Stickman Readers' Submissions September 13th, 2004

Two Nights In Bangkok

By The Cynic


August 2004! I arrive in Bangkok at about 13.30. Lovely to be back! The buzz when I walk into Don Muang is always incredible. Almost immediately, a guy on a little golf cart buggy thing drove up to me. I take you sir! Playfully, I hop on! What the hell!
As soon as we take off, all he keeps on shouting is Tip! Tip! Ah yes, I think to myself; this is Thailand. Many bittersweet memories and mixed feelings all come seeping through the haze of jet lag! And, yet, here I am again. I guess it’s
all part of the allure of this strange land.

I feel I have the last laugh at my buggy chauffeur; I give him a couple of Euro coins in change! The dismayed look on his face is priceless! Actually, it isn’t a bad tip at all, by Thai standards. About 80 baht. Anyway, what does he expect? I hadn’t
even had a chance to change travellers’ cheque yet! Maybe later, he’d realise he’d done well! <Except that you can’t usually exchange coins at banks or exchange booths! – Stick>

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The queues at immigration are chronic! I had heard about this before, but thankfully, I had never experienced the wait and tedium. No problem, I’d spotted a smoking area close by. I’d wait – no hurry. A few cigarettes later, I go back and
realise I’d just have to wait and slowly shuffle with the rest! These queues seemed to be getting longer!

After about 50 minutes I’m standing outside, the humid air adding to the stickiness of a 10-hour flight. Now for a taxi! Ha! I won’t be caught out this time around! I know what I should be paying! It’s going to be 350 baht or I’m
walking! Well, you know what I mean! First car – 700 baht! I laugh out loud! Second car – 500 baht! I walk on. Over to the little desk, Silom Road please? 350 baht! Nice one! Aren’t I a true veteran of Thailand! It’s
probably 250 by metered taxi, but I’m doing ok so far!

I arrive at my hotel. The Narai. I actually give the taxi driver a small bottle of duty free rum. He seems like a nice guy, quiet; and he’d allowed me to have a smoke in the car! I check in and take the elevator to my room, badly in need of a beer
and a shower. I have to say the room is a bit of a disappointment. I’ve come to expect a high standard from hotels in Thailand, and this is my first let down. The room is relatively small, two little single beds, and definitely in need
of renovation. Very shabby. The foyer is splendid; the rooms look like they belong to another building. And for 1600 baht per night? Never mind, I’m only going to be here for two nights. Really, I was too tired to complain.

I barely open my case and crack a Heineken when the ‘phone rings. What the f##k! Must be reception. I pick up. Sawadee Khaaa! Welcome to Thailand! Er, who is this? Is Fon! Oh my God! My Thai waitress friend! But already? Hey girl, give me a chance
here! She knew I was arriving on the 6th, and where I was staying. She must have asked the desk to call her immediately, the minute I checked in. These thoughts are going through my head and she’s saying something like we meet for coffee
at 5.00? I’m well jet lagged, sweaty and in need of a beer. I just agree and say goodbye. F**k! It’s already 3.45…

Now, after a beer, and during the shower, I get to thinking about this. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a nice girl, friendly, sincere etc. (Absolute platonic relationship here, by the way) I just feel a little claustrophobic about her call; you
know, like you sometimes get when tuk-tuks stalk you for business? GIVE ME A LITTLE SPACE, PLEASE! I know she’s never been on a jet before, much less understanding the stress of a combination of 13 hours of flights, but this is a bit much
too soon! I need to assert myself here! I call her back and tell her I’m very tired, I’ll call her tomorrow. No problem. That’s better! Free! I really don’t want commitments this evening; I have only two nights in Bangkok.
I need to chill.

I go down to the restaurant and have a pizza. I drink a few beers. I do some people watching on Silom. I’m chilling nicely, just enjoying my own company for now. My eyes feel a bit heavy. It’s time for a nap. I retire to one of my little
single beds.

I wake up, still feeling a bit groggy, as you do. Another shower refreshes me and then it’s time to hit the nightlife! I’m alone, I’m free to go where I please, it’s my first night and I’ve a wad of baht in my wallet!
It’s time for a stroll around Patpong. I walk down Silom Road, just savouring the atmosphere; the warm night time air, the people browsing at many stalls, the incessant stop and start of traffic at my right hand side, the calls of the tuk-tuk
drivers. Where you go! I ignore their calls, I just want to stroll. For now. No hurry.

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I arrive at the Patpong area, my brow soaked with sweat. I think it’s time for a beer. Now why bother with an ordinary bar when I can enjoy a cold one and have some eye candy too? So I head for the nearest gogo bar. It’s only ten o’clock
so the place is still quiet, about ten people hanging around the bar. The lovely girls in their white bikinis are dancing listlessly under the UV lights. I get a beer, sit down a little way from the bar.

I just want to chill, but I guess this is not the place for relaxation! One pretty girl on stage is doing her best to catch my eye…and my wallet no doubt! I find it a bit distracting and get the bill and leave. Just the mood I was in, I guess.
Then I spy Kings Castle. Yes! This is where I could lay my hat for a couple of hours!

I get a drink midst the usual; where you from, how long you stay! Still, I felt comfortable here. A band was playing, quite decent too, and I enjoyed listening to the music. At the end of the bar, two girls were eyeing me up and giggling in amusement!
I winked back, sending them into fits of laughter! Anyway, to cut the story short, after a few beers I decided to barfine both. They seem like friends, a team. I also want some company and fun; not just the horizontal jog!

Predictably, we go to a nearby restaurant. It seems to have illusions of being slightly upmarket, but I find the place too quiet and a bit sterile. After all, I’m up for sanuk! A delay in our drink order gives me a perfect excuse to leave. We do
this politely, no one seems to lose face. So, girls, up to you, where we go? One of the girls hails a pick up truck taxi (?). Anyway, I’m up for a laugh so I hop on to the flat bed, standing up, holding on to the roof lights! The girls
find this hilarious, and hop in the back too! I get the impression that they’re enjoying the fun with the crazy farang!

We head down Silom and turn down a soi. Hey! I think I know this place! Yes, sure enough we pull into a seafood restaurant; one I’d visited last year. It was memorable, in that I’d had a completely inedible meal there! My fault, I think;
I’d made the mistake of ordering a spicy fish dish. Not a good idea. Anyhow, I liked the place, and knew the prices weren’t crazy. So we grab a table.

A ladyboy is our waiter (waitress?) for the evening! Immediately, I get the fun started, flirting with the LB. The girls love all this! And, fair play, the LB is joining in the sanuk! The beer is flowing for me; the girls just have water or soft drinks
We have a nice meal, the LB gets a nice tip (monetary kind, please) and we head back to my hotel. This time we take a tuk-tuk, with the three of us squeezed into the cramped seating.

We enter the foyer of my hotel and head for the elevator. I’m not to sure about joiner fees here. Wait a minute! Music? That sounds ok! I glance left and a band is playing in the lounge. They sound great, and the gorgeous singer looks easy on the
eye too! The girls read my mind, and indicate that we go in! Nice one! Again, we grab a table, beer and mineral water. I’m really buzzing at this stage! It’s great to be back in Bangkok! One Night In Bangkok! I want to sing!

I ask the band if they know Sweet Home Alabama! I hear the guitar player trying out the lick. I shout up chords! D C G! Ah, you play? Too right this farang can play! So next, I’m up on stage with the band! The gorgeous singer is beaming at me,
loving the novelty of this! We take off…Big wheels keep on turning. I’m giving it everything and the two girls love every minute of it! They have my little digital camera, the flash is going off like there’s someone arc-welding
at our table! The band is enjoying the carry on too; there are not too many punters in the lounge so it’s livening up the night for them too! When I look back at those photos now, how I wish I could have that beautiful singer play with
me here!

We call it a night in the bar and head for my wonderful twin bedded room. No one asks for a joiner fee; I don’t enquire at the desk. We three are really having a laugh at this stage. For once, in Thailand, I feel the smiles are real. They really
do love their sanuk! Then again, maybe these two have Oscars at home on the mantelpiece.

The showers begin! I get there first, as I know what Thai girls can be like in their ablutions! I crack a beer and they go in the bathroom together! I get the stereo going. I can here the giggles from the bathroom! I burst in! The screams of laughter!
No Thai modesty for me, I’m starkers! Playfully pushing me out the door, they evict me from MY bathroom! Ah well!

As things transpire, the taller of the two girls – the one I fancied all night – has a headache! After drinking just one Heineken! I assume this was all pre-planned strategy in the bathroom. It’s not a problem, mai bpen rai! She goes to one of
my beds, still clad in the big white fluffy towel, and proceeds to fall asleep almost instantly! Well, at least I’ve found a use for those silly twin beds!

Now her smaller friend is a stunner! I give her my full attention now, and silently thank Buddha for the convenient headache! This girl really seems up for it – and so am I! What follows is the best night of f###ing I’ve ever had in Thailand!
Where this girl gets her energy from, I’ll never know! In the interests of privacy, I’ll censor the details!

The following morning, we say our goodbyes on a friendly note; two friendly 1000 baht notes actually! I hand the cash to my girl and, glancing at her friend, I say up to you. She hands her taller friend a 1000 baht note. We smile and wave goodbye. See
you later! Of course.

So off I go, with camera bag and a good hangover, to roam around Bangkok. First stop, water and a Cornetto at a 7-11. Ice cream always works for me. I head on past the Bangkok Oriental, the warm air drawing beads of sweat from every pore. It’s
time to cool off by the river. I grab a river taxi tour. It’s not really up to much, but the breeze is like a welcome balm.

I get a few good shots from the longtail. Photography is a major hobby for me and it’s a great opportunity to try out my new Nikon digital SLR. I want to get some great shots on this trip. I intend to produce a photo exhibition when I get back
home. I have a few lenses and flashgun with me too. I’m well prepared. I photograph the usual wats, get some good angles, but today I’m in the mood for some photojournalism! I take a cab to Chinatown.

I have a good ramble around all the tiny streets. The markets are incredible. It’s amazing, but street vendors here don’t pester me! It seems to be more of a locality where Thai people actually shop. I got some fantastic photographs here!
And everyone was so obliging, smiling at the crazy farang taking pictures of their cooking vessels! I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely, though I just wandered around and hadn’t a clue where I was, really! Sometimes it’s nice to do
that.

There was a photograph I’d taken last year from a hotel and I wanted to take a similar shot, at a different time, this year. It was a night-time shot of Bangkok from the roof top restaurant of the Tower Inn Hotel. This year, I wanted to get the
lovely deep blue of an evening sky in the picture. I take a taxi to the hotel; it’s only across the road from the Narai. I go up to the rooftop; it’s still a little early, too much light in the sky. I see one of the waitresses I
met on an earlier trip. I give her a photo I took last year. She seems so pleased that I’ve remembered her; she shows the photo to her friends like it’s a trophy! She really seems very young, and quite innocent.

Now, evening is falling fast on the Bangkok skyline. I assemble the tripod and look for a vantage point. Just over by the pool looks perfect. I set the tripod in front of me, extend the legs and raise the centre post. I’ll need a little more height
to see through the viewfinder. With one hand on the tripod, I reach behind and pull up a small plastic stool. I stand up on the stool.

Disaster.

The leg of the stool breaks. I go tumbling backwards.

Lying on the ground, I see the legs of my tripod sliding over the wall. I struggle to my feet; too late. I wait to hear the distant crash NINETEEN floors below.

At this stage, I need to get down there. I know the area on that side of the hotel is a graveyard or some sort of derelict area; a million thoughts go through my mind. I can’t believe this is happening. I race down the stairs then realise I’m
going to need the elevator. I reach the lobby, and in a panic explain my predicament to the porter. He takes me around the side of the hotel. I try to race ahead, but he stops me. I get the impression this is not a good area. The place is in total
darkness.

A brief exchange of Thai occurs. I don’t even see whom he speaks to. Next, I’m handed the remains of a 2000 euro camera and flashgun. A soi dog tries to bite me, I raise the broken tripod at him. Not now. The porter says the other guy said
it nearly hit him on the head. I am too shocked to realise how lucky I’ve actually been; that camera and tripod would have been like a missile by the time it reached the ground. No one would survive a blow from that. The nightmares of what
might have been would come later. I thank the porter. I go back to the roof, smashed camera in my hands, and collect my bag. I’m still in a state of shock. Soon, I will realise the full extent of that numbness. My left ankle is painful.
I hobble across Silom Road to the Narai.

I reach the lobby. I can’t even accurately describe how I feel now. Dazed? I hear a voice. Sawadee Khaa! Welcome to Thailand! My friend, Fon, is in the lobby. I smile at her, half-heartedly. She tells me that she’s been waiting in the foyer
for me since three o’clock. I open my camera case, and show her the smashed Nikon. She frowns, momentarily, then with a big smile; yes, but I think you can buy in Thailand, cheaper! She’s beaming from ear to ear. I think to myself;
you’re not really getting the picture here, girl! Pardon the pun. We go to my room; I need a beer. I’m shaking.

I sit on the bed nursing a Heineken. My sandal is damp. I reach down to investigate and my hand comes back covered in blood. Now I begin to feel pain. Acute pain. I lift my trouser leg and my left shin has one hell of an ugly cut. Blood is flowing from
the wound. It’s nasty. I see bone. I’d never even noticed the pain when I fell. I take my sandal and stocking off. There’s blood everywhere. My ankle looks swollen. Fon’s smile disappears. I limp to the bathroom to
get something to stem the flow of blood. I grab a towel. Fon says that I should go to hospital. She’s correct, but I’m stubborn. I’ll wait until I go to Phuket tomorrow. I ask her to go to the pharmacy, I need some bandages
rapidly. The shock must be wearing off; I’m really starting to feel a stinging pain in my shin.

Suddenly, Fon smiles brightly. She’s going to call her sister for advice! She a nurse, she know! The mobile comes out, she dials, a burst of Thai. Next, with a big bright smile, she hands me the phone; listen! Baby! I take the phone, I hear a young
child chattering in the background. Fon is grinning widely, cooing about the baby. I’m in agony. I’m trying to keep the blood off the carpet; the towel is crimson. My bare ankle is swelling up. This is turning surreal. Like a nightmare
with bizarre disjointed elements. Our Thai Florence Nightingale advises, Fon hangs up and goes off to the pharmacy. She returns shortly with a small bag of medical stuff.

I clean the cut as best I can, and pour antiseptic on it. I bandage it, but someone has forgotten surgical tape. And sterile dressings. The nurse or her sister? Fon looks on, I don’t ask for help. It’s my blood, I’ll take care of
this. I improvise, tying the bandage around my shin. I’m dropping beers and painkillers to kill the pain and the shock of the evening’s events. They’re beginning to kick in. I suggest to Fon that we go for a meal. I’m
really not in my right mind at all. Rational thought seems to have flowed out with the blood.

We go to some Italian place on Silom Road. I remember very little about the conversation we had; I put that down to shock too, not beer. I believe now, that my mind was racing and trying very hard to block out reality that evening, like some kind of protective
circuit. I think I ate a pizza. I know that Fon wanted to spring for the food, which was nice. Anyway, I need distraction. I tell her that I need to sleep, my leg is painful. It is too. And I reckon I’ve lost a fair amount of blood. The
bloodstained bandage is also convincing. I tell her I’ll call her when I get back from Phuket: we part. I need sleep.

I wake up in my room at about 1:30. Everything comes back to me in vivid chunks of memory, like a bad dream. But it’s not a dream. This time reality can’t offer relief. My leg aches. My ankle aches. My new Nikon and flashgun sit on my case,
destroyed almost beyond recognition. It’s all too real. And this is only my second night in Thailand. I don’t want to think anymore. I want a different reality. I take two Paracaetomol. I take a tuktuk to Patpong.

Patpong at closing time. I’ve been here before. It’s an experience; the clatter of poles as the vendors disassemble their stalls; the touts trying for some last minute business; the bars, now subdued, with the few girls still hanging out;
groups eating on the sidewalks. I wish I could describe it with more eloquent accuracy, but in all the times I’ve been there at this hour, I’m never at my most observant. This time is no different. On a mission, I hobble towards
Kings Castle. I tell myself that tolerance of pain is mind over matter.

I reach the bar; there’s a few of the girls still hanging around, but I can’t see my two lovelies from last night. A couple of girls recognise me from the night before. I get a drink, sit down. They’re going for something to eat.
They invite me and I go along. I just need some company. Give me fantasy over reality anytime, but especially tonight. Especially tonight. Four of us leave the bar; I have a girl on each arm.

We go to a nearby restaurant. I can’t recall the name. It’s full of Thais. We take a corner table. I order my staple – Heineken. The food, they can look after. I have to use the bathroom. On my return, they’ve all noticed that
I’m limping quite badly. They usher me to a seat and pull up another one so I can rest my leg. They ask what happened and I relate the sad tale. Their concern is very real. They look at the bloody bandage, and treat me with great sympathy.
Even through the twin hazes of alcohol and mental protective circuit anaesthesia, I sense that this concern and sympathy is real. They know I am in pain. These girls are not faking this; why should they?

One of the girls agrees to go back to my room with me. I don’t want boom-boom; I’m unable for any romps at this point. I still need company and distraction. I have to travel to Phuket tomorrow. And it’s very late. I explain this to
my girl. She’s lovely, she’s only concerned about my leg and ankle. We reach my room. Immediately, she makes me sit down with my leg elevated. She wants a closer look. I tell her that it’s not a pretty sight; she’s
already taking the bandage off. She’s not squeamish, this beautiful bar girl. I’ve been bleeding slowly for a few hours now. She looks at the seeping wound for a few seconds, compassion written all over her lovely face, then reaches
for the plastic pharmacy bag on the bedside locker.

I believe today, that no nurse could have been as tender as this girl. She arranges the cotton wool and antiseptic on the locker. She cleans the wound, washing the blood away with wads of the cotton wool; constantly glancing at my face for any expression
of pain. I’m being real brave here. I try to help her; she gently pushes my hands away. She applies more antiseptic and very gently, but efficiently, she bandages my shin. Again, for the second time in a few hours, the scene in my bedroom
seems surreal. This beautiful lady is an angel of mercy. So kind and gentle, completely dedicated to the task.

She finishes with my leg and I go to get a beer in the minibar. She practically pushes me back, and opens a Heineken for me. She keeps a vigilant eye on my bandaged leg. I conclude that I’ve underestimated the loss of blood; I have died. I am in
Heaven or Nirvana or in some other place where I really don’t deserve to be.

She goes to the bathroom. When she returns, she makes straight for my wardrobe. What are you doing? I pack for you, you go Phuket tomorrow morning. You must rest. I look on amazed, as she methodically and neatly packs my belongings. This she does with
great care and attention. She folds every garment neatly. Rearranges the entire contents of my suitcase. She sees my smashed camera. Your camera! She turns and gives me a long look of sympathy. She spends a half-hour or so making sure I am completely
prepared for my journey to Phuket. Eventually, she falls asleep on the other bed, still fully clothed.

The following morning I give her 1500 baht and thank her for what she has done. She doesn’t refuse the money, nor does she really seem to care too much about it. All I can sense from her is unspoken compassion. She wants to know do I feel alright.
I don’t even know her name. Somehow the night hadn’t evolved that way. Some things preclude small talk.

I will never forget her kindness.

There is no moral within this story.

It’s quite simply a tale of two nights in Bangkok.


Stickman’s thoughts:

Ouch! I could just see your new Nikon in its unsuccessful attempt to fly.


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