Animal rights activists please change channel right now.
I don’t quite know what it is about the French, but find yourself in some inhospitable part of the planet, then a pound to a penny there’s going to be a Frenchman resident. Mean to the point of counting bedtime centimes they will always
be blessed with ample supplies of tasty food and grog which will be hoarded until a decent enough excuse arrives to get stuck in. And whilst your average Frenchman wouldn’t lend you a sou, they will make it a point of honour to wine and
dine you to great replete. Per chance this is why Alain found himself resident in Pattaya- a god awful location as far as I was concerned, but happy holidays for lots of tourists who couldn’t see beneath the scaly skin of the place.
He’d found himself a decent (and cheap) house to rent in a nice quiet moobahn and the songteaws into town ran in a more or less constant stream at the end of the lane.
I’d popped in on the way back from Sattahip on the off chance that he might be home and on finding him there I’d sent the rest of the gang back to Bangkok and promised that I’d see them on Monday at the office. Sometime…..
Getting comfortable in his garden in the shade of the banana tree, we caught up on the news over a couple of bottles of red and some olives and cheese. As darkness began to fall he mentioned that a Scottish bar had opened recently, being as it was probably a short-life joint why didn’t we go and have a look?
It seemed a reasonable suggestion to me, so after locking up the house we walked down to the Soi and flagged down a songtaew (baht bus). There has to be a special corner of hell reserved for the drivers of these things…..there has to
The atmosphere in Pattaya jumps up a stage after 8pm, it’s like the feeling you get when a panhandler pulls a knife: Suddenly it just got dangerous.
Alain never walks slowly, ha-ha, prefers to be a moving target he says, so we diddy bopped along the sidewalk after exiting the baht bus having had the usual argument with the thieving dickhead driver, to find ourselves outside a moth-eaten sort of a joint with a distinctly Scottish name and a Saltire flag hanging listlessly outside.
Next door was a fast food place which appeared to sell hot dogs, pizza slices and what not, but not at that particular moment it seemed as all the staff had their heads on the counter and looked to be asleep.
We had a look around for a minute before I said, ”Bad location" Nobody walking around there you see, it was on part of the (sort of), one way system and everyone passing by seemed to be vehicle bound but going past.
He replied in Thai, ”Chai”, (‘agree’- but it can mean a whole lot more), in this instance I took him to mean, ”I could not agree more old boy about this location being an ideal excuse to lose money"
One of the beauties of conversing in three languages is that you can be much more descriptive by using less words. (Call us lazy, but what the heck. We knew what we were saying.)
The front of the place was wide open, being as it was a converted shophouse and we could see a total of zero customers inhabiting the place with a few bored looking barmaids standing behind the bar and as though resigned to a lonely fate.
“Just a happening place”, I murmured to myself.
Walking in we stopped in surprise, for what was supposedly a new joint it appeared remarkably tatty with the tables, chairs and furnishings not just looking second hand but well worn with the odd bit of sticky tape covering a rip or tear.
“Perhaps a theme bar?”, I suggested to Alain as after all, us Scots are supposed to be mean, but he countered that by pointing to the price list which indicated that the prices were standard.
Before long we were in conversation with the girls who worked there- all four of them it appeared commuted from Sattahip daily and we were amazed at how little they were paid, even by Pattaya waitress standards. The owner had to be a Scot!
(Now, before all you Scots folks decide to rearrange me : I am a Scot and from an old village near someplace in the North. So, give me some sympathy but not a Social Worker).
The girls description of him was blunt and to the point as they described how he would emerge every afternoon about 3, unshaven and haggard, then have a cup of tea before beginning to drink himself legless until 6 whereby he would return to bed until about midnight. This it appeared, was his life cycle : They had a bet laid on to see when he would finally drink himself out of a business.
“So, he doesn’t spend much time at the gym”, I laughed. The girls laughed as well and handed us each a free Mekhong which I took to mean that we were making progress in the feminine direction.
In the hour that we sat there not one single solitary customer arrived although a boy did try to sell us some nuts. Our refusal was met by some bad mouthing which led to us telling him in gutter Thai to watch his mouth cos’ we know what happens to filthy mouthed people in the next life don’t we?
His eyes opened wide at this then scampered off, no doubt to buy some bleach. (The Thai concepts of what happens to ill mannered people in the afterlife are quite quaint- someone should base a movie on them).
The hi-fi didn’t work and the TV didn’t have a plug on it although there was a pool table without balls or cues which Alain suggested we could use for boules at a pinch. This joint had been open for six weeks the girls said. I complimented
Alain on his choice of venue as he was the champion of finding ratholes and this was the best of the best so far.
I felt a bit peckish so thought to pop next door and score a burger if the staff would wake up that is, and on finding that neither the girls or Alain wanted anything left the bar for the fast food shop. The girls there started awake as I entered, looking surprised to see a real live customer standing before them, uncertain of what to do in these unusual circumstances and stood looking at each other as if to say, ”What now?"
After scanning the menu I ordered a cheeseburger.
A happy face announced, ”No have"
I ordered a hamburger.
A happy face announced, ”No have"
I raised my eyes and in mock solemnity tried for a pizza slice.
By now nearly at the end of the menu I said, ”Mee French fry mye?" (Got any French fries?). (Try that after a few beers, really, try it!)
This exchange had perked them up no end and they were obviously revelling in being able to tell me that they had zilch in stock without the farang going berserk.
Perhaps though, herein lay a clue to the lack of customers. A bright modern style fast food parlour with uniformed staff and no food. I looked for the hidden camera half expecting to be appearing an a t.v. show at that very moment in time………..
The last item on the menu was a hot dog so with great excitement I asked if they had any of them.
“Have”, giggled the girl and as I pretended to swoon they swung into action with practised inefficiency. One put the dog into a microwave, another cut the bun whilst the third prepared a little cardboard tray to hold the finished item.
A couple of minutes later the steaming dog was pushed gently across the counter towards me looking resplendant in it’s little tray as the girls stood happily at a job well done. Handing them the 30 Baht I happened to ask if they had any onions. Blank stares met this request so I tried again in Thai : ”Mee hom yai mye?"
With a communal grin they chorused, “Mye mee Caa”, and dissolved into giggles. The youngest looking one of the trio had a flash of inspiration then with a huge grin slowly pushed a plastic bottle of ketchup across the counter to me.
I had to laugh as well, then wishing them a happy sleep I walked back to the bar thinking that I at least had a hot dog if nothing else, and as a bonus, a reason to smile once more.
As I entered the bar bearing my steaming hot dog a black shadow flashed past my front from left to right and disappeared into the gloom in the ceiling area.
I stared in amazement as I saw that the dog was no longer in my hand but glanced at the bar staff as they began to giggle and point in the direction of the roof.
“What the fuck?”, I shouted.
Alain was staring intently into the corner of the building and as I turned to follow his gaze my eye caught sight of the monkey tethered to a chain there which sat devouring my snack. Once finished, it discarded the container with a nochalance that infuriated
me. Wide eyed I returned to my stool, took a long pull of my beer before I glared at the girls who quickly shut up and stood looking guiltily at their toes.
The monkey made its way along the beam to the tether point for it’s chain which appeared to be long enough to allow it to swing down to floor level and probably explained the lack of customers.
Who is going to enter a bar when what they are carrying is liable to get stolen by some damn monkey as soon as they walk in?
Well, there was a half way decent Indian restaurant a few minutes walk away so I suggested to Alain that I buy us dinner there and made to pay the bill. As we did so Alain promised the girls that we would return the following afternoon, but only if they put a table and chairs outside, something which they agreed to with alacrity as they probably enjoyed having someone to talk to.
As we munched our curries I noticed that Alain’s eyes had narrowed and that he seemed deep in thought with an occasional, ”Peutard”, escaping his lips.
Toulouse men seem to use this expression when angered and once I’d enquired as to it’s meaning ; He’d explained it to me.
I am proud to say that it is sufficiently obscene to have entered my vocabulary. It is even better than the Thai, ’Saat’, which when uttered with the correct hissing violence can be almost deadly in it’s application.
After our meal as we sat digesting over a brandy Alain announced a plan to fix the monkey. No doubt his Special Forces training had kicked in and he’d weighed up the potential options before deciding on a plan which he then explained to me……
Luckily Pattaya had, (Many more now I assume!), an all night supermarket. We dropped in there after visiting a few more rat holes and bought the required foodstuffs. Our final stop was at the drug store where the last of our requirements were purchased.
Late next morning found us in Alain’s kitchen as we prepared a sandwich over a mug of his appalling Vietnamese coffee.
Bread, margarine, a layer of ground chilli flakes, folded slice of ham filled with chilli flakes, salad, chilli flakes, and another slice of bread and marge.
Into the salad had gone a ground sleeping tablet, the bread slices were then liberally doused in a liquid laxative. (The bottle stated that two drops would guarantee ‘movement’. We thought that about 10 should do the trick.)
We finished the black mess that he passed off as coffee then wrapped the sandwich in a piece of greaseproof paper and headed for the door.
At the end of the Soi we flagged down a song tiew and as we slowly moved into town we grinned evilly at each other in expectation of the fun to come.
Disembarking outside the bar we saw that the girls had indeed placed a table outside for us and after handing the driver 10 Baht we made to sit down to plan the course of action.
(Usual ‘Barking’, from the driver, naturally. 2 times 5 Baht is 10 Baht. So why the ‘Barking?’.)
The girls brought us beers which went down nicely in the mid afternoon heat as we watched the procession of tourists driving past making laughing attempts to guess the nationalities of the drivers based on the vehicles they had rented and were driving.
We arrived at the conclusion that the males in monster jeeps were probably German, (“Panzer marche”), and the mopeds steered by pale skinny types were probably English, (“No money”).
The Japanese copy Harleys were ridden by, we assumed, Americans or Scandanavians, (“Look at me- look I say”), and the hungover looking chaps on foot with skinned knees were probably Australian as they wouldn’t waste good drinking
money on renting a vehicle when they could just as easily stagger from bar to bar.
Alain propounded that it seemed a bit daft to spend a bucket load of money on a holiday then spend the time driving round and round beside the seaside when a person could stay home and do exactly the same thing.
“Ah yes my Franco friend, but here you can do it with a dusky and in the sunshine,”, was my grinning reply.
“Batard!”, he spat in reply, we laughed.
More beer arrived as we moved on to our various adventures around S.E Asia, and some of the laughs we’d had over the years and how we had hidden behind some trash cans in Phnom Phen one time when two shootists on board a motorcycle had taken insult at our refusal to hand over our money one dark night. All in all we agreed, we had fun and were still in one piece.
“O.K.,”, said Alain, ”And now for the monkey….."
He leaned across the table then leered at me before saying, ”Attention stealth commando- advance!"
He stood, then picked up the sodden spiced sandwich and made his way to the entrance of the bar.
As he crossed the threshold a black shadow flashed in front of him before disappearing into the roof space, clutching in it’s grubby paw our chef’s special.
Alain walked to the bar and began chatting to the girls who appeared confused by his lack of concern at the stolen package, so I stood to join them.
I sat, then looked to the monkey to see that it had wolfed the sandwich already and was sitting on the roof beam looking like the contented thief that it was. It also kept swivelling it’s head and drawing it’s lips back to gum level.
We continued flirting with the girls who we were trying to convince to stop at Alain’s overnight in order to save the bus fares home to Sattahip when the monkey began chattering.
It then began jumping up and down swinging frantically from it’s chain as the chilli began to take effect and as Alain filled a bowl with water the screeching reached a crescendo. Then he began to walk towards it’s perch.
Carefully judging the distance he placed the bowl on the floor in a position which he had guessed to be about 60 cm out of reach of the damn thing.
We ordered more beer and after explaining the plot to the girls, watched the thing take ever increasingly desperate lunges in the direction of the water.
What with the lunging, screeching and jumping, the strain on the thing’s bowels proved too great and with a great, ”Rasp”, they gave way. The bar was instantly filled with an evil smelling stench as a jet of watery faeces exploded
from it's posterior.
The girls collapsed in fits of giggles as we all made a leap towards outside to escape the rapidly expanding pool of noxious liquid on the floor.
“Good idea this table outside,”, said one of the girls as we all sat down in the ‘fresh’ air of Pattaya.
More beer was required but none of the girls was prepared to re-enter the bar so we suggested they go to the mini-mart down the street and score some big bottles for us at half the price.
For those of you not used to a highly spiced diet, you may imagine that a surfiet of chilli could cause some distress when mixed with industrial strength laxative?
If you’ve ever had the galloping trots- amebic dysentry and hookworm being good for this- then you could perhaps imagine the effects of non neutralised chilli arriving at high speed in your colonic region aided by laxative? But probably not. (And hopefully, you never will!).
Let me explain- it’s probably not nice.
The girls returned with some cool bottles of beer which we opened, poured then drank slowly, the shrieks from the bar intensifying as the monkey made desperate lunges towards the water and clawed savagely at it’s arse, it now being a sodden, stinking excuse for a primate.
“Colleen, you buy a hot- dog?”, enquired Alain with a smile on his face.
Seemed a good idea so I raised an arm and waved at the girls in the burger joint next door. Getting their attention, I mouthed,’ Hot dog’, then held up one finger.
I didn’t think that there would be any mistake- after all, it’s all they had.
A girl duly arrived with a steaming dog and after placing it gently on the table gave me a most loved up look. Two sales in two days, business was sure picking up. After pocketing the money she turned to the bar and looked long at the by now shivering, silent monkey which had huddled into a recess beside the door.
“Menn”, she said, (Stink), and wrinkled her nose in disgust before proudly walking back to work with my 30 Baht perhaps thinking that at her current rate of sales that the inevitable could be staved off a bit longer.
I picked up the dog and with a wink to the girls and Alain, walked to the bar then carefully avoiding the mess on the floor, placed the hotdog in front of the monkey.
“Here you go monkey- a nice free hotdog,”, I whispered, ”Just for you."
It shivered, it looked at the dog, it looked at me, then it gingerly rubbed it’s red raw backside and shuddered as it did so.
I beat a hasty retreat back to the table to find the girls curled up with laughter at something that Alain had said and asked to be let into the joke: “Well, I said that it is a pity that the tape deck does not work. Then we could play country music……..like, ”A Burning Ring of Fire”; he smiled as I spluttered when the beer went up my nose as I wondered what Mr Cash would think.
Evening duly fell and as I had to get back to the Mango we stood to go and wished the lovelies au revoir and would see them soon. We also left them a few hundred Baht to get the mess cleaned up before we headed off to the bus station. Not inconsiderate people us, you know.
A couple of weeks later we were headed back from Sattahip once more when I suggested to Nu that we call in to see Alain for a quick noggin of whatever he had on the premises. It was a Friday and we were in no great hurry to return to Bangkok so after some wine at Alain’s I suggested that we pop into the monkey joint.
All were in agreement and after arriving there I told them to go ahead while I got the hot dogs ordered.
I entered the bar bearing my steaming goodies and as I did so, received cries of welcome from the laughing girls who pointed into the ceiling area where sat a monkey watchful but unmoving.
I had spotted an elderly guy sitting propped over a very large whiskey at the end of the bar so as we munched our hot dogs I asked him if the monkey was his and if so, did he have a problem with it stealing things?
Well, we had a couple of beers, arranged a date with the girls for the following weekend before heading out to the car.
I believe in telepathy: Want to know why?
As we left, both Alain and I stopped under the monkey’s perch and on looking up at it we simultaneously muttered, ”Peutard.”, before moving on.
I swear that the damn thing flinched, I swear it.
And here I was thinking you were going to eat the monkey..