Displaced Yankee Productions | Thai Massages, Lady Boys and Other Reasons To Love Bangkok

Thai airlines must have missed the memo encouraging obscure luggage fares, shoddy service and projecting an air of generosity while handing out bags of peanuts. While spending the better part of 17 hours on a plane may not be my first choice when it comes to weekend entertainment, Thai certainly made the experience ~ dare I say ~ reasonably enjoyable. Seats that were not designed to force you into an obscure yoga position, a thick comforter and pillow for everyone (though it did eliminate that fun free for all past time where passengers wrestle each other for the flimsy coverings normally dropped on every third seat or so). Every seat was equipped with a touch screen entertainment monitor with enough movies, television and video games to turn me into a teenage boy. And best of all three edible meals to be selected from an honest to goodness MENU while attendants ran up and down the aisle practically non stop offering wine, cognac, water, juice and coffee. Thai is clearly unconcerned with disgruntled passengers committing mutiny since they casually also dumped large sets of shiny, sharp stainless silverware on us at each repast. Now I normally don’t need three different forks and knives while eating at home, so I certainly wasn’t about to start 30,000 feet in the air. However, it was reassuring to know you could arm yourself fairly decently if a skirmish ever broke out.

In practically less than a day (i.e. four movies, 3 books, several television shows and a ill advised round of Super Mario Brothers later) I sallied forth off the plane into the bustling humid metropolis of Bangkok, a city that makes Los Angeles look like a poster child for clean air. In no time at all, my friend John and I found ourselves checking in at our hotel, The Shangri La and grateful to find they had accommodations ready for us despite our arrival at such an early hour. In fact, if there is something this hotel prides itself on, it is accommodation. While $180 a night in the States may score you something along the lines of a Marriot with a free continental breakfast and pre made eggs, here at the Thailand Shangri La, a posh five star hotel on the river they provide you with your very own butler. Having stayed at this hotel on business many times, the hotel prides itself on always giving me the same butler, who has a stalker like ability to remember every detail about me. While I can’t deny it was lovely to have her knock on my door shortly after arrival with a fresh pot of coffee, Thai fruit and a croissant, it was a bit unnerving that she remembered I drink my coffee black, am allergic to bananas and asked after my colleague, BY NAME, that I had traveled with on a previous trip. But who am I to argue? After freshening up in a bathroom I could only dream of living in, John and I met for breakfast and decided that our jetlagged condition warranted a day of basically spoiling ourselves while exerting as little energy as possible.

We hopped on an express boat to The Oriental downriver. A famed Bangkok hotel once a favorite spot with such illustrious writes as Joseph Conrad and Noel Coward, The Oriental has a secluded outdoor balcony where one can sip excellent scotches and cognacs while puffing on an assortment of fine Cuban cigars. I sat there feeling like Hemmingway (minus the suicidal tendencies) and watched the various boats careen and crash through the choppy river with little regard for each other. After this very taxing activity, John and I made our way to The Oriental’s Spa for Thai massages with hot oil. (I know, it is very difficult being me). A delicate, silk clad Thai woman lead me to a private room and proceed to give me a tour of the dressing area, private bath, steam shower, teak appointed vanity with amenities and plush massage room with a garden view. I briefly wondered if I was getting a massage or renting an apartment. How long did they think I was staying anyway?

Two hours later, feeling fairly stupefied from the effects of the massage and jetlag, we made our way back to the hotel in time for one of the most fascinating rituals of Bangkok culture ~ Lady Boy Ballroom Dancing. Every Sunday at the Shangri La from 3-6pm in a gorgeously appointed ballroom, a spectacular tea and buffet is served. Floating gracefully out on the floor are May-December couples unlike any other. Older women, mostly over the age of 65 are each dancing with their favorite Lady Boys: Impeccably dressed young gay men with razor cut, styled hair, bleached white smiles, delicately rouged cheeks and massacred eyes. They commandeer the floor with a grace and agility far more entertaining than Dancing With The Stars. John and I do our best to cover a variety of deadly sins: Envy, Sloth, Gluttony and Greed as we admire the dancers and stuff ourselves with wine and tasty hors de vors. There is something surreal about being in Bangkok listening to a tuxedoed band strike up a feisty rendition of Edelweiss while Lady Boys and their senior citizen partners trip the light fantastic and compete with each other for the approving eyes of the spectators. While I was observing one such couple and mussing to John that no one over sixty should wear a skin tight metallic and black outfit with 4 inch high heel white leather boots, said dancer caught me watching and she and her disco clad Lady Boy proceeded to stake out a spot in the floor in front of us and show off their most impressive dips, twirls and lifts. Needless to say we were suitable impressed, white boots notwithstanding and I can only hope I am that flexible in 30 years.

It’s been an interesting first day and being up for well over thirty hours has starting to take its toll. Time for an early night and an anticipation of what tomorrow may bring.


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