All Men Stray
Patpong around the corner, 50m on Surawong road in 1994. The Pink Panther. I had led a group of tourists to see the show. Mostly men and a few couples. Also, among the group an older man about 55 or a little more. I had offered a warning beforehand to the group that the show was going to be somewhat corny and possibly not to everyone’s taste. Would they perhaps prefer to go to a pleasant restaurant for a nightcap or a show in a more conventional venue? The effect was what I had expected. They would not hear of it. Everybody would join including younger but also middle-aged couples. Stimulated, and exited to see a “real sex” show.
Up the stairs, past the doorman, a French guy I’d known for some time who collected the cover charge and once all had passed handed me a small commission. We watched a girl printing welcome on a piece of paper with a fluorescent pen in her vagina. On went the show. A young American sat next to me. He was weary of the inevitable dart shooting balloons and ping-pong plopping shows. Where is the beef? He cited the popular Hamburger commercial. Starting now I told him, when the haunting sounds of the then well-known erotic cult-ballad by Serge Gainsbourg / Jane Birkin “je t’aime moi non plus” rang out. I knew it was the signal announcing the kind of beef the young man was waiting for and wanted to see! The packed audience watched a young couple intertwined on the elevated stage making love.
Next morning back on the tour bus and on to today’s destination Ayutthaya. This package tour was mostly French speaking. Taken care of by Chai, my tour guide who was an excellent French speaker. But a handful of German speaking participants insisted on trip comment in Goethe’s tongue. The reason I joined the group for translations. The following days the vacation trip took us up north. Chai did a good job pointing out or stopping to see Landmarks, tourist attractions, monuments, and other sights. Always popular where Elephant camps, snake farms. Temples less but Chai only took the people up to Doi-Suthep in Chiang-Mai, almost a must for travelers to the northern city.
At the end of the north’s sightseeing tour most of the group joined me on the newly installed THAI non-stop flight from Chiangmai – Phuket. Others flew back to Bangkok and on to other destinations. It was during this latter part of their beach holidays in Phuket that I became acquainted with some of the group’s participants. But mostly Marco.
Marco was a bon vivant, in other words, not a child of sadness! Tall, overweight, and balding. Friendly, carefree, and always in the mood to have a good time. Over the years he became a regular. Although in the coming years he would do no more touring. It was Phuket that appealed to him. Once or twice a year he spent several weeks in his preferred hotel on Patong beach. Not a friend of casual beachwear he always dressed impeccably in the evening. Custom-made suit from his favorite Tailor on beach road and shoes lacquered white on the top. A striking figure reminiscent of a Chicago gangster type as seen in some of the film-noir movies from the 1930’s. Early evenings we sometimes met for aperitive at his favorite haunt on Soi Bangla named Alice! ( https://www.stickmanbangkok.com/readers-submissions/2019/04/alice/ ) He was a very generous guy too. The one quality that attracted bargirls to him like Blowflies to the corps of a porcupine. Rare the occasion when you saw Marco without one or several girls around him, Lady-drinks in hand. But tonight, he wanted to talk. He even shushed one girl away telling her he needed to talk to me. Seriously!
Back home Marco had a wife, Heidi. She was American born, but now together with Marco co-owned an Auberge de campagne (country inn) situated halfway between Lausanne and Geneva in a charming village. That was intriguing. He explained. A young chef working in a Wilmington DE hotel, in Heidi’s hometown in USA. They met, dated, got engaged and married. From the outset Heidi was aware that their future would eventually be in Marco’s family Auberge.
Marco only spoke French. Despite having lived in the Chemical capital of the world as he called it, and even worked at the hotel duPont, named after the French man who started all that chemical stuff, he said. Besides, in all the best cuisines around the world the language is French. Marco had no desire and did not want to improve his limited English.
Enter Wanpen. A young Lady who worked at the reception of Marco’s Patong hotel with beach access and situated diagonally from Kings, Marco’s home Tailor. Wanpen had sometimes aided at the Tailor’s shop translating Marco’s special requests, as she could speak passable French, to translate when adjusting or customize his suits. When working the night shift at the hotel reception and the rare occasion when Marco returned after bar hopping and was not otherwise occupied with bargirls she would talk to him for a while in her college school French that she was eager to upgrade. That suited Marco. He had an idea!
He invited Wanpen to his country inn for a three-month study/working holiday. Would I please take care of the flight arrangements? Sure, I said, what about Visa. Not a problem for me, his reply. Sounds strange nowadays. But Marco was as good as his words. Only two or three weeks after his return some documents and an airline ticket arrived by post with instruction for Wanpen to take them to the Embassy in Bangkok where she would get the Visa stamp.
On the travel date, an overnight flight she was met by a staff member at Geneva airport and taken to the Auberge. She quickly settled there in a nice room above the restaurant. Soon she started to help were help was needed. Sometimes in the kitchen, make deliveries, various purchases at stores in the village but mostly in the restaurant. Twice a week she spent a day in school to improve her French just as Marco had promised and had made arrangement even before her arrival. In no time Wanpen became the most popular staff member. Marco realized that people came by not so much or not only to savor his many country specialties’ but also to see and meet that pretty Thai girl who could speak French.
But then an unexpected problem arose. Wanpen’s three months were up and it was time to return to Thailand. A crisp 1’000 CHF bill was put in her hand (at the time about 25’000 baht). Enough, or almost to buy that Motorbike you’ve always wanted, he said. But Wanpen did not want to leave and begged Marco to let her stay for another three months. You cannot, the Visa is up. Marco’s explanation fell on deaf ears. We all know how much you like it here, he continued, and we’ll be more than happy to have you for another stint in a years’ time. Wanpen would not listen.
Telephone calls to my office, talking to Marco, one the office girls talking to Wanpen, again explaining the law was the law and she had to accept and submit. Finally, she packed her suitcase and after long and tearful good-byes was taken to Geneva airport. Wanpen checked in the shuttle flight to Zurich where she was to board the intercontinental flight to Bangkok.
Next day, a staff member opened the door to the restaurant at the Auberge for the early morning café-croissant clients. Incredulous at first, he saw a huddled figure right there in front of the door seemingly freezing in the cold morning air. It was a crying young woman. It was Wanpen!
Heidi tuck over. She took her in, fed her a hot soup and put her back to bed upstairs in her room. Wanpen had boarded the flight to ZRH but then took the last train to get back to GVA where she arrived in the early morning hours.
When Marco got up later, he was furious at first. But Heidi managed to calm him down. Later Marco admitted that he half-expected something of the sort to happen. But he did have a problem now.
That same afternoon he took a drive to Lausanne with Wanpen and the local immigration authority where he easily obtained a 1-month extension to Wanpan’s abode in his Auberge. This time, when the month was up Marco himself drove to Geneva airport to make sure Wanpen checked-in all the way to Bangkok, connect flight to Phuket on arrival.
Wanpen did not board the Phuket shuttle after returning home. But she kept in touch with one of my office girls. She had quit a story to tell! As for Marco he continued to enjoy his yearly, or twice-yearly holidays in Phuket. At least for a time.
Almost 12 years passed now since I first met him. Then one day he called and wanted to see me urgently. In his hotel, in the room please, he said on the phone. Lying on his bed, looking pale and unwell. Beside him a nurse from the nearby Patong hospital. On his early morning swim in the sea he became out of breath and then felt faint. One of the hotels beach cleaners had to help him get back to shore.
I’m going back home tomorrow he told me in his no nonsense way as soon as I entered his room. The booking was made and in less than 24 hours he was on his flight home. It was the last time I was to see Marco. Later I learned that he had been a sick man for some time already. Only 2 months later Marco died at home, in his own bed, his beloved wife holding his hand.
Years passed and in 2005 I handed over the tour-business to my young successor. I took retirement, and 3 years later moved to my new house in Trang. For years I continued my yearly trips to my home country as before, sometimes accompanied by my son. I believe it was 2011 or 12 when I decided to take a detour to Marcos village and the Country inn. An imposing house with a homely restaurant in typical country style. Excellent situation halfway up the gentle hills of the Jura mountain-range, at the edge of the village. From the upstairs room you could just make out Lac Léman and by good weather I was told, the famous Mont-blanc in France. As soon as I identified myself Heidi came to join me.
A long talk ensued. Despite being in poor health already and against doctors’ orders, Marco was adamant to see Phuket one last time. When he returned after the aborted sojourn, he knew that he was on his last leg. Radiation or chemotherapy had taken his hair and he had ordered a hairpiece made to his special desires before leaving but back home never put it on. Heidi went on. I drove down to the Geneva gourmet outlet buying his favorite terrine de canard, but his appetite was gone, and he hardly tasted it.
Let’s leave the past behind, Mr. Kloth she continued and look to future instead. Besides, I have something to ask you too! Yes, I suspect you want to know whatever happened to Wanpen. Exactly, Heidi responded!
That last month at the Auberge Wanpen used to her advantage. She met, or perhaps was introduced or contacted by an agent. He offered and would be able to obtain for her a 1 month “performers Visa” but renewable several times after expiry.
Along the Autoroute (Motorway) between Bern – Zurich the agent placed young woman in establishments to “perform”. They went under names like R&R Stop, or Gasthaus, or simply Cabaret. When single men entered for a hefty fee of 100 or up to 150 CHF they were met by a lavish free buffet that led to a large lounge or salon with stylishly equipped furniture. Among parading pretty, young Ladies clients were encouraged to choose. Offer a drink and/or retire to the Séparée for an agreed upon fee of course. Currently the hostesses where mostly Russian or from former Russian satellites. East European countries that gained independence after the fall of the Berlin wall. There was a demand for young, pretty, Thai girls, Wanpen was told. She accepted.
Snippets from my talk with Heidi.
I stayed overnight at the Auberge. In the evening, the restaurant was busy. Geneva, home to many international organizations, WHO, UNO, to name just two, and just about a 40 minutes’ drive away. It brings lots of international clients who apparently enjoy the homely setting of the Inn. I could not help but admire and commend Heidi the way she ran what was now a good size business in the region. Seul, et avec beaucoup de panache, I added. She was modest. Not alone, I have our son to help. Following in Marco’s path he became a chef and now also part time Innkeeper.
I am now fully integrated in this part of the world. I was impressed when within less than 8 months married to Marco I was handed my Swiss passport. Though I detain dual nationality now, I will always remain loyal to my origins and keep informed to what happens in USA.
No, Marco was not a model husband. But he was kind and dependable if headstrong. I know he did not visit Thailand for the Temples, the wildlife, or beaches. I never asked him. And did so for one good reason. It saved him lying. For when it comes to marital fidelity all men stray, lie, and cheat.
Really, I interjected! Yes, and that includes Presidents or Prime ministers, she went on. I give you a few examples.
Gary Hart was a hopeful Presidential candidate in 1987. He supposedly had an affair with a former beauty queen and resigned even before nomination in 1988. Twenty years later John Edwards, another aspiring presidential candidate fathered a child with his lover but denied it for a long time including his ill and dying wife. Bill Clinton who got to be president went on national TV, wagging his finger, saying I never had sex with that woman, Monika Lewinski. Only to admit that he had, after a few months. Later he added, well, not really, it was only a blowjob.
Heidi, like that other popular name in America Gretchen, originate from German speaking countries. Heidi is also the title of a 19 century, world-famous children’s fiction by Johanna Spyri. When Marco was courting me all those years ago, he often said; with a name like that you will inevitably end up spend your life in Switzerland. Turns out he was right.
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