My Thai Trip
After a lot of reading, research, fantasising and saving, I arranged to meet my friend from home in Australia, who was teaching English in mainland China, for a 3 week holiday in Thailand. This was the beginning of a 6 month trip that also took in Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Japan, but since this is a site about Thailand, we'll stay on topic.
The first place we hit turned out to be Saphan Kwai in Bangkok, because that was where I met my friend after arrival at Don Muang. As I had only ever heard about the Thai nightlife and never seen it, I couldn't help but think that it couldn't get better than this. We went out, drunk big bottles of Singha for 100 baht, and tried our best to communicate with the girls there, most of whom could speak very little English.
Nevertheless we were treated like mini-celebrities in the bars there that mostly catered to Thais. We got a particular amount of attention from a group of teenage girls in one gogo bar who came with us en masse back to our (new) guesthouse in Khao Sarn Road for some Songkran water fights. We also spent a fair bit of time trying to fend off the flamboyantly gay manager of one of the RCA gogos who studied English at university and would sit with us at all times, buying us drinks and drooling. Even the other (Thai) customers seemed very interested in talking to a couple of young farang guys who somehow managed to stumble into their local.
All in all I think the girls in the Saphan Kwai bars were probably the most attractive of any I saw working in my time in Thailand. The main problem was that most of them didn't speak English at all, so we needed a chaperone most of the time. (All of the bars we went to there had at least one person who could speak English, and they were as pleased to have a chance to practise it as we were to have a translator). The secondary problem was that the girls there work on a different basis to the girls who work at farang-oriented beer bars. Instead of paying a barfine, you instead simply pay the mamasan the entire fee which covers both barfine and the sex. This wasn't astronomical (something like 1,500 – 2,000 baht if I remember correctly), but I was a little uneasy with the knowledge that the girl I planned on taking wouldn't be getting her fair share. So instead we arranged to meet the girls after closing (not too long a wait since all the bars closed at 1-2 AM) and arrange something privately.
During my time in Bangkok, I had my wallet pick pocketed during the Songkran crush in Khao Sahn Road. So, anyone planning on being in the middle of a very crowded street at this time should be aware of it. Also, it's probably a good idea to put a plastic bag around your cash at Songkran time, because Thai currency (unlike Australia's) is the old-fashioned paper stuff which tends to get soggy and self-destruct when drenched. I lost about 1,500 baht and my credit card when my wallet was stolen, which isn't a great deal but it did become very inconvenient when I later discovered that my bank was seemingly incapable of getting me a replacement while I was overseas. For the remainder of the trip I had to get money through FedEx, which was a hassle, but MasterCard bore the transfer fees which meant it wasn't too bad in all.
We spent the obligatory one night in Patpong – I certainly wasn't going to go to Bangkok and NOT see a girl popping balloons with blow darts fired out of her vagina. It's the kind of thing that is never going to turn up in your home town from Cirque Du Soleil, so you've gotta do it while you can. The most disappointing thing about Patpong was simply that everything closes so early. Being a couple of night owls we hardly even made it out of the hotel by midnight and so the 2am closes tended to get in our way. A couple of nights were spent drinking at the Nana coffee shop and we did manage to find a couple of gorgeous freelancers there, who we took for a couple of nights each and spent a fair bit of time with during the day as well. Eventually though, we had to move on to greener pastures.
After Bangkok we had a 2 day stay in Pattaya, conveniently managing to arrive there just at the time Songkran was beginning there (WTF?). So another two days of being soaking wet at all times ensued. I didn't really get to see much in Pattaya, there were a lot of attractive girls but the recent loss of my credit card and my friend deciding to spend those 2 days sulking for some inexplicable reason (probably a combination of being sick to death of Songkran and missing his Bangkok Teeruk) meant that we didn't get to see much of the place.
Next was to U-Tapao airport and the short flight to Ko Samui. A friend of mine lives in Lamai and hooked us up with a good accommodation deal (2,000 baht a week for an air conditioned room with a fridge and cable TV, right in the middle of Lamai beach). At that prices I was willing to stay until I got bored, which turned out to be quite a while. My friend had other plans and had to fly out back to Australia after a few days, so I was left alone with the expats and the girls in Lamai.
I really loved that place, I've been to Bali but not Phuket, but I expected Samui to be a bit like Kuta, with hawkers pestering you at every turn and a few nightclubs filled with hippie backpackers and drug dealers and a few ugly hookers. It was nothing of the sort (I think Chaweng is probably more like that).
What Lamai actually resembles is a retirement village for those who have decided that Western Society isn't their cup of tea and would rather spend their life lazily sipping a beer and generally taking it easy with a select group of like-minded friends. About 90% of the westerners here seemed to be English blokes between the ages of 30-50 who were mad about football and beer (although not in that order). There were plenty of girly bars there, but it was hardly the sexfest of Pattaya and the relationship between the punters and the girls seemed more like the relationship you'd have with the barmaid of your local back at home (except she was better looking and you got to shag her more often).
Even though I'm closer to the backpacker demographic than I am to the expat one, I nevertheless enjoyed the company there far more than I did on Khao Shan Road or in Ko Pang Nan. The combination of European backpackers who tend to treat their travel as a world missionary tour where they can proclaim the evils of George W. Bush to everyone they meet, drunk lads in their early 20s who haven't learned how to handle their alcohol yet, and fat feminist girls who are even angrier than usual because they can't even pull the desperation shags they get back home while they are on holidays is something that I have well and truly tired of after 2 years of budget travelling. It's a nice change to sit and have a conversation with someone who is happy with their life and has a few good stories to tell. Since Lamai has more of a reputation as a "sex tourist area" than Chaweng does, the young and hip crowd tend to avoid it (and the ones who do arrive there by accident tend to move onto Chaweng fairly quickly), and you are pretty free to go about your business with very few hassles apart from the odd person trying to sell you grasshoppers, ice cream or flowers.
The girls in Lamai are probably the most affordable of any place I have visited as well. I suspect the expats run a fairly tight informal purchasing cartel and as long as you give the general impression that you have been there longer than a day or two then most of the girls will quite happily accept 500 baht for long time, and a lot of them are prepared to offer substantial discounts for a longer-term girlfriend experience type deal. Of course, if the girl is booked out every night then you are going to have to pay more, but that is the wonderful mechanism we know as the invisible hand doing its job.
Of course if you would instead prefer a bigger challenge and have a crack at either the odd leftover tourist or one of the good girls who work the resorts then you can do that too, and I have seen both occur on a fairly regular basis in Lamai. The biggest problem there is if a bargirl sees you trying it on and decides to be mischievous and cockblock you. There's nothing surer to scare your potential tourist shag away than the prostitute you shagged the night before coming up to you and starting a conversation – and they know it.
I personally had the misfortune to have this happen to me. In bed in my hotel room with an English tourist and having to endure an angry hooker knocking on my door demanding to get her earrings back when we were doing the deed. After a while she decided to drag all the outdoor furniture to the bathroom window and try to peek in through the window to see what was going on. The girl was not impressed but things had already progressed too far along and she was way too horny to back out at that stage, so we shut the bathroom door and pulled the curtains tightly shut and got on with it. I got a fair ear bashing the next day from both of them. As they say though, in the future you'll look back and laugh (actually I was laughing at the time it was happening but only through the side of my mouth).
The good girls aren't all that common but there are a few there. I personally wouldn't want to start a relationship with someone who was a virgin if I planned on leaving the country shortly afterwards and not returning, but my friend did so and I can't really stop him so I may as well tell that story too.
After 20 or so days in Lamai I had to do a visa run, so I met another friend of mind who was travelling north up the Malay peninsula in Penang. We caught the minibus back to Surat Thani (NOT recommended, get the coach instead). And the slow boat back to Samui. On the way we picked up a young Japanese bloke who had been ditched by his girlfriend in Bali and decided to continue on his trip-of-a-lifetime alone. A real trooper that one! I personally assured him that he would have a good time if he stayed with us in Lamai. At the time he was a bit mopey after being dumped but he turned out to be a sleeping giant later in the piece.
My friend J. from Aus, being a hardcore backpacker, wouldn't spring for the 2,000 baht a week in the air-conditioned room and instead chose the cheapest accommodation he could find, meaning that he was on his own in a bungalow down the road. He had previously been an English teacher in Korea and so after arriving in his new digs decided straight away that the two pretty waitresses at the restaurant bungalow could do with some free English lessons. He wasn't one for paying for it so he went his own way with great success. Within a few days one of the girls decided she wanted a farang boyfriend despite never having any boyfriend before and being a virgin, so he stepped up and did the deed. (This will be important later). She was an incredibly sweet girl and I have no doubt that he treated her well, but knowing my friend had girlfriends in every Asian country and had no plans to stay in Thailand longer than a couple of weeks I couldn't help feeling sorry for her and feeling that J. was a bit of a prick for deflowering a girl who has probably held onto her virginity for her future husband so tightly it hurt.
In any case they were soon a happy couple and so I was reduced to drinking with the Japanese bloke. Knowing the stories about Japanese punters in Bangkok and how much the girls rip them off for I decided to do the talking for him on the first night. Sitting at a beer bar he got into a deadly serious game of connect 4 with a large-breasted girl who he seemed quite taken with. I said to her friend that his English was no good and so would he mind asking the girl if she would go with him for 1,000 baht. She accepted and the disoriented Japanese bloke was off with his new love.
The next day he asked me if all the girls who worked at the bar were for sale. Upon arrival
he apparently had no idea that you could take them back to your room. I guess being Japanese and used to the hostess system there, where the girls will talk sweetly to you and bring your drinks but won't go with you unless you are a millionaire, he assumed the system worked the same in Thailand. I assured him that you could ask any of the girls at the bars and the discos as well, and from that time on he was an absolute whirlwind, not just the girls but the ladyboys too were all marked by Toey Tojo. I don't think there was a single night he managed to make it home before 7am, the cheap alcohol and girls were just too much of a temptation and the newfound freedom after being deserted by his girlfriend meant that the rest of his holiday was like a Thai-Japanese remake of Leaving Las Vegas. As I said before, a real trooper.
I don't care how much us Aussies, Brits, Germans and Yanks like to brag, nobody can match the Japanese (pound for pound) for drinking ability. The fact that they get drunk faster doesn't worry them in the slightest, they'll just keep on going until there is either no beer left or they physically pass out. There must be something in the old Bushido ways about it being dishonourable to go to bed if you aren't absolutely hammered to the point of alcohol poisoning.
After a few more days of the same old routine, Another group of friends rocked up in time for the full moon party. 2 couples from Australia who were staying Chaweng, quite a strange mix really. One was a Chinese-Australian bloke and his white Australian girlfriend, the other a White Australian bloke and his Chinese-Australian girlfriend. Together with my friend J. and his new Thai girlfriend, our Japanese party animal and myself, we all made our way to Ko Pang Nan for the full moon party.
Deciding that the drinks on the beach in Pang Nan might be too expensive (he's a real tightarse), J. Decided to take along some supplies for the ride, including a bottle of red wine and a mixed bottle of Sangsom and milk (?). Now I'm no doctor but I've been drinking long enough to know that wine, rum and milk do not go well together. I told J. this but he assured me he'd be ok, what with still having about 30 ephedrine tablets saved up from his time in Indonesia. I may have mumbled something about ephedrine not necessarily being that good for an upset stomach but he would not be budged.
So myself and J.'s new girlfriend (who, being a good Thai girl, did not drink at all), Kamikaze drinking machine and the 4 others made our way over to Pang Nan. About half an hour after we arrived all the trouble started. J., who was now incredibly drunk decided to go for a swim and cut his head on some bits of reef, we scrambled in to save him and dragged him out of the water and layed him on the beach with a towel to sober up and stop bleeding. About this time some young Thai guy wanders over to me and starts gesticulating wildly. I have no idea what he is on about and tell him that guy's ok and just a bit drunk. He gets angrier and angrier and eventually one of his friends (there were 4 or 5 of them in the group) comes over and says that in my hurry to get into the water I kicked sand over one his girlfriends. I apologise profusely and (in the grand western tradition, not knowing what the hell else to do) offer to buy him a drink. He refuses and just wanders off after a while muttering to himself.
After that the 7 of us (minus J., who by this stage has vomited and passed out) are sitting quietly having a few drinks away from the doof-doof music and chatting about our respective travels. J's Thai girlfriend is a little worried about him but apart from that seems to be enjoying herself and getting to know the others (who all by this stage think he's an unbelievable asshole for bringing this girl to a huge piss up and then getting himself so plastered that he can't look after her).
It is at this stage that my angry Thai friend reappears and starts shouting something in Thai at the girl. Now I don't speak Thai but I can only imagine it was something along the lines of "You are a whore and should be ashamed of yourself" as she looks pretty unhappy but tries to ignore him nonetheless. Then he decides since he isn't getting the required reaction, he comes up to her and grabs her roughly on the arm and tries to drag her to her feet. I've had enough of the guy at this stage so I get up and push him onto the sand and tell him in no uncertain terms to fuck off. He looks me up and down for a short while and then decides that the odds of 5 onto 7 aren't worth it and leaves.
Now at home that would pretty much be where things ended, but I've heard stories from the expats that you should never under any circumstances get involved in a confrontation with the Thais, so I am more than a little nervous about him coming back with a machete or some such and stop drinking at this point in order to be able to keep a better eye out. He never returns though, so he was probably just being an asshole and not really offended.
As the party starts to wind down myself, Japanese drinking machine, the white guy and his Chinese girlfriend decide we've had enough of what is basically a giant rave (something I'd never go to back home) and decide to make our way back to jetty at about 5am. As we are walking through the cobbled Haad Rin streets, some idiot drunk English lad comes up to my mate and says (in full earshot of everyone) "Be careful mate, she might be a bloke". Referring of course, to his decidedly female and very attractive Chinese investment banker girlfriend of 5 years.
Not being a wilting flower as the young moron might have expected, the girl turns around and starts giving him an absolute earful while my mate quietly steams. The guy who must not have an intelligent bone in his body then starts apologising profusely and then TRIES TO GIVE HER A HUG which sends my friend mental and he grabs him with his red eyes nearly popping out of his head. Then the idiot's friends appear and I am forced to sort them out, sending one of them crashing through a deserted hawker's hut and the other backing off down the laneway. Eventually they finally get the message and piss off and we decide that this island isn't really the place for us and make our way to the boat before the entire population of Ko Pang Nan – Thai and Farang – come looking for us.
Kamikaze boy is by this stage intermittently switching between nodding off to sleep and giggling incoherently about seeing 2 scuffles in one night, but we all make it to the boat safe and sound leaving the other 4 sleeping on the beach. The next day it's nothing but a bunch of funny stories and further vindication of my view that hanging around with European backpackers is about as much fun as getting needles stuck in your eye.
Not long after that we all departed Thailand. Myself to Hong Kong and later China and Japan, J. off to teach English in Korea, and Japanese party animal back to his job as an Izakaya cook in Tokyo. I later met up in Tokyo with the Japanese guy, now back to his previously normal self and – even more surprisingly – back together with the girlfriend who ditched him in Bali! He also tells me during this visit that he once slept with a white girl – A Spanish call-girl in Tokyo who gave him the great deal of one night of passion for the bargain basement price of $2,000 US dollars. So it's not hard to see why the Japanese in Thailand are prepared to pay outlandish sums like 5,000 baht or more for "long time" in Bangkok, I guess.
Both J. and I returned to Samui separately on our way home from our Asian sojourns. Him into the arms of his pining Thai girl (who emailed him every day they were apart), and me to a particularly lovely bargirl whom I met just before leaving Lamai for a genuine girlfriend experience. 3 weeks in Samui solely with her and I wasn't even tempted to butterfly, despite her once tricking me into eating some kind of green chili thing which nearly killed me and laid me up for 3 days as a consequence. The sight of her jumping up and down and squealing like Sailor Moon on Yaa Ba (complete with pigtails) when I returned melted my cold heart, but due to the warnings of the many more experienced punters on here I have yet to fall in love – however tempting it may seem.
I'm a young guy and I have had my share of attractive girlfriends back here in Australia, so what makes me want to go back and see her again when I know that she is a prostitute and probably sees me as a customer rather than a lover? Is it just simple "yellow fever"? She isn't even particularly good in bed – one of the biggest paradoxes when people talk about the sex trade in Thailand is that a lot of the girls you pay for over there are probably less sexually experienced than the average girl you could pick up for a one night stand back at home. How can you call them whores when you know for a fact that the blonde you picked up last Friday has probably shagged over 100 men and not received a cent? I doubt that many Thai prostitutes would have that many customers in a year or even two years, especially when their real goal is to get someone to take them for days or weeks or months at a time.
In the end I think it's this: Western Society no longer gels with my idea of what is right and moral. When you consider a society that considers it quite appropriate for the government to tell you whether or not you can smoke in your own pub or car, what foods you should eat, what kind of bag to carry your shopping in, that fighting is never acceptable, even if the guy thoroughly deserved it, that we shouldn't eat meat because it causes animals to suffer, and that the only religion we should believe in is "social justice", then I'm sorry but this kind of society has stopped resembling real life and started to resemble a kindergarten for adults.
The fact that the women I meet at home are satisfied with this situation causes me lose respect for them. I might be crazy, but I have far more respect for a girl who was born into poverty; made an incredibly difficult choice to support her family by going into a line of work that almost everyone in her society considers demeaning and repugnant; and still has enough character to smile and laugh with her friends who have been thrown together under those circumstances and make the best of what they have than I do for plenty of people in western society who work in what are somehow considered "honourable" professions. Tax collectors, social workers, therapists, politicians, environmental activists, professional whiners and the like are considered respectable in my country, but as a diehard capitalist who makes his own living through what is generally considered "immoral" means (though not illegal), I have not only a lot more respect for but also a lot
more in common with a prostitute in Thailand than I do with just about anyone back home.
So maybe I will go back and see her again, or maybe I won't. Or maybe I will just go back to Thailand and be a butterfly to avoid the possibility of having to decide whether or not I have developed strong feelings for her. One thing is certainly true, and that is that I feel more strongly about her than anyone I have been with in my own country, and that the only time I have cried over a woman is when I had to leave her in the bar in Samui.
So on one hand, maybe it's best that I don't go back, to avoid getting hurt. On the other hand, I'm a big boy and have been hurt before and I'm still here, and whatever happens she can't touch me financially, so what is there to lose, apart from face?
Another one with a dilemma…