Pattaya Memoires 11
11. My friend is Dead …
I got back from Pattaya a couple of weeks ago. In the past I travelled to Thailand almost every month of the year but it never ever was as quiet as it is now. On my first day (of this holiday) in Pattaya, I took a baht bus from South Pattaya Road to Pattaya Klang via Soi Bua Khao. You know the 2 very big bars / restaurants on each corner of the Soi Bua Khao and Soi Diana Inn crossroads, well, at around 11 pm, one of the 2 bars had 1 customer, the other bar had 0 (zero, nada, niks, null, rien, soon) customers. It's unbelievable, these are popular places on a strategic location, but they had no customers. Lots of bars have a just a few, or no living souls at all. It's a sad sad story… There is no doubt this situation is going to force some businesses into bankruptcy. Lots of establishments are simply not earning enough money to cover the monthly costs. Personally I know about one bar, of which I know the owners (or better : the ex-owners), that had to close down last month. I hope for everybody in Pattaya that tourist numbers are going up the next couple of weeks and months and that the "high" season really is "high" on tourists and sales volume. Although I wouldn't bet on that with the financial crisis hitting us and the political problems in Bangkok still not resolved.
This time I stayed at the Sun View Place Hotel in Soi Bua Khao. This hotel was built only three years ago and has 71 rooms. I took a superior room overlooking the pool and Soi Bua Khao. I think only 10 – 20% of the rooms were rented out. I could tell by the way the plastic chairs were arranged on the balconies. There was only 1 cleaning lady for the whole hotel too. When the light in the bathroom was out of order I called the reception desk and just one minute later the maintenance guy was knocking on the door to replace the bulb. Good service, because there were so few farangs staff did everything to make the guests feel good and provide excellent service so customers would come back. I told the manager, a middle aged Thai woman, that I was satisfied with the services and room but that the only minus of the room was that there was no DVD player available. I had a girl in the room who fancied porno movies so it was a real pity I could not play some counterfeit porn DVDs we had purchased from a street vendor. When I checked out of the hotel after a 3-week stay, the manager refunded me one night because I paid too much (I didn't realize this and so I wouldn't have asked for it) and she said that, when I come back at Christmas, a DVD player would be available for me. I appreciated her honesty. I am going to book my stay beforehand and I will ask for the DVD player in my email. I would be surprised if there indeed is a DVD player available when I arrive with Christmas. Well, at least they had good intentions to do something. Ah, Thailand…
It seems like the low season or the trouble in Bangkok does not have any effect on Mr. J. Mr. J has a bar in Soi Bua Khao. Well, kinda. In fact it is a shop with in front seating for about 20 people. It is seldom that he does not have any customers and more than often he has 10 – 20 people on his terrace. Even when surrounding bars have no customers. He also rents out 3 large rooms which are located above the shop. As it is a shop and not a bar the price of a beer (Singha, Tiger or San Mig) is only 45 baht. Mr. J also has a fresh Belgian newspaper every day so many Belgians like to go there in the afternoon to have a drink and a chat and catch up with the news. Mr. J caters to Belgian expats and tourists but he also has an international customer base. On top of that he has some Thai customers as well, buying mostly cigarettes and whiskey.
One of the rooms was rented to an Aussie guy called Jerry. Jerry told me he had some kind of health issue. He could not work and managed to stay in Pattaya for 3 months. I never found out what was wrong with him. He seemed perfectly healthy to me (except maybe for his liver). Jerry is quite a drinker. He always drinks Samsong-nam. When Jerry gets pissed he goes upstairs to his room. He sleeps for a while and a couple of hours later he comes to the bar downstairs and starts drinking again. That is something I would never be able to do. Once in my bed I would just keep on sleeping till the day after or at least till I am more or less sober again. But Jerry went to bed for an hour or 2 and then came back down to drink again. Jerry had a guitar in his room. He couldn't play one note, but he had a guitar. It was a folk steel string acoustic guitar he bought in a music store near Big C. He paid 1,700 baht for it and also got a set of spare strings and a pick or 2. Sometimes, when Jerry was drunk, we put up AC / DC and Jerry would completely freak out putting up a show with his guitar and imitating Angus Young. Hilarious!
Next to Mr. J 's place, there is a barber shop. A couple of hairdressers work there, I believe there are 4. When their work is finished, sometimes Dead, one of the male hairdressers, comes in Mr. J's shop to buy rice whiskey. Sometimes he stays, if there are seats available. His English is basic, but Westerners can talk to him. Of course he can also talk to the girls there, these are the wives and girlfriends of Mr. J's customers. Dead is a typical fun-loving Thai, smiling most of the time. He is 36, good looking and has an athletic body. In fact I believe that when I was there I was the only one able to pronounce his name right. Dead is pronounced with a low tone and long sounding vowel. Most Westerners pronounce his name as "dead", as we know this word in English. Dead could laugh about this saying : "Nooooo, me not "dead", me Dèèèad.
One day I walk in the bar and Jerry was sitting there and he is quite sober. He asks me if I fancy a smoke. I thanked him but I said I had my own cigarettes, as Jerry usually smokes crappy Laotian cigarettes that rip your lungs apart. He explained to me that the cigarette he was thinking about still had to be rolled. He would like to do this upstairs he said, as it was better not to do this in public. It appeared he had some Laotian ganja to enjoy in his room.
Some time ago, during weekdays, I stayed in Holland for my work. Cannabis, weed, and hash are 100% legal in Holland. You can buy cannabis legally everywhere in the so-called "coffee shops". The weed that is sold in coffee shops is actually not natural or biological at all. It is not grown outside but inside, with lamps to keep up the heat. All kind of chemicals are mixed with the growing ground to "spice it up". Regularly I smoke a Dutch joint. I enjoy it I must say. So I was quite wondering what the Laotian ganja would be like. I offered to roll the joint and rolled it as we do it in Holland : cone shaped, whereas in the US and Down Under people roll joints straight, just like regular cigarettes. I had the honour to light it and taste it. It was good I must admit. It tasted light, not too bad and it was a lot softer than the chemically enhanced weeds I am used to smoke in Holland and Belgium. You won't get a hard "blow on the head" or "shot to the brain" from this Laotian shit, but rather a good, subtle feeling of happiness was the result of smoking this naturally grown ganja from Laos. Automatically you put a smile on your face from ear to ear. When we were halfway through the joint Dead came in. Jerry's girlfriend let him in. Dead also rolled a big joint for all of us. "Not same same whiskey", he said and smiled at us :))
So there we were, 2 farangs and a Thai drinking beer, smoking ganja, chatting and laughing and feeling pretty cool. Dead told us the story of his life. He was born in Korat. He was a member of a street gang when he was young. The members of the gang drank a lot, used drugs, were armed and always looking for trouble. He was arrested and ultimately put in a monastery somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where monks took care of him. He also got daily Muay Thai training sessions. He became good at it and has been a boxer for over 10 years. He quit the moment he realized he was never going to be a big champion. But he got his life back on the right track, he learned a lot of things during his time amongst the monks and he still is very grateful. One of the things he learned was hairdressing and so he went first to Bangkok and later to Pattaya to work as a barber. He liked Pattaya because he finds it a completely crazy place. He is not alone :))
Dead has a girlfriend in Pattaya who is about 30, average looking and works in a massage parlour. I didn't ask Dead if she "serviced" Westerners and if so how he felt about that, because I did not know how Dead would react to this and I did not want to offend him or make him lose face. I only saw his girlfriend twice, each time she came to Mr. J's place to check out on Dead because he wasn't coming home after work. Instead, he was drinking whiskey and smoking ganja with a couple of farangs, namely us :))) So when we saw his lady, she didn't seem to be happy at all. But Dead never let things escalate so he went home with her every time without making a fuss. Everybody happy.
So after going to Thailand and Pattaya many times, Dead is actually the first Thai male I had an extended conversation with and who I see and talk to on a regular basis. I like the experience and find it a pity this does not happen more often. This could be my fault because maybe I do not try hard enough, but then again many Thai males do not speak enough English or just don't seem to be interested in some chit-chat with a farang tourist. Our reputation in Pattaya does not do us farangs any good either.
I wish more Thai guys were like Dead …
Yep, Pattaya, like everywhere, is very quiet now.
I would not tell people you partake of illegal drugs in Thailand. The Thai authorities are VERY HARSH in their punishment when it comes to illegal drugs…