Hardened Lothario's find themselves disarmed by girls whose innocence is touched by a hint of guiltless sensuality. Even when artifice and a mercenary bent are always part of the equation.
Compliant surfaces draw you close to the ubiquitous Asian heartthrob. Girls promiscuous with flatteries. Feigned kindness. A gaggle of lovelies ready to please. But better false smiles than honest rudeness. Women trained to project an air of charming acquiescence that suggest everything and means nothing. No need to anatomize their charms…they are ersatz and specious.
I always strive for a serendipeter's journey. One seamless flow of blue epiphanies. A mind full of unsolicited distractions.
Carnal temptations are around every corner in Asia. Can you eschew carnal proclivities? Do you choose an incitement to perversity or a defusing of it? You nust slice through the Gordian Knots invented by the mind.
You have yet to touch
This soft flesh
This throbbing blood
Are you not lonely,
Explainer of the way?
In Zen Buddhism–immersion in the moment–its sense of immediacy and intensity…is the objective. Asia has a way of keeping you in the moment. I think it is because of its heterogeneity. A maelstrom of paradoxes. The stark contrasts. For me, that is the gift of S.E. Asia. Asia keeps you in the moment. A funky, disorganized, low-budget slice of exotica. A constantly changing tableaux.
When I see the first
New moon, faint in the twilight,
I think of the moth eyebrows
Of a girl I saw only once.
Banality and political correctness are de rigueur in the west. The rush and clamor of the everyday. Homogeneity, ignorance, sloth, and gluttony seem to predominate.
A Leisurely Drive to the Seedy Side
My driver rolled up to the entrance at the Sukhothai Hotel in Bangkok. It was almost noon. I decided that I would tour a notorious farang bar girl venue. In the early afternoon. As opposed to viewing the raucous venues after dark. I wanted to see the seediness in the light of day. Even though it would be somewhat attenuated in the mid-day sun. Less activity. Fewer girls on display.
We drove the E320 to Patpong. Notorious for raunchy sex shows and meretricious girls in mid-thigh skirts. We were cruising at a "snails pace" on a Patpong soi. Suddenly, a mamasan parallels our E320. She is walking briskly…so we can see her ribald pantomime. She is pantomiming oral sex. Vigorously placing her middle finger in her mouth. The finger goes in and out with rapidity. She grins. I power the window down. She implores me to follow her. Cold Singha. Beautiful girls. I immediately told Khun Khom to park the car.
It was a dilapidated hovel. We climbed stairs to the second level. It was amazingly cozy. A solitary small table with subdued lighting on the far right side of this den of iniquity. We sat at the table. The mamasan brings two cold Singha beers. Twelve girls in pink mid-thigh skirts decorate the room. They were all twenty something. Short time rooms are within my view. The girls were inexplicably transfixed. As though I was an animal in a zoo. Khun Khom wearing his "drivers" uniform from the grand Sukhothai. A white suit coat with matching pants and hat. Captain Kangaroo like. Redolent of the sartorial excesses of Muammar Gaddafi. It was risible. The girls remained transfixed. They studied this absurd juxtaposition. Farang with Thai Captain Kangaroo! My lexicon lacks superlatives for the abject level of absurdity!
The mamasan proceeds to direct the most beautiful girl. She coquettishly sits next to me. She pretends that she is not interested in Captain Kangaroo. She was delectable. I must admit that I was enraptured. She was gorgeous. I realize that Thai sexual mores are different from what I experienced growing up in Iowa. Even though in Iowa I was considered a prolific whore dog. Sex did not seem to be a question of morality or commitment in S.E. Asia. I was raised in a culture where directness is expected. Her culture valued indirectness. My conscience was vexed. I was immersed in a culture where moral strictures do not apply. I remained stalwart and at ease. After all, Khun Khom was my protector from nonvetted femmes fatales.
We enjoyed our beers. I soaked up the flavor of the room. The mamasan was tireless with her libidinal suggestions. She continued to employ ribald pantomime. I decided that I would not compromise myself. The question: Was I willing to compromise the nubile Thai lovelie in the pink skirt? The girls probably hailed from Udon Thani in the northeast of Thailand or the Hat Yai brothels…a city in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border.
We had another round, and then I suggested that we "leave forthwith" and depart the premises.
We were on Soi 33. After Stapleton's katoey imbroglio somewhere in Patpong. He had been in country for 6 months with Kimberly Clark. And living on the 22nd floor of President Park on Soi 24. But he was utterly clueless.
Earlier in the evening, in the vicinity of Soi 24– we got sucked into a place for drinks. Three vixens out front, scantily clad. An inducement. Nothing more.
We chose a table. No one else in the place. Suddenly, and without request, one of the three vixens brought a platter of appetizers to our table. I was a neophyte in Bangkok. Stapleton should have known better.
We enjoyed a few Changs… and then we were presented with a USD 80 checkbin.
We paid the grossly inflated bill, and then we were en route to Napoleon on Soi 33. We had a fun evening. Lots of pretty girls.
I arranged an assignation with Mai. She agreed to meet me at the front entrance of Napoleon the following day. Our plan was to luxuriate poolside at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. And we did just that.
I took a taxi to Napoleon around noon. En route, I saw a stunner on Sukhumvit. I told the taxi driver to stop the car. I just wanted to watch the languorous roll of her hips for a moment or two. When we finally reached Napoleon… the first thing this asshole said to her…"he is butterfly." Now…I assumed his English was marginal, but I asked him why he couldn't keep his pie hole shut.
He intended to negatively impact my assignation!
Mai called me in San Antonio several times after I returned to the U.S. She called me on 911. And she said "What happen to your country? You okay?"
A few years later I am in BKK again. I am with my driver from the Sukhothai. Khun Kohm and I went everywhere together. And he was always resplendent in his Sukhothai uniform. Like I said: Kind of like Captain Kangaroo. We hit the artist bars on Soi 33. All of the girls were still at Degas. And they were ebullient when I arrived. I bought them all beers. Khun Kohm sitting right next to me at the bar. Our car parked outside.
I will never forget the moment when we left Degas. All of the girls… that I knew from my first trip, were standing out front at Degas– smiling and waving to us as we drove away.
I told Khun Kohm to head for Napoleon.
On my first trip to BKK– Napoleon was outrageous. Beautiful girls. Busy and electric. High energy. And it was my first introduction to the bar girl side of Thailand. This time the staff and energy…exceedingly subdued. Very few patrons.
I enter with Khun Kohm. Mai is still working at Napoleon. But the complexion of the bar had changed. It lacked the energy and vibrance I remembered. Fewer girls. The same mamasan in place. The girls were wearing dresses that extended to the knee. I told Mai to put on something sexy. A mid-thigh skirt. I grabbed a table with Khun Kohm. We were the only patrons in the bar.
Mai had turned very mercenary. When she returned to our table, in her mid-thigh skirt, I indicated that I was going to go to the hotel for a late dinner. She became virulent. She enlisted the mamasan, and the two berated me. They presented me with a USD 30 checkbin. (We had two bottles of Singha.)
I looked at them with derision and contempt. I grabbed a 500 baht note from the pocket of my blazer…and tossed it into the air. It fluttered for a second or two…just like a butterfly.
I declared that we would leave. I did not hurl invective. The 500 baht note in the air was declarative. I remained stalwart in presence. Kkun Kohm appeared incredulous. He said, "why this happen?"
Mai called the Sukhothai a dozen times. I would not return the call.
The day of my departure was Khun Kohm's day off. I called him and asked him to meet me for lunch at the Sukhothai. He arrived a few hours after my phone call. We were sitting in a beautiful atmosphere at the Sukhothai. I handed Khun Kohm a C note. USD 100. And I said "thank you for a great adventure."
On a beautiful afternoon– the two of us relaxed at the Peninsula Hotel on the Chao Praya. Watching the barges and launches, and drinking Chang. Khun Kohm introduced me to his friend at the Peninsula. This guy apparently drove a Bentley or something equally ridiculous in ostentation. But we all had a nice afternoon.
It was finally time for me to get to the airport. Khun Khom had arranged for my transport to Don Meuang. A friend of his at the Sukhothai pulled his limo in place, and loaded my luggage. Khun Khom quietly disappeared. But he was walking furtively to Sathorn. A place where the "powers that be" at the Sukhothai would not notice. As we turned on to Sathorn, Khun Kohm opened the limo door. He smiled beatifically. He had been my advisor on all things Thai. My protector and confidante. We drove to Don Meuang.
When we approached the departure area, Khun Kohm"s friend dropped us off. And he headed back to the Sukhothai.
Khun Kohm carried my luggage. This was before TSA and all of the terrorist nonsense. We reached my concourse. I turned to him and shook his hand. And I said, "Khun Kohm…you are a good man." He just smiled.
Six months later I called the Sukhothai to touch base with him. He was a driver at different hotel. I obtained his contact information from the Sukhothai staff. I called him at the new hotel. We talked for 20 minutes. We laughed. And we got caught up on all of our shared adventures in Bangkok.
I mention Khun Kohm, because this is the great part about travel. The seredipiter's journey. The epiphanies. Finding a friend. Connecting. As Kipling said. " When east meets west."
I still think about him. And I hope he is happy and healthy. He was gracious. And he made the trip so gratifying.
Emerson said "travel is a fools paradise." And I agree to an extent. But when you settle in, and find a sense of wonderment, in the people around you, and you do not try to chase from one place to the next, and you connect with a handful of people around you…you discover things that stay with you for a lifetime.
Next–we headed to Soi Cowboy. A comparable venue. I selected a pub. Khun Kohm parks the E320. As I saunter to the pub, I noticed an attractive girl sitting out front, eating fried rice. I paused for a moment, and asked her for a bite. She handed me her bowl without hesitation. I ate all of it. Then I ordered fried rice and squid for her from a street vendor less than 15 meters from where I had positioned myself.
I enter the establishment. A scant crew of lovelies working mid-day. They descended on me as I took a seat at the bar. I knew it was feigned interest. They start by massaging my shoulders and complimenting me…I recall "devastatingly handsome." I just wanted to enjoy a cold beer. No need for sham emotion or mercenary interest. I reached into my pocket and grabbed a "red" and held it over my right shoulder. Instantly, they had their desired commission. There was no need to continue to feign interest in the farang. I was bookended at the bar by the collection of lovelies. One of the girls filed her nails. Two engaged in trifling conversation. All were oblivious to my presence. Thai women, including bar girls, are interested in two things: money and duplicity. [There are exceptions with Thai women, but very rare.]
It was time to return to the Sukhothai for a world-class lunch at the Colonnade restaurant. Coincidentally, my S-corp is Colonnade Consulting Group. Inc.
Rigorous Self-Honesty and Abstruse Cerebrations
"Rigorous self-honesty, I consider, is the best way for a person to live their life. Asking ourselves why we are here is helpful. Most will not admit it, but it is for cheap sex with women half or one third the size of girls back home."
"And for the lonely western men coming from counties like my homeland where sex is over past 40, this is an intoxicating scene."
My default here is Mao's injunction. Mao said "self-criticism is like eating dog meat; if you haven't tried it, you don't know what your missing."
The illusion in Thailand is encouraged. In SEA, I learned for the first time– all the grim sophistries of destitution and prostitution. And if we choose, we can descend upon native lands quite literally from the heaven, deus ex machina from an alien world of affluence.
The most productive period in my life started when I was 40. Extraordinary fecundity. And more cute girls that I could shake a stick at. Effortless. For the girls…unremunerative liaisons. Pouting lovelies splayed across Ralph Lauren sheets. And yes, there were moans of venery!
I have never been lonely. Aloneness is something I celebrate. Aloneness (the path of least resistance) is not loneliness. And traveling alone forces you to engage, and enjoy the journey. You are more receptive and open to experiences. It is like the difference between a casual conversation and a romance. You surrender to a place and it begins to give itself over to you. I travel for anomaly and ambiguity. A journey into terra incognita. And so we have to apprehend in some deeper way than the known. Epiphanies and complexities. Intercultural encounters. The journey becomes the destination.
I think of home in imaginative and non-linear ways. The invisible, intangible qualities by which you guide your life. Home is what I carry around inside me. I’ve grown up with a sense of home as being something internal and nothing to do with a piece of soil or any territory. Rapturous or foul, I settle in, and enjoy the moment. Any sense of knowing is illusory, There is always more to learn. The importance of not being distracted by the surface, keeping your eyes instead on what’s essential. The Walden-like state Thoreau wrote about—that degree of simplicity.
Just cut away all externals and distractions. Emerson said, "The great man, is he who in the midst of the crowds keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Blaise Pascal said, “All of man’s troubles stems from his inability to sit alone, quietly, in a room for any length of time.”
Relationships can be quite tedious. They require adjustment and compromise. They ebb and flow.
The autumn sky is like a women's heart (Onna-no kokoro, aki-no-sora). [The sky now gray, now blue, always like a woman's heart.]
But once in awhile, you find a girl that you never forget. You realize that you must let go of the emotional component. You must let her go, and wish her happiness in her life.
In the empty mountains
The leaves of the bamboo grass
Rustle in the wind.
I think of a girl
Who is not here.
In Japan, I remember sliding blondwood screens opening onto a clean geometry of wood and water. The rock garden that traced the pattern of infinity. A riddle of surface and depth. Both sedative and stimulant. The maples before me climbed to the blue. Elegiac softness in the air. The vision I had always cherished of living simply and alone, in some foreign land, unknown. A life of Thoureauvian quiet seemed most practicable abroad.
Wabi-sabi is a beautiful Japanese concept that has no direct translation in English. Both an aesthetic and a worldview, it connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay.
Walking Street Anecdote
While having cocktails and smoking the uber smooth Egyptian pipe (copious amounts of smoke exiting my nostrils) we were perfectly positioned to watch the passage of human detritus at the Candy Shop. Potbellied and potvaliant Euro trash with svelte and pulchritudinous Thai lovelies. Russians of similar ilk. A sartorial abomination paraded by without cessation. Several beautiful girls with tramp stamps (tattoos for the uninitiated).
Fast forward to a Walking Street venue. We enter and I select a table. Beautiful women walking by every 3 seconds. There is a guy (maybe European or American) on the dance floor. At least 50 years old. This guy had me laughing paroxysmally. He was dancing by himself on the dance floor. He was an uglier version of James Caan. Not that I think James Caan is unattractive. Kind of like the movie when the fat broad broke his ankle with a sledge hammer. He was utterly shameless. Not inebriated, but certainly not the least bit inhibited. He would dance. He would gesticulate. He was not particularly coordinated but his moves were hilarious. He would approach the cocktail waitress and grind. He would approach female patrons, and grind in front of their table in an absurd manner. He would grin. Ear to ear. All he wanted was a little encouragement (which we provided) to amp it up a bit. He desperately wanted my girlfriend to join him on the dance floor. She was laughing but would not join him despite my entreaties. Again, I do not have sufficient superlatives to describe how funny this guy was. Okay, I have an oblique sense of humor. I think Jay Leno's comedy is sophomoric and boring. But this guy was an artist. It was arguably the best part of the entire evening. And the entire evening was a freak show.
A Picture of Thailand
A tropical breeze. Scintillating. A Buddhist day… so no alcohol, but they allowed our bottle of Jameson. Squid. Pak Bung…also known as water morning glory. Sea bass. Nam pla. Jasmine rice. And the reiterative surf.