Okay, so it’s not all sweetness and light in this country. Yesterday a few of us took a trip to Chatuchak market in Bangkok, a sprawling, 35-acre covered bazaar selling everything from knock-off 501s to seven foot tall Predators made from scrap metal. A true shopper’s paradise, roughly delineated into areas covering clothing, food, plastic food, mantelpiece tat and more, you can find anything you’ll ever need – provided you’re willing and physically able to trawl through the miles of dark, humid alleyways. Just make sure to buy that perfect piece of tat as soon as you find it, otherwise I can guarantee that the stall will fade into the mist as soon as you turn your back, Brigadoon-style, never to be seen again.
This cornucopia of consumerism hides a dark side though, dark at least to my western sensibilities. I love cute little beasties – puppies, kittens, squirrels, rabbits, hedgehogs – and despite my current manly-man pursuits I still can’t resist reaching out to stroke the little fellas, especially if there’s a giant furry pile of them in a basket. With that in mind I was in seventh heaven when we reached the pet area of the market, suddenly surrounded by countless kitties, rottweiller and husky pups, even baby squirrels on leads.
So much fluff! So little time! Aww, that one’s licking my hand! Check out that wee fuzzball climbing over his brothers and sisters!
But then you start to notice things, sinister things like the little one at the back barely moving except for his shivers. Or the tousled one in the corner whose fur is clearly covered in it’s own mess. And the fact that a lot of the mewls and yelps aren’t typical youthful pet enthusiasm, more like someone whining “it’s hot and crowded and scary and I don’t even have any water”. And there’s the odd fact that so many stall owners forbid taking any photos – because you’re somehow stealing a little cuteness from their souls or because they realise how bad it looks to farang eyes?
Suddenly the pet section isn’t so much fun.
Suddenly I have to leave.
The thing is, there’s nothing you can do about it. Try to scold the stall owners or even just make them more aware of and sensitive to the suffering of their infant charges? I can barely ask for a cup of coffee in the local lingo, let alone deliver an animal rights manifesto. Buy them all and give them a better home? I’d love to be in that position but I’d need a house the size of Edinburgh Castle and similarly spacious luggage…
So all you can do is keep walking, head to the next section and tut-tut with your mates in an oh-so-righteous fashion. I’ll be a guest in this country for a while so I’m going to have to learn to tolerate things like this, even if I’ll never approve of them and never accept any wishy-washy cultural relativism that tries to tell me that such cruelty is okay cause it’s ‘just their way’. It’s going to depress the shit out of me whenever I encounter it but at least there are a hell of a lot more good things about the country than bad (or that’s the gist so far anyway).