Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bangkok's every night show - Bangkok, Thailand

Only Bangkok can stage shows like this everyday. While the first light of dawn turns the world greasy and gray, the last tipsy customers sway out of the club, dragging their feet as well as their tongues. They linger on the road, skirting taxis and touts. The groups are dynamic, with a fluid sort of quality: one loses a member, then gets two new ones, while another large party, bit after bit, dwindles to a couple and then to a last drunk, who will finally drift without too much noise.

The veranda of this restaurant is a perfect spot to dominate undisturbed the entire set. Lorenzo sips a refreshing fruit shake. Without facing each other, we sit side by side, watching the numbers unfolding in front. Behind a fortification of bottles of beer there hides a face of complicated make. The synthetic touch, the mud-gray hue, the distorted lines of mouth, nose and eyes, must be the result of a hard-lived night. The four or five liters of Singha beer, whose evidence lays empty and wet on the table, are likely to end a long chain of events, which probably started in a hotel room, and swerved through a streak of dodgy and dark dives.

The guy doesn't move and stares right ahead, though what he sees might be nowhere in sight. Then, very slowly, his left arm moves, while the rest of the body remains icy still. He's reaching for a tray placed next to him, but a waitress springs and arrives there first. She grabs a fresh bottle and refills his glass. He lifts it and shakily brings it to his mouth, finding the target after a couple of tries. Between two lengthy swigs of beer, he puts out a cigarette on a filthy ashtray. He places the stub on top of the mound that has been raised with zeal in three hours at least.

It's not easy to tell how old he is. Although he looks somewhere between fifty and the grave, part of that figure might be due to these nights. The waitress is guarding him from behind, and refills his glass any time he needs. The last bunch of people are now leaving the street and walking to a bar squeezed somewhere upstairs.

In Bangkok the clubs should be closed by three, but there is always some place which will open all night. All they need to do is convince the police, and the agreement normally consists in a bribe. Still, when some top brass is in a bad mood, the place might be asked to close anytime. This also happens if a new bidder shows up, and he is bringing along a richer gift.

This is the way things often work down here. But one should remember that a country and its culture need to be understood and criticized as a whole. Corruption, instability and a bit of filth, are counterbalanced by a happy and relaxed atmosphere.

I've been to some clockwork-like places before: it's true that I could hardly spot a cockroach, but I've often ended up flying off dead-bored.

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