Changes In Bangkok Part 1
I would like to talk about some of the changes I seen in Bangkok and Thailand in general.
In 1969 I came the first time to Bangkok, it was originally for a two day’s stopover on the way to Port Moresby. As I did not know any hotels I asked the tourist desk at the airport for a cheap and clean hotel. They recommended the Grace Hotel and laughed. After a one and a half hour taxi ride surrounded by rice fields I arrived at the hotel.
I was quite surprised. It looked very modern and clean. I booked in, the charges were 5 US$ a night, a boy took my flight bag and we proceeded to the room. Very nice indeed, quite a large room, TV, fridge and air-conditioning. A little later the floor boy knocked at the door and asked me if I would like a massage. Well I accepted and a short time later a middle aged lady arrived. She was build like a battleship. This was my first Thai massage; I thought that the lady wanted to kill me. For two hours she worked like a mad woman on every small muscle of my body, hands and feet. The total charge was only 80 baht. I really was completely refreshed and ready to go; that I did not sleep for 63 hours was forgotten. I do not believe that even in a traditional Thai massage parlor you could get this attention to detail today.
I went down to the coffee shop and looked at all the nice young ladies sitting there, obviously waiting for customers. The place was full of GIs. I then found out that the Grace hotel was a GI hotel catering for the soldiers on RR from Vietnam.
Compared to today, the ladies were not bothersome at all. They were very well behaved and only joined you by invitation. The prices in those days were 80 to 100 baht ST or 120 to 150 baht all night. The drinks also were very cheap indeed, if I remember correctly a beer was about 10 baht and a cola about 8 baht. They served quite good western food, alas mostly for the US taste.
Even in those days the Bkk traffic was complete chaos. I found out that quite often you could walk faster than using a taxi. All the small street traders did not exist, apart from vendors which sold US cigarettes at 10 baht a packet. Basically if you wanted to buy something you had to go to the small shops or the department stores. I did a lot of shopping at the Central Department Store, the prices compared to Europe, Australia or the US were very cheap.
Everything in Bangkok was a surprise for me, I did know Hong Kong and Singapore quite well but Bkk was completely different from the other places. The people seemed to be happier in Thailand, not so much after money and generally much friendlier. (How that has changed now.)
I become very friendly with a 28 year old lady. She worked for the CID, undercover in the coffee shop, looking for illegal and subversive people. Apparently the officials were worried that there might be some communist trouble makers in the spots where US serviceman enjoyed themselves. She invited me to see her boss at police headquarters so that she could arrange some leave of absence, as she wanted to show me the tourist attractions in Bangkok. The leave was granted and we spend all our time together, 24 hours a day. She always insisted paying half of all expenses, the only money I spent was for the taxi rides. I changed my flight and stayed for a total of ten days in Bkk. On the girl’s insistence, we changed the hotel to the Miami hotel. It was cheaper, only 70 baht a night and it had a big swimming pool and she did not want to stay at the Grace hotel. The Miami was also a GI hotel and in those days was relatively new and had very good western food. There were no bar girls in the coffee shop but the guests could bring their girl friends to the rooms without any problems.
I went with my lady to the floating markets and she bought me a belt buckle. I was surprised how heavy and large the thing was. As we were back at the hotel she showed me that it actually was a 6.35 mm gun built into the buckle. You flipped the top outwards and had two small barrels build into it. You could fire them separately; as she also bought a packet of ammo we had quite a bit of fun with the thing. It was strictly for self defence, from the markings I believe it was made in the USSR, how it found its way to Bangkok only the Lord knows.
Now this was not a bar girl and she would not accept any presents or money. She had a very old wristwatch and I gave her a new Seiko watch as I left. At first she would not accept it but on my insistence she finally did.
Anyway, all good things come to an end and I had to continue my trip. The girl brought me to the airport and I departed after a real enjoyable time.
I'd love to have seen Bangkok back then.