If You Don’t Want Me, Have My Baby
In the days before there were girly bars run by hairy assed farang there was another Thailand. It was a land of dreams for backpackers, US Veterans and the few better off farang that made it all the way from Europe or the United States. Kanchanaburi was
not the Coney Island or Blackpool beach that is today, the town stood back from the river. At the river bank businesses catered to backpackers and veterans that had come to see the bridge, the war graves and the painting in the monastery (Now
housed in a formal museum). At this locale the River Kwai was tranquil. I lodged at ‘Sam’s Place’, a hotel that consisted of bungalows on floating rafts on the Kwai itself.
Back then Phi-Phi was little more than a miniature paradise where one could have a beach all to oneself and Pattaya’s Walking Street hadn’t been invented and most of Pattaya’s glitzy hotels were the pipedreams of raconteurs.
At that time the ruins of the ancient city of Ayutthaya had not been encroached upon by the then town of Ayutthaya. The two cities, ancient and modern were juxtaposition a half kilometer apart.
Patong beach still boasted the Old Swallow Inn with it’s beautiful planting, comfortable rooms and excellent breakfast all for the sum of three dollars a day inclusive.
Hat Yai smelt like an open sewer and in parts looked one too. Each evening this town was awash with Malay businessmen seeking sexual gratification in much the same way that Pattaya was awash with American troops on R&R who were seeking the same.
Trang used to be a sleepy city whose only claim to fame was that it housed a major Thai medical school and a gaggle of American Peace Corps do-gooders.
At the same time Khao San Road was beginning to change, courtesy of the expenditure of hoards of backpackers. Nana Plaza was a hotel in Khao San Road, it was a seedy with rooms for 120 Baht and a receptionist (Tip-Tip Lady) who slept, washed and dined on the floor behind the receptionist’s desk. We called her Tip-Tip because that was what she said in a loud voice every time a farang walked past her desk.
This was a time Khao San Road still had two brothels, the largest of which was called the Paradise Club! One entered Paradise through an alley way off of KSR. The alley way is still there except now it is the access to another modern hotel. One entered the Paradise Club through the open air bar which was quite attractive, pot plants, ferns and palms, amidst a generous expanse of comfortable seating with tables. There were always more girls on shift than there were punters, so eye candy was plentiful. The girls were always dressed is long flared skirts and tops, looking as though they were hoping to audition for a role in ‘Grease’ (The movie). In hot weather the girls would often lay one of the free standing fans face up on the floor and stand over it with their big flared skirt airborne as if impersonating the famous Marylin Monroe photograph. Although that sounds a bit twee now, it was a hell of a turn on back then! It was all short time, play with the girls, get drunk, choose one girl, get your self gratification, pay up and piss off!
Then there was Ko Samui, Ko Phangan and Ko Tao, peaceful paradises reached by fishing boat from a small fishing village near Surat Thani or Pat Nam Chumphon. The ride across was never pleasant, the vessel was smelly and so were most of us, all backpackers dropping off the hippy trail on our way around the world. We were all looking for the same thing, ‘The Beach’ years before ‘Daffy Duck’ had found it and written his book. In reality most of us got no further than Ko Samui where we would spend our time ranging out from our bungalows on the beach, alternately hiking up Khao Phiu for a ‘smoke’ by the waterfall and spending evenings in Nathon’s infamous Thai singing bar, wherein one could watch a bevy of beauties sing songs we didn’t understand. These girls were compared by a lady man with a repartee of slapstick and obscene gestures toward the girls in his charge. The girls themselves were beautifully dressed in sparkly costumes akin to the modern Thai one piece swimsuits that are skirted for modesty. One watched intently knowing that one would be offered one of these girls when they had finished their act. If you refused the girl offered you would be offered another after another until the compare had exhausted his supply. If you were unfortunate in having rejected the last girl offered she would be sent back to you with two children and implore you to take one of them. This was the time to leave, you’d blown it, face has been lost because you didn’t fancy any of their girls and you certainly weren’t going to accept one of the children. If you would stay after declining a child it would be assumed that you wanted the compare and would be offered him. There is no way in the world you’d not want to refuse him.
This little anecdote begs a question. Way back then these singing cabaret bars and restaurants were the way to access ‘Long-time’ girls, whatever in world happened to them? Surely they haven’t all turned into Karaoke bars? Bangkok used to be awash with these establishments. I have very fond memories of one such. It was on Thanon Rachadarmnoen not far from the Democracy Monument. It was on two floors and very plush, red velvet and satins everywhere. The downstairs area was constructed like a miniature west end theatre with cinema type seating. The shows were excellent and beautiful singing girls were abundant. As always if you sat long enough you would be asked which one of the singers you wanted. The question would be asked by a Thai dressed in full evening wear, wringing his hands like a butler as he put the delicate question. Upstairs the bar was more like you find today in a ‘good class’ girly bar, here you would be entertained by one of the girls who would hope that you would ‘short-time her’ or bar fine her. (Does anyone out there remember this type of establishment or know if they can still be found in Bangkok?)
Cripes, I probably wasn't even born back then.