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A Sodom by the Sea

When the tabloid press visits Thai Pattaya, some vulgar sex tourist is always portrayed. Thus, the fact that the city is a magnet for the martyrs of formation is underlined.


Late afternoon. A friend of mine observes the following from his apartment: A young man comes running. The girlfriend sits on the back of the motorcycle. She jumps off and goes into the gogo bar, where she will work for the money. He gets off his bike and goes into the gay bar, where he will also work for the money this evening.

Welcome to Pattaya, a city where pragmatics is at the forefront.

In the religious paradise, everything has stopped; Movement is not necessary when everything is perfect and the pain is finally gone. In an earthly paradise like this – where everything is possible for a cheap money – everything also stands firm. The sun glides across Pattaya's sky during the daytime. Then it pops down below the horizon to light up the underworld. It shines across landscapes where the same is sown and harvested day after day, night after night: nothing, but still enough. As spectacular as Las Vegas, and sinful like no other. Pattaya holds the many shadows of love. And most of all the kind that comes under the term "earthly love". An accessible utopia for the well-wishers and the thinkers. And for him or her who has come to the end of some way. Here everything is possible. The only sin is to masturbate where it shouldn't have been necessary.

Now he lives here on Pattaya Beach, a place as far away from young artist's dreams, civic ambitions and Oslo concert halls as possible.

In Pattaya, there are no bourgeois ambitions – at least not with the guests this article includes. Nobody dreams of becoming an artist or pop artistsomething, or about pursuing a career in business or politics. Those who are here have already been there, or have never come this far. And now they have given up in the sense that they have realized that the world cannot be saved and that man is eternally decadent. And that they must be honest with themselves for the years they have left on the planet. And that access to good food, cheap alcohol and earthly love is better than nothing.

Life fighters. When VG or Dagbladet has its annual visits to Pattaya, a male person is always portrayed completely without education and cultural capital – often completely vulgar with a background from the countryside and the lower social strata. This underscores the fact that the city is precisely a magnet for the martyrs of education: a last resort for artists and disillusioned idealists of all ideological and political shades, not least the left.

The most interesting existences in Pattaya are not the vulgar low-culture figures the journalists point out. The interesting thing is all the life fighters. Those who have decided that a warm and frictionless life is preferable to what the northern hemisphere can offer, namely a darkness, a cold and a closed disorder that they know all too well from before. The blackness that art historians believe was one of the prerequisites for suffering artists such as Edvard Munch – yes, the whole dark European expressionism with tuberculosis and depression.

In Pattaya, the impressions prevail: thin pastel facades that cover the bone-hard and grim concrete pillars of capitalism. Here is all fantasy and reality. Sexologist Berthold Grünfeld is said to have said: "Good sex is nothing but friction and imagination." Here it is confirmed every day. Pattaya is full of the hemingways of our time – those who experience that reality is like a short, simple sentence. The city is about – if you are driving – taking the needs out of the imagination and into reality, something most heterosexual men do not get to experience if they do not pay for it. (Here the gays are luckier, they get something as long as they are not too old or ugly.) But you also get, if you are not affected by manic eros, days that are hot under the sun, and which are more than a dream . Someone who touches you and is genuinely in love with you, because you finally found one. Wonderful food under the palm trees. Events that are not just distant revelations from old paintings, such sailors often decorated their brown-black rosewood walls with.

And The Rough City, as Pattaya likes to call itself, is also a family vacation. It is only here that you can experience 80-year-old Germans renting small 22-year-old reels at the same time as the family with children arrives in droves right on the way to the amusement park. Most people who come here are not here to buy erotica. Then the bar streets would be full as the sun goes down in the underworld, and they are not. Most people who come here are here to see! Not least the Chinese tourists who jovially follow the guide's flag through Walking Street, Pattaya's answer to Las Vegas' The Strip.

I'm talking to a Norwegian – a formerly known Norwegian musician, bitter and upset about Norway and the art world there. Now he lives here on Pattaya Beach, a place as far away from young artist dreams, bourgeois ambitions and the Oslo Concert Hall as possible. Here he has the room and his life now. The old-age pension and cheap food at the favorite café. Maybe a warm hug every now and then – maybe a boyfriend who takes care of him. This is the last port of travel.

Faust's lost illusions. In Michel Houellebecq's novel Platform you also meet someone who once wanted something with art: the disillusioned Michel. A former bureaucrat in the French Ministry of Culture who ends up in the bay with the many palm trees, because sex tourism, as he sees it, is the ultimate solution to the basic loneliness of modern man. Here, the 50-60-year-old sees the reality in white
the eye: that the truth of being here on earth is unfortunately not as simple as he envisioned as a young idealist, when he believed that talent and hard work automatically bring success and recognition. That love and the meaning of life come as a gift to those who want to give meaning to others or save them. That if you are good and idealistic, you will do well. It is worst for the political idealist, he who dreamed of the collectivist path to Utopia, but who in a classic Faustian way met the eroding swells of reality, and where everything has now been washed down to questions of his own personal survival.

He is standing naked now, in one of the alleys of Walking Street – far from all illusions. The only thing he has left is the minimum pension he can meet the anything but innocent Gretchen with.

Pattaya was closer to naive ideals of purity before, when before the Vietnam War it was a small fishing village. The Americans had a base nearby, and soldiers on the perm went to the bay with the palm trees. Up from the sand grew a bar, then another – and so the world's most sinful city was created in the 1970s and '80s. Sodom by the sea.

It was the soldiers and tourists who destroyed this innocent idyll, then? An innocent country? No, fortunately this is a classic postcolonialist cliché, one of those where the West is the bad guy and the others the kind ones. The Thais are like everyone else, just as good and just as evil, just as guilty and innocent. Tourists account for five to six percent of the buying and selling of earthly love in this country. 93 to 94 percent of the exchange is local. The local newspapers also write about this. Another interesting thing is that prostitution is forbidden here. Morality is created by the forces of production, it is said. Nowhere else in the world could Marxist theorists cost more than here, where their theories are concretized every single day. And every single night.

To economize. A girl in her twenties is sitting at a bar. She says she is from Isan, a huge area in northeastern Thailand. There she has a kid with a man who is too fond of cheap Thai whiskey. She sends money to her parents, who take care of the child. Now she works here for the money. A story she shares with most people.

A young man says that he would rather work in the gay bar than 14 hours a day at the factory. If you are a boy, you save for a small workshop, or maybe to take over the father's farm. If you are a girl, the savings go to a hair salon. Many study next door. The interesting thing is how little traumatized most people are, in relation to our perception of how they are should be. But then it is not drugs or broken families that have brought them here, it is rather a lack of money, pure poverty.

The danger of an early death lies in the acidic mixture of sex, viagra, alcohol and sun. Every week a zinc coffin is sent to Norway.

Pattaya, yes! Jack Kerouacs On the Road for those who have been through the forty-year crisis and have forty years left to live. The danger of an early death lies in the acidic mixture of sex, viagra, alcohol and sun. Every week a zinc coffin is sent to Norway.

I meet an acquaintance, a vital artist from Norway who is here on Christmas vacation. He is very direct and does not take detours when addressing people – not even when the needs of earthly love are presented to the local sellers. I ask him what he gets in return for being so clear, because I feel like I can learn something from this in general, not be so damn careful all the time.

"I do this to save money," he replies. "Why go around the porridge when you can pretty quickly find out if you can taste it or not?"

Yes, exactly! That is what Pattaya is: to economize – with what you have left of capital.
Krutzkoff Jacobsen has recently been employed as a short film consultant at NFI.

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