Stickman's guide to Bangkok
Pattaya, Mild To Wild
By Rick Blaine
I was in Pattaya for three great weeks in the late summer of 2003, right on the cusp of the good weather heading into the start of the rainy season. While I have extensively travelled North America and Europe for work and pleasure, Asia was new ground for me. A colleague recommended Thailand, citing guaranteed warm weather, positive exchange on the dollar, low crime for the street-wise traveller and the sheer charm and beauty of its people.
I spent some time researching the local customs, practices, geography and reading up on web pages like Stickman's page. This, to ensure I didn't arrive in Thailand as a naive and easy mark for some of the more astute and farang-savvy locals. I still got taken a few times.
Upon arriving and sleeping off the jetlag from a long flight, the first few wanders around town were comforting-relaxed pace, pleasant people. I discovered the Baht Bus, right in front of my Hotel. I was glad there were some Farangland comforts there, like a Starbuck's and a Hard Rock Cafe on Pattaya Beach Road for Cold Corona beer and some decent nachos. I would hate to go without my beloved coffee, favourite ale and munchie food for three weeks. Comforts were one thing, culture another. As a mid 30s, linebacker-built farang of Scottish ancestry, I'm tall, broad-shouldered and hairy, but well put-together. I found the locals there are a friendly, kind people. The local females there are an especially friendly, vivacious and direct bunch. To have the local girls openly coming on to me was an ego boost, however I knew it was business, not pleasure that motivated them. Still, socializing is the same wherever you go, it's just up to you if you close the deal.
I found a local news channel that broadcast in English and learned what the local crime climate was. I saw a few people hacked up on side streets in gang-related machete fights late at night, and some rather graphic motorcycle fatalities on Pattaya Beach Road. I made a mental note to stay on the main roads in the Tourist areas after dark, unless in knowledgeable and trustworthy company. I also decided to forget renting a motorcycle for my trip. The news cameraman walked right up to the accident scene to lean over and film the freshly deceased, Thais sure like to get a good look at things. Grisly, he hadn't even finished bleeding out yet. Lesson-traffic is potentially deadly if you play the game in Pattaya. I'll take the Baht Bus, thanks.
Normally I'd take the Baht Bus to the North end of Pattaya Beach, get off at North Pattaya Road and walk south along the beach to Walking Street, a good 3 or 4 kilometre walk. It was a good way to get some morning sea air in me, get the blood pumping and walk off a little of the booze from the evening previous. Dropping into places where expats hang out was nice, a chance to speak conversational English and get some info on what's what and where it's happening. The Roo Bar (formerly known as the Jan Bar and Guest House back then) on Walking Street was where I normally went to start the day, drink off the late morning hangover and have a tasty, affordable morning/lunch meal. The staff were great and the owners were personable and frank with their advice *friendly nod to Roundy and Bob*. It was there in the afternoon that I would start off for a day of exploring Pattaya.
In heading further down Walking Street a few days later, I lounged at one bar with some very comfy wicker bar stools and struck up a conversation with some Aussie blokes across the bar. A few local girls filtered in and soon we had a local cutie or two next to each of us. In chatting across the bar to a few of the guys, they were all smiling broadly and giving me an animated "thumbs-up". One of the lads cupped his hands to his mouth and hissed the word "katoey" to me. The sinking feeling starts HERE. Remembering what THAT meant, I turned to the lass on my right, the one with her hand on my upper thigh, and asked her if she was a man. "Yes" he cooed, with a lascivious smile and a friendly wink. Even sounded like a woman. I lifted his hand off me and politely told him I was "...spoken for, thanks, but no thanks..". I grabbed my beer and moved a few stools down the bar, red faced but laughing. The Aussies were roaring at my predicament, everyone in the bar knew what was afoot after their noise got everyone's attention. After Mr High Heels left, the lads gave me a lesson in Katoey 101, and bought me a beer to go with that temporarily deflated ego, nice touch. Most of them you CAN spot, but that first one fooled me and in my defence-he fooled one of the lads, too. Lesson learned. Hey, first time-cut me a break.
Another word of advice: If offered Thai Whiskey, be aware there is more in there than just Whiskey. I ambled up to a bar in the late morning of yet another hot, bright, day. The store where the bank machine I used wasn't open yet. It's safer to use an ATM in a store than the open street, less chance of getting jammed by a criminal on a grab-and-run. I'd arrived a few minutes early and stepped in to a local beer place across the street to doff a pint while waiting. The cutie behind the bar offered me a free shot of Thai Whiskey to start the day. Never having had Thai Whiskey before, I thought "Isn't that friendly of her", while politely accepting. I downed the shot-it was good too, and swilled some beer, chatted with a few of the girls, playing board games with them to pass the time. As time passed I bought several more shots, they went down like water and a few more beers to chase them, it was indeed a nice way to start the day. I bid the gals farewell, thanked the friendly barmaiden for introducing me to Thai Whiskey with an equally friendly tip, and departed. Off to the bank machine I go, draw some funds, hook up with some pals at the beach.
Ahhhh, sipping beer in the sun. It's intensely hot on the beach. I start sweating. Then I start feeling pretty good, then not feeling much of anything at all and then seeing some things. I start wondering what's going on, I'm near-hallucinating. At first I'm enjoying myself but then I get worried someone might have put something in that whiskey-LSD, PCP or worse. I worry that maybe I'm on the road to finishing my vacation in a hospital or the Bangkok Hilton (jail). In asking a few of the guys what's happening to me, they asked what I did that morning and added it up. Like true pals concerned for my welfare-they laughed their asses off at me. Newsflash-there's Opium in Thai Whiskey. Opium, the hallucinogenic flower used to make Heroin. I was trippin'! So the guys kept an eye on me, returned me to my beach towel a few times when I'd wander off and kept me stocked with beer. Later on that afternoon I was fine. But I'll politely pass on Thai Whiskey, from that day forward. Fun trip if you like that kind of thing, but definitely not for me.
After a week and a bit, things started feeling comfy and familiar. I was getting around town with ease, learning the local road system, enjoyed some great restaurants, had some memorable evenings with some new friends and was generally at the max-relax state, enjoying myself immensely. In riding the Baht Bus to the beach, the bus pulled over near the Pattaya Bowl and this flawless Thai beauty stepped on the bus. Short skirt, perfect legs, great hair, a mouthful of large, perfect white teeth on her giving her an amazing smile and a petite-yet-womanly figure, surgically enhanced up top to D-Cup proportions. Wow-the Thai Barbie. My eyes gave me away, she made me, but I played it cool. It was your typical roasting hot, bright, cloudless, summer Pattaya day. Those of us on the Bus were all seated on one bench seat, to avoid the sun. The cheap vinyl bench seat on the other side was simmering, I saw this coming. When she sat down on it, she let out with a little squeal that gave me a red face and I tried all I could to suppress a smile. She stood there looking at me-the only one looking at her, and I was clearly busted, smiling at her situation. I recovered and dummied up with a warm grin, sliding over to make some room for her without breaking eye contact. The conversation flowed well, I pegged her as a pro right away but she looked magnificent, definitely top shelf. Drinks, lunch, the beach, ice cream, a long walk, and some quality time afterwards. It was a great afternoon. After she left, I fell asleep on the couch with the dumbest looking grin on my face, like I'd just nailed an A-list movie star. All I wanted to do was go to the beach and sleep that day. Anything can happen in Thailand.
A few days later I stumbled on an Internet Cafe, right next to my hotel. It looks like a restaurant from the outside, that's what I thought I was walking in to. In sitting there and checking my e-mail, I noticed the petite girl running the place, her command of English was excellent, with only a hint of accent. That got my attention, then I watched har patter around the cafe. Nice view, classy with a smashing smile. She dressed well and was definitely a sharp gal. I struck up a conversation with her and it turned out we had some things in common, post secondary education, she had friends and family in my home country, things like that. For the next 5 days, I'd meet her after work, we'd do dinner, movies, clubs, shopping and had a great time. We had a candle-lit dinner on my balcony overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, the evening before I left. It wasn't Gone With The Wind romance, but there was definitely a mutual affinity there. Likely right time, right place, ships in the night, that sort of thing. Not a bar girl-or so she says, I tend to believe her after meeting some of them over the previous three weeks. Bar girls are like car salesmen, they're pretty target focused, separating you from your buck is job number one. They might take the long way to it like a car salesman does when he schmoozes you, but that's the end goal. Maybe not all of them, but I saw some shining examples.
Hey, if I'm being naive here about her not being a bar girl, that's fair-I'll enjoy the illusion. I learned a lot about her, her family, the culture and Thai life in general. She showed me some majestic temples (yeah, she got in free, I had to pay) and other great places. She also got me a big break on my return cab to the airport. We parted company as friends and I was able to entertain her in Canada on a visit a while ago where I got to return the favour and play tour guide. We're pals and still e-mail regularly. Fine gal.
A few nights, there were some tremendous thunder and lightning storms. So loud they'd wake me up in the wee hours of the morning. In my suite it sounded like thunder right on the roof surface-not up in the sky. When it woke me up, I'd go sit out on the balcony, listen to my Best of CCR CD, put away a lot of Rum and Coke and just enjoy, get zen with it. Stare at the sky, watch the cars, the people running up and down the road, enjoy the coastal view of Pattaya and the buzz of the city. Thailand is a great place-the people, the culture, the lifestyle. Those folks are living life right. We Farangs could learn a thing or two from them.
The author of this article cannot be contacted.
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