Fear and Loathing in Pattaya. Part Five: The Turning Point
I leaned over the hand rail, of the Patio outside Marks condo, and took a long gulp of water from the one liter bottle I’d grabbed out of the fridge. It was four pm; another wasted day in the Land Of Smiles. Nat had only left less than hour ago. I was completely drained; she was voracious when it came to satisfying her sexual needs. It was probably the most physical sex I’d ever had with any woman. It was the fourth time I’d been with her and we’d done it bareback. I should’ve been more careful but it was difficult to resist her magnetic sensuality.
I picked up my phone and inserted my Thai SIM card. It beeped a couple of times as the messages came through. There was one from Fon with her banking details. It was sent at seven forty five pm yesterday. Probably not to long before she’d been assaulted. I felt ashamed. It was mainly because of me that she’d been beaten and raped. I wrote down her details, removed the Thai SIM and replaced it with the Singapore one. I looked out across the skyline as the haze and humidity hung low in the late afternoon. Bangkok, a city that is remorseless as it is relentless. Many a farang had lost it here. A heady mix of the exotic and the erotic; too much booze and too much pussy can turn your head to mush and consume you. I’d been on the runaway train of booze and pussy for too long. This place can become an addiction, for those that don’t keep it together. It was an assault on the senses that slowly, but surely, trampled your emotions and drained your bank account. And, surely, this was weakening me mentally and physically. I needed to do better. A couple of months ago I’d been to a fortune teller, for the first time, outside Hualumphung Temple and, after giving him my birth details, he reached into my soul.
“You are in some ways like a monk, you are generous by nature and you like to help” he told me.
I think he touched something deep inside me. He was right in what he told me. Before arriving in Thailand I’d been heavily involved in martial arts and surfing. I hadn’t had many girlfriends, or female company for that matter, but, after arriving here, that all changed. I was now at war within myself; I found it hard to resist hot looking Thai woman. I suppose most guys that come here feel the same but somewhere, deep down, I knew that this kind of over indulgence was not a recipe for success. I really needed to find a decent girlfriend. I thought of Nat. The fact was I liked her. Why, I don’t know. She was the typical Leo; a sexy bitch. A mixture of pure sensuality, beauty and ego to be sure. I knew she was a whore but she also had a normal job so she wasn’t entirely useless. She had her own condo, and car, so there was potential there. I took another swig of water, picked up my phone and punched in a quick message to Nat. Within a minute, of sending it, my phone was ringing.
“Hello Mike. Are you missing white tiger?” she said with that seductive, husky voice of hers.
‘Yes, I am actually Nat”
“You’re not falling in Love with me are you Mike?”
“Let’s just say that I like you and I’m thinking about you” I replied honestly.
“Okay. Do you want to get together tomorrow night for dinner?” she said enthusiastically.
“I’d love to Nat but I’m going down to Pattaya tomorrow morning” I said feeling weary at the thought of it.
“What are you going to do in Pattaya?” said Nat in a tone that reminded me of my mother.
“I’m going to see what I can do about helping my friend”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea”
“Because there’s a good chance you could get killed, that’s why?” she said with that unquestioned confidence I was beginning to like.
“Possibly, but it’s something I just need to do” I said equally determinedly.
“You are crazy. Your friend has made his own mess. Why do you think you owe him something?” she said.
“It’s difficult to explain but where I come from a guy doesn’t turn his back on a friend who is in trouble” I said thoughtfully.
“You are a good guy Mike and I like you a lot but I think you are making a mistake if you go down there. Please be careful because I really want to see you again. If you get into trouble please call me. I have relatives with influence”
“Okay Nat, I promise I’ll be in touch as soon as I’ve sorted things out”
“Okay Mike, take care”
“And you too, Nat”
I put the phone down and considered what she may have meant by relatives with influence. Who knows, Thai society is hierarchal and is all about connections and gaining influence. Maybe she did know people in high places. I picked up the phone again and dialed in Barry’s number.
“It’s Mike” I said with a neutral tone.
“Are you still in Bangkok?” asked Barry deliberately.
“What about your planned trip to Pattaya?”
“Going tomorrow morning”
“Look, I don’t want there to be any bad feelings between us mate. I’ve given you my recommendation regarding your plan to go down there. I’ll give you your money back or, if you want, I can send Baey down with you as some kind of back-up in case things go pear shaped” said Barry sincerely.
“They already have mate” I said thinking of Fon.
“That girl Fon, I told you about, is in Hospital. She was found last night, in a semi conscious state, on Jomtien Beach. According to a mate of mine, in Pattaya, she’s been beaten and raped”
“How would he know that?” said Barry with a more serious tone.
“He said it was on the local news channel”
“Hmmm, that’s not a good look mate”
“Someone told the police that she has a farang boyfriend who’s unable to be located”
“All the more reason not to go down to Pattaya then Mike”
“I’ve got to go now mate, Fon will need some support after what’s happened. I owe her that at least” I said feeling genuinely concerned.
“And that, Mike, would be the biggest mistake you could ever make in this sad and sorry saga” said Barry.
“Why?” I said feeling a little annoyed with Barry’s seeming lack of compassion.
“Because it’s a set-up, a trap, that’s why Mike”
“Because the fact is, whoever did this could’ve killed her quite easily? They didn’t because they want to draw you out. They know you’ve got some kind of history with her and, just like most farang; you’ve developed some kind of emotional connection with her. That’s what they’re banking on mate; that the soft hearted farang in you will feel guilty for what’s happened and that you’ll go rushing down to Pattaya to offer financial and emotional support. Be warned, the bad guys will be waiting for you”
“Hmmm, okay I see what you’re getting at. I’ve got her bank account number; I could just drop a bit into her account”
“That would be a far smarter option me old china. What time are you thinking of going down there tomorrow?”
“In the morning”
“Do you want Baey to come with you?”
I considered the value of having a local help me do what I needed to do; he would probably be good for close quarter’s observation.
“Okay mate, tell him to be waiting at the entrance to the Nana Hotel at eight am tomorrow morning. I’ll be coming by in a taxi. How will I recognize him?”
“Easy, he’s a fairly thick set looking guy and, no doubt, he’ll probably be the only Thai bloke, with a kit bag, standing at the entrance at eight am”
“Okay mate. Cheers. I’ll keep in touch”
“I know you feel you owe Chris something mate but I’m advising you to always put your own situation first. If you get into trouble with the wrong people or even worse, you run afoul of the law here, you can be sure that you’re going to be creating a world of grief for yourself. As soon as things get beyond your control, I’m telling you to get the heck out of there”
“Okay mate, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind”
“Good luck Mike”
I put down the phone and looked back out to the city sky line. The darkening horizon was threatening rain again; perhaps it was a portent of things to come for me.
“Hey dude, how’s the head” said Mark as he took up a position next to me on the balcony.
“Not too bad. Yourself?” I said knowing that he’d gone at it pretty hard.
“Nothing a good meal and a bit more sleep won’t fix” he said yawning.
“Yeah, a decent feed would go down well. I can feel the call of another Landmark Steak” I said as the stomach began to rumble.
“Sounds like a plan dude” he said as the first drops of the approaching rain front began to hit us.
An hour later we were kicking back at a table in the outdoor patio area, of the Landmark, enjoying a quiet beer and settling into a bit of prime time people watching.
“You thinking of going anywhere tonight dude” said Mark.
“No mate, I’m getting an early night. I’ll be leaving early for Pattaya tomorrow morning” I said thoughtfully.
“Anything I can do to help?” said Mark.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could use that camera of yours and the high powered lens.”
“I guess so. What have you got in mind?”
“Just want to see if I can get a few incriminating shots of that bitch Ning. Look, if something happens and the camera, or lens, gets damaged I’ll reimburse you with full replacement cost” I said.
“Okay dude that seems fair enough”
“Cheers mate” I said as we took a gulp out of our tall beer glasses and took in the twilight zone of lower Sukhumvit.
Literally, it was twilight; the neon was lighting up as the daylight gave way to dusk and, eventually, darkness. Figuratively, the area had a continuous twilight zone feel to it; a make believe world operating within the real world. The world of love for sale and love you as long as the money lasts. Those that live here, for any length of time, see it for what it is; an illusion and nothing more. For the new guys, it’s a candy store. Long termers go through phases of cynicism, boredom and couldn’t care less. I was at the stage of couldn’t care less. I looked across to the opposite side of the road; there was a host of street walkers offering their services to passing male tourists. Glancing back to our side of the road there was a constant stream of ladies, with that certain look about them, heading to their places of social interaction with Khun Farang. That certain look is a demeanor which is a combination of street toughness and disappointment induced, emotional detachment. It’s often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes of most bargirls/hookers/prostitutes show a soul which has been hardened through their exposure to a life without pity. It’s a mindset of switching off to the fact that, when they sell themselves, they lose a little bit of their compassion and that, eventually, their eyes show a soul that’s largely devoid of compassion. And in a soul that’s largely devoid of compassion, there lies a heart that’s largely incapable of giving and receiving love. The capability to give and receive love is replaced by the urgency of the hunt; the hunt for money in exchange for sex. My thoughts returned to the very real question I needed to ask myself, that being “what sort of person does one become from hanging out in bars with prostitutes?” Eventually, does one become a reflection of them? Does something of them become a part of you?
“Hey dude, what’s on your mind?” said Mark.
“Just going through a bit of introspection”
“Chill out dude. It is what it is and nothing more”
“I understand that mate but I think a point comes where you know that being immersed in this doesn’t do one any good. I mean how long can you continue to tell yourself it’s nothing to worry about when the whole thing is basically built on bullshit?” I said reflectively.
“It’s just harmless fun dude” said Mark laughing it off.
“Is it? Have a look at their faces. Most of them look pretty fucking jaded you ask me. It’s a world that’s out of whack mate; it’s unbalanced and artificial. For most of them it’s a world bordering on desperation. The thing is if you hang around in it long enough, how much of it starts to rub off on us?”
“I don’t know dude, I try not to think about it too much. But yeah, there’s always a down side to the short lived excitement of each babe you pay for. I’d hate to think how much I’ve blown on booze and whores man” said mark shaking his head.
“It’s more than that though mate” I said.
“How do you mean dude?”
“It sucks the life out of you physically and emotionally. Immerse yourself in it for long enough and it becomes an addiction; it becomes the only thing that matters in your life. And with that a guy becomes a mirror image of them simply because you start to absorb a lot of the negative aspects of the whole thing. The ways in which you view woman; the ways in which you interact with women. You begin to develop a cynical mindset which sees only the negative and that can carry over into one’s opinions about things in this country which aren’t related to the whoremongering scene. It gives a guy a false image of what this country, and its’ women, are about; the cynical mind begins to convince us that all Thai women here are only interested in money. And that is plainly not correct. We absorb the negative and in the end it’s creates a negative energy field within ourselves. Over the long term that is not a healthy thing. But, that is the karma of it mate. And it’s the same for them. There’s a price to pay for going along the path of darkness; the destruction of our mental and physical well being”
“Fuck dude, that’s pretty deep. Maybe you should shave your head and go sit in a temple for a while”
“Yeah, maybe” I said laughing.
“So what’s the alternative dude? Become a hermit?”
“To be honest mate, I don’t know. Well, I do really”
“Yeah, tell me”
“Find a rich, forty year old Thai Chinese nymphomaniac”
“Hell yeah, I’ll have some of that dude” said Mark as we both laughed.
“It’s gotta be a whole lot better than wasting time and money in shitholes like Nana and Cowboy” I said shaking my head at the thought of it.
“Yeah, well I’m guilty of that as well dude” said Mark nodding in agreement.
“Look mate, I’m not judging anyone. Every guy lives according to his own requirements. My problem is that I’ve just had too much systemized discipline, too much focus on self control, when I was younger and it’s a constant part of me now. I’m always looking at things as though I’m in some kind of physical Zen state of existence and anything, that remotely resembles physically debilitating activities, is going to disrupt that Zen state” I said.
“You’re talking about all the martial arts training you did?”
“Yep; I’m always thinking that I’ve got to be at the peak of physical, and mental, well being. Whoring and boozing always have me at war within myself. It’s like some kind of guilt trip; thinking that I’m losing my self control”
“Jesus dude, you gotta lighten up”
“No, I’ve either gotta let go completely or reject the whore-mongering lifestyle. Otherwise I’ll always be stuck in the grey zone”
“What’s the grey zone?”
“The zone of indecisiveness; of not being one thing or another”
“Well that aint such an easy thing to do when you’re living on Soi four dude”
“No doubt” I said as we continued taking in the ambience of another early evening on lower Sukhumvit.
“Did you ever compete in martial arts?” said Mark as we took another gulp on our beers.
“What I did wasn’t sport mate. It was all about taking people out as quickly as you could. Okinawan Karate is all about striking the vital points of the body; the knees, the groin, the floating ribs, the solar plexus, the throat and the eyes. They do have tournaments but the main focus, in the training, is to end any conflict by disabling your opponent as quickly as possible. The Marquis of Queensbury rules it is not.” I said reflectively.
“Sounds like some fairly nasty shit dude”
“The main philosophy of the training, much like Buddhism, is avoiding confrontation as much as possible but, if it can’t be avoided, then do everything you can to end it quickly. It’s part of their Bushido mindset.”
“I guess it was part of the Samurai tradition; their code. It’s all about honour, integrity, being selfless, and being truthful, even if it means the death of you, defending others that are weaker than you and being willing to die in defense of that which you know is true and correct. If you combine that kind of unflinching mindset with the type of training we used to do, you get a fairly focused and disciplined individual.” I said.
“What sort of training?”
“Doing kata under ice cold waterfalls; training until the point of total exhaustion; smashing piles of bricks and roofing tiles with bare hands and feet. It’s all about developing an unshakable mind that is totally focused and a body that can endure extreme hardship”
“Fuck dude, that’s pretty hard core” said Mark shaking his head.
“The samurai were/are a hard core order. Much like knights in the medieval days”
“Probably the Templar’s” I said considering something that I’d been thinking about earlier.
“Are you up for another beer” said Mark as we finished off the last of the ones we had.
“No mate. If you don’t mind, there’s something I need to do that’s personal. I’ll be back at the condo in a couple of hours if it’s okay with you”
“Sure, no sweat”
Mark took off back towards Soi four as I reached for my phone.
“Hello” said the distinctly Scottish voice at the other end.
“I contacted you a couple of weeks ago by email” I said politely
“Ah yes, I remember. Are you still coming tonight?”
“Yes, I was just calling to confirm that it was still on”
“Yes, we begin at eight. If you haven’t been here before then I’d suggest coming a bit earlier to acquaint yourself with the heads of the order” he said with assuredness.
“Okay, I’ll make my way over there now”
“Good. We’ll look forward to seeing you soon then” he said in a friendly but firm tone.
Forty minutes later the taxi, I was in, pulled up outside a windowless, geometrically square building in an area of Bangkok I’d never been to before. I alighted and, as the taxi sped off into the night, I continued my appraisal of the building I was standing in front of. It was a standard formula for all of its’ type; walls perfectly aligned with the points of the compass and running true North, East, South and West. The only doorway was on the Eastern face of the building with stairs leading up to its elevated entrance. I moved towards the small group that was gathered at the base of the stairs.
“Mike, is it?” said that Scottish voice again.
“Yes” I replied.
“We did a check on your membership number and all seems to be in order” he said as he offered his hand.
I gripped his proffered hand with my fingers positioned correctly for someone of my membership level. He smiled and nodded. I looked towards the doorway again and could see, silhouetted in the bright light beyond, one of the pillars that marks the theoretical Northern and Southern solstices.
“Name the five points of fellowship” said the Scottish voice again.
I turned and faced him steadfastly.
“Hand to hand, foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast and hand over the back” I replied confidently.
“Very good, explain them briefly” he said looking at me calmly.
“Hand to hand, I greet you as a brother. Foot to foot, I will support you in all your laudable undertakings. Knee to knee, the posture of my daily supplications shall remind me of your wants. Breast to breast, your lawful secrets, when entrusted to me as such, I will keep as my own. And hand over back, I will support your character in your absence as well as in your presence.” I said with measured certainty.
“Excellent. Are you ready to go on?”
“Yes” I replied with heart racing.
“Good, we will test your knowledge out here before proceeding then”
“Yes” I replied as my heart continued to pound.
“As a Master Mason, whence you come?”
“Wither directing your course?”
‘What inducement have you to leave the East and go to the West?”
“To seek for that which was lost, which, by your instruction and our own industry, we hope to find”
“What is that which was lost?”
“The genuine secrets of a Master Mason”
“How came they lost?”
“By the untimely death of our Master Hiram Abif”
“Perfect. Let’s proceed then shall we?” said the Scottish voice pointing towards the buildings’ entrance.
As I climbed the stairs my mind went back to the day that Chris and I had both successfully become entered apprentices.