Archive for September, 2012

I have noticed a growing trend in blogging lately. Unlike a narcissistic cry for recognition by tech savvy people posting mediocre notations on their lives as experienced through the lens of social media conditioning, conformity, a travel agent or guide book, I am ‘sensing’ a meme in the guise of of redemption  upwelling along the noisy shores of attention seekers that is bringing a rich new source of ideas into the community like a food source for the soul of people like me that are sick to the very end of mediocrity. I am reading  more postings by people who are genuinely seeking a connection with the world instead of wanting something from it.

It could be that I am more attracted to the vibrations of questioning souls, genuine people, whose lives are lived with questions attached. Recently there have been fewer blogs coming my way from people who are seeking to be something, and more from those who are already ‘someone’ with the courage to escape into something new. I particularily like to read about someone  preparing themselves to ‘leave it all behind’. This is an avenue of rootless expression with which I have an expertise.

Lately I have noticed that there have been more people reaching out to our nebulous net community for solace in this storm we call humanity. I see these people as the first maturing cyrsalides in what may potentially become a rabble of butterflies flying in the warm rays of the sun and casting their coloured shadows onto the ground. I harbour a secret wish that the spell of commercialism and consumerism may one day be broken by the truth that we are only here for a short time and that more can be done  to improve our lives by simply acting out in joy that you have lived.

The theme of maturity is similar to the cycle of prayer in that we seek conclusion as natural. Life, hope and dreams of redemption are hard wired into our souls so that we may strive to be as long as fate has ordained. Is this showing up in the shifting demographic of the blogosphere? Is the meme of ‘redemption seeking words’ that has begun to pulse along the gossamer net a product of predictive linguistics insinuating new territory into a greater social global consciousness that is yearning for change?

Have we  unknowingly begun to speak to one another ‘soul to disembodied soul’ ? Is the unintended consequence of expressing our emotional selves into a new internet reality that none of us could have ever anticipated  an expression of the superhuman, the amalgam of all of us? Are these  freedom seekers the first elemental pings of an evolutionary shift on the spidery world wide web? Is this the revolution of a 1960’s  redux? Are we witnessing the arrival of a new Space Ship Earth culture? Is the future of our collective well being being pioneered by the past generation….again?

What if this rush of unspoken words would build into a social firmament, a new land for our souls to inhabit? Would it be like a magma world of only thought and emotion…a spontaneous burst that rises to the surface of the sea and grows into a chain of paradise islands? We are what we talk about. Until the creation of the internet people of the world, were limited in what they could dream about due to the limited number of words their culture would allow. We saw generations of mass conformity and witness this still among the stifled cultures where dictatorships and absolutes have no taste for freedoms of the mind.

In all the time ‘the net’ has been around it has been a staging ground for commercial culture to quantify and commercialize. It might be time for a new Woodstock. After all the 60’s began with a growing number of people who had begun to drop out…first populated by those who’d been rejected by the economy of the world and then by those who rejected the institutions of the status quo. the numbers grew into a movement, into a new society and a new state of mind.

Will the free flow of unfettered and uncensored words be the downfall of  ancient boundaries that have so far restricted people from knowing one another and themselves? I feel a groundswell roiling under my feet. I am ever hopeful that you and humanity will find redemption. What is stopping any of us from seeking our freedom?

Advertisements

I’m back to write another story that the folks at ‘Freshly Pressed’ won’t like. The story won’t include anything like the set of suggested guidelines as to how to become popularized that they publish on their site. There won’t be any cute photographs of myself doing goofy things in trendy spots with my credit card. It won’t be written in contemporary themes or a folksy whimsical font. It’s not a story about my latest packaged vacation, in fact it all happened long ago. This story is about a time and a place , built around  characters who are probably all dead by now. The theme of the story is about individual misery and the small triumphs of poor people. It’s about the miserly way that fate can treat certain people, regardless of any dreams of innocence they may have had before realizing they’d been born to a certain life ill fated  and not another more fortunate. It’s a story about people born to experience the malice of fortune and able to thumb their nose at the cosmic snub.

I’ve always had a soft spot for street people. I grew up in the street, ‘out of doors’ as we used to say, prostitutes, junkies, convicts , societies derelicts and cast offs were the people I  called my friends and family. It was only natural that I escape that world as soon as I was old enough to obtain a passport. Odd jobs and an adherence to an enforced frugality most people could never understand allowed me buy my first ticket out into the world.  I never had enough money in my pocket to rise above the streets wherever I traveled. I was just happy to be there. I didn’t do any of the ‘popular things’ or sight see the way today’s travelers do. I was quite content to be anywhere other than where I came from and watch the world go by with the sun on my face.

I would  gravitate  to the places in every city where I felt ‘the life’ around me,  thieves , prostitutes, thugs and conniving hustlers all being herded by corrupt policemen and the mob. I left my ghetto only to live among the poorest people in the third world , it was all I could afford, at least it was warmer than what I’d escaped from. If any of you have slept  in the streets of a North American city over the brutal winter, you’ll understand why ‘south’ became my personal mantra. I can attest to the fact that it’s safer to sleep in the parks of New Delhi than  in Detroit or Toronto.

I won’t bore you with the years I spent wandering around the world in rags with nothing more than a backpack and underspending even the beggars and  street trash of wherever I happened to be. From my years in the streets I had developed a confident vibe that protected me from attack or intrusions of any kind, so I could exist comfortably in the worst of conditions, sleeping on the floors of bars or backed into  a corner underneath any convenient overpass.  Street people and police will know what I’m talking about, there are the victims and ‘the others’ in the street, it’s all about how you carry yourself. If your vibe is right,  thugs turn towards easier prey, it’s a predatory primal thing, welcome to the jungle baby.

By the early 1970’s I had turned the corner on poverty doing what I had read about in a book by Adam Smith. I had noticed that I could buy things cheap in abundance in the third world and transport them to other countries where they would fetch a decent profit. This practical revelation allowed me to turn my travel fantasies into an ongoing reality. In the years before guidebooks and mass tourism, (‘Damn You Tony Wheeler‘), the goods I could buy in India, Indonesia, Thailand and South America were rare and exotic, as such highly desirable and easy to sell in the flea markets, street fairs and ‘hip’ boutiques in Europe and North America. I never made a lot of money, but the lifestyle of an itinerant trader allowed me to travel and support myself without ever falling back into the street life which I so detest as having been my womb.

I arrived in Bangkok in 1972 after having spent a year traveling in in India buying select rags and jewellery/accessory items and shipping back to friends in the west who were plying the same trade. Bali and Thailand had just opened up as centers where trade goods could be found in abundance and there were very few traders or ‘thank God‘ any backpackers in the area as yet. The Lonely Planet guide hadn’t been published yet. As always I found the cheapest place in the city to stay by word of mouth from other business travelers, a run down hotel across the street and down an alley from the Bangkok Hualompong train station, the  ‘Sri Hualompong Hotel’.

The area around the train station had my name written all over it, the winding alleys were home to the poor and dispossessed who came  from the country  to sell a few meager goods and their farm produce.  As any Old Bangkok hand knows, the train station is adjacent to Yarowat, the China Town district. Because of the railways influence there is an abundance of street food in the area for the many travelers who pass through every day. Because the railway is the main route into the city for the poorest, the most desperate people from the interior of Thailand can first be found around the central railway station.

At the time I was working with a few goldsmiths in the Silom district, they were setting the stones that I had brought from India into rings and pendants of my own design. In the heat of the midday afternoon, as is the custom in Thailand, everyone goes home to eat sleep and make love. I would come back to rest in the cool foyer of the Sri Hualompong Hotel. The hotel lobby also happened to be a central meeting place for prostitutes from the interior and north to meet up and exchange news from home while waiting for the night. They would ply their trade in Bangkok and take the money they earned ‘Bai Baan’, back to the village, to  their families. It was their custom to drink local Mekhong and Black Cat brand whiskey in glasses of ice from communal ‘Nam Khang’ buckets  hotel maids would set down and keep filled as long as there were drinkers at the table.

The prostitutes were primarily street walkers, working the flashy strip in the Pat Pong district. These were girls who worked the periphery of that miserable quarter. That ‘street vibe’ I mentioned earlier came in handy and I let the girls know I wasn’t there for their ‘services’. Once we’d straightened out the fact the I wasn’t a ‘John’ they were just girls again, laughing and drinking the day away. Very few Thai’s spoke any English back in those days, but the girls had picked up a few words of pigeon-English from their trade with foreigners.  The suckers were primarily current or ex-military and suppliers from the Vietnam war that would end in 1973. Bangkok and Pattaya were ‘R&R’ centers for soldiers and civic workers from the US and allied countries.

These girls, as simply educated as they were, were not dummies, they had learned a thing or two about their customers weaknesses. They told me of how many of them wanted the ‘girlfriend experience’. The luckiest one’s had even spent weeks in relative luxury with men at their hotels where the standard of living was like heaven compared to their shacks in the village. The girls used the boozy afternoons to discuss and teach what they had learned, all the tricks, the words and the gaffes that would lead the men they serviced to pay them more money and avoid the ‘short time’ sex that most girls found to be distasteful and grueling. Ask any working girl and she’ll tell you that she would rather spend two weeks with some odious boozer than spend every night prowling the bars and have to sleep with five or six odious boozers every night. The Sri Hualompong was like a university for prostitutes to learn their trade craft. The elder and more experienced girls told the younger ones what to say and do….right down to the very script they should use in any situation.

The real money was made by getting into the men’s heads and provoking ‘the love’ as it was called.  From what I understood, the men were mostly easy marks who had never had steady sex before and they were easily led into proposals of marriage at best and at the very least to cleaning out their wallets when they left after their tour. They knew if they found the right sucker who could be turned by a night of sex then that could be turned into a trip to the gold shop.

The girls would tell the men that they were the best lovers, that they wanted to quit the business after their ‘love had blossomed’, that their mother was sick, that they were pregnant and needed support…… anything to get the sucker to ‘cough up’. The problem the girls had was that as soon as the man left they would go hungry again after they’d sold the gold necklace or bracelet and spent the cash they’d taken from his wallet while he’d slept. A lot of the girls would have to pawn their clean clothes to make it one day at a time.

I had an epiphany one day. I proposed a strategy that the Bangkok whores use even today, and they’ve even graduated to using social media and well run cyber-businesses catering to this specific trade, all from our boozy strategy sessions in the lobby of the Sri Hualompong Hotel. I designed the first ‘long distance love letter’ for the girls to use after first gaining the suckers home address, wherever he was from. Germans, Danes, Swiss, Americana  an abundance of Aussies, in fact men from every nationality  have fallen for this trick over the years.

I got the idea originally from a guest house host in Sri Lanka named Gamini Yahatagoda. His story was that he had once run on hard times and out of desperation had written a letter asking for help from a Swiss traveler whom he thought he had befriended. As I sat in the front room of his house one evening he pointed to a cheap wooden Cuckoo clock on the wall and said ” This was all the bastard sent me for my trouble’. We had a good laugh and I bought a round of beers from the shop next door and  thought nothing more of it.

Sitting with the girls I realized that if the girls could wheedle the addresses of their longer term ‘boyfriends’, the ones they’d really wrapped around their fingers with frequent sex, that we could try this letter writing technique and see what happened. I had no idea how successful the ‘love letter’ writing campaign would become and how it would become a mainstay of the Bangkok prostitutes arsenal of revenue creation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but  addresses came pouring in within a few days of my suggestion, the girls all thought this was a great idea, they were eager. Within a week I began to spend my afternoons creating ‘love letters’ to departed and besotted johns the world over. Through some cooperative translation we worked at describing the guys weaknesses and how the girl had talked him into ‘loving her’. We repeated these themes over and over again in the ‘love letters’.

The Mekhong afternoons became raucous parties filled with laughter where girls would file in and detail their experiences with certain men. I would then write to the john, in pigeon English’ , of how the girl was entirely smitten with the john’s sexual prowess, how he was ‘the one and only’, how she would never go back to prostituting after his great loving, she just needed a little money to help her out until he came back. We described sudden pregnancies and even dental work that elderly fathers and infirm aunts in the country villages  would need, how the family water buffalo had died and needed replacing before the monsoon or the family would starve. The girls created and I wrote.

Months went by while presents, love letters stuffed with foreign cash, along with letters in simple prose, almost written in tears, as to the johns undying devotion came pouring in. I don’t remember ever buying a drink in all the time I stayed with the girls at the Sri Hualompong Hotel. In the meantime I had traveled the width and breadth of Thailand buying goods, I had traveled to still mystical Bali and to ancient Burma to purchase more goods during my forced Thai visa runs, it became my time to return to my own world.

As time went by the storied success of my ‘love letter’ invention had spread like a wild jungle vine. The girls  found professional letter writers among the offices  and ‘juristic persons’ who had found that they could charge for the services that I was giving away for free. It seems that I had created a source of income and a new industry for Thai people and I was happy about that. Today almost every village and city neighborhood has an English speaker with an internet connection who works as a translator and letter writer for the prostitutes who live in the area. The business is quite well established, many of the translator/writers are ex prostitutes who have found a way to leave the trade through honest work as communicators and a go- between.

The businesses are very professional, the ‘guide’ will advertise a prostitutes picture and bio, but will not always describe the girl as a prostitute, only that she is available ‘for friendship’ while the ‘mook’ is in Thailand. This is every john’s dream…to find a Thai girl to sleep with while on vacation who is not a prostitute. If the girls find one of these suckers than they set the hook. Between them and their professional  prostitute friends they will devise an elaborate scenario that will fool the sucker into thinking that he’s the luckiest guy in the world. They will begin an internet chat….describing how innocent but needy the Thai  girl is…and in return how horny the man. The men often want to see body parts…the girls have stock photo’s of breasts and such on file to send. it doesn’t matter if they aren’t real.

This is all done by appointment with the prostitutes as regular customers of the translator. The businesses upload the information and monitors the traffic for the girl….there are many sites that offer introductions to innocent Thai girls ‘looking for a boyfriend’…..for a fee of course. The men will come to Thailand not knowing that their internet friend is a professional prostitute, she is instead portrayed as a nice girl, who is falling in love with the handsome farang. She will need some money, to set up a love nest, usually a small amount at first, a thousand dollars or two, just to pay the rent and get things ready.

The communications become more frequent and more suggestive as the date of the man’s arrival in Thailand approaches. She can’t wait for him, she’s having lusty dreams, she might even be a virgin. What the john’s seldom realize is that these enterprising prostitutes will juggle several men …even dozens at a time and have them sending money and promises of love. In fact many of these prostitutes are married and have families. A great many western men have not developed the reason or the ability to determine the age of Asian women and would be surprised to find out that many of these ‘innocent girls’ are in fact old enough to be their mothers. There are many men who arrive in Thailand to find that their ‘girlfriend’ has not met them at the airport as promised and the address of the ‘love nest’ is bogus. Just another farang who gets duped and shaken down for money by the sex trade.

I doubt the Thai government will ever recognize me as a pioneer or having played a role in creating an industry that brings in many millions of dollars.  Not long ago I revisited the Sri Hualompong Hotel with my wife in tow to relive some of my past, she wasn’t impressed, the place is pretty grotty still. I guess I didn’t mind at the time, but Trisha assures me that I will not be going back anytime soon…..oh well…..and love letters from Bangkok prostitutes, that’s the story. If you receive one in the mail or in your email box, think of me.

Of all the articles I have written since I began this blog, one in particular keeps showing up in the stats as one  most actively viewed. ‘Fast facts on the sex industry in Thailand’ has a  steady readership. Many men who comment on the story state that they have a right to sex. This ‘right’ is not enshrined in any law of any country or religion that I am aware of. It exists as  a myth among men in the internet community they have created to justify their own frustrations. These ‘punters’ complain that women in their own countries will not willingly perform sex on them. They complain it is too hard to meet women for sex where they live and when they do the women are too demanding. They complain that the path to sex is too expensive and complicated in their home cities and  in many cases prostitutes have refused them. Most of these men tell me that ‘dating’ is a waste of time.

They complain that they feel socially awkward in the presence of women who aren’t prostitutes. They report that prostitutes are friendly while women in their own countries are not. The unspoken commonality among my male readers is that they want cheap sex with poor foreign women who will not ask for anything, will demean themselves without complaint in any way for money with a man whose physical, hygienic or personal presentation may be abhorrent under normal conditions, all the while without being able to express herself in a common language.

My interpretation of the general personality type that travels to Thailand for sex describes someone who the natural world is doing it’s level best not to allow to breed. It is my opinion that these men should understand that masturbation and self satisfaction is what nature intended for them. It is also my opinion that a man who keeps himself reasonably fit, clean and presents himself as reasonable has every opportunity to meet women of your own age.  If you have fantasies about having sex with women half your age or children of course, that’s another conversation. From my observations of the punters in Thailand they are for the most part compromised and in some state of moral degeneracy, full blown alcoholics or drug users and for many their misogyny has turned them away from any appreciation of the real status or quality of what women have to offer. I would go so far as to suggest that most of the men I have observed as seekers of prostitutes should really be in therapy…for their own good and ours.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, it has been since the early 1960’s. This hasn’t stopped the proliferation of the sex industry  becoming Thailand’s number one  source of foreign currency, ahead of all manufacturing and finance industry businesses . The amount of money the sex tourism business brings in has created an environment of complacency where it comes to the enforcement of the law. Sex tourism may be socially destructive, immoral and counter productive to the aspirations of a nation in development, but the corruption of billions of dollars flooding into the pockets of lawmakers and every aspect of the social hierarchy in Thailand has created the official Thai attitude of ‘Mai Mi Boon Hah’……’I don’t care’. This describes the ‘Thainess’ of the apparent cognitive dissonance that delineates that the Thai know full well that the problem exists but it is to socially uncomfortable and conversationally an inconvenient an issue to deal with….so you let it slide behind a smile and a ‘Wai’ and make believe it isn’t happening…’Mai phen rai’……’never mind’.

The subtle nuances of ‘Thainess’ is something that the Thai consider inherently their own….and they believe that no farang/foreigner can ever understand this intricate culture enough to understand how one can distance an uncomfortable image from ones mind while accepting it at the same time as a viable commercial opportunity …..we farang are too rough…too concise…to black and white… to ever understand understand ‘Thainess’.  Thai’s are very accepting people, the culture teaches them not to react to uncomfortable situations that in the west would create an environment of immediate consternation and social unrest. Thai men and women are the the most accepting men and women on the planet on the subject of marital infidelity, it is a national pastime. Thai men and women expect that their spouse will cheat…it’s really that common.

Sex is not as a taboo a subject in Thailand as it is in the western cultures. Sexual mores are not uncomfortable for Thai people if the subject of attention happens to be as extreme as discovering one or more cross dressing, transsexuals or gay family members living under the same roof. The ‘fourth sex’…or Katooey as it is refered to in Thailand when a male child  lives as a woman in the home and outdoors is entirely accepted in Thailand’s Buddhist culture. This is another example of the  ‘Thainess’ that many westerners have trouble grasping as something seeming so hypocritical while remaining acceptable as long as it is not spoken about….’Thainess’.  So, when father has taken a second wife ‘Mi Noi’ …as his wife has aged after producing children, the second wife is not portrayed as a home wrecker, a whore or a slut’…she is a lesser wife and considered part of the family. The first wife is given status while the second takes the place of a plaything for less than official outings.

It is  a fact that most of Thai men will  use prostitutes when either engaged or married. This is a practice inherently Thai..as if immediate lusty sex should be taken outside the home while the wife or girlfriend is treated with respect as befits her position. Driving around Bangkok, outside the main tourist areas you can see the big complexes where Thai men will frequent their favorite singers, dancers and hostesses. The pleasure palaces are endemic along New Petchburi Road close to Ekamai and further out towards the airport on King Keow Road west from Bangna Trad Hwy….they are impossible to miss with giant signboards advertising pretty girls faces and huge parking lots surrounding the buildings.

There is a world of differance between the girls, the johns and the attitudes between the two communities who use the sex industry in Thailand. The western men for whom sex has always been taught to be dark and dirty focus on the lowest common denominator and seek solace in the sex pot-disease laboratories of Pattaya, Phukets and Patpong streets . There they will find the lower level sex they crave with farm girls from northern ISSAN province who come to be prostitutes escape starvation and poverty. Many girls have been sold to pimps by poor and addicted parents…some have been tricked by deceitful in laws into the life. It is common knowledge in Phuket and Pattaya that many women in Thailand illegally from Burma, Lao and Cambodia are forced to prostitute themselves by the police . Many of these women are married and have children, their husbands are workers in the hotels and labour industries. The police exploit their immigration status and force the women to work as prostitutes under threat of deportation of the family.

Keep in mind that these farm people and tribes women are very moral….being a prostitute is extremely demeaning to them. It is the last thing in the world they would want for themselves or daughters. But…they are usually not good looking enough or do not speak Thai well enough to get into an upper class emporium…..they are relegated to the fleshpots of the farang bars and back street brothels where misery is ubiquitous. The misery they encounter leads them to quickly begin to drink alcohol and abuse drugs..so much so that they become numb and begin to act out the ways of the other girls on display as a means to diminish their own self loathing.

I’m at 1200 words and I haven’t even started on discussing all the things and events I have witnessed regarding the sex industry in Thailand. I’ll continue to write if my readers want to know more of what I’ve seen. I have to warn everyone that I do not have anything fun and exciting to relate about the sex industry in Thailand……to me it’s a sad state of affairs.