Farewell Summer, Hello Low/Rainy Season and LGBT Pride Month
Monday, June 04, 2012
Our Meteorological Consultant rambles: A few weeks after Songkran and the rain in Thailand has been getting heavier, though the “thundershowers” forecast frequently during May were sometimes no more than rumbles in the distance. That’s one of many wondrous kinks in South East Asian life: weather that can be heard but isn’t always seen. And in numerous parts of Thailand, there is usually less rain in June than in May: see the charts here. So this is a good time to visit, whatever the guidebooks say. But the crowds in the street markets and on the beaches have inevitably thinned out, and resident expats are wallowing in the rare luxuries of room to breathe and a wide choice of seats at their favourite bars.
It’s bliss, except for those expats who are business owners; understandably, they don’t like empty seats. During the past month, the entrepreneurs of gay Thailand could be found on occasion shaking their heads and grumbling: “What can you do? It’s low season.” Of course, they’re quick to add that, though THIS May might not have been too good, it was much less bad than LAST May, which was a huge improvement on the May BEFORE. Then their voices lower and they go on to say that, of course, they can’t vouch for the business next door, which looks as if it just might be on its last legs...
In fact, signs of downturn are few and far between. A couple of go go boy venues in Pattaya have closed, while another that’s been up for sale for many months has remained cheerfully open for business. In Bangkok, two stylish watering holes – The Stranger and the dance-oriented One Night Only – have opened within a few metres of each other on Silom Soi 4. You can hardly move for massage places in many pockets of gay Thailand, and there is no shortage of willing masseurs: check some of the lads out here. Gay venues continue to open in areas of the Kingdom from which, in the past, they were conspicuously absent: a case in point is Udon Thani. And there’s now a luxury resort on Koh Samui where you and your beloved can treat yourselves to a same-sex wedding! No doubt this momentous news was partly responsible for nudging President Obama into explicit support for gay marriage, not to mention his acclaim for June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
Always one to grasp the wrong end of the stick in her spindly fingers, my elderly assistant Yolande suggests that people stayed indoors during May so as to mark with due decorousness the passing of Vidal Sassoon, the ground breaking crimper, and those icons of disco culture, Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. I had to explain that, while such legends of times past might hold a place in Yolande’s delicate heart, you can’t get many people weeping and wailing over the dear departed nowadays without the involvement of Sir Elton John. And he was hardly likely to sob for the coiffeur Sassoon as he had so flamboyantly for the couturier Versace, since hair was a sore point for the tubby songsmith. So far gone from the age of deference are we that a commentator on this bitchy American website likened the appearance of Sir Elton’s hair piece to that of cooked kelp. Still, at least the Brits continue to bend the knee and bob to their superiors, as Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee has just demonstrated.
Sadly, leadership in The Land of Smiles hasn’t been getting such a good press. The visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to Bangkok for the World Economic Forum on East Asia prompted the Bangkok Post to contrast the dignity of Myanmar’s heroine with the squabbling and seemingly irredeemable shabbiness of the Thai political class. The Post also described the migrant Myanmar workers whom Mrs Suu Kyi visited in Samut Sakhon as “the most marginalised in Thai society”. Faced with this display of “soft power” from across the border, even our blessed PM, Yingluck Shinawatra, was roundly upstaged.
We had to look elsewhere for Thai strength in skirts, or high heels to be precise. Not for the first time, Pattaya came up trumps. So here’s to glamorous katoeys Phantira Samrongphant and Nattaphol Srisongkram, who must surely be early nominees for a joint Woman of the Year Award, 2012. Pattaya Today reported that, when an Iranian tourist failed to pay the full amount he had promised for a sexual encounter, Phantira whipped off a high heel shoe and used it to set about the deceitful trick, assisted with exemplary solidarity by her neighbour, Nattaphol. This highly effective and entirely justified assault climaxed when the Iranian was taken to Memorial Hospital.
Now, don’t you call that style? None of your tired old scratching-the eyes-out nonsense for the ladyboys of Pattaya. Nothing less than a high heel shoe will suffice when a worker’s rights need to be fought for. Surely, President Obama himself would commend this gesture in the run-up to LBGT Pride Month. Unhappily, far from recognising the valour and initiative shown by the katoeys, the police took the side of the tourist. Phantira and Nattaphol were ordered to pay 4,700 Baht in hospital fees and – insult piled on injury – to apologise to the Iranian “for actions that besmirched Pattaya’s image”. Shame the cops didn’t grasp that it is because Pattaya’s image is beyond besmirching that many of us love the place so. A low season for justice, indeed!