Friday, October 16, 2009

In Thailand Mr Gray Gets Play

Come to Bangkok and you’ll notice it right away, older White guys with much younger partners.  To my eye the White guys have a much younger woman Thai woman on their arms but sometimes the older white guy is being accompanied by a much younger Thai man.  This situation was much less noticeable in Singapore.  So what’s going on here?

Just as the US has different ethnic groups that have been drawn at different times to different areas of the country (such as Blacks leaving the South for the opportunity in the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest) the same is true for Thailand.  Darker skinned country people are drawn to the wealth, glitter and jobs in Bangkok, leaving the farm, poverty and traditional Thai village life.  Thai men get traditional Thai male jobs and women often find their fortunes administering traditional Thai massage, which, depending on the situation may or may not be prostitution.  I’ve been approached over and over for “massasse”.  I didn’t pursue which propositions were for massage and which were for the world’s oldest profession.  But some looked like country girls and some looked like workin’ girls.

So what about the farang men (I suppose it happens but I’ve yet to see an older Thai man with a young white woman on his arm)?  They’re often gray haired, bald, bubble bellied and/or gimpy.  Back in Europe or Australia he’d be Grandpa and no chance to be in the company of a much younger man or woman, much less live with and sleep with them.  Back at home there’d be no play for Mr Gray. 

It’s also a great opportunity for the woman to play Thai social leapfrog.  Darker skinned northern Isan women seem to be at the lower levels of the Thai social pecking order.  Skin color seems to be very important in Thailand, skin whitening and lightening creams are advertised on billboards and in TV commercials that end with a woman finding love only after she finds lighter skin.  With an older white man in her life she can dress better, wear cosmetics and have lighter skinned hapa children.  It seems to be win/win for everybody.  And everybody deserves the chance to be happy.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Phnom Penh – Where Old Camrys Go to Die

What do you call a country where everything is priced in US dollars, where a beer costs just $1 (.75 during happy hour) but signs in English warn you to not patronize the country’s infamous child sex industry? Here’s a hint, I found it in my hotel room but I’m seeing it all over town:

Phnom Penh - Cambodia Welcomes Responsible Tourists

Cambodia is still recovering from wars involving the United States, its neighbor to the east Vietnam and a civil war which culminated in a genocide that wiped out a generation and targeted anyone with any knowledge (doctors, teachers, engineers) about anything beyond day to day farming and peasantry for death.  2 million Cambodians perished at the hands of their countrymen.

Here's a story that ties obvious corruption and a convicted Russian pedophile in one nasty little package: Pedophile Was Permitted To Leave Prison  Why?  To go visit one of his many investments,of course.

The present government of Cambodia is a corrupt mess but I’m sure that most Cambodians find that preferable to the genocidal government that it replaced.  So Cambodia is a land of dollar beer and no local industry to speak of other than tuk-tuk taxi driving and child prostitution.  So why are the streets choked with Lexus cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuks?  And why are a majority of the cars I see in Phnom Penh Toyotas and why are the lions share of those Lexus SUV’s and Toyota Land Cruisers and Camrys yet there are no Honda Accords (but plenty of Honda CRV’s)?  

But wait, it gets stranger.  The Camrys are all American spec with US 2.5 MPH bumpers and I’d bet every last one of them popped out of Toyota’s assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.  They look very different from the Thai assembled Camrys I saw in Bangkok and that Toyota sells in most of the world outside of North America.  I rode in one from the Phnom Penh airport to my hotel and noticed that the speedo showed MPH, not KPH.  Then I started noticing that some of the Camrys on Phnom Penh’s streets carried stickers on their rumps from dealers in places like Miami, FL and Norman, OK.  A few had California license plates, one a Colorado tag.  I’ve combed through the Internet and other travelers have noticed the dominance of the Camry here but nobody has an explanation why. 

My best guess is that these Camrys were indeed built and bought either new or more likely used in America by Cambodians or Cambodian Americans and sent home to the rest of the family. That would also explain the Toyota Tacomas I’m seeing.  Outside of North America the Toyota pickup is known as the Hi-Lux and I’ve seen a few of those along with a few other North America only models such as the Toyota Matrix.

I have no explanation for all of the Toyota Land Cruisers I see in Phnom Penh in both Toyota and Lexus dress.  Most are late model and the Land Cruiser sells for around $65,000 new in the US, the Lexus variant costs around $76,000.  They have big thirsty V-8’s, all of this in a country with next to no economy and no Lexus dealers.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Getting Out of the Tropical Sun

While out for a stroll in Bangkok this morning I notice a part of the street was covered.  See the covered area, right above the blue bus?  Refuge for me.
Bangkok - Rama 4 Road
The sun was bright ands broiling, the air was thick and smothering with humidity and diesel exhaust and I was going to walk down that street anyway, I wonder what’s going on under there?
Well, it’s a kind of local market.  Not the kind of market I’m used to with a dairy section, frozen vegetables and ice cream.  But there was plenty of fresh produce and an abundance of of meat.  Chickens and ducks were crammed into cages and were cackling and calling .  Live frogs encased together in nets that were as big as soccer balls.  Tubs full of squirming eels wriggled in desperation.  Catfish were being grabbed and having their heads hacked off with cleavers.  Turtles were climbing over each other trying to escape.  The sidewalk was slippery with a residue of guts and blood.  It was just another day at the market for the locals in the tin shacks who were gathering up the ingredients of their next few meals.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Viva La Revolucion!

Bangkok seems to have an attraction to Che Guevara.  Locals wear the famous Che shirt and there’s no reason that the attraction should be any less in Bangkok than it is back home in Seattle where an expensive clothing store for children at Pike Place Market sells them to well healed high earning revolutionary parents in baby sizes.  This stall at the Chatujak Market in Bangkok can fill the reddest of cadre’s Marxist-Leninist needs with posters and T shirts.

Bangkok - Che

But Thailand is a monarchy, Massachusetts born King Bhumibol Adulyadej is currently the world’s longest reigning monarch.  The people of Thailand revere their King and the government in Thailand is famously intolerant of dissent on the subject of the King and the royal family.  The Internet is routinely searched for any signs of lèse majesté and those who brave or foolhardy enough speak out against the monarchy are hunted down, found and tossed into a prison system so harsh that even the most conservative or senile member of the US Supreme Court would be sure to find it cruel and inhuman.

Here’s what you see if you try and research the subject of the King of Thailand, even in English, from within Thailand:

Royal Research

Here’s the URL that I was delivered to:  It seems that it’s not only the Chicoms that have a Great Firewall


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Go East (not so) Young Man

International travel sounds so easy.  Find an overseas destination, land an agreeable airfare and jet for adventure.  But oh what a pain in the ass it can be sometimes. 
It took around 24 hours from the moment I set out from my house in Seattle until my taxi pulled up at my hotel in the Sukhumvit section of Bangkok.  Only 24 hours to traverse 14 time zones.  On the other hand it’s quite uneventful, long stretches of sleepless boredom punctuated by an occasional meal, an announcement in Korean from the cockpit (I flew Asiana) or a screaming child.  It would help if I could sleep on a plane but for I simply can’t. 
I awoke at dawn and hit the soi to see the local street food vendors selling breakfast to the locals: