Thailand, My Mistress
“Ahhh, finally back home” he thinks to himself. “He” being Calvin, a mid-30’s white male from the Midwest, United States. Quite average, really. Calvin stands an average 5’10”, with an average muscular build (enough to show he works out but not too much). He has average hair for his age – receding, sprinkled with a bit of gray, and shaved short (why fight a losing battle?). He has an average job working in corporate America, earns an average salary, lives in an average apartment, drives an average SUV. He even wears average clothes. Honestly, everything about this man is average. Except for one thing – he has more balls than any of his average friends. He travels to Thailand – alone, for none of his friends dares to visit a country so far away, so different, so “dirty” and third world. He decided that fear keeps many people from actually “living” as opposed to simply existing.
Home – no, home isn’t the Midwest USA any longer. Oh sure, he still lives and works there – but it’s not really what he considers “home”. Home is somewhere a person feels welcome, someplace a person is happy to return to. No – he is never happy to return to the USA– all work, no play, cold weather, even colder women. Calvin has given up on western women – they seem angry, demanding, boring. Completely different than the women of Thailand. As soon as that 747 hits the runway of Suvarnabhumi Airport, he knows he is home.
As he exits the airplane, the old, crabby crew of the Northwest flight bid him farewell. If only he had flown Thai Air. He practically skips down the long, long walkway and thru the duty free areas. He patiently waits in the Immigration line, but underneath it all, he is impatient… He wants to get into the city. No Thai smile from the Immigration lady. He collects his bag from the carousel and heads out into the main hall of the airport. The taxi touts instantly verbally assault him, taking him for a newbie. He admits he still carries the “I can’t believe I’m here” smile. But he’s not a novice. He makes his way past the offers for limousines and buses and gets into the taxi line. The lovely young lady asks where he is headed and he names a hotel in the heart of Sukhumvit Soi 4. No, not the Nana. That’s for the cheap bastards. He has his own favorite hotel, close to the action but far enough away to avoid the constant street noise. She smiles as she hands the paper to the taxi driver. There it is – that wonderful Thai smile. Home. The driver smiles as well, takes the paper and places Calvin’s suitcase into the trunk. They head off into the steamy night, towards Bangkok and its towering skyscrapers and condos, the bars and clubs, the street stalls and restaurants, the massage parlors and gogos.
As the taxi flies along the freeway on this hot and muggy evening, Calvin ponders the wonders of this country. People say the Thais are uneducated and not capable of original thought – yet over to his left the new skytrain to the airport is taking shape. And this freeway to the heart of Bangkok flows smoothly and effortlessly, aside from the toll booths. And the tall skyscrapers of Bangkok are no small feat. He glances around in wonder, observing the new buildings going up, the old buildings abandoned a long time ago. It is a long drive and Calvin thinks to himself “What is it about this country that keeps me coming back?” Sure, it’s the women, but it’s altogether something else.
He thinks that Thailand is like a drug. People warn you about drugs, tell you they are dangerous, you’ll get hooked, and you’ll ruin your life. But against all advice, you try the drug. The first hit is powerful and rocks your world. Pretty soon you come down from your trip and all you can think about is how great it felt. You start to crave another hit, find it, take it and realize it wasn’t as good as the first time. But it was still good. So you do it again, and again, always trying to reach that “first high”. But the more you take, the more you need to feel good. And when you’re not high, you’re depressed, just waiting for the next time. Before you know it, you’ve thrown your life away looking for the one thing that makes you happy. Thailand is a lot like a drug. If you’re not careful, it’ll pull you down and ruin your life. When you’re not there, you wish you were and you spend all your free time planning the next trip. But Thailand’s not a drug, Calvin decides.
Calvin decides that Thailand is a Mistress. Beautiful, sexy, fun, crazy, seductive. It’s everything you wish your girlfriend or wife was. At first, it just flirts with you on the internet or through stories from those who have been brave enough to venture into her clutches. You’re skeptical. But something leads you to her. Once you’ve spent time with her, you want to run back to her. You think about her all the time. The sound of her voice is magic – the sweet melodies and rising / falling pitches make your heart skip a beat when you hear her. Her scent lingers in your nose, long after you’ve left her. Wonderful memories flood you brain every time you smell her perfume. The feel of her warm breath upon your skin brings goose bumps to the back of your neck. Her taste is exotic and intoxicating, your tongue dances when the spicy and sweet flavors meet your lips. She is very beautiful – certainly more beautiful than anything you’ve seen before. She is always wearing a beautiful tropical green or clear deep sea blue, and her eyes sparkle in the night.
Like any mistress, it’s a give and take relationship. You give, she takes. But the experience is worth every penny, every sacrifice, every secret. Sure, you’ve been with others, but this one keeps drawing you back. And even though she gives little, what she does give is worth more than money. But you come to realize she is just using you. If you don’t return, she’ll find another suitor. That’s why you keep returning – you don’t want her to forget you. She’s amazing and you can’t stand the thought of losing her.
Yes – Thailand is a Mistress.
Calvin is jolted back to reality by the slowing of the taxi as it enters the city. Home, home at last. As the taxi crawls along the city streets, he gazes out the window. He’d love to roll the window down but the air-con is on and the heat is smothering on the other side of the glass. He stares as they pass food stalls, bars, restaurants, the thousands of people moving on the street. He looks up at the tall buildings, looks at the lovely palm trees and tropical plants, and of course, admires the breathtaking beauty of the Thai women. Soon the taxi stops at his hotel. Home for 10 days. He smiles and hands the driver the fare, plus a tip for allowing him peace and quiet. The driver smiles, bows his head ever so slightly, hands him the suitcase, gets back in and speeds away. Calvin looks around and is still amazed at the sights that surround him. He makes his way into the hotel.
The check in is smooth and soon Calvin is in his room. He tips the “bellhop”, puts his suitcase on the bed, glances around his home, and is soon back down at reception. He puts everything of value in the safety box at the front desk (the Mistress does have sticky fingers) and he is out onto the street. He smiles and spreads his arms wide and shouts “I’m baaaack!” The Thai ladies look him and giggle, but he doesn’t care. He’s in love, who cares what the world thinks? He is back home, with his mistress, and the next 10 days will be the happiest of the 365. He is also excited, for Songkran, the Thai New Year, will start in a few days. He thinks the Thais have wonderful holidays –lovely Loy Krathong, The King’s Birthday, the Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, more festivals in different parts of the country than most other countries would allow. But Songkran is the ultimate festival. It’s the Thais doing what they do best – throwing a massive party, having tons of fun, and creating a mess. Calvin has been to Mardi Gras but there are too many idiots getting into fights. He’s been to Oktoberfest but alas, the Germans are all about rules. Songkran beats them all – nothing is off limits. Freezing cold ice water, warm dirty water from the river, adults acting like children, children acting like, well children. Everyone is having fun and everyone is laughing and no one fights. Yes, Songkran is the best holiday in the world.
But for now, Calvin heads off to the Golden Bar in front of the Nana Hotel, across from the dying Nana Plaza. His friend Steve from the UK is in town and they have plans to meet at the Golden Bar tonight. As he walks down the uneven and broken pavement, he dodges the food carts, the occasional motorcycle using the sidewalk as a driving lane and the mysterious katoeys. The katoeys don’t bother him – if you smile and keep walking, they leave you alone. But Calvin does fall in love with the Thai ladies a dozen times during his walk. He has learned that when he thinks he has seen the most beautiful woman in the world, 10 seconds later the most beautiful woman will appear. And just after her, the most beautiful woman will appear. He has long ago thrown out his 1-10 scale. Why bother when these ladies are impossible to judge? He smiles at each of them as he walks, which makes his mouth tired. As he passes the beer bars, he hears the familiar siren song “Hellooo. How you? What your name handsome man?” Wonderful music to his ears. Soon he arrives at the Golden Bar but Steve is not there. As Steve always said “You’re not half an hour late, you’re a few beers late”. No problem, Calvin decides, he’ll simply have a seat at the railing overlooking Soi 4. And as luck would have it, there is an open seat. He orders a beer from a smiling hostess, and watches the parade stream by. The hostess hands him a bottle of Singha and puts the check in the checkbin. Calvin is alone with his thoughts…
He remembers the exact day he fell in love with this country, this Mistress called Thailand. He was at the Elephant Preserve an hour out of Chiang Mai, half listening to the woman speaking about the elephants and how they arrived at the sanctuary and how they had been mistreated and such. Calvin was staring off into the hills, watching the sun flirting with the clouds, laughing at the dogs play-fighting in the sand, observing the haze covering the hills as the mahouts rode their majestic elephants to the river. It was a sweltering, scorching day but he felt a great peace wash over him. Right then and there, he was ready to pull the plug on his life and start over. But he came to his senses once he returned to the USA and realized that if he put in just a little more time at work, he’d be able to retire here. That is what kept him alive…
“Hey Mate!” startles Calvin from his thoughts. Steve has arrived and they share a hearty handshake. Calvin orders a beer for him, they toast each other, and tip their beers back. They exchange pleasantries and exchange banter over how the USA / UK is better than the UK / USA. But they both agree Thailand is better than both. They watch the humanity as it passes before them. They nudge each other when a striking example of real female grace walks by. They acknowledge the fact that many of the katoeys are better looking than most of the women back in the West. They watch a little of the Liverpool v Celtic game, pay their checkbins and head off to Soi Cowboy to find company to spend the evening playing pool and having fun. They disappear into the masses.
They are back in the clutches of their mistress – The Mistress Thailand.