For those who holiday in Thailand or who reside but are only ever spoken to in English, the Thai language probably sounds like a never ending song without the chorus. Once you start to learn, many of the words sound the same until with some practise you can differentiate between the tones, vowel lengths and thence get the drift of the conversation.
An example in English might be the words of similar sound thus: Dye, die, dtie and dai.
One of the die’s being an engineering tool of course…….
In Thai you will frequently hear the words that sound like, ‘Die’, and with some attention will begin to hear the difference between, ‘Dye and dai’. Then of course we have, ‘Sae dai’. (Regrets).
In the Sukhumvit locale of Bangkok there is a coffee shop called The ****** ; Coffee shop is what it says on the sign though I would be loath to describe it as such, but by stretching the imagination a bit and actually ordering a coffee, well, you could deem it to be a coffee shop.
Whilst, ‘Places of Entertainment’, had to close at the theoretical hour of 2am this joint stays, (stayed), open until 6 or 7am and there does seem to be on occasion a surfeit of the boys in brown making sure that it actually does stay open until these hours.
Perchance some connection?
The attraction to the punters and to the girlies is that it is open when everywhere else is closed and by 3 in the morning you will never have witnessed such a basement level of free enterprise, drunkenness and debauchery.
A fug of cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air through the low ceilinged premises which are packed with near every race, creed and colour on the planet and perhaps a few others besides, whilst the roar of a multitude of conversations threatens to drown out the racket from the juke box.
Should you ever have the urge to witness the largest collection of ne’er do wells, con artists, drug and rob men, (and wimin), crims, hookers, wide boys, (and gals), tourists, the insane, the ignorant, and the plain perverse, then The ******* is
the place for you. But if you are an innocent abroad weld your wallet into a pocket and take an old hand with you.
We aptly named it, ”The Underground Ashtray"
The crowd of residents who frequented this place did their thing and we did ours and whilst our lives were poles apart we would about once a year go for a peep to see which bums were not around anymore and garner whether they were dead or in jail. Neither was any great loss.
But, I would venture up once a year and sit quiet with a G&T all ears, and wait for a wench to recognise me and wander over for a drink and to see how things were going. This was o.k., as it kept the predators out of reach-two sets of eyes being better than one.
I’d left Woodstock about 2 in the morning having had a good night on the pool tables, and being in unsleepy mode decided to wander up to the Underground Ashtray to check out the familiar scene.
Some people might call it, ‘aversion therapy’.
Diddy bopping up the street I’d bumped into Bier and boyfriend who were headed in the same direction so we walked together and entered. Within seconds they were lost to me in the throngs so I found a recently vacated seat at the bar, ordered a G&T and sat back to listen and observe the zoo.
A couple of worthies who knew friends of friends arrived and we sat with me cushioned on either side by these women as we caught up on who had done what to whom, when, and why.
Time soon passed and as I stepped out into the night the morning sun hit me like a mallet between the eyes. Seven a.m., being a bit of a late night I suppose.
Home by tuk-tuk and sleep, sweet sleep.
Sometime later a rhythmic banging woke me. Struggling upwards through the layers of sleep my subconscious tried to work out what the hell was going on; why all the bloody noise?
My eyes opened and as the racket was coming from my door I lay for a few seconds and thought it obviously wasn't Robert or the girls – they’d just try the handle and see if it was unlocked. If open they’d walk in, if locked they’d
know it was that way for a reason and leave me alone.
After a few muttered oaths my feet got on the floor and walked me to the door whilst my mouth apparently worked on autopilot with some malevolent spirit having taken over my tongue judging by the language that emerged from my mouth.
Opening the door caused me to squint in pain at the noon day sun but I noted that the Old Duck was stood in front of me : All four foot four of her.
Seventy five if she was a day and tighter than the proverbial duck’s rectum she only ever spoke to her inhabitants, (being the owner), if they owed her money.
I knew that I’d paid the rent the previous week and to my recollection had broken nothing on my way home so decided to stand there silent until she enlightened me.
I did note that she was wringing her hands in some consternation and happily wondered if the tax man had finally caught up with her but thought it to be unlikely as the devil does tend to look after his own…
Looking around the yard empty of people in the midday heat I was aware of the dryness in my mouth and a vague sort of a ‘Dunt-dunt’, beginning somewhere behind my left eye.
“Coreen”, she said, so I looked downwards once more.
“Coreen, lady die die”, she said sadly.
I frowned at her by now thoroughly confused. What the hell was she on about I wondered?
She repeated herself and I got into one of these loops whereby I knew that she couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English therefore she had to be speaking Thai. Surely then she should have been saying, ”Lady Di dai mye" (Lady Di is good or not?).
She repeated this a few times and shuffled off wringing her hands as I wrinkled my nose and thought that she’d had it and it was time for the knackers yard for her for sure.
A final, ”Sai dai”, reached my ears as she turned the corner as I stood and wondered what to do.
The rancid smell of fermented fish caught the back of my throat and caused me to gag which led to the further thought that perhaps I was really having a nightmare, what with the Old Duck losing her marbles completely and now unnamed persons eating Balaa within my hung-over vicinity.
Looking to the porch I saw that the girls were getting stuck into various concoctions involving vegetation, fermented fish, sliced up pigs ears, noodle soup with intestines, and all those lovely snackettes that these Isaan girlies like on a sunny Sunday morn.
Ae noticed me standing there and stopped munching long enough to say, ”Hey Coreen, sorry very big Na?" The other girls nodded assent to this statement.
“Sorry for bloody what?”, I growled. ”Eating bleeding balaa?"
“No-no, what happen Lady Di.”, replied Neung.
I looked at her puzzled until my gaze slid inexorably down her neck to her chest where those most lovely, lovely, lovely boobs sat firm, proud and unhandled since her hubby got three years for shooting someone. And unhandled they would remain as he was going to get out one day.
Nice guy – really, but anyone who goes to work with a .36 down the back of his jeans is unlikely to be inclined to believe in arguments about others offering comfort and sympathy to his wife.
“Sai dai alright”, I thought then quickly put my mind back to subjects that would keep me alive for a bit longer.
I went back to my bed and sat, then wondered what all this Lady Di crap was about: Maybe she had remarried or something? Sundays were not for this- Sundays were for sleeping, lazing, eating, relaxing, drinking and shooting the breeze.
Who cared about Lady Di? I bloody didn’t and I was sure that she didn’t give a monkeys toss about me.
The smell of Balaa wafting in my door was beginning to make me retch so putting on a tee shirt I located my flip flops and wandered out into the Soi and around the worthies who were getting stuck into a bottle of Johnny Walker, their favourite tipple if someone could be found to pay for it.
The thought crossed my mind that another newbie had been snared by one of the girls and had provided the liquid entertainment for the troops for the day.
Making my way around the back of the shopette and into the shade I sat at the table there and waved vaguely in Wit’s direction. The wave that he understood to mean, ”A beer of my choice please." Wit arrived with the Chang and tapping the calculator showed me that it cost 36 Baht, which came as no great surprise as it had been that price the previous day and the one before that, etc. Wit was the most aptly named guy in Soi Zero because he didn’t have any.
I nodded and made ‘Pay you later’ noises then glugged a mouthful of ice cold Chang beer. A few seconds wait then a monumental burp raised giggles from the brats playing some incomprehensible game behind me.
Robert arrived with glass in hand and bending down took a long hard look at me before saying, ”Whatever happened to you then?"
I recounted the events of the previous evening and the Underground Ashtray which caused him to smile, tap his nose and then laugh, ”Well, boys will be boys."
“Indeedly sire,”, I laughed in unison, ”But what’s the Old Duck on about? Lady Di and all that?"
I told him about my rude awakening, the girls, the Balaa, Neung’s boobs…….
We both sighed deeply and longingly as the image of those celestial peaks crossed our minds and just as quickly forgot them for fear that hubby might be telepathic. (Thailand: Strange place, remember?).
Robert laughed again then said, ”Well, it looks like Lady Di left our mortal coil this morning, Europe time. Deceased. Pegged out….you know?"
No, I didn’t know.
He took a swig from his glass and continued, ”It appears that her Merc’ hit a bridge at high speed. The bridge did not budge."
I swallowed a mouthful of beer and contemplated the options. The sun would come up. The sun would go down. The way I felt at that particular moment in time that scenario was just fine by me.
“Hmm, best avoid the telly for a while then”, I ventured.
“Yea, I’m already working on the title for my book, it’s gonna be called, ’Where I was when the Di and Doddy show got theirs”, roared an Australian voice which caused us to jerk around and be confronted with the sight of a large chap swaying slightly in the sunlight behind us.
I looked at Rob, he looked at me. It had to be the guy who’d bought the Johnny. By the time we’d worked this out he had stumbled on his way and into the Soi where a chorus of, “Hello my good friend how are you you want more whisky we buy for you give me 700 Baht”, met his arrival.
Rob and I nodded at each other before he said, ”That’s not a bad idea after all- I was too young for Kennedy."
“Yea, how about, ’The Day the Bridge Stood Still?”, I suggested.
Rob spluttered a mouthful of beer then laughed, ”Naw- ‘Bent Benz Blues’, No.1 for sure"
We continued in this vein for a while until we became aware of an audience holding an interested discussion on the relative merits of who was actually more crazy and saw that the brats had ceased their game and were concentrating on the farangs who it appeared were suffering from some sort of frenzy as they howled with laughter and dribbled beer down their chins whilst sometimes pounding the rickety table.
Rob and I had really got into the art of inventing headlines for the gutter press and had decided that we could probably market an English tabloid with headlines only and stuff the stories.
“Despairing Doddy Drives Di in Death Duet.”, I giggled as Rob wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Eygptian Europhile Ensures Early Escape”, he spluttered in reply.
Eventually we ran out of steam, but if truth be told, the hangover was gone, the sun was shining and all was at peace. The brats made, ”Farang baa”, noises then returned their attentions to a game whilst the mob out in the Soi were beginning to whoop it up. All in all a Sunday in Soi Zero.
At six we headed down to Bart’s Bar to watch the 500cc G.P., and enjoy the air con and as we entered the usual throng of pissed expat residents were there, the English and Scots doing what they always do – i.e., arguing about the things they have always argued about and always will, when one raised voice roared, "It wiz bliddy MI5 done it, nae doot aboot it!”
I turned to Rob and said, ”No escaping my man…how about we hit Det5, no Brits there?"
Mmmm….. You might get on or two emails about this, I reckon.