The Brokenman Is Repaired Part 13
In my last submission “The Brokenman is repaired part 12”, I continued the account of my trip to Asia and the
6-week work assignment in China. I resume my story as I am set to return to Bangkok.
I am awoken Sunday morning at the ungodly hour of 03.30 to make the 2-hour drive to Shanghai Pudong airport to catch the 07.30 plane to Bangkok. The owner of the company came to see me off and the security guard escorted me past the six hounds of hell who seem very pleased to see me go. When I got to the airport the Thai Airways flight was full and it took ages to get checked in. The flight was slightly delayed and the 4-hour duration gave time to reflect on my time in China.
I was a little disappointed I never got to visit the nearby city of Shanghai. I have a long-term friend Chris who had been living there for 10 years. For the past 5 years he has been extolling the opportunities presented by the city and trying to persuade me to come. However two months before my arrival, having made his £million he decided to return permanently to the UK.
I have another three Shanghai contacts from the Stickman community, bloody good blokes who had given me sterling advice about China. However the one had moved from Shanghai to a new city a matter of weeks before my arrival and the other was away for the month. This left one contact, Wilhelm, a splendid fellow who lived in Chengdu, a city in south China but who regularly visited Shanghai. His next visit coincided with my last weekend so arrangements were made to meet in Pudong and stay at his friend’s apartment on the Saturday evening. Unfortunately on the day of his arrival he informed me his plane was so delayed he would not arrive till the early hours of Sunday morning. I decided not to risk the journey in case he was delayed even further and I was stranded in an unknown city with my pass out expiring on Sunday evening.
So on Saturday I end up once again in my Kunshan bar, this time my driver took me to an ATM and found the correct location, a case of fourth time lucky. I sang a few numbers on stage with the Philippine band, made the usual prat of myself and met the owner’s husband, a guy from Preston. It transpired we had many mutual acquaintances as I was once on the short list for the foundry manager’s job at the place he worked before he moved to China. Further confirmation of what a small world our planet is becoming.
On the Monday I presented an extensive technical report to the Chairman of the company I was working for but was surprised when he nit-picked over some of the inconsequential detail I had reported. Things like frequency of inspection and minor process variations I had observed merely in passing. I thought it a bit pedantic but being pragmatic and, as they did not involve issues of principle that conflicted with any professional ethics I changed it to suit him.
Once I had done so he declared it was an exceptional report that he intended to use as a marketing tool but explained he wanted me to remove any (even minor) observations that conflicted with their documented procedures, which was fair enough but still somewhat irregular.
It has been an interesting few weeks and although I didn’t particularly relish the tight control I was under it has been a fascinating experience. China remains an enigma, and amid the incessant noise and pollution the country has many endearing qualities. It may even look pretty when they finally stop building.
I eventually got accustomed to using chopsticks and appreciate they are eminently suitable for Chinese food. I remain amused at some of their peculiarities like keeping the original plastic coverings on things like remote controllers and fridge doors. Cigarettes in soft packs were slightly more expensive because as managers kept them in their shirt pocket they implied status. There is a strange drinking custom that when in company you cannot imbibe at your own pace but have to say cheers or chink your glass against something every time you want to take a swig. I often went thirsty not wishing to appear a pisshead. I had visions if this custom was adopted in a drinking session with Union Hill it would sound like a xylophone recital.
The Chinese TV carried stories of government urging more “social responsibility” and countless reports of increasing material and labour costs that would end China’s phenomenal growth. I am not qualified to comment on the socio-economic scenario in China but I cannot see anything stalling this great leviathan or preventing them from eventually taking over the world. I predict my grandchildren will be servants to a Chinese master and the sad thing is we in the west will have stood by and let it happen.
Although the process has been hastened by greedy industrialists and myopic politicians our taste for cheap goods and the delusion we can live by “financial services” has contributed significantly. The dogma of a post-industrial society is complete hogwash and as irrational as thinking we can all make a living cutting each other’s hair.
I am led to believe that Chinese hospitality is genuine but I suspect the civility and deference shown to westerners is a thin veneer. They labour under an illusion that they still have something to learn from the foreign devils. I fear if they were to actually visit the UK and see first-hand the state of disrepair, acute underinvestment and total absence of competent leadership that exists in many of our factories and foundries they would very quickly realise their misconception.
The bankruptcy of vision that exists in the UK is best illustrated by the contemporary fable of the businessman who has two cows. He sells the one cow to pay for his Mercedes, pension fund, private health scheme and holiday home. He works the remaining cow to produce the milk of 6 cows. He then engages a team of expensive consultants to explain the premature death of the cow, and ultimately blames the government and the Trade Unions.
But I digress, at the moment I don’t give a rat's ass as I am on my way to Bangkok and have a few quid in the bank. I know this is irresponsible and I should be squirreling the money away for the proverbial rainy day but I have so many rainy days ahead of me it would be like pissing in the ocean. I am going to accumulate some memories instead.
I arrive at Swampypoo at 11.30 and on seeing the large queues at immigration which were even bigger than the one a couple of months ago when it took over an hour to get through, I feared the worst. However I must report they handled it with great efficiency assisted by a team of smart girls balancing out the queues. I was through in 20 minutes.
I usually try all sorts of things to get a taxi, such as going to departures to grab one that has just deposited a passenger. For the first time ever I went straight to the official taxi rank and it was actually the easiest journey I have ever had. Within 25 minutes my driver had dropped me at the Nana Hotel for 370 baht.
I had run out of some of my medication namely Lipitor statins, small aspirins and couldn’t get them for love or money in China. After I had checked in the Mothership I took a stroll to the pharmacy next to Bully’s on Suhkumvit Road who supplied me everything I needed with no problem and at a reasonable price,
I popped to the bar in the Nana Plaza to see my pals Wan and Tew. It was almost 14.00 so not wishing to prevaricate I bar fined them without ceremony and waltzed them up to my room. They are two older girls who know the routine. They even treated me to a little lesbian act to inspire me as I began to flag half way through the proceedings. This was a vast improvement on the slice of lemon and pep talk from the coach I used to receive at half time when I played football. A full manicure, pedicure and massage completed the service.
After 6 weeks in a dormitory on a Chinese industrial estate, a little Siamese waltz was just what the doctor ordered. I had to apologise to the hotel maids for the condition of the bathroom the next day. I had been continuing my research into fitting three people in a Nana bathtub; I may even apply for a research grant from the European community to continue these studies.
I later meet up with Phil, Union Hill, Barry and Baby Doll in the Golden Bar. Baby Doll is Barry’s Eliza Doolittle. He is currently engaged in improving this ex bar girl like Professor Higgins in G B Shaw’s Pygmalion. I can imagine Phil in the role of Colonel Pickering and Union Hill would be a perfect Alfred Doolittle. Joking apart I must admit Barry is having some real success in this project as she is turning out to be a delightful young lady and enjoying a respectable job in a retail enterprise.
As a river runs to the sea, after taking dinner in the Nana restaurant we make our way to the Tilac. Phil throws a little strop because he had missed the happy hour cheap drinks and threatened to go to Rawhide instead declaring “If I have to pay 140 baht for a beer I may as well see some tits”.
I admit my priority that evening, having already sated my lust, was to watch the Albion vs. Liverpool game. Football was another thing I had gone without whilst in China. They don’t watch football but follow basketball instead. Why the short arsed buggers are interested in seven foot tall folks throwing balls through a hoop had me beat. The last game I saw was in early March when Man United beat us.
I watched the match, a scrappy affair and although Liverpool outplayed us the Albion actually won the game with a single goal by Saint Peter (Odemwingie) completely against the run of play. It is in fact the first time the baggies have beat the Scousers at Anfield for 44 years. We usually do a lap of honour if we get a corner.
Next morning I awake too late for a Nana breakfast but what I really needed was a proper old fashioned English fry up after 6 weeks of Chinese fare. I went to Hanrahan's and had the full works – bacon, egg, sausage, beans, fried bread etc. It was wonderful but I suffered with indigestion all day.
I spent the rest of the day in lazy inactivity and caught up with my emails. I then sat watching the perambulations of Nana Tai from a couple of bars. The previous evening after viewing the girls in the Tilac I decided it was their delightful bottoms that were a Thai girl’s best feature but my afternoon’s observations convinced me that it was Thai female’s legs that are their principle attraction. I may have to commission a poll on the subject.
That evening again saw me in the Golden bar. Somkit was there to meet me. His delightful wife had given him a pass out so he could see me. He reckoned she had done so because she implicitly trusted him, but I suggested it was because she knew I am a harmless old codger. He was keen to receive a debriefing from my trip to China. He had furnished me with his own experiences of working in China and was keen to confirm he had been correct. I informed him he had been alarmingly correct and his insights were considerably more accurate than the numerous guide books I had consulted.
We make our way to the Las Vegas bar which in my opinion it is the best go-go bar in the plaza. The format involves lots of young slim pretty girls working the poles with the additional attraction of a well choreographed show. The showgirls are quite voluptuous and definitely a cut above the average girl in the plaza. Whilst we were sat watching the show Somkit chose a girl to join me, just like Union Hill does occasionally. They both appear to know exactly what my “spec” is. Am I that predictable? Clearly I am.
When Somkit returned home to his baby making duties I left Las Vegas and went to explore a couple of other bars in the plaza. The first was Erotica which was well-appointed and had some lovely girls on stage I was most impressed with the mamasan an astute and delightful 40 year old lady. I will visit this bar again.
I also investigated a bar that my friends Wan and Tew had told me had underage girls. Anyone who knows me is aware young girls do not interest me as my particular penchant is for older Thai women but I was inquisitive. The bar was tucked away in a quiet corner of the plaza and the layout was similar to Rainbow 1. The clientele was exclusively Asian and I was the only farang there. The girls were very pale and pretty and did look young. My opinion is although the girls did appear very young they were very much to the Asian spec and were probably 18 or 19 rather than the 13 and 14 year olds that my friends had declared.
I checked out of the Nana the next morning and took an aged Volvo they call a “limousine” down to Amata in Chonburi. My destination was a large UK owned factory. I know the two English guys who run it. It had been a couple of years since I had last visited, then they had their assembly plant running but the foundry was still under construction. Alan is another Stickmanite pal works for a Japanese company that produces tooling for the plant and he keeps me informed so I was inquisitive to see progress. The Pressure die casting machines were installed and operating completing the first phase of an extremely impressive facility. I am reminded of the old Carlsberg adverts “Carlsberg don’t do foundries but if they did…”
The next phase is scheduled for installation later in the year. This will be a far more ambitious venture involving the production of technically challenging cylinder blocks and heads by the gravity die process.
My pal Jim was pleased to see me. He was returning to the UK soon having done a six year stint in Thailand and had an exciting new role waiting for him. He was concerned about the next phase of the project and worried as he was the company’s only castings expert. He had been training some young lads who were very bright but still a little green. He felt they needed a grizzled old foundry man to guide them which was why he was pleased to see me and considered my visit most fortuitous. He told me he was going to recommend the company engage me as a consultant for a couple of assignments to help commission the next phase and mentor his young engineers. We arranged to meet up when he returned to the UK to progress this further.
Once I made my farewells my driver took me down to Pattaya and late afternoon I checked in the Opey de Place, an unassuming modern hotel on Soi Buakhao. It has received some critical reviews of late but I have always found it to be excellent value and it suits me. I explore the nearby LK Metro complex and put myself outside a plate of ham egg and chips in a Brit bar. That evening took me to Walking Street and saw me take a leisurely stroll down Simons bar. Sometimes you can spot a little gem in one of the many bars there. At 8 PM I make my way to Secrets bar where I had arranged to meet a few fellow Stickmanites.
My affiliation with the Stickman site has gained me scores of corresponding pen pals. Over the years I have managed to meet up with quite a few and develop some genuine friendships. I am blessed with about two dozen guys I meet up with who I am proud to consider as friends. Sometimes it is difficult to coordinate schedules so we don’t always meet but there are a few who I always see. One of these is Keith who writes as Materialsman. He has lived in Thailand for over 20 years and we have been friends for a few years now. I am always pleased to see him, and he is one of those solid pals who will offer helpful advice but is never judgmental no matter what a prat I have made of myself. He has a very interesting life which involves a fascinating ménage a trois but his life has been made exceedingly more complicated since his young mia noi has been pressuring him to give her a baby. I was curious to hear his latest news.
I also try to make new friends and that night we are joined by David, a Kiwi by birth but assures me his travels had all but eradicated that stigma. He is the facilities manager of an oil and gas exploration project in the middle of nowhere. He works 4 weeks on and 2 weeks off which he spends in the kingdom. I found him a naturally witty bloke with a keen sense of fun. He also claimed to enjoy my writing which would have also marked him as a man of taste and discernment if he didn’t keep calling me Dana. Joking apart he was a convivial companion and I strongly suspect he will join the ranks of the pals I see on future visits.
We are also joined by Bernie who turned out to be a fascinating character. He is the archetypal gnarled old Aussie. Now in his 70s, in an interesting lifetime he had done numerous jobs including sheep shearing in the Australian outback. Currently retired he dedicates his time to charitable work particularly the admirable Jesters for Kids project. It was a most entertaining evening and we chatted away until around 01.30. I returned to the hotel as refreshed as a newt content in the knowledge I had added two more genuine fellows to my list of friends.
The next day I had a lazy day and stayed in the vicinity of the hotel. I sorted my laundry and had a swim in the hotel pool. That evening once again saw me in the Secrets bar where I put myself outside of a splendid steak. I must confess despite a few little niggles about the service at times I do like the Secrets bar. It has a good business model and with coyote dancers, experienced hostesses and generally attentive serving staff there is something for everyone. The manager Larry is a bit of an old woman but allows his staff to do their own jobs and the place works well.
I made my way to FLB to meet with Neil, another Stickmanite. I was a bit early so parked my ass at the bar and ordered a beer. I am joined by one of the hostesses. I have used this bar intermittently since the days the legendary Ricky ran it and have always been struck at the quality of the hostesses who are generally a little older and classier than the average. The one who joined me was a classic dark erotic Isaan beauty and I immediately bought her a drink. She was in her mid thirties and had good English which she told me she had picked up in her time as a caddy at a leading Bangkok golf club. I got the impression however she was very new to the bar scene.
Neil arrived and we immediately began an engaging conversation. He was a cultured, educated fellow a bit younger than me. He was Scots and lived in the States but I promised not to hold that against him. He was well travelled with some interesting insights to offer and I quickly realised he would be a welcome addition to my list of pals.
He enquired about the hostess at my side and I informed him I was quite taken with the young lady and I was going to hang on to her. (Note to Barry, Phil and Union Hill…. stow the ropes and belay the keelhauling, I meant keep her for the evening not for life.)
The three of us repair to the DAB bar near the entrance to Walking Street. There is a full Isaan ensemble playing the music of the region. The band comprised three singers and two dancers with a full backing group. I found the two dancing girls mesmerising. The elegant and poised balletic moves of the Isaan dance are so graceful and so pleasing to the eye. I imagine girls are taught these dances at school and they performed them with an energy and enthusiasm rarely seen in country type dances elsewhere. In fact of all ethnic dancing the whole world over nothing compares to the sheer exuberance and joy of Isaan music and dance.
I explained that I often bought girls here as they enjoyed hearing the music of their youth. Neil understood but expressed the view it was all a bit wholesome for his taste. He was however highly amused at the one young male singer and commented on how camp he was. This young Thai man was dressed like a cockney pearly queen and had extremely effeminate mannerisms. I do wonder why so many young Thai men are such big Jessies.
When Neil left I took my Isaan beauty back to my hotel. Stripped down she displayed a lovely firm body without tramp stamps or piercings. But for a girl in her 30s she was surprisingly shy and inexperienced. She was very inquisitive about things like Viagra, and vibrators, which she informed me her friends had told her about but she had never seen. Her naivety was quite endearing. I explained I did not have Viagra but occasionally used Cialis, but only very sparingly because I did not think it was healthy to use it too often. She asked to see a tablet which I obliged. She completely surprised me by giving it a lick. It was as if it flicked a psychological switch in her and she turned from shy maiden into a ravenous sexual beast. I had visions of being carried home in a bucket. She left around 6 AM the next morning claiming a problem with her babysitter.
Next morning Neil came around to my hotel during his daily walk and we had a late breakfast in one of the Brit bars nearby. I spent the rest of the day in the hotel pool chatting with some of the chaps staying there. Early evening I am once again in Secrets for dinner. I am joined by Gow, one of the hostesses. She had been chatting to my pal David a few evenings ago and although not a classic beauty I was quite taken with her then. I fancied some spicy Thai food and asked her advice. I can not remember what I actually had but it was delicious and I complimented her on her choice. She is 35 and quite tall for a Thai girl. She had previously worked as a hotel receptionist and her English was excellent. She told me she had two teenage daughters who lived with her. It did not take much conversation to establish she was a perceptive and intelligent girl but surprisingly open and totally without guile. I was very interested in her but felt I needed a complete rest from women that night. I did however bar fine her in advance as I had plans for her the following evening.
I explore the Happy A Gogo bar. It is a good bar with some very pretty and young looking girls very much “jpegs” to the Asian spec. I find myself at the bar with a young American guy who on discovering I am English proceeds to harangue me about the treatment of Rupert Murdoch by the British Press Enquiry of all things. I told him to go and boil his head. I never fail to be amazed by the strange behaviour I occasionally encounter in Pattaya.
I take a look in Angelwitch to see the shows. They have a new act involving a live snake which was quite interesting. There was a big blousy western woman in the audience dressed in more revealing attire than the girls on stage. She bought a basket of ping pong balls but instead of just lobbing them at the girls on stage which every one else does, she had to make her way up into the gallery suspended 20’ above the stage to toss them down into the girls. Why some farang women feel they have to do everything to excess and make a spectacle of themselves when they are in Asia beggars belief. You may feel I am somewhat misogynistic in continually pointing out the aberrant behaviour of western women I observe in the kingdom. Guilty as charged milord…..my immediate reaction to seeing western women in Thailand is to throw a blanket over them to avoid scaring the horses.
At 7 PM the next evening I am collected by the delightful Gow on a brand new Honda motorbike that she had collected only that morning. It was a nice experience being ridden by a girl. She informs me I am her first passenger on this bike and actually the first farang she has had on any of her bikes. She parks it near Secrets bar and we walk to one of the fish restaurants in Walking Street. The food was excellent. The “small” platter consisted of lobster, crab, mussels, prawns, cockles, squid and fish. With a Tom Kung soup it cost less than 1,000 baht and it would have sustained 4 people. Gow commented that she had never seen a farang who could eat all things like me as most western blokes she knew were very finicky. Several girls over the years have remarked on my Catholic taste and ability to eat almost anything. I feel there is a bit of a pattern emerging here and maybe they all think I am an indiscriminating greedy pig.
We went to the ZAB again. I find Isaan girls no matter how sophisticated or world weary they are become little girls again listening to the music of their childhood. Gow told me she really appreciated me taking her to hear this group. We make our way back to Secrets were she had parked her bike. After one last drink there she takes me back to my hotel. I was very comfortable in her company and the ensuing horizontal session was leisurely and relaxed. I could not fail to notice that she has the longest thighs I have ever seen on an Asian girl. Although she told me she had arranged to take her daughter somewhere the next day she not did not rush away with the indecent haste that many girls do. She left me around midday. She was such a pleasant character I could have quite easily extended the arrangement if she was amenable but unfortunately I was leaving the within the next two days.
Later that morning I took a trip to the Royal Garden Plaza. I perused the bookshop looking for John Daysh’s book but still couldn’t find it (I finally found it on Amazon kindle and downloaded it). I went to Boots pharmacy in search of indigestion tablets. I have been eating too much farang fare and needed to revert back to Asian food. I spent an hour watching the children playing in the fountain, the childish squeals of enjoyment as the youngsters dodged the dancing jets of water was a real pleasure, as a father I could delight in the memory of my own boys when they were that age.
That evening the Pattaya music festival had taken over Beach Road. I enjoyed watching a highly competent reggae band for an hour or so. I am a great fan of Reggae music having grown up in the multicultural hotbed of the industrial west midlands. The list of the greats I have seen perform live include Bob Marley, Desmond Decker, Johnny Nash, Jimmy Cliff and the greatest of them all Toots and the Maytals. If you do not feel impelled to dance on hearing the reggae beat you are already dead. But my priority that evening was to see the Albion Villa game so once again I made my way to Secrets.
On the previous evening I had collared Larry about this but as a Yank he had no interest in the beautiful game. He did however direct me to one of his Thai barmen. An examination of the TV schedules and a couple of beers in his direction extracted a promise it would be sorted the next evening
When I walked in just before 8 PM a corner table was reserved and the nearest TV was tuned in to the match. The enchanting Gow joined me; I ordered drinks and asked her to select some Thai food for us. The game was a blood and snot affair characteristic of local derbies. The Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion grounds are located within 3 miles of each other so there is an intense local rivalry involved. It ended in a goalless draw which suited me. The win was more vital to Villa who were fighting relegation. The point for the draw had guaranteed Albion’s premiership survival for another season. I was relaxed and happy so I sponsored a little jackpot tournament amongst the serving girls, mamasans and hostesses who were sitting with me. Every time the jackpot failed to be won I added 100 baht to the pot. After about an hour the mamasan won the 1200 baht pot. It was cheaper and more entertaining than buying them all a drink.
Midday the next day I checked out of the Opey and my limousine driver was waiting for me. Every time I see those aged Volvos the music of Abba fills my head and I get the urge to wear flared pants and grow sideburns. I also feel a compulsion to talk like Noddy Holder of Slade (oops ….I already do).
I arrive at the Nana hotel mid afternoon. As I check in to the Mothership again I experience a strong sensation of coming home. I only have three days in Bangkok before I have to return to blighty.
I wonder what misadventures and rosy cheeked capers the next few days will bring.
It sounds like you're doing your best to enjoy yourself after the relative boredom of China!