filthy georgeous, or Bangkok’s secret heart

What is Bangkok like?, my friends back home ask. I say: Bangkok makes every other city you’ve been feel empty, lukewarm, pretending at being a real place. My friend Emma says “Bangkok is like that song: Filthy Gorgeous.” Deniz Levertov could be talking about Bangkok when she writes “our terrible kitchens, crowded with joy“, or Vice Magazine: “it’s like being sat on by a fat person you love”.
Whatever would be hidden behind doors, shrink-wrapped, tidied away in another place, here it is crowds every sidewalk, spills out from every side-street. It’s both monstrous and tender, absolutely hideous and magnificent.
You’ve already heard about the temples, the pollution, the hookers and the ladyboys. But what I love the most about it Bangkok is her secret heart, those little stolen glimpses of life underneath the surface:
In the wholesale flower market at 3 am, orchids arrive, not in single blossom or delicate pairs, but by the truckload. There are thousands upon thousands of them, unloaded from giant wicker baskets in the back of a pickup-truck.
Did that 50$ bouquet of roses you gave your girlfriend begin it’s life here, on a dirty Bangkok sidewalk? Long-stem roses sit tightly wrapped in Japanese newspaper, by bunches of 50. At 3 am here, they cost 80 Baht, about 2.50$.
A cook picks his nose at his station, not realizing anyone is looking.
In the Arab district close to Nana, a tiny table with a giant mirror sits crookedly on the uneven sidewalk, amongst fruit stands, stray cats and shawarma vendors. The crowds of prostitutes who work lower Sukumvit road will line up here first, to get their makeup done.
A sideways glimpse inside a dirty Chinese shophouse with battered doors: inside two Mercedez are parked on gleaming marble floors.
A tired baby elephant follows her mother, a chain around her neck, padding patiently past the lines of pink taxis and food stalls.
A young cop rides his motorcycle on the sidewalk, his girlfriend laughing sidesaddle behind him.
In Chinatown, the wholesalers of illegal Hello Kitty copies receive their goods. The sidewalks are bursting with pink Hello Kitty pillows, packed by the dozens, entire towers of Hello Kitty.
A money boy murmurs his price to an old man in the din of the disco, holding up seven fingers.

0 Responses to “filthy georgeous, or Bangkok’s secret heart”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


A blog about culture and technology in South-East Asia.

my Flickr


%d bloggers like this: