Drunk in Charge of a Credit Card – Angeles City via Kuala Lumpur
I was recently in Angeles for a couple of weeks. I am an old Thai hand who went back to the UK and when the boredom hits me I go to the Air Asia site and see if there are any cheap flights to KL and then Clark. The last time I did it I was in a drunken haze and thought why not, at those prices (Standstead to KL for less that 350 quid return and another thirty quid each leg of the KL to Clark flight). I left the print-outs for later examination in the morning, just in case my sixty year-old head forgot all about it once sobered up.
In the UK, I own my own house and have a pile of cash in the bank, plus a personal pension fund for when the cash runs out in maybe ten years time, so I am in an enviable position. No ex-wives (or current) to fund, kids old enough to look after themselves and a few minor amusements to keep me busy (I don't have to work)… but from time to time the boredom does set in and I get to thinking about those Thai and Filipina babes, sexual energy kicks in and the next thing I know I am wondering how to get to Standstead from where I live. For various reasons, including death threats, Thailand is off the menu. <Expanding on this could make for an interesting submission! – Stick>
The only reason I ever went to KL in the first place, doing a visa run (one year multi-entry visa) when I was living in Thailand with a babe – cheap Air Asia flights and no visa hassles meant I could take the lady with me for a few days on what passed for loose change. Having identical visa stamps in the passport also helped when I wanted to get her a visitor's visa for the UK. I got a somewhat stony reception in places wandering around with a thirty year-old Thai gal, although unlike many I did insist she cover up most of her body to placate our Muslim hosts. Going alone this time people were a touch more friendly and I think generally the Malaysians tend to be a bit more reserved until they suss out you are not some rampaging lunatic from the West. Using the same restaurant or Starbucks a few times, the staff became a lot friendlier after they decided I was, after all, a civilized human being. Food is available to suit all sorts of tastes, from native through Thai to good old fish and chips.
Overall impression I got from wandering around, doing ten mile walks every day, was that the natives were a lot happier and contented than their Thai counterparts and there was little barely restrained violence or inherent dislike towards foreigners. English is widely spoken though with an often strange accent and it is a very walkable and safe place, though there are stories on the internet about muggings I never felt threatened in any way. I did get completely lost a couple of times but got on one of the skytrains back to an area I knew.
I also thought the vendors surprisingly honest, insisting on giving me a ten to thirty percent discount even before I'd asked and clothing was both cheaper and of a higher quality than in Thailand. The cheaper stuff was often found in the air-conditioned malls like Times Square or Sogo Department store rather the couple of touristy street markets which were a bit like the one in Patpong, requiring hard bargaining.
As I had Angeles City to look forward to, I never bothered looking into the nightlife which seems to get going from midnight onwards, when I am safely asleep. Some other Stick contributor mentioned a couple of places to go, so look it up. I did have one thirty-something Filipina sales lady try to chat me up but her ruined body wasn't to my taste (by UK standards she would have had the guys all over her) and had a passing skirmish with a Filipina lady-boy hairdresser who was thirty and had not aged well. She/he went from wanting to cut my hair to moving in with me in about two minutes of conversation, then accused me of being gay and asked why I did not want to try a ladyboy… too dangerous, said I, meaning the sex which left her somewhere between anger and confusion. There were plenty of notices in shops for job vacancies, salaries about twice what they are in Bangkok… so maybe an attractive place for Thais and Filipinos to work.
Whilst Korski is as usual correct about Malays having very round faces, often exaggerated by their Muslim head gear in a horrible shade of beige, there is such a diversity of ethnic types, that many of the populace break out of this stereotype. An interesting and most pleasant phenomenon observed, the more attractive the girl the more likely she was to smile at me – some awfully chubby and ugly young ladies, scowled and deepened their facial lines into yet more ugliness. It may have been an uncontrollable reaction in my own facial contours that prompted these reactions; whenever I get close to a beautiful woman I have been told I break out in a big grin but I am not aware of it! God knows what happens to my face when I spot an ugly one…
I did note that some of the young ladies had a marvelous complexion, slightly off-white and almost translucent, matched by beautiful chiseled features that had something of the Arab in them… some merging of genes that was perfectly formed to my tastes. With a forty year age gap I am afraid I was not going to provoke an international incident trying to chat them up – coward, I know, but you don't get to sixty without knowing your limits.
So a few days in KL to get over the fourteen hour flight and then off to Clark – it leaves at 7.30am so I had to check out of the cheap but perfectly adequate hotel (ten quid a night) and trust my luck to the local Indian taxi drivers. That reminds me, exchange rates at the booths are extremely variable (the banks are hopeless) so it pays to wander around the Indian section of town to get the best rate. The taxi cost ten ringit (about two quid) as there is a fifty percent surcharge after midnight to get to the KLSentral bus station where it cost another nine rigit to take the bus to the airport (you can also take the train and then a shuttle bus from the main airport to the low cost airport that Air Asia flies out of). If I have the time, I usually take the mono-rail from KLSentral to the hotel and back).
After a pleasant four hour flight to Clark, a quick stamp in the passport and a non-existent customs check (if you are a white Westerner), it was into a taxi for a 300 peso, five minute ride over to Fields. A bit of a rip-off distance wise but so hassle free I can't really begrudge it. Well, usually, this time the driver wanted a tip and was not amused when I gave him the correct money, told him it was expensive already. Most first-timers are recommended to stay right in Fields, in places like Central Park hotel, but the quality of the rooms for $35 dollars a night are very poor – and this is considered to be a good value hotel by local standards!
I found an apartelle five minutes away (thirty seconds to the nearest bar, though) that worked out at 1000 peso a day if I paid for two weeks in advance. Much nicer, more modern room with free Wi-Fi – and also five storey rather than Central Park's mere two storeys, most important to get a high floor if the mosquitoes have a taste for your blood. Sorry, but I am not going to name it as it would soon be overbooked! But there are many such places a mere five to ten minutes from the main drag.
The general ambience on Fields is quite good by Filipino standards but Angeles City itself does not encourage people to walk any great distance – one day there were reports of two foreigners being killed outside the Marquee Mall, which in theory was about half an hour's walk from Fields… never tried it, always walked about ten minutes to the much larger SM Mall – a good shopping experience, it soon gets boring doing it every day which is what a lot of guys end up doing.
In the night, the rather lethargic local police, bloated on the easy bribes from the bar owners, drive up and down Fields Avenue in a golf trolley but seem to have no interest in the punters at all but their presence does completely deter any street crime, which compared to most city areas in the country is a minor miracle. Too much easy money around.
Fields, and the surrounding alleys, have 100 or more bars. If you walk out of Fields in the direction of the SM Mall, there are yet more bars all the way up to Perimeter Road, which is a local expat hang out, mostly run by friendly Americans. One night, I set out at 7.30pm to walk all the way from Fields to the end of Perimeter Road. There are plenty of vacant lots which are kinda spooky, dodgy looking characters hanging out and maybe another fifty bars to visit. I only poked my head into most of them, had about four beers by the time I got to the end of the line. Compared to Fields there was a dearth of beautiful women, I guess the local expats grab the good ones as soon as they turn up. Both beer at 60 peso a bottle and the girls at 1000-1200 peso (includes payment for the barfine and the gal) are cheaper than the main drag. I took a trike back at 60 peso and was amazed how far I'd walked. Do not do that walk late at night if at all…
Anyone used to Cowboy or Nana or Pattaya bars will feel right at home on the main Fields drag, same kinda scene with the same kind of huge variety of women, with the added perplexity of a hundred or two virgins… well, impossible to tell how many but each day I ended up buying one a drink – not because I wanted to break in a virgin but because I usually sat next to the bar and got into eye contact with who I thought was the most beautiful babe in the joint, and gestured for her to come sit next to me. Yep, usually, turned out to be 18-20 year-old a virgin! Ladies drinks are around the 140 peso mark, beer just under 100 peso – if you convert that into baht it is not expensive by Thai go-go standards.
It would have saved a lot of money to buy the mamasan a drink and get her to weed out the virgins for me so that I could find the hot girls who were actually barfineable. The virgins do have a red V on their ID card but it is too small to see from a distance. I try to avoid the mamasans because they expect a commission from the gals when they set them up with a guy and they are also often rather nasty to the girls, loaning them money at high interest rates and even loaning money to their parents. Same thing happens in Thailand sometimes.
But by far the worst part is when they go to the province to recruit young virgins who know nothing about the scene and get taken in by the apparent friendliness of the mamasan. By the time the gal gets her 1000 dollars for her virginity she often loses half or more to the mamasan who has got her in debt and also tries to stop her going with guys who want her to finish with bar. Ironic that the mamasan warns her off many farang whilst at the same time ripping her off. Mamasans who are married to the foreign owner of the bar are usually much kinder to the the gals than mamasans who are married to local Filipinos, sometimes even married to police!
You have to be realistic, as a sixty year-old male I would love to marry a twenty year-old virgin but it is a disaster in the making if you take her back to the West… and the PI isn't somewhere I would want to live for more than a couple of weeks. I didn't see any attractive 20-something virgins, there were some virgins around in that category but my reaction at their appearance was I am not surprised that no-one wants to f..k them.
I had a run in with a girl I suspected was too educated for Angeles city, she was wearing street clothes and claimed to be a friend of one of the dancers… I got rid of her – lovely scowl – by getting a dancer to sit with me for a drink. She was twenty-five but looked a lot younger… later I caught the scowler across the bar trying to take a photo of us, but the light was against her so I doubt if it worked. Either some kinda of NGO bitch or police undercover…
Day three, sure enough, a police raid went down. Manila cops, looking a lot meaner and tougher than the locals, most in camo with machine guns. They closed down three bars that night and two a few nights later. One foreigner arrested and hundreds of girls saved (detained) by the police. It was supposed to stop human trafficking but later reports suggested the cops were more interested in getting money off the girls and those that didn't have any money were offered the chance of handing over half their salary for the next three months. Twenty-odd under-aged girls were found in one bar… later it turned out they all had birth certificates saying they were over 18, but after having their teeth checked for age (not making this up!) and a bit of persuasion they admitted that they were under 18. I certainly had not seen 20 gals in that bar who looked under 18.
Before the raid, which went down after eleven o'clock, I was bar-hopping between 7.30pm and midnight – six to seven San Miguels a night. After the first raid I decided to play from 7.00pm to 10.30am and avoided the second raid that way and cut my beer back to five or six bottles a day. No problem finding women for one-nighters, they were as keen as myself to avoid the bars later in the night. Cost was 1300-1500 peso for the barfine/sex with a 100 peso taxi money tip in the morning.
Some of the stunners in the bigger bars are priced at twice that and also demand an alcoholic lady's drink at twice the going rate – these were recognizable by the colour of their number cards and thus easily avoided. Virgins I found out later often wear a different kinda outfit but I still don't really have that sussed, and anyway did not resent buying them a drink as many were absolutely gorgeous in appearance and lovely in character. Oh, I wish I was twenty-something again! Not surprisingly, a lot of the good ones end up marrying the guys who take their cherry and are never seen in the bar again.
I have no complaints about the quality of the (20-25 year-old) Filipinas I barfined nor their willingness to do anything I wanted sexually… but I never came across one who impressed me enough to want to take her for a second night. I think Thais are more Oriental in looks and mindset, and the less exotic Filipinas with a louder outlook tend to annoy me after about twelve hours of sex and sleep and talk. That is just me, others rave over them.
I think a lot of visitors were freaked out to see heavily armed police all over Fields and a couple of truck-loads of girls taken away, even the customers weren't let out of the bar for an hour or two, until the police had finished their inspection. Apparently, there is a lot of American aid money contingent on the Philippines doing something about human trafficking so yet more raids are on the cards. Doing something about the way the mamasans exploit the girls would not be a bad thing… and, alas, about forty percent of the attractive gals have local boyfriend-pimps… nowhere near as bad as Thailand but still potentially nasty if you upset the wrong gal.
SM Mall on the weekends is a hellhole, huge numbers of boisterous kids running and screaming all over the place – their parents have not got a clue about how to bring up kids and feed them full of junk food, a disaster waiting to happen in the future. Filipino food isn't much cop either, I ended up eating chicken nuggets twice a day from the dreaded McDonalds, occasionally fried chicken and rice from KFC (okay in the afternoon as they have sold all of yesterday's chicken by then)… tried a few dishes in the local chains but absolutely disgusting. Good supermarket in SM with plenty of fresh fruit for an afternoon snack back at the room. I dare not go into the neon without a solid bit of food in my stomach to absorb the alcohol.
After two weeks of junk food (never eat it in the UK or Thailand), too many beers every night and nowhere to walk my usual five to ten miles a day, I had put on a good inch around the waist – it would have been worse if I was not burning some of it off with sex! So next time I will limit my stay to ten days – it is not the kinda place where you would want to be sober in the night (I don't drink in the day).
Luckily, I had another week to look forward to in KL, ten mile walks every day, no beer and reasonable food got my waist back down under thirty inches. And yes, there are an awful lot of elderly guys in Angeles who looked completely wrecked on the beer and food and heat and humidity. Angeles is great for sating sexual urges – for the moment, about thirty percent of their income comes from tourism but there is also a fast expanding free-trade area and once the revenue from that gets yet bigger you can expect Fields to go the way of the old Ermita bar area in Manila – completely closed down except for some Thermae-like freelancer joints.
If you are used to Thailand you probably won't like most of the Philippines but can find some sexual solace in Angeles but even there, if you are over fifty, the neon lifestyle will ruin you in short order. I won't say no more Angeles but next time I am drunk in charge of a credit card and bored out of my head I will probably be looking at Air Asia flights to Phnom Penh… but I could quite happily live in Kuala Lumpur, just have to rent out my house and… just heard from Angeles that the police in paramilitary gear, sporting machine guns and shotguns, have now erected checkpoints into the main Fields drag and if you barfine a girl you can't leave with her, have to wait for her to come alone to the hotel. And the mayor has sacked a particularly corrupt police chief, so it looks like it is going back to its wild west days!
Angeles really does sound very one-dimensional. At least in Thailand there are a lot of things to do apart from drinking and chasing women.