Thailand 5: Memoirs of a Chiang Mai Prostitute

I had just had an unexpected night out with the police, a Scottish dude with a broken arm, and a bunch of bartenders from a go-go bar.  I don’t know when I got home (I don’t travel with a watch) but I think around 5 am.  So I wasn’t eager to wake up at 8 am as usual.  Instead I woke up just in time to pay for another night at the guest house at 11 am.  Once I was awake, I figured I may as well start my first full day exploring Chiang Mai - the cultural capitol of Thailand.  Chiang Mai is a big city, but with very few buildings taller than 5 stories, and, composed mostly of quiet brick lanes, it feels like a town.  That’s why most people prefer it immediately over the congested streets, 24 hour noise, and inescapable city feel of Bangkok.  I thought Bangkok looked and felt extremely similar to Bombay, India.  …with more backpackers.  I liked Bombay and Bangkok equally for their fantastic clubbing (now defunct in Bombay), and big city feel (though Bangkok has WAY more sights of interest to a traveler).  But Chiang Mai was surprisingly like Kathmandu, Nepal, where I work as a volunteer coordinator for my orphanage (  I love Kathmandu and Chiang Mai for their chill townie feel, and shockingly friendly locals, while still having tons to do.  In both cities you can never “see it all”.  For example, Chiang Mai has 400 Wats (temples)!!!  I read before I went that while Bangkok has tourist restaurants with flimsy “international” menus, Chiang Mai has bookshops by the boat load.  I agree and can add that while Bangkok has street vendors hocking everything from fake Rolex’s to fake Hello Kitty, Chiang Mai has fruit sellers and amazing night bazaars; while Bangkok has plenty of import shops and is easy for the western expat to live in, the closest Chiang Mai gets to imports are coffee shops and book stores.  So, as I said, though I liked Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a lot more my style (and most people’s style from what I hear).
So I went out and walked the entire city, as I usually do.  I saw all the major Wats I wanted to, though certainly not all 400!  And I wandered the back alleys filled with locals conducting their everyday business.  I most enjoyed getting away from the main “areas of interest” where children begin to be surprised by a farang (foreigners), and flash those big toothy smiles.
Half of the buildings in the city center (designated by a 1.5 square kilometer mote and ruins of a city wall) are shops and non-residential.  And since there aren’t really any tall buildings it is easy to see inside most places if they’re open.  The shops in Chiang Mai were pretty specifically designated as tourists shops or local shops.  Tourist shops included the usual Starfucks, massage parlors (I think legitimate, actually), 7-Eleven, internet cafes, restaurants, and an occasional shop of interest like a bamboo saxophone shop I stopped into (amazingly smooth sound!!).  Local shops were usually hard to totally understand.  Often they were very dark and sold a mish-mash of used clothes, new clothes, books, parts, wires, mirrors, pots, and spices and food goods.  The corner stores were easy to identify as they looked like the ones in Nepal - just a shop counter right on the street, and all goods behind the counter (toiletries, snacks, water, soda, pens, etc).  The rest of the city center was comprised of apartment buildings, houses (for the more wealthy), and Wats.  I saw inside a bartender’s apartment and it seemed pretty standard even for the west.  It was a big (considering I’m coming from Japan, where we live in shoeboxes) room with a normal tiled bathroom (western toilet - hot shower on the floor).  There was no kitchen area or even a sink (though a refrigerator was included), which sort of confirms the commonly held belief that it’s cheaper to eat out than it is to cook in Thailand.  The houses were pretty nice, and usually had a lawn and always had a fence.  Toyotas are the standard car in Thailand (Chinese made, I suspect), and of course all families wealthy enough to live in a house, had at least 1 car.
So I walked all over the 1.5 square kilometer city center and got to know the main streets, and some of the side streets.  I had seen many old Wats on my way to Chiang Mai, and would say that the Chiang Mai Wats are less impressive, and less “Thai looking”.  The big stone crumbling phallus was totally absent from all but one of the Wats I went to in Chiang Mai.  Instead, they had pretty new temples which all housed the ubiquitous Buddha, and usually seemed to house monks (which was really the only interesting thing about them, since they were eager to speak English).  They were all roughly the same size, and had roughly the same look and amount of gold covering their roofs and walls.  Thinking of “Wats” as the ancient ruins such as Angkor Wat, I was more inclined to just call these “temples”.  I admit I only popped in and out of these.
I ended my self-guided tour with a trip to the night market - an institution in Chiang Mai.  It’s about 1 kilometer of market stalls with off-shoots down alleys, into large arcades, and filling parking lots along the way.  Granted, it’s kind of more of the same tourist knick knacks seen anywhere in Thailand, but window shopping a good night market is always fun.  I usually don’t like markets filled with farang, but this one was fun because I could overhear other styles of bargaining (you gotta learn somewhere!), and the reactions of unwitting “tourists” when quoted 20 times the going price (all too often they pay without flinching).  In this market, I heard a bunch of backpackers just getting angry with stall keepers.  I used to do the same when I first really had to deal with haggling in China.  It took me a long time to really listen and understand what people meant when they said it’s supposed to be fun.  I mean, it really isn’t that fun for those of us who aren’t used to it, and I would rather not go to such an effort just to get a fair price.  However, after about 4 or 5 months in China, India, and Nepal I came to understand the fun of haggling.  It happened at a particular moment, and if that moment hadn’t happened, I don’t know when I would have realized what kind of game it is.  Now, I almost always start with “oh, my friend” with a hand on their shoulder (only works for men - women play a harder game anyway) and then proceed to explain to them that “I’m so sad because I would like to buy it, but you know I don’t have so much money… I am not a tourist.  I am a very poor traveler”  And so on.  This has always worked (if indeed the price can come down at all) and I think the key to get myself and the seller “in the mood” is that, by saying it “right off the baht” (hahaha), we are agreeing to act like friends.  Funny enough that particular moment I mentioned when haggling began to make sense was with 2 guys, Amit and Anup, who actually DID become my friends because of that day.  So in a way I’m not even acting.
Anyway, the night bazaar was great, and huge, and had a few things I hadn’t seen before (like some AMAZING painters who could create PERFECT photo-like images of any photo you gave them.  I swear they had just used a Photoshop filter and pretended they drew these amazing pieces of art.  The most realistic drawings and painting I’ve ever seen!!!!!!!).  I took lots of close-up pics for some texture shots of the crazy variety on offer, and watched a couple drag-shows (some very believable “women”) and a traditional dance with candles.  And then it was kind of late at night, so I thought I’d go back to the go-go bar I had such luck with the night before.  As soon as I showed up I felt completely comfortable and welcomed.  Everyone who had gone dancing the night before welcomed me and called me by name (intriguing to the other customers, no doubt).  The same girls came over and bothered me while the bartenders rolled their eyes with me in understanding.  I made it clear that I didn’t want to waste their time, and I was just here out of curiosity (and hopes of another fun after-hours party) - not because I was “in need of attention”.  But as I talked to the bartenders, I realized I had SO many questions.  Why were the girls wearing numbers?  What did they benefit for coming over and bothering me?  Who is this mysterious farang owner, and what’s his story?  What kind of guys come here, and what do they expect?  …and what do they GET?  Basically, what the hell IS a go-go bar?!?!  (I had thought it was some sort of an innocent dance from the 1950’s)
Well, all  my questions would be answered.  Enter “La” and “Tiab”… 
…Now before I begin, I want to warn you and assure you of some things.  First, since this blog is public, anyone can access it, but some of you might not care, or want to know.  I will share everything they told me, and you might find it unnecessarily offensive or sad to be including in my website, and you will definitely learn more about the seedy sex industry in Thailand than you knew (I would HOPE).  If you’d rather not, or are offended by prostitution, or you just don’t want to hear ME tell you, just stop reading HERE.
Continue if you are as curious as I was about this interesting lifestyle and all the what’s, why’s, when’s, and where’s these go-go dancers/prostitutes were willing to tell me about their lives.
Secondly, I want to be perfectly clear that while I did end up spending a lot of time and money in the pursuit of their stories, I never had sex with them.  I think it is important that these women understood (and believed) that I really just wanted to know their story, not their measurements. 
So… I showed up at Spotlight Bar, and all the bartenders were excited I came back.  I sat down and Nat, a dancer I recognized from the night before, came over.  I had hoped she wouldn’t be there, or wouldn’t recognize me or something.  When I showed up last night, Nat had just finished dancing and wanted badly to bring me home.  Her English was pretty decent so it was clear what she was offering.  With her hands all over my body (I was just sitting at the bar drinking a Thai beer), she asked several times to have sex for 500 baht (US$12).  I had been nice and not very definitive in my answer last night (this was just WAY too interesting a scene and I didn’t know the “etiquette” so I had avoided any definitive statements) but this night I already had talked about go-go bars a little bit with my bartender friends, Tiab and Miao, so I told Nat I wasn’t going home with anyone.  She left and never came back.  A few other girls came by to ask if I was interested, but I was just trying to space my questions with the bartenders so I didn’t seem like a nosy reporter.  I wasn’t waiting for someone better.  I was nice, but after exchanging names, I let them know I wasn’t interested.  I asked the bartenders quite a few questions, but the owner was there and it was a secret that they had gone out with me to the club last night.  It was also a secret that I knew they had boyfriends.  In fact, everything was a secret.  This was not normal “employee-customer relations” at a go-go bar.  If it was found out that we had gone out last night, they would have to pay the bar 600 baht each!!  So between the bartenders serving drinks, avoiding the owner or Mamas (female managers), and dancers asking me to talk, I was only able to ask a few questions.  Beer can be bought for less elsewhere in Chiang Mai (though the price went down since last night - a discount?), and it was looking like a long night of waiting to ask questions.  The bartenders wanted to go out dancing again after work, so I decided to go out and come back at closing to meet them.
I began to finish my beer so I could go check email, but more and more questions were nagging me, not the least of which was WHEN the opportunity would come to ask if we were just going to go dancing at a noisy disco after work.  I was friendly enough with the bartenders Tiab and Miao, but I also wasn’t sure if my questions would be rude, or highlight the vast divide between our backgrounds.  I am NOT a reporter and I would have rather just continued having a blast with my unlikely friends in Chiang Mai than offend them for the sake of a personal story.  But I was SO curious I HAD to find out.  Just then, as I was half finished with my beer, the opportunity presented itself.
This whole time the go-go dancers had been strutting their stuff on a stage level with the bar.  It was across the room, but with mirrors everywhere it was hard not to occasionally fixate on these scantily-clad ladies.  It was after 11, so they were dancing in their underwear and a lacy thing.  As I learned, the routine is standard.  Start at 7pm in bikini’s.  At 11, go backstage and change into thongs and the lacy thing (very “Victoria’s Secret”).  At 1am the lacy thing comes off, and they’re left in their thong and bra.  They never get nude - this is not a strip club.
The dancers were all “fit”, and could dance in that very sleazy, slow, erotic way you’d imagine strip teases to look like.  And I guess some of them were cute enough, but they all kind of “looked the part”, which, needless to say, is not appealing or interesting.  For example, when Nat came over again and again the night before, and earlier this evening, I kept looking at her hard.  There was something wrong with her.  She was a very pretty woman, but there was something very weathered about her.  Maybe it was just her routine.  The unstoppable sex talk; the mindless groping; her ingenuine undying love for any and all potential paying farang.  And as the various dancers came to sit with me and ask that I buy them a drink (the only way they can sit at the bar with a customer), they were all the same.  I was curious about their work, and their background, but they were all business, and all they wanted to do was to tell me whatever they thought I wanted to hear… and being a man in a go-go bar, they thought it was obvious what I wanted to hear.  So whether my eyes would linger on them in public, I don’t know.  Their behavior and the atmosphere repulsed me too much to really measure how pretty they were.
Sometimes a Mama would tell an idol dancer to go flirt with a customer.  Earlier this night some girls who I refused were then forced to sit with a very old farang who they refused vehemently.  It seemed like they knew him and didn’t want any part of whatever perverted things he was known to do.  It took 2 Mamas and the bouncer to force one of the girls to sit with him.  It was gross to watch.  Well, as I refused girl after girl, I imagine the Mamas thought I was just waiting for the “right” girl.  So they asked La.  La definitely didn’t look like she belonged.  I won’t deny I noticed the instant La walked into the room earlier that night.  When I saw here at first I was shocked how innocent she looked. I found it hard to believe it wasn’t her first night, and she wasn’t under 18 years old.  I was wrong on both accounts.  When she was asked to come over she was too shy, so she dragged another dancer over with her.  She was very embarrassed to speak English, though it was perfectly fine.  She made the other dancer ask some questions, and I began to notice a big difference between the 2 women.  La was either playing a really great character, or she had not yet been plasticized like the rest of these girls.  I started asking her some of the questions I had saved up for Tiab and Miao.  She answered them with only the slightest discomfort and didn’t seem to have walls built up or a “routine” answer.  I began to rethink my evening.  Instead of pissing around for 2 hours before coming back, I would take her out for a walk around town and ask her some questions.  I also realized these girls were prisoner to the Mamas’ requests (sex slaves?), and they could essentially get “sold” to the first paying farang.  I thought it was a pretty good deal for her to get to leave early and not risk sex with yet another man who could give her HIV.  That’s very naive and a little brazen of me to say but, hey, that COULD have been the night she contracted something.  As I got to know her and the others I felt bad I couldn’t think of a more permanent alternative than just buying them out of work for a night or two of their entire “career”.
Anyway, I told La to get dressed in her normal clothes, and told Tiab to explain that we were NOT having sex.  Tiab had to double and triple check with me that I was serious.  It would cost $12 just to take her away from the go-go bar.  I asked Tiab how much sex usually cost.  She claimed it varied, but said $40 was a good price.  Somehow that seemed WAY steep for Thailand (the hookers I saw in Amsterdam asked for $50-$100), but regardless of the Thai standard, it was something I was willing to pay to find out more.  I told her to explain to La that I was going to pay her, but that instead of sex, she had to tell me whatever I wanted to know.  The truth.  La came back fully dressed in completely normal clothes, and Tiab explained my offer.  Neither of them could believe it, and they were sort of suspicious I would change my mind once outside the bar.  I told Tiab and Miao I’d be back at closing to go dancing.
La and I walked around and I asked my questions.  La is a 23 year old single mother of a 2-year-old boy named Jay.  She has 2 older sisters, one 32 and one 40.  She, like most Thais I met, is not from the city, but has migrated to the city from a village in the mountains.  She and her sister shared an apartment right nearby, and shared a scooter.  She started at the bar 1 month ago after working as a seamstress in a small shop.  Thai culture is such that, now that she has a child, she is unlikely to ever get married.  She claimed to be fine with that and said that she didn’t want a husband anyway.  I didn’t ask what the father of her child was like, but it didn’t seem like a healthy relationship… obviously.  She has not had a boyfriend since he left.  Both her parents are still alive, and totally unaware of her current job, and of course she was curious about my strange family arithmetic - two mothers is simply impossible to understand for Thai people.  Hahaha.  I asked her up front how much she charged for sex, and gave her $10 more even though we were just talking.  She said 3 others had paid her not to have sex this month.  One farang wanted to go dancing and the other two just wanted to talk.  No doubt for similar reasons.  They were all in their 20’s but she didn’t know what countries they were from.  When I told Tiab later, she doubted it was true, claiming I was the first she’d seen pay for no sex.
Well, she wasn’t hungry, and neither of us wanted to walk for the remaining hour before she had to be back to meet her sister.  She asked if my father looked like me, and I told her I’d show her some pictures of my family.  So, yes, I did end up taking her to my guest house.  And of course once we were in my room, she asked if I wanted her to take a shower.  I had to explain again that we REALLY were just going to talk.  She didn’t believe me, and asked if I wanted a massage.  I showed her my pictures to prove I wasn’t just beating around the bush.  For some reason, she seemed much more interested in my map of the city.  She kept looking at it and pointing to various areas.  It was in English, but I almost think her curiosity was more because she had never seen a map of the city before.  She recommended a great place just outside the city that I ended up going to with Tiab the next day.  It was close to 2, and I asked her to go dancing with the other bartenders and I, but she said she had to meet her sister to go home.  She was adamant.
It seemed everyone at the bar (and in Thailand) had mobile phones.  It’s only reasonable, because they are so cheap.  I had mine that I bought in Russia, and it cost me $5 for a rechargeable Thai SIM card with 2 hours talk time.  The phone was still in good shape, but I found I really hadn’t needed it for years.  Nepal’s network doesn’t work with it, and neither does Japan’s.  La supposedly didn’t have a mobile phone.  Presumably because she had just arrived in the city and the $100 it costs to buy a phone was too much for her.  So I kind of decided to give her my phone.  This was the second time I’d brought the damned thing with me to a country I didn’t even need it in.  It’s a long story, but I had THREE phones and chargers in my little bag, and I thought she needed this WAY more than I did.  I told her I’d like to get together tomorrow to talk more, but she was busy.  I told her to call me at 1pm anyway because I wanted to give her a mobile phone (but needed it tonight).  She didn’t really believe me, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t need it.  I showed her my other 2 phones and explained.  She was really happy (no shit, eh?  $50 and a phone just for talking for 1 1/2 hours?!?!) and said she would call the next day.
I walked back with her, but got the impression she didn’t want me to.  I thought it might not be her sister at all that she’s meeting, and I didn’t want to nose in on something that she didn’t want me to know.  She stopped on the road to wait 2 blocks before the bar.
I continued to the bar but saw the bartenders hiding behind a telephone booth waving me to hide because we weren’t supposed to be meeting outside the bar without paying the bar.  Too late!  One of the Mamas walked by and stopped to ask what was going on.  Tiab told her that I had just gotten back from a “good night” with La, and the Mama laughed and walked away.  Tiab told me to walk down 2 blocks and wait.  If any other Mamas saw us together outside the bar, all the bartenders would have to pay the 600 baht penalty!!  I walked down past the drag queens and closing bars, and waited on a shadowy corner to the guffaw of passing farang.  I began to think they were just going to ditch me, but after 10 minutes Tiab and Miao drove up on a scooter.  We waited, and then decided the others may have cancelled.  All three of us crammed onto the scooter, and we drove to a nearby bar.  It was a disappointment compared to the night before at the huge club.  But I was determined to have a blast anyway.  The girls knew everyone, and soon some friends from other go-go bars showed up.  It was mostly a farang hang out, but I was at a table full of Thai girls, so what did I care?  An Irish guy inflated my ego to bursting point by commenting that I was “like fucking James Bond with all these ladies”, but then I was snapped back to reality when an old, fat, dirty farang grabbed my ass and tried to belly-bounce me over to his table.  Yuk!  Yes, I’m in gay-friendly Thailand!  For better or for worse?  Well, aside from having to then endure a drunken pro-Bush rant (by the Irish guy of al people) at the end of the night, we had a fantastic time!  I got a ride home again and it was a bit earlier then the night before, so I was able to get up at 10am this time.
I had such a good time with Tiab, I decided to call her after a crappy tourist breakfast and see if she wanted to go to the Temple recommended by La.  We met up and she thankfully took care of all the bus and tuk-tuk transfers.  It was a hell of a complicated experience.  When we finally arrived at the top of the mountain it’s on, I was surprised to see a few farang.  How did they GET there?!  Maybe they had a local guide…  Anyway, it was at the top of this GREAT twisty road up a mountain.  Then we had to climb up hundreds of stairs.  But it was all well worth it.  The temple at the top wasn’t like any other I had seen in Thailand.  It was almost more Chinese Buddhist.  It was still pretty Thai, but it was a totally different style than I had seen.  It was a building with a courtyard in the middle, which I hadn’t seen any of in Thailand, but is a very common architectural style in China.  They had an amazing emerald Buddha.  I couldn’t believe it.  Tiab was unimpressed.  This was about as fascinating to her as a church cross is to Westerners.  The entire temple was a shoes-off style, but since it was outdoors, we had to walk on blazing hot stone baths barefoot.  I ended up balancing on my heels, but still had to run from shadow to shadow with Tiab.  Tiab was sick of it, so we split.  We saw a boy and his grandfather who’d shared our tuk-tuk up the mountain, walking up the stairs to the temple as we were walking down.  Tiab laughed as the grandfather said something.  The boy had gotten sick from the ride up the twisty mountain road, and had spent the previous 45 minutes puking.  I see this all over poorer Asia, and it’s probably common in any poor country where people aren’t used to riding in cars.  In Nepal the people suffering from motion sickness just puked out the windows.  It’s disgusting to think that that wetness that just hit you in the face probably isn’t rain.  Sorry to be so frank about it, but it’s common place in these poor countries.
The same tuk-tuk driver who drove us up the mountain was waiting for us at the bottom.  He gave Tiab a key with an elephant on it just like my room key.  I said THAT’S MINE!!!  The tuk-tuk driver had waited for us to come back down so he could give me the room key I dropped.  I thought it was REALLY unlike me to have been so careless.  I have a system that is like second nature to me now when traveling with my little green bag.  Sure enough, when I got back to my room, and tried that key, it didn’t work!  It WASN’T mine!!  I brought it to the front desk and asked if it was even that guest houses.  I told the woman the story and she thanked Buddha a million times for the good luck brought to her house by such an unlikely event!  It turned out it was to room 6 and those people had just checked out that morning but forgot to leave the key behind!  Luckily they lost it on MY tuk-tuk up in the mountains!  Hahaha!
So after a quick visit to a waterfall at one of the transfer stops, I dropped off Tiab.  She invited me up, so I went to see what kind of an apartment she and Miao (also her neighbor) lived in.  It was a surprisingly nice building I thought.  It was kind of new, and pretty tall (significantly over 5 stories anyway) and had a front desk and elevator and everything.  Her room, as described above, was not as nice as the exterior and front lobby, but it was far from the “third world” living conditions some might expect.  It was more than decent, and very clean.
I went back to my place to take my afternoon shower, print some photos I’d taken with the bartenders, and figure out my plans to get back to Bangkok.  I was originally planning to take the overnight train to Bangkok that night but I was having such a blast in Chiang Mai that I decided to stay one more night and catch the morning train.  I had already booked the train earlier, so I went back to pay and get the ticket.  It was an 8am train.  An important detail, considering I was about to spend yet another night out dancing, and had not had a full nights sleep in over 2 weeks…
You know what’s coming… I think a first for me…
BUT first, I decided to go “buy” La out of work early this time.  She had called at exactly 1:00pm but neither I, nor Tiab could really talk to her while we were in the back of the tuk-tuk driving up the mountain.  Tiab asked her if she could join us but we were already too far outside Chiang Mai for La to catch up.  I wanted to talk some more, and get out dancing before 2am.  So I dropped by the bar and gave Tiab and Miao all the photos with them, and gave Tiab a little good luck charm from Japan.  I asked La to leave early but told her I could not pay her.  Of course I had the mobile phone for her either way, but hoped she could come out tonight even without payment.  She said yes, and I called the Mama over.  The Mama was blown away I had so much “stamina”!!  The look on her face as she said “AGAIN?” was priceless.  It cost $12 (again, to the bar), but I could afford that.  I just wasn’t down with paying another $50 to La.  The previous night she had worn high heels (probably believing we would just go back to my room), and that was one of the reasons we couldn’t walk too much.  This night she wore walking shoes (knowing I like to walk a lot) and we went to the night market first.  I had to drop off some pictures to Miao’s friend, Nala, at another go-go bar, and La showed me the way while we talked about go-go bars and how she got into it.  She said a friend told her about it, but since her older sister supposedly had worked in this one at one point, I suspect, if anything, it was her sister who got her involved (great sister, eh?).  She didn’t plan on staying for more than 4 months (1 month less than the standard 5-month maximum for most girls) but didn’t have any plan for what to do next.  She also didn’t seem to care about finding a different job - this one was just fine for her.  I didn’t want to point out any of the obvious issues with this career, but it must be obvious enough to her with a 5-month maximum career longevity, and a sister who left in the face of being unemployed - which she still is.
We went to the other go-go bar, Foxy, and asked the Mama if Nala was there, and she excitedly told me to go inside.  Inside, I saw Nala right away and gave her the photos of the night before.  Just then the Mama came in and asked us to sit down.  I said no, but La and Nala both asked me to.  I understood why Nala and the Mama of the establishment wanted me to stay, but was a bit surprised that La wanted to stay.  I would have assumed she would be grateful to get away from “the business” for a while.  It turned out, she kind of wanted to look at the other dancers, and see what the bar was like.  I don’t think she was looking for another bar to work for, but she seemed to want to talk a lot about this one.  It was more sleazy than the Spotlight, with mirrors all around the room.  There were no visible walls - just mirrors.  Black lights lit everything except the stage, so everyone looked ghoulish, with yellow skin and eyes.  The music was a better choice (though not great) but was coming out of 2 tiny, trebly speakers placed too close together and too high up.  It was very “home-made”.  Despite this, La was staring wide-eyed at all the details and commented non-stop about how much better the mirrors, lights, music, and dancing was.
I felt sad and kind of gross.  It was now that I started to wonder if I had gone too far.  I had just been curious, but was starting to feel like a real go-go bar customer.  I started to feel like all my questions had been answered, and even if they hadn’t, I didn’t care to know anymore.  I was beginning to wonder if I had done the wrong thing by going back to Spotlight tonight, and buying La.  I decided we didn’t need to talk anymore, and we should find a place to eat and go dancing.  La knew a good Thai place to eat and we walked a long way to get there.  It turned out to be closed.  It was around 11 pm, and La didn’t know a lot about the area so I decided to ask a hotel concierge.  I went to a big hotel across the street and went in.  La tried to wait outside.  I’ve seen this in other countries, and it always bothers me.  In poor countries, the locals aren’t allowed into nice places like hotels.  If they tried, security would stop them before they made it 5 steps.  This is really hard for me to watch.  It’s not like these people are dirty, or smell, or are dangerous.  Sure, if a homeless person tried to enter the Carlyle Hotel in NYC, they would be stopped too.  But if Joe Blow walked in, no one would stop him.  And they shouldn’t.  Well, La was dressed well, and looked normal, so it irked me that she felt scared to enter.  I had to literally take her by the arm up the stairs and inside.  Even then, she still wouldn’t go to the front desk with me.  She hung out on the side of the lobby.  Sad that there is such a class separation of rights in countries like Thailand.  It’s only a little better than the Caste system of Indo-Asian counties (and even they “officially” reject it).
Well, the concierge seemed surprised that I would even be LOOKING for a restaurant at such an hour.  Real Thai restaurants were probably open all over the city, but the tourist restaurants the hotel would recommend were all turning off the lights by now.  We decided to bag the dinner, and just go dancing.  We walked to the club she wanted to go to, and had to pay a cover.  It was almost as nice at the club I went to the first night but was a farang club.  La loved it but I was disappointed that I has asked to go out with a Thai local, but got a farang hang out I could have found anywhere in the tourists district.  The music was some mediocre trance/techno style and none of the songs were familiar (maybe just because I don’t listen to trance anymore).  All the people around me were kind of pasty, tacky, drunk tourists who were still wearing their beach shorts and Hawaiian shirts from their travels in southern Thailand.  I tried dancing, but just couldn’t get into it.  La was a sexy go-go bar dancer, but didn’t know any other kind of dance moves.  She tried a little, but ultimately fell back on her slinky, erotic lap-dance style, which made me a little more than self-conscious that it was obvious who I brought to the party…  All in all, the night was uneventful, if not a little depressing.  After a few hours at the club she had to get back to get picked up by her “sister” (if it really was).  I went to Spotlight to say bye to Tiab and Miao, but they had closed already.  I tried to explain I just wanted to say bye to my friends, and ended up having to push past some dancers telling me to leave.  I saw Miao and said bye, but she was very stiff for some reason.  I saw Tiab and she pretended to ignore me.  I felt very strange.  The bar was full or workers, and the lights were all on, but it was silent, and all eyes seemed to be on me.  Miao turned and said “she’s mad at you”.  I didn’t know why, but guessed she had expected I would have bought her out of work that night (after taking me to the temple that day).  Or maybe she didn’t think I should have given La the cell phone.  I don’t know, and I still don’t.  I awkwardly apologized that I had made her mad, and started to leave.  Finally she got up and told me to wait while she wrote her email address down.  Everyone was looking at me, and, knowing the bar’s policy, I felt very uncomfortable.  This was probably strange and suspicious to everyone watching.  I’m sure I was red in the face, and felt like I had crashed some sort of “end-of-the-night party” or something.  I went straight past all the transvestite hookers on the street and back to my room.  I was too tired to pack, and had to be up in 4 hours.  I set my alarm and fell asleep.
Next thing I knew, I was waking up and the sun seemed way too bright.  SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I had overslept, and not just a little!  My train had left Chiang Mai 2 hours ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  There were no other trains that would get me to Bangkok before my Tokyo flight, and the buses took even LONGER!!  The only option was to fly.  FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s a really expensive option considering my $20/day budget, and I had already spent $14 on a non-refundable train ticket.  It was a whopping $50, but turned out to be a great piece of luck (though far from frugal).  I went to the front desk and they laughed and laughed.  They said I didn’t want to leave Chiang Mai!!  The woman rushed to secure a flight that day, and I paid with credit card because I was out of baht.  It was a 3pm flight so I had another half day in Chiang Mai!  Great!  I packed my bag and left it at the front desk for the day and headed out for breakfast and to do some last minute errands.  After breakfast and shopping for some souvenirs, I thought about just sitting down and writing about all this.  It was a brutally hot day, so I decided to be an asshole and go to Starfucks for the air-conditioning, power outlets, and comfy seats.  But on my way I decided I thought about what I’d write, and how to stay in touch with the people I’d gotten to know.  I had wanted to show La how to use email, but we never got around to it.  I decided to call her and see if she could get together for some lunch and an email lesson.  I called her on my old cell phone and she was happy I was still around.  We met at Starfucks and I jumped on her scooter.  We went to an old hole-in-the-wall shack for some cheap and spicy noodles, and then walked around the block looking for an internet cafe.  After finding one, it took several attempts on the slow connection, but we eventually get her an account with Hotmail (Yahoo doesn’t support Thai characters).  I emailed her some quick guides to English/Thai phrases for future reference, and decided it wouldn’t hurt anybody to get her a real dictionary as well.  It was getting late but we scooted over to a Thai bookshop and I bought her a dictionary, and 2 easy textbooks to improve her English.  Who knows if she’ll actually study and improve her English, but considering she claims she knew no English when she first came to the go-go bar, and now she’s conversational, I’d say she must have a strong interest in learning.  A possibility well worth the $9 it cost me.  I hope she does practice, and learn more.  Obviously English would be an important job skill that could lift her out of her dangerous career path, and even be a positive inspiration for her son.
There was little time for me to get to the airport, so I asked her to drive me.  We went back to my guesthouse and I picked up my bag before jumping back on the scooter and to the airport.  She dropped me off, and I quickly wrote down Hotmail’s url, and her login info as a reminder, so that I could be sure to stay in touch.  I said goodbye and went to check in.
After a speedy security check, I found myself in a fairly empty terminal waiting area.  Now, this is why flying turned out to be a great piece of luck.  While sitting, waiting for boarding to start, I looked up to see a Thai woman sitting near me.  I’m always curious about people in poor countries who can afford to fly.  They are a miniscule percentage of the population, and probably have way more money than most locals, so I love to know what they are all about.  So I asked her if she was Thai, and that’s how I met Kaz.
Turns out Kaz, is short for Kazuko… a Japanese name.  For a Japanese girl!  Though she looked Thai to me, and every other Thai person, she had no Thai blood that she knew of (Taiwanese, but not Thai) and was in Thailand for a job interview at a university for a Japanese teaching position.  She was heading back to Tokyo the next day, and I quickly realized we were on the same flight today, and tomorrow.  I had been dancing for 3 nights straight, and was not looking forward to the dearth of good dance clubs back in Japan.  So I wanted to go dancing in Bangkok that night, and couldn’t help to nudge Kaz to join me.  She was stunning, and though I know the Japanese have less rhythm than Steve Martin in The Jerk, it’s always more fun to go dancing with someone than alone (even if you don’t literally dance with them).  So when we arrived in Bangkok I decided to stay at her hotel (I do NOT share the Japanese travel budget, so the hotel price was PAINFUL) so we could enjoy the city together.  She did not seem to really know the city well, but as it turns out, I wasn’t much of a guide.  We went into town without the name or location of any of the clubs.  So what could have been a 30 minute taxi ride turned into a series of FIVE taxi rides and way too much walking in the wrong directions for an hour and a half!!  It didn’t help that Kaz had worn heels (what is wrong with women wearing heels with me???) so by the time we did find the club, I think her feet were already sore.  But that didn’t stop her from tearing it up!  I was astounded!  She was the first Japanese girl I’ve met who can actually dance!  She had lived for 2 years in England, so I think I know where she learned her moves…  The club was outstanding.  It was called the Bed Supper Club, which is a strange name for a very cool place.  It’s basically a sleek, huge, white cylinder on it’s side, suspended 1 story above the ground.  It has 2 white rooms.  One of them is furnished with 2-meter deep, white, leather sofas running the length of both walls, which explains the “Bed” part of its name.  Both rooms have a balcony level, but I didn’t get the chance to go up there.  Though the “bed room” was more interesting to look at, the music in the other room was WAY too good to pass up.  We spent our entire night in that room, which was a bit smaller, and traditionally clubby.  The visual entertainment there wasn’t the stylish decor, but rather the acrobatic bartenders, who were constantly blowing fireballs, juggling bottles, and putting on mini acrobatic dance shows, and never stopped dancing to the music.  The DJ had skills, and played the latest house releases from the UK.  As usual I lived up to my Hewey alter-ego (…thanks D & M) and didn’t give a shit that I was sweating through my shirt.  But I guess the bartenders thought I stuck out, and would NOT stop handing me wads of napkins.  Not the coolest cat in the club I guess, but I was there to dance; not to be seen.  I noticed at some point that I was the only one wearing a colored shirt!  I don’t mind it terribly, but it IS a little conformist to wear only black or white…  And the sunglasses at night thing is just too cool for school.  I and Kaz were among only a few people who were actually there to dance - everyone around us was sort of bobbing up and down and looking ever-so-cool.  So, though it was a great club and an awesome night out, I think everyone was taking themselves just a tad too seriously at this posh venue.
Well after a few solid hours of dancing, Kaz was drunk, and her feet hurt too much to even stand up.  We caught a taxi back to the hotel, and made a plan to meet in 2 hours in the lobby to catch our 6am flight.
At which point… I promptly OVERSLEPT AGAIN!!!!  FUCK!!  What is wrong with me?!?!?!?!  I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.  I used to ignore my sleep-deprived body for weeks, without a problem.  Now, if I miss just a little sleep because of an apartment move, some early flights, and a few nights of clubbing, my body gives up on me!!!!!!  I was particularly pissed Kaz didn’t call me.  We had agreed 3 hours earlier to wake each other up by banging on their door if we weren’t in the lobby with 5 minutes of our agreed upon time.  I called her room several times to see if SHE had overslept as well, and then threw everything in my bag and ran downstairs.  She wasn’t there and I explained to the front desk that I needed a taxi NOW.  There was an empty and quiet street outside, and I was panicked that I would miss my flight.  I had 1 hour before it took off, and I was still at my hotel!  I and a clerk ran down the street to the highway!  Luckily that was full of cars making their 5am commute and a taxi was among them.  The clerk explained the urgency and the driver rushed me to the airport in less than 10 minutes.  I ran through various terminals until I found my empty check-in counter.  I tried in vane to request a seat next to a girl who’s last name I didn’t even know, but at least they were still allowing check-ins.  Just after check-in I ran into Kaz.  She looked sleepy and was very confused.  She said she had met a gaigin in the lobby with a yellow shirt like mine and just got in a taxi with him.  She only realized it wasn’t me because he wasn’t saying anything.  I imagine how confused he must have been - to be randomly approached by a beautiful Japanese girl at 4 in the morning, and to be followed into his taxi as if she knew him.  See?!  It’s NOT just Americans who think Asians all look the same.  They think WE all look the same too!
Anyway, so that marks the end of my story, and 8-day trip to Thailand.  If you’re reading this, pat yourself on the back for making it through 25 pages of banter and unnecessary information!!!  No doubt your life is not any better, or more meaningful now that you know about my trip… but I appreciate that you thought I might have written something of interest.  It was a nice thought.
For now, you can look at some of my photos at
I’m back in Japan and have been well occupied moving to my new city, starting my new job, and settling in.  If you’re interested in my life in Japan, let me know.  I have LOTS to say.  But in short, I LOVE MY NEW JOB, CITY, AND APARTMENT!!!!!!
Well, bye all,