Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 61

  • Written by Dana
  • September 11th, 2004
  • 16 min read


Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes 61


BIG YELLOW HAT

I can't read French but I know French writing when I see it. And every time I was sitting down taking a dump in the 'charming Thai guesthouse' bathroom full of crawling and stinging and slithering and flying things I got to see it. On the wall at eye level was a note written in French. Once you tired of looking around at the inside of the bathroom and wondering how or why all the holes had gotten punched in the walls and in the floor and in the ceiling; you didn't have much else to do but sit and stare at the French writing and wonder what the note said. One day I just beat a French girl into the end-of-the-hall bathroom. Once situated, I yelled at her through the bathroom door–"Hey, do you know what this note on the wall says?" "Yes", she yells through the door. "It says, ‘Don't step on the snake–he has feelings too!'"

What the fuck? What snake? Jesus flying crap–what snake? You mean there is a snake in this bathroom? Now I am looking at all of the holes in the walls and in the floor and in the ceiling with a new interest. I hate snakes. I am afraid of snakes. They terrify me. And now according to this French girl and this French note on the wall; I am sitting with my pants down on a crapper in a little room that has a resident snake.

I moved out the next day! I'm all for reasonable political correctness but the only feeling I want a snake to feel is the tires of my truck running over it. The notion that some politically correct French backpacker with more hair on her back than I have in my groin thinks that snakes have feelings too just makes me want to retch. Please. . . . Well, you might ask what a smart guy like me was doing living in shithole like that in the first place. And the answer would be Youth. Yup, I guess there are two surprises here. Surprise number one is that I was once young; and surprise number two is that when I was young I was stupid. I know, I know; it's hard to believe but when I was young I was sometimes stupid. And one of the stupid ideas that I fell for when I first started coming to Thailand was that staying in a shit shack made up of boards and tin by the side of weed choked klong breeding snakes and flies was preferable to staying in $40,000,000 hotel with security and convenience and air-conditioning and friendly staff. It was the 70's and I was seduced by the politically correct siren song and wacky thinking of backpacking youth that said that living with the locals was a better way to live. You know; get to know the real Thailand. Witness spousal abuse and malaria and malnutrition and non-working fans and lack of hygiene in food preparation, and child neglect up close. Learn to say 'Dysentery' in Thai. They'll respect you for it. You'll make valuable Third World friends for life. And everybody knew in the 70's that a Third World friend culled from the ranks of the ignorant and the stupid and the mean beat an educated friend from the West anytime. Like I said, I was once young and stupid. So for a long time I had various housing adventures that always included living poor and with poor people and being inconvenienced and hot and sometimes sick and sometimes scared. I don't do this anymore. I am now an adult. If someone asked me today to make a housing choice between a house on stilts and a hotel with electric lights and air-conditioning and a lock on the door; I can make the right choice. But this deranged thinking of youth has amazing staying power and is still popular. Recently while standing in line one morning at a currency exchange booth on Khao San road I had to endure people (youth) in front of me and behind me prattling like magpies about trendy shabby Third World hovels they were staying in and the wonderful locals they had shared the craphole with. I thought my head would explode.

So anyway, when I first came to Thailand I had many housing adventures because once you stick the needle of political correctness in your vein and start mainlining it is hard to stop. In between these housing mistakes I would bounce back to the Nana hotel. So I would have a housing adventure; realize I had made a terrible mistake; and then bounce back to the Nana to recoup. This went on for years. And in all of this time the only thing in my life that was constant was a woman down soi 4 near the Bus Stop restaurant who sold soup and chicken breasts on bamboo skewers. She was no longer young and no longer girlie pretty and no longer shaped like an hourglass but she had a wonderful smile and bright eyes. In the beginning I tried the soups but I had to stop when I damaged my esophagus from too much spice. So for me it was strictly chicken breasts and a smile. Every single day. We didn't talk much but over the years it became a kind of friendly reliable relationship and an important part of my life. I liked her a lot. She seemed to like me. You never know. In the meantime when I was staying at the Nana I was going through bargirls like prunes through an old lady. Sometimes I'd arrive at this soup and chicken lady's stand with my latest love interest in tow. I learned early that under those circumstances the soup and chicken lady would just shut down. No eye contact, no smile, nothing. It made me feel bad. I sometimes got the disquieting notion that I had done something wrong. But I couldn't figure out what. Thais! Go figure. Anyway. . . more housing adventures.

A friend told me of a groovy place next to the Chao Praya river on the Thonburi side. He told me I could move in around midnight. It was on the roof of the building. Well, at midnight it looked like I had made a pretty good choice. The stars were pretty and the breeze off the river was cool. The next day was a shock. The morning view was not of river and stars but of all the other roofs. Roofs in Thailand are used to store trash and mattresses and hanging laundry and more trash. That's all you could see. No wonder he told me to move in at midnight. Then the roof started heating up in the sun. I lasted a week. Back to the Nana and my chicken breast lady.

Another time I heard about a cult place for the financially challenged right on the river in Chinatown. Off I went. It was everything I had heard about. Filthy, cheap, convenient, and had a really interesting view (I love boats and stuff). Unfortunately I found out that Chinatown is full of Chinese people. Who knew? I can't stand the Chinese and apparently they don't like anyone else except themselves. If I had a one baht coin for every unreturned smile in Chinatown I'd–well, I'd have a lot of one baht coins. Somebody should tell the Chinese of Chinatown in Bangkok that Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. I lasted two months.

I tried two places in Chiang Mai. These places were actually nice. Good deals. But I found out that Chiang Mai for me was boring. Back to BKK.

It went on like this for years. I tried subletting condos and apartments and guesthouses and private homes and special little hippie secrets (yawn) and always the debits exceeded the credits and I ended up back at the Nana. The colonial era Atlanta hotel on lower Sukumvit at the end of soi 2 seemed like a good idea for awhile. But finally too snobby. I mean I'm a snob but these blokes were off the chart. The Honey hotel got a try for access to Soi Cowboy but I got tired of Soi Cowboy. Then I developed the notion that living in a real neighborhood with real Thais might have appeal. Driving around with the realtors was fun and interesting. I put some money down. Unfortunately, I forgot about real Thai dogs and real Thai trash and real Thai nutcase neighbors. But the dream dies hard and you keep trying. God forbid you should tell the totally hip female backpacker from Oslo that you are actually staying in a modern hotel with modern features and high standards. You won't be dipping your wick in that tasty wax!

The best place I ever found was a little apartment on a soi off Second Road in South Pattaya. This place was really cheap and really nice and part of a bunch of little apartments on a nice private bit of landscaping. It turns out that if you take a week and just walk up and down the sois of South Pattaya from Second road back and knock on doors and peer through fences that you can find a lot of really nice places to live. But it didn't work out. It turns out that once you leave the ocean and the boardwalk and the Beach road fun of South Pattaya the area really just doesn't have much to offer. Don't believe me? OK, on your next day off or with your next bargirl heartthrob taxi out to Pattaya Park Tower and go up to the revolving restaurant on the 53 floor–there without having to pay 4000 baht for an ultra light plane excursion you can get a bird's eye view of Pattaya. It is a dull, flat, featureless boring landscape. Back to Bangkok.

And through it all; all the moving out and the moving in and the moving around and the returns to the Nana my chicken on a bamboo skewer lady always seemed to know where I was living and where I had been and when I had returned. It was amazing. I must have told her this stuff but why would she remember it? Of course the three places I tried on soi 4 further down from the Nana I suppose she just knew about because she could see me coming and going. Anyway, she always seemed to know about this part of my life and when I announced that I was back at the Nana I always got a big smile and bright eyes and a free piece of chicken. By now I had learned that her name was Gai. At least I think it was. Anyway, every time I said, "Sawasdee krap, Gai." I got a big smile and a piece of chicken. Works for me. One day walking up soi 4 from my digs near Uncle Rey's guesthouse I was amazed to see the sky turn purple in a second. It was the heart of the monsoon season and this wasn't going to be rain–this was going to be a mindfuck of nature pissing and blowing like some Biblical paroxysm of Old Testament fury. Up ahead I could see Gai squatting by the gutter washing pots and pans. I knew she had to push her wagon all the way up to the abandoned lot near the now location of the Nana station Skytrain overpass. I then knew that she had to walk and walk to get home. No taxis would be available. She'd never make it. I worried about her. When I got up to her I pantomimed helping to push her wagon up to the abandoned lot. She said ‘No'. Then she said ‘Yes'. Halfway to the lot it came down. It blew so hard it made us spontaneously yelp and yell from exertion and the rain came in sideways. The rain was cold. Ice cold. By the time we got to the lot we were cold and drenched to the bone and a little shaken. Standing in the instant sea of mud in the driving rain with no more than 6 feet of visibility we held on to each other for support. I asked her if she wanted to spend the night at my place. She said ‘No'–then she said ‘Yes". The trip back down Sukumvit and then down soi 4 to my place was certainly a better idea than her walking home but it was horrible. By the time I put the key in the lock we were shaking spasmodically with cold, wet through and through, and holding on to each other for support.

In my apartment we stripped off and got in the hot shower together. Neither one of us would have wasted chivalry on waiting for the other one to shower first. Too cold. It was a life and death situation. So we stood and shook and panted under the streaming hot water together. I got out first and handed her a white bedsheet through the bathroom door. No way would the standard issue guesthouse white terry cloth towel have gone around her body. She might have been nicknamed Noy in the village years ago but those days had been left behind and now all of her was in the Maak Maak category. Round and brown. Meanwhile the wind was gusting and blowing and panting like it was Nature's last chance to scare people, and the rain hitting the windows sounded like hail. She was staying the night. What to do? How to get from awkward to friendly?

I remembered that I had a big huge plastic bag of women's hats in the closet. In the beginning when I came to Thailand I was always hoping for something more than just sex. I wanted it to mean something (stop laughing). I wanted to make a friend. I wanted a connection. So if I picked up a nice girl at a bar and brought her back to my room I would try a little social foreplay first. For a while I had two laminated maps: one of the World and one of Thailand. I thought it would be fun to lay side by side on the bed and look at the maps. She could find her home town on the Thailand map and show me where she lived and I would show her where Boston was on the World map and show her how I flew to Thailand. I thought it would be a nice icebreaker and set me apart from the other stupid horndogs and hopefully we might connect on some level. I did this a little while and then stopped. Many of the girls could not find their hometowns on a map of Thailand and none of them could find Thailand on a World map and almost none of them had any curiosity about where I was from or how I flew to Thailand. Can you say disappointing? Anyway, no more maps. Then I got another idea. One day while cruising the aisles of the Chatuchak Weekend Market I found a stall selling women's hats. Big fancy hats with feathers and bright colors and ribbons and big brims. I bought 10 of them. The biggest fanciest hats I could find. When I tried this for foreplay it was like hitting the lottery. The bargirls loved the hats. All the hats. Trying on hats and posing in the mirror was a huge success. I was a hit. Big smiles. Jackpot! Think this is silly? Try and imagine a naked bargirl in high heels trying on hats and smiling. What do you think of this idea now? Jackpot.

So I went to the closet and pulled out the big black plastic trash bag full of hats. Dumped everything out on the bed. A bed covered with big fancy hats. I picked one up and put it on. Pointed at the bed and at her. Smiled. The dam burst. No more social tension. She leaped at the hats. Spent an hour trying on hats. Smiling. A big mound of brown with betel nut stained teeth and wet black hair and wide Isaan feet playing at being a rich woman. A beautiful woman. A sexy woman. A young woman. A desired woman. Her favorite was a big brimmed yellow hat with a big yellow ribbon and a big yellow feather. I danced around pretending to take pictures of her with my camera. I called her ‘suay maak'. I was happy. We laughed together.

That night we went to sleep on each side of the bed. Adults. The next morning I awoke to find a brown arm around my chest, her beautiful black hair in my face, and the yellow hat on her head. Leaving together that morning I gave her the hat. Then I forgot about her. Two days later I was rounding the corner of soi 4 and Sukumvit where the shoe repair guy is and way down the soi near the Bus Stop restaurant I could see a big yellow hat. Gai. When I got within hailing distance, suddenly as if connected to me by some morpholic thread, she turned and nailed me. Full intimate eye contact and a big smile. She waved her big soup spoon at me and pointed to the hat. Two more steps and I heard my name. "Dana. . . !" I bought some chicken and then there was that horrible throat constricting pregnant pause that can only happen between two adults. I was supposed to say something. I was the man. I was supposed to be pro-active. I was supposed to be the aggressive interested party. We had known each other for years. She had trusted me. We had laughed together. We had had an adventure together. She had moved to my side of the bed. I had been so happy. I was supposed to ask her out. I didn't. Sometimes what a man really needs is nourishment instead of punishment. Smart men know this. My nourishment was standing in front of me. Waiting. She had been interested in me for years. Suddenly it all made sense! She had been waiting for this stupid farang to wake up. She had been patiently waiting for years. I was supposed to step into the relationship and act like a man and ask her out. I didn't. Her face fell like the brick cladding on the side of a building that suddenly gives way and ends up in a pile of rubble in the street.

Later that night I came out of the NEP with a G-Spot girl on my arm. Starting down soi 4 towards Uncle Rey's guesthouse, I looked for Gai. She should have been selling soup and chicken just a little beyond the entrance to the Bus Stop restaurant. All I saw was a big yellow hat with a big yellow ribbon and a big yellow feather. In the gutter!

Stickman's thoughts:

So you never did find the snake?