The Nail on the Head
This is my first submission (long time listener, first time caller) to this great site.
This site, along with a few others, provide great insight, information, advice, humour and sadness. Thanks to Stickman and all writers who have made contributions here.
I am writing in response to a piece by Crass, titled “No Illusions”. And to thank him for writing a succinct overview of Thailand, perhaps more specifically, of Bangkok today, and just to say a hello (finally), introduce myself and tell you my story.
I’m a Bangkok whore these days. I got to this point just seven years ago and 15 (or thereabouts) visits later. Clearly, I’m no expert on Thailand and don’t purport to be. I’m a sex tourist, and my visits, due to work and budget, last between 7 – 12 days. But I am an experienced traveller, having visiting some 50 odd countries or so, and have a career in government, on the fringes of national security and intelligence, in a field where I meet, question and analyse a whole gamut of people from many different countries and walks of life.
My first two trips were as a tourist…full stop…nothing more. Still, even then, as a single guy travelling alone, approaching 30, I wound up in Patpong one late afternoon (afternoon, WTF?) dodging forklifts setting up for the night's trade. They weren’t my biggest threat it seemed, it was dodgy looking guys emerging from doorways offering “a massage with sec”. And how lucky for me, despite the hour, it just happened to be happy hour at the very area I was looking to dip my toe in the Thai sex scene…purely as a curious tourist at that stage of course.
Up a set of stairs I went into a small room with a bar, a couch or two and 6 or 7 woman, none of whom particularly attracted me. Now it took me a bit of courage to do this believe it or not, and the thought of backing out now, despite the quality, or lack thereof, never occurred to me…nor walking out and going somewhere else, cause I wasn’t even sure if there was somewhere else to go. (Stop your sniggering).
The whole event was rather uninspiring (from her part I hasten to add), so much so that I cant even remember the name of the establishment, the exact location (not that it would be there now), the girl's name, or the cost.
I returned to my roach infested, house of cards, paper thin walls room with a mattress in Khao San Road plotting my adventures south.
Fast forward to late 2008 to a disillusioned me sitting in Golden Beer Bar, then that little bar on the corner of Suk and Soi 5, then Golden again, then Lucky Luke’s, then I’m unsure where, but all afternoon I had been plotting my revenge on Thailand. The airport was closed and I was stuck burning money along with thousands of others…some were making the most of their opportunity (guess there are worse places to be stuck), some were panicking – buses to Phuket, even taxis all the way south at ridiculous prices. Me, nursing a beer, was livid. I was wishing the whole of Bangkok to be burnt to the ground.
As a quick aside, while sitting in Lucky Luke’s, a van pulled in (around 7pm) making some sort of delivery I assumed. Two guys got out and walked directly back out of NEP, disappearing from view. Some minutes had passed and I began to get a little uneasy. In this day and age, terrorism being what it is, a growing Muslim community around the corner (yes, I know, less than 1% are terrorist), a growing African base emerging who are slowly converting to Islam (yes, I know…) and the biggest Islamic state not far south being Indonesia (yes..ok..) I was getting a little uncomfortable. After all, it would be a good, and easy, target. Sorry to be a doomsayer, but with one exit a small bomb to go off at the rear, followed by a larger one 60 seconds later at the exit… Well, I’m writing this…so anyway..
Like many others, I sensed the tide turning well before this fiasco. But the lure of girls and fun kept me hooked. I got stuck for another eight days, pissed at Thailand. When the tourist board started making arrangements to accommodate stranded tourists, I took up the offer, only to be refused at hotels because, a) I was single and could only be offered a room if I was prepared to pay a supplement to compensate for a double room (making it more than what I was already paying), or b) they were full. Funny, at these places I was able to get online and book a room for the next day if I so desired, at a price, of course.
A friendly plea to my hotel, where I had stayed four times previously and was known to staff, for a discount was met with shrugged shoulders, despite the hotel being well below 50% capacity. Blood boiled when after spending the better part of two days queuing to secure a seat on one of the first flights out at around midnight, I wasn’t given any discount for a late check out (6pm). None.
It was at this point I was planning to pen my first submission – working title, “Thailand, I’m breaking up with you.” I was researching Cambodia and the Philippines for my next foray. But, jeez, how things have changed! Thailand is getting worse it seems, doom and gloom litters the Stickman site, and I miss Thailand!
What’s changed? My attitude. I’ve been to some great places over the years and been (un)lucky enough for those to be very hairy situations. Facing guerrillas at gunpoint in Colombia, car bombs, tear gassed, robbed by various and interesting implements, riots, bashed, nefarious dealings with police, a soccer riot in Buenos Aires (perhaps the most scary of all)…all as a tourist. I loved that stuff (in hindsight) but that part of my life was gone, or so I believed. It took a recent work secondment to Mexico for six months right in the midst of the drug war to get my adrenaline running again.
This is just me. I enjoy that seediness and element of danger in a place.
This a quote from Crass that summed it up perfectly for me.
“When you step out the door in Thailand, you better be wired tight or you are in a bind. I am never more alive than when I am here. It has little to do with sexual conquests. It has everything to do with senses and instincts. Every single encounter is a potential scam, shakedown. Every time you spot a cop, you start planning contingencies. Every financial transaction with a vendor is a test. If your mind cannot compute change quickly, you're done. The propensity for violence is underlying everywhere.”
If I could afford the flight, time and cost of living to monger in Tijuana, Cali or Rio then I would go, but for now, Thailand works perfectly thank you very much…and there are worse places to be.
Thanks for reading.
So right, there are many worse places to be.