Stick remarked once that the best submissions were usually just stories, rather than moralising rants (not exactly his words, but that’s how I remember it). As such, I thought I would try telling the story of my first trip to Thailand, which already
seems like a long time ago.
I had often thought to myself, “If I ever get told I have one month to live, I’m going to sell everything and spend that month in Bangkok.” It seemed like a reasonable view at the time, but you shouldn’t wait for a letter from death to start living. I might never have figured this out if it weren’t for a trip to Hong Kong, where I met a very charming Thai lady. Certain parts of her were so charming I could hardly stop staring at them.
Though our relationship never progressed beyond holding hands (a self-labelled ‘good girl’, she was very keen on me popping over to Thailand for a few days. I was tempted, but thankfully I felt the need to return home first, so I said I’d come over three months later for a decent holiday instead.
In three months I managed to learn a great deal about Thailand, mostly through sites like this. I also taught myself some Thai, to about the same nit-noy level that most expats achieve. Most of all I developed a healthy degree of suspicion about that lovely girl I met in Hong Kong. We exchanged a number of emails, her always sounding half-convinced that I wasn’t coming.
The first thing that bothered me was seeing a different name on her email address than the one she used before. Then she told me she was tired of both names and now wanted to be known by a third pseudonym. Her real name is anyone’s guess. Since then I’ve found that this is pretty much a universal trait amongst pretty Thai girls.
I had planned to go over with a friend of mine, but he couldn’t get away from work. Looking back, I think he really could have, but it’s hard to separate true necessity from mere guilt sometimes. Anyway I had my tickets and my hotels paid for, so I just went by myself.
The wait seemed to have dulled the enthusiasm of my only Thai contact, as she didn’t even meet me at the airport. No worries, I took a Mercedes from the airport to my hotel, the Rembrandt on Soi 18, not far from all the other artists on Soi 33. Mango residents may tut-tut at wasting over 1,000 baht on a limo from the airport, but I was still thinking in Australian dollars and it’s half what I paid to get to the airport in Sydney … in a dodgy taxi. Besides, I was on holiday.
As I already suspected I wouldn’t want to spend nine days with my sultry friend, I only booked two nights in Bangkok, with another six in Phuket and one more in the Rembrandt on the way back. The next day I met her for lunch and a trip to the markets next to the Mo Chit station. Getting off the train she warned me to take care of my wallet. At least she had that much genuine concern.
It was a fun day, watching her interact with the sellers in the market and getting me prices I wouldn’t have had the perseverance to get myself. In the evening we met up again, for dinner at a traditional Thai place in Soi 7/1 – you know, triangular cushions, bamboo, tourists. Actually it was really good, and I started to learn a few truths about my companion, like her German boyfriend … and her Thai boyfriend. Now I can see why she keeps changing her name. No wonder she was too busy to meet me at the airport.
Later we walked further up the Soi and stopped at a classy outdoor bar with a jazz band. Sitting in the balmy night air and drinking beer together I began to feel some affection for Bangkok. The next minute I looked across and saw an elephant in the street, eating peanuts from giggling hands. At this point I felt like I’d really arrived in Thailand.
She was married once, to a Thai guy for about five years, but no kids. She says she’s been unlucky in love. She actually talked to me about wanting marriage even in Hong Kong. The reason is easy to understand, because although she still looks fabulous, she admits she’s approaching forty. I wonder how much longer she can juggle boyfriends before she has to settle on one and try for the kids she wants.
The Bed Supper Club is a very distinctive building, but the line was too long so we went to Q Bar instead. The complimentary drinks were finished off with the help of her friend, who met us there. Sitting out in the large balcony area upstairs I started to wonder if they belonged to a fantastic tits club or something. Seriously, it was impossible not to notice.
She was still very friendly, but it certainly wasn’t the same mood as in Hong Kong. There it had been all girly flirting and giggling. Here she has a more serious look in her eye.
Heading downstairs the music was pretty good and the sound system even better. Though it’s a fairly flash place, there are plenty of conspicuously single girls around, leaning on the walls and staring professionally. The object of everyone’s attention was a guy about seven feet tall, built like a rugby player and dancing with a girl less than five feet tall. He turned out to be an actor from Australia, working on a movie in Thailand. He seemed friendly enough, but I couldn’t blame my companions for being frightened of him.
We wound up staying there until closing, at which time I received a warm, drunken hug and a stern caution to be careful of the bar girls in Phuket. She said she was really worried about me going there alone, but she doesn’t go so far as to suggest she wants to come with me. I can see she’s already figured out that I’m not the clueless farang she met in Hong Kong. It’s a good thing I hadn’t counted on her company all week.
I walked all the way back to the Rembrandt, as I’d had enough drinks to make the time fly. Wandering past all of the ‘instant bars’ that popped up on the side of the road while I was in Q Bar, it seemed like at least half of the patrons were westerners, already sporting a much smaller yet hungrier companion.
Out of curiosity I also walked through Soi Cowboy (despite her insistence that I shouldn’t go there), but of course everything had long since closed. The only place still trading was
the fish and chips shop around the corner. I ordered a meat pie that was absolutely revolting.
Back at the hotel I relaxed with a 7 Eleven beer and pondered my friend. Was she a hi-so gal or a retired bar girl? Her English was remarkably good, and she seemed quite happy to pay her own way. She and her friends also had the cash for a holiday in Hong Kong, but I suppose that doesn’t tell me much. Even in Hong Kong she had made it clear that an intimate relationship with her would have to be ‘all or nothing’. It will have to be nothing then, as I’ve just started to enjoy the sort of ‘living’ that I missed out on in my twenties. I wish her well, whichever boyfriend she winds up with. Meanwhile, it’s off to Phuket.
If you hung out with her in Soi 7/1, it is highly unlikely she was a hi-so type…