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Day 5: Thailand

Cabaret, Korean Make-Up, Japanese Buffet and Safety

rain 34 °C

Safety

It seems that, in general, comfort and fun are prioritised higher than safety. This seems to be the case when discussing and observing the choice to rarely wear a seatbelt, helmets, protective gear and riding in the back of a vehicle! Personally I have found this decision to take quite some getting used to. I am making a conscious effort to wear a seatbelt whenever possible, but, in line with Thai priorities, they are frequently unavailable. For example, in my host family's car, one of the back seats has had its seatbelt clip replaced with a DRINK BOTTLE HOLDER! Fun and convenience over safety? Is popular culture supporting the notion that everything needs to be fun and that safety should take the 'back seat'? Despite the lower safety standards that I've noticed, within the Nonthaburi suburbs there is an abundance of speed bumps, which keeps the traffic from driving above safe speeds in these areas.

Hospitality

Continuing Thai hospitality, today Kao's mother gave me a necklace. This gift surprised me, as I'd never expect someone to give me a gift when staying in their home...in fact, I'd expect it to be the other way around!

Central/Downtown Bangkok

Today's festivities included a visit to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, getting my make-up and curls done in a Korean style and my continued failure to find a leather case for my camera. The Bangkok Art and Cultural Center is best described by photographs, though I will say that I much preferred the art in the section that His Majesty the King of Thailand had chosen, than the art I have seen in exhibitions in Australia. I think the style of art that I prefer must be more popular in Thailand, as that entire exhibition had absolutely amazing pieces of art. The interactive nature of the other exhibitions within the center appear to be influenced by the global trend for artwork to move away from the traditional and to instead encompass interactive modes. It was interesting to see the choices made by the artists in creating their artwork, as I found it difficult in the interactive sections to note the specific popular cultures that would have influenced each. I suspect that this is due to a lack of knowledge of the very specific influences, rather than a lack of influences. Contrarily, in the section chosen by the King, the vast majority contained images of the King himself. This shows that Thai popular culture and art is still thoroughly interested in the monarchy and the King's role within contemporary Thai society.

In Paragon Shopping Center in central Bangkok, I had the opportunity to have my make-up done by the Korean brand 'Skin Food'. This experience showed the way that popular culture has shaped the view of beauty in Korea and throughout Asia to preference pale skin and large eyes. Following this experience, I had my hair curled at a nearby hair salon. I noticed quite a difference between hair curling in Australia and in Thailand. It seems, based on how they did mine and the style that I have seen in the streets, that the hair is curled from approximately mid-way down the hair. This is quite different to in Australia, where the hair would be curled from much higher. It seems that the way that it's done in Australia attempts to convey that the hair is naturally curly, whereas the way it is done in Asia appears to disregard the fact that it will look unnatural. This notion seems to extend to appearance in regards to plastic surgery, where this has negative connotations in Australia because it is not natural, but is more acceptable in Asia, where it is okay to look 'natural' through having plastic surgery and other 'fake' things done.
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Calypso Cabaret

Tonight's festivities included interviewing two Calypso Cabaret dancers, followed by watching the Calypso Cabaret performance.

Kao, Tang Tang, Nicole and I had the opportunity to interview two of the dancers and their creative manager, Hans. Hans was quite a character, interrupting the interview, speaking in a condescending manner, lecturing us regarding his assumptions of our views and contradicting himself. For example, after lecturing us on the innappropriate nature of the term 'ladyboy', he then continued to use the term to refer to the women that we were interviewing. A further example of contradiction: he lectured on his hatred of the assumptions of the 'majorities' (e.g. heterosexuals) regarding the transgender dancers...but then he condemned me for being 'white, female and heterosexual' - oh, the assumptions! His tone of voice was incredibly frustrating, as we were given no opportunity to convey acceptance of the transgender people, nor to correct his rude assumptions about us. In summary? Hans was quite a harsh, overpowering man, who would not pause for breath during his tyrades.

Despite the incredibly harsh and rude nature of Hans' lectures throughout the interview, he did reiterate some points made by the women during the interview. Such key points made by the women during the interview included, that they do not need others to fight for their rights for them, that they wish to be viewed as people rather than pidgon-holed and stereotyped through the use of labels (such as 'ladyboy' or 'ka-theouy') and that both of them have or are studying at university (that is, being in cabaret is just a side-job for many of the dancers). I found it very sad when they spoke of each of them being discriminated against and jested during cabaret performances, as well as everyday life.

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Posted by ruth'stravels 09:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged food bangkok japanese korea thai hair curls calypso cabaret make-up lady_boys Comments (0)

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