Monday, April 22, 2013

The grotesque artist street - Pattaya, Thailand

Christmas in Pattaya
There is a little street in Pattaya: it's the last section of Walking Street, on the port end. If Walking Street were an intestine, a long bowel full of feces and sludge (both metaphorical and real), we would be talking about its rectum, its short, its asshole. 
It's a rather dark place (not surprisingly, considering the anatomic analogy), without bars, restaurants and clubs. Just the sea on one side and a few hotels on the other. The music is muffled: you could almost say that this is a silent place. In the evening a few Thai guys come here with their guitars, they sit on the curb and start singing some songs. Not in Thai or in English, as most of us would expect, and as they used to do until three or four years ago. They sing in Russian. The young Russian tourists who come to Pattaya like to go to a couple of discos (Mixx and Lima Lima) located a few meters away and they are the ones these buskers are performing for. In Russian, of course. Groups of Russians stop by and the boldest among them start to sing along. Not very well to say the truth, but as they leave good tips they are born with and pardoned. 
A few meters away there are some portrait and caricature painters: they produce the usual second rate stuff that can be found pretty much everywhere. Just before the big lighted banner, with a little luck one can run into two of the most picturesque characters of the area.
One of them is a woman. She displays a picture of his son and a sign explaining that she performs to collect the money for his schooling. She hops on a pedestal holding a tambourine and following her own rhythm she sings songs that can send shivers down your spine. Off key, croaking voice, no melody. Still, if what she says is true, she is doing it for a good reason. Considering  the little number of people that stop and listen to her though, if she really doesn't want her son to end up driving a tuk tuk she should try to think of something different as soon as possible. 
At the end of the street, sitting like a bonze among rose peddlers and drug dealers, there is a chubby guy who sings the famous song "Pattaya, Pattaya" over and over, adding some verses in Russian here and there. When the Russian passersby notice him they burst into laughter, stop by and often leave a tip. He can't really sing and probably knows no more than ten words in Russian; still he turns out to be pretty successful. The tambourine lady should learn from him. 
That's where this Pattaya version of a Rue des Artistes comes to an end, right where Walking street leads into the port square, among whores, whoremongers, pimps, hawkers, disco-dancers, neon lights, loud music, trash and the usual bad smell that hovers over the South East Asian roads.
The tambourine lady, if you manage to see her

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