You Stole Everything But Now I Want To Say ‘Thank You’
THAILAND – My first time arriving on these shores. The land of smiles I had heard. I had seen many beautiful sunsets, glorious landscapes and many worldly wonders but of the places I had seen, I’d only skimmed the surface of the culture and people. Arriving in Thailand gave me the opportunity to understand more than I could have ever imagined. Having travelled around the world for six months my final plan was to spend about 1-2 weeks in Thailand, two weeks in Cambodia, one week in Vietnam and go home to live out my boring life in the UK. Please forgive some of the observations if you live here but to put things into perspective I had never heard of a bar fine and things don’t always turn out the way you planned…
It was a struggle for survival and a battle of wills. I managed to hold on but the crowd were jostling and crushing me as I strived forward. I saw a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. The noise was deafening but a small ray of light on the other side urged me onwards. And all this just to get from Bangkok Airport exit terminal to the main street. It's like alien vs. predator. You are funnelled into a small pipe line of people and exposed to every aggressive tout offering taxi rides and accommodation. The best way to handle this is learn the words: 'Mai aow Krap' which I found out means ‘No want thank you'. These three little words of wisdom seem to have magic powers and will part the waves of touts blocking your way. The reason being that they will believe you speak Thai and as they are only looking for innocent prey that can be easily conned they will leave you alone. Once outside look for the main taxi booth, they will give a ticket which you give to the waiting taxi driver. This will tell him the destination and before you take off make sure the metre is switched on. Alternatively, just outside you can catch a bus to Khao San road or Ekamai bus station.
Being on a budget I caught the bus to backpacker ghetto, namely Khao San Road. This was my first time in Bangkok and I was disappointed as I travelled through the city. My perceptions were shattered, I had not expected a sprawling metropolis of concrete and commercialism. Khao San Road, to my surprise, was just one street about 400 metres long and packed with travellers. The bars are full of 'on a budget' crowd, the chants are the same all the way down, 'hey dude' and 'Yeah man things are banging!' The holiday students, the dropouts, the old men with dread locks, the bangles and the beads. Yes, Khao San Road is an eclectic mix of the good, the bad, the ugly, the lost, found and curious. Finding a room is easy but finding one far enough away from the noise that pulsates on well into the night is an entirely different matter. I stayed for three days and didn't sleep much and felt like a zombie. At either end of the street are tuktuk drivers that will take you anywhere you like for a fee. On my second night, other backpackers raved that I had to go see a notorious sex show in the famous red light district of Pat Pong. Bagging a tuktuk I was off to see an eye opener.
The teenage tuktuk driver named Rolei looked more like a dashing angel than a driver. He was dressed all in white from head to toe, topped with a white bandanna. In the unlikely event it ever snowed, you'd never find him. He was a desperado kind of driver, hurling through Bangkok high on Lippo, which is concentrated caffeine juice, legal but lethal. After thirty precarious minutes we arrived at a shabby club in Patong. I paid my five hundred baht entrance fee and was led into a room that was darker than a coal pit. I was easy prey for the hardened club girls. Two girls invited themselves to sit with me, this was immediately followed by two lady drinks at 250 baht each. I could have refused to pay but then you never know what's going to happen after that. Anyway, one of the girls distracted me by mechanically massaging my leg while the other one just looked bored and resolved. Moments later the lights dimmed and a naked girl walked on stage. The infamous Bangkok sex show had begun. It seemed the show consisted of many little acts. Each girl would take to the stage and perform her specialty performance. The first girl shot a dart from a tube held between her legs and popped a balloon held up by one of the audience. Another articulate young lady performed calligraphy by writing names taken from the audience onto a large sheet of paper with a marker pen logged in her crutch. Smoking cause’s cancer but no one seemed mention this fact to the next girl who could blow rings of smoke from a cigarette lodged in her fun funnel. A 100 metre length of ribbon was pulled out of another by various members of the audience, who were mainly Japanese that rapturously applauded after every routine. Even two western girls arrived, curious I suppose but they didn’t stay long. It could be said that it degrades women, it could be said it's only curious titillation but either way it’s not something you’re going to see everyday at your local classical theatre.
Thirty minutes later I started to get hassle from the manager/pimp who wanted me to take a girl for the night at cost of 9000 baht. I explained that I had only brought a few baht with me because I only wanted to see the show. I opened my wallet to prove I wasn’t telling a pork pie! After which they seemed to lose interest in me. I did have 5000 baht stuffed in my sock but that wasn’t coming off for any princess of Bangkok. Over an hour had passed when I was informed that my guide, the crazy tuktuk teenage driver, had returned. I was grateful for an excuse to leave as this was only my second night alone in Bangkok and other travellers had warned me that I might be given a large bill at the end of the evening. Fortunately for me this didn’t happen, I think because I had hired a tuktuk driver, if I had arrived on my own maybe things might have been different. I understand the driver gets a little of the entrance money for taking a tourist to the club. Hey, I didn’t mind he had turned out to be a bit of an insurance policy. So we hit road home, full throttle in his rocket fuelled three wheeler. He nearly threw me out after hitting a huge hole in the road. He cried out a startled, ‘I sorry sir’ which was drowned by the noise of the engine before turning his attention back to burning the up road. I guess the caffeine had kicked in. We were swerving in and out of traffic, flying across pavements, I’m sure I heard a child scream! Was it exciting? For sure, was it adrenaline pumping? For sure, was I shitting myself? For fxxxing sure. At this point I remembered the guy looked like angel and he was, the guy was an angel of death! After an eternity we landed at the B&B. I wanted to ask why the parachute didn’t open up to slow us down but I knew he wouldn’t understand. I said a little pray to Buddha and gave him 200 baht.
It was midnight and Khao San Road was in full party mood. I decided to meander into a bar for a nightcap. Backpackers are a friendly lot, always willing to share information with a fellow traveller. It's like signing up to a transient world club. They gave me information about Ko Samui and Phuket in the South. I was also intrigued by some of the travellers telling me how appalled they were when they travelled to a city named Pattaya. Apparently, you could see older men walking around with beautiful young girls. It struck me that the western world, for all it’s tolerance had a problem with ageism. Unless you’re a film/football star or rich, according to unspoken social rules in GB, anyone over forty cannot have a younger girlfriend or boyfriend for fear of being stigmatised. It was just what I was looking for, conflict and controversy.
The following morning I left Kho San Road behind. I waved down a tuktuk driver and asked for a ride to Ekamai bus station. Questioning me further, he discovered that I was travelling to Pattaya. He offered to take there himself for a mere 800 baht in a tuktuk! I declined knowing full well that the government bus to Pattaya was a mere 90 baht and by far a bit safer. The coach ride took two hours to reach the outskirts of Pattaya town. Collecting my gear I followed the crowd onto a baht bus that would take us deeper into the center of town. A baht bus is a small van with just enough room for twelve people to squeeze into. It's called a baht bus because it cost farangs ten baht for a ride. The ride from the coach station cost twenty baht! and lasted five minutes. Stopping along a beach road I was soon looking down side roads for a place to stay. The first three places were full but I eventually found a place called PS Guesthouse. I was shown to a dimly lit shabby room for 300 baht, not quite the Hilton but at least it was a bed for the night.
The next day, around noon I ordered a beer and sat the guest house lobby which opened onto the street. In front of me, sitting with her back to me was a young Thai girl. She was sipping a beer. To my surprise she turned around and confidently started a conversation. Her name was Kay and she also stayed at the hotel. She lived fulltime in Pattaya but originally came from Udon Thani. She was a slim 25 year old, 5'5'' tall with a scorpion tattoo on her right hand. Over the next few days we became friends. She showed me around the town taking in some of the more unknown sights.
It had been fun in Pattaya but after three days I had become restless and decided to move on to Cambodia. Tonight I would treat Kay to a final night on the town. We met up around 7pm and I noticed her eyes were a little glazed over, ‘Started already’ I inquired.
‘Nooo, I’m just a little tired’ she replied.
We set off, bar after bar, singing and dancing like a couple of hyenas living it up at a party. After painting the town red and apologising for Kay puking up in a bar, we made our way back to the guest house. I had grown quite fond of her, and her quirky ways. Staggering up the stairs to my room we crashed on the bed. It was the first time we had been drunk and more importantly, alone together in my room! We started singing and tickling each other and we compared tattoos.
‘The only good scorpion is a dead one,’ she stated emphatically looking down at the tattoo on her hand and we both laughed.
‘Can I sleep here’ she whispered.
‘Oooh! Really,’ I replied suggestively.
‘Please,’ she said. ‘I’m drunk and I don’t think I can make it to my room.’
I was won over and we talked for a little longer but the long night and effects of the alcohol made us both fall asleep.
‘Mister’ a voice shouted.
I awoke startled to the sound of a loud voice.
‘You ok, mister?’ echoed a voice in the darkness.
To my surprise it was the receptionist, silhouetted and standing in door of my room.
‘Your door open one hour,’ she said in a concerned manner.
I sat up rubbing my eyes.
‘I’m fine,’ I replied.
I was puzzled by how she got into my room and looked around for Kay. But Kay had gone and looking around the empty room, so was most of my gear. The next thirty minutes were a blur of anger, desperation, humiliation and shouting. A huge vat of violent spewing emotion opened up and I had fallen in. On advice of the receptionist I remember running into the street and chartering a baht bus to the nearest police station to make a report. But after that, events were a blur. I stayed awake the rest of the night unable to sleep. She’d taken all of my belongings including my diary, camera, video camera and laptop. I could not believe in my wildest dreams I'd been robbed, she seemed so nice.
Over the coming days I found out more about my treacherous young friend. She was a ya ba freak, a highly addictive drug widely available in Thailand. I’d also bribed people to tell me where lived but every time I got close the trail went cold. I had made the mistake of telling her that I was going to Cambodia the next day, which meant that she would have little trouble from the police. I cancelled my trip and tried to recover my stolen gear. After seven days searching, I gave up all hope of anything being returned. I recalled what she said, ‘the only good scorpion is a dead one.’ And now I realised what she meant.
I was lucky that my passport, money and flight tickets were in my secret body belt at the time of the treachery. I was exhausted and heavy with emotion. With all of my important belongings stolen I had lost the will to travel and decided to stay in Pattaya. Firstly, I would move out of PS Guest house into a reputable Hotel. It had still had me puzzled as to how she made it past reception with all that equipment without being noticed. Was the guest house involved? I would never know. But one thing was for sure, I wasn’t hanging around to find out. I moved out the next day and into the Toi Hotel in Skaw beach. This turned out to be one of the best middle range lodgings in Pattaya. After staying a week at this pleasant hotel my sanity and reason returned. I’d also found a little bar called ‘The Cowboy bar’. It was here, over the next coming months, I was to learn the mysterious world of Thailand culture, its bar girls and the complex world of love and money….
DIARY (from the dream world illusion that is Pattaya)
The bar had many characters that came and went over the course of a year. The following are some I met.
The names have been changed to protect the guilty!
Kay, Thai female small, pretty and bar cashier. Also has a girlfriend named Gai, exceptional English.
Chompoo, Devious, tall, slim and beautiful Thai bargirl. Loyal to her friends be they Thai or Farang, exceptional.
Qwan, Young Thai girl, keen to help her mother and father out of debt. She is small and beautiful, jealous and clingy, but loyal heart.
John, ex-pat Scotsman, 55, two metre tall heavily built, electrical engineer and manager, white socks, beige shorts and always presentable, learnt his trade from the book of life. He had been to places that even mosquitoes would be scarred to go.
Harry, 65 years forward, ex-pat USA New Orleans policeman, John Wayne character, silver hair, false teeth, not bad looking, likes to takes three ladies at a time. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes looses the plot.
Valentino, French Canadian, 1.7 metre tall, dyed black hair, forty something, a keen dancer and keen ladies man. Stocky built, confused when drunk, will speak French, English and Thai in one sentence so that no one has a clue what he's talking about.
Slimey, small Scotsman, 37 year old wheeler dealer, doesn't want to work, has little money, very much a wannabe, borrows money and runs. Is always the last to buy a round. Life ambition to sleep with as many girls as possible for as little as possible.
Derek, South of England ex pat, thirty something, nick name earned by being bitten by a Russell's viper, married a Thai girl but regretted it, has Thai girlfriend, likes a drink or ten, punchy when drunk but all round good guy.
Peaow, Attractive, 24 year old village girl. Two children back home in the village looked after by a grandmother. In debt to the tune of 30,000 baht as the Thai boyfriend beat on her often and eventually ran out on her. Mother in the bar business and keen to get the daughter involved.
I met Qwan at the Cowboy bar. She had often looked across at me and one night I asked if she would sit and have a drink with me. This innocent remark started a year long affair that had more ups and downs than a struggling vessel caught in the turmoil of troublesome storm.
She had a sixth sense about things and mystically her right eye would twitch uncontrollably when she thought something was wrong. I could have sworn it was just a nervous twitch but she assured me it had magical powers. We changed rooms. The room looked clean enough and we settled in. After several days I started to itch all over but especially around my wedding tackle and I would have this uncontrollable urge to scratch ‘n’ grab my bollocks in public. I thought it was heat rash but Qwan thought differently and took a look at me nether regions. With her suspicions confirmed she looked up and when I saw her psychic eye twitching like a pneumatic drill, I knew it was bad news. It was ‘Kye,’ a form of tiny flea. This tiny little squirt of an insect had caused me no end of torment for days. It loved any hairy place on the body and I was covered in them! Fortunately, the pharmacies are a kind of shop/ doctor and they recommended a tube of Jacutin gel. The instructions were all written in Thai, but I understood the general idea, apply to the affected area and as I had been scratching my ‘balls’ like I was trying to get out of a coffin, this would be my first port of call. I proceeded to apply a generous portion of the jell to my nether regions. Thirty seconds later I ran screaming into the bathroom, the jell had the affect of setting my balls on fire. Needless to say the rash seemed worse than the ‘Kye’. After a few days the rash had healed and the fleas had gone. Now all that was left to do was to remove the eggs that stick to hairs on your body. And believe me you know it’s true love when your girlfriend romantically picks dead fleas and eggs from the crack of your arse, while trying to reassure you that ‘she really, really didn’t mind doing it!’
Thai bars have a check bin system. You pay for your own drinks at the end of the night for each drink you will be given a receipt which is put in a small wooden bin in front of you. When your ready to go you say ‘check bin’ and they will add up the total and charge you. I really like this system because you can see what you’ve had to drink and what you’ve been charged. Also if your mate drinks faster then you, no problem, it just gets added to his ‘check bin’. I was drinking at a place called Skaw beach, which is a kind of aircraft hangar with about a dozen little beer bars. At the end of the bar from where I was sitting, I noticed a young man showing off to the girls. For reasons of his own, he decided not to pay his ‘check bin’ and for a laugh put the receipts down his pants. The bar staff took this all in their stride until be began walking away from the bar. The girls shouted after him to return. At his own peril he ignored them. He nearly reached the end of the aircraft hanger when a bouncer appeared from nowhere and kicked him to the ground. He was held down while the bar girls struck him with bar stalls and hit him until the police arrived! Fair warning, the Thais will take great delight in kicking the living shit out of a farang if given half a justified chance and not paying your bar bill is stealing, an opportunity they will take wholeheartedly.
Kay was excited because today was her birthday. She had arranged a bowling trip with Qwan and four other girls. At 2pm we all met at a local bowling alley and as luck would have it, we were allocated a lane near the bar. Qwan who hardly ever drinks, was encouraged by the party atmosphere to gulp down a couple of wobble waters, namely Bacardi Breezers. The acholpops went down a treat and soon the girls were giggling like chimps on laughing gas at Qwan's attempts to stand upright. Her determined efforts were noble but her arms and legs just refused to communicate. She grabbed a heavy ball and lined up a shot at the skittles. There was a hushed silence as she squinted and took aim. After a moment of some staunch focusing she pulled her arm back to fire the trigger. Lurching forward she let rip, her aim was true and I'm sure that she would've had a full strike if her long fingernails hadn't got caught in the ball and launched her rocket fashion down the bowling alley! There was a loud thud as the bowling ball hit the wooden floor, closely followed by Qwan. We were desperately concerned for her safety and would have rushed to her aid but we were too preoccupied laughing hysterically to help. She sat up harbouring a stunned expression and I noticed her psychic eye was twitching so much I thought her eye was going to pop out.
Saouw, a pleasant and approachable bargirl at the cowboy bar, gleefully tormented Harry. He had taken three girls from the bar for a surprise meal but had neglected to ask Saouw. It wasn't because he didn't like Saouw he had just forgotten her. She decided to extract revenge in a particularly fiendish way. He had returned with the girls some hours earlier and now late at night, Harry was drunk. You could have poured Harry into a taxi kind of drunk. Saouw wandered around the bar serving customers and harbouring her grudge. Around midnight, normally Harry became hopelessly drunk and tonight was no exception. Saouw had been patient and now saw her chance to get even. Every time Harry looked as though he was falling asleep at the bar she would prick him hard with a cocktail stick. There was no method in her attacks, they were completely random but executed with purposeful intent and prodded with the accuracy of a marksman. Sometimes she would prick him just because he tried to speak. Harry was pissed and defenceless. The relentless and merciless pricking went on for over fifteen minutes. She would glance at Harry from time to time from the other side of the bar when his head lowered and his eyelids drooped, she knew it was time for another prick. Eventually she became bored at such an easy target but she had a look of smug satisfaction in her smile. The next day Harry had a vague recollection of being pricked by something and said he felt like a plucked chicken. Saouw, of course denied everything and remarked it must have been mosquitoes. They're very nasty this time of year, she added. Due to the lack of witnesses coming forward, Harry had no choice but to reservedly accept her explanation.
It was 2am in the morning, I was swaying and staggering my way home from the Cowboy bar when from behind a two metre wooden high fence I heard familiar words, ‘I go wit you,’ it was followed by a squeaking noise that seemed to be coming from the other side of the fence. I was intrigued and stopped and so did the noise. Again I heard, ‘I go wit you,’ from a mystery girl from beyond the fence. I continued walking and sure enough the squeaking noise followed. I thought that perhaps she was handicapped and had a dodgy leg. As I approached the end of the fence a 25 year old girl on a child's three wheel push bike cut across my path. The bike was far too small and her knees were doubled up under her chin. She looked very uncomfortable and could only manage to hold the handle bars with finger and thumb. The squeaking noise was a dodgy wheel! ‘I go wit you,’ she said again expectantly and smiling but I was far too busy laughing and on my way home to give her an answer, only in Thailand.
A Katoey (ladyboy) accosted me on beach road. It offered to give me a smoke (Thai for blow job) for 100 baht (£1.50). I declined his generous offer and made my way home. Ladyboys quite often try this trick on unsuspecting drunken farangs. When his pants are down around his ankles they rummage inside the pockets for his wallet. The ladyboy then makes a quick escape via a waiting accomplice on a motorbike. The scammers have a good chance of getting away with it because one: the farang has to pull his trousers up before giving pursuit and two, if he reports the incident it may well make the papers and involve embarrassing publicity!
The Cowboy bar was empty, myself, Chompoo and my friend Derek sat in a corner and being all in high spirits we decided to give each other nick names. Derek was first and after some discussion between Chompoo and myself we settled on 'Snakebite' on account he was bitten by a poisonous one on the foot, a Russell’s viper, the venom was lethal and it had nearly cost him his foot. Chompoo was next, Snakebite and I considered 'Sex Goddess' on account she had a descent bod but decided more appropriately that ‘whiskey' would be a better name because she's so very fond of the stuff, morning, noon and night kind of fond of the stuff. Whiskey' and 'Snakebite' then turned their attention to me, after some whispering, muttering and debate the name 'Boots' was born it was a literal name because I always wore boots. So from then on we were known as the Snakebite Whiskey Boot gang, well we were until the alcohol wore off the next day.
My friend John and James sat at the bar with nothing much to do when the idea of a trip to Walking Street came up in the conversation. It didn't take long to decide that there was a lot more flesh on show in this notorious side of town than the empty Cowboy bar. We paid our bills and headed for tinsel town. The first temptation venue we entered was Polo Gogo. At first it was a disappointment, the drinks were expensive and it wasn't your typical Gogo bar type of show. It's more of a theatre performance with a girl covering herself with dripping hot wax from a candle, whips and a lesbian show. Members of the audience were invited on stage and tied to a chair. They were then teased by gorgeous dancers who gently and sensual rubbed their naked bodies over the helpless and frustrated farang. After an hour of fun we moved onto Peppermint, which is a small but big fun ogling den! Travelling up an escalator, we were greeted by gorgeous friendly honey dipped girls and well-managed staff. The club is split into four areas, on the left as you walk in is a small two metre bar with pretty topless girls serving beer with a smile. On the right is a ten metre stage congested with some twenty girls dancing around poles in various states of undress. Hidden behind a wall is 'Pussy Corner,' a smaller stage where the more risqué dancers parade their naked virtues. At the far end of the club is a glass screened room two metre long and one metre wide. Just enough room for four girls dressed in thematic costumes like secretary or shop girl. For a tip of twenty baht these girls will happily flash a grateful portion of flesh. Most of the damsels are young and remarkably flexible in the art of chrome pole dancing. A highlight of the night is when six girls arrive on stage wearing nothing but a birthday suit and adorned in decorative fluorescent body paint. The lights were dimmed and the audience was treated to an erotic dance routine. Picking the best dancers for the performance, they intimately snake and sensuously stroke the erect chrome poles. Each girl very adept at teasing punters in search of an elusive bar fine and pocket money tips. It’s not sexual but more erotic art.
Electric Blue Gogo bar, which is a short distance away, is a large club with many attractive girls. They're specialty routine is a soapsuds lesbian show. John my friend from the Cowboy bar brought ten ping pong balls at twenty baht each. These are given or thrown to the girls by way of a tip of appreciation. Every ball the girl has in her possession at the end of the night can be exchanged for money. John had sussed out these girls and remarked, only give them a ball every now and then. It's like giving nuts to monkeys, feed them slowly and keep them interested! If you've no balls left, you won't get any attention. Nice tip that for a newbie, a wise observation from my philosopher and well intellectual mate.
Harry was pissed again but he was always a likeable kind of guy even when his fuel tank was full. The cowboy bar was packed when a small middle aged Thai man walked in with a 1.4 metre python around his neck and a camera in his hand. The price for a picture with a neck throttler was one hundred baht. Harry wanted a keep sake and grabbed the snake from the Thai keeper. He put the snake over one shoulder and in an act of bravado shoved its head down his trousers. The Thai keeper looked on in dismay as Harry cavorted and frolicked about on his chair. Everyone in the bar was slightly amused and wished that the snake would give Harry a chomp in the right direction. But Harry did not get bitten and everyone surmised it was because the snake couldn't find anything worth biting.
I arrived late at the cowboy bar and was startled to find my friend Valentino sitting on a barstool grasping the top of his head. A kindly bar girl was trying to mop up oozing blood with a tissue. ‘What's happened, has there been a fight?’ I enquired as I looked at the injury to his head. But Valentino didn't want to talk. Instead he barked at the bar girl that she wasn't helping and stormed off to the bathroom. I was puzzled by this strange behaviour from my friend Valentino. I turned to my friend John for the gossip, who appeared to be smirking. Valentino was a strapping French man with rugged good looks.
He liked to think of himself as a bit of a ladies man and a keen dancer. This particular afternoon he had been drinking and making a nuisance of himself flirting with da ladies. After a few more drinks and several 'down in one shot' tequilas, he decided to prove his prowess and treat everyone in the bar to an impromptu dancing lesson. Climbing up onto the bar he began to strut his stuff. By all accounts he was doing well, entertaining da ladies, until he forgot about the one metre spinning metal fans dangling from the ceiling. To the delight of the on looking audience and to the surprise of Valentino, one of the blades whacked him on the top of his head and sent him sprawling to the ground. It was moments later that I arrived to find Valentino nursing a bruised pride and a bleeding head. Valentino returned from the bathroom to an enforced friendly silence. One of those 'we know you looked like a dick, but were not going to talk about it', kind of atmosphere. But Valentino started behaving badly again. He brought everyone drinks and then insisted that he had already paid for them. An hour later, deja'vu, he did the same again but this time with a heated argument involving the boss, ending with Valentino indignity stomping home. No one saw him for several days. When out of the midday high noon sun he rode up on his motor scooter and informed us that he had suffered mild concussion. Anyway, all was forgiven, he paid his bill and the mamasan welcomed him back with open arms, good customer see.
Valentino was always getting into scrapes and skirmishes. When drunk his English, French and Thai would get all mixed up in one sentence. One night, a huge row erupted at the pool table between Valentino and a middle aged Thai lady. The cause of the argument was whose turn it was to play next. The pool table dust up quickly got out of hand with arguing and shouting. Several people became involved, and the fiasco culminated in Valentino, as a protest, running off with the fluorescent tube hovering above the table. And, as a further protest, he locked himself in the ladies toilet. Eventually he was persuaded to come out and begrudgingly returned the aforementioned lifted item. Valentino stomped off home shouting, snooty bitch, Pulain (French for whore) I believe and tulay (Thai for fxxx off) I believe, as he did so.
Song Cran is Thailand's celebration of the New Year and it only means one thing in Pattaya, you’re going to get soaking wet. We stood on the street squirting our little water pistol at anything that moved. Other revellers returned fire, we were soggy to the skin and covered in white flour. One small Thais boy had a gun far bigger than he ought to have and when he spied me, an unarmed farang, he couldn't believe his luck. With his legs apart and determination in his eyes, he struggled with the heavy water laden rocket gun. Pointing it in my direction he let rip. The recoil sent him flying to the floor and the enumerating hose of water nearly took my head off. I don't know who came off the worst but if he was injured it was hidden by his shear delight at shooting a farang.
Harry turned up at the Cowboy Bar with a haunted look about him and was as usual, pissed again. He had been missing for several days.
‘I've been in hospital,’ Harry exclaimed. ‘The bitch tried to kill me.’
The 'bitch' in question was Harry's long term Thai girlfriend who I had met on several occasions. She seemed pleasant, demure and incapable of even imagining such an act. Harry liked amateur dramatics and was more than equal to a drama queen. He explained further that he’d arrived home late after consuming copious quantities of the local amber nectar. To finish off the evening Harry wanted a Pepsi and grabbed a small bottle. He took several large gulps and immediately gagged in horror as the liquid burnt his throat. Harry was immediately rushed to hospital and had his stomach pumped. The bottle had contained detergent. Harry surmised it was a devious plot to rid him of him and get her hands on his nice kitchen. Which she’d always admired. His good lady denied the accusation, saying that he was drunk and had picked up the wrong bottle. Adding, she didn't need to poison him as the amount of alcohol he consumed would soon do the job. And, as a further rebuff she would not be giving him anymore intimate servicing for a while.
Harry’s girlfriend had been long suffering of his indiscretions. Chompoo looked particularly attractive tonight and this had not gone unnoticed by Harry who was at least twice her age. He had always lusted after her and with a generous amount of Gin and courage sploshing around in his blood system he asked Chompoo if she would go with him. Chompoo was sympathetic, considered his request and politely informed him she would rather fxxx a dog than go with him, ka. Harry's ego was somewhat deflated and he made a quick lonesome exit from the bar. He returned spitefully one hour later with five giggling girls from beach road (bar coconut) to incite jealousy in Chompoo. Unfortunately Chompoo didn't give a fxxx and Harry not wishing to look a pratt, defiantly took all five girls back to his condo. The next day, Harry informed me that the lustful nymphets were all naked in his bed, girlfriend in the spare room. And as usual he looked inside his secret bedside cubby-hole for his little friend but found nothing. Five naked girls anticipated servicing. Harry cringing with embarrassment could not find his packet of Viagra. So, Mr. Floppy had come to stay for the night and without his little fun pill, Harry's love train had not a chance of leaving the station! I’m sure I heard his girlfriend chuckling to herself that night, from as far away as the bar.
In walked a tall lady dressed in a stunning short, red, strapless evening dress and high heels. She was looking for business and curiously had big hands, big feet and an Adams apple. It had all the give away signs of a ladyboy. It would have no luck in the Cowboy bar, but we spoke to it anyway. She or he explained that she’d had the 'operation' for career advancement. Quite bluntly put it as front door for business and back door for pleasure!
Valentino's new girlfriend was a gold digger she may not have had it tattooed in big gold letters on her forehead but it was tattooed somewhere on her body it was just that Valentino hadn't found it yet.
Glin was an articulate educated man who loved nothing more than to sumptuously pontificate about complete and utter bollocks all night. He had an opinion about everything and if he didn't have one himself he knew someone that did. He had a budget of one half pint of draught lager a night. Sometimes he could stretch to two, as long as if he didn't have a packet of crisps with his first. The conversation at the bar started innocently enough about my girlfriend having a spot on her nose. Glin, overheard the debate of what to use to clear up the spots and was in there like a whippet. He explained the best products to use, the most and least expensive concoctions. But then curiosity got the better of me. Why did he have so much knowledge about the subject, especially when he appeared to have a flawless but leathery complexion? I decided to press him on the issue and asked him right up front.
'Well,' he mused. 'I had huge boils but not on my face, on my arse. There's nothing like a sore spotty arse to make you think twice about sitting down.'
He further explained that he had to apply the lotion every day for two weeks. Well… that was it, my whole night was now in ruins, I could not get the thought out of my head of this slightly built educated man, nose down arse up creaming his rear with balming lotion! I’m sure that in certain circles people would pay good money for that kind of thing. But for me, we headed home for an early night.
Valentino yearned to stay in Thailand and wanted to extend his stay. A dodgy immigration officer offered to extend his visa by three-months for the princely sum of six thousand baht. On principal, Valentino refused to play along and serum to corruption. He decided on a trip to Penang in Malaysia instead. Here, he could obtain a three-month visa from a bona fide embassy. Valentino and his Thai girlfriend travelled from Pattaya to Bangkok and then by overnight sleeper train to the Malaysian border. A fifteen-hour trip I might add. At the border, immigration officers discovered his passport had become wet and the stamps had become unreadable. They refused him entry and he had no alternative but to take another laborious overnight train back to Bangkok. The next day he travelled to the embassy and ordered a new passport. They informed him this would take two weeks, during which time he would have to pay 200 baht a day in overstay fines. Two weeks later he returned Bangkok and was relieved to obtain a new passport. This time he decided a trip to the Cambodian border would be closer and more convenient. The coach ride is unimaginably dull and costs 2000 baht for a round trip. After a tedious seven-hour journey to the border he presented his new passport to immigration, this time carefully wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag.
‘Where the original passport?’ the immigration officer enquired.
Romeo didn’t have it. The embassy had neglected to give it back and Valentino hadn’t realised that he needed it. They refused to let him through and Valentino bemused and dejected had to return to Pattaya. The next day was a trip back to Bangkok in order to obtain his old passport and then travel to the Cambodian border again to obtain a new visa. In all, the unhappy episode had cost him over 10,000 baht. Hindsight is a wonderful cure for all follies, and he concluded that the wheels of corruption were sometimes better off just being greased.
I was in a light sleep in the early hours of the morning when I was disturbed by a faint creaking sound. I thought that maybe Qwan had gone out and come back. In a sleepy state, I glanced over to see a naked Qwan lying next to me. Nope, it wasn’t Qwan and I decided that I was dreaming and went back to sleep. But something swept over my mind, something was not right. I kept stirring and eventually awoke to find our condo room open and my wallet gone. A brazen thief had taken advantage of an unlocked door and robbed us. I complained the next day to a stern looking security man but to no avail he was usually asleep most of the time anyway. I was reliably informed that if I had awoke and caught the thief in the room, they would have just said 'sorry wrong room,' and nothing could be done.
I spotted an old acquaintance in the Cowboy Bar named Captain. He was some sixty years young, still had a couple of teeth, a bit of a squint and father Christmas beard. He was protesting that Pattaya had changed and that wankers had arrived in the form of 'instant dickhead, just add alcohol'. Which I thought a little harsh as Thai beer such as Chang and Singha combined with the heat and climate gets you pissed very quickly. But no one ever seems to mention this fact to the unsuspecting farang who’s used to drinking ten pints a night in his home country.
The beer bars are mostly open plan there are no doors so you can just step up from the pavement, slip onto a seat and order a drink. But this open plan does have its drawbacks it leaves you exposed to every mobile street vendor selling everything from lighters to cleaning your shoes. They will always interrupt whatever conversation you are having and try to sell you a plastic dog complete with nodding head. Quite often children will try to sell you a packet of mints and other goods. Once this thing about ten years old tried to sell me roses, I politely declined but the thing wouldn’t take no for an answer and decided on another course of action. Which was to grab my leg as I sat at the bar and cling on for dear life, I had to give it 10 baht just to let go. Watch out for these guerrilla tactics trying to relieve you of your money!
Something had puzzled me for months the girls don’t always kiss you, they kind of hug and sniff your cheek, a kind of scratch and sniff affair. Today I found out this curious activity is called a homm. It goes back to rural village traditions that any form of public contact is frowned upon. I guess a quick sniff kiss is about all you can get away with.
It’s the time for the monotonous visa run to the Cambodian border. The eight hour journey crosses some of the most boring countryside that you’ll ever likely to see in Thailand. At the border, as soon as you alight from the bus, then a herd, yes a herd of young boys and girls will thrust an umbrella in your face. Why, you may ask. It’s a walk of some 200 meters to the border and in the desperate hope that you will give them some baht; they will follow you with an umbrella to shield you from the sun. You can protest and you can squeal, no thanks, no thank YOU, but they will always follow you. But there is an upside. If you hire one to escort you then all the others will leave you alone. Depressingly, other children some as young as four years old carry small babies in one hand and beg with the other. Now don’t get me wrong these people are poor but invariably mama will be around the corner. She’s dressed in fairly respectable clothes and will send her five kids and the baby to meet the tourist coaches that arrive at the border. The children will be dressed in their best looking ‘rags!’ and will try to extract as much sympathy from the tourist as possible. ‘Just one baht sir, please’ you will hear over and over again. When the tourist crosses the border, it’s back around the corner to count their ill-gotten gains and give the money to the mother or older brother. These people are poor but by exploiting their own children and the sympathy of the farang, the parents have worked out a system to make more money from begging than from working! But who can blame them when they see farangs arrive in their luxury air conditioned tour buses and mini vans. Even backpackers carrying expensive cameras! Whose conscience reasons, ‘I cannot give anything because I’m on a budget’.
The whole visa process takes about an hour and all the time my little umbrella girl was sticking to me like chewing gum on my shoe. She was about eight years old and followed me dutifully and attentively as I looked around the border market. She poked me in the eye once or twice with the brolly but did her best to shield me from the blazing sun. I saw her little face light up like a Christmas tree when I gave her a bottle of coke and 20 baht. She ran around the bus looking for me and waving frantically. What was a small token gesture for me had seemingly meant so much to her. I waved back but my heart sank a little as I thought of her possible future, especially when I heard a farang call them scum as he boarded the bus.
Kay, my lesbian friend, Chompoo, Soauw and myself, took a baht bus to Peppermint gogo bar. Surprisingly Kay, picked up the tab. Kay was a terrible flirt and bought lady drinks for at least three grateful and appeasing girls. One girl, we nick named Lady Blue eyes, enthusiastically wanted to have sex with Kay and me. In a buy one get one free bargain bucket kind of offer. We declined her seductive suggestion as Kay and I were just friends. At around 1pm we left the disappointed Gogo girls and went to eat at a Thai restaurant we knew on 3rd road. We bought our own Mekong Thai whisky and had a kind of barbecue, Dow son kruan (I think this translates to a soup boat). This is a table with a hole in it to accommodate a bucket of hot charcoal. Over this sits an upturned metal bowl that is used to cook the meat and vegetables. Around the outside of the bowl is a moat where the soup is cooked. The food was delicious. We stayed until 6am in the morning. I picked up total bill for the meal at a cost of 400 baht. It may seem strange that after seeing the wonders of the world that an evening with these Thai friends of mine was a lifetime in a moment and in a faraway land, for once it felt like home. Into the early hours we talked, laughed and listened to each other's stories with an intimacy that only close friends and night time can bring. The darkness slowly faded away, and as orange fingers of caressing light reached over the earth, we watched and felt the warmth of the sun rise over Thailand.
Qwan, me bird has gone all weird. She compulsively follows me everywhere and wants to know where I’ve been and who I've been talking too. She even wants to accompany me on a trip to the supermarket. I've nicknamed her 'Spy' on account of her psychotic behaviour.
Slimey arrived back at the cowboy bar he had been invited to Non Khai (north Thailand). He’d had a great time slumming it in a wooden shack with a Thai family. But couldn't get his head around village culture, the problem was that any Thai in the village can walk into your house and if an item is not hidden away it is far game and can be eaten or drunk. Slimey had his evening sorted out in the form of four large bottles of Chang beers when in walked three uninvited village guests. They promptly helped themselves to his evening's entertainment, losing three Chang beers was almost a catastrophe in his cash strapped world.
I was strolling along Soi 6 bantering with the hoards of beauties that hang around outside the bars, when I heard the unmistakable sound of an Australian accent. The man was standing on the curb chatting to a couple of short skirted hopefuls, when he that thought it would be funny to grab and lick a passing girl on the shoulder. The problem with Pattaya is that it’s almost Disney world for adults and the visiting fraternity that come to Pattaya often get blinkered into they thinking they can have anyone. The woman’s husband manhandled him over the bonnet of a car, explained who she was, pulled out a knife and threatened to cut his face.
If you play a game someone win and someone lose.
For some time my girlfriend's friends had been feeding her a pack of lies. For reasons of their own, mainly jealousy and spite, they had begun to fill her head with little gems like ‘my boyfriend gives me 50,000 baht every month’. ‘Last night a farang gave me 5,000 baht for one night because he thought I was so wonderful’. Having lived here for a while I have an antenna that can detect bullshit from 100 meters. Unfortunately, her so called friends could be very persuasive. They introduced her to a farang who had his own business and a few bits of ostentatious glittering gold dangling around his neck. Within a week Qwan, filled with delusions of grandeur upgraded me for someone with more money. It hurt me more than just a little bit.
I want to talk but I cannot.
I want to cry but I cannot.
I want to tell you but I cannot.
I want to live but I cannot.
I want to die but I cannot. Happy, Happy, Happy birthday me today.
One day you will remember the rose I sent you,
One day you will remember the charm I gave you,
You’re a whore wrapped within a rose velvet skin,
You eyes beg forgiveness as your body longs for more,
Your lipstick holds a message caressed by every stroke,
A temptress is at work,
But a feeling of uneasiness will creep into your mind,
As you sit there scheming your eyes will meet mine,
And locked within an instant the truth will bear its mark,
For the feeling of uneasiness will have passed through your heart.
For days I’ve been miserable as hell, turning the events over in my mind, torturing myself over and over. But the fickle hand of fate can find you at any time when you least expect it and as luck would have it, the Cowboy bar had just taken in a new influx of staff. A tall, elegant, attractive lady named Peaow shone like a diamond in the ruff from behind the confines of the bar. She was a delicate, exotic caged bird with a smile that would melt the polar ice cap and a skirt that was so small that to call it a mini skirt would be an exaggeration. I asked her where she came from she replied ‘mai raak bun dawou,’ which in English means something like ‘I come from the stars.’ And so, I winked and she nodded and that night I had found a new girlfriend.
We moved to a new apartment but the jungle drums and mobile phones of Pattaya had reached the radar ears of Qwan. She had heard rumours that I had a new girl and now her eager and spiteful friends had confirmed it. She has begun to stalk me. She confronted me in the street and demanded to know where I was staying with Peaow. She grabbed me around the neck by the collar. It was her usual manoeuvre but I wasn’t ready for it and she held on like a limpet mine. ‘You show me room now’ she hissed, I was furious and told her no. She held on for 15 minutes, pulling tighter and tighter until the thread started to rip. People were pointing and staring, one bloke shouted out ‘get a new one’, whether he meant a new shirt or a new girlfriend I wasn’t sure. Qwans eyes were transfixed on me, her intent was unnerving. She had the look of a hungry snake who’d not eaten for two months staring down the nose of a limping field mouse. I gave in and said I would show her if she let me go. It did the trick. As soon as her grip slackened I took my opportunity and shot off like a not so limping field mouse with Qwan in hot pursuit. I was faster than her and had put some distance between us. I felt safer and slowed up when from behind me I heard the whining of a motorbike engine. I turned around to see Qwan on the back of a motorcycle taxi, its wheels heading straight between my legs. It was on me within seconds but thankfully the driver had some ability and stopped a 20cm from my bollocks. Didn’t scare me at all, eh um! Qwan jumped off and I ran into a side street restaurant. Startled guests and staff looked on in amazement as two determined sprinters raced around the tables and back out the front door. I ran like a mad energetic puppy along the street but I was no match for a motorbike. I feared the worst as the bike drew level with me but to my surprise she gave up the ghost and drove past giving me a ‘V’ sign for good luck. I also noted that she had begun to cry as she disappeared into the distance. But I knew they were shallow tears she didn’t want me but then she didn't want anyone else to have me either. I heard rumours that over the coming days that Qwan's supposedly rich boyfriend had promised her the earth. Then after he had his fun, dumped her in a couple of weeks and went back to his wife. Karma.
I was alone in my condo when I had an uninvited guest. Qwan unexpectedly arrived wanting a confrontation. She had found out where I lived from a friend. Pushing her way in, she said she wanted her heart back but I said she had taken it with her when she left. She decided in her venom to cut up, bunny boiler fashion, all the soft toys in the room with a carving knife. The aftermath would be distressing for any animal rights soft toy activists. Shredded fluffy innards and body parts were scattered around the room it was sadly, a massacre. Some she garrotted, some she gouged and some she ripped apart with her bare hands. Nothing was spared in her savage and revengeful anger. Bob and slob, my two favourite little rabbits were murdered right before my eyes. They were no harm to anyone but there was nothing I could do to save them. She was wielding the kitchen knife like a samurai sword. Eventually her emotions calmed and she gave me a cold sinister stare right between the eyes just before leaving.
I had another fight with Qwan. She came to my condo again, barraged past me, and when she saw Peaow, all hell broke loose. Qwan and I were always arguing, she looked small and innocent but she had the temper of a Banshee. After much pushing and shouting, I’m sorry to say she ended on her backside on the floor. She did look silly, pissed off and seething. And I was soon to find out just how pissed off and seething she actually was.
She made a police report and the bitch had me arrested. Some hours later there was a knock at the door. Two flanking officers were about to gleefully cart me off to jail. The monkey house as the locals calls it. When Qwan suddenly realising that I was going to jail had a change of heart and informed them she didn't want to press charges. The problem with Thailand is that when it comes to who's wrong and who's right, it doesn't matter. It’s the farang who has money, and the farang will always be in the wrong because he's the one that can pay. It became clear when the officers wanted money for their wasted time. The fact I had just pushed her out my room just to get rid of her made no difference in their eyes. It was a serious physical assault against a Thai lady and if she wasn’t going to do anything about it then they would. So, what this means is that you have to get your wallet out!
A fight broke out in the Cowboy bar today. An Austrian guy was in a pensive mood and wanted to fight. I didn't want any trouble. But he just kept saying I want to fight you. After the fifth time, I said 'OK,' and instantly all hell broke loose. He took a swing with his right hand and missed. He lunged forward and managed to grab me, sending us both hurtling to the ground. I twisted as we fell and landed on top of him. I threw punches for all I was worth as I was dragged off I also managed to give him a good kick in the bollocks. To me, he wasn't a person but all my troubles standing before me in a physical form. He ran from the bar. I was snarling with anger, I don't know what came over me.
I've had enough of fighting and I feel insecure today. Somewhere lost in dreamland and reality, seemingly caught the calm eye of a raging hurricane.
I bumped into Qwan on a Pattaya back street. She’s begun to change and has a tormented look in her eyes. She spoke to me and said she had a tired heart. I began to realise that Qwan actually loved me and the incident with the police was to show me how much she cared, really I thought, just as much to scare the shit out of me. I heard from some of my friends that they could have locked me up if she had demanded 30,000 baht to settle the matter there and then. I didn’t have that much on me. The sob story was, she had stayed with me for a long time and with her so called friends goading her and mounting family pressure for big money these had been the reasons for her leaving me. She often cried in the street when she saw Peaow and myself together. Peaow understood and knew in time that Qwan would forget me but the million baht question was, could I forget her?
Back at the Cowboy bar I wrote my passing thoughts on the toilet wall:
Fxxx is fun, fxxx is funny,
Everybody fxxxs for money,
But if you don’t think fxxx is funny,
Then fxxx yourself and save some money.
Good advice for a wayward traveller I thought but while I didn’t fxxx myself, I decided to fxxx off, as for the morality of Pattaya. Who’s right and who’s wrong, what’s real and what’s not. Pattaya’s is an enigma of fact and fiction, supply and demand, social exploitation on both sides. A form of social welfare system gone mad. A puzzle of social division and denial, a foreigner’s hot pot of debauchery. I was just an alien on a day trip around the world. I’ll leave judgement in the hands of the western backpacker, the sex tourist, social culture and the expat’s. For me it was time to leave Thailand and go home but somehow I know it’s not over and one day… I’ll be back.
To the girl who stole everything ‘thank you.’