‘Cause I’m Leavin’ on a Jet Plane
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
She was born and raised in Isaan and as a little girl she loved going to school. When not in school she worked the rice fields. The first time she left was at age 18 to take a factory job in Bangkok. Her first time in Krung Thep. Her first time away from Isaan. It lasted only 3 months before the loneliness that comes along with missing her home had her on a midnight bus back to Khon Kaen one night. She surrendered to work in a local store amongst the farms selling rice. This career was not taking her where she wanted to be. Having no further job prospects that suited her, she boarded another bus just 2 months later. This bus took her to Pattaya. An old school mate of hers set her up with a place to stay and a job working as a bar girl on Soi 7. She was able to afford her own mobile phone and room within 1 month. She had the function of youth and the form of beauty that could extract the largest satang from the tightest wallets. She worked there for a year before she was plucked by an Englishman 30 years her senior. She became his girlfriend and he became her sponsor. He sent her back to Isaan with a monthly stipend in her right hand and promise to come back and marry her on her left ring finger. She retired from Soi 7 and went back to Isaan; back to her previous career of selling rice but with the prospect this time of being married and living in England within the year. Within that year the Englishman 30 years her senior would come back to Thailand and take her to Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Hua Hin and such. Also within that year though her visa application to visit him in England was denied. Possibly on the grounds of her having been a Soi 7 bar girl. He eventually admitted that he couldn’t marry her as he already had a wife and 3 kids in England. She cried for a week. She wanted to ask him why but he had already changed his number by the time she worked up the courage to ask that one word question. Her response to all this was to board yet another bus to Pattaya. No Soi 7 this time. She freelanced for a couple of weeks at Lucifer for seed money before landing a job as a gogo dancer on Walking Street.
Meet Jet. 21 year old gogo dancer at Moon gogo.
As I just stated, there are many things about Jet that are quite the usual among the Isaan bar girl demographic in Pattaya. In the two nights that we spent together though I would come to find that there were many things quite unusual about this girl that I had wandered into on the second to last night of my most recent holiday in Pattaya. Let me explain.
For starters she was on time….10 minutes early in fact. She had agreed to meet me at 7:30 PM outside Central Festival on the side facing Beach Road. I showed up at 7:25 PM. She had already been waiting there for 5 minutes. I had met her just the night before when I walked into Moon Gogo on Walking Street. I sat down. She shot me a smile. A direct hit so an invite to come sit and drink with me immediately followed. I expected the bullshit to freely flow next so when she told me that she had only been working there for 4 days and that her bar fine was 1500 baht I thought she was full of it. Later on I found out that the gogo had only been open for 4 days and the bar fines really were 1500 baht and above. She was telling the truth. I went along with the story at that time though. I told her for 1500 baht I’d just go by myself to 7 Eleven, buy a liter of Regency and then go back to my room and help myself. My joke went over her head and landed somewhere between the stage and the bar. I asked how much tip for her and surprisingly (sarcasm) she said “up to you.” I pushed for a figure. She looked down at her hands and surrendered an answer of 3000 baht. She looked uncomfortable and I was starting to feel like a jerk. She wasn’t coming off as hardened as I had expected. I then started talking to her jokingly to lighten the mood. She asked my name and where I was from. In my limited Thai I told her my name was Somkit, I was from Buriram, and I like to drink nam suom every morning. This always gets a laugh out of the girls as they try to correct me to say the correct pronunciation of nam som. <Means he said he likes to drink toilet water instead of orange juice – Stick> She laughed considerably at this. As a side note though I will say do not attempt that joke if the girl’s actual name is Som. Calling her toilet will not go over well. It was the beginning of my night and I wanted to get drunk but I didn’t want to do it alone so drink after drink after drink for her and myself crested over the hours. I wanted to see her dance but she claimed that for some reason the management and the mamasan did not let her dance. In the 2 hours that we sat together she never got near the stage. Very odd I thought at the time. Time for me to go so I apologized for the fact that though she was a lovely girl, she would not be joining me for the rest of the evening. I just was not ready to pay a 1500 baht bar fine on pure principle. She said she understood. She then wrote her number on the back of one of her drink tickets and gave it to me. She said she had a day off the next day so that I wouldn’t have to pay the bar fine. I believed her since she sacrificed one her drink commissions to give me her number.
So there we stood facing each other outside of Central Festival at 7:25 PM the next night; a cool Thursday evening. It was at this point that I noticed the second unusual thing about her. As many of you have probably noticed, most gogo girl fashion in Pattaya follows the same trend. Take a close look down Walking Street and you’ll see that every 3rd or 4th girl that has been barfined from a gogo will be wearing similar street clothes fashion. Different colors but similar fashion. 6 months before it was long flower print dresses with scarves. Jet wore none of the norm. She wore a very long, very thick oversized plaid dress that went from her neck down to her ankles. No heels for her. She wore what looked like moccasins. She also wore a light blue denim vest and pigtails to complete the look. A very unusual sense of fashion considering her night job. She had the same penetrating smile so it was easy to recognize her. I initially suggested a movie and bowling but she had a previous commitment that meant our “date” would have to end at 11:00 PM so there wasn’t enough time for that. My 2nd suggestion of just bar hopping was acceptable. We initially ended up at a bar on the corner of Soi 8 and Beach Road. They were playing Bob Marley at a reasonable sound level so it was very inviting. We sat, she smiled a lot, and we lit up some small talk under the San Miguel Lights. This was when her story of only being back in Pattaya for 2 weeks after taking 1 year off unfolded and how her oxymoron of a married boyfriend had unceremoniously dumped her. She smiled through the whole story.
Next we walked up Soi7 and ended up at her old bar where she was welcomed back like a visiting pontiff. We spent a couple of rounds there as she caught up what was left of her friends. Turns out most of them were back in their villages being sponsored by English men. Upon leaving her old bar we passed directly in front of the Sunbeam Hotel. If you ever want a review of how good a hotel is then ask a bar girl. The prettier ones have been in almost every hotel in Pattaya and these girls have excellent memories. They’ll tell you which hotels are the nicest. I asked her about the Sunbeam. She said she had been there many many many times and that it was a nice hotel. Be careful with this question though. Some bar girls I’ve asked have taken this as an insult against their chaste virtue.
Next on our walking tour was Soi 6. I don’t know why I do this but whenever I bar fine girls from Walking Street I always take them to go drinking on Soi 6. I introduced her to a few Soi 6 girls that have become fixtures for me and friends over the years. We chatted and did shots all up and down the soi. She was smiling the whole time and seemingly getting a kick out of the circus that is the world infamous Soi 6. She even joined in on some of the unique phrasings that these girls randomly shout out as if they have some sort of kinky Tourette’s Syndrome. TAT won’t be using these phrasings in their advertisements any time soon I would say, though some of the phrases would make great T-shirts. The one working girl that yelled “Why did you f*ck my a*s and forget me!” at random men down the soi was entertaining. The other girl that tenderly held on to my hand, looked me in the eyes, and sincerely said “I want to drink your c*m, it will make me beautiful” actually shocked me I have to admit. Such a filthy mouth on this angelic baby faced femme of 18 years. At this point I’ll also have to admit that it was a bit of a subconscious turn on for me so I guess that doesn’t say much about me either.
After about an hour on Soi 6, Jet told me that her 11 PM commitment was actually a birthday party for one of her roommates. It was going to be at a Thai venue in a non-farang part of Pattaya that I had never even heard of. Only Thai people, with one guy possibly speaking English, would be part of the party. She really wanted me to go with her she had just decided. I was hesitant at first but then accepted her invitation. We left Soi 6 to go back to my hotel for a minute with plans to then catch motorbike taxis to the venue. On the way she repeatedly and explicitly told me that I did not need to pay for anything at the party since I was a guest. Something a bit unusual did happen though on the way to catching the motorbike taxis that reside on the corner of 2nd Road and Soi Diana. While walking there we passed by a ladyboy that used to work with Jet during her Soi 7 days. As soon as the ladyboy saw Jet he blocked our path on the sidewalk. In response to this Jet took a step back, raised her right arm high in the air, cocked her head to the side and started bending her knees and jerking her lower body in random directions. She raised her long plaid skirt with her left hand and started hopping along with the body jerking she was doing. The ladyboy stood and observed. I was about to turn and run to find a medic for I thought the poor girl had gone into anaphylactic shock. Turns out this was not a medical emergency. This was Jet dancing! The ladyboy had taught her how to dance during lulls in their work on Soi 7 and she was dancing for the approval of her instructor. I was visibly relieved when she stopped. I’m sure the concerned crowds and the traffic that her dance had put to a dead stop on 2nd Road were relieved as well. Jet was smiling the whole time.
We arrived at the party soon after. The location of the bar is still somewhere that I cannot really say where but it was a hookah lounge and bar, filled with young Thai men and women, playing only Thai music. A nice change indeed. We sat with 6 Thai ladies and 6 Thai guys with a table in the middle that had Red Label, mixers, and ice. There was a Hookah in the middle as well. It was very dark. Almost no lights whatsoever. One side of the bar was completely exposed to the street. One of the guys did speak English as advertised. We had a very interesting conversation actually. He was born and raised in Chonburi. He had spent his high school years in India where he learned his English. He just recently graduated from a university in New Zealand and was about to start a law degree in England. Shameful to say but in my two years of coming to Thailand he was the first Thai male I had actually had a conversation with. I was so enamored by the ladies during my first trip to Nana, Cowboy, Patpong, Pattaya 2 years before that it took me about 5 days after landing to notice that Thailand even had men in it let alone striking up a conversation. It just hasn’t been a focus nor an item on my to do list (only Thai girls on that list). He introduced himself as Somkit. It was right then and there that I decided to stop telling people in bars that my name was Somkit and that I was from Buririam and I drink nam suom every morning. I didn’t think that this crowd would have found me acting like a dumbass to be as funny. He lightly suggested that I should learn Thai during our conversation. I agreed. Jet smiled through it all.
Our conversation was interrupted by a birthday song that was being played by the DJ for the birthday girl at our table. Well not interrupted by the song as much as we were by Jet jumping up and singing a high pitched squeaky version along with the birthday song being played. She started doing that thing with her body again too! Her friends look horrified but didn’t stop her. Saving face was not working in her favor at this moment. It was god awful. A mortician probably could not have stomached to watch her “dance.” She sounded like a cat being strummed with a rusty hack saw as well. She wasn’t drunk but she was very loud. She was just that poor of a singer and dancer. At that moment it became as clear as fine Lalique crystal as to why the management at her gogo had yet to let her dance on stage for the customers. Jet was a great host to me though. Throughout our time there she repeatedly asked me if I was ok. I was having a great experience of it so therefore a great time as well. Each girl there worked in the industry as gogo dancers and they all had Thai boyfriends. It was my first time witnessing the hidden Thai boyfriend phenomenon that I’ve read so much about.
The “date” had been going great so far. A far cry from my typical barfine to room or barfine to beach and then to room circuit that I usually do. Eventually the party broke up and everyone parted. Somkit invited me to join the guys as they were headed somewhere else to meet up with other friends of theirs but I was really tired and still looking as to where this night with Jet would take me. I declined the offer. As we left the venue I caught on to yet another fact that was unusual about Jet. She loved to walk! It was about a 6-minute motorbike ride but a 30 minute walk back to my hotel and she insisted on walking. Not a problem for me. Along the way she told me of her intention to head to Lucifer…to meet friends she added quickly in the end. Not quick enough though. I knew she was going to Lucifer to freelance. She knew I knew it was well. Was I her customer or not I wondered as she held my hand and pulled me close to her as we walked. She was going to walk me back to my hotel and then head off to Lucifer to make some money hopefully that night. On the way back we passed by her rambunctious ladyboy friend again that was in the beer bar complex near my hotel. This time the ladyboy corralled us into her bar for a drink. She corralled a bottle of Singha out of me as well. I suppose her and Jet wanted to catch up on old times. There was a Filipino band playing so the mood should have been entertaining but any prospect of that happening was ruined by what happened next. The ladyboy commanded Jet to dance. Jet complied and walked right up to the area in front the band and started in on her dreadful dance number. Everyone in the band and the bar was taken aback a bit. The ladyboy stood up as well. She cat walked over to the area in front of the stage and she started prancing in circles around Jet as Jet went through her “grand mal” as I now thought of it. The ladyboy then took the bottle of beer, shoved the base of it between his / her legs, pointed the bottle upward like a hard-on and started simulating masturbation by grasping and stroking the neck of the bottle as she strutted in circles around Jet. This routine culminated in Jet humping the ground while the lady buy shook the beer bottle that was between her legs. White beer foam shot out of the bottle to underscore the climax to the simulated sex act. The ladyboy thrusts his / her hips as beer ‘ejaculated’ all over the place. Routine over, they walked hand in hand back to the table where I was sitting. I had never in my 36 years seen such a sight! You could have knocked me over with feather. I was brought back to my senses by an older European gentlemen at the table next to me giving me a serious slow nod and a thumbs up. Apparently he mistakenly assumed that the second performance was happening with me and these two in my room later. Check bin please!
Jet and I parted right after that. She went off to Lucifer while I went to my room alone. I had a great time that night with her and didn’t mind ending my evening this way. I didn’t feel like a customer. I had just laid down to sleep when I received a text just 30 minutes later from Jet. She was asking if she could come to my room. 10 minutes later I was escorting her up from the lobby. It was at this time that I started feeling like a customer so I set my mind to start thinking like a customer. After all, that is why she is in this town. This is why I am in this town as well. We took showers. She came out wrapped in only a towel. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. She performed better than she danced. She got her 3000 baht placed inside of her purse the next morning.
Before she left that morning I promised her I would stop by her gogo that night to see her. I went to Moon gogo that evening with 1500 baht readily in hand to pay her bar fine this time. We had both earned it. She was surprised on both accounts. Unfortunately I had to change my schedule and was leaving to fly back home that very night. My taxi was arriving at my hotel to take me to Suvarnabhumi in just 4 hours. I always experience an unexplainable acute low when leaving to go back to my real life. Last time I was in Pattaya I started spontaneously hyperventilated while waiting for my taxi to go home. My life at home is complicated when it comes to making these trips. I never truly know when I’ll be back. In fact, I never truly know if I will ever have the chance again to even come back at all. I wanted to spend what little time I had left with Jet. We went to dinner and she smiled a lot. We finally went bowling. She was really good. She smiled a lot.
We went back to my hotel and I methodically packed my bags. Jet sat in chair, looking as pretty as a picture, and watched me and the TV. We had a great conversation which was all I wanted. I just love having a pretty girl to sit in my room and talk with me on my last night as I collect my belonging and my thoughts for closure. As part of that process I began to reflect on the last unusual aspect that I discovered about Jet. Even for a Thai she smiled a lot. She smiled brilliantly when you looked at her but if you looked at her from your peripheral, or if you turned to face her faster than she expected, or if you looked close enough you wouldn’t see a smile. You’d see a far off look of sadness on her face for which she had patented that smile over the years to serve as a cover. A mask custom made and unique to her brand of blues. The main Thai unusual thing about Jet was that she didn’t have a family. Her mother had died at 21; the same age that Jet is now. As a little girl she had witnessed her mom’s death just a few short steps in front her. She was 4 years old on that day when her mom had just put her down in order to pick up her 2-year old little brother. Her mom then proceeded to take her last 2 steps in life to their kitchen where she was electrocuted in a freak accident. Her little brother died instantly along with her mom as he was cradled in her arms. They both perished in an instant right before Jet’s eyes. She said that she stood silent; transfixed. She was posed motionless for hours in that same spot where her mom had just put her down. Her 4-year old mind rationalizing that if she moved then they would never get up again. A neighbor that had eventually walked in on this surreal scene had to pull her away kicking and screaming for her mom to pick her up. Her father was working construction in Israel at the time. His irrational blame of himself led to a type of grieving that pushed him away from his surviving daughter as working longer stints overseas became his lifelong reaction to this unfortunate accident. He was unavailable physically and emotionally. Jet went on to live with her grandmother while her dad was gone. This lasted only a few years and ended with her grandmother’s eventual passing as well. During those few years her dad had re-married during one of his infrequent trips back to Isaan. Just another reaction to his grief since this woman only wanted him for the overseas check he was sending home. She openly despised the fact that she had to take care of a 7-year old Jet with this deal. Jet eventually fled the woman that merely tolerated her 11 years later at the age of 18 to take that factory job in Bangkok. The move that eventually led her to selling herself in various forms and venues around Pattaya. For Thais it does appear to be fact that ‘1’ truly is the loneliest number. It seems that the only fate worse than having many people to take care of in Isaan is not having anyone at all to take care of back home. To not even have a reason to go back home. To be alone. She had a unique brand of loneliness that is very specific to Thai people more so than many cultures in the west. She relayed this to me as she sat in that chair in my room. A smile being the farthest thing imaginable from either one of us for moments. She slowly worked the remote and as she’s probably done thousands of times in the past she slowly, piece by piece, carefully placed her smile of a mask back on to her face. Her single smile had to carry the weight of the both of us because I’ve never in life have had to develop such a coping mechanism to fight off the loneliness she has battled since that day when she was 4 years old. As she watched the television she became entranced by a travel show that was showcasing a beautifully magnificent beach on the island of Fiji. A place she had never even heard of nor imagined before. I finally finished my packing which was leading me closer to my own special brand of loneliness that always accompanied me when leaving Pattaya. We took the elevator down to the lobby. Walking past checkout towards my awaiting taxi I had that one line from a famous John Denver song playing in my head…
’Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again…
As I stepped into the taxi I promised her I would fly her to that beautifully magnificent beach on the television if I ever saw her again.
Very nicely put together indeed, really heartfelt!
Some of these girls have had incredibly rugged lives and it is something of a minor miracle that they can retain any sort of sweetness at all after all they have been through.