My Love Affair With Thailand Part III by Inspector Cowboy
Nok left in the morning after listening to me snore for 8 hours.
I decided to have a lie in and go for a late lunch. I had noticed a very attractive lady working at the tourism and excursion desk in the hotel lobby. She always smiled when I passed and as I had now learned to wei and say sawasdee khrup at every opportunity we were on speaking terms albeit rather basic speaking terms. I walked down to the lobby wearing my best cargo shorts and a silk shirt I had purchased the previous day with Nok. I spotted my prospective new friend sitting at her desk trying to convince a German couple that a trip to a temple in Bangkok was a great idea while the husband of the couple was probably thinking a trip to Soi Cowboy was infinitely more preferable. The German couple dealt with my friend looked up to see me standing in front of her in the middle of a huge wei and a sawasdee khrup. Looking slightly startled she returned my greeting as I sat down. My plan of action was to ask her to recommend a restaurant for a late lunch and then invite her to come along with me. A fairly simple exercise one could be thinking but sadly not on this occasion. She decided that an evening meal on a boat was what I needed and no amount of pleading from me would change her mind. Sensing this was a conversation that was going nowhere I decided to terminate our meeting in order to find some food. This was the last time we spoke even though we exchanged smiles each time our eyes met in the lobby.
I walked out of the hotel into the early afternoon Bangkok heat. There was a barbecue meat stall outside the hotel catering mainly for tuk tuk drivers so I decided to stop and see what was available. I opted for a piece of chicken encased in a couple of lollipop sticks which I was invited to reheat myself on the vendors portable grill. I soon got the hang of this by watching others and rapidly got into conversation with some tuk tuk drivers. The chicken was delicious and after swapping some banter about football teams I left the tuk tuk drivers to their lunch and ventured up the road. I hadn’t really been for a walk close to the hotel so I decided to head towards the main road where I had spotted what seemed like a small shopping centre the previous day. The small shopping centre turned out to be nothing more than an outdoor market with a difference. In one corner was a workshop making up suits. I guessed at the time, correctly or incorrectly, that this is where the notorious Indian tailors bring their orders to be processed. Still a little disappointed at my lack of success with the tourist desk lady I flagged a taxi down and asked to be taken to one of the big Bangkok shopping centres. This was to be my first experience of the now defunct Porntaxi. A taxi with a DVD on the front dashboard showing hardcore porn. These were all the rage some 8 to 10 years ago but thankfully seem to have died a death in recent times. The Porn King appeared to be very pleased with his dashboard toy and much as one would mimic the voice of a SatNav he was parroting the voices of the porn actors. This may have been partially amusing in the early hours of the morning after a kegful of Heineken but at 1pm on a hot and bright Bangkok day it just seemed out of place.
Leaving the Porn Palace I was on the hunt for a place to eat preferably with air conditioning. I discovered a restaurant that looked to be part of a chain. The staff all wore uniforms but more importantly all looked very very pretty. I’ve seen this chain since in MBK but cannot recall the name. The concept is you order raw meat and vegetables and a waiter or waitress brings a box containing hot coals and slots it into your table. You then cook the food yourself. This works fine in a group and I’ve been to many open air restaurants since called “mook atat” where you pay a fixed fee of 100 – 200 baht and enjoy a good feed. I can especially recommend one quite close to Phra Khanong BTS. This was eerily different as the waitress plonked herself down next to me and proceeded to cook my grub for me in the style of a geisha girl. Not quite knowing what was going on I found conversation difficult which was compounded by the fact it appeared the girl couldn’t speak a word of English. My English sense of decorum prevailed and I dutifully ate the food she kindly put in front of me silently. On reflection it would probably have been the done thing to at least buy the girl a drink, invite her to share my food or even offer to barfine her but sadly none of these ideas occurred to me at the time. The awkwardness of the situation led me to leave prematurely as I contemplated what to do with the rest of the day.
Thankfully Thailand came to the rescue with the unexpected. There was a massive traffic snarl up so I decided to just wander. I chose to explore some side soi’s and spent an hour or two watching som tam sellers pulverising the ingredients of their pots, pavement CD vendors selling their wares, massage girls attempt to seduce single men at the side of the road, stressed policemen directing traffic and motorbike taxi’s weaving their way through static cars. I eventually ended up on Sukhumvit Road where I stopped at a bar for a refreshment or two. There I met my American friend, Geoff. Geoff is a dentist from southern California. He has now sold his business and retired to Thailand. At the time he was considering making the move. We have enjoyed some riotous times since we met and meet up around twice a year in Thailand. Geoff doesn’t put any roots down in Thailand, preferring to move from place to place when he chooses. The day we met turned into an epic marathon of excess including a visit to the bar of my new friend Nok at Asoke Corner. Geoff acquired a friend on our travels and all four of us ended up in a restaurant somewhere near Sukhumvit eating enormous prawns from a grill.
After eating what looked like the entire contents of the Andaman Sea we went our separate ways, Geoff with his new friend and me with Nok. Even though I had known Nok for only a couple of days I knew she was a nice girl and I wanted to spend more time with her before my painfully short holiday finished and reality reared its ugly head.
In hindsight I can see what was happening, I was growing too fond of Nok. This was not a road I wanted to follow although I didn’t really see it clearly at the time. Fate later dealt a hand which changed things somewhat but this served as a wake up call.
The next morning Nok left early and I again had a lie-in. I was determined to lay off the booze until at least the evening so I decided to ride the Skytrain and spend time just observing people. This may seem odd to some but I enjoy people watching, always have done. I stopped outside the hotel for some chicken and a chat with the tuk tuk drivers, bought a large bottle of water and got a taxi to the nearest Skytrain. The next couple of hours were spent riding the Skytrain, getting the feel of Bangkok and exploring the Skytrain stations. My curiosity suitably satisfied I headed towards Asoke and an appointment with a Dutch beauty.
Alighting the Skytrain and climbing down the steps from the station I decided to visit the bar where Nok worked. In the cold or should it be warm light of day it seemed a rather sad place to be. It stood almost empty with a girl asleep on the counter, the chairs placed in a group by the corner of the bar and a fan making the only sound. A cat lay at the entrance from the pavement daring anyone to enter. I hurried past not wanting to look too hard as if reality would kick in and my illusions would be shattered. Nana Plaza is another place I like to stay clear of during the day. A fun and happening place at night but somehow a sad place during the day. Like an old cruise liner who has seen better days.
I walked past the Offshore Fish and Chip Bar choosing to enter Soi Cowboy from the opposite end to Asoke. First on the left was the Old Dutch restaurant where the Dutch beauty awaited me. I sat down inside cooled by the air conditioning and ordered a stampot, my Dutch beauty. Stampot a traditional Dutch dish which takes many forms but is typically mash and a big meatball with gravy. Also in the restaurant were a group of guys who appeared to be businessmen dressed in suits and ties along with one Thai girl. As I have mentioned before I am an avid people watcher and this gathering gave me the ideal opportunity for a period of observation. The businessmen were deep in conversation and even though I couldn’t hear their voices as they were hushed, I got the impression they were American. There was obviously sort of deal going down as they became quite animated at times but the nature of their dealings were out of my earshot. The most noticeable observation was the fact the Thai lady uttered not one word neither was she spoken to. The most likely scenario’s ran through my mind, was she a bargirl picked up by one of the group either during the course of the day or for a long time? Was she the partner of one of the group? Was she a company employee brought along for the negotiation but this seemed unlikely due to her silence. However, her presence looked out of place regardless of her role. If she was a bargirl, was it appropriate to bring a girl along for a business meeting? Anyway, the conclusion to my period of people watching was inconclusive with a lot of unanswered questions. This brings me to another point that fascinates me about the transient form of relationships in Thailand. I have noticed that any relationship with a bargirl, if more than just a few days, becomes very intense very quickly. As sex tourists more often than not we tend to put this intensity down to the cunning of the bargirl whose only motivation is to wheedle as much money out of us as possible but is this strictly true, are bargirls getting a bad rap? We all know the concept of a holiday romance. The intensity, the first kiss, the moonlit walks, the hurried utterances of devotion. Is this just the same as a brief dalliance with a bargirl/prostitute?
Leaving the Old Dutch I returned to my hotel for a snooze before planning to visit Clinton Plaza, a place I had read about on the internet. I woke up refreshed and ready for the night ahead. Geoff had told me a horror story about an accident he had seen involving a tuk tuk. The passenger had apparently been decapitated when the tuk tuk had veered off the road. This didn’t surprise me as if I was going to invent a road vehicle that meant certain death if anything went slightly wrong I would invent a tuk tuk. Complete with no seatbelt, a close proximity to the road surface, sharp steel edges and drivers with deep-seated racing driver fantasies they are mobile death machines. They are also great fun. I decided to give my tuk tuk driver friend a wide berth and hailed a taxi. My intention was to meet Nok in her bar, have a few drinks, take a wander down Soi Cowboy and then on to Clinton Plaza.
The taxi dropped me off at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy and I made the short walk down to Nok’s bar. The bar was quiet but without the emptiness I had seen earlier on in the day. I looked around for Nok who I presumed must be in the ladies room or getting something to eat. I was by now well aware of her love for any form of deep-fried insect or small amphibian. Her work colleagues quickly ushered me to the table I had made my own over the past couple of days while I made my drinks order. They all seemed very happy to see me which I thought quite strange as I had hardly spoken to any of them before. Never mind though, they were all very pretty and it was no chore having a chat. I spotted the ladyboy who Nok and I had met on the river a day or two before who seemed to be shyly hanging back, I waved in acknowledgement which brought a smile. I bought a couple of the girls a drink and sat down to wait for Nok to come back. I noticed some frantic telephone activity behind the bar which I took to be some Thai business that was being sorted out. I now suspect it was frantic telephone activity due to my unexpected presence. About 15 minutes passed as I sat down, drank my beer, talked to the girls and waited for Nok to come back. I found it strange nobody had mentioned Nok or told me where she was as it was obvious I had visited the bar to see her. I eventually asked one of the girls when Nok was coming back but she just smiled and asked if I wanted to play a game of Connect 4. Knowing my knowledge of Thai customs was sketchy at best I was not concerned and agreed to play the game but at the same time was a little perplexed as to where Nok was. I dutifully lost at Connect 4 and bought my opponent the obligatory ladydrink before looking at my watch and realising I had been in the bar for over 30 minutes and still there was no sign of Nok nor had anybody as much as mentioned her name. I got up out of my seat and walked over to the cashier who was busily shuffling check bin slips and asked her if she knew where Nok was. Her expression was one of surprise as her eyes darted around the bar desperately seeking some help from another girl. Even at this point I thought the problem might be the language barrier and waited for someone to come to the assistance of the cashier. After a few seconds one of the girls came over. I had seen this girl before and I think she was a friend of Nok’s as I’d seen them talking intently one night. I noticed the ladyboy back into the corner sucking on a straw emerging from a glass of what looked like Coca Cola while watching the events unfold. Nok’s friend explained to me that Nok was ill but could be coming to work later that evening. This was when the penny dropped, Nok was with a customer, there was no doubt in my mind. I had forgotten Nok was a prostitute, a bargirl in Bangkok and had let the romance and fantasy of the past few days cloud my judgement. Nok was earning a living just like I was going to have to do when I got home back to the UK. I had forgotten that I was just a customer, a paying customer who paid money to Nok in order to have sex with her. That was the bottom line. I felt cold and hot at the same time with the realisation of what had just happened. I felt a sense of relief, surprise and a certain amount of humour at what had just been unleashed. I noticed that I was being watched by all present including the ladyboy who had now emerged from the corner still sucking on the straw and watching me intently. I wasn’t really sure what to do next so I just sat down in my best couldn’t give a f**k way and continued to drink my now flat and warm Heineken. I had Nok’s number but decided against calling her as she obviously had other things on her mind and didn’t need me calling and anyway what could I say? She wasn’t my girlfriend, I was a client of hers who paid for her time and at that present moment somebody else was paying for her time …… and her body. I finished my Heineken and walked slowly towards Soi Cowboy alone with my thoughts.
Soi Cowboy unfolded before me, the neon and confusion, girls holding cardboard signs offering “99 Pretty Girls and a Few Ugly One’s” and “Happy Hour 60 baht Singha”. This cheered me up. I was now in Soi Cowboy, single with no ties. And, as I had been told numerous times during the past couple of days, I was a handsum man.