The Grateful Eightfull
Ever had a threesome? A foursome?. .Amateur!. When it comes to premier league naked bed testing; it’s a numbers game. Quentin Tarantino’s plot for the Hateful Eight is a bland dish compared to Tonytino’s tale of flesh and gun slinging in Bangkok. The oddest thing is it doesn’t involve any sex at all.
Sat on a plane waiting for take-off I often look around me to see if I can identify which fellow travellers look like they’re on a Pattaya mission, which old hands are on their 25th visit to Ko Samui or which straight backed chaps sat next to a fat wasp chewing wife are on a package tour of generic night markets and tourist temples booked by their portly tour guide. Their downcast demeanour when they pass through Soi Cowboy shows they can’t even remember the last time they got a peck on the cheek. Yep, Here’s what you coulda won boys.
It is a term often banded about that the former are “sex tourists”. This term is usually used as an insult or refers to a specific type of 50+ year old Western male in a Chang vest with tattoo’s and an acrimonious divorce behind him. I’m firmly of the opinion that they don’t really exist in the sense that most people assume. If you sit on the front of a bar on walking street watching your fellow drinkers entertaining the advances of young ladies, you will see humans interacting invariably punctuated by laughter. Lots of it. The common view in many countries of a hooker is a hard bitten business woman providing a mechanical transaction. In Thailand the lure is the interaction. There’s no doubt cash is the Jam in the sandwich that holds all these people together, but somehow the little joys of being with another person and learning something new about the world is the key to all the madness of Soy Cowboy or Nana. Just sit and watch the place for an hour or two and you don’t see a miserable scene. Sure we know what exists below the surface in many of these people’s lives, much of it was here before GOGO bars and will be after, but I’d like to believe most of that laughter is genuine. I’d also like to believe that a lot of those solo male travellers are missing that part of Nana the most. The humanity. It really is more accurate to call them happiness tourists.
A major part of big bars are the beer girls. Ubiquitous in most Thai beer gardens or Farang bars in Thailand they scurry like Ants around the customers delivering trays of beers and shining torches on check-bills. A good beer girl team can make or break a night. There’s no point in a bar if you spend all your time waving your arm to attract attention on a hot night, tongue hanging swollen out of the corner of your mouth. Their motto; were only here for the beer. Except a lot of them dabble around the edges of the bar fine world and most of them have an eye out for ‘Mr Right’ at the same time as a couple of Mr Wrongs. Beer girls are as much a part of Thailand as Pad Thai or Bar girls . Even in the back towns of Nakhon Sawan beer gardens are populated by efficient and savvy beer girls. Beer girls are the glue that holds the Thai bar experience together. First base for the solo traveller. First belly laugh and first bit of local gossip. When you enter your first bar of the visit to Thailand. It’s the feeling of “I made it!. I’m Back!!”.Before you plan anything you talk to a beer girl.
This is the tale of how I got a nick name in a Sukhumvit bar. The Hi-so Roller. On this particular night we had been out on an all-dayer. All day in the sun, all day at happy hour prices and all day showing our lack of prowess on the pool table. Sukhumvit road took us to cleaners and when your luck is down its best to cash the last chips in. Call by Took Lae Dee and then sleep off the lot. Tomorrows a new day and a fresh set of chips. I may have been in the Golden beer bar for a while and I might have been in a pool hall balancing fake tequila on my nose till the owner ejected us in good humour with “don’t come back till tomorrow!!”. Possibly I had a couple in Cheap Charlies. Either way it had been a good day and it was time to quit. I’m sure I almost made it to the food hall on Soi 5 before my phone buzzed;
“Where you?. We miss you”
I had told the beer girls in a live music venue id be back the next day. A statement Lost in translation. In the UK this means anything; next day, next week, next year or next decade. In Thailand it means literally I’m coming back tomorrow. So duty bound and a man of my word I weaved up the Soi with the intention of staying for one drink and showing them that I did indeed do what I promised. And of course a flimsy excuse was found to have one more for the road. It’s not like Took Lae Dee was going to shut any time ever!.
I rolled up to the front doors like a gun slinger. Wallet in its holster and gave the doorman a Lee Van Cleef squint. Seconds later I was engulfed in a swarm of beer girls and carried shoulder high to the usual table next to the stage. The Vodka Kid had returned to Dodge. The gang was ready to plan our next heist. In reality I was struggling to fasten up my fly in the gents let alone draw my weapon and conquering the crawl back to soi 8 was going to be a big ask. But reality had long since departed, if indeed it ever came to Thailand with me. In short order the table was awash with drinks and several beer girls had sat on my knee and the only way I could unglue them was by saying “Go on, get another drink” .In return I was chaperoned from any marauding freelancers. But more worrying for me was I seemed to have landed in the middle of World War three. The girls were in a dispute with the new manager, some slight perceived or real had been perpetrated. Any regular traveller to Asia knows the rule of Face. This is where you simply can’t back down. Both sides were upping the stakes. The gentleman in me decided I would remonstrate with the parsimonious old harridan on behalf of “my” girls. She however had decided they would be staying later for a dressing down, her resolve was to show she was in control and they were there to obey. She was the Marshal of this hick town. Now it was me who could lose face.
The girls looked like they were ready for a fight, knowing Thai’s can soon get the lines between pinch and punch mixed up I needed a diplomats touch.
“…..so can I bar fine a beer girl here?.”
“Yes, that possible but the cost is higher because the girls are needed to work”
“Right, that settled. I want to bar fine all seven of them. “
Seemed like a great idea. All ideas do. The girls were happy because they got a night off work, we’d thumbed our nose at the wicked witch and our team had won on a technicality. Nobody really lost face. I took the bill on the chin and a weird pride in bar fining the most girls anyone could remember in one go. Even the cashier thought it may be a record. This cowboy had faced down the outlaw manager and won the draw. Stood outside in the street with motorbike taxis swerving around us and admiring punters lining the sidewalk I felt like the king of the Studs. The bloody problem is what was I going to do with them all?!.
“Right ladies. Think of the restaurant in Bangkok you would most like to eat if money was no object.
Smart eh?. I assumed it would be some Isaan home cooking joint around the corner.
My rash offer met with a huddle of scantily clad flesh and a murmur of negotiation. Aoh the spokeswoman soon gave me the answer.
“We all hear there is new Hawaiian restaurant for Hi-so celebrity. Very cool and we would love to go there”
Seven sets of mascara circled puppy eyes regarded me. Was I virile Vince or cheap Charlie?
Our convoy of Tuk Tuks set of for the mythical posh restaurant the girls had heard about with just a general idea of direction and clutching enough on board drinks to fill a swimming pool. The Lead Tuk Tuk driver was a smart chap, knew Bangkok like the back of his hand, he distilled 7 girls general directions and pinpointed the most likely soi this restaurant was situated, we hurtled through the night like a cross between a Taliban convoy and a presidential motorcade with cries of “Charlie don’t surf and turf” and singing “fuck the manager!” to the tune of NWA’s Fuck the police. All the time scanning the horizon for signs of Hawaiian culture in central Bangkok.
Amazingly we arrived at the restaurant. I have to say I’d not really considered just how Hi-so and painfully trendy this place might be.
The snooty lady boy clutching a clipboard on the door was confronted with a drunk and seven girls wearing little tartan miniskirts and outfits which amounted to a few strands more than a belt.
“Do you have a reservation?” She peered over her list.
One of the girls nervously adjusted her G string. Another took the last swig of Corona light and chucked the bottle in a designer light fitting shaped like a bin.
At this juncture I should give a little sartorial back ground. I’m rather a stickler for dress. I have been known to wear a white linen suit in the Cambodian jungle when it’s over 40 degrees. Usually I can be found at the end of a bar of sensible people wearing shorts and tee shirts, clad in a dark suit, shirt and loafers. It’s the English man in me. In a world of flip flops I took a stand for the old school. I summoned up my straightest face .Adjusted my dandy silk shirt. Gun slinger eyes. Then pulled out my weapon. Bluff.
“Dearest girl,(he liked that) we require your best table for eight and a bottle of champagne. No make it two. In fact we may need three”
The lady boy considered this development for a few moments and then smiled “certainly sir”.
I have noticed in Asia that most service people defer to a person dressed smartly. The better dressed you are, de facto, the wealthier. I often get ushered through queues at airports because I’m wearing a suit. I seem very seldom bothered for more than a few moments by officialdom. The chap in jogging bottoms id been sat next to on the plane is usually queuing for a lot longer than me and my only explanation is a smart formal look pays dividends. In Hong Kong they walk past much wealthier people to serve me when I’m wearing a Paul Smith suit that cost $10 on EBAY. Same in the USA, greeters dragged me out of a queue at the MGM grand in Vegas, apologised and upgraded me to a penthouse. I don’t even gamble, I was however wearing a nice pocket handkerchief poking raffishly from a Turnbull and Asser midnight blue cotton blazer.
The cocktail menus came and went. The food menu came and went. The cocktail menu came and went again. My overdraft went and came again. We had a bloody good night. We laughed, we laughed more and we laughed about laughing. I wore a silly grin of a man that’s not sure what he’s doing but aware he’s doing it. All our problems were forgotten for a few hours. That night will go down into the ground with me. Then thorny issue of what comes next arose after pudding. On the salary of a beer girl most of the staff live a long way outside central Bangkok. The rent is much lower away from the BTS and commuting in and out of work is a long process unless you’re splashing the bucks on a motorbike or taxi. Given it was 3am and they were due on shift in just a few hours. There was no alternative. It was back to my hotel. Operation smuggle was in the planning. First I had to buy 7 toothbrushes and various female products, bottles of water and a sausage on a stick from the 24-7 . Next was the system to get 7 girls upstairs in a classy Sukhumvit family hotel. All dressed in matching faux Scottish micro skirts and drunk as skunks. This would require a sober and measured plan. That wasn’t happening in reality. I doubt it was achievable in fantasy. But now it was one for all and all for one. The bonds that were forged in Rum Daiquiris were to the death. Or the next morning. I mean I had bar fined them, so they were now duty bound to visit the lair of the long nosed devil.
The stakes were high. The plan was simple even buffalo farmers could have thought it up. We would peer through the doors of the hotel and when the coast looked clear I would give the go ahead for two girls at a time to make a dash for the elevator and we’d meet on the sixth floor. Even though my hotel allowed visitors, even two girls would probably get me a reputation amongst the staff. Three might be questioned, but seven!. I’d be looking at charges for two extra rooms!. Well now we had a well-conceived plan, meticulous details worked out in the back of a speeding Tuktuk by a boozed up crew in two languages lost in the roar of the engines. In reality this would need skill, luck and all the timing well trained beer girls could bring to bear. Bizarrely confidence was as high as only those who are oblivious to reality and who feel the alcohol has enhanced their already lofty IQ’s know. The snag was once we had 4 girls sneaked through to the elevator (and who hopefully with a bit of luck were now hiding on the 6th floor or at least some floor,) a jobs worth clerk was hanging around the reception. A quick confab and plan c was hatched, a diversion. I would approach the reception and engage the clerk in a seemingly reasonable request for the middle of the night while the girls sneaked past using the potted plants and tourist excursion boards for cover.
We congratulated ourselves on just how smart this new plan was.
I sauntered through the lobby and up to the reception desk as only a man up to no good can do. The receptionist gave me a wai and greeted me, albeit a little warily. I hadn’t actually considered what I was going to ask. I squinted like Lee Van Cleef again and drew.
“Is the pool still open?”
“I don’t think so sir…..its ….4am…. maybe…..nobody ask to use before at this…er…time”
“Well, nothing like a refreshing dip for the digestion” I ventured.
Her eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped open like a letter box. I turned around to look and saw Bom stood arrow straight behind a large potted conifer, a toothbrush in one hand and a chicken leg clutched in the other. She was grinning maniacally through her braces like a person who believes if she thinks she is invisible. She will be invisible.
I pretended not to see her and turned around to the receptionist and gave her a look as if to say “ Are you drunk, there’s nothing there”.
“Can you fetch a towel?.” I ventured with a reassuring look of serenity.
After squashing the last of the gaggle into the lift we reunited the team at ground zero. Room 607 was the setting for the game of Sardines. Tai being the oldest took charge, with limited resources we were going to need a shift system for the shower and the mini bar. The girls soon made themselves at home with one team washing underwear and another checking shampoo quality. Another hanging bra’s out on the balcony. There was more naked flesh than a small GOGO bar.
Two girls climbed in the shower and Tai shouted for me to get in.
“Come on, shower first you are boss. Shower NOW!”
I climbed in trapped by two girls and was soon covered by soap suds and holding my bottle of beer outside the shower screen. Tai started to scrub my back like a car wash. I couldn’t stop wriggling.
“Your bush is tickling my ass!”
“Stop be big baby and be man! Everyone need to shower and you act like little boy who never see pussy before!. You want me to shave it?”
Well that told me. I stood up and took my soapy wash down like a boy and not a man. While the other girls were showering I made little nests on the floor from the spare pool towels the receptionist gave me and the hotels gowns and fluffy slippers. It was clear the maximum occupancy for the bed would be four. I knew the girls had to be back on shift before lunch and I guessed they’d need to sleep this one off. It’s not every day they got Champagne and baileys shots as a nightcap.
A little later I lay there reflecting on what kind of night I might be having in some other country, Bom was asleep next to me with her arm around my waist, another girl was cuddled up to my other side. A spare was laid across the bottom of the bed, just in case. Nobody had a stitch on. I was tickled by as many bushes as any man has ever been. I think those girls had seen it all, I suspect they’d biked around the block a few times. Hanging out together naked wasn’t embarrassing, it wasn’t even interesting. For me it felt like id won the lottery. I was on the cover of Hendrix’s electric lady land. Sure you can say there was no action in this action movie. It was a bomb without a bang. But If id popped my clogs there and then I’d have been a legend at the inquiry. A fucking rock star.
In the morning the bleary eyed bunch showered again, munched their way through the supplies and headed off to work. Leaving me in a room that looked like a herd of drunken girls had stampeded through it. Hold on a minute….they had. It wasn’t a cheap night out, even by celebrity standards.
But for the next couple of years I never got a check-bill in that bar. I was the subject of a legendary story they all loved to tell and tell again. By the time it wore off id had so many free beers I’d made a profit.
Now when I sit next to some young buck going on about a threesome or foursome. I just smile to myself and think. Such lack of ambition. Don’t you know you’re sitting next to the Hi-so Roller.
When I roll the dice. I only throw eights.
The author of this article cannot be contacted.