Sunday, December 25, 2011
Christmas in Bangkok
When I saw all the middle-aged whore-mongers standing around wearing Santa hats, I couldn't control my laughter.
A small after-work Christmas party was taking place at our rather remote branch of the largest language school in Bangkok. I had actually quit a few days earlier, along with another guy I worked with, in order to spend a month long holiday on the island of Koh Samui. We weren't leaving until Dec 26 in the evening, however, so we went back up to the school on Dec 25th for the party, with the intention of going out to celebrate more seriously afterwards.
We were the two youngest, at 25; all the others were in their 30's, 40's, and 50's.
The sight of these dissipated, bleary men making a half-assed attempt at sober Christmas cheer was enough to send me into gales of hysterics.
"Shut up and put on a hat," said English Teacher T.
The Thais, despite being Buddhists with a Muslim minority, had adopted Christmas in a big way; or perhaps it's more accurate to say they'd adopted consumerism and shopping in a big way, and Christmas seemed to them to be all about that, all overseen by this mysterious Santa Claus figure.
Most Thais liked the idea of Santa Claus; just another Buddha with a white beard, to them, I suppose. But not everyone agreed.
"No good Santa Clause come Thailand," said the 19-year-old boyfriend of one of the 50-year-old British male teachers, one of two homosexuals we worked with. "No good come house at night. People will shoot him like a kamoey," he said. (Kamoey being the thai word for thief, not to be confused with the Thai word katoey, which means transvestite.)
The party went off quickly and painlessly; no alcohol was permitted but we exchanged token gifts, Secret Santa style, with the Thai secretaries and had punch and Christmas cookies. (Naturally somebody had bought a flask so our punch was loaded with Thai rice whiskey.)
There was one uncomfortable moment when a secretary who was a Muslim received a ceramic piggy bank, but it all passed in the spirit of international Christmas cheer.
At about 10.00pm, we headed off to go in search of the true meaning of Christmas.
Our favorite place was Nana Plaza, a cheery little cul-de-sac of bars on two floors, with "gogo bar" style places on the ground level, where the girls danced on stage in bikinis, topless or even naked depending on the bar and the time of the evening. The second floor had smaller places, with more of a bar or pub style atmosphere; and of course on the second floor was the Nana Guesthouse, which rented rooms by the hour.
All of the places had free admission; to take a girl out you had to pay a bar fine, which if I remember correctly at the time was 500 bhat, about 20 dollars. You could buy a girl a "lady drink," which cost 3 or 4 dollars, and sit with her a while and get to know her; while the hovering mama-sans encouraged it, most of the girls I knew considered it bad business and felt a little embarrassed to ask for it.
(For what it's worth, I seem to remember the price of a small Carlsburg (33 cl) was 50 bhat -- $2. Our paycheck for the month was about $800, so that actually seemed a little pricey.)
Now of course the bar made its money with the "bar fine" -- whatever price you negotiatied with the girl for anything else was up to you and girl. 500 to 1000 bhat was typical ($20 - $40), in my experience; whether I was receiving a discount for not being fat and gross, I don't know.
There were of course all of the shows which have become legend: bananas, razor blades, transvestites, fire dancing, snakes, etc. The girl who specialized in shooting darts out of a blowgun in her vagina actually had a crush on me and was chasing after me for a while, but I never had the nerve to give her a try.
As you can imagine, Nana Plaza was a fucking blast.
The girls were mostly beautiful and slim, and the atmosphere was amazingly friendly and pleasant; I never experienced any rip-offs -- the $200 bottle of champagne or whatever -- and there was no hostility from anybody.
The girls never seemed abused or even depressed. Why should they be? What teenage girl doesn't enjoy dancing and hanging out with her friends? And here they made money doing it. Fucking fat sleazy German guys can't be that pleasant -- but there were plenty of youngish, fit guys in their 30's, engineers and army guys and what not. Nana Plaza was usually populated with the local expats, unlike the more touristy Patpong Road flesh-pits.
Needless to say, on December 25th, 1995, at 11.00pm or so -- this was one festive place. The area was decked out with Christmas trees, Christmas lights, candy canes, etc.
Into this den of sin walked the English teachers. Wearing Santa hats.
We had a few at one of our favorite downstairs go-go bars, Voodoo; we'd arrived just in time for "tit frenzy," as we referred to it, when all the girls came out and danced topless for one song.
Then we went upstairs to get hamburgers.
There was a little food-stand where a guy made hamburgers; I'd make a hyperbolic statement like, they were the best hamburgers I've ever eaten, but I suspect in actuality, the atmosphere and having a hot little Thai chick on our laps had a lot to do with how much we enjoyed them.
There was a small bar near there that we usually had a drink in; it was called something like REBEL YELL or something equally white-trashy and rednecky, but they played rock music, unlike the blaring techno-dance music at most of the gogo bars, so we found it a bit easier on the ears.
Only two girls worked there; we referred to them as Crazy and Tattoo.
They claimed to be sisters, but I don't think they were actually related; sister is a word close friends often use to refer to each other in Thailand. (Particularly hookers.)
Tattoo, as you probably guessed, had quite a few tattoos and piercings. This is EXTREMELY rare for Thai girls, and was damn near unheard of at that time, despite the rest of the world being pretty into that stuff back in the 90's. She had a really nice panther on her stomach.
The Crazy one was Crazy. She looked like a stunning example of a typical Thai girl; the delicate features and unbelievably fine, soft and honey-dripped skin, the almost total lack of body fat besides nice hand-fulls of breast; the long raven hair.
But she clearly deferentiatied herself from most Thai girls by scowling all the time. In The Land of A Thousand Smiles, this was damn near as strange and unusual as the tattoos and piercings on her sister. She liked to talk to me, for some reason, but I saw her meet most come-ons with outright hostility. Once when English Teacher Q kept trying to talk to her, she suddenly slapped her hands over her ears, closed her eyes, and started screaming until he backed off.
Neither of them would leave with any of us, ever; they neither asked nor allowed any of us to pay their bar fine. We drank with them and played Connect Four, but that was the extent of it.
But this Christmas day, the two of them were drunk off their asses. They were dancing on top of the small bar in their underwear, to the Rolling Stones. This was a jolly sight, you can believe it.
Almost immediately, the Crazy one leapt down and jumped into my lap. "You pay bar fine?" she cooed.
English Teacher M high-fived me. "Now that's the Spirit of Christmas!"
I finished one more beer and eagerly led her up to the Nana Guesthouse. She was so drunk she was actually staggering; I'd never seen a Thai girl so drunk. Not a young one, anyway.
I can't remember what it cost for a room -- it seems like it was about 150 bhat ($6) for an hour. (For comparison's sake, that's about what I paid per day at the cheap hotel on Khao San road I was living in.)
The rooms were okay, with a nice shower and bathroom and cable TV, and while I'm not exactly sure they changed the sheets after each guest, they kept the rooms relatively clean.
She asked me to order a couple of Carlsbergs from the room service guy while she took a shower.
I happily laid on the bed to watch MTV and uncapped my Carlsberg.
Twenty minutes later, I impatiently knocked on the door. "You alive in there?"
She came out, wrapped in a towel, weaving on her feet like a boxer who'd taken too many head shots.
"You okay?" I asked, a bit concerned, taking the second Carlsberg from her as she tried to drink it.
"Okay," she said.
She lay down on the bed.
I, as eager as any beered-up 25-year-old would be, unwrapped the towel from her gorgeous slim young body.
The unusual smell that came up is difficult to describe. It wasn't a typical fishy smelly vagina odor; the best way I can think of to describe it is like a particularly strong and cloying combination of spices.
She was reclining with her eyes closed; I bent down and kissed her for a while, on the lips and nipples, and then gently tried to insert my finger into her vagina. She flinched and said, "ow!"
"Okay, look," I said, "you're sick! Your pussy is sick! We can't have sex!"
"We can! It's okay," she said.
I tried again, and again she squirmed in pain.
I thought of trying to get her to blow me but I knew that was probably going to be a lost cause; Thai hookers don't often do that, and she looked like she was going to fall asleep any moment.
"All right, get dressed!"
That woke her up a bit, when she realized I intended to leave without giving her the 1000 bhat I'd promised her ($40.)
She argued that she needed the money to get home. After some haggling, I agreed I'd give her 500 bhat if she gave me a quick massage. It was a sucky massage even by non-Thai massage standards and after a few minutes she wanted to take the 500 bhat and go.
"All right, shit, Merry fuckin' Christmas."
I went back down and found English Teacher M drinking on the ground floor with a couple other guys we knew. He still hadn't found a girl that he liked.
"How was she?" he asked eagerly.
The impersonation of me saying with a worried, perturbed look on my face, "Something wasn't quite right down there," became a running joke and catch-phrase over the course of the next six months.
It was already after one a.m. at this point; the go-go bars around Nana Plaza had to close at 2.00am due to government regulations, but there were other options, so we decided to head for the second most festive place in Bangkok:
The original Thermae bar was actually officially referred to as a "coffee shop" so it could get all-night status; it was run by the police, anyway, so it stayed open well past dawn.
I'm still not sure where it actually was; we would just get into a taxi and bellow "THERMAE!" and the driver would take us back on some side street behind a big indsustrial-looking building, and drop us off in a dark parking lot in the back; we entered the building through a rear doorway, and into an old industrial restroom, with a long trough to pee in.
Then you went down some stairs. You couldn't see much, due to the heavy smoke from dozens of cigarettes that obscured everything; it was very dark, as well. There were, I think some windows, but they were painted over and most of the place was underground.
I remember -- your feet would stick to the floor, like in a movie theater where somebody has spilled coke. In this case it was spilled beer and god knows what. A general gluey ooze of desperation.
At the bottom of the stairs, there was a room on the right; if you looked in, you could usually see a group of Thai policemen playing cards. There was never any trouble at the Thermae, because everybody knew the cops would just come out and beat the living shit out of any troublemakers and perhaps kill them.
Decorations? Near the bar there were vinyl couches, I remember that. Wooden chairs and tables. It was a small place and usually packed at 3.00am; it was always difficult to find a seat.
Thai bar girls went to the Thermae when they got off work at 2.00am; there were plenty of freelancers there, too. The men that went there were usually the die-hard Bangkok locals; literally this was the bargain basement of hookers.
Still and all, you could see some nice looking girls there, despite the older whores occsionally attacking the younger ones in the parking lot.
English Teacher M and I applied ourselves to some more Christmas Carlsberg; before too long he'd found himself a nice girl, and was ready to leave with her.
"I guess I'll just go home," I said, weary and, for all the second-hand smoke and stench in the Thermae, still recalling the strange smell that came from the Crazy girl's vagina.
I made one last glance around the dingy bar, and a little Thai girl suddenly latched onto me. She was cute, but a little pudgy by Thai standards.
"I don't know," I said to M. "I think my heart's not in it."
"Oh, man, look at her! Can you break her cute little heart? It's Christmas!"
I agreed and we went to a very cheap guest house nearby. This was was considerably grubbier than the Nana Guest House, but only cost about 50 bhat for an hour. It smelled of bug spray and had peeling paint on the bathroom walls.
We sat on the bed and snuggled a bit; we chatted. I remember she asked me how many Thai girls I'd been with, and I said I thought she was the 5th or 6th; she volunteered the information that I was about her 40th customer. She was very cheery, I remember, and I wasn't feeling too cheery as the dawn rolled around.
We undressed; I put my arm around her and felt that she had some kind of lump near the base of her spine. Tumor? Prehensile tail?
She was playing with my cock, and it was stirring slowly and crabbily to life.
She had her head on my chest and indicated my nipples. "Tomai?" she asked. I knew that meant "why" in Thai.
"Why do men have nipples? Now that's an ancient and difficult question, isn't it?" I babbled to no-one in particular.
She dug her tongue into my nipple and quickly administered a very firm and professional and extremely festive Christmas handjob.
"Jak wao" the Thai girls call it -- tugging the kite string.
Jack, wow! "Whew!" I said afterwards. "That was nice, thanks." And no lingering worries about diseases, unless I'd gotten bedbugs from the crappy room.
She beamed and hugged me very sweetly. I can't remember what I gave her, I think it was something like 300 bhat. ($12)
We took a tuk-tuk out of whatever hovel of a street we were on and I began making my slow and painful way across Bangkok back to my hotel, as the sun rose on the city.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!
(Amazingly, I was able to find this video on YouTube of the original Thermae's entrance area; it does not linger on the toilets, but you can see them.)
This is a website about the old Thermae, which closed in 1996; another bar with the same name opened up, but it lacks the subtle ambiance of the original.