Entry #25: One night in Bangkok. . .

WARNING: PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

"You're talking to a tourist whose every move's among the purest.
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble.
Can't be to careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me..."

-One Night in Bangkok by Murrayhead [A one hit wonder 80's band]

Bangkok has not disappointed in giving me a few stories to tell. But before I get to the stories, I must disclaim that what follows are the only "bad experiences" (they weren't bad in the scheme of things), I've experienced in Bangkok and Thailand. The rest of my time here has been wonderful.  The people are extraordinarily friendly and warm.

On to the stories!

As always, the taxi drivers are an obstacle in every city that has tourists. Bangkok is no exception, but the taxi hassles are unique to Bangkok.  I wanted to take a tuk-tuk (a 3 wheel bike that is essentially an open air taxi) as opposed to a regular cab car, to the seedy part of town to see the masses of prostitutes that are world famous.

A disclaimer: I was going to visit the area as it is listed in the guide books as one of the "must see" sights in Bangkok.  The sex industry here makes Bangkok unique from any other city in the world.  Think the Red Light district in Amsterdam or the French Quarter in New Orleans or Las Vegas after dark.  I in no way had any intention of engaging in any type "relations" with the hundreds, if not thousands of prostitutes that roam the streets and bars of Bangkok. It was purely a sight seeing venture... a look but don't touch or be touched scenario.

Back to the story. I'm approached by a driver who asks, "Where are you going?"  

"Are you a tuk tuk driver?"

"Where are you going?"  

"Listen, if your not a tuk-tuk driver I won't go with you, because I want to take a ride with a tuk-tuk driver."

"Yes, I'm a tuk tuk driver. Where are you going?"

"I want to go to Sukumvit Road"

"No, you don't want to go there." he says with emphasis.

"No, really I do," I said with as much emphasis.

"No, too many lady boys there" (I think he meant transvestites...I'm not sure...he might have meant boys dressed as women)

"I'm pretty sure I would have read that in the guide book"

"You want girl? Because I get you a good clean girl"

"No, I don't want a girl...I just want you to drive me to Sukumvit Road so I can walk around"

"Girls there are dirty...they will slip a drug in your drink and take all your money!"

"I'm sure they have some unpleasant diseases, but I'm not going to take any back to my hotel and I'm not even going to have a drink for them to slip something into. :: frustrated:: Now can you take me to Sukumvit road or not?"

Picking up on my frustration, the driver says, "Yes we go there...what is your name?
Where are you from?"

In a in a cold heartless tone:: "Sean.  America"

The driver, now jovial, says, "My name is (place something Thai here).  I lived in America for 6 years and owned a Thai restaurant in Reno...Have you been?"

I give him a smart ass quip, "I don't know... what's the name of your restaurant?"

"(Place a thai restaurant name here) on Carson ave"

"No, I've never been"

"Do you need a suit?"

"What?"

"A suit. My friend a tailor .I get you a good price on a Thai suit...very nice...very good"

"NO! No shopping.  No girls.  I just want you to take me to Sukimvit Road...point A to B...here to there, can you do that?"

"Ok we go...this way..."

We walk for a 1/2 mile supposedly toward his tuk-tuk, while he continues to pitch the girls and the "ping pong" shows he can get me into for a special price.  I repeatedly tell him I'm not interested.   Finally, we arrive at his "tuk-tuk", which not surprisingly turns out to be a car.  In frustration, I turn and walk away as he calls after me "My friend...where are you going?"

I hail the next tuk-tuk off the street, only to go through the same conversation as the one above, but this driver really pushed for me take his recommendation to go to a special bar in Chinatown rather than Sukumvit Road. He keeps telling me that all the bars closed down on Sukumvit because the new government was cleaning up the city. About halfway through the ride he pulls down a remote alley and says, "See...all the bars are closed...nothing to do here...now do you want me to take you to Chinatown?"

I think to myself, "I must look real dumb" (no comments from the peanut gallery) but said, "This is clearly not Sukumvit Road. First of all this alley is only about a 1/4 mile long and Sukumvit Road is about 6 miles long...can you please stop this funny business and just take me to Sukumvit Road?"

"This is Sukumvit Road," he replied. Cleary, this guy was caught in a lie but must have figured, "I'm going to stick to the lie because I'm not quick enough to come up with an alternative."  For another 5 minutes he repeatedly stood by his claim.  

Eventually I said, "Show me a street sign that says Sukumvit or I'm not paying you." Sheepishly without another word he finally dropped me off in the sewer pit of Sukumvit Road, where, as the guide books promised, there were thousands of prostitutes.

As a graduate of an all-boys Catholic school, I generally lack the social skills to interact with females in day-to-day interactions, never mind how to handle an advance from a prostitute. So, as I'm walking down the street trying to take in the "atmosphere" and simultaneously avoid eye contact of any sort, a prostitute suddenly grabs my arm and says, "I want you..take me home with you." I shake my arm free and side step her with a "No thank you" and a firm look to the ground. She persists and corners me like a boxer as I try to avoid her.

She plants herself in front of me, again says, "I want you" while grabbing my...ah...um..on my "hokie-pokie", with her left hand. I yelp like a small innocent child that is awakening from a nightmare in the darkness, "Mommy...Daddy...help!!"  

My mind springs to action as I try to remember the survival skills I had studied so well before taking this trip.  I quickly searched for, "How to shake a prostitute from your manhood" file, and I got a "404-file not found" response.  My back up was to rely on my college degree in psychology. Surely she must have been abused at some point in her life, I thought, no need to be overly aggressive, just gentle but firm, and also let her know that your not judging her for the occupation she has chosen due to the harsh economic realities of Thailand. Maybe I could suggest alternatives to working the streets and encourage her to use any social programs that might exist in Thailand...if they existed at all.

While I'm thinking all this and the the prostitute's left hand firmly placed on my privates, my mind suddenly comes up with survival skill number 12: avoiding pick pockets.  I realize that in all this "excitement" that her right hand hasn't been seen for a while. Not surprisingly, I found it within grasp on my wallet.  For a split second I thought "Typical woman...hmp". (I kid, please no hate mail)

With a smile, a "no thank you" and a tight grip on her wrists, I was able to diffuse the situation with my wallet, and my family jewels in tact.  

I quickly grabbed a cab back to my hotel...and had the same conversation with the new cab driver about girls, suits and ping pong shows.

Today, was a new day and once again I was asked to help with someone's homework.  I spent about 4 hours helping a 22 year old girl translate an English tape for her college course. When she (and 6 of her friends) spotted me (Whitey McWhite) at the restaurant, they assumed I could speak English. If she had only known how bad my grammar is they might have picked another Westerner.  It was interesting for me to see how they learned English (listening to tapes from the United Kingdom) but that also explained why most foreigners speak with an English accent.  So don't be surprised if your tour guide in Thailand says, "Bloody hell Governor!". The ladies were nice enough to take me along for the night as they celebrated one of thier birthdays. Needless to say, Tonight was much tamer than last night.  Tomorrow, Angkor Wat! From what I've been told it will be a highlight of the trip or, if I believe my mothers "nail technician" it will be the place where I expire and meet my maker. I hope you're praying for the former to come to fruition for me and not the latter.

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