Paid To Go
Sundays were the high spot of the week when it came to mixing with members of our own race. Tall, paler people who spoke European languages that is…… Except, when Robin got wound up and would lapse into a language unknown to any mortal except himself.
As we tended to work and spend most of our time within the Thai community, a cultural overdose would sometimes creep insiduously into our behaviour and language patterns and would manifest itself in various ways. Like going to sleep in traffic jams for
instance. Like speaking Thai to a Thai- even when they spoke to you in English. (The absolutely baffled looks that Robin received were a wonder to behold as the locals tried to work out what the hell gibberish this was!) Like, developing the ability
to do absolutely nothing for long periods of time if nothing needed doing.
Sundays then, were a day for us to laze around and have a laugh and if all our contingent were in town then so much the better – we could swear at each other in four languages if need be. English, French,Thai and Australian.
Normally in the late afternoon we would take a walk somewhere to indulge in that great Sunday tradition of afternoon beer drinking without the worry of any nagging females to restrict our activities. Robin’s wife being up in the boondooks, Rob’s
was generally head down in a card game somewhere and wouldn’t have noticed if the Titanic had run aground outside her window. Alain wasn’t married or involved with any significant other and me…..well….my current significant other
(Pheung), had gone home to Laos for a couple of weeks a couple of months previously and had duly emerged working in a restaurant in France. “Bit of a detour like”, Rob had noted on hearing the news, ”Got the wrong bus did
she?" Lao ladies….
Of recent we had been walking down to a wee place which had opened at the Sukhumvit end of Soi Zero as it was air-conditioned and had a secondary redeeming factor; the draught beer was cheap.
Managed by a young English woman who employed herself as chief drinks taster and cocktail inventor, it was a nice enough place to while away an hour or two, although the more nefarious sections of certain African countries had taken to hanging out there.
All gold chains and big money talk, the attraction of having a white woman serving seeming to hold some fascination for them. Alain would do his best to wind them up by moving from group to group then ask if they had any heroin for sale. If they
said,”Yes”, he’d instantly run out of the door into the silent Sunday Soi and start yelling, ”Poleece, poleece!!" We’d always crack up laughing at the rush to get out of the door as various large, dusky
gentlemen knocked over seats and glasses in their hurry to remove themselves from the premises.
Rikky, (shall we call her?), would wave a finger at Alain on his return then smile before saying, “Ah well, they never drink very much anyway" Then she’d turn the sound up on the hi-fi and maybe start dispensing her latest alcoholic invention.
To backtrack a little here: Where we lived there was another block located behind the wall which divided our compound from the shopette. Within this block mostly lived employees of the Happy Home. The Happy Home being the brothel located further down the street. Most of the women who worked there were hard bitten, mercenary souls whom the main chance had bypassed along the way and held no sympathy for anyone except themselves as many a love lorn punter learned to their bank balance’s cost.
But we all lived in the same general area and managed to get on more or less o.k., although the increasing numbers of the girls developing HIV were beginning to raise our eyebrows from time to time as we watched another punter fall for the speil. We could only ever quietly warn them to be careful over a late night beer or two……
Sometimes on a Sunday we would pop into the Happy Home for a beer on our way back, being as it was located half way up the soi and if truth be told just for the novelty of going to a brothel with no other purpose than that of drinking beer. And why not?
It had a drinks licence didn’t it?
Half the fun was to watch the punters come in and settle down as though Lord of the Manor, then realise that they were being observed from the gloom of the small bar area. Funny how they would seem to get all shy and nervous. I could never work it out at all.
All the staff there knew us and seemed willing to put up with us as long as we didn’t overstay our welcome or obviously embarrass the shoppers, so we’d have a couple of beers then slope off into the sun. A chap could walk up and down that soi for years and never realise that the place existed, being as it is / was set back about ten metres from the road. If they could read Thai script then they might get an idea, but the place really was quite innocuous with the two guys on the front door wearing waistcoats and looking like the porters at a second rate hotel. When a taxi or punter pulled up one of these guys would push the bell button which in turn would warn the girls to put down their knitting, newspaper or lunch, primp their hair up and adopt THE SMILE.
As he entered the gloom, the ‘customer’ would notice a sofa and coffee table to his front behind which was a small bar. To his right he would see sitting on tiered rows of cushions a number of fully clothed women wearing numbers and illuminated
by a soft red light. They in turn would be wearing big, ”Me-me-me”, smiles. The form being that once sat down and refreshed the punter would have had time to consider his choice and would have decided if it was an ‘in-house’
or ‘take-away’ job. ‘Take-away’ was more expensive, but the girl was available until 8 AM the following day you see. (Small note please- these girls were all volunteers and if they didn’t like a punter they were
under no pressure at all to do the business. O.K.?)
Having made his choice, the girl and chap would disappear through the back into one of the rooms or she would change into street clothes then join her new companion. As these were all fixed rate transactions it worked out to everyone’s satisfaction, the girl getting 50% of the house price and the punter not having to negotiate in a strange language with the attendant risk of being ripped off.
One of the strange facets of the place was the fact that most of the visitors were of Middle Eastern origin, few being from Europe or the States unless ensnared by a taxi at the airport. “You want go Happy Home?" We often developed this theme into hilarity as the thought of backpackers enthusiastically agreeing to the suggestion, thinking perhaps they were off to a drug laden commune)
Anyway, after leaving Rikkie’s place we bopped up the soi to hang a right into the Happy Home courtyard. We nodded to the doormen then pushed the outer door open. As we entered the girls all visibly relaxed, a few called out greetings in a less than complimentry style given there was no money to be made out of us and they knew it. As we took seats at the bar Alain noted that there seemed to be a full complement available, and that business seemed a bit slow for a Sunday. Robin laughed,”Naw mate-the rag heads will still be on the prayer mats-praying not to be affected by the AIDS plague invented by the Great Satan"
“Yea”, said Rob, ”After they’ve got their heads off the floor it will be god’s will that they come here to see how the decadent West behave. Just to check like….."
Alain lifted his beer then spat, ”Peutard!"
I laughed at Alain’s comment then we began to play,’Interested, not interested’ with Da who sat on her cushion making faces at us until the bell rang in expectation of more visitors. The girls instantly bucked up, smiles turned to seductive mode and faces turned to the door in anticipation of a very old guy with a large bank balance and bad heart disease walking through the curtain to marry them. Two Middle Eastern guys walked in and were escorted to the sofa where they sat then ordered drinks. We noted that the barmaid poured two whiskies which were then delivered to the customers.
“Good feckin’ muslims eh?”, muttered Robin none too quietly, ”Booze and a whorehouse"
“Experiencing the decadent East, Robin" I replied. ”Can’t lecture against it unless you know the subject."
The punters hadn’t seemed to notice us as their attention was fully occupied by the lovelies arranged in front of them so Alain decided that he had best make the introductions and raising his glass he turned to them with a grin then shouted, ”Allah Ahkbar!" With a start they looked around to see our four beaming faces and in our hands were glasses raised in a toast.
Within seconds they were up and out of the door as though the very Mullahs themselves were after them which left us in the uncomfortable situation of having some thirty wimin giving us ’that look’. Believe me, one Thai wench giving a chap
‘that look’ is a bad enough, let alone thirty. We turned again to the bar and ordered more beers, tittering as we did so, then noticed that the manager had appeared beside us. A tall, dapper fellow he was, wearing a blazer and tie
and a small moustache that wouldn’t have been out of place on a fighter pilot.
He said, ’Hallo’, then waved an arm at the girl to get us all a beer and asked why we came to his establishment.
“Not for the girls-that’s for sure" Rob laughed.
“To watch the zoo perhaps?”, offered Alain.
“Because it’s half way home?”, I suggested.
The manager nodded, looking serious as he did so then pointed out that he was in the knocking shop business-not the beer bar one-and that we tended to have an unfortunate effect on his customers on Sunday afternoons-and wasn’t there someplace else that we could go?
“But" protested Robert, ”We like it here. It’s almost like home"
Matey lifted his glass, drank some of his whiskey then continued.
“There is another place you know. Why you not go and look? Maybye you like it."
Well, we looked at each other in confusion as we didn’t know anywhere else in the local area that met the specifications of this place and quite wondered what he was on about.
“Where?” I asked.
“Soi *”, he replied, ”Call Campin’"
After an instant conference we decided that he was bullshitting as we’d never heard of a place called ‘Campin’ around this part of The Mango. (Or any place else for that matter) “Campin-Campin….sounds like a bleedin’ sports shop mate……sure it’s got beer?” asked Robin.
He nodded enthusiastically by way of reply then suggested that he procure a tuktuk to take us there and why, he’d even pay the fare.
This got our attention so he produced his trump card to pull a five hundred Baht note from his wallet and handing it Alain suggested that we treat ourselves to a beer there.
This we were in agreement with so after downing our drinks we bade the girls ‘bye-bye’ then wandered out into the late afternoon sunshine where the manager stood waiting beside a tuk-tuk. We piled in, the tuk fired up and with a screech
we were howling away up the soi as Robin laughed and said, ”First time I’ve ever been paid to leave a knocking shop fer feck's sake!"
We had to agree that it was a first in our cumulative experience but no doubt we’d never be believed……
After the usual white knuckle ride we came to a halt outside another non-descript building in Soi*, which was only about a ten minute walk from our starting point although located across Sukhumvit. As we piled out the driver smiled, pointed and said, ”Campin’" then revved his engine furiously to screech off along the soi in a cloud of smoke.
We could see four windows covered with red curtains. A door. And standing by the door, a dwarf in a tartan waistcoat, a sight which caused me to wonder aloud, ”Bloody hell, I hope the wimin are a bit taller." Above the door was a sign that read, ’Campbell's’.
Rob laughed and slapped me across the shoulders as he said, ”Hey Col, a Jock knocking shop in Bangkok. You should ask for discount……..Wonder if the bints wear kilts?"
“Probably get free soup on a Friday or something”, laughed Robin as we made our way past the dwarf and into the gloom where we were pleasantly surprised to see that the place was larger, more comfortably furnished, and most importantly, the beer was cheaper.
The mamasan walked across with a grin and we saw that it was one of the more aged denizens from Soi Zero whom we knew well. She soon introduced us to the girls as a bunch of Cheap Charlies, but not to worry as we weren’t bad lads. Most of the time.
“Here is O.K. eh?”, noted Alain as we sank into a comfortable set of armchairs.
“Yea, but here was me thinking that the old mama-san there had a laundry business" I remarked to Rob.
“Probably does Col.”, he replied,” And guess where the laundry gets generated?"
Laughing, I replied, ”Valid point" then, ”Look-they’ve got MTV………."
Thrown out of a brothel, that's got to be a first!