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Lets all go to the movies Thai style

I saw Harry Potter yesterday, mostly because I didn’t think yet another night of drinking would be good for me. The theatre is in Siam Square, the western heart of the city, rife with fast food chains and shopping malls. Its a bit of a hike from my hotel over by Khao San road, but I started out on foot as it was rush hour and traffic is worse than usual then.

I walked the main boulevard for a bit until a reached the night market. In Asia, and especially Thailand, street vendors and the sellers of assorted crap will form up in specific locations as the sun goes down to catch people on their way home from work. It also helps that it is at least 20 degrees cooler at night. Last night, being the full moon, was especially important as the lunar cycle is the primary basis for the Thai calendar, and was doubly so as it was a Buddhist holiday. Thus, the market was jammed.

Besides watching for pickpockets, I wandered just looking about, taking in everything from the stalls selling deep fried bugs (big ones too) to the special stalls set up for the holiday selling floating candles adorned with red and yellow flowers. They are designed to be placed in the water with a bit of food and money and pushed out to sink or float. The Thaïs believe that the fate of these small offerings will dictate their luck, and thus a sinking candle is a reason for great distress. They also believe that couples should cast their lots upon the water at the same time, and should the currents carry them apart, so too will their relationship suffer by the year’s end. Talk about pressure....

I went to a 22:50 show, sprung the 250 baht (about $6.50) for a VIP seat- this includes a private lounge with attendant and full bar, reclining oversized seat in a small theatre, a blankets to keep warm during the movie. They had the usual prevues before any film, with the noted exception that they included both profanity and nudity well in excess of the pg-13 rating that Harry Potter had. They also had two ads for beer. Then the fun part- just before the feature, a message comes up on the screen "Please offer respect to our King", and then a stirring photo montage of the monarch was shown with the national anthem playing. All patrons were required to stand during the playing. I am not sure how that would go over in the states...

I will not speak of the movies other than to say I enjoyed it, although I wonder based on some of the shoddy splicing, whether I saw the full cut or something was edited out...

On my way home, I was forced to find a cab, which despite the city shutting down fairly early, should have been easy in a place as popular as Siam Square. In fact, there WERE plenty of taxis about, as were their would be passengers, but the cabbies weren’t interested in going to certain places nor did they wish to use the meter to calculate a fare, despite it being the law here. Thus, the people stood around looking lost, and the taxis idled.

Once I managed to find an honest cab, I had to walk the length of Khao San road to my hotel. Khao San, maybe 3 City blocks long, is like bourbon street (pre Katrina) in that it is garishly lit, choked with bars and tattoo parlors and cheap hotels. It is THE backpacker destination in Bangkok. I discovered that if one strays from the main roads, there are hotels to be found at cheap prices without the need to step over drunks or listen to bad techno all night long.

This was my first late night, sober stumble home, and thus I was more aware of the world around me. The sidewalks were lined with 100s of Thaïs, employees of the various bars and restaurants (closed at that hour), taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, sex workers (yes there are TONS of women I politely refer to as "bar girls") and assorted loiterers, along with the last straggling westerners. To be a lone drunk around here is a dangerous proposition....

Once I crossed off Khao San, I was in the back streets near my hotel. Just as western, just slightly more tasteful, I saw the crowds change from Thais and the odd drunk to westerners with a liberal Thai sprinkling, all hanging out on the street (as the bars were closed). I saw nothing unusual- the usual party atmosphere, bar girls taking one last shot at finding work for the night, but I was struck with what a roman orgy this place can be. I suspect that 10 years ago this place would have been more exciting to me. I have enjoyed my time here, but one can only drink so much, and fight off the hookers, the touts and the taxi drivers so often (if I get asked 1 more time if I was either “massage? or "go see ping pong show?...) Just the same, I like it here- mostly

Posted by Daver141 08:34 Archived in Thailand

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