With encouragement from a friend regarding our first experiences in Thailand I decided to jot down a few observations of bygone days in the Kingdom.
I hope it’ll jog the memories of some of my contemporaries here and serve as a historical record to the most recent arrivals.
I know I’m not the oldest person here, but not far off; my experiences in Thailand number many hundreds of stories which I can’t do justice with my feeble literary skills. I’d probably need a ghost writer to help me. Anyway for what it's worth and before Alzheimer's sets in here it is:
Lets go back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. About that time I started to travel to LOS regularly on business. Thailand was officially a “developing nation” and infrastructure and transportation was pretty basic.
My regular trips to BKK from Sydney used to cost me AU$600 return and on most flights there were so many empty seats I could stretch out across 4 of them.
On arrival I’d get through Customs in about 5 minutes.
A lot of taxis were clapped out 10-year old jalopies with holes in the floorboards.
There were hardly any high-rises in the city, none of the 5-star hotels along the river except the Oriental and the other hotels which stood out were the Dusit Thani, Montien and Narai. Sathorn Road still had a canal in the middle.
Farangs were looked up to, admired and respected. The locals didn’t have mercenary attitudes then.
I felt the smiles were genuine and the people curious about farangs and their habits and cultures. I used to look forward to every trip.
Obviously the reasons for my “excursions” were two-fold. Business and pleasure. Fortunately the profits from the business more than covered the cost of pleasure. Particularly because the cost of “sin” in Thailand was cheap as chips in those days. In almost all cases when I had a TGE I was never “charged” a specific amount or even discussed terms in advance and consequently it was always said, “Up to you”.
In fact in many cases I had to slip the money into her handbag when she was in the bathroom and on parting company she would not even know if and how much she’d received.
There was definitely an illusion that she spent time with you because she liked you and you helped her out financially because of her needs and not because she was selling her body.
This “illusion” if you like came about because there were instances occasionally where no matter what I tried I could not get a girl to come with me. Perhaps I was not her type, she had a boyfriend or worked as a waitress and would not go off with customers. So I concluded that they would only go off with you if they liked you because they still had some self-esteem left and did not consider themselves as common prostitutes.
This is a very important point of difference with the working girls of today! Of course I’m not talking about soapy massage places here.
I was in a fortunate position regarding the “scene” that I was going out to places with a local guy called Chai, my main business associate. He spoke good English having been to Oz many times and we developed a long-term friendship that lasted till now even though I retired in 1999. He was about 8 years younger than me, married with 3 daughters. His business was ok when I met him but when I came on board it really took off and he entertained me lavishly whenever I was there. Later I found out that he did the same with others too and in the end all his profits ended up in the coffers of bar owners!
Our regular haunts were the Japanese style hostess bars in Thaniya, between Suriwong and Silom. Chai had a bottle in about 5 different clubs, the HQ being the Sagano, closely followed by the Black Cat and a few others in close vicinity. The Black Cat had a live band where we used to croon with the assistance of a few shots of Black Label and one or two hostesses.
There were more than just the 2 of us as Chai had an entourage of hangers on including Poon, a really nice Thai guy who owned a garage and could not speak of word of English but took a liking to me and took me under his protection. We used to hop into his car to change locations and he showed me his hand gun in the glove box and the iron bar under the seat to relax me in case we encountered some yahoos. There was another Thai guy who went by the name of Chachuan, a bank official who handled Chai’s finances and he was sometimes there for the free ride. A couple of Chinese guys used to show up every now and then to make up a party.
At times when we got bored with the hostess clubs we’d visit Patpong 1 and 2 which were just down the road. In PP2 we liked to go to Cleopatra which had a staircase leading up to it from the street opposite the Italian restaurant and the car park. The manager, Vichai was a friend who used to tell us when new and untouched cargo was available.
Soi Cowboy was in its infancy and Nana did not exist.
Other times for a bit of diversion we’d go to one of the many places along Petchaburi Road.
In those days they still had some multi-level nightclubs over there; one level being a coffee shop with soapy, next one a ballroom type nightclub with a big band and dancing partner hostesses (you buy coupons) and another level with “boran” massage..
The best thing about the nightlife as far as I was concerned that in those days BKK had electricity shortages, black outs and brown outs and all places closed at midnight. We never bothered about bar fines. Just had a ball and at midnight we’d make our selection from the dozens of beauties itching to sample a farang dude. Man, were they crazy about the hair on your arms and the size your noses (and the size of other things, btw). They were fighting each other for a feel! When you selected the one for your nightly romp all the others were jealous and hard done by. It did not hurt that I had film star looks.
The girls were gentle, alluring and accommodating and the guys were responding to that in a way that made for a good mix. Both sides wanted a romantic interlude with the girls hoping for a fairy tale ending and the guys getting the treatment that was long forgotten by western women.
In those days Isaan women weren’t the dominating presence as now. Many girls came from the north and central areas with a sprinkling of southerners. There were many ethnic types, some stunning Khmers.
Because we frequented our regular hangouts repeatedly we were able to get to know some of the girls to the extent where I got invited to their modest apartments to stay over if I wished. They always impressed me with their cleanliness and tidiness despite their meagre finances. This is where I learnt to appreciate their predicaments and genuine hard luck stories which forced them into their profession.
I guess this is why when I’m reading about the scene now and the skulduggery some of the girls get up to I still have remnants of empathy from earlier days.
I can honestly say that in those early years of my visits I hadn’t encountered any mercenary type girl that are a dime a dozen these days.
One of the girls from Sagano was my second pick there in 1980 and although she had a very exotic face and was voluptuous, she was probably only 5 feet tall and quite chubby. Soon enough I found out that she had a 10-month old baby upcountry and she worked to support her baby and her farmer parents.
This girl was an introvert and I guess it attracted me that she did not come on to me at all. Totally unsuitable for a hostess, extremely shy about her job etc. Anyway we started a relationship where I paid for her to attend a hospitality and hotel management course and when she graduated she got a job in the Rajah Hotel. By that time I was on to greener pastures and she met a Japanese guy at work who married her and took her to Japan. I used to get Xmas cards from her for many years in gratitude of her getting a second chance in life.
Several of these girls in the hostess clubs managed to marry Farangs / Japanese / Taiwanese and make the most of their opportunities. I reckon they’d made good wives and mothers. Most of them might even be grandmothers by now come to think of it.
Sometimes I respond to stories here re: the adventures of you guys in LOS these days. Please give me some leeway, when I read them. I tend to forget I’m talking to people who don’t know any different and never had the fortune to experience the delights and romance of the Thailand of bygone days!