EPISODE TWENTY-TWO – WHY IS EVERYONE WHISTLING?
A quiet evening with Tom Yum Gung and wine turned out to be something I would never plan even if I had the opportunity. Stefan’s going home. A young single German, in his thirties I would say, on holiday in Phuket who speaks virtually no English and certainly no Thai. He must have had a really good holiday!!
‘Are you coming Jim?’ ‘Sure. Where are we going?’
‘To Patong, dancing.’
Wow! Imagine my excitement. I suddenly realised I’d put ‘Sure’ in the wrong sentence and a little too early. This declaration was made by somebody in O’Tool’s at nine pm and was followed quickly, no doubt inspired by the look on my face, by ‘Don’t wolly we are only going for an hour.’ – ‘Great.’
I breathed a sigh of relief and mumbled to myself, ‘I can handle that easy’. Anyway, how could I resist when Nin looked so stunning and well, well, well; Wah wah has got a shorter skirt!! As it turned midnight I was wondering why we were still in O’Tool’s but then we were off and hit Patong at twelve forty. Sitting quietly but still awake I was thinking, ‘I’m usually knocking ‘em home by now and definitely not about to embark on an evening of unbridled fun.’ Patong Beach is the hub of tourist nightlife on Koh Phuket revolving around Bangla Road where over 150 bars, pubs, Go-Go bars and discos cater for tourists. The road runs at 90° from the beach inland (obviously or we’d all drown) and is only about half a kilometre long. At night it is closed to motor vehicles so everyone and everything spills out into the road.
Our first port of call was a Pool bar where Teow’s eldest daughter, Ohm, worked in the evening. Teow, who is about 50, is a very good masseuse who manages Lovely massage. We are greeted by a bevy of scantily clad young ladies with shorter skirts than Wah Wah, which are not ideal for playing pool in but brilliant for customer retention. Maybe I should rethink our staff dress code!! As I made my way to the toilet I passed by a man who, by the sound of his voice, came from the West of England; my neck of the woods. He was locked in a duel with a very experienced (at fleecing customers that is) young lady in a strange game based on knocking nails into a block of wood. I don’t think he was a carpenter, and she certainly wasn’t a lady, so he was finding it quite a difficult game to play; made even more so as I guesstimated he had probably consumed about 14 pints of beer Chang. I met him in the toilet shortly afterwards, where he appeared to be attempting another difficult feat, trying to stand up! When I asked him the question, to which I already knew the answer,
‘How did you get on with the carpentry game?’
He replied ‘I let her win mate; she’s very pretty ain’t she.’
We clearly had a very different view on the attractiveness of women so I didn’t pursue the conversation further. Then Wah Wah challenged me to a game of pool. I let her win of course; she’s very pretty ain’t she!
‘We’re leaving now.’ Said Nin.
Well, I thought, that wasn’t too bad; no dancing though; strange!
‘Are we getting a taxi home?’
‘No, we’re going dancing now.’
Bangla Road! Heavens above what is this? Science fiction? Climbing the very many steps to a Disco means you will probably have to come back down them and there are many to ‘Fred Flintstone’s’ place. I call it Fred Flintstone’s because inside it was like a giant cave and I can’t remember the name. Inside the noise was brain numbing. At least there can be no language problems in here. I can understand how soldiers suffer from shell shock now or what it must have been like when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. What’s this? These people seem to be doing something reminiscent of what we used to call dancing. I must say I am impressed with the music though; particularly one song that actually has three words in it. ‘Baby go round’. I wonder how long it took to write and how much the lyricist has earned from royalties.
Now I’m getting used to the dark and into the swing of it. But, ‘why are these scantily clad girls holding my hand and grabbing my arse?’ Maybe someone’s written ‘I own AMEX’ on my back. Anything’s possible in here. Could it be that I’m probably about thirty years older than anyone else here and they are all fossil collectors? Who knows? All I know is that there’s so much crumpet I can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t live here.
My ear drums are near bursting, my arse is being grabbed and my eyes are sore from the cigarette smoke. Apart from that I’m having a ball. I’m sure the Global warming problem would be solved in an instant if they closed all these places down. Do people actually do this for enjoyment or is it some sort of self-flagellation to cleanse the soul? ‘Holy shit’ it’s good to be out in the street. But why is everyone whistling? They aren’t James. It’s just that you have been subjected to an abnormally high level of noise for the last couple of hours, you’ve probably got chronic tinnitus and your eardrums are probably damaged beyond repair. As you have probably guessed this is a conversation I’m having with myself as I can barely hear anyone else.
‘Why are you leaving?’ whistles a young Englishman as I stagger down the hundreds of steps to the street below.
‘Don’t know’ I reply ‘but I’ll call you when I find out.’
Strange question I’m thinking! Is it unusual to leave a place like this at 3.30am on a Thursday? Oh no! Bangla Road is now full of Ladyboys[i] who all fancy me as well as the real thing inside ‘Flintstones’.
It’s 4 am and Stefan is off to another place, dragging Wah Wah with him. Teow has buggered off with her man friend and Nin and I are out of here. I suppose Stefan won’t ever do this again. (Lucky bugger) so he’s going to make the most of it. On the other hand, as I have many years ahead of me, it’s quite possible I could be conned again!!
I have to say I have felt a lot better than I do this morning which will come as no surprise to anyone. At least I won’t need breathing apparatus or ear plugs today. If I can drag my aching body to the beach and get in that sea water I might have an outside chance of seeing another day. How the girls started work on time I don’t know; the advantage of youth I suppose; can’t remember.
The business scene in Bangkok is developing slowly but surely and I mustn’t get too impatient. After all this is ground breaking stuff and people don’t change that easily.
Walainaaj is President of the Silver Export Club now and she has asked some very pertinent questions relating to our project. I am also pleased to hear that she is receptive to my idea of presenting it to a group of members at their next meeting later this month. We are applying to join the Thai Gems and Jewellery Traders Association as an international member and they have been able to allocate us a booth at the September Trade Fair which is really good and positive news. Kevin will be joining for the week in Bangkok and I’m sure we will make it a real success. I know he is working hard to develop the website in preparation for a planned launch later this year. Suda is back from Japan next week which is good news as she has been extremely helpful to me during this visit. We are all looking forward to the next phase of this exciting journey.
My Thailand experience so far is like tonic for the mind, body and soul. These gregarious people seem to have a permanent sense of fun. They all have such long names that even they need to have nicknames and even these are often funny. I thought it was just to help the foreigners but it appears not. These are just a few that I know; Beer, Oi, Saw, Oh, Golf, Nop, Nut, Ice, Frog, Shy, Uhm.
[i] Ladyboys, often referred to as Kathoeys, the third gender in Thailand and shemales elsewhere, are males who are really female but haven’t had sex change surgery. Many of them make themselves look so pretty it is difficult to believe they are not girls. The giveaway is usually in the pitch of their voice.