By Richard Ammon
Updated November 2017
The beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej (photo right) died at the age of 88, on 13 October 2016, after a long illness. A year-long period of mourning was subsequently announced. A royal cremation ceremony took place over five days at the end of October 2017. The actual cremation, which was not broadcast on television, was held in the late evening of 26 October 2017. So there were tears aplenty in the kingdom for this old much revered monarch.
Aside from the personal and intimate aspects of this situation is the reality that his less-than-beloved son has followed as monarch, leaving Thais to worry about the political stability of the country that’s already shaky with changing prime ministers and a military takeover.
As for the sex trade here, it is a much over-rated and exaggerated slice of life, as sex issues often are anywhere. Most Thais do not relate to the red-light activities in the three or four major cities; a modest portion of foreign visitors or expats do indeed come for the carnal pleasures which are easily had if one is looking for them. Heteros outnumber homos, as usual, so an observer can see many middle-aged and older men walking along with a young smooth-skinned women, holding hands or not, and probably sporting a shopping bag of gifts from ‘daddy’ to his ‘girl’.
The gays are not dissimilar with older gents from all over North America and Europe accompanied by younger Thai guys, or visiting one of the several sex club saunas. It’s a common sight here that blends into the larger city scenes of markets, bright lights, tourism and traffic. It’s too simplistic to judge this sexuality as an exploited industry; it is after all a consensual adult activity and serves both parties well, albeit for different purposes, both pleasure and profit.
The major situation at the present time, in central Thailand, is the severe flooding that has occurred over the past two months following unusually heavy el nino-induced rainstorms. Surrounding Bangkok are tens of thousands of inundated acres and many small villages where the water has reached to the second floor of houses. As of November 11, the water seems to have crested but is receding very slowly leaving countless piles of ruined furniture, farmland, livestock and houses, not to mention roads and local sanitation facilities, factories and lost jobs. Manufacturing around the world has been affected by the shutdown of these essential supplier sources.
It is a especially sad because virtually all of these poor rural village and townspeople have no insurance or sufficient savings so any repairs and restoration is left for owners and tenants to do by hand. Much criticism is aimed at the unpreparedness of the government despite the mountains of sandbags in and around Bangkok. In various places poor planning has made sandbagging worsen the water flow. Some residents in the suburbs were so irate they tore open sandbag dikes because they were inhibiting drainage from their homes.
So in Bangkok this year there are tears, sex and floods.
A friend recently asked, why go to Bangkok?
My responses are many: because the people are pretty here–men and women. Because of the cooking aromas of the portable street kitchens. Because the architecture is different, including the monstrously and stylish new glass skyscrapers and condo towers adjacent to old wooden houses set among green trees along narrow alleyways and back streets. Because of the night market and it millions of ‘stuff’. Because people bow to one another with respect.
Because of the elevated SkyTrain that whisks us across the city in no time. Because of the up-most-scale hotels along the Chao Praya River (now flooding). Because of the cheap ($7) foot and body massages from guys and gals (some of whom are willing to arouse a customer for an extra fee). Because of the soothing affordable facials ($15). The rooftop swimming pools. The sounds of endless new construction. The color of orchids. The countless golden shrines set up to honor the aged and frail king, as well as Buddha (with glowing incense sticks).
Because of the language which sounds exotic and looks like elegant scribbling; because there’s a 7/11 store on every corner. Because there are fruit stands on every other corner. Because the locals treat tourists with politeness; whenever you buy something the merchant puts hands together and bows gratefully. Because the young guys wear their thick black hair in so many styles from wild bush, to slick down.
Because they wear sandals here. Because service workers do good work. Because Thailand is the most westernized SE Asian country with slick new train service from the BKK airport to city center and air-con express buses from the airport to Pattaya/Jomthien beaches. Not because of the beggars sitting on the sidewalks hands uplifted in appeal. Because the city virtually bubbles with human activity almost 24 hours a day.