Life Begins At 40: Bangkok Revisited
First, a comment on my nom de plum. British and Commonwealth readers may think it is related to some slang for the female pubic area, however, it isn't. MUFF simply refers to China Eastern Frequent Flyer; MU being the code for the airline.
They say life begins at 40, and for myself, it certainly did.
My 40th birthday was one of the most bizarre evenings I have ever had. A few months before, the company I was working for closed their office, and whilst not made unemployed, I was forced into a 500 km weekly commute to the headquarters. The drive, whilst fine in the summer, became a compete chore in the winter. However, the HR manager, clearly with access to my records, was determined that I spend my 40th birthday, a Wednesday, in my home town.
So, I was duly dispatched from HQ, in order to drive home and 'celebrate' my birthday in my local pub.
Whereas it may be common in girly bars in Asia, having the staff outnumber customers, in the UK isn't a great business model to follow. That's what happened, myself, the only customer, with three staff; and it wasn't an enjoyable experience. Whilst not being much of a 'birthday person' outwith childhood years, it was an experience I was determined never to repeat.
For my 41st birthday, I was located in Shanghai and took a long weekend in Ho Chi Minh City where the delights of 'naked pool' were confirmed at first hand. Could form another retrospective sumbission, perhaps…..
For my 42nd birthday, I had relocated to a third-tier city in Jiangsu province, though still close to Shanghai. Co-incidentally, my friends in a talented and influential band chose my birthday, now, a Friday, as their day for the CD release in Shanghai. So, I take a dozen colleagues up to the show in the company minibus. Highlights being that I got to reenact Mogwai's "Iggy Pop" monologue, and the sight of our company's Head of Government & Regulatory Affairs boogieing out to the post-punk sounds.
The leap year means that I miss my 43rd birthday landing on a Saturday. Bugger! Anyway, where shall I go?
Well, I happen to be a member of several airline loyalty schemes. In reality, they don't promote loyalty at all, well, certainly, outside of the USA. Sometime in October or November, an e-mail from the Marco Polo Club flashes up on my inbox.
Bangkok, all-in for RMB 1560 return with Dragonair/Cathay Pacific. As Ewan McGregor says at the start of Trainspotting, toilet scene: "Ya Fxxxing Dancer".
So, I am booked: out on the Friday, back on the Tuesday. My first trip to the Land of Smiles since 2003, over 9 years ago.
In the meantime I do some research. In 2003 the internet was reserved for governments and academics. Then, the Lonely Planet Guide was your bible. Not now.
I decide to stay in a hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 13. It gets a reputation for being 'guest friendly', however, I am guessing few establishments in the city outwith the very top end don't turn a blind eye to companions.
In my research, I also learn a little about ladyboys. Each to their own, these people don't, in any way, interest myself.
Friday comes and I am routed Pudong to Hong Kong to Bangkok. There's not so much to say about Dragonair and Cathay Pacific except they are boringly competent. Outside of typhoons, they are predictably reliable. Whereas this may appear a criticism, it isn't. Dragonair is the best regional airline I have flown on. And I have flown on a lot.
It's my first time at the new BKK airport, and whilst it is not SIN or HKG, it is good. Good, also, to take a train downtown, easy from there to take a Skytrain to Nana BTS. After 9 years, I have to say that navigating the city is considerably easier.
I don't head directly to the hotel from the BTS station. Instead, I do a little exploring. I quickly find the Biergarten which, curiously, hits the spot. Good to have local Chang, at 6.4% versus 5.0% export, and food-wise, good to have Thai-levels of spice with German-levels of meat.
It's about a 20 minute walk from the Biergarten to the hotel. I later realise, I go the long way round, up Soi 7 to Skytrain, along, down Soi 13…..later I will cut some corners out.
If anyone read my earlier submission, well, what I decide to do may freak you out. Despite it being a Friday night, after checking into the hotel, I just grab some supermarket beers, crisps and chocolate, and have a night in with the laptop. Crazy, but there is method to this madness.
In China, I don't have a VPN. It's nothing to do with the economics, it is more of the principle, to be honest. First, I am not on Facebook. Actually, I tend to pity my friends who are. (However, I think the FB business model is headed for the swanny, now. That's a separate topic…..)
Although Youku is good for mainstream music, it isn't so good for Indie. I decide that I'll go through the alphabet, watching videos on Youtube, of acts that I've invariably seen live, though not on video for a while: Ash, Buzzcocks, Cardigans, the Delgados and so on, up to the Zutons. In retrospect, whilst conceptually, a little boring, it was quite nostalgic and therapeutic.
I get up on the Saturday, maybe 1030 or so. This part of Bangkok is unfamiliar to myself, as last time I was located near Khao San Road, with a one-off visit to Pattpong. I wander around for a bit, and take a beer at big warehouse place that seems to specialise in seafood. One of the servers is the most obvious ladyboy I have ever seen. It gets me thinking; in fact, it gets me scared.
For Stickman's British readers, please let me digress on the culinary side. Having lived in China for three years, I will never eat Chinese food in the UK again. It's not that it is 'bad food', it is simply completely unauthentic, with maybe, the exception of Guandong province. For similar reasons, I don't eat Indian food in China. So, my second meal in Bangkok is a curry, one of the long-established restaurants on a soi within eyesight of the Skytrain. Whilst it is good, I would have preferred a bit hotter.
Saturday afternoon is mainly exploring, and watching the world go by. Just before dusk I end up in the western bar directly opposite NEP. Like Phet, I am a bit of a people-watcher, and again, it is quite therapeutic to take in all that's going on. Having researched NEP, I decide, it's not really for me. However, there's a few freelancers congregating in the car park opposite.
Establishing the right balance between beer; 'Dutch courage' and mattress performance, I make my move. There are four freelancers, and, to be honest, three of them could be ladyboys. But, the one who looks Chinese, and definitely, the pick of the bunch, doesn't. About 3 metres out, she flashes a card to me, in English and Thai:
"DEAR SIR, I AM DEAF AND DUMB. 1500 BAHT FOR ONE HOUR'S SEX". [Apologies for the capitals; accuracy is my middle name]
Well, having lived in Asia for, then, two years, again, I cannot lose face. So, off we head to the hotel, this time, utilising the short-cuts.
Stickman insists on no 'sex reports' and this isn't. Again, for the British readers, some may have heard of the urban legend that is TV presenter, Sue Lawley, getting rogered by a BBC technician, whilst the microphone was still attached. Google "Fxxx me 'till I fart" and you'll find it. Well, the irony is that I didn't even get a fart out of the mute girl. She was, however, highly skilled, and earned a 33% tip on the aforementioned transaction.
Postscript: I am not sure what percentage of Stick's 8000 plus reports mention 'face'. I would guess in the region of 10%. Kind advice for all readers: Please do not lose face whilst in Asia. As shocking as what I did may seem, it was the lessor option over losing face with the girl.
Okay, onto some music, now. With over 8000 sumbissions and however many readers, there must be one person who is familiar with the music of both Metallica and Mogwai as I do. So, this analogy is especially for you:
Whilst a marked difference from Master of Puppets, when One was released, it took heavinesss, and especially, drum production, to another level. Whilst later, due to the Napster issue, I would consider Lars Ulrich, the 'Twat of the Universe', I did admit, and still do, that he could batter a set of skins. Does he top Topper Headon, or Steven Morriss? No. Back to the point, when One end's it truly is the orgasmic climax- uh-uh-uh-uh-urgh! Silence.
However, in music there's another way of doing things, and Mogwai's Christmas Steps(*) has the climax at about 5 minutes out, then meanders down to the end in a post-orgasmic chill, with gentle melodies, and occasionally, when live, some particularly tasteful cello from Luke Sutherland. So, this submisssion follows the latter path, not the former. Nevertheless, please stay with me, or as my Chinese colleagues sometimes write to me: kindly pay attention.
(*) By the way, one of the working title's of the track was 'Cxxt'. Quite apt.
You're not going to top the bonking of a dumb bird, with China Doll features, early 20s, and, who has delivered about the best sex you've had. However, the long weekend in Bangkok hasn't finished and needs to be documented.
I think it was shock and not shame that took me back out to the soi that Nana sits on, and I ended up down the road playing pool to ease the burden on my mental system. I won more than I lost, though with another small shock at the end: you pay for each game of pool in this part of Bangkok…..hey, maybe Shanghai isn't so bad, after all…..
From Sunday noon, it was back at the bar overlooking NEP, mainly watching the world go by, still enjoying the fuller body and alcohol content of in-country Chang. I've probably gone back to the Biergarten for the excellent pork knuckle with chilli and basil, before heading north, under the Skytrain, just to see more of the city and curb my drinking. Because, today, is my birthday, and I do need to celebrate this later on.
Strangely, I am not tempted to enter NEP itself. In hindsight, I am a little embarrased, though it does mean a return trip to BKK at a frequency much less than 9 years is in order to correct. The reason is probably down to Stick and his officiandos. Anyway, it will get resolved sometime soon.
Around dusk, and still getting my head round last night, I spot one of just a few things that would raise eyebrows higher than last night. Let me rank them as suits in a pack of cards.
* Clubs would be a Saudi girl.
* Diamonds would be a DPRK girl, though I did notice a very early Stickman sumbission, (in the low hundreds) had experienced one.
* Hearts would be an adult dwarf
* Spades would be an amputee, though I do note Sir Paul McCartney has ticked this particular box, albeit, an expensive tick…..
Around dusk I happen to spot Queen of Hearts, and it immediately cheers me up no end. Hey, there was nothing wrong with last night, at all, simply a 'business transaction'!
Having pre-programmed myself to avoid the NEP, I duly pick up another freelancer from the carpark, and take her to the ever-guest-friendly hotel. Sex was good, though nothing special.
Monday is my last full day in the city and almost completely unmemorable. One thing, I did notice, was an alcohol curfew from shops during the afternoon. Surely some overreaction to some issue in the past, otherwise, this is completely bonkers. Knowing the culinary situation back in China, meant that another curry was had, before I returned.
Tuesday was the day I returned home, full in the knowledge that the Jiangsu winter would hit me full on within 12 hours. Such is the smiling efficiency of both Dragonair and Cathay Pacific means that the only other memorable thing was a waitress spilling my just-bought Guinness over me at HKG airport. Having drunk nothing other than Chang over the preceeding days, my mood changed from mild annoyment and anger to amusement, as this being just another example of "Sod's Law".