Note: The photos of the bar, Sirocco, in this post are not mine – they are from the bar’s website. I couldn’t take many pictures at night as the flash just doesn’t do it justice. In addition – the sex clubs of course would not allow a camera…so you will have to use your imagination!
After two weeks of playing and eating all over Northern Thailand, I have arrived in the heart of Thailand – Bangkok – the city that screams SEX! There are about 9 million people living in the sprawling metropolis and no, not all of them are associated with the Sex Trade. However – Bangkok certainly has it’s seedy areas, like all cities, it’s just a little easier to find them than most cities.
This is also where Emily left me and returned sadly to NY. She was wonderful to travel with and extremely laid back/low-maintenance. So we had one day in Bangkok together – with an aggressive schedule of site seeing, massage, and nightlife. Like good New Yorkers, we first mastered the sky train system (basically their subway). It was a breeze (mainly because it only had two lines to keep track of) and they printed a little map on the back of every ticket…what a great idea! We took the sky train to the river and then took a river express taxi to the main tourist temple area. We wanted to go to Wat Pho.
Sure – we wanted to see the Reclining Buddha along with the throngs of other tourists, but what we really wanted to find was the Wat Pho Massage School…home of the best massages in Thailand! It had come highly recommended to us – so the reclining Buddha was just a perk in our minds! We wandered around the reclining Buddha, taking our customary photos and once again realizing that we know very little about Buddhism. It was hot outside and we were hunting around the temple in search of the massage school – finally we stopped and asked a couple of young girls walking by. They said…follow us…so we did. We followed them off of the temple grounds and down the alley, sure enough…they lead us right to it…the holy grail of Thai massage! Obviously we must have done something right in the temple as we were rather lucky for randomly asking people for directions – they ended up working there! It really was the best massage I had in Thailand!
We next got back to our hotel to get cleaned up as we had signed up for a night walking tour of Bangkok. The night our was to show us Bangkok by night – the ritzy, the dive bars, the cultural and the sexy. I know what you are all thinking…isn’t there some song about one night in Bangkok…well, yes there is – it’s from the 80’s:
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me
I think that pretty much sums it up! We were ready to go party in this town! The tour included dinner and drinks all night – and it went as late as you wanted it to…perfect! (for those of you interested – it was through Smiling Albino – www.smilingalbino.com) There were 6 other people in the group and our tour guide was a Canadian named Greg. He was a big, bald, white guy…I certainly felt safe with him. He had lived in Bangkok for 5 years now and loved it. We started by walking to a little dive bar by our hotel. It was an outdoor bar in a little circular alley. There really was no ‘inside’ to it as you sat on the street on a bar stool. When cars came down the alley, you had to pick up your stool and move out of the way until the car passed, then you moved back to sitting on the street. Thank God this was the 1st bar else one too many drinks and I would have been road kill! I wondered what kind of lease this bar paid considering the seating was in the street – I hope the owner got a good deal!
Photo: Bangkok neighborhood
Next we walked through an eclectic neighborhood where Africa, the Middle East, and Asia met – it was quite a site to see the array of restaurants. We walked down a small, crowded alley – but it was no regular alley with dumpsters. Instead it had more activities in this one alley to choose from than 90% of the towns in Nebraska! It was mind boggling! There were Thai and Persian restaurants, bars, laundry service, foot massage (chairs literally set up in the alley), karaoke booths, hookers, pancake vendors, tailors and an Internet cafe. This really was a good use of space! Next we hopped on the sky train and went to a great restaurant where Greg ordered us a feast. Emily and I convinced him to order a spicy papaya salad and we enjoyed it with our wine (good wine…finally!).
After dinner we were whisked away in a mini van to the glitzy side of Bangkok – The Dome at State Tower. This building used to be one of the many unfinished construction shells – a victim of the Thailand financial crisis a few years back. However in the last 4 years, they have completed it and it’s a beauty. At the top is a bar called Sirocco (meaning warm winds) – this was our next destination! We went to the 64th floor and the moment we stepped off the elevator I could feel it. No, not the warm winds, but the ‘red rope’ snobbery was in the air. The bouncers looked us up and down evaluating our ‘worthiness’. In NYC there is no way in hell that our motley crew of 9 would have gotten in. They would’ve taken one look at our jeans, tennis shoes, and fanny packs and said “Get the F out of here.” For the record, I was not wearing a fanny pack or tennis shoes…I tried my best to tidy myself up with flip flops and jeans…but traveling out of one bag for a year is pretty limiting! I feel that I must reassure my friends that I haven’t changed that much since I left! Sure, I may eat a rat and sleep on a mattress on the floor for $3, but I’d still like to believe that I have style.
Miraculously the bouncers let us in. They obviously didn’t know that they could turn us away like in NYC – apparently they had never been there – thank God. We went through the doors that led outside and I saw a view like no other – it literally looked like you could walk right off the roof. I had to remind myself that we were not in the safety-crazed US – we are in Thailand.
In NYC, this place would’ve had 8 ft. high safety railing and nets like at the Rockefeller building. Here at Sirocco they had a 5 ft. glass railing – completely see through on the edge of the building. There was no real safety netting that would even deter people from throwing things over the side. I felt like I should ‘hook in’ somewhere before I went down the huge staircase to the bar precariously perched on the far corner. I ordered a martini as I scanned around at the beautiful people. After my drink came, I was preoccupied with thoughts around the dangers of serving alcohol 64 stories up with a short railing (I think I would have been safer petting more live tigers with the monks)! It really was a great place – a place that could never exist in the US. I stood by the railing and talked to the other people on our tour all the while I had my hand ‘white knuckled’ to the railing while the other one firmly held my martini. We bid adieu to the swanky bar and next headed to the heart of nightlife in Bangkok.
Photo: My only picture of the bar that night…from my camera!
We arrived in Pad Pong – the sex bar lined market place that comes alive at night. Sure – it’s the sex haven of Bangkok, but it also houses a night market that mainly sells knock-offs items from Tiffany, LV, Gucci, D&G, Polo, and of course Coach…you name it – it’s here. It’s surrounded by sex bars with young boys trying to convince you to come in and see the ‘sites’. One of the women in our tour group had 2 kids in their early 20’s that she wanted to get gifts for. She asked for my help in shopping for them. I decided not to tell her that I was closer to 40 than to 20 – that was better left unsaid. So I helped her pick out Coach, Tiffany, and Diesel for her kids and taught her how to ‘bargain’ at a market. It was a blast to negotiate with someone elses money. She was loaded with items by midnight…mission accomplished.
The rest of the tour group decided to call it a night around midnight. Greg said that he would stay out with Emily and I as long as we wanted. Great…we wanted to see the sex bars and the infamous ‘Girly-Boys’ of Bangkok. On our way to the Girly-Boy club young boys came up to us and would ask “Ping pong?”. I had actually read about Ping Pong in Pad Pong (say that 3 times fast!) once – so I knew what they were trying to get us to come in and view. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable describing it in the blog – so if you want to know what it is – send me an email and ask (or google it). I judge no one – so feel free to ask. I felt obliged to tell Emily what it was for fear of her saying yes to one of the boys and thinking that she was going to see table tennis. We both agreed that we could skip Ping Pong.
We arrived at the Girly-Boy club. For those of you that don’t know what a Girly-boy is – it’s a transvestite – a really good one. Quite frankly – I was envious of every girly-boy’s body in there! They were stunning and so convincing – the average person would have no idea that these were men – thanks to a lot of plastic surgery. They all had bigger boobs than me – which for those of you that know me – this is no surprise. We entered and were immediately ushered to a seat at the bar. In the middle of the bar there was a stage with a dozen poles and the ‘women’ were up there dancing. They would basically try to get your interest and therefore your permission to come and sit with you.
We ordered some beers and Emily and I sat there in awe. It was great to have Greg there as you could ask him any question about the whole scene – and who in their right mind wouldn’t have questions?! Of course the #1 question that came to mind was, “Do the male patrons here know that the beautiful creatures they are intently watching are/were men?” Greg’s answer was that about half knew exactly what they were looking at – the other half…were probably in for a surprise. Needless to say – the girly-boys weren’t too interested in Emily and I – which was fine with me. Next we wanted to see the real women of Pad Pong. Greg took us to a regular strip joint next. We stayed a short time but long enough to realize that the girls were young and not half as gorgeous as the girly-boys!
Photo: Emily and I at dinner
Emily needed to get back to the hotel for a 4:30 wake up call to catch her morning flight – so we walked through Pad Pong to find a cab. As we walked through – you are bombarded by the site of old men with young Thai girls which kind of made your stomach turn…it was disturbing – but so is someone smoking crack on the NYC subway next to you. Every city has it’s ‘devils’…but that’s what gives it character. Greg put us in a cab and we returned to our safe little hotel. Our one night in Bangkok was complete – One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster!