One Way Ticket
It was a bleak January day. A harsh wind blew sleet horizontally into my face as I walked across the carpark. I pulled the collar of my overcoat up higher to shield myself from the elements. As I did so, my phone rang. I answered it as I climbed into the shelter of the car.
“Where are you?” enquired my boss who was calling from Germany.
“Wembley”, I answered. “I’m just leaving MWK”.
“Good. Have you got your passport with you?”
I always carried my passport with me. It was always entirely possible that I would need to fly to Paris or Milan or Athens at a moment's notice. I would pick up essentials like a new shirt, socks and toothbrush at the airport. This was a real ‘can do’ organisation I was working for. “Just do it” should have been our slogan, never mind Nike.
“OK, good. Get to Heathrow as soon as you can”. He continued, “You can probably make the 17.40 Lufthansa flight to Dusseldorf if the traffic’s not too thick. I’ll meet you at the Golden Kettle at nine o’clock”. The Golden Kettle is a restaurant in the Old Town district of Dusseldorf.
“OK. I’ll see you later.” It was pointless for me to ask what this was all about. Jurgen liked the face-to-face approach.
I pointed the car in the direction of Heathrow and jousted my way along the M25 and then the M4 towards the airport. Something important was afoot. Whatever it was, I would find out in the Golden Kettle.
The weather in Dusseldorf was a few degrees colder than it had been in London. I shook the snow off my coat as I entered the Golden Kettle and looked around for Jurgen. It was two minutes to nine and Jurgen was waiting for me. As we all know, punctuality is king in Germany and I was bang on time.
Once the polite hellos were out of the way, Jurgen got straight to the point.
“Klaus has booked a project in Thailand but he has just been diagnosed with cancer and doesn’t want to leave Germany right now. We looked around the group for someone to go to Thailand to manage this job and you look like our best option. You will be based in Bangkok although the project is actually in a place called Maptaphut. The job will probably last a couple of years”.
What he actually meant was, -You’re recently divorced so we can save some money by sending you, a single guy out there. No wife, no children’s school fees etc. and you’re the most likely of all our managers to say yes to a couple of years in the Far East-. Of course, he wasn’t wrong. I accepted the challenge unconditionally.
I had a week to tidy up my affairs in the UK and then I was off to Bangkok with a two year contract in my back pocket. Oh boy!
I left Heathrow a week later with a one-way ticket to the Land of Smiles.
Now, I had never actually been to Southeast Asia before but I’ve always had an adventurous spirit so I felt no pangs of apprehension. However, looking back I was completely unprepared for what I had taken on. When I arrived in Bangkok, I felt like I had just landed on another planet.
Nobody spoke English. It was so frigging hot all the time. The traffic was unbelievable and everything you ate set your mouth on fire on the way in and your arse on fire on the way out. And more, nobody in the entire country had any idea how to be on time for an appointment. Had I made a hasty decision, per chance?
I quickly realized that the first thing I needed to do was to learn some Thai. I was supposed to be in charge of this project but I didn’t understand what the hell was going on around me. My secretary God bless her, helped enormously. A bright Chinese-Thai lady, educated in Australia, I would have been lost without her.
Anyway, there I was, green as grass and about to find out first hand, all the things about Thailand we’ve read about on this site. Unfortunately, Stickmanbangkok.com did not exist in 1994 so I ploughed headlong into my future with few points of reference.
The first task was to get my new job under control. I saw no particular difficulty here. Technically, I was up to the task but what I was not ready for was the Thai hierarchical system of management. The same system that applies to most aspects of life in Thailand as I now know. As a newcomer, I foolishly believed that staff should be ranked and paid commensurate with their ability. Oh, you silly boy!! Don’t you know that you can’t have a bright twenty eighty year old giving instructions to a not so bright thirty year old. Well, I didn’t and my office almost mutinied because of it.
I also had a big problem adjusting to the ‘Thai’ way of working. I just could not handle the Thai idea of time keeping. I frequently ran out of patience with the staff sauntering into work at anytime between 8.45 and 9.30 and then taking the next 20 minutes in conference over breakfast. The first stoke of actual work didn’t happen until sometime around 10.00. I made the mistake of admonishing some of the girls over this, it didn’t change anything and they didn’t speak to me for a week.
Gradually, I got the hang of it and taking some Thai lessons also helped me cope, not only in the office but with life in Bangkok in general. After a while, things settled down and I began to enjoy Thailand and all its lunatic ways.
My first few months in Bangkok were taken up pretty much entirely by work but gradually, as things became more stable at the office, I started to discover life outside work. This was also a very fast learning curve, which I now look back on with (mostly) fond memories.
I had managed to largely avoid the flesh spots of Patpong and Soi Cowboy for the first six months or so but after that I have to admit that I found the women in these places quite a draw. Yes, I know they are hookers and gold-diggers and liars and rice farmers’ daughters but some are extraordinarily pretty and they sure know how to behave like women. I’d take a Long Gun showgirl from Soi Cowboy over a Barclays Bank cashier from Bristol any day of the week. Call me shallow if you like.
Girls came and went during my early days in Bangkok. I can only remember some fleetingly, others I can recall very well indeed and with great affection. I never had any problems with Thai girls getting unreasonable following a break-up. Maybe that was because they never actually felt close enough to me to give a shit. Maybe, they never liked me anyway. Maybe, I was just lucky.
This was indeed a fun time though. The first girl I bar-fined was a dancer at what is now Baccara on Soi Cowboy. Back then it was called something else but I can’t remember what. She came back with me to my hotel room but before we got down to business she asked if she could use the phone. (The girls didn’t have mobiles then but still dished up the same old bull). She was having a conversation in Thai with someone. Of course, I couldn’t understand what the conversation was about. I recall it developed into a shrieking contest and she hung up in tears (real or not who could say) and bawled that she had to go back because there was some problem with the mamasan. I had no idea what was going on so I gave her a thousand baht and shoved her out of the door.
Then there was the time a couple of friends and I bar fined six girls from Voodoo in NEP all at the same time. We took them back to a serviced apartment suite and had a twenty four hour booze and sex party. There were naked girls in the shower, in the bath and in the bedroom rooms. We drank the entire contents of the mini bar twice over and sent out for an additional bottle of Black Label and drank that too.
On another evening when I didn’t have much else to do, I bar fined two girls from Angelwitch. They were great fun together, as I recall. Another night, I had a good old romp with a couple of girls from Check Inn 99.
Time passed and I settled into general life in Bangkok. This cannot be described as a routine because the word routine suggests a lack of variety or boring repetition. We don’t do routines in Thailand as far as I can tell.
Obviously, you can’t carry on like this indefinitely and believe it or not the whole bars and girls scene starts to become a bit boring after a while. Although if you never tire of looking at pretty girls, Thailand is for you. I still enjoy a good night out of course.
Almost twelve years on, I still live in Bangkok and in spite of the opinions of another contributor to this site, I do not require a safety net nor will I. I won’t need scraping off the road like some cowpat either. Far be it for me to doubt the mental capacity of anyone whose main reason for coming to Thailand is to seek out the best gymnasia (that’s the word for more than one gymnasium by the way) but surely, you’d be happier in California?
Anyway, following my original two year contract, other job opportunities came my way and I carved out a life for myself in Thailand. My Thai wife accepts that I am not perfect and I am still prone to the odd indiscretion. She also knows that I am dedicated to her and whatever else I get up to, I will always come bouncing back. How many Farang women would accept that arrangement?
If you choose to live in Thailand, it is really useful if you are financially stable but there really is no need to carry wads of cash around for the sole purpose of impressing bar girls. If you want to treat Thailand as your sex playground it’s easy, go right ahead but don’t cry foul when you get pushed over and graze your knees.
It’s not for everyone but I like living in Thailand. I don’t apply western rules to Thailand and I don’t expect Thailand to change its ways to suit my Farang principles. That way we can co-exist.
Personally, after all this time I would find it hard to adjust to living anywhere else.
Excellent. I read this submission twice and tried to work out why I liked it so much. I think that perhaps the best submissions are those which don't philosophise, but simply share experiences.