Around The Traps: August – September in South-East Asia
According to Albert Einstein the definition of insanity is “repeating the same mistakes and expecting a different outcome.”
A few nights ago I was sitting at the bar of the Argentina Steakhouse silently nodding my head in agreement with Albert’s words of wisdom. I’d made a dinner appointment with a freelance hooker I’d met a couple of nights earlier down on Soi 11 and she was late. Of course, why would I have expected anything else? Insanity was being repeated again and feeding into the cynical outlook of another Bangkok expat. These freelance hookers – the ones who predominantly hangout along Soi 11 – have a certain way about them. And it’s mainly to do with unbridled narcissism. They’re totally convinced the sun shines out of their asses and the world revolves around them. “Another punter is waiting and I’m late? No problems, they always wait because Thai pussy is number one.” A few minutes after our allotted appointment time of 8 pm I received the standard “BTS so busy, I be there at 8.30 pm” message. Decoded that meant “I’m such a lazy cxxt I only got out of bed two hours ago to start getting ready, and I had to have my daily helping of som tam.” At 8.25 I told the barman to get my bill. Just as I was reaching for my wallet the said freelance hooker came swanning through the door (grand entrance), plonked herself down on a seat next to me, batted her eye lids and said “BTS so busy, honey, I want white wine please.”
One may wonder why I continue to waste my time entertaining such a thoroughly disingenuous species as the Soi 11 freelance hooker? To be honest, I have an ulterior motive beyond the no strings attached shagging. The never ending lines of bullshit that pours from their mouths provides great entertainment and is also a source of good material for the occasional submission for this site. One of the things which amuses me about the Bangkok “working girl” is they lie so much they can never keep track of which lies they’ve told you. At the time of planning for our dinner engagement at the Argentina steakhouse, B, the Soi 11 freelance hooker, told me she’d never been there before. After moving from the downstairs bar area to a table on the upper level, B quite confidently pointed out where the toilet was when I mentioned I needed to go urgently.
By the time we’d got settled in at our table B was tucking into her second glass of chardonnay. Apparently she was still in a state of shock after being red carded at Hong Kong airport a few days earlier and was in the process of recovery by downing as much wine as someone else would pay for. According to B she went to Hong Kong for a “short holiday” (this is whore speak for hanging out at the clubs in Wanchai and selling her ass to the local expat population) and was turned around by Hong Kong Immigration after a couple of hours of being questioned and searched. She was at pains to understand why anyone would think badly of her. After all, she’s just a simple girl trying to make an “honest” living. The night I met her down on Soi 11 she confidently informed me her job description was “partying and working.” My immediate thought was what she and her ilk does has little, if anything, to do with the idea of real work. Most can’t even get out of bed at a reasonable hour in the morning.
Aside from the nonsense of my dinner date the meal at the Argentina Steak House was very good. It was the first time I’d been there and the steaks and service were excellent. However, if there’s one negative it has to be the crowd noise and that incessant Latino background music. It just doesn’t let up and I half expected at any moment to see the Mariachi brothers come tumbling through the door wearing their oversized sombreros and madly strumming their Mexican guitars.
My observations are the Argentina Steakhouse is more of a tourist haunt, being located where it is right next door to Terminal 21. If you want steaks which are equally good (US A-grade beef) in a more ambient setting (smooth jazz only as background music) then I’d highly recommend the US Steak House down on Sukhumvit Soi 16. The owner DJ is an excellent host and the food and service is top notch.
After the meal I took B back to my condo for some intimacy. As we were snuggled up to each other on the couch she laid out her plans for our future together. Her demands were the same as just about every other lazy, worthless freelance hooker I’ve spent time with; a big enough monthly stipend for her to take care of herself and her family of parasites in the style in which they’ve become accustomed to. As with all of them there was no mention of what it was that she was actually going to contribute. Ongoing access to her young, attractive body is deemed an adequate trade-off. As mentioned in previous submissions, the one constant with all of these Soi 11 freelancers is their abject laziness. To be honest, I blame the punters (farangs) for this. These girls have had so much easy money thrown at them they now think they’re something special (other than a prostitute) and the idea of actually having to do what they’re paid to do – satisfy the paying clientele to a standard expected of the expense of their services – is now the least of their concerns. It’s now got to the point where their primary objective is getting drunk at the expense of the punter and providing a lazy, half assed service (if they don’t fall asleep) when going back to the punter’s digs at 3 or 4 AM. Luckily I’m at the point now where I don’t feel I have to prove anything to the sex worker I’m hiring. I’m not interested in wasting my energy in trying to satisfy her. Heaven forbid, I’m the customer so I’m the one that needs to be satisfied. After getting a nice bit of oral action with B I told her she could finish me off by hand and, because I was feeling tired, she could then go home. I haven’t completely written off seeing her again as she made me an offer which seemed too good to refuse; travel to her village in the North at the beginning of next month and photograph her friend’s wedding. That should be quite entertaining and might make for a memorable submission. However, as with most offers which seem too good to be true in Thailand, there’s probably a catch; such as having to pay to photograph her friends. And the idea of possibly meeting B’s own family doesn’t really strike a chord of enthusiasm in me either. Ah, the idiosyncrasies of life in Thailand.
As I relax in the comfort of my mid-Sukhumvit dugout it’s been quite an entertaining few weeks since arriving back from my last contract in China. I spent a few days in Singapore on a work related course, with the odd foray to the flesh pots along Orchard Road thrown in for good measure, and I’ve also managed short trips to Vietnam and China. In between all of this I’ve had a couple of catch-ups with Stick during his recent visitation. My overall impression is he’s very happy being back in New Zealand but misses the friendships made during his 17 year stay in the LOS. And while New Zealand might be a beautiful place to live, friendships count for a lot. So much so that during our final chat before heading home, he mentioned he’ll be back for another visit again sometime next year.
Something which seems to be foremost in Stick’s thought processes at the moment is the price of real estate in New Zealand. Apparently it’s damned expensive in that country’s biggest city, Auckland. With that in mind it can be said prices in this part of the world (South-East Asia) are on the rise as well. And none more so than Singapore; the Lion city. Real Estate, beer, designer brand goods, hookers; take your pick, prices are over the top when compared to other cities in the region. The rates for a bit of horizontal folk dancing have been steadily on the rise and for a short time (1 hour) with a Vietnamese takeout from Orchard Towers, you’ll get no change from 300 SGD (Approx. 7300 THB). For an overnighter most want between 400 – 500 SGD and if you head down the road to the Hyatt (Brix Night club) the rates are even higher. When taking this into consideration the prices for ladies of the night in Thailand aren’t so bad after all. Prices are all relative anyway and the dynamics of the whoremongering scene in Singapore are quite different to that in Thailand. The majority of punters frequenting the Ipanema bar and Brix Night Club are cashed up expat businessmen or guys on a substantial package with an international company; such as those in the oil and gas industry. There are no expat retirees flocking to Singapore as far as I’m aware and on any given night at a place such as Brix a bevy of attractive Russian and Vietnamese freelancers can be seen mingling with forty to fifty year old expats attired in business suits. In most cases these are guys who aren’t too concerned about dropping 500 SGD for a bit of slap and tickle with a hooker.
Interestingly enough I hooked up with a Vietnamese lass not long ago at Mixx Night Club in Bangkok. It was a bit of a surprise and according to the young lady in question until fairly recently she’d been plying her trade in Singapore but had been red carded after her fifth one month visa in a row. Perhaps with more stringent entry qualifications being enforced in Singapore there might be more Viet girls heading to Bangkok in the future? At the moment the jury is still out for me regarding the Viet v Thai girl debate. Over the past 18 months I developed a bit of penchant for Vietnamese ladies but, after a number of trips to Vietnam, have realised the ones working in bars and prowling the internet dating sites have the same game plans as their Thai equivalents: hook-up with a foreigner, provide plenty of sex, marry the foreigner, have the foreigner build a house back in the village, and have the foreigner “take care” of the family. Hardly surprising really given the background of poverty most come from. And some guys are quite happy with this arrangement and it often does work out well, even though you’ll never own the land one pays for. But as a work buddy who’s settled in Vung Tau pointed out to me; it’s only when things go pear-shaped one sees the darker aspects of their hidden characters emerge. According to my buddy, they could have connections with government officials and gangster types that you were completely unaware of. In his words when things have gone wrong between a local lass, and her foreign husband / boyfriend, they can be “utterly ruthless” when it comes to holding on to the assets they’ve accumulated or extorting money perceived as being owed for time served. And in nearly all cases, they’ll get the backing of the local officialdom or some other heavy connections.
The one thing I do prefer about them, when making a comparison, is generally they don’t indulge in alcohol to the same extent as Thai ladies. Even a lot of the “working girls” I’ve met over the past couple of years shun the booze. I guess this is really a reflection of the two different personas. Whereas the Thai generally have a warmer nature and see the use of alcohol as part of the sanuk in life, the Viet ladies, being of a cooler temperament, don’t really see the need for it. Not being much of a drinker myself I find the way many Thais overindulge in booze to be quite crass and when considering the state many of the “working” girls end up in, by the time you get them back to your digs, it’s little wonder they provide such a lousy service these days. In this regard the Vietnamese girls are a lot more diligent in terms of expected services provided. They also have much less of the attitudinal problems which seem to afflict a lot of the Thai freelancers I’ve been with i.e.; upon arriving at your room immediately reaching for their hand phones or the TV remote control. One of the more pleasing aspects of a trip to Vietnam is one is still able to have what is referred to as the GFE we used to experience years ago in Thailand. On my last two trips I was lucky enough to have the company of a very delightful lass who I befriended at Singapore Airport. She was returning from a brief trip to the Lion city and by the time we touched down in Saigon we’d worked out a deal for the duration of my short stay in Vietnam. And believe me, it was a lot less expensive than what one can expect in Thailand these days. Damn, the lady I spent time with, accompanied me on my recent trips to Da Nang and Vung Tau.
My delightful tour guide during my past trips to Vietnam.
If anyone reading this is considering asking me for the contact details and pricing arrangements of the girls I meet, don’t bother. I’m not running a de facto dating agency. You may laugh at this but in all seriousness I’ve had a number of requests in the past for such information. I even had one guy tell me he “hadn’t been there before and didn’t know where to go.” Well guess what? There’s this massive resource of info out there called the worldwide web. Take some time to do some research and plan a trip accordingly. Otherwise you can send me USD 500 and I’ll provide an in-depth travel itinerary for you for the South East Asian Region.
And doing a bit of research before travelling to a remote or little known destination certainly counts for a lot. I just had a rather disappointing trip to the interior of China due to the fact 99.99% of the population there (Chongqing) don’t speak any English and there is virtually nothing in place for foreign tourism. China is such a large country that what occurs in one region, in respect to tourism and catering to the needs of foreigners, may not be replicated in other more hard to get to areas. An example would be the South East coastal region of Shenzhen which borders Hong Kong. Over recent years it has seen increasing numbers of foreigners arriving due to a steadily growing tourism industry and oil-based economic development. In particular the small enclave of Shekou and its attached port facility of Chiwan, at the Southern extremity of Shenzhen, has become the supply base for the region’s booming offshore oil and gas industry. And, as the old saying goes, where there’s oil there’s money. So much so that Shekou now has a sizeable expat community and, as with many other oil towns in the region, an enclave of bars, pubs and restaurants catering to their needs. The SeaWorld area is the focal point for foreigners looking for familiar surroundings to eat and drink in the evenings. And as it is with any other oil towns around the world, there are bars with a certain type of local lass catering to the carnal desires of cashed up, horny oil workers. Actually I would say the place has developed a fairly sophisticated look these days compared with 10 – 15 years ago. Back then there was just one area with girlie bars; the notorious, or nefarious, chicken street. How it got its name I’m unsure of. It was a small strip of bars, perhaps like a softer version of Pattaya’s Soi 6, with a gaggle of voracious bar girls in each. If anyone thinks Thai bar girls are hustlers when it comes to getting you to part with your cash for lady drinks, you ain't seen nothing yet. Those Chinese girls make the Thais look like amateurs. They take hassle/hustle to a new level of expertise and, in the blink of an eye, they’ll wrangle a few rounds of drinks out of an unwary customer. With the development of the area, Chicken Street became a bit of an eyesore and was eventually shut down by the local authorities. The bars and their girls have since moved a couple of kilometres up the road towards Shenzhen and are hidden in amongst local restaurants and other small business set back from the main road. The local hookers, being an enterprising lot and always having an eye for new opportunities (money), soon worked out the large, open mall area around the SeaWorld development was the place to hang out later in the evenings to accost drunken foreigners as they stumbled out of the bars along the strip. On any given evening – after 10 PM – local street walkers can be seen sitting on public seating around the edges of the mall. Local rates are about 200 – 300 CYN (USD 30 – 50) for a short time. For those wanting massage with extras, there are a few massage parlours around the mall area as well.
At the time of putting the finishing touches to this submission I’m licking my wounds after a failed trip to South Central China. It was supposed to be a 10-day trip but I aborted the mission after just 5 days due to a number of reasons which I’ll explain. My original intention for going was to visit and photograph a couple of significant geological landmarks approximately 200 kilometres from Chongqing but, unfortunately, discovered soon after my arrival that independent travel in this part of China is incredibly difficult. As previously mentioned, virtually no-one in this part of China speaks English and all of the signage (roads, directions and instructions) are in Chinese only. During my time there I only saw one other farang. The biggest hurdles to independent travel in lesser travelled regions such as Chongqing are:
• Language difficulties – Inability to communicate
• Food – local type Chinese food only
• Restrictions on internet connectivity
I was fortunate that the hotel I booked into – Holiday Inn Chongqing North – had a concierge who spoke reasonable English and helped me out by writing down the names of the places I wanted to visit each day in Chinese. Even so, it was still hard work. Luckily I did manage to visit an amazing scenic attraction called the Jindao Canyon as a day trip from Chongqing. A more in depth report on a visitation to Jindao Canyon can be seen on my blog.
The amazing landscape of Jindao Canyon with 7 kilometres of walking trail bolted to the cliff faces
If you are a person like me who places a lot of importance on a healthy diet then China, in this regard, may not be to your liking. Forget about the nice Chinese food you are served in western Chinese restaurants; the food in China is completely different. The Chinese are not in to nutrition, they are into taste and everything they cook is swimming in oil and soya sauce and heavily laced with salt and sugar. Their meat, normally pork and chicken, as well as the vegetables are chopped into hundreds of small pieces with everything they cook. If you order a chicken dish, most of the time taken to eat your meal will be spent spitting out bone shards. If you like good quality protein, such as chicken breast or lean cuts of beef, then you’ll also be disappointed in this regard. Even in a 4-star hotel like the Holiday Inn Chongqing North, the method of cooking western food is quite poor. Next time I go to China I’ll be sure to pack a number of cans of tuna fish in my luggage.
For those who’ve been to China before you’ll be familiar with the restrictions the government has on internet connectivity. It’s not that the actual connections are poor, it’s just that some of the quality internet media services and social networks we take for granted in the rest of the world are banned, or blocked, in China. This includes all forms of Google, including Gmail, Facebook, YouTube and even Bloomberg. If using Gmail for your emails, you will need to temporarily change to something else, such as Hotmail or Fastmail, or set up a VPN account prior to entering China. It’s no good doing it after you arrive in China because if you’re only using Gmail you will not be able to access the activation mails.
Having said all this, travelling in China can still be a memorable experience as long as you’ve got all your ducks lined up before going there. I will definitely go back but I will be more organised and do the major features, such as Wulong Karst, as part of an organised tour.
The following pics were taken during the couple of days I was in Chongqing:
A Bullet Train departs with Chongqing skyline in the background.
North Chongqing Railway station in the late afternoon haze.
Massive building projects are everywhere.
It’s 6 PM, time to eat. The locals are out on the streets and getting their fill.
Chongqing’s version of the BTS.
A friendly local sorting out the nuts.
Foreign scammers, dog shit and tuktuk rip-offs; Patong Beach reprise
Back in Bangkok and with a return to work imminent, I decided to make use of the last few remaining days I had left by heading down to Phuket for some beach time. Having been there only eight months previously in the high season, and vowing never to return, my opinion of one of Thailand’s most notorious beach side scam centres had softened a bit with the arrival of the rains. The fact is the place – particularly Patong Beach – is somewhat more bearable in the low season. With enough Royal Orchid frequent flyer points and credit for a previous uncompleted accommodation booking; it would be a relatively low cost trip.
For those looking for an alternative to over-priced and under-value hotel options, I’d highly recommend the Unity Condominiums at the Northern end of Patong Beach. The apartment buildings are perched up on the hill, are relatively quiet at night and are a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of central Patong. Low season prices are very good value and I got an 82 square meter, one bedroom unit for just 1800 THB a night. For enquiries contact Ning on +66 863291387
As far as beaches go, I’ve always maintained Patong compares favourably with some of the best strips of sand and sea in the rest of the country. It’s only when one crosses back to the suburban side of beach road the place challenges the maintenance of an even temperament. If you are walking around the streets, particularly in the morning hours, you are bound to be approached by the “special holiday draw” scam artists. When I first came across this scam, some five years previously, the scammers tended to be the Essex brigade (Cockneys) but there are now Indians trying it on as well. For those unaware of this Patong Beach scam, this is how it works. Two guys riding a moped will pull up in front of you and instantly become your best mates. The opening line will usually be “hey there, are you Australian?” If you stop to engage them in conversation, they’ll prattle on with some small talk for a couple of minutes before hitting you with the opening line of their sales pitch (scam). “Look, we’re working for a travel company and we’ve got a promotion on this week. It’s a lucky draw for a free holiday in Phuket.” You are then shown a handful of scratch cards – similar to lottery type scratch cards – and asked to pick one. The thing is all the scratch cards have been manufactured to reveal the same result. “Oh wow, you’ve won first prize,” says one of the enthusiastic scammers in feigned surprise. “If you want to register for the holiday we’ll need you to come back to the office so we can get all your details.” The only thing is there is no prize, there is no holiday and these guys don’t work for any travel company. When you arrive back at their office (read boiler room) you’ll be asked to part with a registration fee – about 2000 THB – to complete the registration process. It’s a scam and nothing more. If approached by these shylocks, just do as I do and simply start saying “boiler room, time share scam” and they’ll be on their way very quickly.
Another Patong scam, and chief bugbear for many visitors to Phuket’s most infamous beach area, is the tuktuk and motorbike taxi rip-off. Regardless of where you are in Patong, day or night, the standard charge for a ride from one end of the beach to the other is ridiculous when compared to other tourist areas in Thailand. And because there is no competition, such as metered taxis or a songthaew service (as in Pattaya), the mafia which controls all transportation around Patong just won’t budge on their prices; for a tuktuk ride it’s 200 THB and for a motorbike taxi ride it’s 100 THB. Their pricing systems stink, to be sure. And having recently spent quite a bit of time traversing the trip hazards of Patong’s sidewalks the rip-off prices of public transportation aren’t the only thing which stinks. Perhaps I was there at the wrong time of the year but there was dog shit littering the footpaths everywhere, and really stinking the place up. One would think the rains at this time of year would flush everything away but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Perhaps the government street cleaners aren’t as diligent with their sweeping duties during the rainy time of the year or it might just be none are employed due to the fact there are fewer tourists about?
After a long day at the beach, swimming or walking about, a massage is always a great way to relieve tension in tired limbs. And Patong, as in any other tourist area in Thailand, has no shortage of massage shops available to choose from. Over recent years the busy tourist streets have seen the emergence of the “pretty massage.” According to the manager of Rosco’s sports bar on Song Roi Pee Road, the pretty massage is a “tepid rubdown with extras at the end.” The pretty massage shops are easy enough to identify; they normally have a bevy of attractive Thai ladies with cosmetically enhanced cleavages bulging from their tight fitting lime green, blue or pink tops. Pretty massage shops also tend to be very basic when compared to more authentic massage outlets. For 300 THB you’ll be offered a foam rubber mattress on the floor in a narrow, plywood walled cubicle for an hour. You’ll get a light rub down with oil for 30 minutes followed by a menu of services for varying prices. It’s all a bit agricultural really as the thin plywood walls are no impediment to the noises coming from the other cubicles. According to Ann, a young Isaan lady I befriended at the pretty massage shop next door to Rosco’s sports bar, this type of massage service is becoming more and more popular with bar-girls who get fed up with the bar scene. Ann said she was much happier because it was a healthier environment for her to work in. She still made reasonable money from the extras she offered but got to sleep earlier every night and didn’t have to drink alcohol or go with drunken customers.
A walk along Soi Bangla in the evening is always good for a laugh but the noise and crowding in some of the more popular watering holes can often be a bit over the top if you’re looking for a place to have a couple of quiet bevvies. If you’re looking for a more relaxed environment, free of lady drink hassles, you might want to try the “Shipwreck Bar” at the top end of the soi – the nearest bar to the beach. It’s a fairly new bar with nice décor, no working girls and eighties Australian rock music set at a tone in which you can still have a conversation. I managed to avoid entering any go-go bars in Patong on this visit but still have the latest info on lady drink prices along Bangla. Depending on which bar you go into, lady drinks vary from 160 – 220 THB. A barfine at a beer bar is 700 THB.
The sobering reality
After a few enjoyable days in Phuket I was back in the Big Mango preparing myself for another long stint offshore (60 days minimum). I’d had a memorable few weeks off but it was now time to put the nose to the grindstone and top up the bank account again. For my last night in Bangkok I decided to head out to a favoured watering hole – Oskar – on Soi 11 for a couple of quiet drinks and some tasty fusion food. By chance I bumped into a couple American guys my own age, in Bangkok for the first time, who also happen to work in the offshore industry. After a few beers and shooting the breeze they mentioned they were heading down to Nana Plaza, and specifically Rainbow 4, and asked me if I wanted to join them. Having not been down there for a good 12 months I decided what the heck, it would probably be a good laugh in a group. We flagged down a taxi outside Oskar and 20 minutes later we were comfortably seated around the dance platform to the right of the entrance; apparently it’s the platform with the better line-up. Within a couple of minutes of starting on my first beer, and surveying the talent shaking their booty in front of me, I started to recognise ladies who I’d first seen there five years previously. Two of them smiled at me and when my two newbie buddies enthusiastically prodded me in approval, I casually mentioned how long I’d known them. Their replies stunned me and made me realise how easy it is to lose perspective, and a sense of reality, when spending too much time hanging out in go-go bars. “Hell man, I bet she’s had a thousand cxxks in her in that time,” laughed one of my new buddies. I didn’t reply, I just sat there considering the truth of what he’d just said and realised it really was time to move on. A couple of minutes later I downed the last of my beer, said farewell to my drinking buddies and made a hurried exit from Nana Plaza. It was time to say goodbye to that trap.
Another in the long line of Mega's South-East Asia trip reports par excellence!