Sukhumvit Road – May 2002

It’s 2:00 am. You’re walking back along Sukhumvit Road. It still amazes you how the road has three appearances. In the daytime, the deaf stall keepers, flashing calculators with prices on them in front of your nose. At night, the lights and the stall keepers, some new, some there since the morning, mostly deaf, grabbing your arm and trying to get you to examine their wares. If you don’t look, you don’t buy. Then at 2:00 am. The street is full of bar girls with no tricks for the night – some eating, some standing, most laughing.

The pavement, whilst not constructed to the best standards, is still good and you wonder where the lean in it came from. It wasn’t there earlier. It’s then you remember that Singha is strong, stronger than the beer you drink at home. It is also slightly bitter to the taste and you hope that the taste in your mouth is the Singha, and that it will be gone by the morning.

You trudge, wondering if you have staggered past the hotel, the hotel that has imprisoned you for the day. You needed the Net, you needed the email, you read reports, wrote reports, ate off room service in your room, looked longingly out your window at the tourists round the pool. You remembered that you stopped in Bangkok for two reasons; one to catch up on the reports; the other to drink to sweet oblivion. To relax.

You finished your work around 9:00 and stepped out for dinner. The Thai stalls looked appealing but you weren’t sure from the last time. Was it Thailand or was it India. You decide to play safe and walk to Paris Baguette. That is at least familiar and you know your stomach will accept it. You eat and it’s 10:00 so you walk to the bars, determined to crawl around one bar area, one drink at each bar then on to the next. Bar crawl back to the hotel. You get to the first bar.

There are five bored bar girls standing around so you order a beer. A wet towel and a beer appear. It is hot outside with just the beer, the towel and the interminable fans to cool you. You drink. The bar conversation starts. Bar English 101.

“What’s your name?”

“Where you from?”

“Are you here on business or tourist?”

“My name is….”

“I’m from Bangkok (or Phuket, or Chang Mai).”

It’s polite and cheap so you offer her a drink. Then you notice that two of the bar girls are lady boys, both are pretty, very very pretty. One dances like she should be a backing dancer for Madonna. The other has a voice deeper than yours.

Beer finished, pay and walk to the next bar.

Six Bar Girls. Two lady boys and four girls. One of the lady boys is playing with a small girl, daughter of the owner of another bar. Another cold towel (this one paper), another cold beer and yet more fans. Music too loud to hear.

“Would you like a drink?”

“Thank you – my name is…, what’s yours, where are you from, you here on business or a tourist?”

“My name is Ian, I am Australian and I am passing through to India.”

She looks at you – a look that would do justice to Sigourney Weaver examining Aliens.

You put your fingers together and make hopping images across the bar. “Ah, Autralya!”

“Yes, Australia.”


“Yes, Sydney”.

You clink drinks and move through the rest of Bar English 101 – Basic Conversation. After five minutes conversation is exhausted. You drink faster, finish your beer and then step on to the next bar. It is all of two metres away. You stop for another beer. One of the lady boys from the first bar walks past and waves. The foreigner living in Bangkok looks from the bar where he sits and smiles. You wave back – what the hell.

By now the shirt is soaked, the heat having swollen your hands and feet. You proceed through Bar English 101; finish your beer and step on to the next bar. This is a go-go bar and has a door. Air-conditioning. The girls at the front hold a sign up that advertises 50 beautiful girls inside plus 2 ugly ones. You step inside and 15 girls are dancing around poles. Scantily clad but clad never the less and not a lady-boy in sight. You sit, a cold wet towel comes and you order another beer. You wonder where either the 2 ugly ones or the 50 beautiful ones are.

Number 39 finishes dancing and sits next to you. Bar English 101 class time again. You wait for the questions and answer them all. She points to your wedding ring, which is on your right hand, European style. “Married?” “Yes.” You lift your left hand and show the other ring, the one your wife bought you in Norway. “Two wives!” She smiles at this. You buy some drinks and exhaust the conversation. She gets up to dance again as it is change of shift. She dances and then comes back with a friend. More Bar English 101. More drinks.

You decide that the air-conditioning is worth the sitting so you sit and drink. No rush to return to the hotel room. The beer is your stress relief. The Cable TV is showing the same movies you watched last month. You drink. It is 2:00 so you pay and leave. You walk back along Sukhumvit Road, wondering where the lean came from, wondering where the people still sitting outside go. Lady boys and girls call hello. The beggars are still out, heads down, looking for largesse from the drunks. People eat. People talk, people have their fortunes told by candlelight. You wonder if you’ve walked past the hotel in the dark. You see Starbucks and turn. Foodland is there. Open 24 hours and with a food bar at the front. Many of the farang drunks sit there and feast on spaghetti, or noodles. Back to the hotel, back to the room, back to sleep the sleep of the drunk.


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