I Discovered Thailand By Bus Part 2
For those of you who were following the story in part 1, we’re finally off the bus and in Hat Yai…
We got ourselves rooms at the Sakon Hotel, a small Chinese-style place complete with the grandfather clock in the lobby. I wonder if the cross-eyed desk clerk still works there. If you got functioning air-conditioning, and hot water that ran hot most of the time, you wouldn’t complain too much about the room, which actually wasn’t too shabby.
It didn’t take long to grab a quick shower, then we met in the lobby and were ready to go.
There was a ‘resident’ tuk-tuk driver stationed outside the hotel entrance. No problem with communication, being in the South he could speak Malay. We called him ‘Abang’, which in Malay means elder brother. He was a bit of a character in his own right, with a big smile and a tooth missing in front. When someone in the group pulled out a cigarette, he whipped out a DuPont lighter, in those days all the rage because it had this unique ‘ping’ sound when you opened it. Expensive, and he owned two. He became our taxi driver for the duration of our stay.
‘Girls?’ No problem. Hop in, I’ll take you there and bring you back, this is how much it costs. Yes, he did get commissions from the places he’d bring us to if we got the girls from that particular place. We passed him a packet of foreign cigarettes, and after getting an idea as to the going rates of the services, off we went…
It looked like he was taking us out of town, lots of turns and into some really narrow alleys before finally stopping outside what looked like a shuttered shophouse. We got out and waited while he went in. In a couple of minutes he motioned us in. It was a long narrow room, and we were ushered on to some sofas lined up against one wall. Directly opposite were a couple of wooden tiers. We were served some Chinese tea, and in about five minutes about thirty girls had walked in and had taken a seat on the tiers. The person who ran the place pointed out his recommendations, but you were free to choose whomsoever you liked.
We didn’t see anything we liked at the first place, and were under no obligation to choose one either. So off we went to the next place… until everyone had company.
The girls would stay with you until the next morning, there was no such thing as short time. Most of the girls were from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, the average age being about nineteen. It was almost impossible to find one over twenty-two. The going rate at the time was three hundred baht, all in. No one complained…
It was just a little past lunch, so by the time we got back to the hotel everyone was a little hungry (and thirsty). We converged on the room where the Thai guy was staying, and the girls were dispatched to get barbecued chicken and beer.
Now, this is interesting from a food point of view. The Malay guy was Muslim, so he wouldn’t eat pork. The Indian guy was Hindu, so he wouldn’t eat pork or beef. Mutton was agreeable with all. And being down South, the food was Halal. We also agreed that beer was made out of vegetable matter, so it didn’t matter…
The chicken and sticky rice down South is one of my favourites, and those crispy fried onions were always included. You could also get liver and gizzard on a spit, really nice. They did have quail, but by the time that is barbecued there is almost no meat left.
There is also a Muslim restaurant well-known for it’s Biryani, and was a favourite stop-off for lunch.
The girls are back, so the party’s on. (Before any of you readers start thinking anything else, don’t, because we didn’t..). Now, except for the Thai guy, none of us spoke the language at the time, so this was a good time to try and improve on the few words each of us knew. It was also interesting to see how the girls reacted in a group, as not all of them came from the same place. It was great fun, some of us sitting cross legged on the floor, taking care not to spill the glasses of beer, or sitting on the edge of the bed; I was on the armchair, with my new friend on my lap feeding me bits of chicken. This is the life!
Okay, the food and beers are finished, so we’re all off to our individual rooms with a commitment to meet later in the evening for dinner. I do not care to go into detail as some readers would, just to say that back then the girls were much simpler and not as mercenary as what you find in Bangkok these days. Still, they were more than willing to jump into the long bath and scrub your back…
Ah, the phone. Okay, we’ll meet downstairs in half an hour, to decide where to go for dinner. Most of us get there around or a little after the arranged time, except for our Malay friend. He comes down almost an hour later, his companion not looking too happy. In sign language, she’s pointing at him, then using both her hands over her head to simulate horns. He just laughs and says, ‘Ubat’. (Medicine).
Over a nice seafood dinner (acceptable to all) we decide that after another day we’ll probably leave, so the Thai guy says he’ll call his sister in Bangkok to see what kind of arrangements can be made. We were thinking of taking the overnight train (enough of buses!), spend a day or so in Bangkok, and then make our way back. When we do get back to the hotel, he does call his sister, but we’re advised not to come as people were wading around the Ramkhaemhaeng district in waist-deep water.
No problem, we’ll just change our plans a little. We decide to go to Phuket instead, and will book the tickets the next morning. That would leave us with another day (and night) in Hat Yai to do some sightseeing before leaving for Phuket the morning after.
With the girls….