The Lady From Blue Fox
When a spaceship lands on an unknown planet in a distant future the surviving astronauts are captured by apes in an early evolutionary state. At the end of the film the last surviving human escapes to what the apes call the forbidden zone. He discovers the mostly destroyed remains of the Statue Of Liberty along a wasteland seashore. In total despair he realizes that in fact he’s back on Earth. That scene from the 1968 film Planet of the Apes is perhaps familiar to some of you. (It’s the only one worth watching among the many sequels made in later years)
Stefan landed at Bangkok’s Suwarnabhumi Airport last month. On a business trip to Hong-Kong he enclosed an extra few days in Bangkok on his way back to Germany. I met him there and we took a taxi downtown to the previously booked hotel. Unlike Charlton Heston in the movie he did not despair at the site of Bangkok 2019 but he did have some similar moments of incredulousness at the sites presented to him that he was to rediscover. Right from the moment he stepped into the multi-storey airport halls and more so in the coming days when we revisited places Stefan had not seen in more than 30 years.
But first of all Stefan was hungry. The airline food had been as usual pretty so-so! Let’s do what we did the very first time here he suggested, go to Wienerwald! I chuckled discreetly. You want chicken, Stefan, we best go to KFC. No, that’s not his style. Wienerwald is an old fashioned chicken style restaurant still fairly present in Germany offering casual dining at affordable prices. It is most popular in Munich, Stephan’s hometown. On our first time in Bangkok a Wienerwald franchise was still operating somewhere along Sukhumvit Road, but has long since disappeared! But I correctly guessed Stefan’s preferences and knew where to go. At the recently newly refurbished old German Beerhouse, Soi 11, Stefan felt immediately at home. Especially that he could indulge in a glass of his beloved Warsteiner or Paulaner Beer, frisch vom Fass (fresh from the barrel). He didn’t even insist on chicken but ordered Wiener schnitzel that when it was served was almost as large as the plate leaving barely enough room for the French fries. A long flight, an exciting arrival in Bangkok and a full stomach, Stefan was ready for bed! And so was I. We both retired scheduling our discovery tour for the morrow.
I met Stephan first all those years ago, during the late 1980s in Warsaw, Poland. More precisely at the airport. He was on a shuttle flight from Munich, me from Geneva. We were both waiting for the intercontinental flight to Bangkok. At the time, long before the introduction of budget carriers it was the cheapest flight to be had to Thailand. The airport building was austere and freezing and we had an 8-hour wait until boarding. Warming up by exercising simple gymnastic movements we got closer, introduced and started to talk. To pass time we decided to play chess. With no chessboard. But Stefan had an inventive brain. He created one. On a large piece of paper he drew 36 squares, reduced from 64 and found some bottle caps that served as pawns. No rook, no bishop, and no knight only a solitary King and Queen impersonated by salt & pepper containers found on another table. Some very simplified rules were established and the game was on. Stefan was obviously a dedicated chess player and with little effort beat me easily. But he was also a kind man. Making a few wrong moves, purposely I suppose, gave me the opportunity to place his King under treat of capture leading to checkmate. The aim was simple, obvious and totally achieved: Pass those long waiting hours in a somewhat more pleasant way. As a bonus a kind of traveler’s friendship was established.
Later on the flight to Bangkok with a rather long refueling stop in Tashkent, Stefan got out his travel bible. It was called “le guide du routard”. A kind of Lonely Planet in French. In it he had already searched and found a fairly priced hotel on arrival. My own decision to travel to Thailand had been more spontaneous and with no particular plans and little researches. I was happy to join him. After some hassling for a cheap taxi fare at Don Meuang Airport and negotiating Bangkok’s traffic jam it was close to midnight when we reached the Malaysia Hotel.
We met the following morning for an action packed visit Bangkok program guided mostly by Stefan’s French guidebook he consulted at almost every street corner. Return to the hotel for a shower, change of outfit and off for a snack. Close by the hotel was a bar that also served unpretentious, cheap food. The Blue Fox. A dozen and half or more girls paraded the premises and they obviously could not all be service personnel. We stopped there for a bite and off again downtown.
The after dark program was again mostly organized by Stefan’s omnipresent guidebook. It hotly recommended the Pink Panther adding it was under French management and at 11 PM and midnight a singular live sex show was to be presented. How could we miss that even though a modest entry fee was to be paid? Later on the way back to the hotel Stefan insisted to revisit the Blue Fox for a nightcap. He had taken a fancy to one of the girls and wanted to offer her a drink.
The following day we relaxed at the pool. One more night at the Malaysia and off to Pattaya. But it did not materialize as planned. Over breakfast the following morning Stefan announced that he would stay on a little longer in town. He had fallen in love with Kung, the Blue Fox girl. In fact they had both fallen in love and spent the night together he added. How come? Well, he had offered to take her to a nearby more upscale restaurant for dinner and she replied; Stefan I love you, don’t waste money for restaurant. Give me 500 baht I will go to room with you. But we’re going to Pattaya, I said. Plenty of girls to have sex with in Pattaya, Stefan. To no avail. Finally I grabbed his tourist guide and showed him the Pattaya section that said as I remember it and translated to English; Sex is to Pattaya what holy water is to Lourdes. The answer is still no, he replied. OK, Stefan, good luck.
Stefan was a few years younger than me. He had a well-paying job in the in the booming German industry, spoke 3 languages, was an excellent chess player and possibly a brilliant mind. But he must be a total novice in dealings with girls. Those were my thoughts on the way to the bus station. Little did I know that less than 48 hours later I was to chide myself that I had not even half an inch on him on that matter?
Thus, after a frightening bus journey of unbelievably dangerous overtaking maneuvers by cars and buses I found myself in Sin City. I did what men do on their first visit to Pattaya. But I mostly remember one incident, infuriating to me at the time but in retrospect can look at as just plain amusing. Staying at a bungalow probably near were the Central Festival shopping stands now, I took a morning walk along Beach Road to the north end, near where the Dusit Thani was built in later years. Walking back, a nice looking girl on a motorbike stopped and offered to take me back. But she drove way past my bungalow to an unidentified place in a city I’d never seen before. I show you my room, ok! I foolishly accepted. Immediately she started to undress revealing that she was not really a she. I put a hundred baht on the bed and ran. In my ignorance I later realized what easy prey I had been for the cunning ladyboy. First Thai lesson learned.
Nantawan is a 28-year-old female Bangkok taxi driver. A single mother, she’s often struggling to make ends meet. I should add as I suspect many of the taxi drivers are. But Nan is reliable, honest and precise. Something I suspect not all of them are. Her usual idle or pick-up spot is outside the Davin Hotel on Soi 4. She doesn’t mind my using her real name, in the contrary it may bring some of your friends business my way, she says!
The morning after Stefan’s arrival we summoned her to our hotel. First stop was the Malaysia. The hotel looked much the same as all those years ago. But Stefan was not interested in revisiting the hotel. As I had suspected his real aim was the Blue Fox. For old times’ sake, he added. As I had guessed on the way, the bar was long gone. Asking a few people nobody knew it ever existed. Stefan’s best guess was that it had been on the ground floor of the corner building now occupied by a 7 Eleven store, but he could not be sure.
A boat ride on the Saen Saeb canal, a trip on the tourist boat to Rachawong, the always thrilling walk through Yaowarat Road, Chinatown, and of course Stefan discovering for the first time BTS and MRT. All unforgettable events to Stefan during the two days that followed.
It was the last day and Stefan wanted it to be special. Choose any place you want, it’s my treat, he said. I took him to the R & R at the 31st floor of the Landmark. Famous for, as their own promotion claims, “Probably the best steaks in town”. Once settled with a view of Bangkok by night Stefan switched into French “quelle vue imprenable”. A fine bottle of wine and a juicy Entrecôte followed. Finally over coffee – Cognac Stefan opened up. He had been unexpectedly discreet about his life or career until now. I did not want to pressure him.
Soon after our first encounter all those years ago he’d married his long-time sweetheart he had met at university. The family was blessed with 3 children now grown up and well into their own life’s journey. Now, he continued, he was once again a single but lonely man. His beloved wife of 28 years had succumbed to cancer a year ago. He was himself not an entirely healthy man and already into an extra year after retirement age, it was to be his last working year.
Far from the epitome of the most coveted man; young, tall and handsome, he nevertheless was sought after by several ladies. Stefan was honored and perplexed at the same time to find himself suddenly again in a pool of eligible bachelors. It was all the more troubling to him, never having been a ladies man. Adding, after all, he was happily married. Even so, he had made a list of two or three possible candidates but was unable to make up his mind. Although in a not entirely different situation myself, I could not, to the best of my conscience, give valuable or at least honest counsel not knowing any of the contestants!
Stefan went to the restroom while I somewhat brooded over his predicament. In the end I was unable to come up with anything better than a quote from another old film. Anyone over 40 will remember which book or movie it comes from (if not, Google will tell you). It goes like this and fit Stefan and so many of us when in doubt. Quote: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
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