Published: November 28th 2010November 28th 2010
Bangkok, Midnight. Padraic steps from the dry cool air of the airplane into the muggy thickness of Thailand's atmosphere.
The jungle has been transformed from tropical to urban: tree canopies have been replaced by neon-bejeweled skyscrapers, elephants by buses, and chattering monkeys by gossiping hookers. Graceful gibbons are teenage drug-dealers in oversized clothing. Majestic tigers are fat, sunburned, lecherous, middle-aged Germans. The rivers remain.
The scent of this metamorphisis reminds Padraic of far-away lands and a time in his life when arriving at midnight in a new country would have been terrifying.
Padraic is accompanied by two coworkers. Rama is no stranger to Bangkok, and has booked his travel companions a room in Nana Plaza, a "nice" part of town.
Just down the road from the hotel is a four-story complex of bars and brothels. Portly, veiled women walk past slim super-confident transsexuals. A halal restaurant serves greasy food to drunken sexual tourists from the godless west. Nigerian businessmen avoid eye contact with Swedish fratboys. Well-spoken Sikhs offer to tell you the future.
There's no need. It's already the year 2553 in Thailand.
Common streetfood of Bangkok is overpriced in this neighborhood. Foot traffic is peaking at one in the morning. Haircuts are no cheaper than they are in the States. Padraic should always travel alone.
Padraic has had a bad attitude about the tourists who visit Thailand ever since a loud and impatient American verbally harassed a guesthouse operator in his beloved Kolkata. After making an unreasonable request and publicly challenging the authority of an Indian elder, the American made a complain to his friends: "India takes some getting used to, especially after Thailand."
The implications in Padraic's mind of this this oh-so-knowing emphasis in Thailand are (almost) the worst kind of debauchery.
Padraic is grateful for a reprieve from the menagerie of materialism he has seen on the trip from the airport to his hotel. He drops his bags and sprawls on his bed. A nightstand offers a lingering promise of forgotten money or amusing reading material. Padraic opens the top drawer to discover:
two unopened condoms from a pack of three
and a straw.