Monday, November 24, 2008

Are you here as a person or as an observer?

“How much you pay for me?” she wants to know. And she’s not just asking it to be provocative, or to get a reaction, or just for something to say. She really wants to know, how much would you pay for me?

How much would you be prepared to pay to have sex with me? How much to nod your head, take my hand and lead me into the Aussie bar for a couple of hours, down three beers and five shooters, then lead me to the Lotus Hotel and Bar at the top end of Bangla Road, where the event can take place.
How much would you pay for me? One thousand baht? Four thousand? Five thousand? Ten thousand?

How much is that in your South African rand?

Let’s see… roughly 3.5 Thai baht to the rand makes it…

Let’s see… yes, let’s see. Let’s see this scene on Bangla Road, Patong, Phuket, Thailand.
Let’s see the men with the photo-op iguanas the size of a toddler. How much you pay for that? Let’s see the nightclub touts. Club Seduction! The Tiger! The Aussie Bar! The backpackers, the pavement vendors. Is that rat? I think that’s rat! The fortune tellers, the T-shirt shops, the tattoo parlours, the lit neon sign declaring welcome to Patong, all of this… Will you just take a look at it and believe all of this in full effect at 2am!

Let’s see the 50-odd go-go bars. Beers 300THB all night! Genuine Aussie Owner! Live Rock Band! Sexy Dancing Girls! Let’s see the hundreds of go-go dancers. The schoolgirls, the cowgirls, the model girls, the disco divas, the cheerleaders!

Let’s see the beggars on their knees, crawling to retrieve those guilty banknotes. Or let’s not see them. As you please.

But let’s see the girls, can we ever not see them, these ladies of Bangla Road? On the kerb, in the road, alone, in pairs, threes, fours, fives and sixes. Parlaying your vaguest curious glance into meaningful eye contact. “How much you pay for me?”

Let’s see this poster: “Help us find Peter Burnett. Last seen Full Moon Party, Kho Pha Ngan, November 11.”

The diligent police presence, the Guns N Roses cover band, the Supersport on cable, the flaming sambucas, the lady-men, the man-ladies, the gorgeous Thai visions of beauty with the bottomless mini-skirts. In pairs!

And the men! My God, these men! These swarthy European men, grinding their jaw as they stalk Bangla Road. In their dungarees and their gym bodies and tattoos and their no eye contact and their palpable self-loathing.

Will you take a look at this, and then take a look inside yourself and see the mass of prejudice you carry around with you. Big, liberal, open-minded you, with your free and easy attitude. What do you say about this? Are you sure you’re not judging? Are you sure you’re cool with this? Are you open to this? Are you cool, or are you a bit of a square? A bit uptight? A little prudish?

If you’re not, then what are you here for? Are you here as a person or as an observer? And did you come here to Bangla Road to ask yourself that question?

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