The Place of Glass Walls, Wayward Souls and Tickled Fancies
It’s getting dark. I’ve made it out of the soi and am now on the main road. I sneak a quick look behind me, and don’t see any familiar faces. A quick turn left, a few steps down the road, and I’m at the bus stop. I’ll wait here for a while just in case. Right. It looks like the coast is clear. I walk slowly, carefully, down the road. Finally, I spot the turn, and just beyond that, the gate. Another quick, furtive look behind. Nothing. Good. I’m through. Finally, I reach the smoked glass double doors. They open as if by magic…
‘Sawadee, ka!’ beams Noy. ‘We have not seen you for a while. Where would you like to sit?’ while guiding me to a convenient couch. ‘Beer?’
’Yes, Singha beer please.’
She waits patiently till my beer has arrived and I’ve had a swig. Then she points in the general direction of the glassed-off enclosure, affectionately called the ‘goldfish bowl’, and smilingly asks, ‘And now, who would you like for company this evening?’ You see, Noy is the main mamasan here, and her recommendations are as good as gold…
This place is a typical ‘full-service’ massage parlour, sometimes called a Turkish bath house. The locals call it อาบ อบ นวด (arb ob nuad) – loosely translated as massage – or, word-for-word, bathe, bake, massage. There are different pricing levels, but the service you get is all inclusive; a room with a bath and a bed, two hours, and a girl of your choice to accompany you and scrub your back. You can order additional drinks if you so wish.
Do note that these establishments are patronized more by the locals than anyone else. Some are, in fact, promoted as local only; if you’re not local you may be turned away at the door. Many of the larger places feature live musicians and a decent lounge area; you can sit and have a beer or two without the female company if you so desire.
Noy has lined up one or two prospects, pointing; ‘Those two small lady. I think you like. Good attitude, good service. But that one already have baby.’ I guess to some people that would make a difference, but I prefer to go with the attitude.
‘Okay, what about her?’ I point to a slightly larger prospect behind the glass wall.
‘Oh, she good too. Like talk a lot, like drink beer, same same you.’
’Very good, but also have baby.’
‘Never mind, call her over.’
Dang is from Roi-et, she’s thirty and her daughter is eight.
She is pleased I can speak Thai; I am pleased with her cheeky attitude. We’re into the second bottle of beer when she points to another girl just getting up to go out. ‘You like Poo?’ Poo was a prior recommendation of Noy; nice enough girl and a good attitude. I hadn’t realized how thin she was till she got up to come and sit with me. My guess is, Dang has seen me with Poo before.
‘She’s okay, I guess.’
The girls definitely talk among themselves, and just as Noy knows the girls, the girls probably know and discuss their customers. The gist of which ultimately goes back to Noy.
‘Room is ready.’ I settle at the counter and slip Noy a small tip before allowing Dang to lead me up. It keeps me in good stead.
The unfinished bottle of beer has been brought up to the room; I order another two. Dang and I finish one while waiting for the tub to fill. The television was on; Add Carabao was singing. ‘He’s okay, but he sings Peua Chi Wit style.’ She prefers Luk Thung to Puea Chi Wit (Thai country style songs). Luk thung is happy, she says.
Her taste was quite unlike Nok, who loved Carabao songs, and when she found out I had a decent collection on my phone, almost ran my battery flat singing every single song non-stop right through to the end of the session.
Dang also recounted a short stint she had in Singapore; ‘I do all the work, many man, but they keep all the money.’ Lesson learnt.
I remember talking to another of the girls who admitted spending time in Singapore too, but she freelanced around the Orchard Road area. She didn’t go back, either.
Ahhh. Bath time. I used to love splashing around in the bath as a kid with my little rubber ducky. Time and tide, however, wait for no man, and the little rubber ducky is, alas, no more. I now find sharing the bath with a (relatively) nubile young female who is happy to scrub your back and other hard to reach places a much more engaging experience.
It is a given that the massage that follows targets a particular area of the anatomy, and is included as part of the overall package. One does not necessarily have to indulge, though, and apparently (through talking with Dang and others) this service is not always taken advantage of. ‘Many people just want to come and talk and ‘rabai’; (ระบาย – a form of venting anger or frustration by talking to someone else) – we don’t mind.’ When asked if she would ‘finit’, her response was quite tongue-in-cheek. ‘You come here, you finit one time, you go. If I finit every time, maybe after five time I cannot work.’ She is under no illusions as to what her chosen trade involves.
Back downstairs, she says, ‘not many customer today. Can have maybe one more beer?’ I look at Noy. She nods her head. Just one. In the meantime, Poo has come back down and is once more back in the goldfish bowl.
Halfway between sips, Dang nods in the direction of Poo and says’ Her third time today.’ She finishes the beer and goes back in. ‘Don’t forget my number!’ pointing to the tag she wears. I’ll make a note of it.
Noy has now come to see me out, as usual wanting to know if the service was up to par. I assure her it was; I will consult her again the next time anyway. She smiles. Out of the corner of my eye I spot Dang getting up; her number’s been called
And for sure, I bet the girls gossip about guys at least as much as guys gossip about the girls!