Bangkok Tourists, but not as you know them.
Kristophe Lionnet reports from Bangkok.
Welcome to the land of smiles.
Picture this: two men are discussing their itinerary for the day in the reception of the Tarntawan, a pleasant boutique hotel in the Patpong red light district of Bangkok. The discussion continues later in one of the local street bars.
James and Kasem had been together about two years, sort of a couple, sort of something else. They retained separate homes, James’s a pleasant bungalow on the outskirts of Pattaya, Kasem’s a tiny windowless flat in the centre of the town, just a bed, washbasin and toilet. Significantly less pleasant than the air-conditioned, three-bedroom bungalow, Kasem would retreat to it when life closed in on him and a night of beers on the town seemed the only answer.
James was English and had moved to Thailand eight years before, essentially to retire from his nursing career to a place where he could expect continuous warmth, from the sun above and, hopefully, also from the guy below in his bed. He had found Kasem in a go-go boy bar. He was wearing number 8, James’s lucky number.
James had immediately “offed” Kasem, the local parlance for paying a fee to the bar to release the staff member into the waiting arms of his scheduled lover. They had never looked back. Kasem, by then twenty-nine and old for the majority of the bar’s clients, had long been waiting to retire from his unenviable life. So retire he had.
Now here comes the interesting bit: never in the now thirty-one years of his life had Kasem visited the tourist sights of Bangkok. Let’s accompany him and James on their exploration of this most outrageously exotic of cities.
Bangkok is a traffic disaster area. Cabs rattle and collide, tuk-tuks careen around the narrow, choked streets, leaving their passengers face to face with the belching exhausts of aged buses, motorbikes dash between the jammed vehicles, sometimes fatally failing to find the gaps. James, all too aware of these pitfalls, knew that the answer was the Chao Phrya River. Various styles of ferry ply the wide river, from local services crammed with residents returning from work or shopping to smart Express Boats at higher prices for the tourists.
The major tourist sites are all accessible from the river. First up is the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, on the west bank. Created with embedded porcelain to sparkle in the rising sun, the main prang in Khmer style rises impressively over 100 metres to the sky. But today it’s free of glitter as dark clouds obscure the sun. Kasem climbs the steep staircase to the top. James admires his athleticism from below. Kasem buys flowers and joss sticks and says prayers for his family. And, perhaps, his benefactor.
Back on the boat, it’s a ride of about fifteen minutes to the pier from which to visit the famous reclining Buddha Temple, Wat Po. James is impressed all over again by the huge gold-leafed figure, more than 45 metres long and 15 metres tall. Kasem takes a note from James, exchanges it for small change and distributes the coins amongst the many bowls that lie alongside the recumbent figure.
The final and most exotic sight awaits the two guys. Lovers of golden extravagance have been known to drift into private orgasms at their first sight of the Grand Palace.
Built in traditional Thai architecture mixed with European touches, this complex was once the official home for the Kings of Siam. The King still uses the Grand Palace for ceremonial occasions. But, since he is in hospital at the time, Kasem is not expecting to meet him.
In a corner of the complex the boys find Wat Pra Keow, home to the 45 centimeter Emerald Buddha. Carved from just one piece of Jade, it is the holiest and most revered religious object in Thailand. Kasem sits respectfully for many minutes contemplating the image. James ponders on the weird creativity of the Thais who respectfully change the outfit worn by the jade image four times a year. Yes, the changes follow the catwalk seasons. So fashionable!
Two fatigued and mildly damp tourists retire to their hotel. A cooling shower and with their energies restored, we leave them tumbling onto the welcoming sheets of the King-size bed. Your imaginations can supply the happy ending.
Love to all my readers.
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