Obituary for Min
It was in January 2005 and I was on my fourth trip to Thailand. I was not a complete novice to the bar scene but had mostly travelled around as a “regular” tourist before. I had been to the usual places. Explored some of Bangkok’s
most famous sights, been to Ayutthaya to look at the temple ruins, been to some of the islands in the south – Phuket, Phi Phi, Samui, Phangan, etc. The usual tourist stuff.
Being single and male I ventured out into the nightlife as well. Explored the bar scene little by little. In these first years I most often spent the early evening in some beer bar and later went to a night club to party like I used to back home. Well, not exactly like back home: so many freelancers, so few weeks of holiday. I rarely went to gogo bars back then and I rarely barfined from the beer bars. I have gravitated more and more towards the bar scene since, for good and bad, but that’s another story.
Min worked in one of the around 20 beer bars on Soi Bintabaht in Hua Hin where I found myself for some reason this January in 2005. I only went in the bar to have a beer and relax in the early evening but I found myself immediately attracted to this cute and charming Buriram girl with her long black hair and thousand watt smile. One beer became two, then three and eventually I ended up staying until closing time.
Min was clearly the star of the bar. Every beer bar has a star whom the other girls look up to and admire and/or envy, the girl who brings in the customers and has her pick among them. She’s likely the girl who brings in the most money from sponsorship and barfines and from providing the services that barfines lead to. The queen bee. In this bar Min was that girl. She had the looks, the charms and the confidence. She was 23 at the time and I was 30.
We hit it off right away. I remember her sitting inside the bar, on the counter with her legs under her munching on pineapple and chatting away with the other girls while keeping eye contact with me from time to time. She came over, filled with this extreme confidence, and we started talking and I offered her a drink. She drank Sangsom Coke, not your regular lady drink, and she mixed them 50/50 and downed them rather quick. At 40 baht per drink she could have as many as she liked as far as I was concerned. She didn’t drink in that self-destructive way you sadly see some bargirls doing, Min was more like a party drinker. She seemed to have a great time in the bar. She both fitted in and stood out.
What was different about her was that while she was eager to chat and drink and play pool and have fun she never seemed all that interested in being barfined. The first night I met her I asked her if I could pay bar but she said she was too hung over and didn’t want to have sex. I was a bit disappointed as I had already planned to take her home for some bedroom gymnastics and you aren’t usually turned down by bargirls. But I played it cool and smiled and just continued chatting, drinking and enjoying myself in the bar. Later on she approached the subject again and asked me what hotel I stayed at and then if she could come stay the night with me. No sex, she said, only sleep and I was not to pay a barfine as the bar was about to close anyway and not to pay her for her time either. I was pretty drunk and tired and it was too late to go look for another girl and I would probably have had alcohol-related performance problems anyway so I accepted her suggestion thinking it would still be nice to sleep with and wake up with such a pretty girl – and it was.
We never did have sex and I didn’t try either. But it’s not like we stayed dressed or in separate beds either. She undressed down to her panties and cuddled up close to me, the way I like it when girls do, for a while at least until I really want to fall asleep.
The next morning I asked her why she had wanted to come sleep with me. I was pretty sure that she would try to get some money out of it despite not having had any sex and despite claiming before that I was not to pay her. I thought she would turn on the bargirl charm and say she really, really liked me and that I was a handsome man and that she just was too tired to have sex last night but really wanted to be with me. That would have been a pretty standard approach after all.
Her honesty took me aback. She just said that she lived in a really small room behind the bar with several other girls and it was too hot for her. She had asked me what hotel I stayed at and knowing it had AC decided it would be cooler and nicer to sleep in my room. She went with me because of my air-conditioning! You just gotta love them sometimes!
She then said that she would be going “swimming” with some friends in the day and asked if I wanted to join them. I said sure and asked when. Come by the bar at 12 she said. It was around 11 am at the time so that gave me an hour for breakfast, etc. I went by the bar and Min was there with two other girls devouring their breakfast noodles. When we were about to leave and I started walking towards the beach they pulled me the other way. No, not to the beach, they explained. Too hot and there’s sand everywhere and the water is not clean. We went instead by a 20 minute tuktuk ride to a hotel with a large pool which I think was called the Sports Villa.
What a great day I had, spending it with three pretty girls chatting, playing in the pool and of course eating and drinking. Min acted a bit like she was my girlfriend and it was clear that I was with her rather than being just friends with all three girls. The other two girls were really nice and a bonus was that one of them had been to England before and spoke English really well. They all spoke better than average English but this girl was almost fluent, which is rare. She could even keep up an interesting, and I mean interesting by western standards, conversation which is really, really rare. It was a great day and at the end of it no one raised an eyebrow when I picked up the tab for all of us. Ridiculously cheap it was anyway, about 800 baht I think.
I spent two or three nights more with Min. Hanging around the bar all evening drinking and getting whipped by her playing pool. We went to some friend’s birthday party and we went to sing karaoke after the bar closed and we went for late night snacks. We talked a lot and laughed all the time. She would tell funny stories about Thailand and about the bars and the girls. But once it was time to go home she would want to come with me but kept making excuses for not wanting to have sex. Too tired, too drunk, have hangover, etc. I put up with it because I liked being with her so much. I really liked spending time with her and I guess you can say I fell a bit in love with her. Not that I ever pictured us having a future together, she was a bargirl after all. But a really sweet one.
Anyway, the last evening before I went away on a planned excursion to Vietnam I thought to myself that I wanted to get laid. I was in Thailand after all and hanging out in bars. Of course I should be getting laid. I thought that if Min wouldn’t put up then I’d spend some time with her in the evening and then go find another girl, in another bar of course, who would. I explained this to Min, not in so many words but she got the general message. I needn’t do that at all she said, of course she and I could have sex if I wanted to. And I really wanted to have precisely her. I guess it would have left me feeling I had unfinished business if I couldn’t have her all the way.
So I screwed her when we got back to the room that night and it was a bit of a disappointment. Not completely starfish routine but her heart clearly wasn’t in it and she didn’t make an effort to fake that her heart was in it either. Well, I’ve had bad sex before and I had still really enjoyed the time we had spent together and I was still a bit infatuated with her so we went to sleep, woke up, cuddled and then I paid (you know, by placing money under her handbag discreetly – not by shoving it in her face) and tipped well and we went to have brunch together before I left.
I went on my planned trip to Vietnam and when I returned to Thailand after about two weeks I, wouldn’t you know, found myself returning to Hua Hin. I had told Min I might be coming back but had not made promises and not exchanged phone numbers, since I always knew where to find her and had no need to call. I had a few days left before returning home to Europe and Hua Hin suited my schedule. I figured I didn’t have enough time to bother with trips down south, Pattaya was out, and I still wanted some place by the sea. Hua Hin seemed to fit the profile. But I still would probably have gone somewhere else had it not been for Min. I went back to her bar and got a huge smile and a warm welcome from all the girls, I was now something of a regular after all. Then Min sat down and said we needed to talk.
The thing was that she had a boyfriend in Scotland who sent her money and he would be arriving the next day and staying for two months and was I OK with this? Well, I was actually. OK, I was a bit disappointed since I had hoped to spend my time with her and probably would have gone somewhere else rather than to Hua Hin if I’d known she would be busy. But I wasn’t heartbroken or anything. I knew enough about the bar scene not to be surprised or feel let down. I would have been surprised if a girl like Min didn’t have a sponsor. I had been something of a friend and also a customer. This guy about to arrive was a much better customer and perhaps also a closer friend. End of story.
I figured this might have been why she was reluctant to have sex with me. Perhaps she thought she would be cheating on her boyfriend and that made her feel bad? And perhaps she thought that only sleeping together with me wasn’t cheating? That’s what I came to believe at the time.
The thing is that we spent the rest of the evening having fun as ever. She had said that she didn’t dare go with me with her boyfriend arriving so soon but changed her mind (The magical allure of chilled air I suppose) and went home with me. We chatted and had a nice time but no sex and it felt quite OK with me, an appropriate end to a friendship of sorts.
I had a few more days booked in Hua Hin and decided to stay on anyway and find a new bar and a new girl. But out of curiosity I wanted to see the Scotsman who had, unknowingly, won my girl away from me.
I arrived in the bar early the next evening, claiming my favourite seat. Min was nowhere to be seen. I had a few beers and the girls chatted with me but looked a bit nervous. Suddenly three motorcycles pulled up and it was the Scotsman and a friend of his and also Min. Min had obviously been to the salon because she looked even prettier than usual and her smile was wider than ever. A really wide smile she had. A huge smile, in fact.
Soon the explanation was apparent to all. The motorcycle she rode in on and parked right outside the bar was a gift from her boyfriend. A shiny, brand new pink model that looked quite expensive. The bar went wild as did the bars opposite and on both sides, girls yelling and pointing and discussing Min’s great fortune. You’d better believe she smiled! Face gained for a lifetime (or in a bargirl’s world for a week at least).
In the commotion I was completely forgotten but suddenly a few of the other girls remembered me and rushed over to calm me down, which wasn’t needed. I explained quickly that I already knew about Min’s boyfriend and that I was cool with it. They were very relieved to hear this and I was again treated as a regular customer.
Scotty played it really cool. He was the man of the hour. The big spender with the prettiest girl clinging to his arm all lovey-dovey and sweet. And why shouldn’t he feel great? In his mind he was returning to the love of his life with a grand gift and two months of holiday in a tropical paradise waiting.
In reality he had been sending money to a prostitute who had been in bed with a guy sitting just across the bar even the night before he arrived, and every girl in the bar and probably most in the other bars in the street knew this full well. That reality would have been hard to swallow I bet.
Never mind. You live – you learn, as they say. Had I not had friends telling me how things worked when I first arrived in Thailand I might have made a similar fool of myself.
I moved on and found a new bar and a new girl. I stayed for a few days and then went to Bangkok and then flew home. I never saw Min after that night. My last memory of her is when Scotty went to the bathroom and she passed me by and stroked me across the lower back discreetly and flashed me a wide smile. I smiled in return.
Fast forward to 2006. It’s winter in Europe and I am on my fifth trip to Thailand. After a few weeks in various other places I came back to Hua Hin to meet up with a friend who happened to be there. I went back to the same bar but Min was nowhere to be seen and barely any of the girls I remembered were there either. It was as if all the fun had gone out of that bar and I decided to relocate. But first I asked in the bar about Min but few knew who she was and those that did just came up with some vague answer that she was in her village.
I found another bar and another girl, Nan, I took a liking to. With Nan it wasn’t so much fun and games as it had been with Min but she was nice enough, actually she is very nice, and the sex was great. I found a routine where I went to the bar after having had dinner and a few beers in other bars with my friend and met up with Nan there. She would wait for me and then I’d have a few drinks in her bar and then barfine her and we’d go together to a few other bars and perhaps to the late night karaoke bars if I didn’t feel like ending the evening at 2 AM.
We talked a lot, Nan and I, and she mentioned that she thought she had seen me before. Turns out she recognized me very well and knew I had been seeing Min the year before. She quizzed me if Min had been my girlfriend and I said no, just friends for a period of time. I got the feeling she thought Min would still be my first choice had she been there and she was probably right about that. Turned out she knows very well who Min is, and that she has not worked on Soi Bintabaht since about the time I last saw her. My guess: Good luck in Scotland baby!
Fast forward to 2007. It’s winter in Europe and I am on my sixth trip to Thailand. By now I am more or less skipping over temples and shopping and sightseeing and spend most of my time in places where there’s a bar area around. I have discovered Pattaya which I had shunned thinking from the rumours that it would be too much for me. It might have been before but not any longer. But I still feel that a week in Pattaya is about all I can take, after which I need a breather. It’s a great, great place but I find it wears me down.
So I go to Hua Hin again, because one drunken night I sent an SMS to Nan from my new Thai phone number. I had her number stored on my phone and she can’t recognize who it is because I always throw away my old 1-2-Call card at the end of a holiday and start with a fresh one on my next journey. I sent the first SMS from Gulliver's in Bangkok asking “where r u?” and she immediately called and I answered the call but said nothing and just held the phone up so she could hear the noise in Gulliver's. I didn’t want to talk because I wasn’t sure I would want to go see her in Hua Hin but I wanted to know if she was there.
I played this little game for over a week when I was in Bangkok and Pattaya because she would call to try to find out who it was that had SMSed her. She’d call from her phone and from friends' phones and I would only answer if I was in a bar and never spoke but just hold the phone up for her to hear the noise. Well, one day (or rather: one drunken night) I revealed who I was and she said that I should go see her immediately and from there it went.
Actually is suited me fine. Hua Hin is not my favourite place in Thailand but if you want a quiet time and still want at least some bars to go to it’s pretty good. Good restaurants, OK beach, not too many backpackers, pretty close to Bangkok.
I never did expect to ever see her again but I still went by Min’s old bar. I am not sure what I would have done had she been there. Actually I think I would have stayed and chatted for a while and caught up with what she had been up to and then went to be with Nan. That no-sex liaison we once had wouldn’t thrill me any longer, and Nan is really good in all ways that matter. Well, Min wasn’t there and now there was none of the old girls at all and the place had no pulse at all.
I spent my time there with Nan in the old routine, kind of a semi-GFE. I met up with her around 10PM every night and spend the rest of the evening and all night with her. But it was bye-bye every morning as I’d rather spend my day at the beach reading a book than entertaining a bargirl who is terrified of being struck by sunshine. I think this suited her as well because she knew by now that she could rely on me coming to see her and not trading her for a new girl so there was no point in clinging to me every woken hour. She could go to her loom and sleep instead, which is of course so much better than anything else.
I had a nice break in Hua Hin and then continued my holiday.
Fast forward to last week.
My friend e-mails me from Bangkok where he’s just arrived. He got a phone call from Nan on his second day in the country. You see I had seen Nan on my 2008 trip as well, when I travelled with my same friend who is now in Bangkok. And HE doesn’t discard his 1-2-Call card as I do. And he spent time with a friend of Nan so Nan had his number. Nan has apparently been calling his number once every week for the last 6 months hoping to find him and me back in Thailand. Clever girl.
She’s tried every trick in the book to get me to give her my ordinary phone number or email so we can stay in touch but I just don’t do that. I refuse to give any other way of contact than my temporary 1-2-Call number that I change on every trip. I don’t want any long distance “relationship” with a bargirl even if I don’t send her any money, which I never would. What’s the point? Should I ask her for advice in my daily life perhaps? I don’t think so.
Nan asks my friend if I am with him. She says she’ll come to Bangkok to see me and that she, this is a bit unclear: has made big silicon breasts or is planning to do big silicon breasts and wants to show them to me (Tempting. I might have to check this out one day). He finally convinces her that I am not there with him. He says he’s not sure when I’ll be coming back but says probably not for a long time. Maybe two years. She says she wants me to come sooner and says he is to say hello to me and tell me to come see her.
She then asks him to tell me that she found out that Min is dead. She died recently. Of AIDS.
My friend has no idea who Min is or how I know a girl named Min but he relays the message: Min is dead. Of AIDS.
My immediate thought was that I had sex with Min and that Min died of AIDS. But I soon calm down because I am positive (perhaps not the right word to use in these circumstances – positive) we had sex only that one time. I am also certain (yeah, that felt better) that I had on a condom and that it didn’t break. I know there were no blowjobs or some such activity. Just that one lame intercourse with a blessed condom. And I’ve tested myself since then and got a pass.
I am so glad now to know I wore a condom. I am pleased with the fact that I always put one on, even if I’m wasted from alcohol. I’ve had condoms break and I’ve had bareback BJs (as I’ve heard and read that the odds of getting HIV from BJs is minimal), but I always put on a condom before screwing.
Still, it’s a sobering thought to know that only a thin layer of rubber has been between me and direct contact with, and possible infection by, one of the most feared diseases in the world. Not that that isn’t likely to have happened on more occasions but on such probable occasions I never knew about it.
Next my thoughts turned to Min. Min is dead! Is Min dead? Could Nan have been mistaken and is she in fact talking about some other girl? I don’t think so as she knew very well who Min was. Has she made this up for some reason to trick me to make contact with her? Possible, but I don’t think so. My gut feeling tells me Nan is telling the truth, and I have decided to just accept it as the truth. I won’t try to verify things or ask for details. After all we’re talking about a girl I have known for only about a week over three years ago. As far as I know the sparkling, cute and charming little Min is dead and she died from Aids.
Was she infected when I was with her? I don’t know for sure how HIV/Aids works but it seems likely that if she died from AIDS in 2008 she would have had HIV in 2005.
Did she know? Was this why she was reluctant to have sex? Could she have slept with me knowing she carried this lethal disease? I think back and remember she insisted on a condom even before I reached for one, as I always do. This is not that unusual with bargirls though. There’s just no way to know if she knew. I’d like to think that she didn’t. I’d like to think she wouldn’t have put others (me) at risk if she knew she was sick.
What about the Scotsman? He obviously believed he had a one-man girl in Min. Did he use protection with her? Could he have gotten HIV from Min, the girl of his dreams? Or was he perhaps the one that gave it to her? There’s just no way to know. It’s not like I could try to locate the guy even if I wanted to, I have just seen him across a bar that one evening in 2006. And what would I say to him and what would it matter anyway? He’s probably just one out of many of Min’s customers anyway.
And if Min knew why in hell didn’t she get medication? I know the answer to that. Thailand is not like the west after all. But it’s really a great shame when a young person gets sick and there is medication available that can’t cure them but can prolong their life expectancy by decades and these medications are not provided.
I wrote this down while trying to sort out how I feel about this. It’s a strange feeling really. I have been with many bargirls and few of them have left me so sweet and lasting memories as Min did, even if we barely had sex at all. I had strong feelings for her although I wouldn’t call it love, not real love anyway. I know she liked me the way a bargirl can like a customer but I also know she never loved me.
The thing I feel most is that she deserved better. She was so young and full of life. So cute and charming and funny and seemed really kind too. The kind of girl who was just fun to be around. She must have had her problems, why else would she have worked where she did, but she was never anything but happy and she made those around her happy as well.
Rest In Peace, Min.
If true, it's a sad story, but I wonder if it really is. Nan is, from the sound of it, and with all due respect, a long-term, hardcore bargirl. 3 years minimum in the bar industry and getting a false set of knockers. I would put money on it that Min is alive and most likely healthy… I would hypothesize that Nan is simply being nasty and spiteful.
* It has since been confirmed that Min did in fact die of AIDS related complications.