Though friend and journalist Patrick Winn (who writes intelligently about this city) told me about it two months ago, I just happened to catch the recently published Maxim article about David Carradine's passing in the so called 'sex capital of the world.' A piece of trash like this only floats by once in awhile, and for that reason alone it's worth savoring for its rank, pithy sensationalism.
The reporter, Mark Ebner, covers crime in Hollywood. And he's written for some great publications, which makes this story all that much worse. After reading the piece one might surmise that he didn't come to Bangkok at all; after some light research (imagine that!) I've come to the conclusion that this city just wasn't worth much of his time.
The piece reads like it was fact checked with a John Burdett novel. But if Ebner had plowed through Bangkok 8 on the plane ride over, he probably would have known that the three major red light districts here - miles apart from one another - weren't all on the same block. And he might not have written that he'd passed the US Embassy on the way there, because, well, it's not really on the way to the Patpong 'sex bazaar'. I don't think he walked in the height of summer from Siam Square to the Patpong, but, alas, people have done dumber things in Bangkok (see: David Carradine, et al).
Sigh. The sad part is that Ebner actually did visit, and spoke to a Bangkok blogger, who decided to reinforce his insight with another stereotype (the threadbare 'life is worth nothing here' thing). I beg to differ, even if my local motorcycle taxi driver seems to suggest so. The writer's descriptions of everything from Buddhist amulets to shrines to street scenes is written with the nuance of a tourist who stopped over for a night on his way to Phuket. Maybe that's what actually happened.
Regardless, this is exactly the sort of cliche-ridden hack journalism that results when mags decide to send someone over here to write about a subject that they know next to nothing about. Maxim isn't exactly the New Yorker, but I hope they're at least a little embarrassed by what they decided to print.
For a more nuanced take on the article, see this very amusing entry at The Shark Guys.
(Note: Patrick, I realized, blogged about this very same article way back. Find it here. He liked it, though.)
(Second note: After mulling over this entry while cooking dinner, I came to a realization: the reason magazines parachute people in like this is because no self-respecting writer would give their own city this treatment. Best to get an outsider who doesn't mind stretching truth around a rather distorted framework.)