Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sleepless in Bangkok

It's about 5:30 AM here, but I can't seem to fall asleep. Last night was a lot of fun. I made it to Khao San Road, and after seeing it, was extremely thankful I'm not staying there (though most backpackers do). Once upon a time, it catered to seasoned backpackers, but if yesterday was any indication, it's more of a carnival, populated by American fast food chains, Thai bars, and hostels. It's stil worth a visit though.

The night got much more interesting when a woman I befriended on CSurfing informed me of an impromptu meeting of CSers at a hotel bar. I hopped in a tuk-tuk, and made my way across the city to join them around 10:30 PM. Halfway there, a rainstorm broke out, and tuk tuks are VERY exposed as I found out, particularly when a Corolla speed past us, completely drenching me. I was a shivering mess by the time I arrived at a very posh five star hotel, where the staff stared at me in complete bewilderment and the tuk tuk driver couldn't stop laughing (he was completely dry somehow). But I love rain, and it was a hell of a ride.

I met the CSers, a dozen or so people, some living in Bangkok, some passing through, some Thais, and a lot of other nationalities. After the hotel closed, we headed to one of the CSers rooms (it was actually just one room, and a bunch of us crowded in). We spent the rest of the night there talking Thai nationalism, and discussing the sex industry.

The conversation about the sex industry was particularly fascinating. One of the women present has been working with EMPOWER, an NGO that help sex workers. In the course of conversation, Chanelle informed me that there was actually very little trafficking, and the sex workers she taught were actually in the trade by choice. She had come thinking the same as I had, that most of the women were forced into it, but had learned that the excellent compensation (3-4 times what a women of the same education could earn otherwise, essentially hazard pay to offset the dangers of working in the industry) and fairly acceptable work environment attracted women completly of their own will. Though I can't be certain her story represents the whole picture, I'm inclined to believe she's correct.

The night ended with me wandering home to my hostel through streets populated by cats, roaches and rats, with a stop to pick up a shrimp burger at a Seven-11.

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