Tales Of An Old Fool – My Last Trip To Soi 22
Tales Of An Old Fool – My Last Visit To Soi 22
I travel to Thailand on business and I met my Thai girlfriend Jeab on my third visit in 2002 at a bar on Soi 22. I met her on my first night in BKK, I got sucked (and suckered) into BKK nightlife as many of you have. My first hotel on soi 22 was the Imperial Queens Park hotel, although I now stay at 3 star hotels, but my boss pays my expenses. Jeab lives in soi 22, so I hang out there, and since I have discovered the Japanese and Korean restaurants it suits me very well. This is my fourth business visit since then, my visits usually last 3 to 8 weeks. I have never been to Nana, Patpong or Pattaya; I have been to Soi Cowboy three times. On my weekends off I hang out at a few bars on soi 22.
I am the wrong side of middle age; I have a large beer belly. My only redeeming feature is that I still have all my hair and I do not walk around BKK in shorts and sandals, and I am usually pretty laid-back about life. I am still single, never married. I am no longer lonely, as some of you presume; I have passed that stage. For the last twenty years I have spent at least 6 months a year in hotels in 21 countries. Eating on your own used to suck but I am used to that by now.
After I met Jeab I did an Internet search and found Stick, which is when my education about bar girls began, but then it was too late, she already had the hook in my mouth and was slowly pulling me in. She was in it for the long haul, and she hit the Jackpot when she met me, as I am as soft as shit. She did not know she had hit the Jackpot it at the time, but thanks to Stick, I know it and accept it for what it is. A bit of fun — Sanuk.
I am the sort of guy who takes pity on the little girl trying to sell roses to me as I sit in the bar even though there is no girl near me. I ask her how much? She says "20 Baht", I open my eyes wide in shock and say "too expensive". She grins at me, showing me her rotten teeth, she says "not expensive, 20 Baht". She is there every night, her parents send her out. After she sells all her roses, she tries to do shoe shine; a future bargirl in the making?
I like soi 22 because it has cheap hotels; I usually stay in the Regency Park. On my first weekend on this trip I stayed in Honey House because all the hotels were booked; it had nice room, AC, fridge, toilet, shower, three movie channels for only 800 Baht, they do cheaper rooms from 480 Baht. I also enjoy soi 22 because I can eat Japanese, Korean, Falang and Thai food very cheaply. I like Thailand because it is so cheap.
When I arrive in BKK after 8 months working in Farangland (USA, Switzerland, Jamaica, and Finland), I see Jeab, no hugs and kisses. I attempt to give her a hug, we have both made a huge emotional investment over the last 8 months, with our SMS messages and emails. She is sick; she had a cold since December, but she does not look ill. She finds me a room, as all the hotels are booked. I go to my usual bar and return to sleep. Jeab is asleep next to me, wrapped up in blankets, she coughs away; I lie there in bed penning an article to Stick. "Sexless in Bangkok", here am I with no sex for 8 months, lying next to a beautiful woman in Bangkok. It is like being in a bad marriage, you lie in bed feeling horny and your wife turns the other way, you turn and look up at the ceiling and say "why me".
The next night a bargirl says to me "you do homework last night", I turn to Jeab and look at her. "No we did not do our homework last night", I think. To make matters worse, later on I am in Moonshine Bar and I see a very nice girl giving her falang boyfriend hugs and kisses, I feel sick. I have not got hugs and kisses yet.
At this point I should interject and say that it took me many years to forgive my mum and dad for not giving me hugs and kisses when I was young. And here I am looking at this young Thai girl giving her man hugs and kisses. Yes I feel sick, I am actually a little boy who needs hugs and kisses. Jeab’s mum and dad split up when she was young, she never got hugs and kisses so how can I expect her to give me hugs and kisses. Yes, she did her best, just like my mum and dad did their best.
I go back to my room in Honey House; I drink a few beers or MeKong. By 1am, I am liquored up; I get up to go to Soi Cowboy to find me a woman. After 8 months I need a woman, not even sex, a hug will do. Just to feel a woman is OK by me. I am about to open the door to hunt for a woman and Jeab says, "where you go". Suddenly, I break down in tears; yes I do not really want to butterfly on her. All I want is hugs and kisses, and yes a bit of sex would be nice too. She yells out "I have my period, I thought you know", as I shed my tears on her soft skin. Yes, I had paid for her Tampax that night, I should have known, but us men are pretty dumb-ass self-centred creatures.
The next day was uncomfortable for me; I hold her hand as we go in the taxi to MBK. I need to get a charger and SIM card for my very old mobile, so I can use it in Thailand. I find a charger for 150 Baht and a SIM card for 400 Baht including 100 Baht of calls. I am very happy, I love Thailand, my Falang charger was huge, and my Thai charger was small and light. I treasure my "new" phone, isn't it strange how such simple things make you happy?
But now here is the catch, I had stupidly promised to buy Jeab a two Baht necklace; I had already bought her a one Baht necklace last visit. There is a lot of gold in MBK, her beady eyes spy a gold shop, despite her being ill. I say "I upgrade your 1 Baht necklace to a 2 Baht necklace". No, she wants a bracelet, she takes me to one side and says "1 or 2 Baht", I say "1 Baht". She finds bracelet and a gold bauble, I put 10,200 Baht on my VISA. Mission accomplished, I got my cheap phone, she got her expensive gold.
Let me be clear to you that Jeab is not a typical Stickman bargirl. She has never done the big pout on me, she has never lost her temper on me, in fact she has never sworn at me in Thai (I am a bit worried about that). She has never nagged me for money or for gold (how many farang woman are like that?). During our first seven weeks together she never asked me for money, apart from her room rent, which is fair enough. She is more subtle than that, and I appreciate her for that. She will put a thought in my ear and leave the rest to me. Of course I want to please her and I usually do what she wants, if I have the money. It also works the other way, if I say I will do something for her, she will remember that as well, like that two baht gold necklace I promised her.
Later, she is still sick, she says to me "I sorry, I cannot make you happy", I can hardly hear her words, but I figure out what she is saying to me. Yes, when I first met her she enjoyed looking after me, she put toothpaste on my toothbrush. She would wash me in the bath, and we would watch Thai TV together. They were our "good times" together, when she stayed in my hotel in Saraburi, I did not pay barfine because I did not know about bar-fine. We went to Ko Samui for a holiday, we both had a "good time". We did not even have sex on Ko Samui, but we both had a "good time", it was my "good time" as well. It was a fool's paradise, but I was happy being the fool. Now, I do my duty, I send her money monthly, now I butterfly, then I did not.
Two years earlier, in my hotel in Saraburi I had drunk too much, we are in bed, I break down in tears, because I am worried about her. She says to me "I can look after myself". She is right, she can look after herself.
That night Jeab was still sick and went to bed early, so I was let loose to prowl. I go to my usual bar in Queens Park Plaza, but now at midnight it is chucking out time, the bar closes, used to be 1:30 AM. Even the local 7-11 stops selling beer at midnight, damn the government. So I wander back to Honey House, right next to my room is a place called Tina's. I don't want to go to my room and watch TV and drink my Mekong because I smoke and Jeab is ill, if I smoke she goes "cough, cough" and says "I die early", "bolocks" I think, I still do not believe about all that second-hand smoke stuff.
I cannot see inside Tina's, I expect to find one or two girls there. I ask if I can smoke, the owner sitting outside says "yes". I wander in and I am accosted by about six girls. They all want lady drinks, I say "two only" and the other girls wander off. The place starts to fill up as the other punters from the other bars arrive due to the early closure at midnight. I chat to my two girls and find out that there are 20 girls here today, but normally 30 girls. At 2 am the bar closes. One Farang gets angry because he thinks his bill is padded, police get called and the punter pays up. The sign above the bar clearly says 80 Baht for lady drinks.
One of my girls is hungry so we wander over to Honey House restaurant, only 15 metres away. I meet a couple of middle-aged ex-pats there, one of them I know. We get chatting; a few more girls arrive making a total of five. Food arrives, along with a drink, I chat away to expats, and we philosophise about life. I have a bit of food with the girls, I chat to the girls, and the temperature is cool. I comment to the expats, "only in Bangkok could three (old) guys sit eating food with five beautiful young girls". A farang woman overhears my comment and gives me the eye, but it is true, only in BKK can three old guys in their 50's and 60's sit with five young girls at 3 in the morning. The 64-year-old guy already had a girl in his room; Jeab was in my room. I was happy, the January air is delightfully cool. The expats leave and the bill arrives, about 850 Baht, not bad for six people. OK three girls join for free food, but this is BKK and I am used to that, the cost is about $21, I am happy I do not give a shit. Three of the girls scamper off, leaving me with the two I bought lady-drinks for. We wander to Tina's where they live, chat a little. They are now locked out. As soon as someone opens the door for them I enter my room. According to Jeab the next day, it was 6 am, I thought it was more like 5 am.
Monday morning comes; my driver arrives at 6 am. We had agreed to meet at 7:30 am, Jeab's brother arrives to take Jeab home as she is sick, but checking out time is 12, so I leave Jeab in the room and my driver takes me to work in Saraburi two hours away. I have had only had a couple of hours sleep, but I manage to do my work. During the week her brother takes her to hospital, she gets 5 sets of tablets costing 500 Baht.
Next weekend I am back in BKK, we go to MK restaurant at Carrefour, with her brother and a pregnant girlfriend of hers. I spot a menu special for 350 Baht, order some extra duck and a beer. The food comes along, there is masses of it, and we put it into the cauldron of boiling water in front of us. More food arrives and we tuck in. Some oysters arrive and I joke with Jeab "careful you might get horny", "never" she replies. I can see that Jeab is well now, she tucks into her food and orders more and she loudly jabbers away in Thai to her pregnant friend. I comment to her friend, "Jeab happy", she nods in agreement, when Jeab is happy then I am happy. Yes Jeab loves her food, pity she does not like sex as much. The bill comes to 1100 Baht; her brother even produces a 10% discount card. We go to my hotel, I am stuffed, I complain to Jeab about being full, her comment was, "I eat vegetables". A good farm girl eh.
On soi 22 there are three Japanese restaurants and one Korean, all reasonably priced. Nearby there are places doing farang food: German bar, Dubliner Irish pub, Londoner, Bourbon Street and of course the Imperial Queens Park hotel. I eat Thai during the week when I am working, and very good Thai as well, so I tend to go for Japanese or Farang at weekends. My favourite Japanese restaurant now allows you to smoke, so much for those stupid laws that forbid smoking in air-conditioned buildings, does Thailand want to become like America, the Land of the not-so-free? Jeab is starting to get a taste for the raw fish that I like. Well actually she likes the artificial crabsticks that come with my mixed Sashimi. She even bought a couple of packs of crabsticks at Carrefour, and later commented that they were not as good as in the Japanese restaurant, "less crab and more fish" was her comment. She is becoming a connoisseur.
I also visit a Korean restaurant on soi 22, this right next to Honey House. I worked in South Korea for two months so have taste for Korean food; I even enjoy Kim Chee (spicy fermented cabbage and other vegetables). Don't you just hate it when the waitress arrives with the menu and then stands there waiting for you to decide, "piss off", I think, I want to study the menu. For between 180-350 Baht you get meat and about 10 different vegetable side dishes, a brazier of hot charcoal arrives. My girlfriend does not eat beef, but they do pork and chicken, so she is taken care of. Another habit, which also really pisses me off big time, is when the waiter insists on cutting up the meat and cooking it for you. I do have two fucking hands and want to cook the fucking meat myself; it seems they want to get us out of there as soon as possible. I just want to eat at a leisurely pace and drink my Soju.
I usually go to this over-priced bar on soi 22, simply because my girlfriend worked there when I first met her, I am a creature of habit. I also know her friends who work there, I know Mamasan, I feel comfortable there, all the girls know I am Jeab's boyfriend. I know their names and faces…and I feel at home.
Friday night, I asked mamasan where one of the usual girls was, she was there last week, I bought her a beer. On my last visit we would share a bag of fried bugs. This is my party trick, to eat fried bugs. She is young and cute, she loves life and I like her. Mamasan said, "she don't work at the bar, her boyfriend come visit". Hey, guys this is quote of the week for me, your girlfriend who I lust after, she stop working bar when you come to town, I see it with my own eyes. Stick is right after all, Stick, I hate you at times, but you are right most of the time.
Next weekend I see her with her boyfriend, she looks even more cute than normal, she is happy, I like that. Her boyfriend is not exactly handsome, in fact he is downright unattractive, nature has been cruel to him, but at least he is young and slim, and he has found a fun loving girl who will give him a few moments of happiness. I take a few photos of her, but they do not show her zest for life, the camera can be cruel at times.
Another girl I know has a farang boyfriend, she spends 300 Baht a night calling him, I try to find a cheap calling card for her, but it seems that "Cheap Charlie" calling cards are out of business. A customer short-timed her, the same day her falang boyfriend was due to visit.
Two of Jeab's friends, who I both know, were both made pregnant by Scandinavians. One girl had an abortion; the other is just about to sprog. [Jeab just tells me that she had a girl, "very lovely", she looks just like her father.] The one who had the abortion greeted me, as if nothing had happened, but I knew she had gone through something terrible. She said to me "do you still remember my name" as if I had forgotten her name. I told her "your name is Nit", I was right her name was "Nit", I had remembered after 8 months, in the meantime, the same time as my last visit, her boyfriend had made her pregnant and rejected her and the baby. I was not the father, never been with her, even though the 8 months between visits was perfect timing.
The boyfriend of the pregnant girl only sends her 10,000 Baht a month, she does need a bit more than this. Yes, she had to pawn the gold jewellery to survive. I tell Jeab to be with her when she has baby, her boyfriend is still in BKK, he changes his ticket to be with her. He not a bad man I think. You note, I am starting to speak pigeon English as I report these facts to you.
On this trip to LOS I discovered a new bar in Queens Park Plaza called the Moonshine Pub. It has aircon, serves decent farang grub, has reasonable beer prices and even has its own rest room. Only thing is it does not serve beer Chang. The only girls are working girls, no I mean really working serving customers, so you do not get hassled for lady drinks. Even does free food on Sundays, run by a farang. One Sunday I wander in for a late breakfast, I want eggs, despite the bloody bird flu, last year it was SARS this year bird flu. I order my ham, eggs and toast, with the eggs scrambled to ensure they are well cooked. Breakfast arrives, eggs are fried and runny, what the fuck, I eat my eggs and read all about the bird flu in the Bangkok Post.
One night I am leaving a bar and I spot the local ladyboy, obviously in deep distress, shedding tears and being comforted by the bargirls. The local ladyboy has a farang boyfriend, the ladyboy is one of the better looking "girls" in the bar. There used to be one stunner who got bar-fined twice a night but she has moved on to pastures new. I get back to my hotel and mention to Jeab that ladyboy is crying, Jeab explains the situation to me. One night ladyboy and farang had a minor argument, the farang comes back later with a girl and throws ladyboy out. Next day, farang wants ladyboy back, he is sorry. But now ladyboy is broken hearted because the farang has done a bad thing to him (butterflied). My girlfriend explains that "he bad man he butterfly", I sit back and think "I bad man too, I butterfly", I shudder and wonder just how much she knows about my butterflying. I open my bottle of Mekong whisky and pour out a stiff one. Personally, I cannot see the tragedy; falang butterflies but still wants ladyboy back, situation OK. Falang butterflies and does not want ladyboy back then disaster and broken-hearted ladyboy.
Seems they cannot forgive an indiscretion, it is also hypocritical as Stick has pointed out before. They are not even married, what I mean is that they have not made vows to be faithful. The story has a happy ending; they are back together, but falang sends ladyboy back to work because he has no job in Bangkok.
Jeab has to go back to Buriram, because her sister is ill. She says to me "you be good boy". I laugh, and she says, "I am serious". Ok, she goes away from me to attend to sick sister and family matters; it is also true that when she is away I do sometimes butterfly. She once commented that "in BKK it is impossible for anyone to be good", maybe she had heard about some of my indiscretions through her grapevine. So far it has not been an issue for us. But the other side of the coin is whether she butterflies, when I am away from her. OK so she goes to Buriram, she leaves me in BKK, I butterfly. I go to Farangland and leave her in BKK, so she butterflies i.e. works in the bar. A proverb says, what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over. Sure, if you are worried about your GF, and you should be, then get her investigated by Stick.
I am quite friendly with another BG, who lives almost next door to Jeab, we get on well and I buy her a lady drink when I see her. If I see her at the bar, I say "you working in bar today" and she rushes over to me with a big smile and says "I thirsty", I buy her a drink. She has a wonderful smile and lovely eyes, but I do not fancy her at all, but we are friends. She has a farang boyfriend, they are engaged. She knows that I know the score, if I meet her boyfriend, I will not spill the beans on her. She does not spill the beans on me either, on one occasion when Jeab was out of town she persuaded one of the girls to go back with me as I was leaving to go back to my hotel on my own. She says to me "you go back alone", yes she knows the score. I was once finishing breakfast at a local hotel and as I was leaving we meet as she exits the lift coming to breakfast. She spots me and I spot her with her client, we are both startled, as we recognise each other. I have caught her out big time, she knows it. She asks me where Jeab is, "Oh gone to hair-school" I say, knowing this will make her feel guilty as she is also supposed to be at hair school. We part company and I look back at her client sitting down at breakfast. I chuckle to myself and move on.
One night I have a serious talk with this girl about my girlfriend, she usually gives me some tasty inside information about Jeab. I was trying to get Jeab out of the bar, or at least giving her the option. I do the usual stupid falang things; my only excuse is that I had not read Stick when I started the mission. Yes, I send my girlfriend money and she goes to hair school, well some of the time. Actually about 6 months out of 12 she admitted to me once. What was she doing for the other 6 months I ask myself? Silly question, she was obviously learning to do Buffalo kidney transplants, i.e. extracting money from Farangs. To be fair to Jeab, she can now cut my hair, but so can the other girl and she is still working in bar.
My friend explains to me that she is young and beautiful. I say, "what shall she do when she is old and ugly". My friend comes close to me and widens her eyes, she is about to explain the secret of the universe to me, I had heard it from Stick, but now I was getting it first hand. She explains to me that she cannot see that far in advance, she cannot see until the age of thirty (Jeab is 27). She even quotes one of Stick's mantras "You can take the girl out of the bar, but you cannot take the bar out of the girl". I find out that Jeab has been in the bar business a little longer than she told me, I am not surprised, as her English is just too good. She explains to me that if Jeab takes three customers a week, that is 6,000 Baht, that is good money. I say to her, but Jeab doesn't like sex. She replies "that's OK, she go with customer anyway", implying that she will go with a customer she does not like for easy money, even me. I sit back a little stunned, so Stick was right after all. But it is her life, she has to choose. You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I go back to my room and read "Private Dancer" once again.
Life goes on. One day it is time for a shopping trip to Carrefour. She needs a few things for the room. When I first met her, the room was bare. A double bed, wardrobe, TV and a few knick-knacks, plus of course the Buddha shrine. By now she has a fridge, second-hand computer, computer table and a nice TV stand plus an extra wardrobe as her brother stays with her. The double bed has gone to Buriram and she now has a bunk bed. There are now also two fans, last time I advised her to buy a fan as she could not install air-con, she had taken my advice, "good girl" I think. There is an expensive bottle of Brandy by the shrine, "goody" I think, licking my lips, she says "not for you". It seems that the brandy is for king number five and she renews his glass of brandy every week.
So off we go to Carrefour, I find a battery recharger for my new digital camera, it is tiny and includes four 2200 NI MH batteries for only 1,200 B, I just love BKK. My shopping is over, but hers is about to start. She buys a computer chair for 600 B, a bookcase for 900 B, assorted bed linen plus other "stuff". The bill comes to 5,000 B, her farang ATM pays the bill, and we have a huge shopping cart full to the brim, now to me that is cheap compared to Farangland. We find a large tuktuk to get our stuff to her room. I assembled the computer chair in two minutes. However the bookcase is more complicated and takes us nearly two hours. Finally it is assembled and Jeab arranges the assorted household objects on it "just so". She is happy and proud of her new purchase and I am happy too. I am happy because I now have a chair to sit on, and because I have helped turn her drab little room into something more like a home. When Jeab is happy then I am happy, the strange thing is that I think we always become closer together when I am doing something to make her room better.
A week later it is 6 hours to my flight, I drink a few beers out of her fridge, Jeab cuts my hair, yes she has attended some classes at hair school. She has all the hair dressing gear, I sit on a stool outside her room she wraps me in the hair dressing garb, and puts on her tunic, and to cap it all she puts on a surgical mask so she does not breath in my farang hair fibres. She has her electrical trimmer, she loves using that, she goes to work on the back of my head, the trimmer goes zzzzzz, is it just my imagination that the trimmer sounds like "fuuuuck-youuuu"?
I take Jeab to Carrefour to buy a water heater, she says she needs water heater, at first I am puzzled at this, but you have to remember it is now winter in Bangkok. She even uses a Duvet in winter. I explain that she needs a man to do the pluming and the electrics, I am not going to electrocute myself installing the bloody thing. I say, "water heaters 2,000 – 3,000 Baht", she says "very expensive". We find the water heaters and they range from 2,000 to 5,000 Baht. Jeab changes her mind about water heater, "too difficult to install". On the way out she spies a gold shop and her beady eyes spot a half Baht ring. I say to her "up to you", so she gets the ring, because I am now drunk because I have to fly back to Farangland tonight. She says "you good Valentine boy" because Feb 14th is only a few days away. I say to her "gold ring better than roses", yes, she smiles and nods her head in agreement. Bloody expensive water heater that was, but at least no plumber is required.
We then have dinner at Bourbon Street in Washington Square because Stick recommended it in his latest weekly article, she asks if her brother can join us because he has never had falang food before. I don't give a shit, I know her brother and he knows me, "sure let brother come and eat farang food". She has blackened Salmon, he has lamb chops and I have rack of Lamb. The rack of lamb was crap, thanks Stick, but my boss pays anyway as I am on expenses, and I do not give a shit anyway, it was 1,500 Baht. I hope my boss will accept my expenses. "Please boss sign my expenses, I do good job for you in Thailand…."
Thirty minutes later I am in the taxi to the airport, you all know — been there, done that. Jeab agrees a 300 Baht fare before sending me off, she never comes to the airport, waste of money, she is right. Taxi driver does 160 kph driving to airport, that is 100 mph to you Yanks, I hand him 300 Baht, then I give him another 100 Baht note, he smiles, he is happy. "I hope big boss pays", I think, but no fucking receipt. I step off to Don Muang airport departure lounge.
I arrive home and check my bank balance, shit I have spent too much money in Bangers again, but it was fun. And a lot cheaper than having a farang wife, chuckle, chuckle.
In Thailand you can buy the illusion of love, but speaking for us oldies the illusion of love is better than no love at all. My mum once said to me "there's no fool like an old fool". Now that I am old, I know she was right. I now know what being a sugar daddy is, something I would have laughed at three years ago.
I do not plan to marry Jeab, and she knows me well enough that she would probably run a hundred miles from that prospect. I understand that. I enjoy her company while I am in BKK, I enjoy making her life a bit better, and eventually I hope she finds someone who loves her better than me.
Jeab sent me a Yahoo Valentine greeting card, clever girl.
"Romantic love is an illusion.
Most of us discover this truth at the end of a love affair
or else when the sweet emotions of love lead us into marriage
and then turn down their flames."
– Thomas Moore
Yours, an older, maybe wiser, falang.
PS. I am back in March for another dose of everyday life on soi 22.
Now that's what I call a trip report. I enjoyed reading about the simple stuff.