What The Kok Has Got
In one word, everything. Everything minus a real beach,
that is. The Globalization and World Cities Research
Network lists the Kok as an Alpha minus world city, in the same
category as Warsaw, Rome, Stockholm, Mexico City, Los Angeles,
There is no other city/town in Thailand remotely like
Bangkok. It as if all business, industry, and
entrepreneurial spirits has been channeled here, which is a
real pity because there are numerous other locales in
spacious Thailand that could focus as hubs for business
and cultural investment if the government were to develop those areas.
As a result, Bangkok gets bigger and bigger, with more and more
traffic and more and people, as both foreigners and Thais
alike come here because, in many cases, there's no other
location in Thailand they feel has the opportunities.
Everywhere else in Thailand is a limited view of one place, a
single aspect of the country. Bangkok is like taking a 360 degree
panoramic camera and capturing it all at once. To
some degree, all capital cities serve as visual indexes of
the entire country, but Bangkok does this in ways places
like Washington, DC and New Delhi don't. You can see
the Lanna from Thailand's north, the Isaan from the
Northeast, and the Muslims from Thailand's south without
having to make an effort to spot the differences.
The best -- and possibly worst -- of everything in the country is here. There's an iMax
screen, a 4D theater. Arguably, the most famous massage school
in the nation, at Wat Po, is here. The largest travelers' ghetto
in the Kingdom on Khao San Road is here, so large, so developed, so
popular, people have heard of it who've never been to Thailand and
who aren't traveling on skinflint budgets.
Thai language courses? Bangkok has them in spades, in all price
ranges. The building in which my course is held has over a dozen
institutes, and you don't need to look far to stumble onto another one.
Thailand's two best universities, Thammasat and Chulalongkorn, are here.
For the relocated expat or sexpat, there's no other place in the
Thailand with even a fraction of the international schools for the kids
they already have or the ones they'll soon be siring with local Thai vixens
half their ages.
I can count over ten Christian International schools, if you're into the
Christ thing in the land of the Buddha, and over a half
dozen international boarding schools. Do you want schools with
international baccalaureate programs? Over a dozen. British
international schools? More than two dozen. I haven't
checked into it, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were
internationally accredited stripping and pole dancing schools here, too.
Shopping malls aren't new to Thailand. They were here in the mid
1990's when I first showed up, but the malls back then looked like 1970's
relics, more like bazaars stuffed into one space. No air
conditioning, very little in the way of Western comforts. Better
malls have spread throughout the nation, and you can find multi-floor
structures in Udonthani, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, and beyond. But
there are no mega-shoppingplex universes, like the Siam Paragon or
Emporium, anywhere else but the Kok.
Worried about getting sick? The Kok has you covered.
Western standard hospitals with Western-educated docs are all over the
Kok. Since the Noughties, Thailand has been making an aggressive
bid to develop the medical tourism market from citizens currently being
ripped off in their native Middle East, U.S., and European Union.
Bumrungrad Hospital is the Kok's hospital showpiece. It doesn't
take much to beat the heart-attacking inducing rates a U.S. hospital
will charge you after you've had a heart attack. Once you've been
in the Kok awhile, you'll start to realize Bumrungrad's rates aren't so
Overall, India is less expensive than Thailand for medical
tourism and much wealthier Singapore, not substantially more costly than
Thailand given it's a First World nation. I have so far visited Bumrungrad*, Piyavate*, Samitivej*,
and Bangkok Adventist Hospital. For all hospitals marked with a *,
I'd advise you to top up your wallet multiple times before entry.
Bangkok Adventist is the only hospital I've yet been to which has a
vegetarian cafeteria and grocery store on the premises.
Their mission, unqiue among hospitals, is to actually prevent heart
disease rather than bilk you after you've gotten it.
A Melting Pot Or Just A Pot With A
Lot Of Nations In It?
In 1994, I didn't notice how varied the resident nationalities were.
Perhaps I didn't notice because back in the mid-1990's, the
number of foreign-born residents in the Kok wasn't high.
It's still not sky high but it can seem that way. Estimates suggest
several hundred thousand Western
expats live in the Kingdom, most of them in the Kok, and
that doesn't take into account high numbers of other Asian
relocatees, from Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and China.
Even if half a million foreigners live in the Kok, that's
still just about 4% of the population. I dissected the
number of foreigners living in Thailand
Republic estimates that over 70% of the total foreign expat
population lives in and around the Kok.
This has turned Bangkok into a
multicultural city. Middle Easterners, Arabs, and
Africans tend to congregate in the areas between Sukhumvit Soi 3
and Soi 5. Soi 3/1, located smack dab between Soi 3 and 5
is known as Soi Arab, filled with Middle Eastern restaurants and
plump halal-loving Muslims smoking the shisha.
are scattered around the city. Their focal point is Koreatown, a mall known as Sukhumvit Plaza just next to Soi 12.
The Japanese have made the biggest impact, as both tourists and
residents. Entire apartment buildings from Phrom Pong near
the Emporium shopping mall all the way past pricey Thong Lor are
dominated by Japanese. Had the Japanese government known
how easy it would be to occupy Thailand in the modern era, using
everyday citizens and businessmen as the non-violent soliders, it's
doubtful the Japanese government of the 1940's would have expended the energy to twist Thailand's
arm during World War II. The Chinese presence, though
numerous, isn't as strongly felt. The overseas Chinese
don't have an established community, like the Koreans and
Japanese, and there are already plenty of Chinese-Thais as part
of the Thai population, honoring Chinese customs. A
foreigner isn't likely to be able to pick out an overseas
Chinese from the Thai crowd.
I didn't realize how many
Burmese and Filipinos were here until my wife and I posted a
maid application online. The rules of the web site
dictated the advertisement had to be in English, not Thai.
Burmese and Filipinos inundated our inboxes with enquiries,
expecting us to provide the work permits, which leads me to the
logical conclusion that reams of them are here illegally.
The white-skinned expats,
though less numerous, stick out more. You can see
countless Brits gathering in pubs along Sukhumvit, many of the
buildings quite authentic in the interior, the greasy pub grub
served, and the British-like prices charged. What can be
said in their favor is that they really are as close to a
British Isle pub as you'll find in Thailand. Too often the
word 'pub' gets used indiscriminately to describe any kind of
establishment serving a bottle of beer without regard as to
whether the business conveys any sort of public house atmosphere
which pubs in Britain are famous for. I can readily think
of a half dozen such pubs stretching from just Asok, say Soi 14,
to Phrom Pong on Soi 33. One of these British-style
places, ironically owned by a German, brews its own beers, which
are very affordable during Happy Hours.
German eateries and brauhauses aren't unknown.
I'm not particularly fond of German food, so I don't search
these out, yet I can still think of three without even
trying to. French and Italian places are plentiful,
too, initially started in nearly all cases by natives of
those countries. The interesting phenomena is that as
these Western cuisines have become more popular and Thais
more familiar with them, Thais are now starting similar
the wide number of nationalities present, the various
communities do not really mix with one another. You can
see a European dining in Soi Arab or a Japanese in a British
pub, but it remains uncommon for one member of a community to
date/marry or spend significant time with a member of another
unrelated community. The Koreans and Japanese, especially,
tend to live within their own communities, and it's quite
possible for their language skills in both English and Thai to
be almost nonexistent. Far more common is for all
these different foreign communities to interact -- sexually, at
the very least -- with the local Thais. While still not an
everyday sight, you will see a Japanese (male)-Thai (female)
union over a Japanese-Arab or Japanese-Chinese one.
There's still strong socialization pressure in the Muslim and
East Asian communities to eventually settle down and spread
their 'pure' seed with one of their own.
The farangs (= Europeans or Westerners of European
descent) form a very loose community unto themselves not
determined specifically by nationality, a result of how
Westerners interact with each other anywhere else and how
they've looked at the world since the days of European
colonization 500 years ago. In other words, though
there may be Scandinavian community or Dutch community,
you're more likely to see these nationals interacting
socially with fellow Westerners of any nationality.
Social interaction among Westerners does not lead to
sexual interaction as it might back in the West. In
Europe it is not considered rare for two Westerners of
different nationalities to marry each other. No one's
head turns when they see a French-German or British-Dutch
couple. This intra-culture mixing, as noted, is not so
common among Asians. In Thailand, it remains rare for
two Westerners meeting here to form a union. In
Bangkok, if you happen to bump into a Brit married to an
American, you can almost guarantee the two met somewhere
else before. The Westerners in Bangkok, if they arrive
in the Kingdom single, tend to, without exception, prefer
(sexual) interaction exclusively with Thais, even over their
own nationality. This is dealt with in great detail
So what you get at the end of the day is hardly a melting
pot, but more like a colorful salsa with different
ingredients mixed together but which you can taste
separately. Thailand and the (usually female) Thais
are the glue which links all the communities to the country
and to each other.
City Copulation Paradise
I wonder if the Tourism Authority of
Thailand will ever add "cheap sexual thrills" as one of the
reasons foreigners can state for their reason for coming to
Thailand. We're cognizant if someone were asked after
the fact what he -- notice, it's primarily males we're
talking about here -- liked about his trip to Thailand, the
answer would be varied and go something like this:
I loved the inexpensive food and drink and
the beautiful sunsets and the convivial nature of the Thai
people. (long pause, voice lowers) And I
didn't mind the ultra cheap sleazy bar-side pickups.
Here's the question no one is asking. If tomorrow,
bar-side pickups, sleazy and easy prostitution, and fish
bowl style screwing massages were outlawed, how many of
these tourists or residents loving Thailand would continue
to love it?
about this for a second. What's a key difference
between the three Southeast Asian nations of Thailand,
Malaysia, and Singapore? Try this answer on for size:
you don't have cheap, easy, sleazy screwing opps in Malaysia
and Singapore. Singapore is a first-world nation.
Everything works, everything maybe except the corny pickup
line you tried on Miss Singapore or the $20 bill you handed
the local Singaporean hooker and she spat upon for being an
insultingly low offer. Malaysia is slightly better off
economically than Thailand. It, too, has beautiful and
even less crowded beaches and is an extremely economical
place to live. Why isn't Joe Sexpat touring and living
there? Because the hooker and pickup scene can't
compare to Thailand, and the Muslim culture jacks up the
cost of drinking, which in turn puts a stranglehold on
destroying the inhibitions that can lead to the cheap
Bangkok is much more than a big city
copulation paradise, but that's probably not what the American
GI's thought when they came here for R & R during the Vietnam
War. They called it I & I, for intercourse and
intoxication. Doug's Republic argues that, although prostitution
was nothing new in Thailand by the time the 1960's rolled
around, this was the first time easy, sleazy inexpensive screwings became well known to those outside the region. A
1967 Bangkok magazine reveals the nightlife on offer to
American soldiers at that time. First Bangkok, then
outlying areas like Pattaya, became developed to provide the
thrills and chills the visitors craved. Many of the
visitors later appreciated the further charms Thailand had to
offer; but if the sexual perks of Bangkok hadn't been there from
the very beginning to entice them, would they have ever noticed
Thailand's other bonuses later?
have a friend named Johnny Oz. He claims he's a cultural
traveler, but that's a load of rubbish. He will choose a
travel destination solely on whether he can pay for cheap
action. Once in a country, his entire trip will be planned
around the bars and clubs he'll visit. A sample
Johnny Oz itinerary in Bangkok: (1) wake up (2) eat
Western breakfast (3) visit Western-style shopping mall,
maybe watch English-language movie (4) Hang out at
Western expat bar and eat Western snacks (5) Relax in room
until (6) Drinks and dinner at Western establishment
(7) Hit discos, bars, and sleazy coffee houses for a pay for
play pickup in Patpong, Nana, or Soi Cowboy (8) Go to bed,
with paid partner, wake up, kick her out, rinse, and repeat.
How many other visitors to the Kingdom annually do you
think have an identical itinerary?
Pattaya is probably the sex capital of the universe, with
more sexual venues crammed per square meter than anywhere else
in the galaxy. But big city Bangkok is where whoremongers,
perverts, and sexually uptight tourists can par-tay in the
widest range of venues. There are tiny bars with a
pool table and a few Changs and Singhas in the cooler and also
upscale clubs with cover charges and imported DJ's.
Freelance hookers always find their way into the
establishments and charge prices to match the venue they were
picked up in. Whatever is finally paid, it still
winds up cheaper than going out for a night of vodka and tonics
in Perth and going home alone. That's the Kok's claim to
The majority of foreign visitors to Thailand don't engage
in the sex trade nor are the majority of Thai women
prostitutes, as many who've never been to the country
mistakenly believe. Depending on which statistics you
look at, only 5-10% of the fluid exchanges going on are
between foreigners and Thais; the majority of the copulation
paradise's reputation is Thai-on-Thai activity. But
let us not discount that Bangkok's unique mix of cost
effective pickups bordering on girlfriend experiences with
comfort and value creates a nightlife that is hard to match
elsewhere. Enjoy repopulating the planet!