Two weeks in Southeast Asia are mercifully (or mercilessly depending on who you ask) coming to an end. Though the accompanying feeling is a bittersweet one, I’m excited to return to playoff football, but not so excited for freezing weather and snow. Funny how I always liked the winter, but the returning home to icicles and ice cold has lost some of it’s appeal thanks to a fortnight in a more comfortable climate in the midst of a deep freeze in the United States.
I certainly am not heading home feeling unfulfilled as each day seemed to provide a new, unexpected, and unique experience, solely for the reason that you were doing something you’d never done before with each passing second. The last three days were no different in that respect.
Andy, Jeff, Morwin and myself closed out our stay in Cambodia on Wednesday night with an authentic Khmer meal at the Angkor Palm restaurant on Pub Street. For those of you not familiar with the Angkor Palm, it was named Siem Reap’s best restaurant of 2006 by a publication.
Not content to end our evening there Morwin, Jeff and I had a beer at a Mexican restaurant as more Cambodian children attempted to peddle their wares while showing off their high IQs. One child tried to sell books by wowing us with his U.S. knowledge.
“Washing-tone Dee-See is the Ca-pee-tal of the United States…I know how many people live there.”
“Three hundred and five mill-ee-on minus three, because you are here.”
We had to give him credit for that one, but we still weren’t buying his travel guides. We really had no use at this point. Another girl drew up a tic-tac-toe game and told Jeff that if she won he would have to buy some of her bracelets and that if he won she would leave us alone. We egged Jeff on saying that he should be confident enough to beat a little kid in tic-tag-toe, but he didn’t take the bait. Neither did I for that matter, as she briefly tried to lure me into her game of deceit.
On our way home from getting the one drink, we walked to the market and bought some Cambodian souvenirs and subsequently found ourselves in a commerce filled alley where we happened upon a particularly disturbing postcard to send to our friend Suli.
With that it was bedtime. Our time in Siem Reap was drawing to a close, but our flight out wasn’t until 1:45 the next afternoon. The next morning we all went out to a delicious breakfast at a place called The Soup Dragon and stopped at the market one last time for additional souvenir-age. I bought two traditional Cambodian scarves (Krami) from the same woman I’d bought shirts from the previous evening.
Post-market we stopped by the postcard shop to mail out our disturbing postcard and returned to the Guesthouse to get our gear together and check out. We saw our tuk-tuk driver Phearom , who apparently told Andy that he and Jhom had made up after the previous evening’s controversy. All’s well that ends well, though not quite.
Before leaving for the Airport we got into a long and heated argument with the manager of our lodging over a broken toilet seat in our room, which he maintained we had broken. We had certainly not broken it, it was more than cracked in half when we took the room days earlier. In all fairness, we probably should have reported it after the first night, but in my haste to go out that evening had forgotten. After that I just figured it wasn’t worth complaining over since a large number of the country’s inhabitants squat over a hole instead of sitting on a toilet. It felt like a petty complaint to make, but in the end a slightly costly one as the argument brought out stubborness in both sides and Jeff played the hero by quashing the issue with a $10 handout to the manager for a seat that wasn’t worth $2. On the plus side, we were able to make it to the airport on time and leave Cambodia.
The flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok was rather uneventful unless you count the fact that pre-takeoff and post landing were marked by the cheerful din of Christmas music blasting through the cabin speakers of our Bangkok Airways jet liner. It seems like it’s always Christmas in Thailand…or at least from Novemver to February. The flight itself was another hop, skip and jump and we arrived back in Thailand around 3pm with plenty of the day to waste. But before we did so, we had to get to our hostel, downtown in the Silom area. That was a bit of a mini-adventure as our driver overshot a bit and passed the road where it was. We did manage to get there, however, with very little additional interference.
Once checked in at the ultramodern (at least if the shared bathrooms were any indication) Lub*D hostel, the four of us went for a walk in our neighborhood in search of food. We found a bustling alley with several vendors who offered seating. Andy was somehow able to bargain the price of his Pad Thai down to about 60 Baht. We knew you could bargain for the price of goods, but a meal?
After grabbing a bite, we made back for the hostel, me a bit slower than everyone else as I was still hobbled by my bum tendon. We sat around and made a few phone calls with Jason and Kayvalyn before arriving at a plan to meet at the night market.
At around 7:30 or 8 we headed over to the Lumphini Night Bazaar, where I had spent a portion of my first evening in Bangkok, nearly two weeks prior with Kayvalyn’s cousin and the husband wife duo of Andy and Tracy. This time we met up with the newlywed Jayvalyn, Jason’s parents, and his sister Gina.
We walked around for a few hours gathering up some final gift items before returning home; t-shirts, scarves, and what-not. One of the booths had two tiny monkeys hopping around. It was a markedly different experience from my previous go round. I saw much more than just the t-shirt section. We also stopped at the food court where I helped polish off a small tower of Chang.
Leaving behind the commerce-hungry commoners at the Night Market, we opted to make our next stop a high-class one. Jason and Kayvalyn took the group to Sirocco, the rooftop bar on the 64th floor of Bangkok’s State Tower, offering exquisite views of the city and beer ranging in price from $9-$12. I’m not quite sure what the other spirits cost as I didn’t sample them.
Our time hobnobbing in a swank setting was short but sweet. We certainly stopped to smell the fresh air and admire the impressive view from above the Bangkok Skyline, even taking a few photos along the way although as I understood it picture taking was not exactly permitted.
With the experience of how the upper-echelon of Thai society spend their evenings under our belt, we quickly brought ourselves back to the ground floor reserved for the proletariat, whisking ourselves away to a less pricey neighborhood. I don’t quite remember what the street we went to was, or what the bar was called, but Kayvalyn announced that it was the area she used to haunt during her high school career. We all took a seat and enjoyed a drink or two as the DJ blasted dance music and the live drummer beat along.
At one point Jason’s dad came up to me telling me that he though he saw a good looking girl at the front of the club and that he thought I should talk to her. I had only seen one other person in said bar that wasn’t staff and it looked like a woman, but Morwin had previously tagged her as a ladyboy. I told this to Jason’s dad and with that he went outside and checked. He promptly reported back saying that he was talking about the girl working at the door and that he didn’t think she was a ladyboy. This didn’t exactly inflate my courage. Instead, I just told him that I thought he was referring to someone else and went on drinking.
It was getting pretty late, too late for Jason’s parents and sister . They soon turned in and we moved on to look for more Bangkok nightlife excitement. We walked further down the alley looking for another bar and after a fruitless perusal we made for another lively alley. Our first turn ended up being the gay alley. We knew this from all of the pride flags and the fact that there were guys as far as the eye could see.
Next Kayvalyn led us over to the Phatpong road or, if you will (and you will), Bangkok’s infamous red-light district. As we walked down the road a man followed us trying to sell us on the idea of going to his club, but instead our first stop was a place with a live band. Before I could grab a beer and enjoy the music, a trip to the bathroom was in order for a light sprinkle. The last thing I expected in this place was a men’s room attendant, but there he stood. Mind you I didn’t see any mints , but there was a tip tray and he did turn on the water.
Once my hands were washed and toweled off, said attendant swiftly grabbed my arms in a somewhat friendly yet surprisingly dominating manner as I had never been manhandled by a men’s room attendant before. He proceeded to crack my neck in two directions and my back by giving me what amounted to a bearhug. Strangely relieved and simultaneously confused at what had just occurred, I tipped the attendant 40 baht and walked out.
As I returned to the bar to find my friends, the band leaped into a cover of “Jump Around”, which seemed alternately odd and amusing, yet definitely entertaining. Before I knew it, I was putting my drink down unfinished and following the rush of our crowd led by it’s most recent bride and the man who had been haranguing us earlier towards the bar across the alley, sporting the name “Pussy Collection.”
I don’t think you have to guess twice what sort of bar a place called “Pussy Collection” in Bangkok’s red-light district is. Just in case you can’t it’s a strip bar where sexual favors are frequently given in exchange for money. Upon entry we were immediately sat in a corner and charged around 450 baht for entry and our first beer. As soon as my backside was against cushion, one of the stripper/prostitutes sidled up beside me. She began to kiss my cheek and attempt to seduce me into paying for some sort of favor which she used a hand motion in concert with a tongue in her cheek to make abundantly clear in any language, just what favor she was proposing.
I didn’t get many a clear look at my assailant as I was trying to avoid giving any indication that I might be interested in her services. She was probably the best looking girl in the bunch as most of the ladies seemed haggard at best, though one or two were semi-attractive maybe. Overall, I found the women in Cambodia to be impossibly more attractive than those in Thailand.
Anyway, my “Pussy Collection” saga continued as this persistent semi-vixen continued to attempt to work her magic on me, showing me her breasts and taking great care to tempt the occurrence of an erection by stroking over said area of my pants and grabbing it several times, all of this in plain sight of my friends. It was awkward to say the least.
Kayvalyn repeatedly looked over with concern asking, “Are you okay?” and pleading with the willing party, “be gentle, he’s innocent.” Frankly, I was a bit insulted by this notion of utter innocence, but not to the point where I’d do something to prove just the opposite. I cherish my body parts and would prefer if they didn’t fall off at the behest of getting my pride hurt in front a Thai hooker. I don’t want people I know to look at me as the guy who got serviced in Bangkok or their friend with chronic Gonorrhea.
At one point, our lovable, ever-persistent Miss Harlot started to get handsy with the outside of my pants pocket after she had been hounding me to buy a beer or buy her a beer. I’m not exactly sure what she meant. Not wanting to know what might’ve happened if I gave her 100 Baht, I didn’t take the bait. But as she fondled my pocket, she felt what might ahve been some paper currency. I felt what she felt and was confident it was probably a few receipts. I was half-right. There was one receipt and one 100 Cambodian Riel note. She grabbed the latter and flaunted it and took it for her own as if it was some sort of bounty. I didn’t care in the least seeing as 4000 Riel is the equivalent of one U.S. dollar. She made away with about 2.5 cents.
We sat around the club for a bit longer hoping to maybe see a famous Ping-Pong show, but to no avail. We did however see a few beer bottles opened by the lady nether region. They weren’t just cracking it open either. Bottle caps whizzed past our heads with some velocity.
The lady of my night stayed by my side kissing my cheek a while longer hoping to coax some monetary reward. At one point she managed to slide an almond sliver or something into the side of my mouth with hers without me even opening my mouth intentionally for it. I think I was saying something to one of my friends at the other end when she slipped them in. It was fairly odd, but all relatively harmless fun. The club soon closed down and our group filed out. As I made for the door, I was hugged by two ladies, who slipped me the club card and despite my apparently irresistible nature or the fact that maybe they pegged me as an easy mark, I continued out the door.
Our night amid the seedy red hue and marquees promoting talented female body parts was not over just yet. We made one more stop at a place called King’s Camelot where it was less about the ladies pressing you with their flesh and more about showing off their goods on stage so you could pick which one you might desire for boom boom. Thankfully, I didn’t attract any focus at that more crowded establishment. I was a ghost, but I think Andy and Jeff got showered with a good deal of attention. To tell the truth though, I did sort of miss it. It was more fun and odd to be someone’s center of attention even in such a house of ill repute. We weren’t at that bar for too long. It was around 3am when we made it back to the hostel. Andy and Jeff wanted to stay out later, but Andy had to leave for the airport in less than three hours to go back home, a fact that he didn’t seem to grasp.
The next morning I awoke at 9:30am feeling quite the haze of hangover. I had a bit of a continental breakfast at the hostel to fight off the effects. To conquer the issue completely, Morwin and I took a walk to Health Land for a final turn at a traditional two-hour Thai Massage for the low, low price of $13. It took a while to actually reach the spa, as we thought we were looking for the same one we had been to earlier in the trip, when in actuality the hostel had given us directions to a closer Health Land.
At 1pm we finally stumbled upon the right place, which was even nicer than the one we had been to two weeks before. The massage while still as through, seemed to induce more pain that the last time, though it still seemed to iron out the kinks just as effectively. Morwin didn’t feel the same about his as his masseuse left him with a bit of a limp.
When the massage ended my body was absolutely exhausted. I just wanted to collapse. Morwin and I headed back to the hostel, where we made a few calls and got in touch with Ken, who had arrived in from Chiang Mai earlier in the morning. He met up with us at 4pm and we found ourselves a spot to eat down the road.
I was ready to fall asleep while we were eating, but held off slumber for a subsequent walk to show Ken where we had all gone out the previous evening, but in the daylight. Ken soon split off and I wanted nothing more than to go to bed…That’s pretty much what I spent my last night in Bangkok doing. My body famished, I had one last meal of stir-fried Morning Glory, before shuffling off to my room early, in preparation for my flight.
I’d love to have gone out with a bang instead of a whimper, but there were plenty of good times between the bookends to last me quite a while…and plenty more to be had on the solid, yet slippery ground of New York City.