Another Bangkok Story
I first arrived in Thailand early 2001. It was a whole new world. I was newly divorced, a cuckold and not sure which way was up. I had enough money to last me about 3 months, then I would go home. I was mentally scarred by recent events at home and entered the Bangkok scene not knowing exactly what to expect. I had ‘connected’ by internet to a Thai lady online before I arrived, merely to meet me at the airport and show me the ropes about town. But she failed to show at the airport, so I fell at the first hurdle. I had booked an apartment online at Lad Prao, not sure why there, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I got collared by a taxi tout at the airport and paid over the odds for a short drive to my apartment, but it was still a lot cheaper than the drive from my Heathrow hotel to the airport, so I was quite happy. The apartment was fantastic, with a big balcony and a view across to the skyscrapers of downtown Bangkok in the distance. I went for a walk along Lad Prao expecting to see nymphettes on each corner and gogo bars aplenty. There were none! Had I arrived in the wrong country, I wondered? This was Thailand, wasn’t it? I remember seeing a sign with the suffix ‘Porn’ in it. I followed the sign but it turned out to be a bridal wear shop, the ‘Porn’ being the suffix of the name of the proprietor! I soon learned that Porn is a common name suffix in Thailand and nothing to do with ‘porn’ as we know it.
When I checked in to my apartment I offered to pay for my first month in traveler’s cheques, but they would not accept them. They suggested I go to the bank on Monday (now was late Friday) and cash a few. This as it turned out was fortuitous, because after 2 days of Lad Prao I was bored. I could see the tall buildings in the distance from my apartment, so I guessed that was where the real action was. I inquired at my apartment reception and was told that the centre of entertainment was a place called Nana Plaza. They agreed that I could cut short my booking and only pay for 2 the days I was there. I sensed that they were not too keen on a long-term Farang anyway. I had enough Thai cash to pay that, so next day I was off to the lights of Bangkok.
Hailing a cab in London (hand raised high) is different to Thailand (hand held low and wiggle the fingers), so as cab after cab passed me by it took a little while to cotton on what to do. When I did, came surprise number 2. No driver was willing to take me so far. Taxi drivers refusing a fare was new to me. One driver, however, said in heavily Thai accented English ‘BTS, OK?’ I agreed. Not sure what BTS was (although I had heard of the skytrain) I jumped in the cab. He dropped me at Mor Chit BTS where I saw the route to Nana station, Perfect! I finally made it to Nana station, and after asking for directions, to Nana Plaza. At 10 AM! Not the 24-hour metropolis of wall to wall entertainment I expected! Just rubbish trucks collecting stinking left over food and empty bottles from the night before. But it gave me time to look for somewhere to stay.
I joined a few early bird farangs at Golden Bar by Nana Hotel and got chatting to a long-term ex-pat. He gave me some insight into the entertainment and place to stay routine. He suggested Nana Hotel but it was too dear for me for a 3-month stay. I wound up by National Stadium at Muangphol Mansion. (Where incidentally, my previous story took place). I learned quickly that Mansion in England and Mansion in Thailand mean 2 different things! But it was affordable and central, but it was no mansion – but there I stayed.
One place the Golden Bar farang had mentioned was Ambassador Beer Garden on soi 11. So in the evening I took the skytrain to Nana again and walked down to soi 11. The beer garden was wonderful! A large open area with yellow tin tables and umbrellas, a stage with a band belting out popular Western stuff and a few pretty girls wandering around looking for eye contact. But I was far too naive to play the game, and nervous too. So I just took in the ambience, alone at a table near the stage. About mid-evening the band played Hotel California. At the end (after a few Singhas) I clapped enthusiastically. My right ear caught the clapping of a lone female at the next table. I turned and smiled at her, she smiled back. Buoyed by Dutch courage from the Thai beer, I found myself asking her to join me at my table. She agreed.
To cut a long story short, we wound up at Muangphol Mansions together. Next morning I gave her 500 baht which she seemed bemused at but she politely accepted and left. I was naive, wasn’t ?. But I had broken my duck. I had arrived in Thailand and there was no turning back.
We met up again many months later and spent 2 years together, followed by 2 broken hearts …. but that is another story.