Go Wit You Part 1
Greetings again. You might think me damn lazy for only now submitting this report from my last trip to the Kingdom in November 2015, but in my defence, I notice TWO Christmas trees are still up in windows down my street….time flies. Lazy bastards.
“Hey….” “How long you been here?” “Er….a hello would be nice?”, went the opening exchange between me and Don at Heathrow Terminal 2. He’s uptight for no good reason at all, except for being as anxious to get to Bangkok as an abandoned dog about to be fed. This trip with my best pal Don will be a much more fun trip than my last, 6 months earlier. What to some extent has become ‘the routine’ will be coloured through his near-newbie eyes. Don has been with me once before, 18 months ago, and I think he since regretted passing on my last trip and going to Vegas instead. We’re about 3 hours early but seemingly the last to check in for the flight, which has become the norm these days….no leisurely strolling up to check-in, Cinzano in hand any more, it seems. While in the queue for….I’m not quite sure – didn’t we just use the self-service check in and only have carry-on bags – an Aussie girl somehow squeezes in between me and Don as I pause for a millisecond between steps as the line moves forward. ‘Do you mind?’ she loudly exclaims as I ease past her to continue my conversation with Don….Sigh, the joys of long-haul travel.
A great flight is had with EVA airways, good food, pleasant service and in-flight entertainment chock-a-block with turkey movies. Already a slave to all the junk stimuli of these times, I decide to give my eyes a break and do a screenless ‘cold turkey’ for the 10.5 hour flight. It’s become a recent habit of mine after feeling noticeably more refreshed after such flights. I made the occasional foray out of my seat in order browse the Dostoevskys and the Get Rich Nows in the rear-galley’s classical literature library, observing that 60-70% of the plane were bug-eyed watching Minions. Philistines….
Arriving at Suvarnabumni, Immigration was busy but efficient. The queuing system has been improved and the desks are fully staffed. We have no trouble meeting our taxi driver, this time holding a sensible sign with my name on it instead of some mildly infamous personage from history or indeed the present – a joke only I seemed to find funny. (Actually, ‘Fred & Rose West’ (famous UK murdering married couple) did get a good laugh from a group of fellow Brits as I met my driver a few years ago. I found the hapless driver half holding the sign by his side, no doubt tipped off by some spoil-sport that he was being ‘punked’). This time, there’s only light traffic on the ride down to Pattaya and we’re checking-in to Areca Lodge in less than 90 minutes. On the way to our rooms, we see the main pool has been cordoned off, and the posters confirm to Don what I told him I saw in Stickman’s weekly column a few days after we’d booked the hotel – the 4th Annual Ladyboy Water Volleyball tournament is being held here tomorrow! I don’t insist I knew nothing of this before booking and Don’s accepting smirk rather surprises me. There don’t appear to be any participants of tomorrow’s event present in the hotel that evening as we head across the street for a small-portioned, slightly overpriced but delicious Thai dinner. We make our way round to the Aussie bar on the corner of Soi LK metro, and spend the night talking crap, playing bad pool and fending-off and caving in to buying drinks for bargirls. I leave Don in the capable hands of two homely girls and one looker as I head off and crash out for the night.
Next morning I see no messages answered on my Batphone*, but I know Don came back with someone as I dimly heard a stifled..er….roar?….coming from next door at some ungodly hour. The ‘roar’ quickly becomes Don’s dying gasp in my imagination and much banging on his door eventually rouses his ghost just to confirm he’s still in vitae.
(*) The Batphone – a cheap, old (preferably both) handset fitted with a free Thai SIM (now available in airport immigration). Contains only numbers of your travelling buddy(s) and sundry numbers collected from various female Thai personages. Safe to lose or be stolen. Not ever to be dialled to or from your main homeland / company-supplied device. Existence of the Batphone not to be divulged to Thai girlfriends, wives, etc.
After breakfast, I’m tooling around on my balcony, which faces the back-lots of the complex. I become aware of unusual movement in the distant periphery. Squinting, I witness a conga-line of birds of paradise promenading across my view of the mid-distance. Twelve petite-looking lady….boys?….in identical skimpy nurse-like outfits and garters/stockings flounce across a quadrangle towards the main complex. I’m secluded, but also easily spotted by their sixth sense and, now ‘rabbitted’, I get a ‘hellooo….’, a ‘coooeeee’, and a wave or two as I reach for the smart phone. The Samsung doesn’t yield easily to the infernal wake-up cycle/password entry before I can take an actual photo….by which time the moment has long past….an good illustration that you can always rely on technology to let you down! I suppose could just tell people what I saw, (how quaint) but without the 50 photos of proof required these days, who’d believe me?
Getting the low-down from Don later, he didn’t barfine the looker, but one of the plain Janes. He seemed content enough though, except that he’d lost his glasses. He went back to the bar after he got up around noon but there was nothing doing. Much later that day, he gets a message from ‘Nan’, who I learn was his previous night’s squeeze, informing that she has his glasses….they were found at the bar. We spend the day out and about but return a couple of times to the hotel to see the Ladyboy Water Polo tournament in full swing. (Yeah, I bet you did, I hear you say!) Earlier, amongst the hive of setting-up activity as we left the hotel, the farang DJ was just getting started with his playlist and I signalled my compliments to him, appreciating the classic rock he was playing. Troops of ladyboys were preening and preparing under the parasols and awnings that had been erected at one side of the large pool. Middle-aged and senior farangs milled about amongst them in the various guises of ‘team manager’, ‘bar-owner’, ‘tactician’, etc, although some of the veneers of officialdom seemed to be rather tenuous to say the least. On returning to the hotel, we found the entrance to the pool had a large table set up, where you paid the entrance fee to the event that was now well underway. If my old boss hadn’t left my company, he’d have insisted on putting in an expense claim to reimburse my costs, as long as I gave him chapter and verse of the event. Alas, he’s gone, so we put hand in pocket….which was starting to become like a nervous tic on this trip.
Although a charity event, the volleyball matches were taken seriously and it was clear that this was no splash around in the pool just for fun. The games were officiated with equal diligence and if anything were overstaffed, chortle, for some inexplicable reason. The chorus-line of nurse-costumed and bestockinged wenches I’d seen that morning were lined up poolside, employed as cheerleaders to one team. The yang to their ying – 12 equally lasciviously attired strumpets – were lined up on the opposite side, waving their pom-poms across their skimpy purple netball outfits and fishnet hold-ups. The atmosphere was very relaxed, if not ‘business casual’, and we only stayed for a quick drink….honestly. I took some photos on my Idiot Brick and nobody seemed to mind, although I tried to be discreet.
See….my eyes didn’t deceive me on the balcony!
And in purple stereo….
Wholesome, family fun….
After a short while, we slunk off for a badly-earned siesta. My half-sleep was punctuated by the distant cries and splashes and yelps of the distant transgender combatants.
All was relatively quiet at the pool around sunset when we descended again. The water was a now a calm glassy mirror, reflecting the silhouettes and murmurs of those gathered for an evening buffet under the awnings. Classy lads that we are, we headed out to the Pattaya Biergarten to sit by the water and stuff our faces again with an excellent Thai dinner. We slunk off into Walking Street and made a swift turn down the Soi leading to Secrets bar. They looked surprised to be gaining two more customers, adding to the ten or so already inside. I noticed a cute smile across the bar and it wasn’t long before we were joined by two ladies bearing gifts in the shape of Connect 4 boards. I was happy to forego any ‘experienced Asia-hand’ crap and played along. On closer examination, the one sitting next to me was a rather comely and petite 30-something lady with ‘divorcee’ written all over her. Don’s companion was less pretty and well-rounded, but with a personality that ladies on dating sites usually self-ascribe as ‘bubbly’. I’ve always enjoyed visits to Secrets under its various management guises. A nice quaint thing they do is pass round a scrap of paper for you to write your own requests from the jukebox. As long as they can read your writing, your selections will soon be streamed into the bar sound system. After a while, my companion sniffs somewhat at our jukebox choices, commenting ‘Is this your taste?’ though an inscrutable expression. She has a cheeky smile and a quick wit going beyond the usual bargirl banter so its pleasing to weather her gentle ribbing about our music taste. Just be glad I didn’t ask for anything off ‘Atom Heart Mother’, honey, I think to myself. To my surprise, I actually manage to win a couple of rounds of that benighted Connect 4 game, which against a Thai bar-girl is quite an achievement, at least compared to anything on my company’s performance appraisal this year.
Don has gathered a fan club of a dek-serve or two, along with the mamasan and the Laurel and Hardy barman duo. And they fill our bin at least twice with drinks for themselves. From my companion, I hear the tale of her unsuccessful emigration abroad and marriage to a foreigner before I steer her back to more frivolous and present matters. We joke about agreeing to a barfine if the shoulder/back massage she now administers is up to a certain standard. I lose the bet. Don doesn’t yet quite get that he doesn’t have to barfine ladies he doesn’t really fancy, so he obliges with his friend. We settle a large drinks bill and realise how late it is. Outside, Don’s friend wants to go on to a disco, but I’m having none of that and signal hotelward with mine. Don is part-unwillingly dragged off into the night. Once we get back to the room a wall of tiredness hits me, but the sight of my lady’s naked body provides me a tonic for a while at least. She is petite and tautly curvaceous in that bewitching Thai way. After a torrid romp, my tiredness has me sufficiently irritable to request this be a short time encounter. She seems a bit put out, but I sweeten the blow with a little extra payment. Experience has taught me it was probably for the best, but not without some regret….
However, next day I feel pretty normal after getting a real good night’s sleep, and reluctantly feel vindicated in the short-time tactic. I just find it hard to function without enough sleep, and use these trips partially to try and catch up on sleep I don’t get at home! In picking Thailand, I’m probably not choosing the most ideal destination for this. I have a late English breakfast in Robin’s Nest, people-watching and panicking in equal measure. I haven’t heard from Don, and bangs on his door went unanswered. I eventually get a black-humoured SMS to my relief. I later learn he didn’t stay in the disco long with his girl, and not long after his return to the hotel, he was summoned to the front desk via phone-call to his room. Nan, the previous night’s squeeze was there to deliver his glasses – a perfectly reasonable and public-spirited thing to do at 4.30am. During this encounter, she proceeded to loudly tease him about having a girl in his room which he flatly denied but with her indiscreetly insisting that she knew he was lying, much to the mirth of the night staff – hey, stay classy everyone. This all gave me a good guffaw, picturing the scene, and had me reminiscing on similar nonsense from the past.
I’d all but forgotten about the Ladyboys, having not seen any around the hotel that morning. I imagined the volleyball teams now were holed up somewhere in the conference rooms, holding earnest post-tournament de-briefing sessions. On returning to the Areca with Don after out debriefing….we took the mazey path around the outside of the main pool which led to our block. Up ahead on the path were….one….two….three….Three Ladyboys!, as they might say on Sesame Street. They were idling along at their normal pace, and as we came within a few feet of them, they became aware of us. I recognised a low ‘Oooooii’ and then anticipated the almost inevitable checking-of-stride thing that they do in order to engineer some sort of tactile encounter. Using the footwork of a young Glenn Hoddle, I piloted Don around them, maintaining the correct clearance to make it all look unintentional and face-saving for all (aint I a brick?). As we passed, I felt one of them looking directly at me, and a moment later heard a low voice saying, ’Go wit yooouuu….tomollowww!’ They followed us into the same block but I made haste past the reception and up the stairs. It gave Don a good chuckle, and I heard him repeating the line a few times later that day.
I don’t think we ventured down Walking Street that evening and stayed around the LK Metro area. Pretty sure we just grabbed a few pizza slices from the small new parlour at the end of Soi Diana / Second Road – and very good slices they are too, during which I endured a few more ‘Go wit yoooouuuu….tomollow’s from Don, who was keen to make it our official catchphrase. What we did now want was a look inside a Go-go or two, so we did the short dog-leg circuit of LK Metro and settled on Sugar Sugar, at the very northern end of the street. We grabbed a raised table along the back wall facing the stage. A table of young Japanese guys were at a neighbouring table, and seemed to be uncharacteristically watching their pennies judging by the draft beers they were nursing. There were two or three decent lookers on stage – I saw the lovely Indo-looking babe I remembered from a previous trip amongst them – and there were about the same number of decent lookers amongst the other team waiting for their turn to go onstage.
Smiling at the Indo babe, I was sure she’d come and join us at the end of the set. On the changeover, she descended the steps and then proceeded on a strange circuitous detour around the bar, like a runner going off-course. In the meantime, two dancers made a forthright approach, and stood their ground in front, offering handshakes and nicknames. Don, unsure of the polite refusal form, invited the upstarts to take pews next to us and order drinks – a downside of touring with a newbie. Actually no, it’s not Don’s fault at all, but rather it’s the downside of the new, often unwanted forwardness of the girls. Ms Indo made a fly-by, flashed a pout, then proceeded to take a seat up in the bleachers nearby, looking over at us occasionally. I made a ‘why the hell didn’t you come over’ shrug. Meanwhile back at Table Dumbass, in no time, we appeared to have picked up 2 dek serves, who’s 6th sense told them to make their appeals to Don. Chits were soon bunged into our check-bin. Next thing I knew, there were 2 dek serves at our table. No, I’m not mistyping here – these two were immediately behind the other 2 dek serves and possibly a mamasan.
Now this was November 2015 and we were still in the afterglow of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. As the tournament progressed an earlier faltering New Zealand had continually improved and faultlessly demonstrated the deadly effect of an attacking ‘three-quarter line’ (3 players working in a parallel formation). But the All Blacks had nothing on the three-quarter line each of us now faced and the 3-pronged decimation these ladies were inflicting on our wallets. I think it was the mamasan miming the shot-to-mouth ‘dink for me’ gesture that had me literally waving ‘Time-out!!’ with my arms and yelling ‘check-bin’. Don, mortified at – in his mind – us losing face in front of this lot, shot me a pained look. I explained, ‘We’re getting rinsed here….we have to move on’. I had to repeat what I said and raise my voice above the music for him to understand what he didn’t want to understand while at the same time, a couple of the girls lent in to hear what we were saying to each other. Darkened expressions round the table told us it was understood that the dumb buffaloes were now calling ‘party over’.
Doing the conversion from THB to GBP, Don quickly realised that we were indeed being ‘rinsed’ as we reckoned up the bill between us. The only downside of our ancient friendship is, for all Don’s good points, his tendency to sometimes resent my opinions. I can tell him something and his default is to doubt it, unless someone else tells him the same thing. For this reason, I’ve saved the Thailand ‘nitelife 101’ lectures, instead only answering questions if he specifically asks, and employing the ‘learning by doing’ approach. Hence we are shortly leaving Sugar Sugar considerably lighter in the pocket. Good to be reminded that you can always be a Rookie. ‘Fancy another Go-go?….There’s a few decent ones down here….’, I venture. Don’s Go-go fever seemed to have evaporated for the present. We sought refuge in the Billabong, the corner bar in the middle of the Soi, where we spent the first night. Nan, the glasses-finding wonder-girl soon joins us, as do two or three other friends. A few tables over, a slim, short-haired lady (always a novelty) catches my eye and we made silly faces at each other for a while. She must be 40+ but that only adds to her appeal. She seems to be with a fellow countryman, although he’s paying her little attention.
At one point Don says to me, “It’s amazing how she (Nan) found my glasses….you don’t think she took them in the first place, so that I’d have to see her again….??” Hmmmm. He’s catching on quick, this boy. My short-haired strumpet is now in a pout and ignores me elaborately as I pass a couple of times on the way to the bathroom. She’s with someone, though so there’s no logic. Eventually, I see the man rise from his stool and shuffle off into the night. Another song ends from the live band. I wave Ms Crop over. ‘Why you not talk to me before?’ ‘Er….I saw you were with that man’ ‘I not wit him, he always here’ It’s hardly the stuff of Kasparov vs Short, sending their chess moves via Christmas Card, but you get the idea. Lithe figure, check. Short hair, check. Nice mini-dress, check. Unconventionally good-looking, check. Husky voice….che….er….waaaaiit a seconnnnd. Cue flashbacks to the volleyball tournament. The more she speaks the more ashen I become….has it finally happened, after ten years visiting Thailand and dabbling in the nightlife? Don’s in my other ear like a teenager. ‘What’s happening? You okay? Are we staying here? What shall I do with these three? etc, etc’ The band, enjoyed up until now, suddenly sound garish and grating. Ms Crop senses something might be wrong….more flashbacks – ’Go wit yooou….tomolloww!!’ I snap out of this….whatever the opposite of reverie is. ‘Hey….my hotel is over there, but they have to check ID cards….do you have yours? She nods. ‘Can I see?’ She searches around in her bag. We’re off for Bangkok in the morning, I hope I can get Don up in time for the taxi, I wonder, as I wait for the moment of truth. The ID card has the holder’s sex marked in Thai script as well as the English titles Mr, Mrs, Miss….etc. ‘What you doin?’ Don slurs as I squint at the ID card. ‘Hey, listen. Can I borrow your glasses??’
To be continued….