Back In Bangkok For Two Glorious Weeks
Back in Bangkok for two glorious weeks. I am smiling from the moment I sit down in the plane. I have made a non-refundable hotel reservation of two weeks to prevent myself from moving all over town from hotel to hotel, Patpong to Sukhumvit and back again: agonizing wherever I am about where I am not.
Flights from China start at some $860, double the normal price, and direct flights are full. It will soon be impossible to travel anywhere worldwide during China’s October holidays. Interestingly, a direct flight on Thai Airways business class from Shanghai is only a little over $1100 and they have a seat left. The pricing manager must not have been paying attention. I’m going to get raped, but in comfort.
The stewardess offers wine, but I ask for a white Russian, just playing, it’s not on the menu, and because I feel like it. Unfazed, she asks how to make it and comes back with a bottle of Kahlua and a carton of milk. Good one. Score one for Thai Airways.
The Customs officer smiles and I honestly think she said ‘welcome’ instead of giving me that usual disgusted ‘I know you’ve come to pork my granddaughter’ look. Only American Customs officers normally are more hostile. I raced to the airport still in suit and tie. Must be the difference.
The taxi driver is full of smiles, apologizes for his Thai music and changes to Western, tries out his ten words English on me, and makes no effort to charge more than the meter and toll. I’m so shocked I give him 400.
I must be in that movie The Truman Show where Jim something’s whole life is actually a TV show, or maybe I’m in a Google type experiment where only amazing niceness surrounds me.
The hotel offers an extra package of free breakfast, free internet, and free drinks from 6 to 8, for 2,000 plus Baht. Sounds like a good deal, except the charge is per day. Per day??? I decline. I don’t want to stuff myself in the morning and get s..t faced between 6 and 8 every day. Which is what I’d have to do to break even. It’s a scam. I feel at home again.
Next day, in the Asia Books store, an elderly Thai lady (still 10 years younger than I am) is buying things for her daughter or granddaughter. A children’s book is on the counter already, some little toy is being added as she comes back. Is she ahead of me or behind me in our line of two? I can’t tell. Uncertain waiting lines drive me nuts. I just try to pay. ‘Do I have the membership card for discount?’ No, I don’t. I stick out my hand with money. In vain. Of course the clerk is now going to help elderly lady. An elderly lady cannot just buy something. She must talk. She has a wallet with a stack of maybe twenty cards in there and goes through each one of them and they are talking and I suffer in silence. Just pay and go, for God’s sake. People who talk in line, like imbeciles asking questions of a Customs officer, drive me positively insane. I search for the Buddha inside me. I’m in Thailand, I have two interesting magazines to read, a beautiful hotel room waiting, the sun shines, etc.
She finds what she was looking for, handing a card to the clerk. “You can use my card to get the discount,” she informs me. The clerk smiles triumphantly. Everybody is happy. Where are the hidden cameras?
Buy shoes at Robinson's. The store clerk comes back with seven boxes, not only my size of the shoes I pointed to, but pro-actively additional colors and similar shoes. Spoons me in the different shoes, then goes to get more shoes. Maybe other people are used to this sort of service back home, but I am not, not in China, not in Holland, not in the US. Rodeo Drive maybe, in the movie ‘Pretty Woman.’
Country Road on Soi Cowboy. Great bands. Order my Heineken. Waitress doesn’t want to be paid yet. Comes to sit with me. Where am I from? Nice face, nice ass, big belly, two big bellies in fact. Can she have a drink? Out of pity, building karma, she can have one. It’s a mistake. Now I’m out of the game. Some beers later she writes down ‘7000’. Her long time charge. I have been weighed and found worthy. Hallelujah.
She has been in the bar only two months. I’m getting practically a virgin. A forty year old virgin with three children most likely, but who is counting. She gives me hand massages. That was her previous job she confides. Ball massages more likely. She qualifies for another drink. Love takes root. Isaan music is played between bands changing and every girl in the bar is dancing. I too dance to this atrociousness, with a big smile at the enormous enthusiasm all around me for this crime-against-humanity music. It turns out I have a good heart. She writes down ‘600’. She will come with me for 600 barfine only instead of 7,000. I think not. It’s too early and she is still a beer or two away from take-homeable. I have things to do, places to go. But I am so delighted to be back.
Thailand may not be, or may no longer be, the place to call home according to Stickman and numerous others who know a whole lot more than I do about Thailand. But for me it is still the perfect home away from home, still the land of smiles and scams, theirs and mine, frequently unintentionally hilarious, always in search of ways to add just a little more sanuk to the human tragedy.
Thailand is a great place for a holiday – and it's great that you enjoy your trips here so much!