Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bangkok Story---Part II

Part two of my Bangkok story……

A bit of shopping and souvenir hunting done alone (the best part of it all), we had to go to this huge mall in the city centre. Since it was a work related trip, we had to take in several malls, despite none of us being quite interested in them. Malls there are just like those you would find anywhere else, though they were much more spacious than those in Bangalore. Some were so huge that our poor feet got sore walking from one end to the other.

We saw several international brand stores, some traditional Thai artifacts, listened to some pleasant music, saw tons of Thai youth… After a whirlwind tour of malls and some more shopping, we were taken to this show at Siam Niramit. And that was simply wow! It is advertised as the greatest show on Earth and though that might be disputable, it was certainly one amazing piece of art and technology I saw.

Read the story I wrote for Sunday Express magazine section about Siam Niramit here.

An exhausting day over, mot of us were done for the day, though some in our group went out to see the notorious Bangkok night life. The next day was more relaxing, the highlight being a nice, really nice and long foot massage I got. Thai body massages are very well known, by the way.

In all, it was a nice trip, I would say, though a very short one. Like I said earlier, there was nothing extraordinary I found about the city. It reminded me of several other cities I have been to. Though if you look closer, there are several uneasy things too.

Bangkok is known as the sex capital of the world and I could see why. Every few minutes, I saw an aging/bald/middle aged/fat/rich white man walking by the street with a gorgeous/skimpily dressed/very young/stylish/poor Thai girl. Politely they are called escorts of course. But just a cursory glance was enough to see what exactly was going on. The girls would cling on to the men, make them pay for their shopping and give them company in return for a few days and weeks. The girls I must say were all beautiful, often classy even, with beautiful clothes on, high heels, lovely skin and makeup. But when you examine the conditions they live under, it is heart wrenching.

At the airport, I picked up a book called Sex Slaves- The Trafficking of Women in South Asia, I forget the name of the author. In it, she examines the reasons and methods by which women get trapped into sexual slavery. A very disturbing book. Several examinations of the Thai society talked of how the flesh trade was not viewed the way it was seen in most other countries. Parents of little girls in rural Thailand seemingly even encourage them to get into the trade as it would bring in not merely food for the family, but also a TV for the house, better clothes and a better lifestyle. The beauty I saw on the faces of these girls were but another makeup they wore to accentuate their naturally straight hair and good skin, a façade to the lives they led. What they get is momentary company, a small glimpse into a rich, jet set life, a diversion to the tourist on the look out for some fun during the holidays.

It was extremely disturbing to see such couples everywhere in Bangkok. Nothing is discreet. It was as if poverty and social conditions had removed even the last shreds of dignity and hope that held the Thai society together. A beautiful culture, a beautiful people, victim to that age old demon of poverty, of wants, of not having a means to a better life. It is very sad indeed.

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