This afternoon we had a break in our manuscript study conference for ‘free time.’
I made plans to spend time with friends from the Philippines (from Ohio, actually, but living in the Philippines the past 20 years) who I met four years ago at this conference, as well as some from Australia and working in various parts of Central Asia.
Our meeting place was the Paragon mall, and I got there early, so did a bit of looking around. I very quickly realized, this is not your ‘Chatuchak weekend market’ when I saw some cute board shorts and read the price tag—3,500 Bat, or, roughly, $100.
We ate at the food court (though there was a McDonald’s and a Burger King, I had Korean food, most had pad thai, and some Indian curry as well) and then took the sky train to the Patpong Road night market.
Patpong, as an area, is known to be one of the tourist centers for prostitution in Bangkok. When we met with the folks from Night Light, they mentioned that though some 80-90% of Thai men visit prostitutes (it seemed an incredibly high number to me, but it is apparently verified) they would never go to the Patpong area. Why not? we asked. “Because it’s touristy—too expensive.”
We, a group consisting of me, two moms, and their three teen-aged daughters, were there to visit the Night Market (an outdoor flea market basically). However, along both sides of the night market were establishments catering to a different sort of clientele. What was crazy was that the solicitors were often shoving in front of us their ‘menus’ listing available services—which are not repeatable in polite company. I could see this if it were a group of guys, but women and daughters?
The other thing we learned very quickly as we shopped for souvenirs and gifts, is that even to ask a price of something is to begin entering in to the negotiation, bartering, for purchase.
Because language can be a barrier, one piece of the bartering process that I found fascinating was the use of a calculator—not to calculate anything, but to type in a number that you would offer to pay. So, for instance, if something started out at 850 Bat and it was my turn to offer a price, I could then type in 100 and let the bargaining begin.