditional massage. For 300 Baht (ca. 7Eur) I have booked one hour and after that I was really relaxed. Every part of my body has been stretched (feet, legs, arms, torso, shoulders and head) and I was relaxed to the bone! I’ve just got a shock when I got out of the massage parlor. Heavy rain was pouring down and after a few steps I was completely wet – really WET! I just could get to the next store, shop a bit and continued to the hotel where my luggage was deposited. The rain was very heavily and also lasting for a very long time – no way out!
Now my Asian experience is over and I’m curious of what comes out when I step on the scales. I have been eating here all the time and let’s see if I gained weight from it or not. My next posting will be about the red-light district and how business goes on here. Also I final picture update will be performed!
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Outside there was just a heavy rainfall and I used the time to name all images until now on Picasa. Tomorrow is my final day in Bangkok and then I return back to Austria. After all the travelling I'm happy to come home and have a big chill. Still there is a lot to do when I'm back I will carry on with post processing the images from Africa and Asia. I shall not leave Graz until this task is completed otherwise I will never catch up.
I have already ordered a new GPS for my Nikon because this handy little piece is almost impossible to get in Asia. Yesterday I have visited the one and only Nikon pro shop in town and they told me they have back ordered the units long ago. It's just impossible to get in Asia. I have received the same information a day before in Singapore where I asked some shop owners to phone around and trace a unit. Bad luck - my own fault - I should take more care of my GPS units. The last one was a Garmin hand-held that I've lost in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).
My final post about Bangkok will include some information about the red-light zones. It's quite interesting to learn what's going on here.
Friday, 26 June 2009
The final days have been busy on Borneo. After the visit of Bako National Park the highlight of the evening was a special dinner on the riverbank of the Sarawak river. A former intercontinental chef has decided to open up his very own restaurant and server special food from Sarawak. The food was prepared in a big bamboo and was a mixture of 15 different vegetables, chicken and cooked many hours over open fire. The second dish was a spicy fish cooked also over open fire but in a banana leaf. Truly organic and some ingredients have been from a special source and not available at the markets.
The final days before leaving where filled up with sightseeing in Kuching, eating all the time and a final visit to the orang utan rehabilitation center in Semenggoh. It was good to be early there to have a good experience. The feeding was a nice showcase how the animals move around in the woods. They are totally free and if they like to come for breakfast they do so. If they have better food elsewhere they stay there. We had luck and many organ utans came for feeding. I will upload the pictures later.
On the way back from Kuching to Bangkok I have decided to take a plane over Singapore instead directly from Kuala Lumpur. The price was the same (around 80€) and I wanted to buy a replacement for my GPS that I have lost in Malaysia. Singapore is totally different from the rest of Asia as I have experienced. It's like Cape Town in South Africa. Everything is nice, tidy, safe and secure. As I wanted to buy photo stuff I had to learn that professional equipment has the same high prices everywhere. Discounts are only available on consumer products. I was two hours in the Funan Mall. It's specialized in everything around computers and electronics. It was amazing to see what's available on the market - It's like a rush. I have still bought some gear for standard price and the rest of the day was reserved for the historic marina and down town. I really love to run around through the skyscrapers and look up on the sky. It's exciting for me.
The only downer on the travel was a SMS I've received from AirAsia. I've received an update that my original flight was cancelled and moved to another plane two hours later. That resulted in a late arrival in Bangkok. I was at my hotel at 3:00 in the morning.
Now, after updating my Blog, I'll got out and decide what to do the remaining days here in Bangkok. I'll be leaving on Sunday so there is not so much time left. Maybe I'm going out to Thai boxing, Markets, sights, ride in a tuk tuk and so on. As usual the unexpected is what I'm looking for...
Monday, 22 June 2009
Today I was in the south of Sarawak again and in a nature mission. I have visited the Bako National Park. It's the oldest national park in Borneo and has a rich wildlife. The morning started overcastted an it even rained a little bit. After taken the public bus to Bako, registered at the front desk and embarked on a little boat we finally arrived at the park headquarters after a 30min ride. The first hike was for beginners and led to a nearby beach. The only thing I’ve spotted was a street of thousands of ants. After heading back to the headquarters I’ve decided for a longer hike. As it was during the day there was not much wildlife to see. Just in the camp there have been many monkeys but not in the hinterland.
Nevertheless it was very challenging running around in tropic forest conditions: A lot of sweating and only spotting a few plants and animals. At the end I had my success. I have seen the proboscis monkey, silver hair monkeys, macaques, a bearded pig and giant monitor lizards. The best plan would be to stay overnight and have a look at the wildlife at dusk and dawn but that was for me no option because of the limited time I had.
Saturday, 20 June 2009
I’ve finally arrived on the island over a 10h trip from Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur for an early flight. Because the bus driver wanted to have an extra long break I’ve missed the flight and had to get on a new one. What surprised me was that the price for the flight was only 54€ incl. taxes. The original price was 30€ for an almost 2h flight. Sarawak is the naming of the southern, Malaysian part of Borneo, Sabah is the north. Kuching means “cat” in Malaysian language. It is a very laidback city and the people, as everywhere in Malaysia, like to eat around the clock. There are many eateries that server good and cheap food around the clock. As the locals have high expectations in food also the cheap eateries server quality food. Drinking is something very different. Sweet is the preferred taste. Also in fresh juices you can expect a few spoons of sugar to enhance the taste.
Kuching is the state capital but is rather a small city with many Chinese (30%), fewer Malay (20%) and the rest other ethnics. Besides of the love for food also some people like their cars very much and pimp them from a few extras to a completely new “fast and furious” design. At the moment I watch Chinese music TV and the new hotel offers free WiFi.
Tomorrow is Sunday and there is a special market to visit. Traders from all around Kuching come into town and trade their goods. I’ve already visited a few markets in Malaysia and its always a mixture of curiosities, food and a distinct smell of goods and food. At the beginning of next week I try to get out into nature and have a look at the rich wild-life of Borneo. On Wednesday I have already to head back to Bangkok but this time I have a stop-over in Singapore. I’ll probably do some little shopping, try a few Singapore food specialities and one day later I’m on the way to Bangkok.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
These islands consist of two islands. A big and upper-class one and a small one described as backpackers heaven. For me now heaven has got some limits. Pulau Perhentian Kecil is described in touristic terms as Malaysian pearl and tropical paradise in the South China Sea. There are no cars or streets on the island and it is idyllic and romantic. In reality this means that every hut has a gas-driven generator to provide electricity. The government has provided a wind powered power plant and a solar collector backup but it only serves a few upper-class resorts. I have visited the power plant today and it is a good example how energy can be provided in a smart way. Coming down the hill to the main beach (long beach) was like heading to a big city. Noise and fumes from burned trash everywhere!
The tourists act like normal tourists. I have been on a snorkelling tour today around the islands. Nobody mentioned that large coral fields are dead! They touched giant old sea-turtles without thinking that the animals could suffer from stress. At the end I was very happy to be on the island again and away from the mainstream tourists.
On Thursday I plan to take a long distance bus back to Kuala Lumpur and go to another region: Borneo. This is the third biggest island in the world and is divided over three states: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It’s also home of the famous Orang Utans – The furry apes. After spending a few days there I will leave to Kuala Lumpur again for the last time. Maybe I can arrange a stop in Singapore and then continue to Bangkok.
From Kuala Lumpur to Melaka it was only a tiny hop in a nice, air-conditioned Bus. Melaka is well known as an important harbour in former times and also the area between Sumatra and Malaysia is called “Strait of Malacca”. Nowadays it’s famous for its bustling tourism. The city of Malacca consists of a core historical area (listed by UNESCO as world heritage), buffer zone and the rest of the city. The Malaysians try very hard to give the city an historical touch. Many buildings are beautifully renovated but also many buildings are just copies of houses that are long gone. On top of a hill is the remaining of a church and around the bottom of the hotel are many museums and other attractions. Some of the main attractions are: The two mega shopping malls, a kind of elevation unit that gives the spectators a view from a high level, a big ferry wheel and of course the food.
Food is one of the most important things in daily life of Malaysian people. You can see the eating anywhere, anytime. It’s simply amazing but very understandable. The variety of food is big and its pure pleasure to try out all the different kinds of food and drink. The only unpleasant thing was that I’ve lost again my GPS-unit. In Africa I’ve lost my handheld and here my unit for the camera. A big loss for me.
Pulau Perhentian (Kecil)
After a few nights in nice, but crowded Melaka the next destination was already figured out. In the north-east of Malaysia, close to the border of Thailand are a set of beautiful islands. Pulau Kecil, where I’ve stayed, is the smaller one of two islands and has a long, sandy beach and turquoise water. There are many young backpackers here and the main attraction is to soak in the water, snorkelling and of course diving. The island has no streets and cars but that means nothing when fuel-driven generators are running all the time, heavy boat traffic is in the bay and trash is burned in the woods. After a few more or less relaxing days the next destination is coming up: Kuching, the main city of Malaysia on south Borneo.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
In Malaysia, with the hot and humid climate, I often my me something to drink. The drink of today was "Whatever?" The drink tastes like what's printed on the outside - whatever!
Meanwhile I'm in Melaka. A nice historical town located on the western seaside of the main peninsula of Malaysia. I've realised that this city is a main attraction for foreigners and locals. The whole city lives from tourism. I never have seen so many museums and other facilities for tourists. Lazy, fat-ass tourists can even drive around in a bicycle rickshaw equipped with a massive sound system. Depending where the guest is from the music is Indian, Chinese, English...
Tomorrow I will carry on exploring the city and of course trying to eat as much as I can. Malaysia is famous for it's food. A mix out of Indian, Malayan, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and countless more. It's also one or the important things for everyone here. The food stalls in- and outside are almost around the clock well visited.
I've just finished uploading the pictures of the first days:
More information about Melaka:
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
My first Asia experience since ages started in Bangkok. After arriving at the new airport I took a bus into the city. Unfortunately it was rush hour and in Bangkok that means everything stands still. Almost three hours later I found a nice hotel near the Shukumvhit street. I’ve spent the rest of the evening strolling around in the neighborhood and recovered from my coffee hangover some hours before. In an Indian quarter I had a nice shisha with mint tea and the evening was perfect. At the next day I had my AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur. After a rapid drive to the airport I just wanted a quick check-in and then wait for boarding. The check-in area was a big surprise for me – numberless people waiting for check-in and queuing in long lines. It took me almost 45 minutes waiting for service and I was just able to get the flight in the last minute. After two hours flight I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. The first what I recognized was that sign system is existent but very inefficient. Many signs just lead to nowhere. It took ages and asking many peoples how to get to the city.
Kuala Lumpur is a nice little city (1.5 mill people). The twin towers dominate the scenery of the city and the radio tower close beside is almost as tall as the towers! The inner city is connected by a monorail and every important place can be reached in walking distance. China town and Litte India are the two important quarters beside the touristic places around the Bintang street. What always amazes me is authentic Asia food. Not the crap we get to eat at home! The interesting thing here is that the shops close already down at 22:00. In Bangkok life on the street is much longer going on.
Because Kuala Lumpur is a rather small city Melaka will be the next city tomorrow. It’s an important city and in former times very famous for trade. Probably after Melaka, Singapore will be the next station.
Monday, 8 June 2009
A short time ago Africa and now heading to Asia with full speed! I’m on an Austrian Airways flight from Vienna to Bangkok. Late night dinner has just been served and I’m still stoked about the service in business class. This is my first long distance business class flight and I enjoy it to the max. Except of me all others in the plane seem to be lazy asses and just want to sleep after a rich meal. Besides of sleeping people I love to be creative and write a bit of travelling experiences. Actually the video system just has crashed and I miss the video clips from Gym Class Heroes, The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz and many more. But hey, this is only one lonely downer – I had a classy meal: pre-ordered sea-food and served with champagne. After the main course, served by the cook himself, I got a fine dessert with special local Austrian schnapps.
After the really, really good food I have received a coffee menu with a selection of 10 different coffee styles. After a great meal and side dishes I was spontaneously in the mood to try all ten coffee styles. I’ve asked the charming service lady for a selection of ALL coffees and she surprisingly agreed. Now I’m here after the second coffee (Fiaker style) and waiting for the rest of the outstanding 8styles.
To give you a slight impression what’s going on here is the full list of fine coffees:
• Kleiner/großer Brauner: Black coffee rounded with fresh coffee cream
• Kleiner/ großer Schwarzer: Short or large black coffee
• Wiener Melange: A Classic with hot milk, foamed milk and black coffee
• Einspänner: Black coffee, whipped cream and powdered sugar
• Fiaker: Black coffe, cognac and whipped cream
• …just got Kaffee Baileys served: Black coffee, whipped cream, Baileys (of course) and cocoa powder. The chef was again so nice to serve it directly to his loony guest.
• Franziskaner: Fine black coffee with foamed milk, whipped cream and cocoa powder.
• Kaffee verkehrt: Black coffee with hot milk and foamed milk – just turned over
• Maria Theresia: black coffee and orange liqueur – a typical Viennese coffee specialty!
• Wiener Eiskaffee: A double espresso, vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream – At the moment I really wonder if I will see it at the end!
I’m in a really good position now – my experience with good coffee and spirit makes me the perfect coffee tester. According to the taste the one with orange liquor is served now. Served with a lot of passion and spirit it’s the best what you can get middle in the night- But we are not at the end – there are still five coffee styles coming up- It’s getting very tough now – after the massive supply with champagne, excellent digestives and an extraordinary selection of coffee I seem to get lazy and tired. But that is not the end!! I’m still watching music clips and pretend to be fully capable writing a report of excessive coffee abuse.
Writing a report about excessive behavior isn’t easy at all. The goal is to articulate yourself in action and don’t change anything when you are sober again. I just realize that I really need to concentrate because I’ve just lost track how many coffees I had. My feeling is that I still have five coffees to be served. As time goes by I also realize that it gets important to rush to the WC’s from time to time. I’m writing these sentences’ under extreme pressure. I just want someone for me to go to the toilet. In-between these thoughts a milk-coffee just have arrived. Watching video clips and drinking so much coffee has a special effect on reality. I feel now like a coffee addict on speed! I really wonder now how this evening will end – either pass out in-between or a nice good-night coffee at the end.
Now one of the most challenging moments is here – I have to fine a toilet – too much coffee!... Must run…
Hehe – I made it to the toilet and no one has mentioned my condition – full caffeine and no sleep. It seems that the short vacation in Asia has a good start. Outside the morning already starts. In the morning light I can see the rural areas of Mongolia or Afghanistan. With the help of a little “Franziskaner” it looks all very peaceful and quiet. There is one abnormity about my physical condition – Caffeine as a negative effect on me – Instead of getting a “kick in the ass” I get sleepy. All about the memories of a decent childhood! (Coffee smell from many mornings when I have missed my school class)
Now it’s finally enough – all coffees tasted and feel pleased. A short rest is needed before or a new expertise.
After a little nap I feel a bit crushed. Still sleepy after all the coffees and I hope my condition will change soon. Breakfast is being served now and I try to eat something. Wow – I really feel stuffed now!
Coming next: Short Bangkok review and Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Today a series of bad, job related experiences had a climax. A long awaited informal meeting was cancelled surprisingly and I wasn't informed about that. So I went to the meeting place and nobody was there. My master plan just turned into a waste of time. The original plan was to get a short break after the recent music festival after the final closing meeting. Two or three weeks to relax and then head back to the big board meeting to work out a new structure. The travel was just arranged two days ago deep night on Thursday. I found out that its now very cheap to get a business ticket to Bangkok -> short cross-check and I booked the flight and a connecting flight with a low cost carrier to Kuala Lumpur.
Great! - instead of starting a gonzo style travel in Malaysia I just start in chaos right over here in Austria. I've just completed the travel preparations - mainly doing paperwork - and now I just have to put all my stuff into a bag. Beside my extensive photo gear I also take my little laptop with me. I'll hopefully be able to deliver more reports as from Africa. I just have to drop into some adventures and be able to write about them. I have a good feeling! - let's give it a try...
Official travel details:
Graz (07-06-09) - Bangkok (08-06-09) - Kuala Lumpur (09-06-09)...something inbetween...Bangkok (28-06-09) - Graz (29-06-09)