Have you ever woken up in the morning and it’s not? It’s clearly, albeit somewhat foggy, night? The Little Drummer Boy is making like John Bonham and playing Moby Dick on your frontal lobe? Have you ever woken up in your own bed, but it’s not? You’re clearly, albeit somewhat foggily, in Bangkok? It must have been the eggnog, ya? When your last clear memory is sitting in Chili’s in Calcutta eating chicken wings… Then wham, bam, thank you ma’am…Merry Christmas from Thailand……what to do, what to do, what to do? Suck it up, grab a shower and go to the night market, dude!
Alright, I wasn’t exactly shanghaied, but the decision to flee India for Christmas and wade hip deep into…how did Leslie Chow put it?…”Holla Holla! City of Squala!” Bangkok, was made somewhat hastily; perhaps a wee bit recklessly, even by Wandering Hippy standards. No matter, we were here now and our hotel was quite literally across the street from the most notorious red light district in Asia, Patpong. The legendary Patpong District that is, the one that sprung to life for US service men during the Vietnam conflict and has grown to mythical status! It even has a cameo in a James Bond movie! Oddly, the red light district is linked to, or rather, mingled in with the Patpong Night Market. I suppose this gives respectable tourists and sightseers a legitimate and reputable destination location. Something they can tell the Tuk Tuk driver without shame. Whereas I, on the other hand, didn’t give a shit; I just wanted to see The Bada Bing and meet Ladyboys…I’d obviously given up on the kinder, gentler side of my nature for this trip. This is Bangkok, and I am not going home with weak ass memories and stories about snake shows and “Oh oh, I rode an elephant”….I CAN RIDE ELEPHANTS AT HOME!
Right then, shower, cologne (yes even the pimps and B girls appreciate a little musk) and dressed like a playa, I grabbed the princess bride caveman style and dragged her to the lobby of the hotel.
After all, I was only allowed to begin my odyssey into the sweet and spicy underbelly of Bangkok’s carnal abyss…… if I was chaperoned….besides, she had all the money. Looking back, that was a good call on her part. No need for a taxi, we were already there; but we did anyway. Literally took a Tuk Tuk from one side of the street to the other! He thought we were insane; I thought we were simply filled with Christmas spirit of giving…and over indulgence. We started at the top, straight away down Soi Patong 1. First off, I found the night market stalls quite distracting; boots and wallets, socks and tee-shirts, throw pillows and paper lanterns??? Not really what I was here to see. The constant interruption of Mrs. R asking my opinion on or pointing out the novelty of different tourist items was interfering with my leering and ogling.
But once you got past the retail, there were leather hot pant clad women and Santa’s helpers and naughty nurses, and school girl uniforms, and cop uniforms, and stewardess uniforms, and dominatrix bondage leather suit….things!
Clearly the concept of less is more has been fully embraced here! A veritable cornucopia of different characters wandering about, in and out of the side walk bars. The Safari, The Kings Corner, The Kings Castle (Ladyboys), The Silver Star, The High Bar……Eye contact was being deliberately sought by all of the above mentioned participants and if it was made, an immediate sexy smile and a ” Sawasdee Ka ” followed. I had done my homework and knew the lay of the land
. “Sawasdee Krub, just looking” is the correct response. “Okay, maybe later?” they would reply. Never ever say “Okay. Maybe”….they will find you, they will pester you, they don’t ever forget. Best to say “No, don’t think so” and move on. There are no hard feelings in Bangkok.
Mrs. R seemed completely unaffected by the exposed flesh and sexuality dripping all around us. It’s not like it was all women; there was beefcake for her eyes too! Yet it seemed she really did want to SHOP!
Browsing at various stalls, chatting with the shop keeps, looking at purses and wooden trinkets!I was in awe. How amidst this playground of adult delight and delicacies could she be looking at bamboo paper towel dispensers? Our kitchen was the furthest thing from my mind! (Except for maybe the whipped cream we had in the fridge) It was obvious there was a difference of opinion regarding the important items worthy of wandering here in Patpong. There was a glaring discrepancy between us in the priority order of things to experience! A cross wired TO DO LIST! With a deep sigh, I ruefully submitted and followed her lead…..to shop….from stall to stall…drifting ever farther away from the pounding hypnotic melodies of the go go bars….calling to me in the fading distance like sirens sweetly singing….
I will admit, the shopping was fun once I fully engaged. I purchased the obligatory “I heart Bangkok” t-shirt and OH JOY, I
finally found the skull motorcycle buff (that is featured in many Wandering Hippy Pictures) I had been lusting after. ‘Twas to be a Merry Christmas after all! There was stall after stall of crafts and candles, wooden elephants and bamboo calendars. There were scads of oils, lotions and potions, incense and spices to your heart’s content. The market was actually very good, not filled with cheap junk (there was some of course, it IS a tourist area) but with plenty of items you may actually want to purchase and take home. The clothing was of good quality and reasonably priced; even the electronics seemed somewhat genuine (wink wink). After my fill of participating in the consumer market, I quickly sunk into a child like funk. Dragging my feet and whining non committal comments to all of Mrs. R’s queries. After a time she relented with a smirk and asked…”What’s wrong? You want to go back to the electric sex avenue?” I perked up immediately and smiled all over my adolescent face. “Only if you want to, darling”………
It was decided we would grab some street meat (the food type) on the way back to the heart of seedyville. It was getting late and if the rest of the evening’s planned frivolities came to fruition, we would need sustenance! Besides, eating in a go go bar isn’t overly appealing to me….everything tastes like fish. In Canada, your average street meat cart contains hot dogs and Italian sausage; In India, samosas or dosa; in Thailand….wow, take your pick. There were full meals being served up in a vast array of preparation and presentation. What are you after? Chicken, pork, beef ….fish, it was all here with plenty of vegetables for accompaniments and fruit for dessert. In all honesty, I dunno what I ate, but it was bloody good. Despite warnings not to eat any street food more than two blocks from your hotel (within safe washroom dash distance), we threw caution to the wind and PIGGED OUT. So good…oh god, so good. I feel no pity or remorse for those with nut allergies, not when I am scarfing down Pad Thai noodles in peanut sauce, or Kaolat crusted snapper, or frog…or something, with jasmine rice. Never had I enjoyed such cuisine from a street cart. More indulgence! Okay then, tummy full, we were committed to heading back to electric ladyland.
The most abundant and annoying thing in Patpong are the pimps. They swarm around like taxi drivers at the New Delhi Airport. They wave laminated menu cards in your face and keep telling you “It’s free to look, free to look”. This, by the way is a flat out lie; nothing is free in Patpong. The Ping Pong Show, The Blowing Candle Show, The Writing Show, The Balloon Show, The Magic Flower Show, The Drink Water Show…..too many to list. These aren’t even the featured attractions…..sincerely, it can get weird, be warned. It is not for the prudish or faint of heart.
Alright, all joking and storytelling aside for a moment, if you are heading to Bangkok and are going to nose around in the red light districts, whether to sample or just for a peek-a-boo experience…DO YOUR RESEARCH. There are rules and etiquettes to follow : never go to an upstairs go go bar, never drink open beer, never follow a pimp, how to enter a bar, how to exit a bar, bar fines, dealing with the Mama-San, Lady Drinks, Lady BOYS, you are “Farang” whether you’re a Jao choo or a Kee niu …learn before you go. I could list a ton of things here, but truthfully, I’m having way too much fun just telling this story.
After māk deliberation (and a quick stint in the Badda Bing…pricy), we settled on our show palace of choice and entered through a sea of drunken merry makers and chirping B girls. Let’s not paint this for anything other than what it is…. You’re not taking the kids and grandma here, but there are couples in abundance, men and women, old and young. Hmm, maybe grandma would enjoy a night on the town! It was a darkly lit, smoky room, with tinsel and glitter and flashing lights. The music was loud and the mood was…..err, chipper. Okay, it was horny, everyone was horny or at least pretending to be. The waitress brought our 110 Baht beer; okay, a little costly, but hey, it was a nice place and we settled deep into the soft Santa red plush sofa almost stage side.
We had arrived mid-menu, so luckily, all the support shows were over. We were entering feature territory now. I won’t recount the things we saw, and said, and did from this point on. They are not for public consumption and I believe in some cases, actionable. But I will say, it was near ecstasy watching the reactions of my princess bride. Observing her unceremoniously ride a wild roller coaster of emotion was priceless. The best Christmas gift ever! Astonishment, amazement, bewilderment, admiration and awe…she laughed, she cried….she drank A LOT of beer. The wide eyed wonderment of it, like a child on Christmas morning… I saw it all…AND a ping pong show BONUS! Ahh, The Ping Pong Show……we had arrived back at the top of the menu and a fitting climax it was! My wife’s mouth hung agape with the stunned realization that a ping pong ball had been fired deliberately at her and had subsequently bounced off her leg and almost landed in her beer….it was then we decided to make our exit, There was some codling and quiet reassurance required following the incident. Hair stroking and strong hugs to combat the shaky whimpers of “…it hit me….she fired it AT me and it hit me”…..”There, there love, it’s all over, it was just a show….” . Baa humbug, a couple of minutes later with another beer consumed and a stout slap on the ass, she was right as rain!
We strolled arm in arm in the general direction of the hotel, through the alternative lifestyle district where a ladyboy called out to Mrs. R in congratulations for landing a Farang for long time. She was pissed at first, but eventually laughed it off; because hey, in a way it’s true. We marveled how, even amidst the sex shows and bars, the feeling of Christmas still shone through; a true testament to the purity of the season.
As the sun began nipping at the horizon and the midnight blue melted into a dawnish pink, we stumbled back to our room to get some sleep. After all, we had to be up and in the lobby forty five minutes from this very moment…..to catch the bus for the floating market ….yawn………………Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night.