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Doomsday in Pattaya; Redux

  • Written by Mega
  • November 13th, 2014
  • 30 min read





Pattaya neon sign



Prologue

An interesting assignment would be the compilation of a list of soothsayers, clairvoyants, fortune tellers and dooms day cranks who’ve predicted, since the beginning of human kinds recorded history, the end of the world. It would, no doubt, run into several pages. The Mayans – excellent observers of astronomical movements in the heavens above not withstanding – were, compared with the levels of knowledge that currently exist on our planet, a largely ignorant lot who’s day to day world was, most likely, confined to a fairly small geographical area. Superstition, and fear of the unknown, was an ever present constant in their simple, agrarian based lives.

Location – Pattaya: 2300 hours, December 21st 2012. The day came and went, the world hadn’t spun out of orbit and we were still here in one piece. The dooms day cranks, and conspiracy theorists, were safely bottled up in their dugouts licking their wounds – until the next cataclysm prediction at least – and for the locals, scrambling each day to make a living along Beach Road, they were largely oblivious of the count down to the end of time, or life, as we know it. After all, it was the high season in Sin City. There were tourists to hustle and the next helping of som tam to look forward to; doomsday would have to wait.


Thailand mangos

Oblivious to the predictions of the doom merchants; high season along Beach Road



I hadn’t been in Pattaya for a while – nine months to be exact – but things seemed more chaotic and crowded than ever. The traffic congestion along Beach Road, and right through to Sukhumvit, was approaching Bangkok proportions and the pace of development appeared to be just as relentless as the locals zeroed in on the tourist dollars with unbridled enterprise and zeal. More building projects had been completed and new businesses had appeared in place of others. As it was once said “time and tide waits for no man.” The past is consigned to the forgotten pages of history, reinforcing another unarguable Buddha quote; “Impermanence is constant.” Times change, circumstances change, people change. Life, situations and humanity evolves; that which once was, no longer is. This, of course, tends to make a mockery of those who claim they can predict the future; their reference of predictive knowledge always tends to be based on the past. The past has interest but only in so much as it serves as a teacher; that mistakes previously made aren’t repeated. This, of course, is all well and good but life in the LOS is never that simple and even though many of us have tripped up, with a little dark skinned charmer from a go-go bar, we need to keep our personal defence mechanisms on full alert lest we succumb to the same trip hazard again.



Beach Road, Pattaya

A “working girl” on Beach Road takes some time out from her sales hustle



But as some of my good Australian pals are often heard saying, “therein lies the rub.” The great paradox for many of us who’ve taken up residence in this land of honey and vinegar, and who are retired or nearing that age, is that we want the feel of sweet female flesh next to us but we’re not too enthusiastic about any junior versions of ourselves arriving on the scene. It’s the great game and those wily little charmers would like nothing more than to sink their hooks into a reasonably affluent retiree; by any means fair or foul. For those of us who’ve decided to stay single it’s all about remaining emotionally detached and keeping your wits about you as you make your choice for the night at one of chrome pole palaces. Eventually one becomes a shrewd operator; zeroing in rather quickly on that which catches the eye, paying the bar fine, and leaving with the night’s entertainment package before ten pm. The best operators are in and out the purple curtains within an hour while others sit indecisively ogling, drooling and nursing drinks. Some, the unwitting and unknowing, trying to convince themselves there might be something meaningful in there. And as much as some may wish it to be, there isn’t. It may come as a shock but we count for very little. We are, realistically, just a means to an end. They’re doing their job, and we are the job. It’s all just a fantasy world where the illusion is created that, if you want, they could be your girlfriend; for however long you are willing to pay of course. Time and experience create a barrier, it’s called cynicism. It serves you well in understanding that it’s simply a transaction, sex for cash. Eventually cynicism gives way to nonchalance and the idea one really doesn’t give a hoot. It’s all just a bit of a laugh. It’s a circus, a carnival and completely meaningless in the big picture. And as you sit there watching another group grovelling around on their hands and knees for those bouncing ping pong balls you know you really should be doing something more substantial with your time.



Walking Street, Pattaya

Just another night in down town, whoremongering central Pattaya



Epilogue

But in a town completely geared towards entertainment, titillating the senses and relieving tourists of their cash as quickly as possible, finding something more substantial to do with one’s time isn’t so straight forward. If you’re looking for pursuits a bit more high-brow, or mentally challenging, you might be better off giving the place a miss as most of the activities, or entertainment, on offer are purely about physical gratification. If your M.O. is simply about satiating one’s carnal desires, then there are probably few better places on the planet. Aside from the obvious unbounded choices of bars and venues providing pay for pleasure services there is a myriad of other offerings for the hedonists’ pleasure. Massage? No problems, what’s your preference? Oil massage, Thai massage, Swedish massage, body massage, aromatherapy, acupressure, reflexology and an endless eclectic mix of differing, and assorted, styles of rub downs and body kneading.

In keeping with sexual oriented mood of the place, many of the massage shops offer additional extras as part of their service. Depending on which establishment you use, and how much you are willing to pay, hand relief, oral and ‘boom boom’ are the standard ‘special massage’ one can expect at the end of your rub down. Even establishments supposedly of a high end nature are in on the act with the massage girls supplementing their base incomes with the offer of additional extras. One such place, and a favourite of mine, is the ‘health spa’ on Pattaya second road. Sitting directly opposite the junction of the infamous Soi six, this place has a Turkish bath house feel about it with its combination of steam and dry saunas, and plunge pools. It’s also a popular venue for many of the local demimondaines trying to ‘sweat off’ their unwanted kilos as they alternate between the dry heat and steam in the late afternoons. In the typically relaxed Thai approach to doing things they can be seen occupying the teak wood seating, in between their trips to the sauna, with towels swathed around their heads while they chat and pick at their plates of som tam. For those not feeling the need to sweat it out in one of the saunas, the ninety minute oil massage is highly recommended. Pay an extra 200 THB and you’ll get a private room where your skilful massage girl can provide the ‘extras’ without fear of intrusion or being compromised.

For those thrill seekers looking for something with more of a sporting type challenge there is go-karting, parasailing, paintball, a live firing range and a good number of golf driving ranges to choose from to fill in the daylight hours. If you’re looking for something less active, but more erotic, to fill in the afternoon hours then the sleaze factor of Soi six is worth a go for a cold beer and a short time. For many long term Pattaya aficionado’s, Soi six is the best value short time action in town. In an earlier time – some ten years previously – I had the same high level of enthusiasm for this most notorious of Pattaya’s short time Sois. These days my regard for Soi six is a bit more tempered with my mongering exploits of yesteryear replaced by a curious, five minute drive through on my motorbike and not much more. The beer goggles, as always, have a tendency to make the place look a bit more glamorous than it actually is. But once the hardcore reality of what some of these ladies, plying their trade along the Soi, are actually about the glossy veneer is peeled off to reveal a rather grubby underbelly. Back around 2005 I was sitting in an internet café, across the road from the Queen Vic Hotel when a plump, large breasted, hard as nails, Isaan lass tapped on the window to get my attention. Feeling in good spirits I waved her inside where she promptly informed me she worked at the bar next door, that some guy had fucked her five times in the ass the previous night and it was now my turn to fuck her in the ass. Not being much of an enthusiast for anal sex, I said “thanks for the offer, but no thanks.”

My final foray into Soi six occurred a couple of weeks later during a visitation to the Red Point Bar. One of the convenient things about Red Point is it sits directly across the road from one the only rugby bars in Pattaya, the “Jack Tar” Bar. As the rugby enthusiasts sit there supping on their beers, and enjoying the games being broadcast, they can also cast frequent glances across the road to check out the talent perched on their high stools. It has to be said the Red Point’s talent were some of the best on the Soi and Dao was a one of the most popular with her petite body and large, natural breasts. After a couple of warm up drinks in the “Jack Tar” I decided to take Dao upstairs for some horizontal folk dancing. As with the normal run of things a short time on Soi six usually involves a shower, followed by some reasonable oral, after which, the said demimondaine gets on top for some cowgirl action. All was running true to form until Dao decided to confide in me she was feeling tired because she’s already done five short times before coming upstairs with me. The mood of the moment was immediately lost as what she’d said sunk in. There was no longer any pretence of affection; it was just an automaton doing her job. Dao finished the business by hand and mouth. The impersonal nature of what happens down on Soi six finally struck home and I haven’t been back since.



Soi 6, Pattaya

The infamous Soi 6; the seediest Soi in Pattaya?



For those looking for a less hardcore, and perhaps a bit more discreet, venue than Soi Six for their afternoon delights the gentleman’s club, Kinaree, over towards Jomtien may be more to your liking. Whether it’s actually a gentlemen’s club is open for debate and despite the fact it’s off the beaten track from downtown, whoremongering central Pattaya the activities taking place inside the premises are still nothing more than punters getting some short time action with a bunch of freelance hookers. The majority of the Kinaree’s clientele appear to be local expats who, so the quiet word on the street goes, are trying to keep the discreet short time establishment as a place where they can enjoy some pleasure time away from the prying eyes of their Thai wives and not suffer the intrusion of the tourist mob. The problem though is the word is out. Those revolting tourists are beginning to show up in greater numbers, spoiling the secretive ambience of what the local boys see as their exclusive little bordello tucked away in the outer suburbs. On a recent visit there it was noted the tourist rabble had taken the word keeneow (cheapskate) to new lows. Apparently some unscrupulous fellows were taking advantage – or “taking the piss” – of the free buffet lunch available on Saturday afternoons by sitting on one drink while they refilled their plates, a number of times. Incurring the wrath of management notices, declaring such behaviour was unacceptable, had been posted in the latrines advising there were “no more free lunches” and the cheap Charlie’s would now be paying 300 THB to fill their bellies. Speaking of which, the new pricing scheme didn’t seem to impact too negatively on any of the regulars. Despite many retirees needing to watch their pennies one fellow was unencumbered when he declared “my belly’s full and my ball sack is empty, I’m happy.” And in the twilight years of our lives, life’s equation becomes less problematical. We no longer feel we have anything to prove as we relax and take things one day at a time. Our daily needs are simplified as the glow of a full belly and an empty ball sack provide a satisfied appreciation of the fact there are still places in the world where an old boy can have his way with young, nubile nymphets; for a price, of course.



Soi 6, Pattaya

A friendly smile and a willing sex partner; for a price of course



As already mentioned the problem for many foreigners taking up residence in Pattaya is finding something more substantial to do with one’s time which doesn’t involve booze, birds and bordellos. Many, of course, are quite happy with this never-ending smorgasbord of carnal indulgence but, as a good few eventually attest, the novelty of constantly being amongst ladies who’re just play acting soon wears off. Many find relief in outdoor/sports type pursuits such as scuba diving and golf but even those activities are never far removed from the beer bars and their hostesses. One of Pattaya’s most successful scuba shops happens to be right on Soi six. In that regard I guess it’s a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them” and a day out scuba diving can be finished off with a couple of beers and short time. A famous Pattaya themed T-shirt, sold at many of the vendor’s stalls about town, sums up the divergent opinions about the place. “Good guys go to heaven, bad guys go to Pattaya” puts you in either the love it or hate it camp, and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. When the novelty wears off with the scene in Pattaya it’s time to leave. Many guys I know, who put in four to five years, get to a point where they can’t stand the place and move to other less chaotic locations. Chiang Mai now seems to be a favoured exit strategy for many fleeing Pattaya. I did my five years, with plenty of fun times and memorable experiences, and then moved to Bangkok. My feelings about Pattaya could now be described as ambivalent with three to four day forays back there being appreciated short getaways from the “big smoke.”



Pattaya hillside sign

A place for some quiet time; the observation deck beneath the Pattaya sign on the hill



One of my favourite places for a bit of quiet time in sin city is the large cement platform under the “Pattaya” sign, on the hill. There’s a cringe inducing Hollywood look about that ten meter high piece of plastic and neon overkill but in the early evening it’s a retreat from the “hell’s kitchen” coming to life on the streets below. As the chaos of Beach Road kicks into gear the respite provided by this jungle enshrouded, three hundred foot strip of observation deck offers a quiet moment and a time for a bit of reflection.

I first landed in Pattaya in 2001. Having resided in Phuket for a good number of years through the nineties, and hearing the comparisons made between both locations, I wasn’t all that keen on going there. Most who’d been in both places agreed with the idea “Pattaya was like Patpong on steroids” and offered nothing visibly better than Phuket. I’d just extricated myself out of a rather tricky ordeal with the Phuket Tax Office, after selling my scuba operation, and I didn’t have much enthusiasm for a repeat dose of Russian Roulette with Thai bureaucracy. The owner of Seafari Scuba shop, a grizzled old American expat by the name of Bill, offered me a position with promises of riches to made. Having put in six years in the scuba industry, in Phuket, I knew what he was saying was complete bullshit. Just about anything to do with the tourism industry in Thailand, if you’re not the owner of the business, is long hours for a small return. But I had a couple of months to kill before heading down to Australia to do my offshore oil industry courses so I thought what the heck, the diving was probably crap but the night life would make up for it.

At the time Bill had been in Thailand longer than any expat I’d come across. He’d arrived in the late sixties on a US government contract erecting telecommunications towers, all over Thailand, as part of the war effort and, once the contract finished, he stayed on. He opened the first scuba, and water sports, operation in Pattaya in the early seventies to take advantage of the waves of G.I.’s flooding in for their R&R. Apparently he’d done well, even cleaned up, for a while until some of the locals noticed how well he was doing. In the usual Thai fashion of replicating someone else’s successful operation the same services were offered, but for lower prices. When the war ended the drop off in numbers arriving in Pattaya saw Bill scaling back operations to the point where he became purely a scuba operation; hitching his trailer to the expanding PADI bandwagon. The problem with this, as I soon realised in Phuket, is the people you train eventually become your competitors. Bill had the same problem. A few of his instructor candidates went on to open their own small operations around Pattaya, thereby cutting into Bills profitability. In the early days Bills shop was beach front but as the rents escalated and the profits diminished, he was forced to move to a less expensive location one hundred meters down Soi five.

When I first met Bill he’d just turned seventy two and, despite his advancing years, he still looked reasonably fit for his age. He’d been in a vehicle accident, and suffered neck damage, and to cope with the ongoing discomfort caused by the injury he’d taken to wearing one of those cushion collars, the type worn as neck support on long distance flights. I suppose it served a purpose but I couldn’t help but laugh when customers came into the shop and Bill went into a sales hustle with his cushion collar firmly in place. The fact was Bill was an anachronism. The war finished in 1975 and his thinking had stayed in that time warp. A couple of the other dive instructors told me although Bill had been in Thailand for 34 years he barely spoke five words of Thai. His attitude to the locals seemed like something from a colonialistic bygone area when whitey was in charge and the natives were expected to jump when told to do so. He was also a man of routine and every day at five PM his house maid would drop a mug of JD and Coke on his office desk. Perhaps a stiff drink helped relieve the reality his best days were long gone, time was slipping away from him and most of his current expectations would be largely unrealized. His only real claim to fame was his daughter, Cindy, who’d won the Miss Thailand title a couple of years previously; despite the fact she did not have one drop of Thai blood running through her veins.

Within a few days of starting my tenure at Seafari I could see Bills promises of riches to be made were just as I’d anticipated; hot air. Even allowing for the fact it was the peak of the high season his operation was barely ticking over. It was a business in decline. I didn’t particularly mind though because I was filling in time for a few weeks, before heading down to Australia, and the barely adequate income I received at least kept me from dipping into my own savings. Things took a turn for the worse when I refused to drive one of the pick-ups Bill used for transporting the dive equipment around the locality. It was completely lost on him I had no work permit, no Thai driving license and definitely no insurance in the event of an accident. When I asked him if he was prepared to bail me out and pay off the police, in the event of an accident, his non-committed response told me all I need to know; he was just another cowboy winging it in Thailand. I spent most of my working hours at the five star hotels up on Jomtien Headland hanging around the pools and offering anyone who was interested a five minute scuba dip in the deep end. Plenty were interested but very few committed to anything further because ninety percent of the clientele were Russian and spoke little English. I mentioned to Bill he might consider employing a Russian diving instructor and his subdued reaction seemed to typify his lack of forward thinking for improving business. Or perhaps it was just the time warp factor affecting his thinking and he hadn’t got beyond the idea the Russians were still the “Evil Empire.” In the end I took matters into my own hands and cut a private deal with a Russian dive shop on Beach Road; they gave me a ten per cent finders commission for everyone who signed up for a dive course or tour. Armed with a pocket full off flyers I had ninety percent of the tryouts signed up simply by getting them on the phone to the manager of the Russian dive shop. In the last ten days I was in Pattaya I made more money on my own than from the previous six weeks with Seafari.



Pattaya Bay

Pattaya, a party town since the late sixties



My final parting shot at Bill was my refusal to certify a couple of students at the end of their beginner’s course. The usual situation, in most tropical resort locations, with people doing their entry level (open water) scuba course is they’re pretty much guaranteed of passing out, regardless of their level of competence. But in this instance the proficiency level of these students, at the completion of their open water training dives, was so poor they were a hazard to themselves. I refused to sign them off and told Bill they needed at least another four training dives to reach the minimum performance standard. Bill was hopping mad because part of his sales spin was an almost iron clad guarantee they’d be certified at the end of their four days of training. It was last scuba course I ever did and it was also the only one where I didn’t certify the students.

My experiences with Bill typified the interaction I’ve had with most foreigners I’ve met in Thailand over the years I’ve been here. The fact is there hasn’t been much worth remembering. And what can be remembered is often for the wrong reasons, that they’re types to be avoided due to a lack of trust or honesty. A lot of what the average foreigner gets up to in this place doesn’t really amount to much in the big picture. Some may see an endless immersion in the hedonistic lifestyle as “living the dream.” And the years spent in the bars, and amongst the hookers, may seem like great times to be remembered but in the end most of it just becomes jaded experiences. The only bar girls most guys seem to remember are the ones who cleaned them out. The fact is I wouldn’t remember the names of many of the hookers I’ve spent time with, except the nut jobs, and they’re remembered in terms of caution, not something to be savoured. So in the end what have you got left for all your time in Thailand? The truth of it is not that much really. The good, the worthwhile and the truly memorable probably doesn’t amount to a hill of beans through the many years spent trying to dodge figurative (and sometimes literal) bullets from the locals. Most who’ve put in fifteen years or more here inevitably withdraw into their own well defined, secure little world where interaction with the locals is limited to what’s deemed necessary and not much more.

The problem for many who “come a cropper” here is they often bring it upon themselves by being in “harm’s way,” unwittingly or otherwise. The fact is, whether we care to admit to it or not, the farang centric adult entertainment areas here are magnets for the criminal classes, and trailer trash, of this nation. In that regard it’s not much different to any other tourist fleshpots of the world with the “hot” (read easy) money being a perceived quick path to riches for the indolent and scurrilous. For all the foreigners here who end up being mugged, bashed, murdered, injured, and extorted a high percentage were probably in the wrong part of town, at the wrong time of day, or attracted unwanted attention from the criminal classes through unruly, drunken, stupid and ignorant behaviour. And in Pattaya there is certainly the potential for the unwitting, or the unwise, foreigner to be on the losing end of an association, or confrontation, with a local working the Soi’s of guile and deception. Prostitution attracts its own following of carrion and vultures. Where goes the girl, who’s selling herself, also go the pimps, drug dealers, substance abusers, addicts, gamblers, leaching families, dead beat parasitical boyfriends and toms, and sexually transmitted diseases. The reality is it is not a healthy environment, physically or psychologically. Every prostitute I’ve ever consorted with has self-esteem issues; perhaps not so evident with foreign suitors but certainly amongst their own general populace. So much so that I now keep my liaisons to a minimum and when I do it’s done at a neutral location such as a body massage parlour. The days of taking one back to my residence are long gone. In this regard places such as Sabai Dee land, along Pattaya Second Road are a good option and compared to the expensive complexes along Rachada offer value for money at approximately three thousand Baht for a ninety minute session.

For those, such as myself, who’ve well and truly got beyond the attraction of the Soi bordellos, booze bars, and street hookers you need to create your own little routines for whiling away the hours each day when in Sin City. A good place to get things moving with an excellent caffeine hit is the Benjamit Café just off Soi Buakhao. I normally try to get there in the mornings, or at least before midday, because the afternoon crowds will have you waiting for a seat; such is the quality and value of their cup of “Joe.”



Pattaya best coffee

Just off Soi Buakhao, The Benjamit Café; an excellent cup of “Joe” for 55 Baht

Tony's Pattaya

Tony’s gym on third road; a nice spot to cool off and do a few laps



Another favourite location of mine is the outdoor pool at Tony’s gym on Pattaya third road. When it’s not raining the weather in Pattaya can be scorching in the afternoons. Unlike in Bangkok, where the shade from the high-rises and the blanketing of smog take the edge off the heat of the day, the lower level building plan and generally clearer skies mean there’s usually a lot more penetration from the suns rays. As such it’s always great to be able to cool off with a swim. Unfortunately, as I found out on my first visit to Pattaya thirteen years ago, the surrounding oceans are not all that clean. A swim along the shores of Jomtien Beach, at that time, revealed a bottom littered with plastic debris. For a clean, refreshing dip one can’t go past the pool at Tony’s gym. Even with a 200 baht entry fee it’s still value for money and a few laps in the crystal, clear waters can be followed up with a fruit shake, and a Kao Pad Gai, in the shaded comfort of the poolside restaurant.

A massage is always a good way to follow up a bit of exercise. The massage complex at the intersection of Pattaya Second Road and Soi Six, as I’ve already mentioned, is probably one of the best in town. Granted it’s more expensive than the smaller shop house massage establishments but there’s a good reason for this; it’s a more spacious, and comfortable, setting than most of those cramped, dimly lit businesses one so often sees about the place. All of the massage girls are properly trained and there’s also the option of private rooms with ensuite showers. After the massage you can enjoy a plate of sliced fruit in the relaxation lounge where the large windows provide a view straight down Soi Six.

If you’re someone who likes to exercise regularly but you’re not overly fond of the air-conditioned, artificial environments of modern gyms then a good option, for an aerobic workout, is a run/hike/walk to the lookout at the top of Pattaya Hill. The lighthouse at the southern headland of Pattaya Bay is a good starting point as the small restaurant there has a parking area. I normally arrive just before five pm and, after downing a coffee and buying a bottle of water, begin my ascent to the lookout at the stairway across the road from the lighthouse. For those unfamiliar with this area, the wooded parkland of the hill is crisscrossed with cement footpaths and stone stairways which will eventually take you all the way up to the peak. Most of the stairways have a fairly gradual incline and link the footpaths of the lower levels to the upper. The last part of the ascent is the steep inclined road which is actually the vehicle exit, from the look out, back down to the main road going across the top of the hill to Jomtien. This one hundred meter incline would probably not seem too difficult for the super fit but for those, such as I, who don’t run very often it’s a bit of a lung buster. The relief of finally arriving at the top is palpable as you stand there soaked in perspiration and sip on a green coconut bought from one of the hawkers stalls along the edge of the parking area. The lookout, at sunset, is a popular spot and soon fills up with the hordes of group tours bussed in to get their “proof I’ve been there” shots for the folks back home. Once you’ve cooled down, and got the heart rate back to normal, it’s an easy amble all the way back down the hill to the light house restaurant for a cold drink and an inexpensive seafood meal. The round trip normally takes me about an hour.



Pattaya Bay

Dusk in Pattaya; the view from the lookout



For many visitors to Pattaya a good seafood dinner is always high on the list of eating priorities. Most usually end up at one of the expensive restaurants along walking street paying through the nose for an average meal, and the view across the bay. All well and good if the ambience of the setting is your main concern or you’re a newbie trying to impress your bar fine. If you’re not bothered with a view and just want a value for money barbecued seafood meal then the best place in town is Top’s supermarket on the intersection of second road and Pattaya Klang. Besides a good selection of seafood on ice, inexpensive cuts of pork, beef and chicken are available from the supermarket chillers. Make your selection, pay for it at the checkout and then have the in-house kitchen cook it for you while you wait. A large barbecued fish and salad will set you back little more than 300 Baht.



Flower seller, Walking Street, Pattaya

One of the long term characters along walking street



Inevitably the majority of visitors to Pattaya end up on Walking Street. While many are keen to have a look in the chrome pole palaces others are content to satisfy their curiosity with a wander along this entertaining 500 meter stretch of bustling night time action. Over the years of visiting I’ve found the best spot to hang out for a couple of beers and some people watching is the open bar area across the road from Soi Diamond. Order a beer, make yourself comfortable in the rattan seating and sit back and enjoy the unfolding human circus.

Since that first visit, some thirteen years back, Walking Street has provided me with some interesting experiences. Experiences which, for the most part, are largely irrelevant in how my life has panned out. Except for one. Directly across the road from my favoured people watching spot, and half way up Soi Diamond, sits the Naughty Girls Ago-go; the place where I met my last TGF, Ning. The whole saga seems a life time away now. In the end it’s just water under the bridge, life goes on and for the sage and the wise, lessons are learned and not repeated. Relax, drink a beer and, as the Thais say “don’t think too much.” Perhaps they’re right because the fact is very little which occurs in this town is worth remembering. And if it is, it’s more likely because those lessons give us a clear understanding most of what passes in front of our eyes in this place, much the same as the doomsday predictions, is largely removed from the substantiated realities of life.

Safe travels,

Mega