“Are you travelling alone?” I’m asking a backpacker whom we have just met during the breakfast buffet on the Khao San Road in Thailand.
It’s hard to oversee that he partied last night, like most of the people who visit the notorious backpacker mile. “No, actually, I was on the road with two of my mates. Suddenly, they were gone. They have probably picked up any Thai barkeeper… I’m feeling really sorry for her,” he answers with a mischievous grin. “I guess they have treated her very badly.”
Long it has been no secret that the red light district of Thailand has evolved into a rudimentary illegal economic sector. In this regard, Pattaya is the sex tourism stronghold for lustful men of predominantly high age. I followed the obscure going-ons of the horizontal industry the last days in Pattaya and Bangkok.
Nevertheless, I run out of words. I’m sitting opposite of my interlocutor and have somehow no more desire to continue the conversation.
I spent 14 days first over New Year’s eve in Bangkok, then in South Thailand. My uncle moved some time ago to Ban Chang, a compact, cute village in the province of Rayong. Despite of all the wonderful and new gained impressions, I couldn’t engage in Thailand with heart and soul.
I fell unluckily in love with Thailand.
Yes, for me, Thailand was an unhappy love affair.
Scenically, it has a lot to offer. Stunning beaches, islands and interesting architecture. One can’t also get enough of all the exotic, juicy fruits. Everywhere, there grew different plant species and in the village where my uncle lives, the population perhaps consisted of 70% humans and 30% straying dogs. One dog even became our closest friend. I baptized him tenderly “Struppi”.
In respect thereof, I fell head over heels in love with Thailand. However, I couldn’t ignore the shadow side. Even if it’s easy for travelers to perceive especially the positive, uncommon things without considering the draw back.
The booming business with sex tourism belonged undoubtedly to it. Particularly in big cities one can find at countless corners Thai massages with “happy end”, roughly every third barkeeper works additionally as a prostitute and tourists are being lured with free beer to infamous ping pong shows. I was aware that many areas of Thailand are famous for the red light tourism, but to see to what extent moral scruples were turned off – that was shocking.
It was blindly ignored that prostitution in Thailand is mainly taken into consideration on account of poverty, lack of perspectives and a lack of social protection. In other countries, where prostitution exists, the reasons may be for the most part the same. But the stampede of tourists that check out one sex show after another or buy a Thai girl who probably just turned 18, I only found unsettling. It was simply no pleasant experience to realize that. Those facts also made me feeling uncomfortable for the first time, when making the roads unsafe on my own.
Moreover, the inhabitants in Thai metropolis have to deal with massive environmental problems. Even on sunny days, there was always a grey veil in the sky and the air was often so stuffy, that it caused sickness and headache. On top of that, there were all the unknown smells of food stands, but also of canalization and piles of garbage. Sometimes the smells were quite interesting, on the other hand, they leave locals no other choice than to wear breathing protection. Through the harmful exhaust fumes, construction dust and other toxic substances, always more and more natives suffer from respiratory aliments. Then, there’s the constantly growing population
The environmental pollution was not only visible, but one could also literally feel and taste it. Partly, it was so unbearable that I even missed the air of the Frankfurt Highway at the Miquelalle, where I live. ;(
Apartments in Bangkok
Tourists can recognize the poor working conditions and the low-paid jobs especially from the work of the taxi drivers. Everyone who has already been to Thailand, may be familiar with that phenomenon. One beckons a taxi driver to stop, but a wordless head-shaking is often the only frustrating answer. If one is given a ride, it’s not uncommon that the drivers charge high prices at the end or that they drive extra long detours. Especially tuk-tuk-drivers have a bad reputation because they are often not driving to the desired destination, but instead to an indecent area. Tourists call that with good reason a rip-off. However, if one informs about that problem, one learns that the salaries of taxi drivers are often so low that it’s hardly possible to keep oneself above water. On top of that, a bigger part of the income has to be ceded.
Certainly it’s not fair that tourists have to charge twice as much as locals. Nevertheless, if the taxi driver has done his work properly, we’ve always given him small tips. A more reasonable solution would be indeed a fair, single price which would lead similarly to more tips.
Despite of the negative experiences, I very much enjoyed my time in Thailand. I was especially delighted to be able to spend more time with my sister, my uncle and my cousin from Berkley. In my second report about Thailand, which will follow soon, you’ll experience more about all the positive, unforgettable experiences of my journey.