Saturday, June 9, 2012


Beyond the Expat version of the Bangkok Night, throughout this vast swirling metropolis of uncounted millions, are an almost infinite number of other versions.  Thai coffee shops, lady barber shops, massages places from tiny holes in the wall to palatial structures with five hundred rooms, as large and luxurious as a major hotel, beauty salons, spas, snooker rooms, restaurants with special menus, telephone and internet escort services, beer gardens, giant discos, intimate member clubs, hostess bars, short-time hotels, drive-in curtain hotels, Isan music halls and numerous other venues visible and invisible, with and without names and constantly being re-invented, mainly for Thais, both ladies and men.

As large and varied as the Expat version of the Bangkok Night might be, it is only one world of many, less than ten percent of what is there.  The Japanese version has signs only in Japanese and sometimes no signs at all.  The Arab version is rough and full of shame.  The Indian version submerged, hidden and silent.  The Chinese version, mainly in Bangkok’s Chinatown, beyond the knowledge of even the Bangkok police and populated with Chinese from every country in Asia and every province in China.  For the Nigerians, another version known only to them.

And then there are the various gay, lesbian and ladyboy versions, some small and dark, others as glitzy as Las Vegas.  All of these worlds make up the universe of the Bangkok Night, one of the largest shows presently on earth and ever invented, an entertainment venue on a scale never before equaled in the history of mankind.

Whatever one might think and however one might judge, what’s there reflects the full range of mankind’s wishes and desires, weakness and strength, dreams and nightmares.  It is a spectacle invented in the human imagination and staged night after night, week after week, year after year, for an audience of millions.  To pretend it’s not there or that it shouldn’t exist is to overlook an essential element of the human spirit and struggle that reveals who we really are, down deep, not just who we pretend to be.

It is a universe full of clashing colors, dramatic contrasts, jagged lines, extremes of behavior and personality, mankind tilted on a primitive edge.  If the Fauvists or Expressionists were re-incarnated and alive today, the Bangkok Night is where they would be, watching, absorbing and painting.