Continued from The Sun Worshipper, Part 1:
As I was saying, the Second Thing on my mind is “What’s up with all this bit about the ‘red light district‘ and Thai ‘sex vacations’?
I kind of believe they don’t even exist and while my wife has given me so many examples and warnings of the ways these women – and often women who are men – come on to foreigners, entrap them, I have seen not a trace of this kind of activity in the area where we live.
“These women will compliment on your eyes, your height, your body – even if you were more fat-bellied than you are,” she says.
I say, “But you know I am not at all interested in that type of thing.”
“It does not matter. They will use anything they can get you to come along with them. They even appear very innocent and like dolls and they know all tricks to make men want to go with them.”
“But I am not like other men. You know that. It’s too much trouble to get into that kind of thing. It’s never worth it.”, I protest.
She looks at me sideways, that knowing Thai woman look. “Just stay away from them. That’s all.”
I don’t even know where they are in the city. But if wanted to see where they are, I imagined I would go looking during the day, just to be safe. After all, I’m invincible during the day, during sunlight hours. I could just go and check the scene out a bit.
What would be the worst thing to happen? And how could I later include this subject of the seedy side of Bangkok in stories I might tell with any amount of veracity if I have only cautionary anecdotes from my wife? What weight would that carry in a circle of cigar-chomping friends?
But as the ferry sideswipes the old tires that roughly cushion the floating dock from the half-hourly onslaught all day and evening, the bounce of it jars me from those thoughts and reminds me I’m on a tight budget; on my wife’s tight leash as well. I hop off with the others, forcing those waiting to board to wait just four seconds longer before pushing each other onto the ferry.
But I can’t put it all on my wife. I have very strict standards for myself as well regarding our marriage and I have no desire to put myself at risk of that kind. Whenever I even try to imagine myself “straying from the marriage bed”, the single word, “Trouble” with a capital T is immediately on the tip of my tongue and a nail in my forehead.
I’ve never transgressed in that way. Not even through my three previous marriages, the latter two of which were less than, let’s say, agreeable. I do not want to be uncharitable to those two wives, but I can say that close friends used the term, “saintly” to describe me for what I put up with during my stints in those marriages. I’d be struck by lightning if I ever used that term for myself. God knows.
And while I will take credit for staying both emotionally and physically faithful, the truth is that during those rough times, it was easy, because I imagined that every attractive woman that I might bounce my eyes from was Trouble. Even the ones that might seem they might be nicer to me, I projected that they would eventually become mean and ugly. I recommend this technique to any married guy. Maybe the single ones, too.
Ah, is that a misogynistic streak in me?
After disembarking from the ferry, I walk beneath the three-legged Taksin Bridge, named for the king whose name I have to research because like many Thai names, they are about six to eight syllables and make me sound like I have a mouth full of teeth.
I am called to by the many Tuk Tuk drivers, minimal street food vendors, long tail boat cruise schedulers and the many other enterprising sellers of whatever who’ve set up shop along the Soi leading to the Main Street on this side of Chaophrya.
The sun is already making its mark on yesterday evening’s pavement leftovers and workers who must wear conventional office attire made of skin-suffocating polyester and patent leather. It generally ripens the fruit of Bangkok’s day.
I am quite fortunate. My fortune allows me to wear light shorts similar to swim trunks; a thin, short sleeve, light blue-striped button up shirt open to my chest; and open hiking sandals. It is this, in part, that affords me the luxury of claiming to love the sun and the heat. Of course, if you’re able to wear next to nothing, have no one to see and nowhere to be and so can sweat your way through the day, what’s to complain about?
I pass by the woman quickly selling out of her clear plastic containers of white rice, a mystery pork and gravy, and a fried egg atop it all. I know from experience that she is the wife or partner or something of the guy up at the corner who hawks their main supply of thin, clear, BPA-infused food containers, and I will go to him to buy.
For some reason, I rationalize that because his station is the source of the little meals, it is probably more safe to eat from there. Like it must be more fresh or hot or… In truth, he doesn’t even cook it there, unlike other street vendors, and so it should be even more suspect in my mind. But since coming to Bangkok, I find I rationalize many things with irrational thinking.
My thoughts are occupied by these types of self-conversations much of my time here in the city that makes Los Angeles look like a hamlet.
Should I rinse my mouth out after brushing my teeth and spitting into the sink? If I do, am I inviting bad germs from the city water system to be deposited inside my mouth to find a way into my body and make me have diarrhea for days? But then, is using that same tap water to wet my toothbrush equally endangering? If I see flies landing on an outdoor vendor’s food, and I don’t see them on another’s, does that ensure no flies have been on that food?
I’m in a city of frequent sun. You’d think I would want to stay here…
In truth, because my wife is a Thai national and can translate for me, negotiate for me, and in general, protect me from my cultural and linguistic ignorance, I have no reason for the kind of concerns I voice. Although, she reminds me that she is from Chiang Mai, twelve hours north by car, and is not familiar with the peculiarities of a city such as Bangkok – a city which may have no similar counterpart in the world.
And in a further outburst of truth, I know I’m not really going to go looking for the red light district over on this side. I’ve already seen where it is, I think, by the bar names and Hooters that seems to be center stage for who and what comes out at night.
Instead, I’ll just go to McDonalds and get a McMuffin and hop the ferry back over the river and go about my day in the relative peace of the Soi 17 neighborhood. It ain’t Bangkok over on our side and I’m glad. I could actually stay in Thailand for an extended time were I to stay in this area.
There’s so much here in Bangkok and Thailand to tell about. But you tell me, was this post illuminating or otherwise worth spending your valuable time on reading? Be honest.
I’ve gone back into the apartment now and I still have the reluctance that comes up whenever I leave the sunshine. It’s left over from my growing up in the Midwest where days of sunshine were at a premium. You didn’t waste them being inside if your could help it.
But here? It’s the tropics, what can I say? If it gets cloudy or rains, it’s gone within a few hours.
My sunny disposition always returns.
ABOUT THIS COFFEEHOUSE:
This CoffeeHouseBlog review is coming to you from the Thailand Immigration Government Complex. I’ve edited it here, but it was written on Christmas Day, 2018. About two months after arriving in Thailand.