In front of me was Bangkok’s famous Patpong red light district. As I approached the main street, a feeling of uneasiness crept through me. There was nothing subtle about what lay in front.
On both sides of the street, there were bars, go-go bars and night clubs. Hordes of skimpily dressed women sat in groups immediately outside these joints , looking you up and down, giggling and inviting you to come in. A number of Thai men were walking on the streets holding up placards above their heads. On some of these boards were pictures of naked women in different sexual positions, and the nightly rates. Other boards advertised live sex shows.
The unabashed nature of it all fazed me a lot. But I wanted a story. Even before leaving India, I had decided that I wanted to write a story from the perspective of a Thai sex worker. And for that, I need to talk to one. And that is why I had come to Patpong. To speak to one of the bar girls.
Even standing at the street’s entrance made me feel jittery then. With all these inner thoughts bouncing off each other and mixing with the music and the hawking of the pimps and the flirting of the tourists and the girls, everything just became a blur.
As I began walking, I could feel some people calling out to me. Or maybe they were calling out to the other tourists. In the din, I could not be sure. Even my walk was guarded, as if I was ready to push off anyone who came too close. The songs kept blaring in the clubs. Thoroughly uneasy, also disgusted, I left the place and went back to my hostel.
The next two days in Bangkok I visited palaces and Buddhist temples and parks and went nowhere near Patpong. A few days later, I left for Phuket.
The last night in Phuket, I went to Patong – the most active centre in town. This was probably my last chance at getting a story, because I would be leaving for the town of Chiang Mai the next day for some jungle trekking.
Written by: Neeraj Narayanan