The flight from Heathrow with Qantas had been uneventful. I had sat next to an Aussie backpacker who had spent most of the 11 hour flight telling me about a pop festival he had been to regardless of the fact I was pretending to be asleep. Steve had been good to his word and I was now officially a website builder. My plan was to spend a month in various locations around Thailand interspersed with visa runs and a trip or two back to the UK during the year I intended to spend in Thailand. The locations I had chosen were Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Hua Hin although I was prepared for changes and to be flexible.
The trip from Don Mueang airport to Pattaya had taken just about two hours as we pulled up outside the Dynasty Inn on Soi 13 in Pattaya. I had seen the hotel on the internet, it was reasonably priced, was newly built and from the pictures I had seen it looked to be quite plush. I was paying about £20 per night but intended to stay only a few nights before I moved to somewhere a little cheaper after having a look around.
If you choose wisely in Thailand it’s possible to find a hotel that would probably cost 3 or 4 times as much in the UK. Conversely it’s also possible to find a hotel in Thailand that is priced 3 or 4 times more than you would find in the UK. It’s always a combination of good research and good luck.
I checked into my hotel and went to my room. It was now mid-morning and I was a little tired after the flight but was keen to get out and about and see what Pattaya had to offer. I was also mindful of the fact I had to discipline myself to at least 4 or 5 hours per day in order to do the work that would sustain me financially during my stay. I jumped into the shower after unpacking my bags and putting the clothes I was wearing into a plastic bag ready to take to the laundry. The warm shower was refreshing and also relaxed me after my long journey. I luxuriated as the water cascaded over me and I thought of the events leading to where I was now. I still had some doubts over whether I was doing the right thing but I had chosen to put them at the back of my mind and enjoy what I had.
After my shower I lay on the bed and before I knew it my watch was telling me it was four o’clock in the afternoon. I must have been more tired than I realised and I felt a little cheated that I had fallen asleep. This was a recurring theme during my time in Thailand where I found myself feeling out of sorts if I had missed something, as though I had to live every single moment.
I showered again, put on a t-shirt, some shorts, a pair of sandals, left my room and entered the lift on my way out. As I entered the lift I noticed another occupant, a girl wearing a pair of denim shorts, a pink t-shirt, a baseball cap and a pair of training shoes. I guessed she was about 23 years old, her hair was still slightly damp which gave the impression she had recently showered. I smiled at her as I entered the lift and she smiled back. I pressed the button marked “0” and we stood silently and slightly awkwardly as one tends to do in a lift. A few seconds later the ding of the lift bell indicated we had reached our destination as I stood back slightly inviting my lift companion to exit first. We both walked through the foyer and I dropped my room key off at reception. I noticed the girl from the lift also stopped at the reception desk in order to collect what I presumed was her ID card. As I stepped outside the hotel I made the transition from air conditioned coolness to the heat that was Pattaya. It felt like I was being stroked gently by a hairdryer such was the heat of the day.
I stood on the steps of the hotel surveying what was before me. To my right was Second Road and further down the soi to my left I could see the sea and just across the road was a bar. I was feeling a little hungry and so decided to look for something to eat. I had no real plans about what to do after eating apart from walking around and familiarising myself with my surroundings. A little further down the soi towards the sea I spotted a wheelbarrow stall being pushed by an elderly lady wearing a huge smile and a Mexican style sombrero even bigger than her smile. As I approached her I noticed she was selling different types of fruit. I looked at her fruit display as she stopped enabling me to get a closer look. Such was the heat of the day I suspect she was rather grateful she had an excuse to put her barrow down for a while. I recognised the melon, pineapple and sliced bananas but the other fruit I hadn’t seen before, some orange coloured fruit, some small red berries, some white fruit with black specks and some round white fruit. I asked the lady for some of each and she filled a couple of bags with a selection of her wares. She handed them to me still smiling and held up four fingers indicating 40 baht for the lot. I gave her a 50 baht note and told her to keep the change, her smile grew even wider as she bowed slightly and resumed pushing her wheelbarrow. A pound for two huge bags of fruit left me feeling very happy. I continued walking down the soi towards the sea and Beach Road munching on my purchase and enjoying the new flavours of fruit I had never seen before. As I approached the corner of the soi and Beach Road I spotted the same girl who had been in the hotel lift just minutes before. She was standing at a som tam stall chatting to a lady who was pounding out the som tam. As I walked past she saw me, smiled and said, “sawasdee khrup”. I smiled back and replied “sawasdee khrup”. Her hair had dried quickly in the heat and I noticed that it was slightly permed with some light brown highlights. Her eyes were bright and playful, her skin looked to be soft and smooth but most of all I noticed her perfectly rounded bottom and breasts. She sure was a very attractive young lady. I held out a bag of my fruit and asked her if she would like some, she smiled and took some, not taking her eyes off me for a moment as if assessing me. She asked,
“Where you from?”
I recognised this interrogation technique from my time in Bangkok a few months earlier, I was familiar with it and it felt somewhat reassuring.
“I’m from England, where are you from?”
I knew Udon Thani was a city in a northern region of Thailand called Issan where many of the working girls came from so I replied,
She laughed and said something in Thai to the lady who was still pounding away at the som tam.
“What your name?” she asked me and I told her my name was Gerry from England. She said her name was Jeab. So that was it, Gerry from England and Jeab from Udon Thani. As happens thousands of times a day in Thailand, two total strangers from opposite sides of the world meeting for the first time with one inevitable outcome.
Jeab spoke reasonably good English and we chatted for a while as she waited for her som tam to be finished. The lady making the som tam finished pounding away and shovelled the contents of the pot into a polystyrene tray and handed it to Jeab who handed the lady a few coins. A thought crossed my mind as to how som tam was transported before polystyrene was invented but the thought quickly dissipated as I caught a glimpse of Jeab’s breasts under her pink t-shirt.
We walked slowly north along Beach Road towards a place to sit down as we chatted about nothing at all in particular, Jeab asking me how long I was to be in Pattaya for and me asking questions but not really listening to the answers. We found somewhere to sit and Jeab opened her polystyrene box of rich bright red and green colours which looked delicious but smelt dreadful. As I continued munching my fruit she tucked into her dinner sitting cross-legged on a wall overlooking the beach and sea. The sun was getting lower in the sky and I saw jetski’s, parachutes and speedboats weaving their way around the bay, it was a scene of great activity, of people having fun, I was living in a dream.
Jeab told me she had been working in Pattaya for three months. She had a baby in Udon Thani and sent money home to her mother who was looking after her baby. Her husband had gone off with another girl and her father had died when she was young. This had me feeling sorry for Jeab and I wanted to hug her but her smile told me she was happy with her life and I don’t think my western perception of her life would have gone down very well with her. She finished her som tam and then started on what was left of my fruit, boy could she shift some tucker. The fruit finished I suggested we go for a drink along the road. I was also craving one of the lollipop chickens I had seen so many times in Bangkok. We crossed the road from the beach side to the side where the hundreds of bars, shopping malls, restaurants and bar complexes are to find a place to have a drink. After some 20 minutes walking past what seemed like hundreds of places we came upon a bar with a lollipop chicken stall outside. The bar was playing music in the early evening and seemed quite lively. Jeab offered to barbecue my chicken outside for me while I ordered the drinks. I handed her a 100 baht note as I entered the bar. Jeab wanted a nam pau which is bottled water and I got a Heineken. As I sat down I spotted Jeab turning my chicken on the barbecue coals. She really was an attractive lady, she was not now wearing her baseball cap and her hair shone under the rapidly descending sun. She was quite tall for a Thai, maybe 5’ 6”, her legs were well-proportioned, her bottom was well rounded and her breasts were firm and medium sized. Even though she had told me she had a baby it didn’t seem to have taken a toll on her physique. I was feeling quite pleased with myself.
Jeab returned with a big handful of chicken for both me and her and handed me a few coins change which I put in my pocket. She also produced a small pot of chilli into which we dipped the chicken. As I looked out over Pattaya bay eating my chicken, sipping my beer and chatting to Jeab I was in a good place.
We left the bar and walked slowly backed towards the hotel. We hadn’t discussed what would happen next, I guessed we both just knew. Jeab was good company, she made me laugh and I loved the way she tried really hard to pronounce English words and in some cases just couldn’t quite get them right. She said “pomplim” instead of problem which I thought was really cute and when I asked her about it she tried really hard to say “problem” while furrowing her brow, slowly and deliberately trying to say it the same as me but to no avail. We both laughed as she tried. The carefree way Thai women approach life is a total contrast to the way I find western women approach life. Western women take themselves so seriously and seem to have lost the fun gene from their DNA. I hope this gene is firmly implanted in the Thai DNA for a long time to come.
We arrived back at the hotel and approached the reception desk to collect my key and Jeab produced her ID card to hand over to the receptionist. As we walked towards the lift I noticed a guy to my left who was also heading towards the lift. He was an elderly chap wearing beige shorts, a green striped polo shirt, white socks and sandals and a baseball cap indicating he was a follower of the Yankees. He was also smiling at Jeab. I looked at Jeab who had adopted a somewhat confused look as she glanced at both me and the elderly chap. She said nothing as we waited for the lift doors to open and we all entered the lift together. In the lift I could see Jeab glancing at the gentleman and then glancing at me and green striped polo shirt seemed to be smirking to himself. I glanced in the lift mirror to see if anything had inadvertently stuck to my head or if I had “Idiot” tattooed on my forehead, neither was true. As the lift neared my floor I stepped forward as did Jeab as we waited for the doors to open and as we departed the lift a voice from behind us said, “Goodnight Jeab”. I turned round to see the doors of the lift closing. I looked at Jeab who had the look of somebody who had just seen a ghost. I asked her if she was ok as the penny dropped. I smiled as it hit me. I had first met Jeab in the lift a couple of hours earlier. I had guessed she had just been with a customer as her hair was wet and she had collected her ID card from the hotel reception on her way out. My money was on green striped polo shirt being that customer and coincidentally we had met him in the lift. I didn’t relay my thoughts to Jeab but smiled to myself at the coincidences that life throws up and also at the fact Jeab was going to have a very profitable day.