I think I just might´ve understood the name changing of this land. Land of the free?! My soul was rarely liberated during my stay here. Spirituality has metamorphosized into prostitution, while culture has slowly but surely, turned into a zoo. This is definetely the first and last time I will travel in this manner. Let’s see how I can begin narrating my first day in former Siam… Here it goes.
We departed from KL to Bangkok on an early flight with Sara and Guam. My spirit was still pretty free, although the whole programmed tour-travelling 10 cities in 10 days type of thing, has never amused me. Little did I know what exactly was planned for the next days. We quickly met Tu-tu, our guide for the next week or so. She greeted us amiably and drove a van to our hotel. We stayed there relaxing for a bit until we got picked up again for a “city tour”. I quickly began to sense the overlapping control. We visited several temples; marked my first time to really submerge myself into full-on Buddhist spirituality. I learned how to pray to Buddha with lotus flowers and incense. In one of the temples I kneeled and made three promises for good health, enough money to continue travelling, unconditional love, and I believe I also made an additional private petition.
The King’s palace was pretty surreal. The golden temples and intricate buddhist architecture was one of a kind. The food was outstanding too! Better than in Malay. I mean, the scenes were fabulous, the only problem was that we had no real time to take them in! Tu-tu kept warning us about the time we had to be take and then kept taking us to dumb tourist-trap gem factories, where it was obvious we weren’t going to buy anything. We are goddamn anthropology students who are supposed to be interested in cultural submersion, not capitalist wells!
Finally it started pouring and Sara and I walked around some markets that rocked. We got soaked and laughed in the rain. Finally, we had to return to our planned itinerary and Guam informed us that dinner had been arranged in the same restaurant where we had lunch and that following that we would participate in a “cultural show”. I learned from this trip that any package sold as a “cultural show” is anything but NATIVE.
Anyhow, the most unforgettable experience EVER which was actually the ¨highlight¨of of the Bangkok trip happened hours later when we expressed our disappointment with the rigidness of the activities. “You guys want to experience some real crude Thai culture?”, he asked. Our response was obvious.
We got back in the van that had taken us around the city all day and after several turns and twists, we found ourselves in a dark street. Neon lights shone from a building at the end. The van came to a stop, we got out, and saw a mid-aged big-boned Thai woman sat on a stool of what appeared to be a very sketchy bar. Guam, who mind you was the assistant director of the academic program I had enrolled in, handed “mama” some money and shook his head as a sign that we were to follow him.
Sara and I had no idea of what to expect. We walked into the dark building, through a thin corridor that led into another smaller room. Neon lights hung from the celing and in the center there was a circular platform. A young teenage girl stood on top and around her there were around a dozen men cheering. Blondes, Asians, Europeans, you name it, they were there.
During the hour (approximate time) I witnessed that freak circus I saw the most disgusting and perturbing things I have possibly ever witnessed in my life. It wasn’t just any sex show. It was sick. The girl began her exhibit by pulling out an arrange of strange object from her genitalia. The first show commenced with a rather sharp choice of an object, must i say. In the beginning, I could hardly tell what it was. I glanced several times while squinting. ¨Is that what I think it is?¨, I asked Sara, next to me. The loud poppy music made it hardly impossible to communicate. Mind you, words were nothing but an obstacle at this point. The girl was indeed pulling out razor blades from inside of her. You know the kind 1950´s barbers would use in their shops? Those. There were about 20. All attached to a thin piece of string. Her face looked anything but into it. You could tell she was in pain. I had no idea how to react. Everyone was in awe, although the obvious couple of drunk horny older tourists whistled and shouted in excitement. I couldn´t understand how this was meant to turn anyone on!
Second show was a bit softer in edge. Hawaiian flowers seemed sweeter. The question was, how many things can you actually store in there?! She seemed like Mary Poppins and her ever-spacious handbag! It went from daisies to pearls, to God knows what. One after the other she pulled them out. Then finally, when everyone began getting bored of the pulling, the girl began displaying her Mula Bandha talent. Ha! The way she contracted her organ was indeed impressive. There was a dart chart on the wall and just like a four-legged animal would walk, she adjusted her crotch so as to hit her target perfectly. I was amazed at how she was able to hit the bull´s eye repeatedly from behind, AND using only her genitals! Wow. It was disgusting, impressive, shameful, sad, intriguing, and sick, all in one. The dart show was followed by a smoking vagina and a Coca-Cola bottle opening one as well. Finally, just as I was unable to take anymore, the young Thai girl began writing something on a piece of white paper, using anything but her hands (obviously). A black magic marker stuck in her vagina moved around in circles until she pulled it out and displayed the message to all in the audience. ¨Welcome to Thailand¨, it read.
At that point I poked Sara as a sign I had had enough. I think we all had. Sara was able to catch Guam´s attention, who unlike us, seemed to be having fun checking out our reactions. We finally head out. ¨Nice introductory anthropology course¨, I thought as I took one last look at the girl, who just as her country´s former name, seemed anything but free.