An Intellectual Night Out
I'm not a snob and I don't like snobs. I mix with all kinds people from all walks of life. Living in Bangkok you can't be too discriminating otherwise you could end up as a hermit. However occasionally you've got to make some allowances for others. Sometimes I get visitors coming into town and they expect me to show them around the traps.
One of these blokes is a highly educated and well travelled man who has asked me to accompany him to places like Soi Cowboy and just to make it a bit less stressful for me to deal with him all by myself I normally ask a couple of others to come along. Knowing my friend's preference for intellectual discussion and lively debate I searched high and low for people who would give him a run for his money and eventually I managed to find these rare species.
The friend in question, if you could call him that (stretching the point here), happens to be a published author and more than proud of it. The fact that he hasn't been published in the last couple of decades seems not to matter to him as he's still living on past glories. He still likes to scribble things as they crop up during his travels and one of these days he hopes some publisher might actually take a risk on investing in his little ditties.
This is actually only slightly relevant to the anecdote I'm about to relate here, which occurred one night when the four of us went out for a bit of fun in Soi Cowboy…
He and the other two were on a level pegging academically, with me the odd one out being a lowly salesman. However I had one thing that they did not and that was my ability to speak a fair bit of Thai. Quite handy when dealing with all and sundry in the soi. I suppose they would put up with me for the night as a tour guide although even I considered my good self a bit of a writer having published myself on various internet sites. That does not take a Hemingway to accomplish.
So to come to the story before I digress further; It was a December night when we all met up on the Asoke end of the soi with me and Dick the visitor, rolling up in a tuktuk awaiting the arrival of the two highly qualified and suitably degreed expats. Lets call them Robert and Harvey for the purposes of this presentation.
After the introduction pleasantries completed and Dick having sized up his temporary acquaintances, I noticed with relief that he seems to have been satisfied with my choice of companions but with a slight raising of the eyebrows regarding Robert. Maybe it was Robert's gait or weight or some other slight physical imperfection. How would I know? Dick was a picky character anyway, demonstrated by the fact that he never found a suitable mate to share his life with back home. A confirmed self sufficient individual who was happiest when not having to cater to the whims of the opposite sex.
The fact that he liked to visit Thailand and in particular the bar areas only served to confirm that he thought of women as only good for one thing and they were plentiful in Soi Cowboy.
In this regard, even though I'm married, we were on the same page.
With regard to the other two…well they were seasoned regulars in the soi and mostly went there for intellectual pursuits. All in all the evening promised to be a good one and if I was lucky I might even get treated to a few free beers and maybe a bit of crumpet on the side too. Depends whether Dick was in a generous mood and I could get him well and truly sloshed.
The first sign of trouble came when we were about to exit one of the bars for another and the bill came to around a thousand baht. That of course included some ladies drinks who certainly didn't sit in my lap. Not that I didn't have a feel and whathaveyou but that was just a bit of a lark without any intentions if you know what I mean! I mean, after all, I was the bloody guide and not the guided. How the bill came to me to I never know but suffice to say that Dickie bird had no interest in coughing up the money. He said it was "my shout".
A thousand bloody baht was not in my plans for the evening and neither did I borrow enough money from the wife to splash around for some keeneow bastard.
The next thing I know the three highly educated academics left me high and dry sitting on a stool facing the mamasan with multiple slips of chits.
What choice did I have? Zero. I paid with a sigh (getting a receipt, mind you!) and trundled off to catch up to the other three who were already well and truly into it in Long Gun.
On entering the bar and plonking down next to my "friends" they promptly introduced me to the fair maidens: "Hey gals, meet our good friend Mark (they meant that literally!), our host for the evening!"
"Not on your bloody lives!" I said, "Here's my bill for tour guide services" and with that I handed over my receipt from our previous watering hole.
Be careful who you associate with in Bangkok especially high brow intellectuals! 'Nuff said!
There's an interesting message here. With the range of people and nationalities you get in Bangkok, you get a MASSIVE range in incomes and financial situations. You have teachers and some retirees on a tight budget which may be as little as 30,000 baht a month and then you have expats who average, perhaps, 400,000 baht a month – and some of whom think nothing of dropping 10,000 baht or more on a night out. Of course in the case of high-spending holidaymakers, sometimes referred to as "two week millionaires", the sky can be the limit!
My approach is clear. When I am with such a group, I simply make a point of telling the waitress that I want my own bill. That way I pay for what I order and that makes it nice and easy. I much prefer it that way. The system of buying rounds where most are drinking pints works in the West but out here with lady drinks and what not things can get out of kilter fast and when you have a major income disparity, I really think it best that people pay their own way.