Land of Confusion Part 4
I slept the Sleep of Kings, after days of forced early awakenings, and disrupted, deprived and broken sleeps. Nine good hours, twenty floors up in silent velvety blackness. I literally felt born again as I drew back the blackout curtains and cracked the bedroom windows to a beautiful sun-flooded breezy day in Bangkok. Wafts of air filled the room as I lazed for a short while, channel surfing the TV, and recalling the delights of last night’s wench du jour.
Today is Friday and I’ve got five whole days in Bangkok before heading down to Sin City for two days before returning to the UK. I’m now on Plan B of the holiday. Plan A was to visit Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son with my ex-girlfriend Jen before returning to Bangkok to spend these five days with her ‘with benefits’, as was very heavily hinted by Jen in the months and weeks leading up to my arrival. However, the trip so far hadn’t gone down as expected (described in the earlier parts of this report) and there seemed to be an undercurrent of ill-feeling between us, which was a shame. If we were still on Plan A, Jen would have left me in Bangkok for the last few days of my trip, where I would have behaved myself (honest) and she would have gone on a previously booked trip down to Krabi with her girlfriends from work. I offered that I’d be ok coming to Krabi with her but it was only a polite gesture – way too awkward with the workmates. And anyway, Jen would have cancelled with them if she had any intentions about us ‘getting serious’ again. So this is a long winded way of saying I had allowed a few days at the end of the trip as ‘room for manoeuvre’ if things went pear-shaped with Jen. This would allow me to invoke Plan B – a trip to Pattaya incognito.
The other part of Plan B would be the nights I would now be spending alone in Bangkok. This would form ‘Operation Starfish’, a project to re-acquaint myself with the P4P nightlife scene that I hadn’t used in anger for at least three years. I would have much rather spent nice evenings with an agreeable Jen sipping wine in a music bar together, but this wouldn’t be happening now, and I sure as shit wasn’t going to spend good nights in Bangkok doing Bono’s charity work. I was keen to see the lay of the land for myself in Nana, Cowboy and Patpong, following all the reports of the decline of the nightlife industry.
There was one remaining engagement with Jen, a pre-arranged dinner this evening with her friend K, who was living over in the Soi Ari area. I’d met K several times before and she was a charming girl and the timing of the dinner (7pm) meant I could bundle Jen into her taxi with her dessert in hand and still have time to hot-foot it over to Nana for a few hours of fun. I took lunch in the Pier food court at Terminal 21 and did nothing in particular until the early evening rolled round. I waited at BTS Ari for the girls to arrive. I was somewhat nervous, as I wasn’t sure what sort of humour I would find Jen in. It’s funny the way people sometimes spring up on you when you feel like this, lost in thought, but otherwise seemingly aware of your surroundings. ‘Hello!!’ they both bellowed in my face as if they had been there a while, trying to revive me. K. had put on a fair bit of weight since I saw her 3 years ago, meaning she was still a svelte size 12 by Western standards. Jen was wearing my favourite dark blue dress…damn.
I had never been to this quarter of Bangkok before and I must say I liked it. Less scruffy than Sukhumvit, less high-rise oppression and definitely a neighbourhood with a buzz about it. Every second lot seemed to be a trendy restaurant and they were still empty at this time. Entering the first two or three places however, we were informed that they were fully booked for the evening – apparently the standard case for a Friday evening in an area popular with the trendy crowds. The fourth place we tried was again fully booked but would fit us in if we were ‘eating now’. The food was Thai but ‘tapas style’ uber-modern trendy nonsense. Small portions but very tasty. As the girls ordered dishes, I mentioned fish which they didn’t seem to have. But Jen, dancing attendance, asked them if they could serve some and a basket of Dory (or similar) goujons arrived minutes later. It was nice catching up with K, listening to her sleepy American-accented English. I was on my best behaviour, staying largely quiet and generally trying to be as low-maintenance as possible while the girls chatted. I drank my Beer Lao and silently what Karma I’d burned with the fish goujons that had to be rustled up specially.
K. bless her, also had an acute case of Bangkok Smartphone Disease, and I thought I saw flames coming out of the thing from overuse once or twice. She was text-chatting in real-time with her husband abroad and also fielding questions from the nanny back at her apartment. Eventually she went outside with her phone for a while. Thankfully, Jen was relaxed as we were left alone for the first time that evening. In the Reader Submissions recent discussions on Thai girls and ‘intellectual curiosity’, one writer attested that he could never once recall having heard an interesting anecdote from a Thai female companion. Well, tonight I would hear one. We were talking generally about the hotel where Jen works as a restaurant hostess and the contacts she forms with the multi-national guests, usually initiated by the attention she lavishes on their young children who all seem to love her. It is one of the top hotels in Bangkok, and among her current guests was a French couple who were there to celebrate a milestone birthday for the husband. I forget which one, but it was over 50. You might be ahead of me already one this one. Anyway, Jen established a friendship with them during the lunch and dinner services. On about the fourth day of their stay, the wife called Jen over and asked to speak somewhere ‘in private’. I’ll cut to the chase…the wife apologising, but with grave seriousness, offered Jen 10,000 Baht if she would sleep with the husband for his birthday. I was shocked, naïve bloke that I am. I was shocked because of the hotel in question, and I believe the story as told 100%. I told her I thought it was disgraceful for her to be propositioned like that. She muttered something about it being ‘better to keep quiet.’ She then started to tell me about a senior manager who always wanted her to attend important business-social events with him…just as K. returned.
The meal resumed and passed without incident and we went back to K.’s apartment a short walk away. K’s husband is a wealthy Scandanavian and their apartment was a rambling, marbled, double-balconied affair with live-in maid’s quarters. K’s little one year old daughter was more than curious at my appearance and shortly she was climbing all over me and wanted to be hanging around my neck. She was a delightful child and it certainly took the evening in another direction. K laughed and took some photos, commenting, ‘She must think you’re Daddy, same skin’. The real Daddy, I learned, works elsewhere in the region, only returning to enjoy his comforts on weekends. Anyway, I’ve never encountered a one year old who posed so well for pictures. We stayed an hour until Jen signalled that we should be making a move. We said goodbyes – man that baby was cute – waving us off in the lift, and we walked slowly back to the BTS station. Jen, smiling, made a wistful comment about returning back to her single room in Petchaburi. ‘Don’t worry, Jen’, I thought. ‘My apartment back home doesn’t measure up to that one either’. Jen’s shapely derriere was showcased to its best in the tight thin blue cotton dress as she sultrily weaved through the crowd. We paused at the BTS steps. She’d be off to Krabi with her friends the day after tomorrow. This was goodbye. I offered Jen something towards the dinner that she and K. insisted paying for, but she wouldn’t hear of it. We were all played out. We said a quick, matter-of-fact goodbye and Jen continued on forward as I climbed the steps. I watched her disappear into the crowd. She didn’t look back. My body was physically exhaling in relief and my mind was a land of confusion. But it soon passed, I quickly gathered myself again steeled by all my past follies of the heart. Nana would be getting going – it wasn’t quite 10pm – and I felt I could have a good time there. I hit the Spellbound bar again and the atmosphere was good. The dancer I took out the previous night (in Part 3) came over and the hassle-factor was mild and good-natured. I told her I wouldn’t be barfining tonight and I’d purposely not taken out enough Baht to make this realistic. Alas, there were two ‘nifties’ (British fifty pound notes) in my life-support pocket, and after a lap-dance from the wily wench (that the Indians behind me enjoyed as much as me, judging by how far out their eyeballs were on stalks) I was feeling around for the reassuring presence of the Bank of England’s finest work.
‘No problem, we change’ Not on your life! I check-binned and wandered over to the Nana, an always reliable late night bureau de change, surprisingly without the unfavourable rate of most hotels. To my surprise, they knocked me back…after establishing I was not a guest! Dammit. Crossing back over, I saw the new money change kiosk smack outside the Plaza. The robotess wordlessly tapped at a sign as she calculated the rate. ‘Passports must be shown’. I didn’t have it. Damn! My hotel wasn’t that far, so I jogged back to Soi 10. Coming back down in the hotel lift after retrieving the required, I caught my reflection in one of the mirrored surfaces. The reflection spoke slow and even. ‘Oi you. What the hell are you doing with your life? On this side of the world? Jogging back to that brothel at this time of night?? This was only s’posed to be a stop-gap a few years back…remember?’. While I’ve got some aspects of my life in order, I didn’t have an answer for him. The ‘ding’ of the lift door saved me a further grilling and I was off and running again. The money exchange was closed when I got back to the plaza, and I was more than half relieved. I had a beer or two in one of the ground floor Go-gos and called it a night.
I did nothing special following day, save for a lunch in Terminal 21’s Thai food-court. I wanted to order a favourite of mine – a pork offal and noodle soup called ‘Kwai Juub’ and spotted an outlet selling it. I wanted to order in Thai, only because I have it without the boiled eggs, and it’s easier to state this in Thai to the average soup vendor – I’ve been well schooled in this particular order by Jen and a few others. This time, after asking, I was roundly ridiculed by the teenage drop-kick who mocked my efforts with his soppy sidekick. I got the soup by repeating it all in English (and back to Thai again for ‘mai ow kai khap’ – no egg please). This happened here last year at another stall, though not as blatantly as today. Thailand, take note of this. Because we, your precious visitors and tourism coffer-fillers definitely are. The Kwai Juub was worth the trouble, and five minutes heavenly slurping was had. Thailand all is forgiven.
I did a few laps of Benjakiti park and went back to start watching the ‘True Detective’ series DVD I brought with me. Great show. I decided to eat in the Soi 7 Biergarten that evening, just to soak up the atmosphere of a living piece of bar history that might not be with us much longer. And It’s no good harping on about these places disappearing if you don’t visit them while they’re still here. I sat in the ‘safety zone’ along the back wall and watched the comings and goings. What I noticed from my vantage as I scoffed some cheap grub, is that it’s not all ‘mutton’ in here, there are younger freelancers mixed in too at odd times. Those ceiling fans always somehow evoke thoughts of ‘thousand yard stares’ and Colonel Kurtz’s. I headed to the Plaza again and thought I’d try the Suckers Go-go bar – I don’t recall having ever been here but had heard good recent reports. I found a nice spot in the bleachers with a good view.
After a short while, I was brought from brief reverie by a dek-serve pointing eight or more louts in my direction. There were other rows free. My heart sank – English, late 20s stag party. The fucking worst. Any and every stag do in all history is and has been the worst and anyone who’s ever been on one is the worst and needs to question everything they’ve ever done . The surly Alpha was quickly looming over me and made some sort of facial gesture that said ‘move’. Being English, and therefore with a detailed working knowledge of the Pre-Cambrian brain that serves a Brit abroad, I’m reasonably versed in how to play these things without losing all face. I waited the requisite time to cause him maximum annoyance but remain just inside the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ without triggering a reaction. There was no way I was getting up for this fucking TOOL so I moved my legs adequately for them to pass. He nudged by my leg more than was necessary so I pressed hard back, again only a hair inside the ‘corridor of uncertainty’, throwing him off as he turned back round, by pretending to reach down for some imaginary object. I think I got up as the third or fourth guy passed and gave him a good shoulder, using experience and adopting appropriate body language and correct (lack of) eye contact to make it look unintentional. It’s amazing what you can get away with if you know how. But you have to know how, and even then it’s stupid, especially with these kinds of shitbirds. I shook my head at the dek-serve and carried my check-bin. Do you ever notice the look of dismay on the faces of the wait staff when you do this? ‘Ayyieee. What happen now??’ Relax ladies, I’m just moving over here. I added a drunken slouch or two for the benefit of the stag pricks who’s stares I could feel, so that their small brains had to process the possibility that my resistances could have been mistaken for ‘a drunk guy passing’.
I was annoyed at myself for reacting how I did, but it was the sheer speed that I was transported from 8 cuties giggling at me from the stage to…whatever the opposite of that is. I could still see the obvious ‘bar hottie’ from my new spot and did something I don’t normally do and waved her down. I basically said, ‘grab your coat, you’ve pulled’ while keeping a peripheral eye on the ‘moron situation’ to my right. But it looked ok, they were the sort that were so thick, they didn’t even realise they’d been ‘mugged off’ somewhat. Still best get out of here while the going’s good. ‘Holy crap, you’re not wearing that!’, I thought as Miss Barfine emerged with a traffic stopping skin-tight red (yes) dress and vertiginous heels. But she was, so I ushered her out quickly with a smirk as the morons’ heads swam and their tongues hung out. Back at the serviced apartment I watched sheepishly as Jessica Rabbit signed the unregistered guest book, something I’ve never experienced here until tonight despite the numerous overnighters I’ve brought back. They’re normally quite mature and discreet about such things here, but I wonder if the book is for ‘oh come on, she’s so obviously a bargirl’ girls? She was quite homely when she was eventually naked…in a nice way. About the only thing else I remember is she left her false eyelashes on which now looked so incongruous with her showered and shorn of all make-up.
Next day was check-out day but I was only moving a few blocks down Sukhumvit to Soi 29 for a change of scenery. It’s also my usual MO in Bangkok in case of being stalked by any loony women…you never know…and there’s been close calls in the past. Moving every few days affords some damage limitation insurance. Down in the marbled foyer, some Euro schmuck cut in front of me in the line while I was waiting to check out. He began bellyaching at length in porno-accented English, and I was just getting ready to give him a ‘Munich Wedgie’ (any entrants to the Aussie/Kiwi tent at the annual beer festival found to be wearing underwear have them torn from their person) when he rapped up his blather with the receptionist. This pretty young lady, who has served me here for about 4 years addressed me brusquely and coldly this morning, which was out of character for her and in fact anyone working on the reception here. Word of Jessica Rabbit’s appearance had evidently got round. She gave me a receipt in an envelope with a look that said, ‘Are you still here?’ I’d say I didn’t know what to make of it, but I’d be lying. I needed a walk, so I rambled back down the long Soi to Sukhumvit. Jen would be getting on her plane now, to fly down to Krabi with her friends. I’d heard nothing from her yesterday. I thought of our lovely time there together two years ago but it felt more like 10 years ago. I’d been coming to Bangkok for nearly 10 years now, I thought, as I reached the end of Soi 10. Ten Years Gone…as Led Zep sang back in 1975…
Then as it was, then again it will be
And though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
I’m rambling and meandering myself here, so I’ll wrap it up for now…
To be continued…