Fear and Loathing in Pattaya. Part Three: The City Of Angels
I must have been really out to it because the next thing that I was aware off was the driver giving me a shake and telling me that we were nearly at the On Nut BTS. I felt better but knew that a few more hours sleep would be in order as the cab pulled up alongside the Tesco shopping center, at On Nut, and I climbed out. The driver pulled my bags from the trunk and deposited them on the curbside as I got my bearings and stretched. I handed him a one hundred baht tip and after a quick khop Kun Krap (thank you), he was on his way. I grabbed my still damp bags and headed towards the stairway up to the BTS platform. It was nearly ten pm; the driver had made good time. On Nut is the Eastern terminal point of the East to West sky train line that runs through the heart of Bangkok. It runs directly above Sukhumvit Road and has stations positioned at all major points’ right through to Siam Square and beyond. The train pulled up, the doors opened and I stepped into an almost empty carriage. There were plenty of seats available as I sat down and settled in for the ten minute ride to my intended hopping off point; Nana station. As the train rumbled down the line I took in the bright lights of Bangkok. It was all a bit surreal; a few hours ago I was chilling out in Pattaya. Quite suddenly, I’d made a rapid exit from that easy paced sea side resort into the City of Angels; one of the world’s most vibrant and chaotic metropolis’.
I got off at Nana and ambled along the wide footpath towards the junction of Sukhumvit and Soi four. The rain had stopped but, judging by the large puddles everywhere, there must have been a decent downpour earlier in the evening. As I rounded the corner I saw that, even though it might have been the wet season, there was still plenty of activity on this infamous stretch of Bangkok’s streets. The one hundred meters of soi, and real estate, which run from the intersection, at Sukhumvit, down to the Dynasty Inn was a congested mass of human interaction. The focal points being the Nana Plaza Entertainment complex – with its beer bars and go-go bars full of ‘working girls’- and, on the opposite side of the road, the car park, belonging to the Nana Hotel, overflowing with freelance ‘working girls’, Katoeys (transsexuals), tuktuks, motorbike taxis, touts, hawkers carts – with everything from barbecued squid to deep fried locusts to eat – and, last but not least, the foreign tourists, who’s ready flow of cash, keeps the whole mad mess ticking over. Ten meters, or so, beyond the corner I stopped and flagged down a metered taxi.
“Tai soi krap (end of the street thanks)” I said opening the door and looking at the driver.
He nodded, and gave me a grunt of acceptance, as I pushed my bags across the rear seat, got in, and closed the door. As the taxi inched forward through the chaos and congestion, cluttering the road between Nana Plaza and the Nana Hotel car park, I had a bit of a chuckle. The driver probably thought I was just another crazy farang but I was just reflecting on the very real fact that just because you flag down a taxi in Bangkok, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get a ride. Unlike most cities in the western world, where we take it for granted that a hailed taxi almost guarantees you a ride to your intended destination, getting a cab ride in Bangkok can be a bit of a lottery. A cab will stop when you flag it down but there can, and often is, a whole host reasons why the driver doesn’t want to take you: it’s the wrong time of day and the roads are congested – this problem is often quickly solved by paying a much higher fare than what the metered fare would be. It’s too far and the driver is hungry – again that can be resolved by applying the negotiated price system. Or, the driver will simply tell you that the taxi is not operating on the meter and that it’s a negotiated fare only. This is a normal situation when it’s late at night and you stumble out of a night club, or bar, somewhere. As we pulled clear of the congestion and picked up speed, I opened my phone and found the speed dial for Mark’s number.
“Hey dude, where are you?”
“Nearly there buddy, the taxi is about five hundred meters from the drive way into your apartment block”
“Okay, I’ll meet you down in the parking bay shortly”.
“Will do, see you in a bit” I said and hung up.
I instructed the driver where to turn in and the security guards waved us through. Mark was standing there waiting and as I climbed out of the taxi he hit me with his usual greeting and an easy going Californian smile.
“Hey dude, great to see you again”
I turned, smiled and stuck out my hand. People could be deceived into thinking that, just because he was laid back, he was a bit of a wimp. Nothing could be further from the truth; he shook my hand with a power grip which was testament to the fact that he was a gym junkie and fitness fanatic. He might have been fifty but he was in great shape.
“I see your still working out on a regular basis” I said.
“Yeah, it stops the boredom from setting in”
“Good to see you buddy; I’ll just get my bags”
“No problems. I’ve got a couple of cold Heinekens in the fridge”
“They’ll go down bloody well mate, I can assure you of that” I said as I picked up my bags and we moved off towards the entrance of the apartment building.
He entered the security code and we pushed our way through the double doors into the empty lift well area. The lift arrived and we stepped in for the ride up to Mark’s apartment on the fifteenth floor. We entered his apartment and I dropped my bags in the spare room.
“You want that cold Heineken now dude?”
“Absolutely, I’ll get my gear sorted out later”
I grabbed the cold can and we walked out to the balcony.
“You’ve still got one of the best views of the city I’ve seen anywhere” I said as I as popped the can and leaned over the handrail to take in the blinking, shimmering lights of the city surrounding us.
“What’s going down dude?”
“What makes you think that something is going down?” I said admiring his intuition.
“Dude, I’ve known you for a few years now and this sudden arrival is a little out of character. You normally always arrive in Bangkok at midday with at least a few days warning. So what’s the scoop?”
I took a pull from my beer.
‘Some shit has happened to a mate of mine in Pattaya and it has the potential to get a lot murkier” I said.
“Do you want to talk about it dude?”
“A couple of days ago a good mate of mine, Chris Lane, was shot in a drive by, late at night, on his way home from work. Luckily, he survived the attempted hit. The thing is though that, nine times out of ten, a hit on a farang is always traced back to a business partner or greedy wife, or girlfriend” I said.
“So you think it’s his girlfriend then?”
“I’m fairly certain”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Since the shooting I’ve found out a couple of things about her that point towards the definite possibility of her having a part to play in the attempted hit”
Like the fact that she’s got large gambling debts. Like the fact that Chris took out a substantial life insurance policy, with her being the sole recipient, in the event of his death. Like the fact that she’s the major Thai shareholder in his very successful business. And, like the fact that that she’s got a Thai boyfriend who also happens to be a cop”
“Holy shit, what has that got to do with you though?”
“Well, I was down at Snappy a go-go last night with a mate, a guy by the name of Brian. We were having a couple of beers and, in the course of doing so, the conversation drifted onto the subject of Chris and his near miss. The thing is that Brian knows about Chris’s wife, Ning, and her gambling debts” I said.
“That could just be street gossip. Anyway, what’s that got to do with you being here now?” said Mark quizzically.
“Patience buddy. I’m cutting through these Heinekens at a rapid rate, have you got any more in that fridge of yours?” I said.
“Does a Bear shit in the woods?”
Mark handed me another cold Heineken.
“You were saying”
“Anyway, while we were talking I had a lady sitting next to me, one that I’d spent a wild night with a couple of months earlier, who knows Ning as well” I said.
“Where does she fit into the equation?”
“Within seconds of Brian giving me the tip off about Ning’s gambling debts Fon, the babe sitting with me, confirmed that it was something she also knew about. She further added that Ning had a Thai boyfriend who was a member of the local constabulary”
“Okay, I’m starting to think that there could be something in this. I still don’t understand how this relates to you though”
“Earlier today I stopped by the hospital to check up on Chris, to see how he was doing. While I was there he told me that the cop, who he believes is Ning’s brother, was in earlier and asking a few questions about the incident”
“Well, he might have been genuinely looking into the case”
“At that point I might have given him the benefit of the doubt. However, it was what Chris mentioned after that that got my alarm bells ringing”
“Why, what did he say?”
“He asked Chris if he knew where my apartment was”
“Well dude that could just be routine. He might just want to ask you some simple questions”
“I naively thought that for a while as well. It was Brian that made me take a serious rain check on that theory though”
“Brian could be reading too much into the situation dude”
“No. What he said made perfect sense. It just didn’t add up. I was out of the country when the attempted hit on Chris took place. I’ve got absolutely no involvement in what occurred and Chris could tell him that much anyway. It was only later this evening when my suspicions, regarding that cop wanting to know where I was staying, were confirmed”
“How were they confirmed?”
“After seeing Brian I went back to my digs in Naklua. I’d only just got through the door and was really looking forward to one of those cold Heinekens, when I got a call from Fon. She was in a seriously distressed state and told me that a couple of thugs had threatened to harm her child if she didn’t tell them where my apartment was. As it happened, I’d foolishly given her the address earlier in the day after she’d called me telling me that she wanted to see me tonight. The bottom line was that the thugs were on the way over to Naklua, right at that moment, so I decided to leg it rather than be looking down the barrel of a gun”
“Okay, the part about this babe, Ning, trying to bump off her husband has something to it.
I don’t understand why she, and this Thai cop, would coming after you though”
“Because they’ve got wind of the fact that I’ve uncovered a few things which point to Ning having everything to gain by having Chris eliminated”
“How would they know that dude?”
“I spoke about that with Brian and the only thing that we could deduce was that another bird called Mint, who was sitting with Brian as we were talking, has passed on the details of our conversation, to Ning”.
“Why would she do that?”
“Because Fon was fairly sure that Mint was a friend of Ning.”
“Okay, I’m beginning to see the connection here”
“There was something else as well”
“As Mint got up to leave us she gave Fon a real nasty look and told her that she talks too much”
“Why don’t you just inform Chris of your suspicions?”
“That’s easier said than done mate, Ning has got him completely hoodwinked. He thinks the sun shines out of her backside and won’t hear of anything negative about her. The only choice I’ve got is to send him some incriminating photos”
“How do you plan to do that, become a private eye?”
“Not me. I’m lining up a private dick, which I’ve used before, to try and get the evidence I need”
“Shit dude, this is getting more complex by the minute. Are you up for another beer?” said Mark.
“No thanks mate, I’m feeling pretty zapped. I’d like to have a shower and get my head down”
“You don’t feel like wandering down to Rainbow Four to check out the flesh then?”
“Not tonight buddy. After all that’s happened I need to get a few hours solid sleep. You go ahead though and I’ll see you in the morning” I said.
“No problems. How about getting together tomorrow for the buffet lunch down at the Nana Hotel?”
“Sounds good, I’ll see you in the morning then mate”
“Will do dude” he said as he finished his beer and made his way to the door.
I woke feeling a lot better. Eight hours solid sleep had been just the tonic after the stress of the previous day. Mark was nowhere to be seen and I figured he’d probably had a late one down at Nana Plaza. I made myself a coffee and then washed it down with an orange juice before heading down to the pool for an easy thirty minute swim to clear the mind and work off the alcohol from the previous day. I got back to apartment just as Mark was saying goodbye to his girlfriend for the night. She was your standard ‘working girl’ from the North East of Thailand; short and dark skinned with a flat, broad face. As she went out the door he smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“They always look a lot better when they’re swinging off the chrome and butt naked”
“It’s okay mate, I just call it the beer goggles syndrome” I said with a laugh. “And besides, it’s not like you’re getting into a long term relationship. How’s the head?”
“Not too bad dude, I was only there for a couple of rounds. I was feeling horny so I grabbed the first babe that looked half way reasonable”
“Half way reasonable is an approximate description” I countered with a grin.
“C’mon dude, I needed to get my rocks off. She looks a bit rough around the edges but she was actually damn fine in the sack”
“Each to their own mate, are you still up for that buffet lunch at the Nana?”
“Absolutely dude. I’ll just get myself scrubbed up and I’ll be with you in a few minutes”
“No worries buddy. There’s no rush as I’ve got to make a couple of phone calls. Hey, you speak pretty reasonable Thai don’t you?”
“Well, I guess it’s probably a bit better than yours. Why, what’s the scoop dude?”
“I’m going to call the apartment block that I was staying at in Pattaya. Could you speak to the manager for me and ask him if anyone was there looking for me, around seven thirty pm, last night?”
“Sure dude, no problems. What do I tell him if he asks where you are?”
“Tell him I’m in Phuket”
I scrolled trough my list of contacts until I found the number for the Golden Sea Apartments and hit dial. A few rings later and a Thai male voice answered. I was in luck, it was Somporn the manager.
“Hello Khun Somporn, Khun Mike pood Krap. Bap Neung krap (Mike speaking, just a moment) ” I said, in my basic Thai, before handing the phone over to Mark.
Mark spent the next two minutes, or so, in earnest conversation with Somporn. I picked up bits of the conversation and, from what I could understand, someone had been there looking for me shortly after I’d taken off.
“Looks like you were right dude. Apologies for doubting you”
“No problems mate. There’s nothing wrong with analyzing a situation the way you did. It helps to add a bit of clarity to things”
“The thing is dude that the manager also told me that a cop had also been around there this morning demanding to search your room”
“No doubt that will be the guy who’s supposed to be Ning’s brother. It doesn’t really matter as there’s nothing there worth worrying about and besides, I kind of figured I wouldn’t be going back there again. Did he say anything else?”
“Only that he let him into the room but he stayed in there the whole time to take note of anything that the cop might remove”
“I’m not worried about what he might have taken mate, it’s what the bugger might have planted there to try and set me up. It’s a good thing that Somporn stayed in the room to witness what he was doing. Still, just to be safe, I won’t be going near that room again for a while”
“That’s the safest bet dude. I’ll get showered up and ready”
I picked up my phone again and hit the speed dial for Chris’s number. Three rings and Chris’s voice came on the line.
“Hey there buddy, it’s Mike. How’s the shoulder?”
“Hey Mike, what’s going on mate, where are you?”
Straight away I was in a defensive mindset. It was pretty obvious right from the get go that someone had told Chris that I’d left Pattaya.
“I’m down in Phuket for a few days mate. I flew down early this morning to have a look at a few condos. Who’s looking for me?”
I counted the silence in seconds.
“Well ah; it’s just that Ning’s brother said that he’d heard that you’d left Pattaya”
“Really! News travels fast mate, how did he know I’d gone?”
“Ah, he said something about a girl that you know at Snappy’s telling him”
Straight away I felt a stab of concern for Fon. I’d forgotten to call her last night and now I was seriously concerned that she’d copped some kind of retribution for warning me to get out of Pattaya. I just played along with it simply because poor old Chris really didn’t have any idea what was going on.
“Yeah, that’s probably right mate. Any idea why Ning’s brother might be concerned about where I am?”
“Not really mate. All he said was that he wanted to ask you a few questions and that if I hear from you to let him know where you are”
“Any idea why he wants to question me?”
“Once again, not really mate. I can only assume that it might have something to do with my incident”
“For fucks sake mate, that doesn’t add up”
“Don’t get agro Mike; I’m only delivering a message”
I exhaled and took a moment to compose myself.
“I know mate. Look, there are a couple of things I need you to consider”
“First of all, I was out of the country when the attempted hit on you took place. Besides that, I hardly know anyone that you associate with”
“I know that mate but he’s a cop and he’s said he wants to talk with you”
“Okay mate, fair enough. One last thing”
“Do you really think Ning bares any resemblance to that cop?”
“Why. Are you suggesting that he’s not her brother?”
“I think it’s quite possible”
“Well mate I don’t believe it and I’ve seen nothing that would make me doubt that he’s Nings’s brother” said Chris with a raised tone to his voice.
Shit Chris was a naïve bugger sometimes.
“Be on your guard at all times and be very wary of everyone around you over the next few days” I said.
I cut him off in mid sentence and then turned off the phone. It was waste of time talking with him. It was always the same when it came to talking about Ning; he wouldn’t believe anything negative about her. She’d done a great job of hoodwinking him, that’s for sure. I now had another problem to contend with; there was the very real possibility now that the cop ‘brother’ would just get my number from Chris, call me and put a trace on the phone. I was going to have to buy another SIM card.
I grabbed my back up phone and pressed the speed dial for Barry’s number.
“Hello, Barry speaking”
“Hey Barry, its Mike”
“What’s happening, any further developments?”
“As it happens, things have got a bit chaotic since we last spoke. I’m in Bangkok”
“Hmmm, what’s the situation then?”
“Let’s just say that thanks to a timely warning yesterday evening, from a lady I know, I was able to make a rapid exit from Pattaya to avoid becoming another possible statistic on the list of deceased farangs in Thailand”
“Do you want to fill me in on the details?”
“I’d like to get with you ASAP actually mate”
“No problems Mike. What have you got in mind?”
“Can we hook up for lunch at the Nana Hotel at midday?”
“Midday is good for me. I’ve got nothing urgent on the agenda this afternoon. I’ll see you in a couple of hours then”
“Okay mate, see you at midday” I said and hung up.
An hour later, Mark and I walked out of the entrance to the apartment block and onto Soi four. The sun was out and, once again, the atmosphere was thick with heat and humidity. It was just after eleven thirty so we decided to make an easy walk up the soi to the Nana Hotel. As we negotiated our way along a side walk cluttered with road side hawkers stalls I remembered that I hadn’t spoken to Fon since she’d warned me to get out of Pattaya. I found the number that she’d used to call me and hit the dial button. The phone was off so I left my number on the messenger service.
We rounded the bar that forms the corner, and is part of the structure, of the Nana hotel. There’s a single door right next to the bar which gives direct access, from the car park, into the restaurant. We entered and grabbed a table towards the center where we’d be able to spot Barry as soon as he arrived. I looked around and took in the surroundings. I hadn’t been here for a while but a quick survey told me that nothing much had changed. It still possessed that adequate but comfortable appearance that I’d first seen about five years earlier. I’d turned up looking for a room, after another long overseas contract, and was keen to spend a few days in the hotel which had gained a bit of a reputation for being whoremonger central in Bangkok. The majority of the clientele were a diverse lot but they had one thing in common; they were single males looking to saturate themselves in the pay for pleasure action of Bangkok.
We ordered coffees and checked out the guys sitting around us. They were a mixed lot to be sure; first timers, hard core whoremongers, old Asia hands, expats and seventy year old retirees, all enjoying the delights of the Thai ladies working in the bars and go-go’s of the red light strip outside. On the table next to us was a group, of what sounded like newbie’s, recounting their exploits from the previous night. It bought back memories of my first visit to the ‘Land Of Smiles’. Nothing, afterwards, ever seems to recapture the magic of that first trip. I turned my attention back to Mark.
“Hey dude, what’s the deal with this Barry guy, is he reliable?”
“Absolutely, I’ve used him before and he was spot on; very good at his work and a total professional. He doesn’t waste his, or your, time and seems to get quick results”.
“Oh yeah, what’s his background and what did he do for you”
“To be honest mate I’ve never bothered to ask too many questions about his past, or what he did before arriving in Thailand. The only thing he’s ever mentioned is that he had a long stint in the British military. He settled in Thailand about ten years ago and seems to be doing okay for himself. The work he did for me was just a simple job of tailing and getting a few snaps of a girlfriend that I suspected was going with other guys while I was working overseas”
“Oh yeah dude, I think I remember you telling me about that. Was that the babe that you picked up out of the go-go bar down on Cowboy?”
“You got it”
“Som nam na dude”
“Yeah, I know buddy. I learnt my lesson. Bargirls are strictly a short time proposition now” I said as Barry entered the restaurant.
I hadn’t seen Barry for about fifteen months. He looked pretty much the same as the last time I saw him; fit and alert. He looked around and made towards our table. Our eyes met and we nodded to each other. Barry didn’t smile much; he was a bit of a serious bugger. No doubt that had a lot to do with the discipline instilled from being in the British military. As he approached the table I rose and we shook hands.
“Hi Mike, it’s been a while” he said as he smiled and looked at Mark.
“Good to see you Barry. This is a mate of mine. I stayed at his apartment last night. He knows pretty much the whole story”.
Mark stood up and they shook hands.
“Good to meet you” said Barry.
“Likewise dude” said Mark.
I could see that there was a bit of wariness there, on Barry’s part. He was probably wondering what to make of Mark’s laid back manner. We sat down and ordered another round of coffees. I would’ve preferred a Heineken but decided that a clear head would be the order of the day while we spoke.
“Well Mike, it looks like you’ve potentially got yourself into a bit of a pickle. Do you want to fill me in on the details?”
I spent the next ten minutes telling him exactly what I’d told Mark the evening before. When I finished Barry just sat there for what seemed like an eternity, drumming the table with his fingers, drinking his coffee and deep in thought.
“The bottom line is Mike that you don’t have any hard evidence that this lady, Ning, arranged to have her boyfriend killed. Under normal circumstances I probably would’ve declined the job. However, the fact that it appears that somebody is looking to do you some harm, coupled with the rest of the information you’ve given me, I’m inclined to think there just might be something in this. I’ve got to warn you though that if this starts to get too dodgy I’ll terminate the investigation”
“Fair enough mate. There’s something else though that might make this even more complicated”
“Well, that bird I was with last night, Fon, mentioned that Ning was selling yaba”
Barry took a sip of his coffee and looked at me with a dead pan expression. No doubt he was weighing up what I’d just told him.
“How can you be sure that what she told wasn’t just bargirl tittle tattle again?”
“Well obviously I couldn’t be one hundred percent sure mate. However, the reason that I think there might be an element of truth to it was because, within seconds of telling me, that other bird that was sitting there with us, Mint, gave Fon a real dirty look and told her she’s got a big mouth, or something to that effect, before storming off in a huff”
“This Mint bird, is she the one that’s a friend of Ning?”
“Hmmm. Her reaction to what Fon said certainly makes it seem all the more likely. When you take into account the fact that Chris’s go-go bars give Ning direct access to a readymade market to supply drugs to then it becomes even more plausible”
“You mean she could be selling yaba to the girls dancing in Chris’s go-go bars?”
“Highly likely I’m afraid. It’s a favoured drug of go-go dancers because it keeps them on the go even when they’re feeling tired. You might be opening a can of worms here though Mike”.
“Well, if it’s true that she is involved in supplying yaba, you can bet that the people she associates with, in the procurement and profit sharing, are a bad lot. The other thing to consider is what Chris’s involvement is”.
“Mate, he’s never been one to involve himself in that type of activity”
“That maybe so Mike but you can’t discount the idea that he might be aware of the situation but is turning a blind eye to it”
“Why would he do that?”
“Why? Because he stands to lose a hell of a lot if Ning is busted. Look, I’ve got some good contacts in the Pattaya Police. I’ll give them a call and see if they’ve got anything to confirm whether, or not Ning, is involved in selling yaba. When do want me to start the surveillance operation?”
“As soon as possible” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll organize my man to head down to Pattaya tomorrow morning”
“Oh, you mean you won’t be taking care of this yourself?”
“Unfortunately not Mike. A foreigner snooping around Pattaya tailing someone, or taking photos at odd locations, would stand out like dogs balls I’m afraid. Pattaya is too small for that so I’ll send my best Thai assistant. He’ll blend in a hell of a lot better than me”
“Fair enough. Is he reliable enough to get the job done?”
“If he wasn’t then I can guarantee you that he wouldn’t be working for me”
“What’s his name?”
“His name’s Baey”
“Will I get to meet him?”
“Sorry mate, not while he’s doing this job for you. It’s better that his identity remains largely anonymous while he’s in Pattaya. That’s the best way that he’s able to protect himself, and you, if something goes wrong”
“What do you mean ‘if something goes wrong’?”
“What you need to keep in mind Mike is that this is potentially more than just tailing and observing a lady that is suspected of cheating on her boyfriend. There’s the very real possibility that this Noot woman has some nasty connections and if my man is compromised, he may come in for some rough treatment, or worse, get seriously hurt”
“What are the chances of that happening?”
“There’s always a chance when you go snooping into the private lives of people who’d prefer that their illegal, or unlawful, activities remain unknown and that they’ll do whatever it takes to prevent any disclosure of those illegal or unlawful activities” said Barry.
“When you put it like that, I feel like I’m asking your assistant to put himself in a risky position”
“With jobs like this there’s always risk Mike. However, Baey is one tough and resourceful fellow and I’ve got complete confidence in his capabilities to do the job without being spotted”
“How can you be so confident?”
“Because Baey is not one of those city dandy’s that think they are private eyes but can’t walk the walk. He’s got years of service in the Thai army as an NCO and he’s spent a lot of time snooping around sensitive areas up on the border with Burma. I originally hired him just to tail people and report on their movements. He proved to be very competent so I started training him in the use of camera and video equipment. Like I said, he’s the best man I’ve got for this type of job”
“Okay, you’ve got me convinced. Do you want to tell me what your fee will be?”
“Because of the potential risk with this, it’s got to be an initial deposit of thirty thousand Baht”
“Yes Mike, up front”
“Fair enough. I’ll go over to the ATM and get it for you now then”
“No hurry Mike, I’ll get it off you later in the day. Unlike a lot of farang wannabe’s in this town, I know you’re good for it”
I was happy that we’d negotiated a reasonable price and I knew that Barry was a guy that I could trust. If I paid him to do a job, it would get it done.
“I think I’ll order a beer and some food. How about you guys?”
“Sounds like a good idea. Though I think we should move to a different location” said Barry.
“Hey dude, I was just getting comfortable here. There’s plenty of pussy cruising the parking lot. What’s the deal with wanting to go somewhere else” said Mark.
I looked at Barry and shrugged. I knew that he would have some plausible reason.
“If you were looking for someone in Thailand, had no idea where they might be but knew that they enjoyed a beer and the company of the ladies of the night, where would you begin your search?”
“I think I know where you’re going with this. The thing is though mate, I told Chris that I was down in Phuket”
“Chris might believe it but that cop certainly won’t” said Barry.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because cops are trained to be suspicious, that’s why. He was probably organizing his dodgy contacts, this morning, to check out Nana Plaza and Cowboy. I’d advise you to steer clear of those spots for a while”
“Dude, there goes our night out at Rainbow four” said Mark.
Okay, I’ll go along with the idea that I need to lay low for a while” I said.
“I’m not saying you should avoid getting out and about Mike. I’m just suggesting that it’s probably a good idea to keep away from the high profile areas like Nana and Cowboy”
“Where do you suggest we go now then?”
“Soi Thirty Three; there’s a great sports bar, called ‘The Office’, on one of the small side Sois. They’ve got big screen TV’s, cold beer, reasonable grub and a bevy of friendly hostesses” said Barry.
“Sounds good; are you coming Mark”
“I think I’ll give it a miss dude, I could do with a massage. Give me a call later if you want”.
“Okay buddy, will do”
We paid our bill and headed back out into the humidity of a Bangkok afternoon. Within thirty meters I was beginning to perspire again so I suggested we forget the additional four hundred meter walk down to the Nana BTS terminal and grab a cab instead. Taking a cab down Sukhumvit, early afternoon on Friday, is probably something to avoid. The traffic is absolutely bumper to bumper and a perceived short trip always ends up being a patience test. During the ride I tried to call Fon again, on the number that she’d last contacted me on, and was greeted with the guttural voice of some pissed off bar girl. I don’t know who she was expecting to call her but from the manner of her ‘Arai wa’ greeting, it was pretty obvious that she was either badly hung over or she didn’t do too well in her previous evenings’ earnings. Fon wasn’t there so I left a message with the ‘pissed off one’ to have Fon call me next time she saw her.
After about a thirty minute stop start ride down Sukhumvit we pulled up on Soi Thirty Three opposite the entrance to the small soi that runs down to ‘The Office’. I paid off the cab and, as we walked down the Soi, it started to rain again. We entered the bar and the first impressions were good. It was early in the afternoon so there was only a couple of other ‘punters’ there. We sat down, at the mid-point along the bar, and asked for a menu and a beer each. There was plenty of large, flat screens TV’s, strategically located overhead, for those that enjoyed their sport.
Our beers arrived and as we settled into our first well appreciated gulps, of the cold nectar, a couple of the hostesses sidled up and asked if we’d like our faces wiped with one of those cold packaged disposable towelettes. Without hesitation we both agreed and, within no time at all, the girls that were giving us the wipe down, were joined by a couple more that proceeded to give us an upper body massage while we sat there. I smiled and looked at Barry.
“Why would a bloke want to live anywhere else on this planet” I said.
“Why indeed” replied Barry.
“You know Mike; I’m still wondering why you would want to go so far to help an expat here who has, mainly through his own doing, got himself tangled up with some nasty, gold digger. Most guys would just say som nam na (serves yourself right) and walk away from it”.
“I’d like to mate, believe me. The thing is that Chris and I go back a long way together and, even though I don’t want to admit it, he helped me out when I went through a fairly bleak time, with my business, in Phuket” I said.
“I haven’t told many people this but I got myself into real bad bind with the Thai tax department”.
“That’s a situation that I would definitely not want to be in. I take it you owed them some money then?”
“Around six hundred thousand baht” I said.
“Holy shit, how did that happen?”
“Poor security, unfortunately”
“I got raided while I was out of the office. My young, naïve office staff handed over a bunch of monthly income sheets that, in hindsight, I should’ve had under lock and key”
“Hindsight’s a beautiful thing” said Barry.
“Tell me about it. For the next few months, after the raid, things just went from bad to worse. It got that bad that I had a ban on me from leaving the country”
Barry let out a whistle.
“That is bad. I take it that Chris helped you out then”
“He paid off the debt lump sum for me. I paid him back a couple of years later of course but the fact is that, if it wasn’t for him, I probably would’ve ended up rotting in some shitty Thai jail until I came up with the cash to pay off the debt”
“I guess you and him are close mates?”
“We were then, not so much now though. The problem is that, since he got tangled up with Ning, I don’t get to see him all that often. It’s almost like she’s controlling his life”.
I took a final gulp of my beer and we ordered two more.
“Unfortunately Mike, that’s a sad fact of life for many guys that get involved with Thai women. The wives, or girlfriends, end up controlling too much of their farang partners’ financial life blood and eventually come to realize that because the business, or house, is in their name, they’ve got the upper hand. There’s many unhappy farang out there living in perpetual fear of losing it all if they fail to kow-tow to every ridiculous whim of the emotionally unstable bitch they’ve got involved with”.
“It just gets me how they can become so spineless” I said.
“I know mate. It’s quite pathetic really but, as I said, when the house, or business, you’ve invested most of your life savings in is in someone else’s name, and you’re the twilight years of your life, it certainly makes things complicated”.
“I guess that goes some way to explaining why Chris is the way he is now. What I don’t get is why Ning isn’t satisfied with what she’s already got. She’s got fifty one percent of the business and their condo is in her name as well” I said.
“I know. It’s a mindset I just don’t entirely understand; when is enough, enough? I’ve come to realize it’s a combination of desperation, family allegiance and a merciless attitude to life developed and honed through the years of lies, deception and disappointments encountered working in the sex industry. There’s a never ending conveyor belt of guys, farang and Thai, trying to use them and, eventually, their attitude hardens and they say ‘fuck it’ I’ll just use the punters up for what I can get. Any ideas of fairness and decency, they might have once had, get kicked into touch. The reality is it’s a bloody tough life being a Thai prostitute. Everyone is at them for something. The punters want porn star type sex for as little as they can possibly pay. There’s also usually a dead beat Thai boyfriend harassing them for money; a child, or two, to raise and educate and the ridiculous expectations of the family back on the farm. When you take all that into account, it’s easy to understand why a lot of them are as hard as nails. When they eventually hit the jackpot and land a financially well off farang they’ll fight like hellcats to protect their cash cow. There’s not too many farangs that walk away from a relationship, with one of those types, without having lost a large chunk of his personal wealth. I think the lucky guys in Thailand are the blokes like you and me. Somehow we manage to stay single and avoid the potential nightmare of a bad relationship. Did you ever get another girlfriend after you finished with that one I tailed for you?”
“No mate, I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m much happier being on my own. I think the problem for a lot of guys is that they just get bored, through having bugger all to do over here, and they eventually end up in a crappy relationship with some very ordinary beer bar babe. I’m only human though and, just like most blokes, I like a bit of female company from time to time. That’s the beauty of these places; you have a few beers and, if you’re feeling horny, you can go up stairs, do the business, pay the one thousand baht and move on. I understand that and don’t try to take it any further. Unfortunately, there are a lot of blokes out there that don’t get it and that’s where they come unstuck” I said.
“All too true mate. There’s plenty of websites out there with many a tale of woe of farang’s that have become completely disillusioned with this country after unwittingly getting into a relationship with a bar girl and then getting taken to the cleaners”.
“Still, they’re good fun and as long as you keep in mind that they’re just doing a job then it’s easy to avoid the mistake of getting romantically involved with them. Most of them are generally good hearted. The thing that I never lose sight of though, particularly with the younger bar girls like these, is that a good percentage of them have a Thai boyfriend or husband. I often wonder what type of mindset is it that can happily send a girlfriend, or wife, off to a bar everyday knowing that there’s a good chance that some other bloke is going to be humping her before she comes home each day” I said.
I took another gulp of my beer. The girls who had been slowly massaging our neck and shoulders moved aside as the food we’d ordered arrived. I tipped the girls a hundred baht each for their much appreciated attention. After the stress of the last twenty four hours a massage was just the tonic to help me relax. I decided I’d get a more extensive massage before the day was through.
“Well that’s a very sobering thought mate. Is that something you think about when you’re on the nest?”
“No mate, the alcohol usually helps to create the illusion of a romantic assignation for the hour. You’ve got to admire those Thai husband’s, or boyfriends though” I said.
“Well it takes a lot of mental discipline to accept the idea that you’re always going to be getting sloppy seconds” I said.
“Ha ha, so you’re concerned about their emotional well being”
“Well, every time I hand over one thousand baht, isn’t that where it usually ends up?”
“You’ve got that right. It’s a pity that more blokes didn’t realize that”.
“I think most that have been living here for a while understand that. It’s the newbie’s and fresh meat that don’t” I said.
“Sadly, all of this is just a façade really. Guys who come here for a two week blow out never really get to see what goes on behind the façade. When you start living here though you begin to scratch beneath the surface and come to understand that Thailand is a very class structured society”
“You can say that again mate. Every time make a visit to Paragon I see those white skinned hi-so bitches walking around with their noses in the air thinking their shit doesn’t stink” I said.
“Exactly. They’re at the upper end of the food chain and, whether you like it or not, they’re like that because they’ve got the cash and they don’t give a shit. Unfortunately most of what you see, working in places like this, is at the other end of that food chain. Most of them, as you have already said, are actually quite decent hearted ladies. The problem for them though is that no educated middle class Thai bloke would ever consider marrying one of them. It would be a very big loss of face and a step down on the ladder of life. So, the only option they’ve got is to bag an unknowing, unsuspecting, farang or shack up with a Thai bloke at their level. That usually means an unreliable, unemployed, whiskey drinking dead beat who, truth be known usually couldn’t give a shit that the bar girl they’ve shacked up with is getting humped every which way but sideways on Sundays by other blokes. The only thing that matters is the income stream they’re getting from the lady”
We’d been talking as we were eating. I swallowed my last mouthful of burger and washed it down with a large pull of my Heineken.
“At the end of the day though mate, does it really matter?” I said.
“If you’re some lonely, old, fat retiree, probably not. It’s a trade off isn’t it?”
“You mean the young female companion that provides sex in exchange for a financial lifeline”
“Precisely and I bet you that most of those old guys are fairly happy. It’s the guys who are trying to establish themselves here, be it in the way of a business or in a career, that need to take more care when they get involved with a Thai woman”
“What do you mean?”
“A poor choice will see you being avoided, or not taken seriously, by the Thai people that you work with or are trying to establish business connections with”
“Are you up for another one” I said.
“I’ll have one more and then I’ll have to be on my way”.
“No problems. I’m going to dash out to that ATM I spotted around the corner and get some cash” I said.
“Okay, I’ll sort out the order while you’re gone”.
I withdrew sixty thousand baht and returned to the bar. I paid Barry the deposit and we continued talking about the nuances of life in Thailand while we drank our Heinekens.
“As a matter of interest, what are you up to tonight Mike?”
“Well, I’d originally planned to head down to Rainbow Four with Mark. But, seeing as how you recommended steering clear of there, I’m going to check things out at Spasso’s”.
“Friday night is usually a good night down there. Give me a call later mate; I’ll hook up with you, if I can, around eleven pm or so” said Barry.
We finished off our beers and stepped out into the late afternoon heat. Barry flagged down a taxi on Soi thirty three and took off towards Sukhumvit Road. I checked my watch; it was four thirty pm and I was feeling decidedly lucid after a few beers. I
was also feeling hot and sweaty and decided that a shower and a massage would be a good way to kill a couple of hours before heading back to Mark’s condo. I flagged down a taxi and told the driver to go to Cleopatra’s body massage