A difference in expectations, perhaps a misunderstanding, caused me gleeful satisfaction but hidden dangers on my first trip to Thailand.
During my very first trip to Thailand I made Bangkok and soi 5 on the recommendation of a friend my home for two weeks. During this period I naturally sampled the sights, sounds and smells of the area and enjoyed being as deviant as they come. I did however keep it away from the hotel.
Around the said (Royal Benja) hotel I was the personification of gentile self respect. During the numerous breakfasts I chatted to and I felt developed a bit of a fun rapport with the serving staff and the girl on the desk taking room numbers prior to admission into breakfast. Towards the end of my trip a few of the girls were behind the desk and we were having a bit of a chat and a laugh (so I thought anyway) and during the course of this jovial and flirtatious exchange, I wished to augment my display of appreciation at something that was said and I for the briefest of moments touched the arm of the girl closet that had said it. Her arm was quickly withdrawn and all smiles faded. Admonishing followed and instruction issued that one must not touch a Thai lady. My ignorance had embarrassed me but fortunately my complicit and humble backpedaling averted any offence. During the coming days I kept chatting and smiling at the girls and eventually asked the one ho I had touched to go for dinner. She sheepishly agreed and we made arrangements to meet at the side of the hotel that day at the end of her shift. We met up as arranged having shaken off one of her friends who seemed intent upon joining us and made our way to the restaurant which turned out to be the food court in one of the Malls. No problem so far.
I had asked her to take us to the place in which she enjoyed eating so there we went. Following the meal she expressed a wish to do some shopping. I agreed to stay with her and have a look around. So we then spent the next two hours roaming around, trying
things on, changing, offering an opinion, changing again etc etc. At the third hour I thought of just dumping it all and walking off. A consciousness that it would be considerably rude though stopped me in my tracks and ensured that I endure however
much of this she was prepared to dish out. After over three hours of this she headed to the check out with an arm full (yes an arm full) of clothes, cosmetics, scarves etc etc etc. As the girl rang this all up some unintelligible Thai as chattered
and sift glances in my direction made. Once the ringing up and bagging up was complete (another ten minutes) I failed to notice that all attention was on me. My mind as elsewhere and so it did take a moment for this to register and the awkward
silence to permeate my introversion state of flux. When I did notice this silence all eyes were on me, waiting, watching and in an instant I realised that I was being tapped up for this. No more than a silence but one that carried the oppression
and cold weight of someone playing on my nature and consciousness of awkwardness to settle the bill. I became incandescently enraged inside as I realised what was going on and as cool as a cucumber picked up her bags "assuming she had paid"
and made off saying "have you finished in here then, where shall we go now." At which point the cashier naturally called me back to the desk and stated that they were not yet paid for. I had expected this and kept the bags in my arms
and said "sorry I thought you had paid already". This had exactly the desired result and the girl said "I thought you pay" to which I replied with a chuckle, "I am sorry, what ever gave you that impression, I have only
just met you, and invited you to dinner". The girl flushed a deep scarlet while the cashier's eyes narrowed and a wry and dangerous smirk spread across her face as she unpacked the goods with camp flamboyance that would have shamed Quentin
We left the store separately but not before she had passed another cosmetics stand and said "One lipstick only, you lich man".
I did later pop back into the same store to buy a few bits and had an exchange with the checkout girl, who with lots of arm waving and gestures indicated that the hotel girl had been bragging during the ringing up that she had white eyes and was being positively demeaning to the cashier due to the fact that I as paying for it all. When I didn't, the blow to the hotel girl's ego was, I am led to believe, crushing.
Bloody serves her right as well. I do not recommend this though, as my awareness increased a little and time progressed this could have led to some dangerous retribution as I continued my merry way around BKK blissfully unaware of the severity of the put down that I had just playfully issued.
Please chaps be prepared to pay up or be ABSOLUTELY SPECIFIC, and I mean four year old specific, about what you are going to be doing and who is going to be paying. Give them an easy way out right at stage one, deliciously enjoyable though it is, it could get you seriously hurt. There is a lot of venom behind an offended and embarrassed Thai gal.
I had heard that all Thai girls were up for it but some would only accept gifts in lieu as cash made them hookers. Now this is a massive and unfair generalisation which I on principle disagree with but it reminded me of a quote I once heard by I believe Tallulah Bankhead when asked about the situation of actresses striving for success many years ago.. She wittily replied: A peculiar morality prevailed at the time,
We accepted gifts of flowers and chocolates, of gloves and firs and jewels and cars, and houses and yachts and islands, …but NEVER money.
As I left the hotel, another of the girls approached me and touched my arm. She whispered "next time you take me to dinner girl say you buy TOOOOOO much things for her". Perhaps that is what had saved my neck although I doubt she will be shopping with them in that place any time soon. The cashier's honesty would I am sure be too much to contain and would complete the loop such that her only option was to go off and live elsewhere to avoid the looks.
This sort of thing happens rather too often and you should be applauded for refusing to roll over!