I made my first visit to Thailand in May of 2000 and returned once again in April the following year. My initial interest was a combination of circumstances and mindset usually associated with the beginning of middle age and coincidental discovery of Christopher Moore's book "A Killing Smile." I had never been anywhere in Asia so spent some time trying to inform myself about Thailand. When I thought I was reasonably well prepared, I bought a plane ticket and set off to see what it was all about.
I arrived in Bangkok, got admitted to the country and took a taxi to a hotel in lower Sukhumvit. Despite the long plane ride, new surroundings and a sense of anticipation had me feeling very awake and alert. After a shower, shave and a change of clothes I walked over to the Nana Entertainment Plaza. One of the things I had learned in my fact finding efforts was the modus operandi of tourist bars. Less than a minute after strolling through the entrance of the plaza I got acquainted with (was accosted by) a woman who features prominently in this narrative.
I will call her M. She was seated at one of the open air bars when she spotted me. She slid off the barstool, trotted out to me, threw her arms around me, kissed me on the mouth and told me I didn't stink. (Neither did she.) Looking back on that initial encounter I am convinced with one look she knew I had never been there. She prevailed on me to sit down and buy a few drinks. All the telltale signs of the seasoned pro were there for the amateur to see. Speaks English, aggressive, smokes and drinks. I had to assume M wasn't actually employed at that bar because when I was ready to move on I paid for the drinks but no barfine. M cordially invited herself to follow me into a gogo bar. Inside that gogo bar I was starting to wonder just what I might be getting into here, or, more accurately what might be getting into me. Although I thought M attractive, I think what followed was motivated more by curiosity than sexual desire. Walking back to the hotel I felt as if I had entered some kind fantasy. In the world I was familiar with, the women are older, the screening process longer and most of the time is long time.
I won't bore anyone with details of what occurred in that hotel room. Suffice to say the most interesting thing about it was, when we finished, M put her clothes on and left without asking for money. Very curious. The experience reminded me of a song I heard Peggy Lee sing when I was a boy called "Is That All There Is?" About an hour later I hear a knock at the door. It's M. She suggested some beer from room service and for the next few hours we drank and talked. I also offered to pay her but she refused allowing I could pay later. She stayed the night.
The following morning I made a decision regarding M. The previous night, during the course of conversation, I had been trying to size her up. I decided to trust her. She didn't seem completely crazy, I didn't know a single person in Thailand and she was someone I could talk to. I told her I would be there for two weeks and if she wanted to stay with me I would pay her way plus 1000 baht a day. She agreed to this without hesitation. Also that morning I got a new name. She started referring to me as Loma. I understood her to mean dolphin. I later discovered there is a Hotel Loma in Pattaya which uses a dolphin logo.
The next 13 days were spent doing what tourists do in Thailand. Days were spent shopping and sightseeing and evenings touring the nightlife. I quickly discovered very good value can be had there in goods and services. I also discovered I only thought I knew what traffic congestion was. M proved herself to be a savvy shopper and she really knew her way around the nightlife there. She had friends in every bar or club we went to and I got the definite impression I was being displayed. However, there was one exception. One night, around 3 AM we were walking back from Soi Cowboy when I noticed an arrow pointing down on the side of a building which read "Thermae." I had read this was the model for HQ in "A Killing Smile." I told M I wanted to go in and she pouted, folded her arms and refused. I asked her what the problem was and she said "that is an idiot place." I asked her to elaborate. "There is a lot of drugs there." I prevailed on her. One drink then we go and she reluctantly agreed. I have to say I can point to nothing in my previous experience which prepared me for what was behind the door. If you are someone like me and you walk into a place like that you will know you are light years away from where you started in life. It's 3AM, the place is packed with a very lopsided ratio of men and women. Through the thick haze of cigarette smoke I sensed the unmistakable vibe of absolute desperation. I decided to pass on the drink and as we left M gave me a "I told you so" look. What a place.
We also ventured down to Pattaya, which I didn't much care for, and Phuket island which I did like. As my time there wound down I was left with a good overall impression of the place. The only real downside related to my original reason for being there (or so I thought). Sex with women whose only enjoyment from it is compensation wasn't what I was accustomed to and really didn't go down too well. Before I left M asked for and received my mailing address.
About a month after going home I received a letter from M. A letter expressing love and a desire to see me in Thailand again. I had heard about letters like this and the only thing missing from it was a request for support. Over the course of a year I received several more from her. They were basically all the same. I love you. I miss you. When are you coming back to Thailand? I replied to all the letters but was careful to keep the replies short and neutral in tone.
In April the following year I went back to Thailand. In one of M's letters she mentioned that if/when I came back to Thailand she would meet me at the airport. My last reply came with date, time, flight number details about my arrival. When I got there I waited in the arrivals hall for probably an hour. I never saw her. I arrived there a few days before Songkran and I had a little trouble finding a hotel room on lower Sukhumvit. I hadn't counted on her not being there and so I did the same routine I had done the previous year. As I was walking towards Nana Plaza a feeling of melancholy came over me. At that moment, in my mind, I hesitated. I had a brief insight into how easy it would be for someone who has been told is a "good man" to apply this "goodness" towards self defeat.
Not the best way to begin a vacation, I'll admit. I looked for M at the place she found me the first time but she wasn't there. I ended up at a place on the top level of Nana Plaza called Carnival. About 15 minutes to close one of the dancers, I'll call her B, declared she "liked me" and would go long time with me. I felt a little silly paying the barfine but the girl looked good and I wanted to give it another try. I think B was fairly new to the business. Didn't drink or smoke, no tattoos, very limited English and perhaps a trace of sweetness left in her. I was hungry so we went over to the restaurant in the lobby of the Nana hotel. It's awkward being with someone you can't talk to. I wasn't staying at the Nana but a place within walking distance of there. When we got back to my room I found out how much B "liked me." I believe it is referred to as "going starfish." She made good on the long time promise but I passed on a second round. Shortly after waking up, B indicated in was time to pay up. How much? It hadn't been discussed. She held up one finger. I thought she would leave after being paid but she didn't. After breakfast we went and bought a Thai/English dictionary. B and I spent most of the day out by the hotel pool. It was equal parts amusement and frustration trying to communicate with the young lady from northeast Thailand. In the early evening B managed to make it understood she wanted to go to a disco. I hadn't been inside a disco a quite a few years so I thought it might be worth doing.
As B and I were walking hand in hand up soi 4, just before the entrance to Nana Plaza, I noticed a familiar profile. The profile turned in our direction. At that moment I would have preferred to be somewhere else. A loud sound come from M. She rushes toward us. Next come the tears. B releases my hand and looks away. Any female who wants something from me has a good chance of getting it with tears. I'm impressed with the intuitive brilliance of this performance. It's an awkward moment. I appeal to M for guidance. She suggests 500 baht and a goodbye for B. Seemed like a good idea and B moved on without complaint. I did see B one more time. A couple of days later I went back to Carnival and gave her the dictionary along with a 1000 baht note folded into the cover. I guess some attempt at apology is better than none at all. Some of you guys out there may be shaking your heads at how unnecessary this is. If you are one of those people, I would point to two things about myself which are true. First, it is unreasonable to expect someone to be responsible for what they are unaware of. I was aware of what was going on and I chose to handle it in the way I did. Secondly, Thailand is not where I reside nor is it one of my principal interests in life. It's a place I spent five weeks visiting several years ago. In my mind, my actions conformed to some general notion of noblesse oblige.
Anyway, I spent for following 20 days with M doing some of what we did previous year and some new things. I didn't do nearly as much shopping the second time around. We ventured up north to Chiang Mai which is the area of the country M is from. I found first class train travel a pleasant way to go. I wasn't too impressed with Chiang Mai but the area around it is nice. It reminded me of the hill country west of Austin, Texas. I also got to experience Songkran. My take on Songkran is it's good fun. For one day. It really wears out it's welcome after a week, though. I decided to give Pattaya another try. For some, Pattaya is an acquired taste. The place seems like a complete anomaly and represents Thailand like Las Vegas represents the United States. One other item of interest was one of M's friends found out we were going to Pattaya and asked if she could go with us which was fine with me. I'll call her N. Spending some time around this gal N allowed me to see one of the possible psychological consequences of a long time working the life there.
Repeatedly this woman would drift off, physically and mentally, apparently forgetting where she was and who she was there with. Several times M and I had to go look for her. At first I thought she was stoned all the time although I never saw her smoke anything. I finally asked M about it and she confided to me that "N's memory has gone away." If such a psychological state of affairs could be expressed in picture form it might resemble scorched earth. Burnout, bad news and a caution for sure. Sympathy may be wasted but I felt it anyway.
The Thailand I was introduced to remains in my mind a fascinating country. More than any other place I've been the place and people there seem to have a unique ability to challenge. Not challenge in the logistical sense but challenge in the sense of casting doubt on or drawing into question assumptions and certainties a person may have. It seems to me this is something which can easily occur in places like Patpong, Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza et al. I personally found direct participation disappointing but I don't say this to cast judgement on the many who aren't disappointed with what is available there. I find I can live with the idea of moral ambiguity and my own personal interests are not well served by a strict interpretation of events. The originator of this website has said the real motive for many men who come to Thailand is a desire to be loved. To me this sounds like a true statement but I would add something to it. In a manner of speaking, hidden inside this desire for love is something else. The name for this something else is conceit. It is this conceit which makes someone incapable of accepting at face value relations with a prostitute.
I would like to close out this submission by saying a few words about the woman it is dedicated to. The circumstances of my life have changed considerably since May 2001. I have not heard from M since then nor she from me. The last words I heard from her at Don Muang airport were "you will go back to Texas and forget all about me." Well M, I haven't forgotten you. This is as close as I get to a reply in kind and it has the virtue of sincerity. I believe my time with you in your country was better spent with you than without you. More than once I heard you say to me, "Loma, don't worry. Be happy." It's a lesson I have yet to learn. M, wherever you are, I hope it's a place where good luck is common and happiness is possible.
Wow, it seems she really touched you.