One Night in Bangkok
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 2 of 2 › view all entries
My ignorance of Bangkok (and Thailand in general) was pretty complete prior to coming here yesterday with the exception that somewhere along the way I picked up an opinion that the place was dodgy and probably best avoided. One day later my opinion generally still stands (the place is dodgy) but now that I've experienced it I'll no longer be looking to avoid it.
My night started out with stepping into BKK airport at around 20:45 local time with a happy recognition of having been here before, just over a year ago during a short stopover on a Sydney to London flight. As I hadn't stepped out of the airport on that occasion everything beyond the gates was completely new.
My cab ride from the airport to my hotel in the center of Bangkok reminded me that I was kind of in the wild west of old with the cab driver speeding most of the way at probably nothing less than 120mph. I couldn't say for sure as his speedometer wasn't working. He was clearly in a hurry, passing many drivers along the way and flashing those in front of him when they wouldn't pull into a slower lane. Concerning as this was, it didn't seem so bad as there were a slightly more aggressive few who passed us at higher speeds and who didn't care about what lane was for passing. The fact that I didn't have my seat belt on, or even one to put on, wasn't a concern for my driver and therefore wasn't something I felt he should be bothered to be reminded of.
I arrived safe and sound at my hotel and paid him the fare as pre-arranged at the airport. I checked in to my room, happy to find an oasis of western comfort and a sense of familiarity for the numerous hotels I'd stayed at in the previous couple of years. After a short freshening up and brief (failed) attempt to come up with a suitable Bangkok destination to head for, I decide to try to find a bar within walking distance of the hotel.
The concierge directs me to the back entrance of the hotel leading to a street which does indeed have a few bars & restaurants. However none of them seem too appealing and the whole street feels wrong; more of a back alley than a main street with narrow narrow sidewalks if any at all. And the whole street has a lingering smell of dog faeces or otherwise. I decided to walk towards what looks to be a more main street but which in fact turns out to be just a turn in the road with some people mulling about. After a few more turns, more dodgy smells and at least a couple of cabs slowing or stopping, clearly suspecting I was a lost white-boy in Bangkok I reach a main street but with no sign of any bars nearby, nor much of anything. Another taxi stops knowing I'm lost and this time I jump in. "F-Lounge", I say, "On Soi 20 Sukhumvit" doing my best to pronounce it. A worrying 10 seconds of trying to show the cabbie where it is on a map ensues, and we set off.
Within a few minutes the cab pulls up in front of a building where a doorman opens my door. "Is this the F-lounge" I ask him, to which his confused expression indicates it clearly isn't. Although his English is significantly better than my cab driver's, the two of them, in conjunction with my free map from the airport containing the F-lounge advert, fail to have any knowledge of the place other than it's possibly back down the street from which we just came. My cabbie heads back slowly and after about 200 yards I decide to give up and change plans.
I step out of the cab and into a place called "Sabai Sabai Massage" which I'd decided would provide my first experience of a 'proper' Thai massage. The entrance area, containing a couple wooden benches and three chaise lounges is empty with the exception of a Thai boy behind a desk and a Thai girl who disappears into a back room. I review the menu on the desk, and decide on a 60 min choice with Coconut oil to which the Thai boy tells me that there'd be a wait of about 20 minutes for the masseuse to finish up. As I have some time to kill I figure I'd ask him if he knows about the 'F-lounge' I'd been searching for. He points me back down the road from which I'd just come saying he thinks it's just on the left. I take a short stroll and, sure enough, there it was down a small drive also containing two restaurants. Unfortunately, it's starting to close up as it's coming up on 12:45 am.
On my way back I see a white boy (American looking) coming out of the Sabai Sabai and feel slightly reassured that if some other tourist had frequented it then perhaps it's ok. I step in and within a minute the Thai girl who had disappeared into the back room puts a pan of water in front of my feet and instructs me to remove my shoes. A quick scrub down of my feet and I follow her up the stairs where I'm hoping she's going to pass me over to the slightly cuter Thai masseuse girl I'd seen, particularly if the massage involves the naked rub-down activity that I'd heard of from a friend who'd recently been to Thailand. Two floors up and I'm shown to a foam mat on the floor with a linen cloth curtain hanging from a track in the ceiling much like a hospital ward. The Thai girl points to a towel on a table and drawing the curtain invites me in poor English to prepare myself as she steps away. I remove my shirt, then hesitantly my trousers and begin to wrap the towel arond me as she comes back in with a fake Louis Vuitton leather bag. Concluding that the cuter Thai masseuse was seemingly not in the picture I reassess my masseuse's assets; not ugly, but rather chubby, particularly for a Thai girl. Could be worse, I decide, but not particularly something I want to see naked nevermind rubbing themselves on me. Confused about whether I was supposed to be fully naked I explain that I'd never had a Thai massage before, hoping that she might lay out the game plan of what was about to happen. No such explanation comes forth but merely broken English instructing me to lie down face first on the mat. "Fair enough" I figure. "Let's see what this is about".
Forty minutes later, my 1 hour massage is over and thankfully I'm still the only one naked. Although my underpants had been removed about 10 minutes into the experience, the only places her hands had gone were where I'd have expected them to go with the exception that she didn't massage my neck very much. I consider complaining about the 15 minutes short change to both her and the boy at the desk but decide against it and merely pay the 700 baht, thank them, and step back into the street. It's just gone 1:30am.
A few minutes later and I'm back in another cab on my way back to my hotel. "Do you know of any good bars still open at this time" I ask my cabbie off-handedly. "Oh Yes. There many bars near here" he replies. "You want to go bar? I take you". A couple seconds reflection & I say "Yeah, ok. Take me to a bar". "Why the hell not?" I think. "I'm too awake still to be going back to my hotel to sleep". A number of minutes later and my cab pulls up outside a building with various cabs and bike-things jostling around in front of it and a platinum embossed sign on it saying "BOSS" in an Arial type font. A 300 baht entry-fee-including-free-drink later and I step into a rather non-descript large room, sparsely filled, predominantly with local looking people and a few fellow European looking types. The house music pumping from the sound system fails to produce much in terms of dancing activity and I find myself a stool at the bar between a couple middle-eastern type guys who seem to have something going with a table of Thai girls about 10 feet away, and an older Asian man seemingly on his own and not having much regard for anything other than the glass of scotch directly in front of him. Other than the bartender girl who delivers my JD and coke, no one seems to take much notice of me and I casually scope the place out. I proceed to light up a cigarette, partially because smoking and drinking go hand in hand, but more for the guilty pleasure of knowing that such a thing is illegal in all the "civilized" parts of the world.
As my cigarette finishes and I'm contemplating my departure back to my hotel, a Thai girl confidently strides up to me and says "Hi! What's your name?". Slim, attractive, wearing a white skirt and matching top which just exposes a small amount of cleavage from a reasonably pert set of breasts which I figure to be of around 25 years age, I look her up & down and reply "My name's Mike. What's yours?". "Phon" she replies as she shakes my hand and nonchalantly rubs her thighs into mine in an effort to speak directly into my ear. "Where are you from?" she inquires. Small chat ensues which eventually reveals that her reason for coming to the club involved her "working" but with no further details. She seemed to come to this place fairly regularly with her girlfriends at the table around 15 feet away. "Kind of a peculiar bar this" I say, "Nobody's dancing". "You like dance" she asks. "I dance for you" she says, and proceeds to dance in front of my bar stool. Another girl, fairly plump and wearing a "Boss Bar staff" shirt proceeds to grind into Phon and subsequently my leg protruding from my stool for a minute before instructing Phon that if she wants to dance she should go onto the dance floor. Phon decides to stop dancing and I decide to order another drink as we continue to converse. As I signal the bartender, Phon rubs up against me and says into my ear "You buy me a drink too, yes?" Not wanting to be rude, I do and we continue to talk.
As it turns out, What I took for a body of 25 was actually 40 years of age and had borne a son who is now 20 yrs old and living with Phon's mother somewhere up in north-eastern Thailand where she's originally from. The father of the child, who had been physically abusive to Phon, was apparently no longer in the picture and the 5000+ baht/8hr journey restricted her from seeing her son and family more than once or twice a year. She'd like to see them more and/or to be able to provide more financial support for her son particularly as he had a bad heart which seemingly was a symptom from the fumes she breathed in while doing her job at an electronics factory while pregnant with him. None of this info came out particularly readily nor was it proffered in any way to extract sympathy for her plight. It was all very matter-of-fact discussion while sipping our drinks. And maybe I'd like to come dance with her on the dance floor, she suggested while continuing to rub her hips and other body parts into me as we talked?
We move onto the empty dance floor, just in front of Phon's friends who had continued to linger at their table drinking their drinks. Phon's 40-appearing-as-25 year old body grinded into mine unapologetically as the music pumped and her "working" activities became clearer. "You want me come home with you?" she asks. "I show you good time for 2000 baht" she says as she grinds into me once again.
I left the bar shortly thereafter, slightly less naive than when I'd come in. And became even further less naive this morning by educating myself on "Thai Massage" and "Thai prostitution" as explained in Wikipedia. My 'one night in Bangkok' has lived up to my expectations however I think I've still got a few things to learn about this place...