Tuesday, May 28, 2013

China - Not Boo-yah, bu-yao!

Admittedly, haters have some to hate about this challenging country - and its true there often are just too many people - often who've they've just moved in from the villages; it's too much "new money." Furthermore, often the new generation grew up each as an only child. Still, there are tens of thousands of Americans along with hundreds of thousands of other foreigners: It's clear to me, I'm missing something as a tourist.
Apparently "Pedestrians can safely cross"
(in Chinese, this must mean dodge cars)
That's the problem, the tourist sites here are awash with a plethora of pedantic picture-taking populations from the world over. And, as with many tourist destinations, a huge group of Chinese people take advantage of those masses. Just one of the many scams is the traditional "Tea House." Here's how it goes...

You arrive at one of the main tourist attractions - say at the Tiananmen Square East Subway station, like I did.  You're walking along, and then there is an attractive female on your side. But, don't be fooled - it also might be a group of Chinese "from outside the city" or a group of guys that are friendly and want to be in a picture with you. While people here are - can be - mostly friendly, its unlikely that they would randomly approach you (especially at a tourist site).

She says in accurate, though broken Engrish, "I just finish school and I want to practice my english, perhaps we can walk and talk and I can show you some of my city." Well, that's not a big deal - why not, right? And I agree, if this simply is the proposition, go with it! However, here's when things might get interesting:  First, she tells you that her brother/uncle/dad/someone she's living with is a policeman -- this is a key thing they use to (theoretically) threaten you with later. Second tip-off, "Oh, are you thirsty? Do you want to have a drink/try some of China's traditional teas?  I know a place nearby." Then you know you're on your way to being taken for all you've got.

Fake "Tea House" on South Chizi Street,
North of Tiananmen Square East Subway Stop
They will walk you to a nearby, nondescript building - usually it says "Tea House" and "Tea, Coffee, Beer" on the outside. Then charge exorbitant rates for drinks, sometimes including a 100 yuan "room-fee." And be sure not to give up your credit card to pay! Anyway, just don't go as far as I did - (read my three part adventure with terrible Chinese thieves).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Clubbing in Bangkok: Go beyond mixed brown & white rice; Sticky is sweeter!

Getting your groove on in Bangkok leaves something to be desired for your typical tourist gay (male). You’ve got tons of little bars and lovely people watching (Balcony & Telephone, the main pre-clubbing venues) in Silom, Soi 4, but only two real late-night clubbing options DJ Station and  G.O.D. (Guys on Display) – it's pretty strange that such a prolific gay city has really a few dance floors, at least where foreigners come. But that's before you realize - there's much more to gay Bangkok!

To find authentic gay Thai scene, you've got to do your homework. There are a number of other incredible discos – all considered to be sticky-rice clubs; meaning Thai-for-Thai, there were none or maybe a couple foreigners at each. For Thais, there is not much mingling going on: you go with your friends, talk with your friends (despite very loud music), watch a go-go boy and drag show (with those same friends). It's more difficult in Asia to meet people if you're not into the online scene and even more difficult, obviously, if you don't know a local language (more on this in a future post).

See K – or K Dance Pub according to one local – is a bit far from central Bangkok (still just over 100 THB - like $3 or $4). Upon finding the club (off the road, in a pedestrian mall), an exasperated Thai guy attempted to ask what I wanted to drink. I heard Heineken and whiskey – but not vodka, so he took me to 7-11 nearby (as if I needed a chaperone) where I purchased a little (half liter) bottle of Absolute (for a whopping 270 THB, yes that’s almost $10—and YES! you can buy vodka at 7-11 mi by midnight). 7-11 is Thailand’s (and for SE Asia in general) – convenience store for everything one might need, but remember that you can’t purchase alcohol in Thailand between 2pm and 5pm weekdays (nor between midnight and 11am).