I’m drinking fresh watermelon juice in a stylish cafe and on the other side of this narrow road rats are running. Neither of these do I see on everyday basis in Thailand. However, now I’m in a ghetto.
In the tourist ghetto in Bangkok life pulsates with double force. A wave of tourists flows through the streets. Either they think they should come here because everybody else has already been here or they stay in one of the nearby hostels so they must pass here anyway. It’s a self-reinforcing spiral. It’s early in the evening so people start searching for dinner. You can sit in one of the restaurants offering ‘real Thai food’ but always having ‘Western food’ in their menus as well. Each restaurant is more ‘real’ than the previous one. ‘Western food’ always means a hamburger with chips or pasta bolognese. Those guys chose ‘real Western food’ though as they are walking with McDonald’s bags in their hands. Food stalls wait for the undecided. A portly German is choosing a shashlik, two French girls are rummaging among fruit, someone is taking a smelly durian cake. You can try fresh juices or sugar cane drink. You won’t find them outside of the tourist ghettos. And, of course, there are insects vendors. Every tourist, who comes to Khao San Road with the feeling they should, otherwise their experience of Bangkok won’t be full, knows that they should try insects here. Because everyone else has already tried them. Luckily, Thais know that too. And they aren’t stupid. They walk with trays of grilled worms and look for the brave ones to have ‘real Thai insects’. I wonder what the origin of those insects is and common sense tells that it must come from poverty. But Thailand is not poor anymore. Cycling through the country, even in very remote villages I’ve never seen insects in local dishes in their very local eateries. In Bangkok, Abracadabra, here they are. There’s demand, there’s supply.
Who has eaten and decides to stroll can buy a suit. Men, independently of the fact that most of them wear simple flip-flops and shorts, will be stopped by touts with catalogs of smart suits. Thais know that a guy with a tattoo on one hand and a beer in the other can be a manager in a prosperous company in his home country. Locals somehow don’t wear suits too much. If someone hasn’t got a tattoo yet, they can have one here. Where? In Real Thai Tattoo Studio of course. You can buy something too. Summer trousers with elephant pattern are very popular among and only among tourists. I have them too, they are great for cycling. I bought them in Malaysia for one tenth of the price. On girls they look good. For some reason though, guys are told that the trousers are unisex. They aren’t! But many believe it. Who is already tired of all that can stop for a massage. A ‘real Thai massage’. An army of masseurs in uniforms offer their services to everybody passing by their saloon.
Everything in the ghetto is ‘real Thai’ and most of these things disappear as soon as you leave it. So I’m sipping my watermelon juice with pleasure because I know that I won’t find next one soon. Luckily, rats also won’t be there anymore.