Ripped Off On My First Visit But Not What You Think
Unfortunately I have only recently found Stick's readers' submissions….otherwise my guard may well have been attuned to what was about to happen to me. Following a period of returning from the Middle East to the UK back and forth, a friend well-versed in the East suggested that I ought to try Thailand. Shortly after and a little research later I found myself strapped into the jet and heading east for my first visit to the LOS.
As I left immigration my guard was immediately up and I arranged a taxi to the Fortuna Hotel on Soi 5 (same soi as Gulliver's). I left the airport clutching my little slip of paper with the hotel name in Thai having resisted all manner of offers and limo suggestions and was quickly skimming my way into town.
Now I have been around a little and I am rarely taken aback by scenery unless totally different to that experienced before, however my initial impression of Thailand, augmented by the sheer excitement of being here tipped me. I had only been here a matter of minutes and I already loved it. The driver was personable and actually good fun as we winged our way down to Soi 5. I was dropped at the hotel with no trouble whatsoever and with the meter charge only plus tolls (came out to be around three hundred baht if I am not mistaken).
My initial impression of the Fortuna was good. The foyer is modern and fresh and the staff are polite and helpful. Unfortunately the rooms are a bit dire, perfectly adequate if there is nowhere else but they are dirty and old fashioned. I decided to move elsewhere after spending the first night.
I took a walk farther up Soi 5 and found the Royal Benja and booked in there. I got ten nights in a double room with breakfast included for 1500 baht per night which was the same price as the Fortuna. I did expected trouble upon my return to the Fortuna for departure but I had primed them the eve before in anticipation of my departure that my plans may change and I may be leaving in the morning. I expressed my disappointment and thanked them for their service; left a little tip in advance and the chap on the desk chattered in Thai to the girls behind the desk and booked me out only charging for a single night plus breakfast. Where oh where was all this trouble I was expecting?
I began the second evening with dinner in Gulliver’s which I can only say was excellent, and as a result Gulliver’s formed pretty much the staple of my dining for the coming days. I only once had a little issue in that my gammon and chips arrived with no chips. I explained to the waitress who was wholly disinterested, so I called the manager and thanked her for her impeccable service so far, and the high quality of the service and food and then brought up the issue of my chips. Within about 4 minutes I had a heap of steaming hot French fries delivered with a smile.
I then wondered aimlessly around and spent much of the next few days getting various massages, none of which were the infamous soapies. Where were these? I was loathe to accept the persistent offers by the touts and decided to go it alone for a bit and see what turned up. It was about now that I came across Nana entertainment plaza. On initial vision at around lunchtime I was decidedly underwhelmed, all of the hype had led me to believe that this was a booming metropolis, a nucleus of debauchery and attraction. However I was greeted by this grey and drab area which upon walking around seemed most disappointing. I continued to wonder down soi 4 toward the Tobacco monopoly and found some very nice (and cheap) massage places there and time just slipped past as by the time I wandered back past Nana it had undergone a transformation. As the sun had set the plaza had evolved into everything that I had imagined, neon, girls, smoke and all busy with people. Wow! I was once again breath taken.
To cut a lengthening story short, I politely wandered past the touts and very tempting girls outside and popped in to sample the wares on the first floor at my own pace. One place I settled into was Carousel; I was simply amazed at the arrangement and what appeared to be quite a cool place. I had never experienced anything like it and just wanted to drink in the surroundings. The male mamasan wandered over for whom I bought a couple of drinks and got the low down from him / her. A couple of girls wandered over and were quite persistent but nothing too bad. Then this Australian guy sidles up and introduces himself. I introduced myself and we got chatting. We ordered a few drinks, told some lies, had a chat and then decided that he would show me around a bit. I accepted his kind offer and settled the tab before he took me straight up to a place called Casanova to see the ladyboys. Again, I was wide eyed and just drinking it all in. Anyway, he said that he would settle the tab there as I had obliged in Carousel, a decent offer and he got the drinks in.
Now the more experienced among you will be aware of where this was going. After a few rounds he ordered a further round and left for the gents, and at this point that I twigged. A bit slow on the uptake I know, so I sat there for around ten minutes keeping an eye on the gent’s entrance from my elevated location on the back bench. I considered heading down to meet him at the pass but I decided against it after reading a few stories about not starting anything out there. Sure enough, this twat exits the gents and sidles along the wall and out through the door. I just put it down to experience and finished my drink(s). The mamasan (LB) comes across with a pair of ladyboys and asks if there was a problem, seems they had been suspecting that we were playing at something. No I replied, paid the bill with a very large tip and explained what had happened and that the Australian tosser had done a bunk and told them wat I thought of the bloke, also that it was my first time to Bangkok and had so far had a great time apart from the encounter with this knob. Ah well, they gossiped a bit in Thai and gasped and hands over mouth a bit but they did not seen worried as I had settled the tab and was again a chilled out and happy chappy (externally). I did not let it spoil the eve and just carried on with my exploration of the local. I made sure to remember his features though just in case I ever got the chance to express my distaste at his behavior in more discreet surroundings i.e. a different country.
Cutting to a few days later, I was getting into the swing of things and was sat at a road side bar on Sukhumvit around mid afternoon enjoying the world going by and up the road out of soi 4 staggers this Australian, dragging a leg and with an obviously smashed nose and lots of cuts and bruises. No one but no one was helping, just making a path so they would not get his blood on them. As he wandered past the bar I raised my glass in toast! I think he recognized me but as far as I could tell he was on another planet. I wonder if he had tried it on with one person too many without such a placid personality, maybe due to the lack of fuss around the soi he had been sorted out by one of the ladyboys. Who knows but that was a lesson in itself to see him in that state. While reflecting I ordered another JWBL and sat back to contemplate as he dripped all the way up the road.
I am now addicted to Thailand, the people and the culture. I did encounter a bit more of the frustration factor during the remainder of my stay but I just swallowed my pride hard and grinned and it all went away. I am so pleased at the outcome of my first visit and although with only one visit under my belt I am not qualified to pass comment. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly and will definitely be back ASAP
There is karma in this world!