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Makha Bucha Day in Bangkok Part 3



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I got up late on the day itself. After all, I had had a full working week, followed by a two and a half hour flight, five hours in the gogo bars, and eight beers. I caught up with a few work-related emails, and in the afternoon, headed down Sukhumvit Road. I had a late breakfast (full English) at the Landmark, then wandered on to Soi Cowboy to see what it looked like in the day time and take a few photographs.

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The most interesting of these photos shows a bas-relief panel outside Crazy House. It reminded me of the panel outside Heartbreaker (see my submission of that title) in Angeles, and of the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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Like many bars in Thailand (Geisha, for example), Crazy House fails to develop its theme to advantage. I can imagine an Apsara-themed bar (Apsaras are the half-naked dancers depicted on Cambodian temples and in this mural) with the gogo girls in Apsara costume (topless, of course) and the deco based on the temples at Angkor Wat. This is how the Apsaras look on the temple murals. Imagine this scene with real girls in a gogo bar – good, eh?

On the way back I walked down the even numbered side of Sukhumvit and stumbled across what seemed to be a “Little Korea” – a pedestrian precinct just before Soi 10 (and not far from the Thermae across the road, which seemed to consist exclusively of Korean businesses. This, Geisha bar, and the increasing number of Korean tourists, suggests that Bangkok may be going the way of Angeles, with an increasing Korean presence (though I doubt it will ever get as far as a Korean takeover). <Korea Town has been there forever and I wouldn’t read too much in to itStick>

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My plan for the evening was to phone Nam and ask her to come over to my hotel. As I have no Thailand SIM card (something I must sort out on my next visit), I called her on the hotel phone. It is hard enough, sometimes, to talk to Thai girls face to face, and on the phone it is next to impossible. However, the gist of her reply was clear enough: “Cannot. In Udon with family. Come to bar Monday.” Well, I would be 891 miles away on Monday, so that was that – nor did I have any other girls’ numbers.

So it was Plan B: Check Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy to see if there might be one or two bars open, and failing that, go to Patpong in the hope that they were all open (based on a hint in Stick’s February 2 Weekly).

I have never seen Soi 4 so quiet at that time in the evening. I imagined that the freelancers in the Nana Hotel car park would be supplemented by off-duty bargirls, but it seemed that most of them had taken advantage of the holiday to visit their province, so the car park was less busy than I have ever seen it. As for Nana Plaza, not only was it closed, but there was a barrier across the entrance manned by police (or security guards, I’m not sure which). You can just see one in the photograph (looking very stern, as if daring anybody to try to get in).

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So it was down the Sukhumvit Road to Soi Cowboy. The stalls were busy as ever, the buying and selling going on pretty much as usual. As I approached the Thermae I saw a large crowd spilling onto the pavement. Perhaps it had managed to get round this closure as it seems to get round the official closing times at night – but no. Closer inspection showed that the Thermae was closed, and the clientele were conducting business as usual outside. Freelancers are not my thing, so I moved on.

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There was no barrier across Soi Cowboy, but it was almost completely dark. I checked the few lights that I could see, but they meant nothing more than a bar being cleaned, or a security light left on. I went right to the far end and round the corner to Crazy House in that hope that, as it seems to be a law unto itself, it might still be open. It wasn’t.

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On the way back down Soi Cowboy I bumped into a couple who were looking for a place to drink. The guy said he thought that hotel bars were allowed to open and he was going to check out the Westin Grande Sukhumvit. I replied that I had heard that the bars in Patpong might be open, but his Thai girlfriend shook her head emphatically and said, “No. This Makha Bucha Day!” Still, what did she know? She was only a Thai (and probably blinded by religious devotion), and I had had it on good authority (this website) that they might be open.

So I took the metro to Silom and in no time at all I was in Patpong 1. Everything was closed. I had a fleeting moment of hope when I saw bright lights advertising Glamour bar. As I got nearer, I saw that the door was open. I was saved! I could knock back a few cold ones while ogling a few hot ones – my favourite way to spend an evening.

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But as soon as I looked inside my hopes were dashed. The bar was empty – no customers, no girls, no music. However, looking at that picture again, and seeing a group of girls hanging around outside, I wonder if it was sort of half open. Perhaps you could go inside and get a beer served in a mug, as Stick mentioned in his weekly, and chat with one of the girls. Maybe – but there were certainly no customers in there, and nobody invited me in.

All the other bars were locked, barred and bolted, though there was a bit of activity at the end of the soi, and several illuminated bar signs. However, a quick read revealed that these were all boy bars, and as I’m not interested in boys, I didn’t trouble to check whether they were open or not.

Patpong 2 was full of life because of the Night Market, but once again, all the bars were closed. I lingered a while, browsing the stalls, but there is too much junk in my apartment as it is, and I had no desire to add to it.

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So nothing doing in Patpong. It was interesting to see it, as I have only been once before – interesting enough to make me want to come again when it is in full swing.

I went back by skytrain, which was packed as usual – the cause of a humbling experience: a Thai man stood up to offer me his seat, and I suddenly saw myself through another’s eyes: I was a grey-haired granddad who could hardly stand up for a few stops. I reflected that that’s how the bargirls would see me. Indeed, I remembered a moment in Spanky’s when I was on a bench with two much younger Eastern Europeans beside me. A bargirl, touting for custom, approached the bench, tried hard to interest the Eastern Europeans, then, as there was nothing doing, looked at me, hesitated, then asked if she could sit with me. She was quite attractive, but I didn’t want to be third best, so I sent her away. I know “it’s all about the money”, but wallet sizes being equal, surely the girls must prefer younger men. It was something I would have to reflect on later.

I soon got over it and got back to feeling 25 again, but by the time I had walked from Nana to Soi 4, I was gasping for a drink. I was confident that I could get one in my hotel. The guy in Soi Cowboy had said that hotels were allowed to sell drinks, and his girlfriend (who had proved to be right about Patpong) had not contradicted him. I sat down on the forecourt and ordered a Heineken.

“Cannot sell. This Makha Bucha Day,” was the reply.

Well, I like a drink, but I can do without it. I had just done “Dry January” after all (though I excused myself on my last Bangkok trip, and on Brexit Day when I celebrated with a bottle of wine), so I ordered a bottle of water.

It was about 11:30 PM by then, and I thought that, after I had finished my drink, I might as well call it a night. Then an idea struck me. Makha Bucha Day finished at midnight, so theoretically the bars could reopen. It was worth checking out.

I went up to my room to freshen up, then sallied forth at midnight. As soon as I entered the hotel lobby I could see that my hunch had been right – there were beer bottles on the tables. Across the road, another bar was open. I hurried on to Nana Plaza only to find that it was still dark and the police barrier was still there, though a disappointed tourist appeared to be arguing the toss with them.

Was it worth trekking down to Soi Cowboy? Why not? It was still early, and there was just a chance that some of the bars might have reopened. They had, but only one or two small beer bars. All the gogos were closed.

On the way back, I stopped off at Gulliver’s and had my first drink of the evening, an ice-cold Heineken, much appreciated after all that walking. But it was not like it usually is: there were a few couples playing pool, a few couples sitting at tables, and two female tourists sat at the bar – no sign of freelancers whatsoever (like I said, I’m not into freelancers, but they are interesting to watch, and contribute to the atmosphere). Never mind. I liked it well enough in Gulliver’s without them, so I finished my drink in peace, and decided to call it a night.

The end of a Buddhist holiday was a good time for some introspection – why am I doing this, and why am I fixated on bargirls? I’m doing it because I’m twice divorced (not twice, exactly, because there is no divorce in the Philippines, but near enough as makes no difference). As a result, I have little money left, and as I am a sexagenarian (or should that be sexygenerian?) I have only a few years left until I reach the Biblical “threescore years and ten”. So I have nothing to offer a woman, and as I don’t want to date a woman on false pretences, bargirls are the most ethical choice (yes, readers, bonking a bargirl can be ethical).

However, there is another way to look at it. I vividly remember what my Thai girlfriend of 14 years ago said to me: “I look for someone take care me,” and it occurs to me that I ought to do just that for a change: sign up to Guardian Soulmates, or a professional, paid dating agency in the UK, and look for a woman of my own age with assets of a more solid kind than #925’s or Chompoo’s. Apparently, there is a shortage of available men in my age bracket. I have fantasies of meeting such a woman, who would move me into her six-bedroom mansion in the Sussex countryside and buy me my dream car (a Morgan Plus 8). In return, I would deploy all the skills I have picked up in my years in the gogo bars to keep her happy in bed.

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