The Mekong; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
The Mekong

Episode 6 - Bangkok - Ho-Chi-Minh-City (Jan 5 - Jan 26, 13)

After experiencing the exotic megacity of Bangkok, we drive through Thailand and Cambodia and end up in Ho-Chi-Minh City in Vietnam, a city populating millions. Jens Stubenrauch is the author of this stage.

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Ökofarmbetreiber und Gastgeber Anurug und Somporn; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
Organic farm operators and hosts Anurug and Somporn
Sunday, January 6, 2013 - The first day of shooting after our Christmas break leads us to "Green Heaven", an organic fruit farm located 50 kilometres from Bangkok. The two organic farmers Somporn and Anurug are two modern downshifters who each turned their backs on successful business lives in Bangkok. With their organic farm, they not only want to live a life in touch with nature, but also want to promote organic agriculture. So the organic movement not only exists in Germany, it is a global idea.
Die Ökofarm „Green Heaven“; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
The organic farm "Green Heaven"
We were back at "Green Heaven" today. Our two farmers, Somporn and Anurug, showed us their cultivated fields and their very innovative marketing strategy: They are "i-farmers", because all business is made over iPhone and Facebook. Personal contact to their customers takes place directly on the field. All ripe products are directly photographed and put on the net, where they can be ordered immediately.
Die IndiePopgruppe „Zodapop“ akzeptiert vorübergehend den Sandmann als Ersatzmann; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
The indie-pop band "Zodapop" temporarily accepts the "Sandmann" as a stand-in
The indie-pop band "Zodapop" temporarily accepts the "Sandmann" as a stand-in
We have our first shooting with the girl band "Zodapop" in Bangkok in the afternoon. Five high-spirited musicians produce really fine indie pop. They really hit it off in their rehearsal room at the "Soundgood Studios". A poster on the wall shows the King of Thailand playing saxophone. We will meet up with the "Zodapops" again on Wednesday, when they perform on the famous Khaosan Road. Exhausted from the never-ending heat and from all the wonderful impressions, we arrive at our hotel in downtown Bangkok in the evening. We are really looking forward to the megacity.
Arbeitserlaubnis für alle!; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
Work permit for all!
Monday, January 7, 2013 - The first day in Bangkok begins with formalities. We need a work permit and the last OKs from the Embassy of Vietnam for our trip there the week after the next. Then we are off to meet Li. She is one of the many Kathoeys in Thailand known as "Ladyboys", a bit of a negative expression for young transsexual people.
Äusserlich eine sehr hübsche Frau: Li; Quelle: Ingo Aurich
Li - a Kathoey
What often characterizes Kathoeys: They fit the female beauty standards perfectly thanks to cosmetics and modern surgery. It is a bit different with Li, since, as a Muslima, she refuses all surgery.
She still wants to live as a woman, nevertheless, and be accepted as one.

Even though the tradition of the "third gender" goes back a long way in Thailand, the Kathoeys still must fight for equal rights within society. Many of them end up as prostitutes in the red light districts of Bangkok and present themselves as women to Western tourists. But Li has chosen a different path. She knows that the only way of escaping social exclusion is with a proper education, so she is studying political science at the University of Bangkok. It takes us two hours to get to the campus and back. Bangkok does not have a traffic jam - Bangkok IS one giant traffic jam! Thank Buddha we finally have all the necessary takes, and we truly earned our after work beer. We are looking forward to seeing Li again tomorrow.
The Erawan Shrine
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - Today we immediately dive into the daily traffic chaos of Bangkok. At the famous Erawan Shrine we meet up with Li, the woman in the body of a man.
The Erawan Shrine is a small Buddhist temple directly on the corner of a huge intersection. Even though Li is Muslim, she places flowers on the shrine, some incense sticks and a candle. With this Trinity, anybody can optimize their Karma. Li lives on the other side of the big river that runs right through Bangkok. We glide a bit down the river on a long-tail boat. In the evening, we shoot in the red light districts of Bangkok. Kathoeys, or "Ladyboys", as they are often called, are also frequently found here. We get a first impression of how the Southeast Asian sex tourism works. Thousands of men and women prostitute themselves, many of them seeing that as the only chance of survival for themselves and their families.
Performance of the girl band "Zodapop"
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - Today we meet the girl band "Zodapop" again. We start by meeting the lead singer, Jing, at the University of Bangkok. Our first encounter with the 22 year-old is during her singing lessons. With a traditional song of the Thais she enchants us with her voice. The 1, 52 metre tall woman has a lot of soul. But to go to the University means to learn and study hard.

The University education is also very scholastic, and they all have to wear school uniforms. We accompany Jing to a lecture. Then the complete opposite in the afternoon: without uniform, dressed very colourfully, she heads to the Khaosan Road. It is THE worldwide icon for backpacker tourists; small hostels, coffee shops, music bars and travel agencies for trips to the beaches and islands all are part of the unique flair of this street. Jing and her band will perform in a club directly at Backpacker's Paradise in the evening. "Zodapop" plays an amazing gig, a completely different kind of women's power here in Bangkok that impresses us.
The Friendship-Market at the border
Friday, January 11, 2013 - In the morning, before entering Cambodia, we shoot at the gigantic "Friendship-Market" directly at the border. The social disparities between here and beyond the border guarantee proper sale proceeds. The number one trade goods are textiles, produced cheaply in Cambodia, Vietnam and China. Our protagonist is a Cambodian merchant. Every day she crosses the border to Thailand to offer her goods, among them being self-tailored dresses.

Afterward, we enter the neighbouring country on the wrong side of the road. Between the two checkpoints, in the approximately one kilometre long no-man's-land, an Eldorado for casinos has developed. "Little Las Vegas" officially lies on Cambodian territory. Right afterward lies the border town of Poipet with its slums full of inconceivable poverty. But not until the following morning will we be able to see them.