Solas Award: Red Lights and a Rose

Vagablogging contributer Joel Carillet won the Solas Award for best travel writing in 2008 with his short nonfiction essay “Red Lights and a Rose.”  A touching and raw account of his interactions with the street and club girls in Bangkok’s red light district, it leaves you questioning…and reaching for a paradise you never knew existed.

This was my second night in Soi Nana, a square three-storey structure with the feel of a frat house. Or was it more like that ride at Disney World, Pirates of the Caribbean? Yes, that was it, Nana reminded me of a Disney World ride: Pirates raucously chasing screaming women, people living out of bounds, with ogling eyes, on a quest for ill-gotten treasure. Yo, ho, ho, a pirates life for me! But here many of the swashbucklers were upper middle class businessman from the West, strolling in and out of clubs with names like Spankys, Lollipop, Carousel, DC-10, and G-Spot. And at less than two dollars, which covered your first beer, it was considerably cheaper than Orlando.

Over a three-day period I would visit several clubs in Nana, all of which were pretty much the same. They were like trash compactors, all of us pressed too tightly together, fighting the heat and humidity, sensing that intimacy was strangely recyclable here. It was a raucous environment indeed, with so much careless movement that hearts were easily broken. At least this is how I read the looks on the faces of several women, and later what I would hear them say.

And yet it was here, in a minefield of flesh and dreams, where black cats prowled on sheet metal awnings in search of geckos, where satellite dishes pulled in ESPN which overweight German tourists watched as girls nestled compliantly into their girth, where sound systems belted out the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus so that girls could rock their bodies to the rhythm of “Achy Breaky Heart”…it was here that I stood on the verge of discovering something new about paradise.

Posted by | Comments Off on Solas Award: Red Lights and a Rose  | April 27, 2010
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