Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bangkok's Two Faces

Greetings from fascinating Bangkok, Thailand where I am working for a week.  It certainly has a very rich Buddhist culture with its stupas, temples and pagodas as well as it royal palaces (  For those who have reached a certain age, you will remember the 1950's vintage Oscar-winning film "The King and I" with Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr and Rita Moreno (  which was set in the days when Thailand was still Siam (  The film was probably the first introduction of Thailand/Siam to many Americans.  The public at large became much more aware of Thailand during the Vietnam War when American GIs came here for Rest and Recuperation leave.  In 1979, Gertrud and I spent a belated honeymoon in Thailand because her brother was living here and could offer us the use of his company's beach house. We also stopped through here several times in conjunction with our foreign service posting to Australia in the late 1980's when it was a shoppers paradise and one could try exotic Thai food, long before it became a world cuisine.  I can still remember our first taste of sweet coconut milk in food and we weren't sure we liked it. Now it is one of our favorites.

Unfortunately, Bangkok also has an ugly underbelly which has sullied its otherwise deserved reputation as a first class tourist destination.  It is probably the number one target city in the world for sex tourists, many from Europe, Australia and the US. It is not uncommon to see men in their 60s and 70s walking the streets with 18-year olds (perhaps even younger) on their arms. Unscrupulous businessmen and human traffickers entice many young girls from the impoverished countryside of Thailand and surrounding countries to Bangkok for jobs, which turn out to be quite different than what they expect. Apparently this sordid business is promoted by many in the Thai Government and Police and it has become a major source of foreign exchange for the country. 

Sorry to end on such a sad note.

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