We've almost completed the Southeast Asian portion of our research travel and have met people and had experiences that none of us will ever forget. Thailand is a beautiful country with people who have been generous with their time and gracious with their hospitality. Bangkok is filled with numerous temples that are serene and contemplative while at the same time overwhelmingly grand and humbling. In stark contrast are the areas that we came to research - the red light districts hidden below the surface of many cities are grim, dark and fly in the face of what we have seen to be true Thai culture. They are hot, uncomfortable streets and complexes teeming with men and tourists either seeking sex or simply curious about this unseemly industry. Our team spent several evenings walking these streets in both Pattaya and Bangkok with people who are working diligently to help the women and girls caught and lost to this business. And it is a business. There is so much money to be made it almost seems like it would be impossible to fix yet day after day we meet these remarkable people who are positive and optimistic that they can make a difference and find solutions. Have to say that from a personal standpoint it has been difficult to visit these areas and see these women and girls. So many appear to have lost all hope. What has made this tolerable are the encouraging words and actions from the various groups and people we have met who are fighting the good fight.
The picture we've posted is of The Nana Entertainment Center in Bangkok's red light district. It's surreal. It's a multi-floor entertainment center that you'd find in any city catering to families and tourists. It brought to mind a Universal City Walk or Downtown Disney in the US. Except instead of family friendly restaurants and comedy clubs, it's bar after neon lit bar seemingly overflowing with young women and girls who dance topless and perform "shows" for prospective customers. In some bars, the girls wear numbers so the customers can pick a girl by her number in order to solicit her services. The sheer number of bars in this one complex seemed endless.