I really enjoyed my stay in Bangkok and I encourage you to read my previous post on the compelling side of Thailand. There are, however, negatives to visiting Thailand, some of which you may be prepared for, semi-prepared for, or not at all.
1. Tourist Traps
I’d like to think I am a smart traveler. I hate the main tourist scenes. I hate structure. I hate buying plastic key chains and paying large sums of money for anything luxurious during travel. I like seeing real people and I like finding the real action and answers to all my cultural questions.
Bangkok, unfortunately, has now become a tourist culture, so you are sucked into the Thai hurling tourist traps, services, and goods at you–doing so by touching your arms, yelling at you, and shoving things in your face, until you are just at the point of explosion. I don’t blame the people for this at all, everyone has to feed a family, but I do believe that as soon as a city attracts tourism, the city itself becomes exactly that–the tourist haven–and, for the purpose of earning more money, the tourist trap. I also believe that most people in countries like Thailand have been given no other lucrative option.
My Map of Bangkok
Here is a part of my map of Bangkok. After we had seen a temple or two to the west part of the map, we headed to Wat Po. Here, we met an old man outside who explained to us that we could not enter because we were not wearing sleeved shirts and long pants. He explained to us that after 2 o’clock we could return to see it with out attire.
This is when he offered that we take a Tuk Tuk (three wheeled motor scooter) to take us to several locations, for only 40 baht, and this would give us just enough time to make it back to the temple by 2. 40 Baht is just about $USD1.50. We took the offer, of course.
This is when the driver befriended us on the way to the first site, asking us about our nationalities, complimenting our looks, telling us about Bangkok, etc, which was all very pleasant. It was not until he told us we should stop at the first shopping mall “just to look around” if we wanted, where we felt that we were not in control of where we were going. After this, he told us that we would head to a silk shop, where he receives a free ticket for a liter of gas if he brings tourists there, which would “Help me so much, because gas is so expensive and I charge you only 40 baht.” We agreed. After coming out of the silk shop still without any purchases and quite a degree of uncomfortableness, he explained that before we stop at Golden Mountain, we will be going to one more place for us to “Just look around for 10 minutes,” because he receives another 200 baht of gasoline free. We realized from here what we got ourselves into. We were being paraded around like a group of idiots, so that we could be used as tools for a Tuk Tuk driver to get free gasoline credits.
This is when we demanded to be taken to the Grand Palace and left there. After a massive aggressive and rude reaction to this and a fight to demand him to take us back, he left the car, went and smoked a cigarette, and then, speeded to the Grand Palace in rage, and left us without saying one more word.
After this, we decided that we would only take taxis. This also didn’t work, because in Bangkok, the traffic is so bad, that it took us almost 2 hours to drive from the Grand Palace to Si Lom, where we stayed. Without traffic, it would have taken no less than 15 minutes. I strongly suggest the Sky Train transportation, and boat, as much as possible. However, we learned that you must be aware of boat travel too, because the public boat is just fine, but you will be conned into taking a private boat for hundreds of more Baht because the driver reached YOU before YOU reached the public boat station. You can’t ever say yes too quickly.
2. Regular Taxi Scams
We were also scammed by a taxi, who wanted to charge us 100 baht for a 2 minute ride in the evening. He had no meter in the car, so there was no way to track the price. Earlier that day we paid 150 baht for the 2 hour taxi ride back home. We refused to pay 100 and gave him 50. He accepted it, after we blew and the fire was unleashed. He wanted to cheat us, because clearly we’re just a group of idiots to him.
3. Sexual Tourism/Prostitution/Sexual Slavery
What tears me apart about Bangkok is the sexual tourism. When I say “tears me apart,” I mean to the point where I didn’t sleep while I was there, to the point where every last woman holding onto bars, hanging out doors, and even those that remain unseen, were ripping my beating heart out of my chest.
I read too much about sexual tourism, sexual slavery, Thailand’s human trafficking, and the reality of the millions of women and children that are forced to have sex with over 15 men per night, perhaps even 5 times their age, and are left with a hollow body, where the soul has already escaped them.
You cannot walk 5 feet in Bangkok without men that shove signs into your face that say “Pussy Ping Pong, Pussy Banana Shoot, Pussy “Eel”traction,” Pussy Razor Blade, If you do not know what these are, I trust you either google it or just use your imagination. I’m sorry this is uncensored, but I’m more sorry for the girls that have to tolerate any of these things for less than 100 Baht.
Bangkok's Red Light Source: http://photos.igougo.com
A lot of prostitution is a choice in Bangkok. Not all of the women are forced to sell their bodies. However, for many women, this is one of the only avenues society has offered them. It is even socially acceptable in Bangkok for a poor family to encourage their daughter to support them through prostitution. Those who even desire to leave it choose to fall back into it, because this is the only environment they will have ever known.
Maybe it’s still hard to understand what prostitution means in Asia, it’s even still hard for me. But what I do know is that there is a repulsive and brutal hypocrisy of an “abstinent culture before marriage” and yet more sex slavery and rape here than anywhere else in the world. I encourage anyone who reads this to look up youtube videos or read the books I’ve recommended below.
If you think this picture is disturbing, perhaps we should think about how disturbing it is for her.
The sexual tourism part of prostitution is only a small fraction of the demand for women in Asia. The majority of the men demanding sex are Asian themselves, and this is neither frowned upon or forbidden to single or married men. A night with a prostitute is often given to young boys on their birthdays when they reach adulthood. Businessmen pay for new partners to enjoy a night of sex during their stay for good business. I would like to remind everyone that I am not generalizing or stereotyping anyone in blame, but the final point of this part of my blog is to just let you know that this behavior by anyone to anyone is sick, monstrous, and horrific.
“I think some foreign men think it’s okay to pay for sex here in Thailand, as they think the girls actually want to do this. But these men don’t understand that most of us have no choice .” -Pim, former Bangkok sex worker
I encourage anyone to seek knowledge on this and to find some way to either promote awareness or support abolitionists. I also encourage anyone to find a cause that motivates them and to write about it to someone.
Tourist traps, overcharged taxis, sexual tourism and underground human trafficking: I hope that this entry has, at least, made you never want to feel ignorant to what goes on around you in a foreign country, or even your own.
Websites I like:
Books I like: