Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Bangkok Dangerous . . . to not so dangerous.

Walking down Soi Cowboy, located close to the intersection of Sukhumvit Road and Asoke Road, brought to mind the 2008 Nicholas Cage movie Bangkok Dangerous. Beware of tuk-tuk drivers offering to take you to sights you have never seen before! The colour red blanketed the street filled with curious men, mainly Caucasians, on a look-see and the local women on-the-prowl all set to tangle. From women-in-black to short short denim shorts, it is obvious that the demand fuels the trade - which is a gainful option to feed a family in poverty back home in the provinces. Watch the moves of the guy in the doorway..... . . . as he gets reeled in!
If other desires need addressing, good eats abound like fried grasshoppers or caterpillars to up your protein intake,. . .. . . a foot massage as you enjoy succulent fresh pineapple and papaya, . . .
. . . retail therapy . . .
. . . or even giving in to the sensuous guiles of the girlie-barber for a haircut, shave and a bit of pampering. To digress a little, a former Thai cabinet minister, initiated a family planning and safe-sex program by promoting the use of condoms, after a visit to provincial areas and noticed the enormous number of children in the villages where the population growth rate was 3.2 percent with an average of seven children per family.
Mechai with condom teddy bear

Mechai Viravaidya, a 67 year old cherubic gentleman of Thai and Scottish parentage, founded his now-famed nongovernmental organization, the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in 1974 to promote community-based family planning service operating throughout the towns and villages of Thailand. Almost 20 years later, the population growth rate has come down to a 1.2 percent average, or two children per family. It is Mechai Viravaidya who has been credited with Thailand's population being 20 million less than it would have been. His success earned him the undisputed title of the Condom King of Thailand. He is so well-known in Thailand that in rural areas, Thai slang for condom is "mechai."
His premise was simply that "Too Many Children make You Poor", making this the campaign song popularised among the youth. "We use our condom campaign as a means of desensitizing the issue. We make people laugh, we make people able to talk about family planning and not feel embarrassed about it."
He started a restaurant named Cabbages and Condoms (C & C) in Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road well known for its excellent Thai cuisine and eye-catching decor and campaign souvenirs. "Cabbages are very common in Thailand," Mechai explains, "and I wanted to make condoms as common in this country as cabbages."

The C & C tag line . . .

The secret of PDA's success lies in the unconventional approach in playing on the Thai sense of humor. For example, "vasectomy festivals" were held in honor of the King's birthday; . . .

. . . a "cops and rubbers" project where the entire police force distributed condoms to the public; and Captain Condom & "condom nights and festivals" in the red light districts where condoms and safety-tip cards are handed out to commercial sex workers.

Mechai with Captain Condom

"Condom nights" Ops

In 2007, the PDA received US 1 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation together with the Gates Award for Global Health for his achievements in family planning and AIDS prevention.

Condom dresses at an AIDS conference.

In May 2008, PDA signed a MOU with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore to send students from the School of Humanities to Thailand as part of their internship. The plan is to expose students to initiatives to help reduce poverty and foster community spirit in Thailand. True to his quirky sense of humour on safe-sex he distributed T-shirts 'Stop global warming, use a condom' to the students, the same that he gave to former US Vice President Al Gore.

Moving away from the sleaze and risque was a breath of fresh air. For a totally different scene, step into Soi 3 and discover the Arab Quarter of Bangkok.

The aroma of cloves, cardamoms and roast lamb hit you in the face and cling to your clothes. The stainless steel decor, the prefered taste, adds to the glitz. One of the restaurants clears its premises for the congregational Friday prayers as part of a community service.

As if out of a page from a tourist brochure of Dubai, a minyak atar shop or perfumery stands on the next corner. The comfort zone is created with all things familiar.Mandhi rice served with lamb or chicken is available here, of course. The Thai influence is telling when the accompanying condiments is a green chili salsa instead of the usual tomato-based puree.

The Arab tourist sector in S E Asia is growing steadily with the establishment of these ethnic quarters, as they move away from destinations like the US, UK and Europe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wish i had a dress like that email me how to make one at ;) :D