Saturday, February 19, 2005

One Night In Bangkok

One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster.
The bars are temples but the pearls ain't free.
You'll find a god in every golden cloister.
And if you're lucky then the god's a she.
I can feel an angel sliding up to me.

-Murray Head

The stage is dark, and the packed house waits with apprehension. As the stage lights emit a devilish glow, a famous American show tune fills the air. An elegant singer emerges from the darkness, her white sequined dress draping gracefully across the stage. As she begins to sing, the M.C. croons – “Welcome to the Calypso Cabaret!” For the next hour, dozens of beautiful performers dazzle the audience with a show that is part Broadway, part MTV, part Moulin Rouge, and part Vaudeville. Only this show has a twist. All of the performers are men.

Actually, Thailand has three sexes – men, women, and ka-thoey. Ka-thoey are born as boys, but grow up to become women. In the Western world, the term is transgender. Although the ka-thoey are looked upon as a cultural curiosity by foreigners, they are simply accepted by Thais as the “third sex.” Many blend into mainstream culture as everyday businesswomen, while others thrive in the entertainment industry.

The Calypso Cabaret is a Bangkok institution. Asian and Western tourists flock to see the show, filling the theatre twice a night, seven days a week. Marilyn Monroe and Tina Turner lead over 50 performers through a lively and thoroughly entertaining show. It is fascinating entertainment.

Of course, Bangkok has a myriad of other interesting sights as well: stunning temples, ornate palaces, fascinating museums, and humming outdoor markets. Sleek public transportation whisks riders around the city. Trendy restaurants sit next to modern art galleries. Although its reputation proceeds it, the “me-love-you-long-time” version has seen better days. Today’s Bangkok is an utterly modern and sophisticated city, and well worth a visit.

Enjoy the Bangkok Photo Gallery.

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