I brought my Thai girlfriend down from the great North to Bangkok for a weekend on the town.
We dined at Hemingways, and wined at Above 11.
We listened to jazz at Whisgars, and got shouted at by Bautista over the loudspeakers in Havana Social.
We even went for a Turkish coffee and saw Muslims on Soi 3.
Up Sukhumvit we strolled, skirting masseurs in skirts and dodging the dodgy. Past the ‘new’ porno stands, the ‘old’ Thai relic stands, nunchucks, bin Laden lighters, crickets, coconuts and Cialis stalls.
Honeymooning men leering over street side sports bar counters winced as their newlywed wives dug fingers of contempt into their thighs.
“Hey it’s all part of the ‘all inclusive’ trip, Honey.”
The heady mix of fish with garlic and a waft of sewer almost overpowered the smell of a hundred camphor tubes being snorted at any given time.
And, of course, the ubiquitous shepherds of the flock, the soi-dogs kept a laconically watchful eye on everything from their gutter view perches on the air conditioned steps of 7-Eleven.
“Well, where would you like to go next, Dear?” I ask.
“You know, I never see sexy dancing show before. Maybe can go?”
“Haha, that’s funny. No, really, where do you want to go?”
“No, I serious, want to see; if you OK with that?” she asks.
“Oh. Um. Hhmm. Well, I’ll ask the concierge at that hotel over there if he knows where we might find one…”
“You don’t know from before? I think maybe you know.”
Walking down ‘Cowboy’, alternately getting grabbed and ignored depending on the level of perception of the hot-pant clad barkers – some seeing I was ‘in tow’, others not caring, and some respecting the invisible ‘off the market’ sign that a couple heralds.
I turned to her and said, “OK, here’s the deal. You have to promise not to judge this, and whatever you do, you have to promise not to judge me for this. Your idea, your country, your Soi, and it was all here before the both of us.”
My real hesitancy was of course being recognized and perhaps warmly greeted by staff members who may have me confused with a real Cowboy punter from another time.
Into Long Gun we went.
We plopped into one of the thigh high booth benches and sunk into the show. The benches filled with tourists holding bootlegged copies of The Hangover Part II, a handful of nervously smiling bachelorettes, some grizzled expats, and corporate expense account guys sporting dayglow white Oxford shirts that were bathed in black light, their grins responding to the girls who were bathing each other in cheap detergent astride kiddie pools on stage.
Four girls in thigh high black boots, wearing thongs and holding bullwhips queued up just off stage, and thirty pre-poured ‘lady drinks’ lined up on the bar waiting in abeyance – a stench of urine and lime roiling out from behind the beaded curtain.
“Honey, what about those girls with whips? Are they sadist?”
My eyes were focused on my girlfriend’s reactions. Her eyes were fixed upon gyrating pelvis on the deus.
I looked at her expectantly. She enthusiastically said; “They all so different. Really, I think pooying all the same down there. So interesting. Which one you like?”
She sat with her elbows on the counter, her hands propping up her chin.
I began to relax. A couple of Sangsom sodas later the Mamasan came over to us and took hold of my girlfriend’s hand.
She said, “You know, 90 percent of the women who come in here, Farang or Thai, look either angry or they only half-look out of embarrassment. You are looking fascinated. You are not shy at all, and you are very pretty.”
The Mamasan then shot me a cautious glance, and in Thai asked her if she wanted a job.
My girlfriend smiled broadly and said, “Oh, thank you so much. No!”
I asked her if she really was OK with this whole scene.
She said, “Is normal, you know. Many beautifuls girl in the world and normal for guys to look. I have no problem with you looking only. I’m prettier than them anyway. Up to you.”
Spat out through the grimy half curtains of the club into the maelstrom of doe eyed girls fawning over the hunters and punters, the soul savers and lost souls, the Mamasan followed us out, gave us an enigmatic smile then turned towards the somtam stand as we head once again towards the hall of smoke and mirrors that is the Sukhumvit road.
Featured image is by AdamSelwood and used under a Creative Commons licence