Monday, July 8, 2013

One Night in Patpong

Patpong 1 Street During the Day

If one mentions Bangkok in the course of a conversation, there’s a pretty good chance that the word association of ‘prostitution’ will immediately be made in the minds of at least some, if not most, of the males within earshot; there is also a high likelihood that the chorus to Murray Head’s classic hit ‘One Night in Bangkok’ will also start playing in the heads of said males. Though Southeast Asia’s ‘City of Angels’ (‘Krung Thep Maha Nakhon’, or simply ‘Krung Thep’ in Thai) contains a number of red light districts, Patpong is perhaps Bangkok’s most famous (or some would say infamous) red light district.

The district, consisting of streets Patpong 1, Patpong 2 and Silom Soi 4, and bracketed by Silom Road and Surawong Road, was established as an entertainment center in the 1960’s catering to US servicemen during the Vietnam War; after the war, Patpong was sustained mainly by tourists seeking the sex shows that they’d always heard tales of, with local Thais tending to spend their money in the brothels, bath houses and massage parlors. At some point in its history, a night market was introduced along Patpong 1 to provide a bit of nighttime legitimacy and generate some family-friendly revenue, with rows of tarp-covered vendor stalls set up in the street from curb to curb between Silom Road and Surawong Road. It has been said that in recent years Patpong has been in the process of moving away from purely sex-based entertainment and more towards upscale clubs and live music venues.

I was able to able to sample a bit of Patpong during our first trip to Thailand back in 2003, both in the evening at a time when the night market and the bars were in full swing and Patpong is at its liveliest, and also during the subsequent day when it’s relatively lifeless, especially during the ‘dry period’ that (at the time) ran from late-morning to mid-afternoon, during which no alcohol could be sold. Even before my first trip to Southeast Asia in 2000, I had learned of the 1994 book ‘Patpong Sisters – An American Woman’s View of the Bangkok Sex World’ by Cleo Odzer, and was intrigued enough to buy a copy from Amazon. The book provided a somewhat dated primer on Patpong, so I had an idea of what to expect when I got there (including the part to be wary of rip-off bars); unfortunately, Odzer spent too much of the book recounting her love affair with a Thai tout, and not enough time on the nitty-gritty of what goes on in the bars. I will insert a disclaimer that, as a married man, I did not partake in any activities beyond having a couple of beers, buying a bar girl a couple of non-alcoholic beverages of her choosing, and tipping the said bar girl (with no physical compensation request nor expected) and the on-stage talent during their post-performance rounds through the audience.

Khaosan Road Bar Girl (Included for Reference due to Lack of Patpong Night Pictures)

We took separate cars as we drove in from one of Bangkok’s numerous suburbs, with the guys in one car and the ladies in another; my brother-in-law had advised me that I should leave the camera behind, as many of the bars would not let me bring it inside. We were lucky enough to find a parking spot on one of the sois (side streets) off of Silom Road several blocks away from Patpong 1, and made our way along the busy sidewalk that flanks Silom and the elevated tracks of Sky Train that occupies its median strip. As we neared Patpong 1 the sidewalk became busier, with people stopping to check out the goods of some assorted street vendors displayed on small folding tables, portable racks and leaning sheets of pegboard. We waited near the line of barricades and parked motorcycle taxis whose mounted drivers puffed cigarettes and waited for fares at the intersection of Silom and Patpong 1 for the ladies to show up before entering the night market. When they had at last arrived, we decided to follow them for a while as they browsed among the vendor stalls, after which we would leave them to do their shopping while we (my brother-in-law, a male Thai extended family member who would serve as our translator and local ‘fixer’ for our little adventure, and myself) would head off to check out one of the bars on Patpong 1.

The Patpong night market was busy the evening of our visit, more so than the Chiang Mai night market that I had been to earlier, and at times the aisles between the stalls got quite congested. Western tourist seemed to far number the Asian tourists and local Thai customers, and the din of the many negations and conversations in various languages at times competed with the bass-heavy sounds of music emanating from the various go-go bars. The market had a little something for everyone, with the offerings ranging from traditional Thai and ethnic minority hill tribe arts and handicrafts, hand-made jewelry, bargain-priced luggage and travelers’ accessories, cheap electronic and humorous printed Tee-shirts, to knock-off designer clothing and handbags, pirated movies, CD’s and software, and fake Rolex watches, with an assortment of food vendors on the perhipery.

It was an interesting juxtaposition seeing families strolling together and browsing through the goods displayed beneath fluorescent illumination in the rows of canopied vendors stalls that occupied the tarmac, while on the sidewalks seedy-looking touts beckoned and alluring Thai women in their mid-twenties dressed like short-skirted school girls (top blouse buttons un-done) flaunted and flirted as they tried to entice the wandering and gawking gentlemen in to check out their respective go-go bars. The opened doors of the go-go bars offered tantalizing views of sultry brown-skinned bikinied beauties with numbered badges dancing on the stages to the throbbing beats of dance music; venturing into cover-charged upstairs portion of some of the go-go bars, one could witness exhibitions of those feats of female anatomical skill that are often talked about.

We were not more than a couple of stalls deep into the market when my wife spotted an assortment of watches on display. She had heard tales of the counterfeit Rolex watches that can be had for cheap (which was the main reason she was excited about visiting the Patpong night market), but at a glance look to be the real thing. My wife looked for the particular fake Rolex that she wanted, but didn’t see any Rolex watches on display. My wife, together with a Thai extended family member who would be able to assist if the language barrier became an issue during the transaction, waved the vendor woman over and asked if she had any of the fake Rolex watches for sale. The woman told her that it’s actually illegal to sell counterfeit merchandise, but then after giving a couple of wary side-glances to make sure that no police officers were nearby, leaned in closer and asked my wife which fake Rolex model she was interested in. The vendor woman then beckoned the ladies to follow her back to a narrow secluded corridor formed between the draped sheets of tarpaulin cloth that separated her stall from the adjacent row of vendor stalls behind her; the illicit ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect of the pending transaction made it too intriguing to miss out on, so I followed the three back between the stalls.

The vendor next reached her arm back between two sheets of tarp and produced a somewhat crumpled brown paper sack; she unrolled the sack and hastily fished a watch out of it while looking warily over her shoulder and handed it to my wife. My wife inspected it and asked if she had one with a solid silver band instead of the two-toned model. The vendor woman felt around in the bag, pulled out another watch out of the bag just enough to be able to see the band, then put it back into the bag and fished around some more, all the while throwing wary glances back towards the opening of her hidden showroom. After three attempts she located the watch that my wife was looking for; after which we emerged from the stuff confines of the corridor and entered into the bargaining phase out in the public view, with my wife satisfied with the deal she was able to get.

At that point, we told the ladies that we would meet them at the intersection of Patpong 1 and Surawong Road in about an hour, and went our separate ways. Right off the bat, we were approached by a rather thuggish Thai tout whose slicked-back hair, scraggly mustache and goatee, pierced earring and black leather vest over a short-sleeve white T-shirt to show off his inked arms suggested that he was going for the ‘Southeast Asian Gangsta’ look, motioned to the go-go bar behind him and asked us if we wanted to go in for a look; our ‘fixer’ dismissed him with a wave of the hand and we continued on towards Surawong Road. As we walk, my brother-in-law told me that during his first visit to Patpong, he was taken to one of the upstairs bars where they featured live sex shows, in which a Thai man and women would have intercourse on the stage, running through a variety of positions during the performance; he then continued that such a performance was now (temporarily) strictly forbidden, given that Bangkok was hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at the time of our visit.

A bit further down the sidewalk, we came to a stop at a seemingly non-descript doorway set back a short distance from the face of the building. Our fixer told us to wait while he went in to talk to the person manning the door. A short while later, he reemerged and motioned for us to follow him through the door and upstairs; he added that he told them that he was a Thai businessman (true story, as he is, in fact, a businessman), and that we were customers that he was entertaining, so that we were able to enter the club without paying the normal cover charge. At the top of the stairs, we walked through another set of doors to the left and entered the bar. Though there was no obvious signage out front, we were told that the name of the bar was ‘Connection’; no doubt the bar has long since closed, if not the building totally gutted or raised and turned into some trendy bar and restaurant.

The general lighting inside was a bit dim and of a reddish-amber hue. Against the near wall to the right was a section of padded bench seating upon which three Thai girls in skimpy black bikinis with badges of white numbering set against a red background pinned at the left hip sat. There were a couple of booths that occupy the corner of the near wall and part of the right wall, which included a hallway dimly lit by reflected florescent light. The working part of the bar was in front of us, with shelves of liquor bottles and a few rows of stemmed wine and brandy glasses hanging above the bar. The bar counter extended to the left to accommodate a lengthy row of bar stool; behind the extended bar counter was the elevated performing stage, with steps at both ends for the girls to access the stage. To the left were some round tables and chairs big enough to accommodate two and some booths against the wall.

As a hostess led us to some vacant stool at the bar, six of the black bikinied and red-badged bar girls danced along the right side of the stage as rock music played on the house sound system. At the left end of the stage, a bottomless bar girl entered and walked to the front and stood before the audience with her legs spread moderately apart; as we settled into our stools and ordered our first Singha Beers, the girl on stage then performed her assigned ‘vaginal trick’. It involved extracting an exceedingly long string of fake flowers that appeared to be circles of thin white plastic folded and bunched such that, upon leaving said vagina, they expanded to take the form of small carnations (or would ‘lilies of the valley’ be more appropriate?) beneath the illumination of a black light above the stage, which I guess was a rather creative take on the concept of ‘de-flowering’ a girl. Despite the natural or developed talents of the girls and the obvious effort put into crafting and executing the performances, the tricks never quite manage to come off as sexy or erotic, but still managed to entertain given their novelty value (sort of a “Well, now; there’s something you don’t see a vagina doing everyday…”).

Within a minute of sitting down, and while the flowers were still blooming up on stage, two attractive Thai bar girls came up to me, one on each side, and began to simultaneously caress (in descending order) my neck, shoulders, arms and the tops of my thighs. I gave them both a friendly ‘Sawadee krap”, a smile and a wai (placing one’s palms and fingertips together with the fingertips brought up to lightly contact the face at just about nose level, and bowing slightly). They broke out in high-pitched giggles, and returned in unison my wai with a sweet and lilting harmony of “Sawadee kha!” They continued caressing me as my eyes returned to the stage to see the final arms’ length or so of flowers be harvested from the field (knowing full-well that the field would likely be plowed and seeded by early morning.)

The flower girl then gathered her stringed harvest and placed it in a tip box that she later carried through the audience, as the other girls on stage continued to dance through the end of the song; generally, at least some of the men in the audience would put a 10 or 20 Baht note into the box to show their appreciation for the performance. The hand of the bar girl on the top of my left thigh (Badge # 41, whose single-syllable nick-name I later learned was Bui; Thai women have a habit of adopting short, cute nick-names that they used instead of their often-long legal first names) began moving towards the inside of my thigh; as I was sitting with my legs together, she tried to slip her fingers down between them so that she could rotate her hand to cup my crotch, and finally said into my ear, “Spread legs; can’t reach…” I responded that she didn’t need to do that, as I was only here to check out the show, and nothing more. She respected my wishes and brought her hand back to the top of my thigh.

The next act on stage involved a girl opening a soda bottle with her vagina, with the uncapping process dramatically prolonged and timed so that the cap didn’t come off until two-thirds of the way through the song, after which the girl poured the contents of the bottle into a glass that she had with her. It was during this performance the Bui tapped me on my left arm to get my attention, and then pointed in turn to herself, to me, and to the girl to my right, and finally pointed upwards with a devilish grin, then leaned closer to my ear and said, “We go upstairs now for s*** and f***?” The question took me a bit by surprise; my gaze shifted from Bui to the girl on my right, who stood grinning and gave me a little nod of encouragement, then turned back to Bui, who maintained her devilish grin while awaiting my answer. With a sigh and a smile, I politely declined the generous and very intriguing offer, figuring that even just refusing offer of a ménage à trios with two sexy Thai bar girls would make for a good story to tell the guys back at work. Shortly after that, the girl sitting to the right tapped me on the shoulder to distract me from the stage and, by bulging her cheek with her tongue and forming a circle with her thumb and index figure, which she moved back and forth repeatedly in front of her open mouth, pantomimed yet another offer of servicing, then pointed her finger upwards with a smile. After receiving yet another polite refusal from me, she walked away from the bar and approached a small group of men that had just entered the bar. It was as she was walking away that I noticed that my brother-in-law and Thai relative had taken their beers and wandered off, though they had both probably already seen enough of the shows and had no reason to sit ring-side for yet another one. I glanced back to Bui, who beamed up at me with a sweet smile as she nuzzled a bit closer and playfully rubbed and patted my thigh in feigned affection; I bought her a drink (she ordered a glass of Coke) and we continued to watch the evening’s entertainment unfold.

The follow-up act involved a girl slowly extracting from her vagina a long string containing about two dozen extra-large needles that looked as though they would be used to mend a fisherman’s net, tied off in roughly 4” increments; she squatted with her crotch directed towards the left-front corner of the stage, so that as each needle emerged eyelet-first from the labia, the audience could see it swing down to the vertical, causing the ever-lengthening string of needles to sway (presumably for dramatic effect.)  Next, a girl came out on the stage and similarly squatted with her legs spread to the audience. As the stage lights dimmed slightly and a black light came on, the girl inserted two fingers into her vagina and extracted about 4 inches of what looked to be thin opaque white tape. Using her thumbs and index fingers and a hand-over-hand motion, she proceeded to spool out perhaps 20 feet of glowing white tape like a human ticker-tape machine.

Seeing as how Bui had chosen to continue sitting with me instead of going off to find a guy who would pay her bar fine and take her back to his hotel for a much better return on her night of work, I figured it would be appropriate to tip her; when I politely presented the 100 Baht note to her with two hands, she smiled playfully and partially pulled down the left cup of her bikini top, and indicated by pointing downward with her pursed lips that she wanted me to slip the note between her breast and the bikini cup. As we sat back on our bar stool while the next perform was preparing to take the stage, I asked Bui if she performed any of the vagina tricks; she replied that, no, she was one of the girls that only danced during the performances, and that it was almost time for her to dance for a set of several songs.

At that moment, the sounds of synthesizer and string ensemble began fade in on the sound system, which brought Bui to attention and put the hint of a smile on her face, which broadened as the familiar bass riff to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” began. As the drums and talk-box guitar joined in, Bui began nodding her head in time to the music, then followed the beat of the song by first drumming with a single palm on the bar counter, and then with alternating palms as she really started getting into it. Her enthusiasm for the song was infectious, and I soon found myself nodding along to the rhythm and tapping out the beat on the bar counter. Up on stage, a girl held the non-pyrotechnic ends of two sparklers angled slightly apart with her vagina, and was attempting to ignite the sparklers with lighter. Once she got them going, she worked her hips in time to the music and created streak-like arcs in the air with the brightly-burning tips of the sparklers, and raised the concern that a wayward spark could have ignite a pubic forest fire. I glanced over to Bui, who was bobbing and shaking her head as she drummed on the bar counter and sang along to the chorus with reckless abandon. Granted, the Patpong bar girls are masterful manipulators of the male ego, and are virtuosos at plucking strings for pay, but witnessing her display of joy over a Bon Jovi song gave her a sort of innocence that came off as endearing.

The next girl to take the stage carried with her a square wooden props/tips box that contained a drinking glass, three ping pong balls and a tube assumed to contain lubricant. I figured that I would soon be seeing vaginally-launch ping pong balls flying through the air, perhaps with someone in the audience given a paddle and asked to return her serve in a friendly game of ‘Patpong Ping Pong’. The girl took the ball and the tube from the prop box and proceeded to apply some lubricant to each of the balls and distribute it over the surfaces with her fingers. She then took the drinking glass and positioned it on the floor in front of her. With her legs slightly apart, she brought her knees together and squatted until the top of her thighs was at about a 45° angle to the floor, and appeared to sight down her legs to check her alignment with the glass. With the setup of the trick complete, she then began her performance by spreading her legs, inserting a ping pong ball in her vagina; bringing her legs together, she slowly push the ball out by using muscle control (much like a hen laying an egg), settled it into the trough formed by her joined thigh, and made it roll off her legs and into the drinking glass. She was ‘three for three’ by the end of her performance, which came off as a bit anti-climactic; personally, I would have preferred to see her shooting the ping pong balls for height and distance, instead of just dribbling them.

Near the end of the ping pong action, Bui told me that it was going to be her turn to dance and stage next, and that she would have to leave now. To show my appreciation for her time and hospitality, I offered her another 100 Baht note. Rather than having me place it in her bikini top, she tucked her thumbs beneath the waistband of her bikini bottom and rotated them downwards, exposing the upper portion of her closely-groomed Bermuda Triangle. “You put here…” She said with a playful grin. I thanked her for sitting with me and gave her a parting wai, which she returned with a giggle, and then gave me a quick hug and peck on the cheek before hurrying off to the right side of the stage. Just about the time that Bui left, the ping pong girl began to make her rounds of the left side of the stage; I flagged her down and added a 20 Baht note to the collection of other well-worn and sweat-dampened notes, a half tube of lubricate and three gleaming ping pong balls in a grease-smudged glass.

The was a brief lull in the action as the stage dancers stood waiting for the next performance set to begin, as the rock music on the sound system continued to play at a level perhaps a notch or two below ‘performance volume’. Bui was second from the left in the dancer line and chatted animatedly with the girl to her right. During a break in the conversation, Bui scanned the audience and when she saw me, she smiled at me then excitedly turned to her right and tapped the girl next to her arm, and pointed me out. Bui, already giggling at that point, gave me a very respectful wai; when I returned the gesture, the other dancers all started cracking up; yes, the laugh was at my expense, but it was all in the name of ‘sanuk’ (having fun). For the next act, a girl came out on the stage with two cigarette held side-by-side between her fingers and a lighter; she held them to her mouth to get them lit, and then squatted towards the audience. She placed her left hand behind her so that she was able to arc her back and thrust her pelvis upward to afford everyone a clearer view; she took a final puff of the two cigarettes and then placed the filtered tips into her vagina and, by contracting (or relaxing?) her muscles, was able to produce bright cherries on both cigarettes. She did this multiple time, and as the lengths of the ashes could be seen growing, I thought I would inject a bit of humor and picked up a nearby ashtray, which I then held up as if to offer it to her; apparently the performer and at least a few of the dancers (including Bui) got the joke, because they burst out laughing when they saw it. It’s all about the sanuk, right?

The next act was by far the most impressive (and a-peeling) of that night in Patpong, and made the visit all the more fruitful. The bottomless girl came out onto the stage with a large yellow banana that appeared to be at a level of ripeness where it would still be firm. My first thought was that her performance would simple be to demonstrate her ability to fit most, if not all, of the banana into her vagina. To my surprise, she peeled the banana and broke it into roughly two equal lengths. She laid on her back and, by supporting herself with her feet and a hand at the base of her spine, arched her back and raise her pelvis, such that her vagina was pointing directly up. She then appeared to relax a bit and inserted one of the banana halves into her vagina to its full length, settled into position and then abruptly slapped the opened palm of her free hand between her navel and her solar plexus, was able to shoot it up to about three or four feet in the air…and then caught the banana piece on the way down! She repeated the feat with the second half of the banana, and achieved a height of closer to four or five feet (in my estimation), and again caught it! Given the difference in weight between a ping pong ball and a banana section, in my book the peeled half-banana should replace the ping pong ball as the unofficial mascot of Patpong.

If the banana launch was the most impressive performance of the evening, then the award  for the most whimsical performance of the evening goes (envelope, please)…’P**** Write Letter’. I know, vaginal penmanship is not a very marketable skill especially in this economy, but the performance had ‘sanuk’ written all over it. The girl that performed the routine seemed to be a perfect match for the task at hand; the other performers had a general similarity in build (slim and toned), facial features and hair color/styles, and a somewhat coolness or reserved nature in their conveyed stage personalities; this girl stood out from the others not only physically (a bit short & chubby, full-faced, hair permed, dyed some unnatural color and highlight-streaked), but also in the decidedly jolly, outgoing, bawdy and fun-loving nature of her stage personality that came across in spades. She strutted out onto the stage bottomless with a prop/tip box that contained partial roll of toilet paper, a couple of black Magic Markers, and a couple of letter-sized pieces of paper rolled to fit within the box, with a piece of cardboard to act as backing for the paper. I could tell from her body language that she was looking to engage the audience on a one-on-one level and inject a bit of raunchy humor into the routine (a sort of Thai take on burlesque) and she seemed to be looking at me right from the start. “You! You! I write letter for you, okay?!” She stood at the edge of the stage and pointed to me over the head of a bartender that was wiping down my section of counter; her voice had a husky quality that suggested many conversations shouted in order to compete with the bar’s sound system, or a penchant for cigarettes and Hong Tong Whisky shots. “I write letter for you…okay?!” “Okay, you write letter for me…” I replied.

She took some steps back from the edge of the stage to give her some working room and placed the backing cardboard and a sheet of paper on the floor in my line of view. She took one of the Magic Markers out and wrapped a small length of toilet paper around the end of it. She took the cap off the pen and positioned herself over the center of the paper, then partially squatted to insert the toilet paper-sheathed end of the pen into her vagina. She squatted deeper until the felt tip of the pen just lightly touched the paper at the desired point. By carefully coordinating the translation and rotation of the paper with the graceful swiveling of her pelvis she proceeded to pen my letter. At one point during the performance, she appeared to stop and appraise her work, then adjusted the position of the paper and got back to writing.

At the end of the performance, she came directly over with her prop/tip box in hand, beaming with pride in the quality of her own work, to present me with my letter, “See?! See?! I write letter for you! See?! You see?! I even draw p**** for you!” Sure enough, in reasonable cursive writing were the words ‘Welcome to Patpong’ above and to the left of a decidedly ‘freehand’ drawing of a vagina topped with a tuft of pubic hair. I thanked her for her ‘letter of welcome’ and tipped her 50 Baht. I knew at the time that there was very little likelihood that I could catch any STD’s from touching a potentially contaminated piece of paper bare-handed (and I didn’t bring any rubber finger cots with me), but just to be on the safe side I left the paper on the counter, and hoped that she wouldn’t be offended if she came across it before the end of her shift. Looking back, I should have brought the letter back with me (perhaps grasping it by the corners with bar napkins?), as it would have been a very interesting conversation piece to frame or put in a scrapbook.

As the next act walked out, the stage lights dimmed and the black lights came on, and when the plastic flowers again began to bloom in the valley I figured that the bar would probably recycle the same sequence of performances that I had just seen. At that same time, my brother-in-law and Thai relative walk up and also suggested that we had seen all of the performances that were on the evening’s menu, and that we should go out and meet up with the ladies on the Surwong Road sided of Patpong 1, as our stated one hour had already ended some twenty minutes ago; thankfully, the ladies didn’t even mention our tardiness.

The Bangkok Snake Farm. It was closed for a national holiday, but the staff will let you in anyway if you give them enough money. Yes, that is a venomous viper, and they do have anti-venom handy if something bad happens.

Erawan Shrine

I would have another brief sample of Patpong the following afternoon. My wife was going on a fabric buying expedition with our Bangkok hosts, which did not sound interesting to me. As their first stop was going to be near the south end of downtown, I had them drop me off near the west end of Silom Road in the vicinity of the Mama Umi Devi Temple. Starting from there, I would spend from late morning to late afternoon on foot exploring that part of downtown. I planned on lunch and a couple of beers in Patpong before checking out the Bangkok Snake Farm, then pass through Lumphini Park and head up Ratchadamri Road to Arawan Shrine, then just wander as the spirit moved me until late afternoon, when I would to a taxi to Makro Bangbon Supermarket to meet back up with my wife and our hosts.

Rounding the corner at Silom and Patpong 1 and having the memories of the prior night still fresh in my head, I was surprised how drab and boring the street looked when the bright multicolored neon lighting of the night is replaced with the dull light cast by an overcast early afternoon sky, and the entrances of the go-go bars are encased in steel rollup doors and shrouded by extended sections of padlocked steel gating. Outside of a few odd vendor cart doing scant business and some deliveries being made, not much was happening on the street. I hung a right at Surawong and then walked back along Patpong 2, which I had not visited the nigh before. The setting was pretty much the same as it was  on Patpong 1. I figured that I’d grab a beer at one of the opened bars and consider my options for lunch. I walked over to one on the left side of the street that had a narrow curbside patio in front with two Thai women idling behind the bar counter. When I ordered a Singha Beer, to my surprise they told me no, and explained that we were still in the late-morning to mid-afternoon dry period when alcohol couldn’t be sold to the public. I had encountered this type of public alcohol law in London back in 1985, and thought that it was stupid back then. (I would later encounter another one of Thailand’s stupid public alcohol laws during a one-day layover in Bangkok in December of 2007, when I could not get the shot of Mekong Whisky and Singha Beer that I wanted because there was an election in process and liquor sales are banned during the voting period, and the law applies to EVERYONE, not just Thai Nationals.)

Not getting the beer I wanted, I decided to head over to Silom Road where I remembered seeing a KFC restaurant (I really liked the spicy chicken strips that they sold in Thailand at the time). As I walked a ways along Patpong 2, I was approached by what may have been a retired bar girl or perhaps a current ‘bar auntie’ or street prostitute. She looked to be in her 60’s, but dressed like a ‘working girl’ in her early to mid-twenties; she wore a low-cut top that bundled and uplifted her amble bust and resulted in a prominent wrinkled cleavage that was eye-catching for all the wrong reasons, with age-inappropriately tight faded denim jeans, high heels and too much makeup over too heavy a base of foundation that failed to effectively cover the ravages of time. That being said, she seemed friendly enough when she stopped to engage me in a bit of small talk, during which I learned that she had been in Patpong for a long time and has a son who lives here in Bangkok. She then told me about a bar that I should check out that was located just up the street; I responded that I had already check out a bar in that direction, and as we were still in the ‘dry period’ there wouldn’t be much use checking out a bar, but ended up giving her a non-committal ‘maybe later’ before we parted company.

I made my KFC run and got my spicy chicken fix in the form of a sandwich with a Pepsi in lieu of a beer, and headed back along Patpong 2 in the direction of Surawong, which I would follow to get to the Snake Farm. About midway along its length, I again met with the bar auntie. She asked if I would check out the bar she wanted to show me. There was still over an hour left to go in the dry period, but I figured okay, why not just humor her? She led the way, telling me it’s just up ahead; of course, it turned out to be the place that I first stopped at in search of beer. When I mention this to the bar auntie, she says that I have to go inside through the door to the left of the bar counter to really check the place out. The two girls I had seen earlier at the bar seem to know her as we walked up, which made me think that she had some stake in the place or perhaps did some part-time touting for them; one of the girls behind the counter said something in Thai to the bar auntie and came around to opened the door for me.

I entered what looked to be the anteroom of a massage parlor or brothel (which can be one in the same), where ten or so girls in heavy makeup and typical  bar/street girl attire stood together in the corner of the room throwing seductive smiles and poses to a solo Western male tourist, who looked over the group with what appeared to be apprehension and suspicion written all over his face, as a middle-aged mama-san did her best to coax him to pick one of the girls and head off into one of the back rooms. There was an awkward silence as he seemed to struggle at a decision, but then renewed suspicion, followed by anxiety, agitation and angry seemed to wash over him as he abruptly turned and stormed out of the room. The girls and the mama-san then turned their attention to me. The mama-san asks if I want to pick a girl, and I told her no, that I was just here to check the place out and nothing more. One of the girls in the front, slender with long legs clad in tight faded jeans, stepped forward and gazed up at me with her almond eyes, and after a few seconds of solid eye contact between us, I felt her hand cup my groin; caught by surprise, I stepped back and shook my head, saying, “Uh…That’s okay”, letting her know that I wasn’t interested. “What you mean ‘that okay’?” she asked. “I’m only here to look” I responded. Things started to get awkward, and the vibe just didn’t feel right in the place; it then dawned on me that the girls in front of me might actually be post-op (or even pre-op) lady boys, and that this place might be a katoey brothel or massage parlor (something that one would expect to find on Silom Soi 4, a.k.a. Patpong 3), and I decided that it was time to move on to the Snake Farm.

My brief sample of Patpong proved to be both interesting and memorable, with some of those memories coming back during my viewing of The Hangover Part II (especially given the cell phone photos that appear in the closing credits). Perhaps next time I’m in Bangkok I’ll have to do a brief sample of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.

I don’t know where Bui (#41) is today, but I hope she’s doing well and wish her the best.

For more on Thailand, see my more recent post: Bangkok's Khaosan Road, and Temple Ruins in Ayutthaya - Part I: A Khaosan Road State of Mind

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed you let them put a venomous viper around you! No chance I would do that. here is my own feel about a night Patpong btw
    adventure in PatPong- a night at the S+M show hope you enjoy too.