On a down time: How about feeding an elephant or shopping in a red light district in Bangkok?
By Marivir R. Montebon
It should be in 1999, when I was sent on a writing training to Thailand on reporting for HIV – AIDS by the UN and WHO. There were three of us from the Philippines. It was a great opportunity for understanding Aids…from the medical to the social aspect of the disease. It was likewise cool to meet journalists from southeast Asia.
I will forever remember being tapped on the shoulder while I was having lunch. I turned around to see a huge black animal behind me. Owooow, I was scared! What’s this elephant doing in this resto? The keeper showed me bananas and motioned that I feed the giant. Really!? Oh my God, I freaked out.
It was a tourist attraction then, when the elephants were allowed to roam in Bangkok. So I bought a few bananas and fed the huge animal. It smelled like a carabao. I was scared while throwing the bananas into the elephant’s mouth, because I could fit into it. Later, I realized it would just take the banana through its snout. I had mixed feelings of surprise and shock. That was how his poor keeper earned money. What a life.
On the second night, we were made to roam around Bangkok’s red light district to interview sex workers. Almost naturally, the women journalists became one group separate from men. Off we went to the red light district. We were revolted at the sight of women dancing by the show windows along the alley, the stench of smoke, and the annoying pimps who were so in competition (like cackling chicken) to get us inside. None of us entered the clubs.
Quite a pleasant surprise in Bangkok was its night flea market, which was right in the middle of the main road of the red light district. There we women journalists showed our true colors…we shopped like crazy! I got the best deals haggling for…blazer, fashion accessories, souvenirs.
The male journalists had the time of their lives inside the pubs.
The following day was our writing workshop. All of us were excited from the experiences we had. I wanted to write about my freaky elephant feeding and the night shopping fun. But of course it had to be about the person I talked to who was HIV positive, who sunk my heart anyway.