A Slice Of Life In Downtown Bangkok
This is going back a few months, around February 2008, so peak season was still in full swing and there were plenty of tourists and punters afoot. I was desperately in need of a haircut and I remembered a place where I’d had a decent trim a couple of years back.
So I headed down the Nana BTS stairs and past the entrance to soi 8. There were several tailors to dodge. For some reason I always come in for extra attention from them. I suspect that they see me coming and think “here comes a man who cannot buy his clothes off the rack”. Smile, be polite, keep walking, don’t say anything beyond “no thank you”, and whatever you do don’t shake their hand or slow down. That is, of course, assuming that you don’t actually want a poorly made, ill-fitting and overpriced suit.
I almost kept walking past “Friends Massage and Barber”. It is the kind of place where you really don’t know what the deal is. There is a price list including “oil massage” and haircuts out front, and a bunch of attractive smiling girls sit just inside the window, waving invitingly at anyone who slows down for a look. The format appeared to have changed since my last visit, when they had followed more of a haircut theme, and when there were always at least a few gents inside getting a trim. But my fears were unfounded, as I was offered a haircut as soon as I got through the door.
One of the older and slightly less attractive ladies cut my hair, and she did it excellently considering the grey, thinning mop she had to work with. A couple of the smiling / waving girls half-heartedly offered me a “manicure or pedicure”, but I declined and they went back to touching up their make-up and their regular duties.
About 5 minutes later a punter came down the stairs with an Amazon looking masseuse. The masseuse was wearing tight, cheap grey track pants and matching T-shirt and she had the sort of dark, dark skin that a lot of farangs go ape for. I wanted to sit back and fantasize about getting a regular massage from her where at some point she finds herself overcome with lust and tears off her tracksuit and… But I had a sneaking suspicion that she was a katoey, which scared me just a little and kept the dream in check. She sat down and started to chat with the smiling / waving girls, perhaps an account of the previous massage (what the hell else would they be talking about), but I was having to hold my head still as the silver scissors snapped expertly around my head, and I couldn’t quite make out her hands / neck. A few minutes later she stood up to get herself a glass of water, and there was no Adam’s apple, no big hands, and the hips were definitely wider than the shoulders, even though she looked like she could crack a walnut with her biceps. Hmmm, so where was I again?
But the door opened and a couple of young farangs walked in, guys in their early 20s I guess. They looked like they had parked their skateboards out the front. The smiling / waving girls all swiveled their heads and appeared to approve of what they saw. The Amazon masseuse stood up and motioned the boys towards the stairs. One of the other girls pointed to herself and offered to take over the massage duties “just this once” (I didn’t need to speak Thai to work out what was being said). Everyone laughed, even though the girl making the offer appeared to be very serious.
As they turned back to the window the girls saw that a middle-aged farang gentleman, dressed like he was going on safari, was standing on the footpath and looking inside – perhaps wondering, as I did, just what services were on offer. The girls beckoned to him, but he simply stood there and smiled, so they opened the door. It was one of those awkward moments, until the farang broke the silence and started singing in a lilting Scottish accent “It’s cold out here, me bonny!” I couldn’t quite make out all the words, but even through the general cacophony outside I could tell that he had a fine singing voice. I am not entirely sure if all of the girls picked up on the irony, but they remained silent for a few moments and then fell about laughing. The farang saw that his work was done and moved on.
Which was about the time that my haircut was finished. Happy enough with the result, I tipped the lady 100 baht on top of the 250 listed price and I was on my way.
It's a brave man who heads to those places for a haircut…