The street outside is swarming with people, locals, backpackers, privileged youth who are drifting around the world on their parents’ dime, and none of them realize at this moment that I’m the most important person out here. Sure, they think they are, but that’s merely delusion. It’s me.
This is Khao San road, the Haight Street of Southeast Asia. I thought I had seen a dense population of massage and tattoo parlors in other cities, but nothing comes close to this. Within a kilometer of my hotel there may be two hundred of each. They’re open twelve to fourteen hours a day. Probably two thousand people, mostly women, make their living here in this way.
I stopped into the first vegetarian restaurant I found as I left the small alley that connects my hotel to the main street. We have plenty of vegetarian restaurants in my home city of Chiang Mai, and they’re always very inexpensive. I didn’t even bother to look at the prices when I sat down and ordered.
Fortunately, I had enough cash in my wallet to cover a Thai iced tea and a quesadilla. Almost nine dollars. This is about nine times more expensive than it would have been in Chiang Mai. Looking around the room at the other diners, mostly European young people, I could tell I was the only one who noticed.
Everything in Bangkok is a little bit more expensive than in other cities, but this won the extortion prize.