Better Late Than Never – New Years Day Pattaya 2010
Well, that’s another one down the gurgler. Oh nine has come and gone and with it the trials, tribulations, drama, and no end of comedy of watching life go by in the LOS. If you’re a farang/foreigner (or whatever you wish to call anyone that’s
non-Thai), watching the locals go about their business, on a daily basis, ensures there’s certainly never a dull moment. Having lived here for the better part of 15 years I’ve come to realize that there are some things that the locals
do very well – getting into a group and making a lot of noise. And some things they’ve turned into an art form – getting into a huge, chaotic, heaving mass and making an ear splitting noise.
One would think that after being here for so long the appreciation of their abovementioned talents would have been fully absorbed; it is most of the time. On Songkran I can be found safely locked away, for the entire day, in my air-conditioned abode, fridge full of Heinekens, and the rugby channel on. Dull bastard? Probably, but a dull bastard with all his limbs still in place. The thing is (and I often find myself after the event wondering how I came to the misplaced conclusion in the first place) in a moment of short term memory loss – usually induced by a few Heinekens too many – I’ll lose focus and forget just how well they do organized chaos.
And so it was on New Year’s Eve. I think it was somewhere about two thirds of the way down Walking Street, while sandwiched into a seething, sweaty mass of humanity, and inching my way towards the concert platform at the south end of the street, I said to myself – ‘you stupid bugger, will you ever learn’. I had to take part of the blame for the situation I’d got myself into because, in the days leading up to The Big Pattaya Countdown 2010, I’d seen the warning signals. There was the blocked road. The scaffolding. The stage and, up on the stage, a Thai bloke doing the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 thing down a mike connected to some of those huge black speakers; the ones that are always at full blast even though there’s no audience. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 thing is something they never lose enthusiasm for because it seems to go on for hours before they get the tone, or noise level, just right. Anyway, when you see any of that happening, take heed because they’re up to something. Scaffolding, a stage, and the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, thing only mean one thing; chaos, congestion and noise in a public area totally unsuited for chaos, congestion and noise.
In the end I never made it to the “Big Pattaya Countdown 2010” concert finale. Exiting stage left I fought my way back to second road, grabbed four Heinekens from a 7 Eleven, and rode the moped half way up Pattaya Hill where I parked up to watch the fire-works. With the fire-works done, the beers consumed and another year over, I got my head down by one am in anticipation of the required trip to Tuk-Com in the morning.
Eight hours later it was daylight and oh ten. To paraphrase the words of an old classic it was a new dawn, a new day, a new life but, I wasn’t feeling all that good; the hangovers seem to get worse, and last longer, as one gets older. After a shower and a coffee it was time to play dodge and weave, through the traffic jam of Pattaya Tai, on the moped. The high season had definitely kicked in and, as anyone who’s lived in Sin City for any length of time can tell you, trying to get a parking spot along one of the sois next to Tuk-Com is a complete waste of time. It’s much easier to park at Friendship supermarket and walk the hundred meters, or so, to Pattaya’s fabled computer and mobile phone emporium. I was on a mission; after putting up with inferior quality laptops, for the past six years, it was time to buy a Mac Book Pro. First things first though; the obligatory hit of over-priced caffeine at Starbucks. After ordering a double shot espresso, and an oatmeal muffin, it was time to settle in for a bit of prime time people watching from the veranda area that fronts Pattaya Tai.
It’s hard not to be cynical but, having seen so many high seasons come and go, it’s difficult not to be when you see one of Pattaya’s finest towing a bewildered looking newcomer (aka a walking ATM) through the entrance of mobile phone central and up to the sales counters on the first floor. Tuk-Com is probably the perfectly designed shopping mall for the Pattaya ‘working girl’ and I often think that a group of them must have had some input into its design. For the newcomer (aka the walking ATM) once you’re through those doors, and going up that escalator, there’s no escape because all the stairways going back down are behind the first few rows of sales counters. Excuses of being short of cash are quickly neutralized as the steely eyed little vixens will guide you towards the bank of ATMs situated on the ground floor, and just to the right of the stairway to mobile phone heaven.
I sat back and took a measured sip of the espresso. It was noticeably much busier, out on the street, than I’d seen it in days past. It was almost a carnival atmosphere with smiling night fighters (ladies of the night) pulling, pushing, and guiding their cash cows (walking ATMs) towards the mobile phone heaven. Some were reasonable looking but a lot were, to put it bluntly, mai suay. Unfortunately, as I’ve observed so often in the past, the poor old farang often ends up with the ugliest. I didn’t have to wait long before something resembling mutton done up as lamb, shopping bag in hand and walking ATM in tow, turned up at the entrance to Starbucks; perhaps it was time for a coffee after the exhausting round of shopping. The face was pretty enough but the cellulite, hanging below the skin tight hot pants, didn’t do her any favours. What she was wearing was interesting to say the least; a pair of knee high, black leather boots and a black, felt cowboy hat. I suppose advertising does pay and no doubt she’d been hard in the saddle for the past few days; I guess she was trying to tell us that, just like a cowboy, she enjoys a good ride. The walking ATM must have been enjoying it as well because, as young as he was, he looked exhausted; maybe it was all the shopping.
Actually it was a mate of mine who mentioned that, after a few years, these girls have a certain type of look about them. I said they just looked worn out from all the saddle time. He used a biker’s term: “ridden hard and put away wet”. Looking at most of them, it was hard not to agree with his mechanically based assessment. They spend most of their working lives (normally about 10 years) going from one short, high powered thrashing to the next. The cashed up, horny rider (the punter) fueled by alcohol, testosterone, Viagra – and any other combination of drugs – rides it for all it’s worth, over a ten day to two week period, and then just leaves it parked somewhere, usually with minimal maintenance, while he goes looking for a newer, sleeker model. Such is the life of a lady on the game.
Espresso done with, it was time to see what the Apple shop could offer me. Unfortunately it seems that all laptops in the LOS come with Thai language keyboards and to get one without means a two to three week wait. It looked as though another trip to Singapore wasn’t too far away then. A spot of lunch would be the next thing on the agenda and the best place for expat food in Patts is Greg's Kitchen; after 8 years residing here I don’t even waste my time going anywhere else.
Twenty minutes later I was sitting down in the outdoor eating area of Greg’s when the mobile kicks into life. It’s a message from the girlfriend, Ning, who’s presently spending a few days with the family up in Nakhon Nowhere, checking to see what I’m up to no doubt. The relationship has had its ups and downs over the last few months and her status could be currently described as ‘being on thin ice’. Being the opportunistic WOSTEL (Whore On Single Time Extended Leave – a Union Hill original) that she is, Ning decided, during one of my overseas contracts, to take an exploratory leave of absence after a chap, with more money than God, offered her a trial run in China. Unfortunately for Ning the unusually high levels of male hormones, she has in her body, gives her a sex drive which is as close to being a nymphomaniac as I’ve found in Thailand. And, even though she loves piles of money – show me a WOSTEL that doesn’t – the limited libido, of the new sponsor, had her jumping on a flight back after 3 days. It was all a big mistake of course and it was only supposed to be a short holiday – in the end it was – but, I’ve no doubts that, if the guy was hung like Ron Jeremy, I wouldn’t have seen her again.
We were now in a situation like an uneasy truce; neither of us trusted each other but, like in so many relationships that develop between a punter and a bargirl, it’s a matter of wants and needs. I want the bareback sex that she provides and she needs money. Still, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and Pattaya is a place where no man should feel lonely for very long. Another visit to Happy A Go-go might be in order tonight. I’d gone there last night, prior to venturing out onto Walking Street, but had declined the invitation by Fon (#31) to bar fine her for the night. Fon was one of the show girls. She had a killer body – probably the best in Happy – and I’d taken her on a couple of previous occasions. She’d been keen to go but, having hindsight gained from years past, New Year's Eve wasn’t the night to be bar fining a show girl; there were plenty of Japanese punters around willing to pay the twelve hundred Baht just to get her off the dance platform. However, tonight was another night and I might just drop by Happy early in the evening and see if the bar fines are back to normal.
I checked my watch; it was early afternoon; it was time for a massage and sauna. And the best place for a massage and sauna, in Pattaya at least, was Pattaya Sauna down on Naklua Soi 31. Pattaya Sauna is an establishment that’s been around for quite a while and is well known to the expat community as a place where you can get an oil massage with extras. The first time I’d rumbled up there, 7 years previously, I’d had an experience not to forget. Having not been there before, I’d been a bit unsure what to expect. I was assigned a trim looking gal – late 30s – for my massage. As expected, one thing led to another and she eventually got around to taking me in hand. I was expecting that she’d just finish things off in that manner but, to my surprise, she’d stripped off and, in the blink of an eye, climbed on board to relieve herself. She was going bareback and I should have thrown her off but, things being as they were, I took pity on her; it looked as though she hadn’t had a bit for a while. She went completely ballistic and came 3 times before she finished me off with hand and mouth. Such is life in the ‘Land Of Smiles.’
The one hundred and fifty Baht entry fee will get you unlimited use of the saunas, and plunge pools, towels, a plate of sliced fruit and a jug of iced tea. Luxurious it isn’t. An oil massage is three hundred Baht for the hour and any extras will need to be negotiated individually. The lounge area, where you can relax on one of those plastic banana chairs, is covered by an asbestos roof; air-conditioned it is not. The heat generated through the roof, in that lounge area, is almost as hot as that encountered in the saunas. A lot of Thais go there hoping to lose weight through sweating it off in the saunas. They’ve got the added bonus of sweating it out in the lounge area as well. Off to one side is a rough and ready gym; this also has no a/c. Being a bit of a keeneow I’ve realized that I can get a workout, sauna, and trimmings, for just one hundred and fifty Baht; say goodbye to Tony’s! Most of the other expats, lounging around on their banana chairs enjoying their iced tea, probably think I’m a nut job as the sweat pours out of me in that hot, basic gym. Everything is what you make it though. The end result is still the same, or better; a good sweat out in a gym and a bit of weight loss.
Pattaya Sauna is also a bit of an afternoon gathering point for ‘working girls’ as they parade, and preen, themselves in and out of the saunas and plunge pools. Some of them look reasonable but it also has to be said that, in the light of day, a lot of them look fairly nasty compared to the ‘non working girls’ that are there as well. The array of ‘tramp stamps’ (tattoos) they’ve got plastered over their bodies doesn’t do them any favors either.
I paid my hundred and fifty Baht, changed into my workout gear and made my way into the lounge area. If you’re on your own, you’ll be given a banana chair; the tables are for groups. It was mid afternoon and the heat, coming through asbestos roof, was enough to have one sweating while just sitting down. One of the attendants forces himself away from the TV set long enough to plonk a jug of iced tea, and a plate of sliced fruit, on a plastic table next to my allotted banana chair. He looks at me and smiles.
“ Gamlang gai chai mai?” he says nodding towards the gym.
“ Chai krap” I say smiling back.
They know I’m the only farang that’s crazy enough to be hitting the gym in the mid afternoon heat. I take two bottles of Gatorade out of my bag and move towards the workout area. I put the fans on and jump on the stationary bike to warm up, for ten minutes, before hitting the weights. Fifty minutes later, and soaked in sweat, I call it a day; there’ll be no need for a sauna after that effort. I down the last bottle of Gatorade and jump straight into the cold plunge pool.
Back on the banana chair, I check my watch; it’s 4 PM. I’ll chill out for an hour and drink a couple of jugs of iced tea to recover before moving onto the next location of my days planned schedule; the roof top pool at Mike’s Shopping Mall on Beach Road. If you like swimming, as I do, and you aren’t impressed by the ocean around Pattaya, then this is the best value for money public pool in town. Long enough to do laps in, it’s also cleaned regularly and uses an osmosis system instead of chlorine. When in Pattaya, I alternate afternoon swims here with a run from the lighthouse up to the hill top view point that looks out over Pattaya and beyond.
At around 5:30 PM I arrive at poolside to find the place is largely devoid of punters. At this time of year – the high season – it’s usually packed by 1 PM and a seat is hard to find. With the sinking of the sun, and the heat evaporating out of the day, most of the sun worshippers had moved on to begin their nocturnal activities. I sat down at a poolside table and waited for my order of Thai food to arrive. There was a couple of bar girls, a few meters away from me, enjoying a sundowner. They turned and smiled, gave me a chok dee with their Heinekens, and invited me over to join them. Introductions were made and, as I’d originally figured, they both worked in bars on Walking Street. Dao was a dancer at Peppermint Ago-go and Dea worked at the Power Pub.
“You not drink?” asked Dao.
“Not yet, I’m going for a swim in a few minutes” I replied taking a swig of my coffee.
“What you do tonight?” said Dea.
“No plan at the moment. Maybe I’ll head down to Walking Street” I said.
“Power Pub have short time room” said Dea with a cheeky grin.
There was no mucking around with this bird, straight to the point.
“Hmmm, I’ll keep that mind” I replied neutrally.
“You want two lady tonight?” said Dao eye balling me.
“I’ll think about that” I said eye balling her back.
“You have Thai lady?” asked Dea.
I looked at both of them. They were in their early 20s and, no doubt, would have Thai boyfriends.
“Maybe. Where are your Thai boyfriends?” I asked.
“No, not have” they both replied unconvincingly.
Lying wasn’t an art form to them yet.
“It’s okay. I know that 95% of bar lady have Thai boyfriend” I said as a matter of fact.
“Maybe 100%” said Dao smiling as my food arrived.
“Okay, I know where to go if I want to see you” I said as I got up to go back over to my own table.
“Chok dee, ka” they both said in unison as I moved off.
They were friendly enough but it was just the same old sales pitch; money for sex. I’d got to the point now where, if I was going to pay for it, then I wanted the best that was on offer. Dao and Dea had the standard Isarn bar girl figures; short, slightly plump and no curves. Fon was a far better option.
I finished off my fried rice and then jumped into the pool for an easy 15-minute swim. By the time I was done the setting sun had been replaced by the encroaching night and, apart from yours truly, the pool area was punter-less. I had a quick shower and then gunned my moped towards my final pit stop for the day; a parking lot at one of the back entrances to Walking Street. Off Second Road, and where the Arab section begins, there’s a type of one way ring road that swings in behind Walking Street and connects via an alley way that’s straddled by a number of bars including the Blues Factory. On the left, and at the beginning of the alley way, is an outdoor seafood restaurant. It’s a bit cheaper than the restaurants along the seafront, on Walking Street, but it’s still got the same line-up of live produce swimming around, in fish tanks, to select from. It also happens to be an excellent spot for a bit of prime time people watching as the ladies of the night make their way to their places of employment.
I sat down at one of the front row tables, and ordered a Heineken, and checked my watch; it was 7 PM. I’d be here for an hour before heading off to Happy A Go-go. I took a long gulp of my first cold beer for the day and sat back to enjoy the view; go-go dancers, katoeys and East Euro ladies being the predominant entertainment. There was a small lane way, almost directly opposite to where I was sitting, that led off to the right; it was a short cut to Soi Happy. Every now and again one of the hotter looking passers-by would veer off to that laneway; I had a fairly good idea that they were dancers at Happy Ago-go.
I’ve been a go-go bar enthusiast ever since I got here. I guess it’s just different strokes for different folks and some guys prefer the more casual atmosphere of a beer bar but I’ve always preferred to be able to see what you’re actually going to get before you bar fine it. That’s the advantage of a go-go bar over a beer bar; one gets to see the goods in the flesh before parting with any cash. I guess that’s why the better looking girls end up working in go-go bars; they’ve got to expose themselves, on the dance platform, and generally have less bodily defects than the ladies working in the beer bars. The thing is, of course, that the better looking ladies attract far more attention, from both farang and Thai, than their less attractive sisters. Take it as a given that an attractive go-go dancer, in her early 20s, will almost certainly have a Thai boyfriend and, maybe, a couple of farang sponsors somewhere. These girls are definitely not relationship material; money is the name of their game. It’s usually when they get older, and they’ve had a child, or two, that the Thai boys lose interest. You can be sure that if a hot one, you’ve taken a liking to, will only do short times or, she’s got to leave early every morning, then she’s almost definitely got a Thai boyfriend. Most of them don’t even like farang – it’s only about the money – and far prefer to be with their own kind (this is quite understandable given language and cultural differences). Once they’ve done their short times they’ll head off to a Thai disco, or Karaoke bar, and party on with their young Thai male friends. Be warned; some even pay to have sex with young Thai males that work in gay bars and trying to go bareback, with one of these ladies, is complete recklessness. Not all are like this but, if you’re a person who can remain objective about the whole situation, <Very few people involved in the bar industry can remain objective – Stick> regarding the activities of go-go dancers, then it’s not too hard to comprehend why they would prefer the fit, muscular body, of a young Thai male, over the aged, and overweight figure, of an older farang. Ladies with tattoos and a penchant for hard liquor, and drugs, are an even riskier proposition.
I finished my beer and checked my watch; it was almost 8 PM. It was time to make a move to Happy ago-go. If I didn’t get there before 8:30, without doubt Fon would be bar fined already. I paid my bill and took the short cut to Soi Happy arriving at the entrance to find the music had just started and the girls were all filing up onto the dance platform; Fon was amongst them. A waiter guided me to my favourite table where I ordered a Jack and Coke. I looked towards the crowded dance platform. Fon smiled at me and indicated she wanted a drink. She was one of the good ones; no tattoos and only drank orange juice. She was the hottest showgirl in Happy but was devoid of the attitude that so many of the hot ones seem to develop. I smiled the smile of a contented expat in Asia. It was New Year’s Day and, for all intents and purposes, it was a good way to begin the year. Little did I know what was to come?
Very nice indeed – and don't be shy getting part 2 to us! What happens with Fon?!
Excellent point about the need to be objective. This is something that *most* people with involvement in the bargirl industry struggle with. If you're truly objective, you quickly see it for what it is!