Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
"Old Bangkok Hand"
- EXPATS : PARTLY TRUTH AND PARTLY FICTION
From the gamut of our combined observations over the last few decades, persons who come to Bangkok, and who end up residing in Bangkok ('Expats', by any other name), go through three succinct stages of 'evolution'.
The 'first stage of evolution', on arrival, is that of 'Exploration and Wonder'. This includes exploration and wonder at/of the Night Entertainment Scene, as well as geographical / historical. These days, this 'first stage' person most likely would be found on Khao Sarn Road, or other similar locals. A person of this group is, on average, youthful, intelligent and eager to see and to do everything. They may at this stage decide to stay here in Thailand. To be sure, there are other ways to become 'stuck' on Thailand, such as being assigned here in the military, or transferred in by one's company, nevertheless, this cultural form of 'shock-and-awe' is identical for all new arrivals - typified by an enthusiasm about everything Thai.
The person who elects to stay, or who remains here due to circumstance, enters the "second stage" of Expat evolution when he feels the need to assign a value to his "time-in-country". The signs are quite easily recognizeable - they busy themselves with asking you how long you have been in-country, and, more importantly, making sure you know how long they have been in-country. This second stage of Thai 'residency' is, or can be very long - often lasting decades. The symptoms of this "second stage" are many; mostly negative. A parallel can be drawn from employees of the U.S. Civil Service, where there is some tacit acknowledgement and nod of respect to those who have gained "Seniority by Senility". This phase is often referred to as a "Seniority Complex", or more commonly, just 'Old-Handism'. Said in another way, this is nothing more than an attempt by these Expats to appear more important, more relevant than they actually are, or ever will be.
A universal characteristic of Old-Handism is the development of a cynical attitude about virtually everything. Amongst the 'Old-Hand's' peers, the more cynical he can sound about the bar girls, the police, the government, the first family, etc, the more he can demonstrate that he has 'seen it all', that he is nobody's fool, and that, somehow, he sees deeper into the local situation than you do through his vastly superior (read: longer) experience. This charade of superiority and knowledge, however, comes from the same books, newspapers, websites and gossip that is available to anyone - the only difference being the degree of cynicism applied to affect the desired degree of Old-Handism.
The most odious of examples of this "cynicism-equals-experience" is readily observable by all who may be interested - just check on any of Bangkok's blog-forum style websites. I can think of only a couple websites that don't have more than a few of these Old-Handism individuals amongst their regular contributors. These 'experienced' characters go out of their way to be condescending - often flaming unmercifully other Forum contributers they perceive as being less knowledgable than they are in anything and everything from afternoon blow-jobs to the best place to find khao tom after midnight.
It seems the desire to become an instant "part of the Bangkok fabric" by the myriad wanna-be Old-Hands manifests itself in many forms. There is yet another regrettable habit of inflating one's Thai 'experience'. This often takes the form of saying they were 'good friends' with some other person or persons who were, in fact, real Old Bangkok Hands. We still see some of these phoneys claiming they were running through the jungle on 'ops' during the Viet Nam War, when they were in fact civilian transportation clerks in Saigon. Often it is just simply lying about how long they have been in Thailand. There is no end to the variety of 'experience inflation' that goes on. (That works until they get caught out - then they are just laughingstock.) A line from the old Kris Kristofferson song applies beautifully to these Expats; "He's a walking contradiction, partly truth, and partly fiction."
It would be reasonable to expect that a person living in Thailand for years would have assimilated into the country, getting to know several, if not many Thai people. They would have learned to read and write and speak Thai fluently, thereby enriching their understanding of the world around them. But how often does this happen? Most of the Expats wanting to quickly don the Old Hand robes have relatively few Thai acquaintances, and at best, speak bar Thai. To be frank, those who have decided to settle here and haven't made the effort to learn to speak, read and write Thai are Bangkok wetbacks, pure and simple.
But let's take an insider's look at these 'second stage' Bangkok residents; those folk who would take the short-cut to wisdom, those who would take the fast track to the 'Secrets of the Orient'. Do they have an ever-increasing circle of friends? Do they travel to new parts of Thailand to see and experience -on the ground- what is really 'out there'? Have they any time recently been up to the Triangle to renew old cross-border contacts and to make new contacts? Is their knowledge of new bars and restaurants ever-growing? As a general rule (and there are rare exceptions) the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding, "NO".
The truth, almost to a man, is that after the 'Bangkok Hand' has been here 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, his circle of friends has started becoming smaller. The number of bars and restaurants he frequents lessens. He travels less, and sees less each succeeding year. To be fair, part of this is because many of his old Expat friends have either returned to their home country or passed away, and as age creeps up, and as his wasteline creeps up, he is less physically fit than he was in his youth. But nevertheless, the fact remains that his circle of activity diminishes over time; it does not increase. And dare we speak entirely accurately here (reality show-time), most of these aspirant "Old Hands", as likely as not, end up in one of three or four 'favorite' pubs getting three sheets to the wind every night. By comparison, the Khao Sarn backpacker with his three months' recent experience visiting the South, taking the raft down the Mekong to Vientiane, motorbiking to Pae and the Burmese border, has a better feel for the real Thailand than these pretenders-to-the-throne.
But, at the outset, we mentioned there were three evolutionary stages the long-term Bangkok resident goes through. This last stage might best be called the "reawakening", where it is seen that there is something outside the same small circle of friends and bars and restaurants. Easier said than done, however, as old habits die hard. It is more difficult than one would imagine to re-immerse into Thailand (as opposed to just being in Thailand), to "break the mold", and get out there and experience something other than the inside of your local bar. (By the way, understand that we are not nay-saying hitting the bars. If the bar life is for you, the "Scene" in Hua Hin, Chieng Mai, Lamai, Phuket, etc., changes significantly every year, and in much need of regular updating.)
A parting thought from Dune; "Without change, something dies inside us."
'It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.' The airports may be closed by feuding political factions, and the tourism industry may have hit the wall, but there are always a few out there, like this Patpong vendor, finding the angle, finding a way to turn adversity into a profit.
The Rainbow Massage & Spa isn't new, but it's tiny neon and out-of-the-way location has kept it entirely off our radar screen. It's time we gave it proper recognition as one of Patpong's Night Entertainment Venues.... Keep on keeping on.
This is another pic for the archives - this time of the Crystal Palace. Going through our records, we realized we had no pix of this Nitespot, so it's time we updated. The below photo however does not do it justice, and we would like to return one day soon to reshoot, giving some detail of the windows and columns - a likely candidate for our Door Art Of The Month. Rock on.
As mentioned last month, the old Roxy digs are being furiously renovated. The new owners' current plan is to open mid-December (we say closer to New Year's Day). They will be called "Nine" (or perhaps, "9"), and will be aiming at the straight + gay trade. They will reportedly have, amongst other entertainment, transgenderite revues (not much different than the Roxy, when you think about it). We'll put a marker down on this one and get back atcha.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Hanazono has had a subtle, almost inscrutable, change in it's outside neon. All on the inside remains unchanged, however....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Arsom Sabai Massage has had temporary closures in the past, but this time around it looks like they will be out of business for some time, as major renovations are taking place in the entire building. We'll put a marker down on this one and should it reopen, we shall so inform.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA - SOI 22
SOI EDEN - SOI 7/1 SUKHUMVIT
There is a massive renovation going on next door to the Five Star (Ha Dao) Night Entertanment Venue. Word on the street is that it will be a multi-functional Night Venue - details forthcoming.
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