Bangkok, Thailand, Travels

Blowing the Budget

In the evening, I decided to check out a bar that Ethan had recommended. The Woodstock is located in the Nana Entertainment Complex, which is full of titty bars and their ilk. It helps develop discipline to walk through throngs of pretty girls and avoid eye contact, shrugging off the aggressive few that grab your wrist, insisting you come in. Well, you know, I’m tough.

The Woodstock was nice and chill. I watched some pool-playing, sipped some beer, and exchanged smiles with a pair of pretty girls. When I saw that the one girl sucked, I took her up on her offer to join in a game of pool. I ordered another beer, and the girls added “and two Heinekens.” My impression was that I was now treating them to beer. Fair enough, such is the way of the world between a gentleman with a few baht and the honeys.

I lost both games. I really suck at pool. I think the wait staff were looking out for me, because when I paid for the pool games, there were no Heinekens on my bill. I settled up and wandered toward Q, on the idea that I shouldn’t spend any more than the 1,000 baht I had budgeted for the day, of which I had about 200 left, after 500 for the room, and 200 at the bar. (At around 42:1, 1,000 baht is just under $25, 500 baht is $12.50, and 100 baht is under $2.50.)

Walking down the street, I was approached by, among others, an older, very skanky-looking prostitute, desperate to offer me anything. I said “no thanks,” and kept going. She took my arm, then started grabbing my thigh.

I became extremely conscious of my wallet, wedged in my left-front pocket, far from her attentions. My camera was locked in the safe in my hotel room, leaving nothing of value in my right-front pocket. Her pawing did not excite me, and seemed non-threatening, I kept my mind on my money and picked up speed to shake her off.

She broke off after a few paces, and then I recalled my right-rear pocket, where I keep the day’s “spending money” separated from my wallet. I may well have forgotten to button that pocket at the bar, and at any rate, I found that my pocket had been relieved of a little over 200 baht. I turned around, and then turned around again: even if I did find her, what was I going to do about it? No, all is fair in Bangkok and for $5 I wasn’t going to raise a fuss. Judging by her looks, she needed the cash bad enough, and I’d already kissed it goodbye when the girls ordered the Heinekens. That cash was destined to part with me for a lady tonight, and now it was done.

Q had more folks than Monday, and the gender ratio was less in my favor. As all the tables were claimed, I sat down next to a group of ladies and ordered a beer. The music was good, so the evening became all about the dance. Felt good.

There were a fair number of pushy men on the dance floor, and not enough women who were interested, which made it feel more like California. I behaved myself, because I like to dance around the ladies, and if there’s another guy who is pushy they can squeeze over my way and enjoy themselves.

I exchanged glances, nods, and smiles with a lovely young lady with a round face, a white skirt, and a sparkly pink blouse. She spent as much time dancing as I did. We spent the latter part of the evening dancing near each other. When it came time to leave, I told her that I’d love to go dancing with her again, and we exchanged e-mail addressen.

After that, I ran into Toffee again. She wandered off to chill with her girlfriend and when the place closed at 2AM, I went over to chat with her a little more. When I stepped outside, a white guy, a Finnish exchange student named Ari, asked did I want to split a cab over to this other place he knew that was open ’til 5? I was good to go, but who can trust a Finnish exchange student? For good measure, I invited Toffee and her friend along.

We found our way over to Tony’s, which is a big night club that was closed except for a little Karaoke bar upstairs. We got a table in the corner, and I wandered off to answer nature’s call. When I got back, the girls had each taken receipt of tall, blue, fancy-looking mixed drinks, and Ari had a bottle of Heineken, which he recommended because it was cheap, so I ordered one too.

The waiter showed up with a bill of over 800 B. This seemed like an awful lot of money, I figured the girls’ drinks were pretty expensive. The waiter stood between Ari and me and insisted we pay up. Ari threw in his last few baht, and I threw in the remainder of my 1,000, and we were still a few baht short, so Toffee’s friend chipped in.

Now, this totally blew my short-term budget, which made me a little apprehensive. I chalk it up to cultural differences that I wound up paying for those drinks. According to my research, the Thai have a strong notion of social hierarchy, and the “higher” person in the group bears the most responsibility for the bill. From what I’d read, as I was the oldest, malest, foreignest, wealthiest member of our group, that was pretty much my bill to cheerfully pay, even if it made me broke. Ari did his part too. Only then do we start leaning on the girls. The waiter figured that if we were running around in male-female pairs, that the guys were naturally paying, and the girls wouldn’t want us to lose face by offering to pony up. It doesn’t look good if someone who is doing well has to go knocking up his poorer friends for cash. Oh well.

In retrospect, it is also entirely possible that the waiter was scamming us as well. This too is not inconsistent with cultural expectations.

We got to talking, and it turns out that Ari knew the gal I had been dancing with. He explained that Dee was mad at him, because she’d caught him sleeping with one of her friends while dating another. He told me she had a boyfriend, and I said I wasn’t interested in such things. He offered to share her number with me from his cell phone, but I declined, on the theory that if people want me to call them, they will give me the number themselves.

Toffee sang. Toffee sings wonderfully and it is something to hear “I Will Survive” rendered by a lovely woman with a beautiful voice that handles English as a foreign language. She sang more English pop and a few Thai songs, including a duet with her girlfriend. I did a not horrible “Country Roads” and Ari was excused on account of his lost voice.

It blew my mind that a great many of the songs are subtitled in Thai, with English approximations of their syllables. Accurate transliteration of Thai into English is impossible without tonal diacritics, and a drunk fàràng with a microphone trying to keep pace with the rhythm strikes me as an awfully bizarre source of entertainment. Just what are the karaoke people thinking?

It was past five and time to get home. The boys were broke and we were all far from home. Ari revealed his resourcefulness by producing the 100 baht note he hides in a shoe for just such circumstances. He went his way and the girls took me in their cab to my hotel. Toffee mused over the “Sex Tourists Not Welcome” sign, and opened her door to give me a goodnight kiss. Her tongue, which I had encountered the night before, led me to wonder if she wished to be invited in. “Only ten more days ’til I leave for Manchester,” she’d said earlier. The lobby was not locked, and I picked the morning paper off the step and gave it to the guy at the front desk. He woke up and gave me my key. I was to bed at 6AM. It didn’t even feel late.

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Categories: Bangkok, Thailand, Travels