Around The Traps in South-East Asia Part 2
I arrived back in the Big Mango at the beginning of June after a fairly arduous five months of offshore work in India. With the exception of two nights in a hotel in Mumbai, and the ninety minute drive from the airport to the harbour, I saw very little of the place. And what I did see left a lasting impression. Mumbai, apart from the small area of five star hotels around the airport, is one giant fxxking slum. The next time I begin to feel frustration with how things are here in the LOS, I’ll just spend a few moments thinking about what I’ve seen in Mumbai and I’ll know those frustrations will dissipate rapidly. The poverty and crowding is utterly overwhelming. Walking along the congested sidewalks of lower Sukhumvit is a breeze in comparison. And if you think the Thais are rapacious in the ways they go about trying to cajole a few sheckles out of you, try walking around the streets of Mumbai on your own. The Indians take badgering to a level well beyond the capabilities of the Thais. So much so I even had a harbour side lackey desperately trying to pull my suitcase out my hand, to earn a dollar, as I was transferring from a harbour ferry to a minibus bound for the airport. Chaos ensues everywhere and one could be forgiven for thinking they’d actually organised it that way. While waiting at the harbour for clearance to leave, a team of labourers ferried everything imaginable, from crates of cabbages to hydraulic rams, off trucks to small transfer boats moored at the bottom of two flights of stairs. With no crane anywhere in sight, these indefagatible minions of the lowest caste toiled on relentlessly into the heat of the afternoon. Forget Bollywood and any pretence of modernity, this is like a step back in time where the value of life has little meaning. Where corruption has a firm foothold in all aspects of life and government Wallers have made an art form of over officiousness and dithering bureaucracy. When my flight finally took off for the four hour trip to Bangkok, I’ve never felt so relieved to leave a place.
Back in Bangkok
After a couple of days of catching up on some well needed sleep, and the energy levels beginning to return to normal after being on a beefless diet for the previous seventy days, it was time to take care of business. This time back I’d made a vow to myself to avoid go-go bars at all costs. There was a time when they had a certain appeal, but not anymore. With the prices for the girls becoming ridiculous and the drinks hustle being a tad tiresome, as well as expensive, a bit of short time action at some of the body massage outlets seems to be a better option these days. After a final visit to both Cowboy and Nana Plaza during my previous break in the Big Mango my observations of the interplay one encounters in the chrome pole palaces continues to err on the negative. Yes, we all know it’s really just about the money but it’s also very much about the alcohol. As a person who places a high priority on the maintenance of one’s health, it’s hard to be around woman who reek of booze and whose opening lines always seem to be “you buy me drink,” or some such derivative of. The reality is the only way to actually enjoy these places is by becoming inebriated oneself, so the beer goggles mask the reality of just how skanky many of them are. Over recent weeks there’s been an expose of pole dancers on this website. Some have looked reasonably attractive but the fact is the right ambient lighting and a heavy application of make-up has many looking better than they actually are. Put them out on the street in daylight hours with the make-up removed and most would be hardly remarkable compared with Thai ladies traveling to work on the sky train. The old adage of “mutton, done up as lamb” comes to mind in this regard.
Another area which I’d also vowed to steer clear of was the clubs and bars along Soi 11; the domain of the alcoholic, idiot whore of Thailand. The one word which comes to mind with these pretentious little non-performers is “entitlement.” Spoiled rotten is also an apt description for their bitchy attitudes and over the top expectations. It wouldn’t be so bad if most of them could actually do the job the punters pay them for, but their sense of entitlement puts many of them in the “starfish” category when you eventually get them back to your hotel room or apartment. But for those willing to part with 5,000 THB for a lousy experience with a drunken hooker, good luck to you.
The small farang centric, body massage outlets dotted around the city seem to be a far better option for getting one's rocks off these days. One such place is Hana Massage, down a side lane, half way along Sukhumvit Soi 22. For 2,500 Baht you’ll get a private room for 90 minutes with an experienced and willing masseuse providing a full body oil massage, a testicular massage, a blow job and shag. And the best part is they don’t stink of booze and you aren’t constantly pestered to “buy me drink.” There are no blurred lines in these places; they’re being paid to do a job so it’s simply a matter of lying back and enjoying it. However if you want the pretence that a drunk hooker might actually like you for who you are, then head down to Cowboy, Nana Plaza or Soi 11 and pay double the price for quarter of the value.
If you’re tired of the pay for play scene the internet dating sites are another option, although my recent experience with these has been a bit hit and miss to be honest. Thai Friendly seems to the most popular site these days, and there probably are plenty of genuine types looking for a relationship, but there are also a good number of professionals on the hunt for some short time money. A sure give away for identifying a working girl are profiles providing minimum personal details and ladies seeking someone in an age range from 18 – 70. Other indicators to online vixens looking for some cash are dresses showing plenty of cleavage, a face which is all tarted up and a profile photo taken in a bar, wine glass in hand. After minimal time spent chatting on the web platform, they’ll ask for your Line ID. LINE seems to be the most popular app for Thai ladies for inexpensive and hassle free chat. So much so that one often hears the distinctive ping of messages going to and fro, out on the street, as many walk around with their faces glued to their phone screens while they madly tap away. If you’re making contact with a lady through LINE the direction of the conversation (grilling) is actually not much different to that encountered with a bar girl. “Where you come from?” “How long you stay here?” “Do you live here?” “What’s your job?” ad nauseum. The bottom line is they’re establishing your social standing and whether you’re worth pursuing long term, or just someone available for a bit of short term dating (shakedown). And yes, it really is still just about the money. If one does agree to meet with you, chances are she’ll bring a friend along to prove she’s a respectable Thai woman. If it was a 19-year old virgin you were meeting then this arrangement might be acceptable but if it’s some 35 year wench that’s been around the block then it’s complete and utter nonsense. If you agree to it beforehand then fair enough. But if she arrives at your lunch engagement, friend in tow without previously mentioning it, you can be sure she’s got absolutely no qualms about having you waste your money and therefore, has very little respect for you. In some regards I’ve got more respect for the “on-line working girl” who just tells you straight up her short time price.
A couple of days after signing up with Thai Friendly I had one such on-line working girl come around to my apartment for a bit of afternoon slap and tickle. To her credit she told me straight off the bat she “wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, she just wanted some short time money.” Natcha was quite a cute number and at 2000 THB her short time rate was reasonable compared with current Bangkok prices. With no bar fine to pay, no “you buy me drink” hassles and no stench of alcohol it was a bargain to be sure. She gave me her LINE ID and I said I’d message her whenever I needed to spend 2000 THB on a bit of afternoon sex. Unfortunately Natcha couldn’t keep to this simple arrangement and has been messaging me every day to see how I’m doing. I guess it’s just part of her aggressive sales pitch but it seems to be way many of these ladies operate; hoping you’ll be sucked in to offering them a regular stipend by feeling sorry for them. After a few days it became annoying so I read her the riot act in black and white “if I want you for sex, I’ll message you. Otherwise no need to contact me.” Her reply was the standard guilt trip nonsense they engage in and she told me “I made her feel like market fruit.” After replying “what did she expect, she was in the business of selling herself for money” I deleted the LINE app from my phone.
The thing these girls don’t like is a world which is black and white, and farangs who operate in a black and white, because there’s no uncertainty and therefore no advantage to be accrued or manipulated. Their world is life in the grey zone, where things aren’t certain, where they can play their mind games and use emotional manipulation. If you’re a farang who lives in black and white, they’ll move on very quickly. Guys who live in the grey zone of uncertainty are ripe for plucking. Don’t live in the grey zone; ladies who do it for money are hookers, first and foremost, and not girlfriends. It’s not your fault she’s a hooker. It was her choice to cross the line and nine point nine times out of ten, it’s always about the money. It is my experience that the two main reasons a lady becomes a hooker are laziness and greed (wanting to live beyond their means). In most cases you will never be able to save them, so don’t waste your time or money trying.
After a few days of R & R and getting my body clock back on a normal footing it was time to get out of the rat race of Krung Thep and hit the beach for some fresh air and tanning time. My beach resort area of choice in Thailand continues to be Phuket and more specifically, Patong Beach. Yes, I know the place is an over-run tourist mad house but in the depths of the low (rainy) season it’s actually bearable as the crowds are usually well down compared with the high season. It’s a bit of a love/hate affair with the place but having been to many other beach resort areas in the region it still comes out well ahead when the pros and cons are balanced out. Yes the tuk-tuk mafia are, and continue to be, a sore point but that can be neutralised simply by renting a motorbike to get about on. And yes, the go-go bars are still a total rip-off with the over the top drink prices (180 – 200 THB) and bar fines (1000 THB) but that can also be neutralised by simply avoiding them altogether. The fact is any well-known tourist/beach resort area in the world you care to name (Rio, Miami, and Gold Coast) will have its share of scam artists and petty criminals looking to make some easy cash off the tourists. So in that regard, Patong is no different. If you don’t want to get scammed it’s simply a matter of doing all your shopping at the large malls and not signing up for any time share accommodation.
If you’re looking for a bit of companionship for the night then beer bars offer significantly better value than go-gos with lower barfines and some girls still quoting just 1500 THB for the night. My only bug bear with the beer bars is the constant pestering one gets from the girls for drinks and the constant flow of street hawkers into the bars selling copy sunglasses, copy watches, DVDs, etc. (All of it is just low quality junk). These days when I’m in the mood for a bit of horizontal folk dancing in Patong, my preferred option is the pretty massage shops which dot the landscape. Pretty massage outlets (extras provided at an additional cost), compared to normal massage outlets, are easily identified by the buxom appearance of the girls seated along the shop fronts. They will normally be wearing bright, single coloured, skimpy tops to show off their enhanced cleavage (most being silicone). On enquiry it’s simply a matter of establishing the price for additional services before entering. The standard price for an oil massage is 300 – 400 THB per hour with a full service (BJ and sex) running at 1500 – 2000 THB additionally. Once again the benefit of these places for getting your rocks off is you don’t have to suffer the “you buy me drink” nonsense and the girls don’t stink of booze and ciggies.
One of the staff at a pretty massage outlet along Patong Beach
One such pretty massage outlet, and a favourite of mine, is the one next door to Rosco’s Sports bar on Song Roi Pee Road. If your tired of the mayhem on Soi Bangla and want a quieter location for a cold beer, great food and your preferred football code then Rosco’s is the place. There’s also the added bonus of being able to nip next door for a massage or whatever else you might be in the mood for. The owner/manager of Rosco’s is a Brit by the name of Dave and for rugby enthusiasts, international matches take precedence over everything else; EPL, NRL, AFL and F1. No matter though because whatever your preferred sport is Dave’s got enough TVs and sports channels on the premises to cater for everyone.
I also highly recommend the New Zealand T-Bones Dave’s staff serve up. At 350 grams and 550 THB, it’s the best value meal in Patong, bar none.
Rosco’s 350 gram T-bone for 550 THB, comes with a choice of mash, chips or extra veg.
While I’m in the mood for giving recommendations for good value, or good quality, operations in Patong a big thumbs up for my preferred accommodation option there, the Unity Condominium complex at the northern end of Patong Beach. Situated on the hill, up a steep drive way, the Unity is a fairly new building with a selection of different size apartments to suit your price range. A week in the 86 square meter apartment will set you back 12000 THB. That’s probably a bit more than most might be willing to pay, and certainly there are cheaper options available, but when you take into consideration the fully equipped kitchen and spacious bathroom, then it’s probably good value. If you’re like me and can’t stand the mass produced, buffet crap that most hotels serve up at breakfast time (the exception is the IHG chain of hotels) then the idea of being able to make your own cooked breakfast seems like a good option – toaster, coffee maker and kettle are provided.
The fully equipped kitchen at the Unity Apartments
As mentioned, the price and value of the food at Rosco’s, when it comes to sitting down for a meal in Patong, can’t be beaten. One place I wouldn’t recommend – after a recent dose food poisoning there I consider the place to be absolute crap in terms of over pricing and poor food quality – is Hooters at Patong Beach. To be honest I don’t know what all the fuss is about over this crappy chain of bar/restaurants. Petite Asian woman with push up bras to make their small boobs look bigger? That and fifty cents will buy you coffee in the real world. Oh and they have those silly little dance routines as well. But I guess at 950 THB for a small steak, cold chips and rancid coleslaw you’ve gotta get a make-up in value wherever you can.
An old mate of mine first went to Phuket back in 1978. According to his trip report Patong Beach was the idyllic paradise with only five bungalows spread along a palm fringed beach. The road over to Phuket Town was entirely dirt. Not so now, obviously. Time advances, and as greater numbers arrive to get their taste of paradise, commercialisation and development go rampant as the locals seek to cash in. Paradise might be well and truly lost, and some time ago, but for someone who now prefers the creature comforts of modernity, it ain't such a bad thing.
There’s always a trade off when the developers move in but the truth is it’s nice to be able to shop at Big C or drop by Starbucks for a coffee. And the thing is you never know when you’re going to be privy to a bit of amusing conversation between a bargirl and her boyfriend/customer as you’re quietly slurping on your cappuccino. So anyway there I was enjoying my morning cup of joe in Starbucks at Jung Ceylon, and taking centre stage was an attractive looking bar girl (attractive in that slutty bar girl way) telling her boyfriend, in a voice loud enough for everyone on the premises to hear, her reasons for having to fxxk other guys as well. Having heard similar versions of her garbage justifications a thousand times over previously, every word that fell from her mouth was pathetic, even cringe inducing. The worst part of it was the mug just sat there silently accepting it. What do the Thais say, the buffalo with the ring through its nose, passively accepting it’s lot, and being led around without protest.
“You know I need money for my family honey, that why I have to go with another man. I still love you baby but if you not happy we can finish right now.”
The classic guilt trip manipulation, bullshit lines. When will these guys ever learn? Some never do and stumble on believing these worthless whores actually have feelings for them. I felt like tapping him on the shoulder and saying “do yourself a favour mate, just walk away right now.” What the fool failed to grasp was that it was the depths of the low season and he was being kept around solely for the baseline salary he was providing her with, and nothing more. As soon as the high season kicked in again the whore would find better paying clientele, because that’s what whores do. Anyway, the sad truth of it is a lot of guys are in shit relationships with bar girls simply because they enjoy being cowards. Sorry, but that’s the only way to describe it.
Welcome to Boganville
Soi Bangla; Bogan Central
I think I can safely say that Patong Beach is now Bogan central for Thailand. A Bogan is a bit of a derogatory term for a person who hails from the western suburbs of Sydney, West Auckland or the working class areas of Melbourne. In Thailand they are normally identified as blokes, or sheilas, with minimal attire – a beer brand singlet, billabong shorts and flip flops – and whose main priorities in life are knocking back copious amounts of beer and watching their preferred style of footy. Take a stroll down Soi Bangla in the early evening and the sports bars lining each side of the street will be packed with Bogans getting their fixes of beer and footy. The thing is, though, if you hang around the place for long enough you’ll soon pick up on the idea there are Bogans from all over the world cruising the streets and crowding the shopping malls of Patong. Aside from your bog standard Aussie and Kiwi Bogans, there are also English, Russian, German, Scandinavian, Indian and even Thai Bogans to be seen. The following is snap shot of the Bogans seen recently and in the past in Patong.
Attractive Bogan with a beer and ciggies
Russian beach Bogans from years gone by
Bogan with a mullet
The classic Aussie Bogan
Java and Surabaya:
After a month back in the LOS and a couple of weeks chilling out on the beach in Patong I was beginning to get itchy feet again for a trekking or caving adventure. I’d been considering a trip to East Java, to look at some volcanos, and after doing a bit of research on Wikitravel decided to commit to a week away from the LOS. I made tentative enquiries with a tour company – Bromoijentours.com – which specialised in guided tours to two volcanos in the region; Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater. The three day/two night tour at USD 450 for a solo guided tour – all-inclusive apart from meals – sounded like a good deal so without further ado I booked my flights to Surabaya. Unfortunately Thai doesn’t fly direct to Surabaya, only to Jakarta, so after a two hour layover in that cities airport I needed to get a connecting flight with Garuda Air. Travel time, including the layover in Jakarta, is approx. seven hours.
For those who haven’t travelled to Java previously, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise. I hadn’t ventured down that way for a good number of years and I’d forgotten just how crowded the place is. With a population of 145 million and a land mass roughly a quarter of the size of Thailand, the island is seriously jam packed with humanity. All roads, be it those in the urban areas or what one may think are rural, are one massive traffic jam of cars, trucks and motorbikes. If you decide to travel to Surabaya (this is actually Indonesia’s second largest city after Jakarta) save yourself some stress by not arriving, as I did, at 5 PM in the afternoon on a Friday. The 15 kilometre taxi ride into the city was a nightmare which took me over an hour and a half.
Hotels in Surabaya are reasonably well priced and even a good standard of accommodation, such as the Holiday Inn Express, was only USD 52 per night (including taxes and service charges). The exchange rate for the INR (Indonesian Rupiah) currently stands at 13000 to 1 USD and even though it sounds great, things soon add up. For example there is a plus, plus of twenty percent on everything purchased; ten percent for GST and a ten percent service charge. The Indonesian people seem friendly enough and they smile a lot but there is a general level of sloth which is probably worse than one would encounter in the LOS. Communication is also an issue with fewer people having English language ability than you might expect for a place with an influx of tourists.
After getting settled in at the Holiday Inn Express Surabaya my plan was to have two nights in town after which I was being picked up by the tour company at 9:30 PM on the third, to begin my three day volcano tour. Or a full trip report on the volcanos of East Java, please follow this link to my travel blog.
Mount Bromo; just after sunrise
Ijen Crater with its putrid sulphur cloud
The pay for play scene in Surabaya:
There’s not much to speak of in this regard. The main place for freelancer hooker action is Desperado’s Bar at the Shangri-La Hotel. The hotel looks slightly outdated these days and was probably built around thirty years ago. After entering the lobby there’s an escalator to the left which takes you down to the basement level and the bar is around to the right. The bar itself, Desperados, is aptly named as a more motley bunch of freelance hookers I’ve yet to see in any of the five star hotel bars I’ve been to in Asia. Brix and Spasso it is not and the girls, although friendly enough, are a bunch of overweight, cigarette-puffing munters. The prices they’re asking are also totally ridiculous given their fairly average looks and portly demeanours. I had one girl quote me USD 300 for some short time action and I just about choked on my beer as the words rolled off her tongue. I was considering asking her what planet she was from but decided it was pointless given her total conviction in what she was telling me. The bottom line is the girls who ply their trade at Desperados are overweight, overpriced, bordering on ugly and stink of cigarette smoke.
Even in the strangest places:
Night trek down 400 metres of rock strewn trail to the crater floor
So there I was hunkered down – actually I was sprawled out on a dirt floor – in a miner's canvas-covered shack trying to keep warm and waiting for the sunrise. The temperature outside was less than 10 degrees and as I shivered in the pre-dawn, the loose canvas flapped as the wind swirled around the crater. Making it worse was the fact I’d been soaked in sweat from the arduous night trek to reach the top. It had been a two-hour hike from the carpark up a steep gradient to arrive at the volcanic rim; some 2400 metres above sea level. After then descending – in the dead of night – four hundred metres down a steep, boulder strewn track to arrive at the edge of the Crater Lake I was now doing all I could to find some small degree of comfort. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they pushed their way into the miners' shack. They, a group of five yapping, ignorant young Thai ladies who, instead of having a bit of respect for the still sleeping workers, decided they were well within their rights to continue talking loudly and open their khanom packets. After about five minutes of putting up with their honking ignorance I told them, in no uncertain terms, to have a bit of respect for the sleeping workers and “neup neup” thank you. One, obviously the group leader and the alpha bitch, decided she wasn’t going to have a farang talk to her this way and decided to take issue with me. I replied “you are not in Thailand now and no-one gives a shit how entitled you think you are, you’re just another loud-mouthed tourist making an ass of yourself. So shut it!” That seemed to do the trick as they all picked themselves up and quickly moved outside into the cold again. I’ve got to admit the satisfaction was brilliant, putting a group of ignorant Thai bitches in their place and there was nothing they could do about it.
The Job From Hell: The sulphur miners of Ijen Crater. The next time I feel like I’m being hard done by I’ll just think of these guys and know I should be grateful for what I’ve got. They toil relentlessly for a meagre return, working long hours in a sulphur polluted atmosphere. As they chip away at the hardened yellow cake across the crater floor massive plumes of volcanic sulphur erupt out of vents that surround them. The sulphur steam outlets appear to have been engineered by the miners in an effort to harness it and make sure the yellow cake continues to be produced in one small area near the bottom of the crater. The wind swirls around the crater walls and often envelopes the workers as they go about their hazardous work. Thankfully they’ve got the good sense to wear gas masks at all times. Even so the sulphur clouds eventually take their toll as the eye’s, respiratory system, and skin become irritated. But with no other means of making an income, these hardy fellows toil on, often working from sun up to sundown. The price of sulphur is currently around 1000 INR (Indonesian Rupiah) a kilo. Each miner carts 50 Kg’s of the yellow cake up the steep, rock strewn crater face to the rim, twice a day. A monumental effort considering the distance involved and the fact the 50kg load is spread between to buckets and balanced across their shoulders on a length of bamboo. If they manage two trips for the day their return is less than 10 USD!!!
A link to the Sulphur Miners of Ijen Crater.
The blue fire of Ijen Crater; visible only at night