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Searching For Miss Goodbar Part 4


Searching For Miss Goodbar Part 4 (Kanchanaburi – The Bridge Over The River Kwai)


Last week as you may recall, we left our intrepid traveller contemplating the steamy depths of Thailand's distant jungles on the mysterious river Kwai, with lovely Bangkok wild-child "Dan", Was our hero in love? Was this, to be his final road to perdition?… read on.

Kanchanaburi: The Bridge on the River Kwai….

At a bleary eyed 6am sharp, a small tour minibus collects us from our / my Hotel to take us to a VIP Coach transfer just outside Bangkok's Royal Palace, for onward transfer to Kanchanaburi. The first leg of our some eight hour journey to "jungle rafts"….

Dan rested her head lightly on my shoulder as our minibus picked its way slowly through the early morning Bangkok traffic, it seems even this early there's little respite from Bangkok's almost legendary pollution and traffic fowl ups… Our then co-passenger tourists who we picked up from different Hotel's wouldn't be sharing our VIP bus we later learned, but were all divided up into different tours using lists. Arriving at a transiting point and bus stop just alongside the Royal Palace, Dan and I were then disembarked from our minibus and directed to a large Purple & White coloured VIP Coach with engine idling, some people on it, – and just about ready to go, with us boarding and securing our baggage as quickly as we could. The journey then took some 4-6 hours as I recall, arriving finally in Kanchanaburi's nearby war cemetery, to stop and look around…. The cemetery's a 'final' resting place for many hundreds of allied and British Commonwealth P.O.W.'s who perished while building the Bangkok-Burma "death railway", most remains having being disinterred from shallow graves elsewhere and former POW camp sites.

On then to Kanchanaburi town, where we walked and looked around the town, somewhat a little shabby and 'touristy' by today's standards as I thought once before. Here, Dan and I elected to sit out the tour at a little cafe and get a drink, after all I'd seen Kanchanaburi town before, and so had Dan.

The afternoon's tour culminated in looking around Kanchanaburi town's small "JEATH Museum" [Japan / England / Australia / Thailand] It was great to see here, Dan acting like a 'tourist' walking around, pouring over the painted images of POW's inside the WWII period reconstruction of a POW's camp shelter and sleeping area, a simple bamboo and palm thatched lean-to, housing the paintings and exhibits. Dan looked quizzically at the paintings and real-life drawings of traumatised, skeletal 'shadows' of broken men on crutches, wearing rags of military fatigues from that long lost time. She saw perhaps for the first time ever, an aspect of the brutality and excesses of the Japanese in WWII occupied Thailand, – not otherwise reserved for rudimentary school books….

Meanwhile, a mixed group of young and older looking Japanese tourists were busily walking around taking photo's posing and gesticulating wildly at the surroundings. Guided by a young Japanese girl in a colourful Umbrella as her 'sign' who looked barely out of school by her age, speaking frenetically fast in unpronounceable Japanese to her otherwise preoccupied entourage…. Watching them, I wondered if they even saw a "connection", – or had any idea what it was exactly, they were looking at, and whom 60 years ago albeit, had been responsible?…. We last saw that somewhat hot and vexed looking tour Rep herding them hurriedly out to an awaiting coach, using her folded brolly as a cattle goading stick by now, amid the usual kerfuffle of bowing and Japanese chatter and expletives, and the tinkling clatter of camera shutters. The sight of awkward looking Japanese tourists always brings a wry smile to my face, seeing them so enthusiastic, almost other-worldly, tripping over each other and always in large groups, – never speaking a solitary word or one utterance of recognisable English. I know I shouldn't feel any resentment, I'm not even from that generation that should, or has the 'right' to although my 1922 born Father might disagree, – he fought in the war in RAF Bomber Command, but in Europe. But seeing them swarming all over Kanchanaburi and the Bridge, brings me an overwhelming sense of irony and misgiving for some reason…. I've been to Japan many times, Osaka and Tokyo, Japan's one of the most enigmatic Asian countries I've ever been to, overwhelming cities and technology, polite citizens and executive stress burn-out by age 25, – that's Japan. The sushi bars are full of young bright eyed executive casualties waiting to happen, in a nation gone mad with too much wealth & technology too soon for her generation's to catch up on, a country that grew up too quickly from the ashes, or is she now some massive plague of Asian technophiles. You decide….

Women, – know women….

Dan was by now, taking photo's too of her surroundings, viewing the scenery, she didn't seem the slightest bit bored in Kanchanaburi at all as we crossed by foot the infamous bridge side-stepping the rails, and gaps between the planks. Large gaps that could send you plummeting into the river itself! Dan held onto my arm as we negotiated the bridge, laughing as we tripped for a moment, holding each other up…. Dan drew some admiring glances from the tourists and Thais alike as she poses jauntily with a radiant smile on the rusting footplate of the derelict WWII Steam Locomotive opposite the Bridge. Unlike Pia, Dan didn't smile so much, but when she did, it was like the sun coming out, a bright radiant smile that lit up a room, it made even her eyes 'laugh' with her, winning the hearts of those around her. I wondered if everyone knew she was a BG, – it didn't 'show' from Dan's dress for example, she was just a regular looking girl in looks and dress. If anything, her attractiveness possibly gave her away, she was undeniably beautiful, and has personality to go with that, – one that shone and burst through dazzling any unsuspecting observer in a moment's glance with that smile… Watching Dan walking sometimes, her bum and hips gently swinging as she walks, her eyes on other things, I'm aware of other girls staring at her walking the opposite way, as Dan seemingly remains oblivious. I know girls', – 'know' girls… girls know truly beautiful girls too – and 'hate' them in their inner hearts…. You know when a girl 'shines' when other women stare and glance, not at you, but at the woman and loveliness at your side….

Some Thais believe rightly or wrongly that any Thai girl submitting herself to a foreigner, was probably a 'bad girl' no matter what her social background or social status…. I knew however that Dan's demeanor, politeness and charm would carry her through whatever life threw at her, and me too, through our trip.

Somewhere further northwards of Kanchanaburi. We finally arrived at a large sloping river bank concrete ramp & berthing point where long-tailed boats berthed alongside nearby ramshackle wooden jetties. These traditionally styled long-tailed boats would ultimately to take us further up-river, and to jungle rafts, otherwise inaccessible by road. It was here we'd have lunch too under a large thatched roofed transiting restaurant, awaiting our transfer by long-tail boat. Other tourists were arriving by boat simultaneously as we dined, from various resorts on the River Kwai noi estuary, boarding and returning to Bangkok or Pattaya on the VIP Coach's we'd just disembarked….

'Cordoned off' by our otherwise overly enthusiastic and by now slightly perplexed Thai tour rep, we're now corralled into our 'established tour groups' Dan and I 'obediently' as others 'strayed' much to the Rep's annoyance and consternation, who asks them "Pleeeese you kum this way Krap!??" with venom and ice in his voice…. Dan and I are sat now already and eating our lunch like good little tourists, taking in our surroundings and fellow tourists who haven't wandered. While checking my camera, our perspiring Thai tour-leader finally sits down opposite Dan and I and began talking with Dan, exchanging pleasantries, and I watched Dan's face for any sign of displeasure in what he might be saying, – he was probably 'fathoming her out' as is usual. I needn't have worried though, Dan laughed and joked with him in Thai, and it was obvious by his thumbs up gesture and beaming broad smile, he thought Dan was a lovely girl and A-Okay….We'd won his approval at least!

I noted only a very few farang-Thai girl couples amid the restaurant crowds, but no other on our tour which was shame I thought. A middle aged Australian couple smiled and acknowledged us as we ate, when suddenly people looked aghast as a tall looking Kai-Tai with youngish farang in tow, entered the restaurant somewhat flamboyantly…. sitting far from us, but drawing the bewildering gaze of all in their direction. "Wowww, that girl is beautiful isn't she?" murmured a woman close to us… Dan tried to 'stifle' her ironic smile, looking down at her food to hide her expressive face, she'd understood the woman, knowing that the 'girl' was a Kai-Tai… [Lady-boy] I wondered IF the boyfriend knew? – he probably didn't even care…. It surprised me that many tourists in that restaurant couldn't tell the difference, they didn't seem to know this Kai-Tai was a Kai-Tai !!

1997 a River Odyssey….

Later as our long-tail sped up river towards "jungle rafts" floating hotel, and with the warm breeze in our faces, I was looking forward to our peaceful respite from Bangkok's nightly madness, and to some extent I think Dan was too…. I was looking forward too, to the peace and tranquility of the Kwai Noi estuary, and being alone with Dan in a place where you are as close to nature as you can and ever will be, far away from the madding crowds and the bars…. Bend upon huge sweeping bends in the river pass us as we wind our way up the broadening river, lined with radiantly green palms and forestry against an azure sky. Occasionally getting splashed by the spray from the bows, Dan and I duck smiling, as we sped along, bouncing sometimes in the wake of another passing long-tail, her driver waiving from under his straw Cooley's hat at the stern. Large bamboo logs and forest debris floated and bobbed almost menacingly in the river's mill-pond like waters as we ripped along at about 35Mph….

Mornings on the Kwai are surreally beautiful with the early mornings mists, and each tour differs from the next, with different itineraries. The River Kwai couldn't be farther from the madness and tauper of Bangkok if it were imaginably possible, and looking at Dan's lovely bespectacled face and long heavy hair blowing lazily behind her, I felt it might be a chance to see Dan in a more natural surrounding.

Dan:

Pia's no good you know? She make booking with another farang who arrive in Bangkok 2 day before, she know him from before, but I angry a little bit she treat Simon like that, – I think she him too?? I don't understand her sometime. I like Simon, I very happy now I together with him, I never believe this happen, still angry with Pia too,- I happy too she go away and say me to go together with Simon…. [My Buddha my good luck!?] I am happy to be away from Bangkok for a few day with Simon, maybe I have trouble in the bar if some friend Pia know I together with Simon [again] now and mamasan asking too many question. Oh! lady no-good in bar sometime, already me 5 year dancing, – I hate now, – want to leave bar… Pia? I think she girl will never leave, she like customer too much and have big family want, want, want her money. What I want?? I want to leave the bar, find a man true for me, a good man… If man Farang? – that okay, I like Farang better than Thai poochai, Thai man too much butterfly {Chou-Joo} No good…. I want and think about have baby too before I old lady….I want familee myself too now…. I think about dat a lot sometime….

Arriving at jungle rafts about mid-afternoon, we were quickly whisked off again after checking in to the "Lawa Caves" down river, and an impromptu sauna within!! The Lawa Caves as they're known, sit high atop the river sides amid tall Bamboo trees on its rocky and earthen slopes, not far from "jungle rafts" and a short long-tail boat ride to and from. Apart from a site of great natural beauty, the Lawa Caves were reputedly the hiding place of a defeated & demoralised Japanese Army in 1945, in their retreat to evade capture by an ever advancing allied force and Thais bent on just vengeance.

Climbing the 200 improvised concrete steps or so up to the cave's entrance was a thorough cardio work-out amid the still and steamy jungle air. Surprisingly, Dan was puffing and panting near the top. [as I was] Perhaps trekking and this form of outdoor physical exertion weren't in a BG's physical vocabulary after all !! The air seemed thinner though, and very high humidity made it hard going. I'm sure some elderly tourists would have problems climbing these steps.

Once inside the Lawa Caves, the increased dank humidity, Bat droppings and wet slippery surfaces took their toll. A few tourists slipped and fell, good walking boots are essential kit in here, and trousers to protect you against grazed knees… Dan's trainers kept her well footed, while she held onto me, – and I onto her! Our Mon guide 'Tuk" guided us through the caves, keeping close to Dan and myself, occasionally chatting with Dan, who was the only Thai in our group, apart from a young boy with an old farang…. Jean clad for this trip, Dan gingerly steps up and works [and slips] her way up onto a colourful rocky formation for a photo, as I set up the camera, 'Tuk' watching anxiously, just as Dan loses her footing, slips and land on her shapely assets in a guffaw of laughter and a playful shriek!!! Laughing, other tourists are looking on at us, and it seems to be just me, Dan and Tuk enjoying ourselves in a corner of the Lawa cave…Helping her up, she wipes her dirtied bum and smiling at her sudden and unceremonious embarrassment, trying not to look at the now gaping tourists…! A skin of mixed coffee & cream, I'm sure she was for those few moments, blushing bright red! Dan scampers on ahead, possibly eager to hide from her audience, and Tuk calls out to her so slow down and be careful, Tuk catching up with her, he turns and says "Be careful Mr Simon? – have snake come in here sometime you know?" "Have big Cobra come inside Lawa cave sometime for shelter…." Words that send chills down Dan's spine and sends her to my side, gripping my arm, looking anxiously at every shadow, nook and cranny in the dimly lit cave, she makes me laugh… "Okay" [I reassure Tuk] "we stay together, don't worry!"

Boarding our long-tailed boat moored at the bottom of the Lawa caves lower sandy slopes on the river, an Australian woman declares her sudden urgent hunger for some lunch, amid the stragglers slowly coming down the slopes. Dan and I are ahead, near the boat ready to board, when the woman declares in a loud voice; "I'm so hungry, I'm gonna bloody well swim back if you lot don't hurry up yourselves?" Dan understands the woman's proclamation, and lets out a playful guffaw of laughter, as I do to her diatribes, Tuk too is laughing and smiling with us, helping the hungry woman aboard the long-tail as we follow…. Tuk, once inside the boat, helps to push us outward into the river as the boatman starts the engine, and within minutes we're speeding down a somewhat choppy and somewhat bamboo debris strewn river Kwai towards jungle rafts, hot and weary from our cave excursion and sauna….

A journey begins….

Simon:

"It would be almost impossible to say exactly when I began my journey, my slow gradual transition from leading any normal happy relationships with my fellow western women folk, – to now… Yes, it's no less a journey of sorts, with a beginning or end that begins with one faltering step or action, followed by many over recent years, supposedly to its final conclusion. It possibly began with my first encounter with Thailand in 1994 and thereon following visits, not tempered by the sex industry alone, but Thailand's wonderfully diverse culture and surroundings. Relationships came easy though, too easy whether through the industry or not, Thai women were seemingly fatally attracted to western men, as were we to them…

Somewhere on my road, I crossed a divide, – crossed over into unknown territory whereby it is I who is suddenly the foreigner, in a far off foreign land, seeking what I don't yet know or fully understand. It cannot be love, surely love doesn't exist here in this lush yet unforgiving and surreal landscape? How can it survive yet let alone flourish? Even the sexual desires lose their iridescence after a while, sex too can only fulfil a man for a while, although for some it means everything with no other alternative… Except me, whilst sex is enjoyable, its merely a pleasant punctuation between more meaningful [one would only hope?] relationships or more meaningful heterosexual companionships. At the very least, a physical demonstration of affection in its 'traditional' form, toward my partner whomsoever she may be…. It's probably a sad irreversible fact, I have indeed crossed a line, a line between normal relationships with my own kind to that of with Thai women, or 'Asian' women more generally speaking. Farang women have a particularly unforgiving and lowly opinion of Thai women, and I am now probably regarded as 'damaged goods' by them or by any potential western female partner, ah alas, so this is my perdition?…."

Night moves and ghosts….

With night falling, jungle rafts serve dinner, a combination choice of western or Thai cuisine for the selective tourist, and at 19:30 we're ushered toward the larger floating raft section at the Floatel's near end, which houses the Mon dance theater. Ushered inside by oil lamp and candle light only, it's quite dark, and Mon musician's sit squatting in front of an array of small brass drum-ettes arranged in a circle around them at the theater's front, just below a stage area. There gentle low chimes give out a melancholy sound as we enter finding our seats, our Mon tour Rep 'Tuk' greets us with a broad smile, "Ahh Mr. Simon and Miss Dan, we happy see you tonight!" he declares. Sitting on rustic benches and tree branches for railings, we sit slightly above, looking downward toward the broad dance stage as a colourfully dressed dancer comes out to introduce the evenings events the show by traditional Mon dancers.

In perhaps one of the strangest cultural dances I've seen, Mon dancers come out in flowing costume in the low light, holding candles in the palms of their outstretched hands, winding their bodies to the music, and with their faces paled by traditional face paint or powder, looking for all like surreal melancholy images of wandering ghosts in some weird nightly vigil. Dan's grip tells me she's 'bothered' by what she sees…Thais are, or can be unreasonably superstitious at times. Dan was probably no different, and was not used to seeing this almost eerie and supernatural spectacle unfurl in front of her… "Ohh, look like Ghosts??" she whispers in my ear…. Thais often firmly believe, quiet and remote areas, possibly such as the River Kwai are natural domain for the supernatural, lost and wandering souls, long dead, some good and some evil, at very best mischievous spirits… Ancient ancestors and alike, and like many Asian cultures have an inextricable cultural links between the living and the dead, the past and the present, life now and the next-life…

As we retired that night, whether it was that ghostly dance or what, but Dan wasn't entertaining a twin bed tonight, and no sooner had I made myself comfortable than I felt Dan getting in and snuggling up to me. Both exhausted from the early start, our late night the night before, Dan and I are off to sleep pretty quickly, with her holding onto me as darkness turns to its characteristic inky blackness over the River Kwai….

Nestling her head into my shoulder, Dan says, "I thinking about Pia where is she?" I stay silent, some questions are better not asked….

Meanwhile….Pia:

"I not know where Dan is, I call her many time, hand-phone switched off so I send many SMS. Maybe she and Simon go away somewhere, but I not sure… I am in "Chiang Mai" with Mr. John, he go there for business, send many things back to his country for import or something like that. I am jealous of Dan, I know she with Simon because I say okay to her…but me jealous too, but Mr. John good man and gives me good money, and I know him longer than Simon…. He call me many times when I in Tip-Top restaurant before with Simon and Dan, but he offer me big money to stay together with him and not Simon… I need big money now, my family want to lease rice farm near-near Karasin, and Sanchai hove trouble with Police before and need money, – I don't know what he do, but he say he needs 10,000 Baht to give to Police. I feel I am in 'prison' too, my family always want, want, want. my younger Brother not helping or my sisters too, not helping, only little… My Brother take money 4000 Baht too from me 2 month before, but he not give back, – him have younger girlfriend and I sure he give money to her… My Mother Father lose 20,000 on Lottery last month too, money I give to her [My Mum] My family play Lottery too much sometime, too much money go away, lose…

Oh!! – I hate my life sometime!! John say one time he will marry me, take care me for good, – I hope so, I want free of the bar, of my life, if I not believe him [John] I would go together with Simon like before…. I hoping everything on John now, I hope him true what he say me before, I very angry if John lie together with me…"

At sometime about 3am, I'm woken by a nudge, and wake to see Dan blinking and smiling at me in the dim light…. She's awake and doesn't see why I should be sleeping, (!) and gets up. She goes out onto the riverbank side balcony, and after getting myself together I follow her out, albeit a little bleary eyed, into the inky blackness outside, carrying the hurricane lantern with me onto the balcony. It's lovely, pitch black along the river banks, but with water running beneath us its quite soothing and I move over to sit on the hammock. Dan, now with my audience, is standing against the rustic railings and begins to talk, beginning with Dan giving me some basic lessons in spoken Thai…. We speak and I learn into the night, and to this day I can see her standing there against the inky black night, dictating Thai sentences and different greetings to me for me to repeat! Interrupted, we both see eerie red fiery eyes in the pitch black along the river bank, seemingly foraging for food, out hunting in the night but we can't see what animal it is, maybe an Ocelot or small hunting cat we're not sure.

Things were working out great, Dan was glowing on that memorable River Kwai trip, and it certainly didn't feel like any bar-girl-farang type relationship I kept hearing about. Plus Dan had charm, manners and courtesy, things you normally associate Thais with having, – especially women. Dan it turned out, was more 'refined' than Pia in subtle ways hard to discern, a combination of femininity and sexiness, but could be as raunchy as the rest of them in her 'normal' environment, – 'the bar'…. Dan had earlier demonstrated a form of working and 'bar' professionalism, – with nobility if that's possible, even in the face of Pia's trying to disrupt that initially, but undeniably there was a form of noble cooperation between Dan and Pia I'd only glimpsed before in other girls in other bars. It seemed between these two, I was getting a closer look than I bargained for at how that almost invisible, almost indiscernible [safety?] 'mechanism' works between these girls. Sometimes friendship's between Thais notably BG's seem only, if barely superficial, polite facade's to keep one's face & grace, – otherwise how could one girl allow her [best] friend to literally walk off with a prospective boyfriend of her own?? [As Pia did] How can and do they 'survive' the otherwise ruthless unforgiving bar environment without this unusual form of "entente cordial" and cooperation?? With great difficulty I imagine….

Taking Dan away, she dropped her normal BG facade, and even what she spoke about became much less business-like and normal as she simply began to relax and open up, even letting her guard down I felt…. However, experience and caution tell me not to believe for a minute, you can 'take the bar out of the girl' normally, but this was looking promising at least as long as she was away…. I felt sure somehow deep inside that Asian women were meant for me one way or another, whether it be a temporary fling with a BG or a more [hopefully] 'substantial' relationship with a refined Thai or Asian woman which I felt was more than possible. Experience has taught me though, that Thai women, whether in bars, Go-Go bars or expensive night clubs are pretty much of the same ilk, only the latter's motives are more veiled in secrecy until the 'sting' sinks in much later, the outcome however's the same it seems…. These types of expensive club types.

Either way, it felt like for me at least, there was no going back now….

If this is the way to perdition for a farang like me, (?) – then it's not so bad is it?….

Stickman's thoughts:

Quite an adventure!

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