Dag 156; Chiang Mai

On my way back from a couple of beers with Lisa and her sister, a beautiful albeit somewhat stern-looking thai woman smartly dressed in black top and skirt stands leaning against a street-post, following me with a scrutinizing gaze. Drunk and quite relaxed, not knowing what to do, I smile at her. She stands up, stopping me in my way

"You want fuck?"

somewhat unexpected, but everything kind of floats so I just slide past her with a smile and a

"No, thanks"

She grabs hold of my wrist with two hands, spinning me around. I’m on the verge of laughter.

"I suck you, I got room! 150 bath! I suck you!"

150 bath, I think, making the calculation with surprising ease, that’s about 30 SEK. 3 Euros. Surely, there must be something not quite right, but then again,

"No, sorry," and i twist loose of her grip, she’s got a hungry, eager look to her eyes that sends a single impulse of fear through my mind. Walking backwards, I raise my palms, shrug and say

"You’re a very beautiful woman, but no thanks"

totally like the condenceding bastard trying to be nice I’ve always feared myself to be.

Turning on to Kho san road, a tuk-tuk-driver approaches me and asks me if I want a ride. When I say no, he asks if I wants something else, grins and form his left hand into a cylinder, clap over the hole with his right hand, making a silent ’pop’ kind of sound. No, I don’t think I want that.

Trying to get to an internet cafe a girl puts out her arm and stops me, only that it’s not a girl, can’t be. It’s a ladyboy. Jesus, I think, being a big obviously single guy in the tourist district in Bangkok I seem to walk around with a sign plastered onto my forehead.

I gently lift her arm, smile and say ’No, I’m going for internet.’ She gives me some helpful hints on how to use the cafe, I thank her and pass.

The day after, I leave for Chumpon to get to Rangon port and the boat to Koh Payam. The bus is one of those big, shiny tourist buses with air-con, the only problem the seats being way to small for me, so I share the big lower-deck sofa with two german girls. A strange athmosphere evolves as we never strike up conversation but now and then our naked feet and legs accidentally touch.

In Chumpon, I get kind of stranded. I’m the only one getting off, the rest of the bus are on their way to the eastern islands. I ask the conductor, ’Ranong? Bus to Ranong?’ and he points me in the right direction.

To Ranong, that is. I walk quite a bit until I realize that he’s directed me to Ranong, not the bus station. It’s when I stand under the highway sign I realize the error and turn back. The dogs are barking at me like mad, it’s four o’clock. No people awake and the few I meet speak no english whatsoever.

Finally, I see a woman at a car. I ask her for ’bus to Ranong’, and it turns out she’s waiting for it. So, we have half an hour company, I speak no thai, she speak no english, but we try and laugh about it. Nice.

The bus comes, takes me to Ranong, I fall asleep with the woman in the seat next to me and have a moment of panic as I wake up and she’s gone. It turns out she got off earlier. In Ranong I get a lift to the pier with a wrinkly old man on his moped. Picture this little moped, cringing under the weight of the little old man hunched over the handlebar and me with my two back-packs clinging to him trying not to fall off the seat. The moped put-put-puts, wheezes and is generally undersized for the task.

Koh means ’island’.

Two and a half hours boatride from Ranong lies Koh Payam, it’s one of the islands furthest out in the archipelago, so the waves are quite high. High enough for bodysurfing, anyway. There are two cement roads crossing the island, and you can hire motorbikes; small, 125 cc motorbikes capable of doing about 100 km/h. Zooming thru vegetation, swerving past pot-holes and ducking for way too low branches on metre-wide roads, it felt totally like that scene with those air-bikes they got in ’Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’. Big fun.

Well, I thought Koh Payam was the closest to a paradise island you could come in Thailand today, but I was wrong. After a couple of days relaxing in a quite luxurious bungalow, Becky and her sister Joy shows up. It turns out they’ve jumped off on another Island by mistake and that that island vere even better.

So, two days later, I head over to ’Koh Chang’. ’Tommys bungalows’ was exactly what I was looking for; calm sea surrounded in the far distance by green lush islands, an empty strech of beach only about 50 metres wide, totally unreacheable via land, and only seven simple bungalows.

In the main house, ’Moon’ resides, being the manager and excellent cook. To help her, she’s got a Burmese woman, her son ’Miao’, ’Toy’ the boy-man and the pet monkey ’Tao Muan’. After a couple of days, ’Tommy’ shows up. He’s thai, which comes as a surprise to me, as I thought he was yet another of those western men of which the islands are full; that found a thai wife and settled for paradise. Not so.

’Tao Muan’ is named after a sweet, and sweet she was. Of course I don’t like the idea of holding an essentially wild animal for a pet but I must admit it was a very rewarding experience playing with a somewhat domesticated monkey.

"She plays hard," Joy stated after I told her Tao Muan just bit my nose. "Yeah. So do I."

’Miau’ was a totally adorable little black-haired boy, maybe five or six years old, initially shy but soon wild enough. I have never figured out if I’m good with kids or not so when he kept coming running up to me and hitting me, I didn’t really know what to do. I just played along, chasing him and growling. In the end I realized that he’d probably taken a liking to me. On my last day at one point I was sitting on the floor talking to another guest when Miau came and lay his head on my lap. Sitting there slowly stroking his hair, I was again filled with this feeling that yes, someday I too will have this. And, I thought, what a strange up-bringing for a child. He’ll probably not go to school being a burmese and probably illegal immigrant, and he’ll always be essentially surrounded by adults until he’s old enough to take the boat out of this secluded bay.

The restlessness pushes me forward, this is a wonderful place to have a vacation, but I’m not on vacation, so I take the bus to Bangkok to get my visa for Laos.

The taxi driver taking me to Kho San Road is a total loon. He keeps repeating

"Hello from London. The weather is 15 degrees farenheit, 10 degrees celsius. I learn english from radio, listen. The weather is 15 degrees. Sweden cold. I’m a musician. Listen."

and puts on a karaoke power-ballad from the eighties, and sings to it in a horrible imitation of english, overpronouncing every word, never hitting a single note but instead my knee to make sure he has my full attention.

"No tip?" he asks surly when I finally get out of the car and pay him.

On Kho San, I have a to-do-list the size of an A4. I have to buy new clothes, a new alarm clock, get more money, dollars, have a hair-cut, restock.

In the evening I’m headed out for a session of ’traditional thai massage’. Becky gave me a papernote with the name and address of a really good place, and the numbers of the best masseurs. Calling in advance to reserve, I feel a bit guilty under the scrutiny of the hotel receptionist;

"Hello. Is this sunflower massage? Hi, my name is Stefan. Stefan. Yes. I was wondering how long are you open? Yes, but how long tonight? Ten thirty. And how long is massage? Two hours. So I come eight? Yes. And I want girl 16. I want to make a reservation for girl 16. At eight. Yes. Oh. Well, then, girl 19? 19? Ok. So, girl 19 at eight o’clock. And my name is Stefan. Fine. Yes. Thank you."

When I ask the receptionist where it was and how long time it would take, she says ’two hours’, I’m baffled. She explains, ’traffic.’

And traffic it was. At 6 o’clock, I get a tuk-tuk, the driver presents himself as ’Schumacher’, which must surely be wrong. Anyhow, driving thru Bangkok I realize the receptionist was right. The traffic is dense, Schumacher says it’s only 20 km to the massage parlour, but it takes us quite exactly two hours.

The two hours was spent reading and socializing with the tuk-tuk driver. I really couldn’t decide on whether I liked him or loathed him. First of all, he asks me where I’m going, I say ’massage’, he retorts, ’bom-bom’ with the ’b’ being somewhere between ’b’ and ’p’ and I ask, just for the hell of it,

"What do you mean?" "Bom-bom?" "Yeah, what does that mean?"

He looks a bit startled, do I know nothing of the world?

"You know, body massage?" "Yeah. I’m having a thai massage."

I’m kind of taking the piss out of him, to see where the conversation will go.

"Body massage, you know, breast, water, pussy. Bom-bom?" "Ah. No, nothing like that. I’m going to this place for a two hour traditional massage." "Why you want to go there? It’s far!" "Yes, but I got this place recommended." "You know," he says after a thoughtful pause,"you go to massage, then I take you to show, and then, Bom-bom." "No, thank you. I want to go straight back to my hotel after massage. I’m tired."

At first I get really tired and weary of him and all the other people constantly triying to get me to sign up for different sexual services. Then I realize I really can’t miss out on a strip show, or whatever, when in Bangkok. I really can’t.

So I tell him I will go to a ’show’ tomorrow, but that I want a good show, not a shit show, as I’m only going to do this once. He looks at me, and says,

"Good show, yes. A bit expensive, 900 bath." "Yeah, it’s okay," I say,"so, what’s a good time?" "Seven o’clock. You come look for me at same place." "Ok."

Arriving at the parlour, I go for a one hour foot massage and two hours of thai massage, not really knowing what I’m buying. 500 bath is about 90 SEK. For three hours of massage. Lovely.

There’s not much to be said about the foot massage, apart from the fact that it was so needed after five months travelling. I asked for a pedicure, but they didn’t do that there.

After a change of clothes I was led into a chamber for the two hour thai massage. A small thai woman, quite sturdily built, comes in and greet me with a shy smile and eyes downcast. She speaks no english whatsoever, so we communicate in sign language. And so begins what must best be described as a cross between thai boxing and a wrestling match, me being locked into the most ridiculous positions, her using every limb to press every last bit of air and tension out of my body. Definitely the most action-packed and acrobatic massage I’ve ever had. Impressive.

The taxi-driver taking me back to Kho San Road is a total loon. He keeps repeating

"Yeah", with a long sigh, "Too much traffic. Yeah. The police. Corrupt. Stopping traffic to make money. Yeah," making that t-t-t-t sound with the tounge against the fore of the mouth, "No police, never any problems. t-t-t-t. Look, truck. Yeah. I’m a musician. Listen."

I’m just sitting there silenty wondering if perhaps the Bangkok cab companies have launched some kind of affirmative action scheme to aid integration of the mentally challenged into society.

He gives me the heart-break story about him being very poor, having four daughters and one son, so I give him quite a good tip.

The next day I continue working on my to-do-list, and buy a package trecking-tour-deal to Chiang Mai. This will be the first package activity I’ve bought on my travels, and I’m a bit anxious over how it will turn out. In India I developed a deep mistrust of travel agents.

And that is one of the things that have dawned upon me, that this is not India. Actually, this could be Greece. I hear swedish spoken all around me on Kho San Road, and slowly I’m starting to accept that my hard-core travelling days are over. Or at least so it seems. It’s that odd mix of an sigh - one part relief, one part pensiveness.

In the evening, I dress up for the show. I put on my smart pants and my shirt. It’s wrinkly as hell, so down att the laundry I ask them if they could iron it. They can’t. I ask them, and then, the hotel reception if there’s an iron for me to borrow. No, there isn’t. Do they know where I can have my shirt ironed? No.

Apparently sexual favors are readily available but nobody wants to iron my shirt so I go up and change into one of my newly acquired t-shirts.

Ready for the night.

After a few minutes, I locate ’Schumacher’. He’s quite happy, talking a lot, wanting me to promise to tell him everything about what goes on inside of the club.

"I’ve never been," he says. "Why?" "I can’t," no further explanation. "Are you married?" He looks startled, then smile, "Yes. Four years. I have a two year son." "Two? Then he must be walking?" "No, just one. One son. Two years old." "Yes, so he’s walking, running?" "Yes! Playing football!"

We laugh.

Coming to the venue, I pay a thousand bath. The club consists of a rather small room with a bar running alongside the far wall, simple chairs and tables arranged around an elevated scene. The lighting is quite barren and the music terrible. Pumping cheesy euro-techno that sometimes end for half a minutes silence in the middle of an act.

I get a table in the back end, opposite the bar.

The quite big-boned thai woman on the stage has just finished her act, which is to open a coca-cola bottle with her fanny. Which is the word I’m going to use from here on.

After her two women go up and dance, or, more to the point, show themselves; they each got a number attached to a bikini-strap. We all know what that number mean. I scan them and judge them not very attractive. Especially the one closest to me, she’s actually to skinny. And old, she actually looks kind of haggard. I avoid eye contact.

The music changes abruptly into some horrid syrypy ballad, next act is two women indulging in fake and quite mechanically performed abstraction of lesbian sex, going thru position after position without any feeling whatsoever, they end the act pushing their hips fast together, causing a loud bodyclap.

I just smile, laugh outright, clap my hands. Whatever my fears of falling and giving in to my lowest instincts entering this lair of sin, I need not have had. There is nothing sexually arousing about this, it’s just strange, weird, crazy. Show. Outrageous, yes. Sad, yes. But oh, so human.

The haggard woman comes and sits down with me. I’m sipping my gin and tonic, she asks me where I’m from, we make small talk. Her name is Mai, I want to see the show, she wants my attention. She’s rubbing my shoulders, rubbing my arm, quite good, but I don’t really want her to, so I joke about it, that I’ve actually had a three hours massage the day before. To make up for it, I offer her a drink. Of course she accepts, that being her job, so she gets a rhum and cola for herself. She gets me a pack of cigarettes as well and I chain-smoke three of them, my resolutions gone out thru the entrance door.

The coca-cola woman comes back on stage, bringing ping-pong balls in a tray of water. She inserts them, and ejects them, targeting the tray. I watch her do it in a kind of grossed awe.

Now a considerably younger and cuter woman comes on stage. She dances at the pole for a couple of minutes, locked in wiggling her ass in a pattern neither sensual nor expressive. Then she produces about 15 meters of UV-flourescent string, wrapping them around the four poles in the corners of the scene and producing quite elaborate effects with them, which would have gone well at any techno club weren’t it for the fact that the string ends between her legs.

Again my predominant almost obsessive thought is ’oh my god hope they keep them well clean.’

I ask Mai how long the show is, she says it’s an hour, then it starts all over, until one o’clock in the morning. It’s now eight o’clock. So much for keeping clean.

How long has she worked here? Four years. Is it a good place to work? Silence. I explain that I have stripper friends, and I wonder if this is a good place, if they treat the girls well? Empty gaze. Sometimes.

The next act is similar to the one before, but this time the string is lined with quite big textile flowers.

Behind us a friend of Mai, smartly dressed in black, is leaning against the wall. They talk in thai, laugh, I ask what they were joking about, Mai say, ’you’ and stroke me over my semi-bald head. She says her friend thinks I’m a handsome man, that I look nice.

The first woman appears on stage again, she seems to be a central talent, something underscored by the fact that she’s not wearing any number. She lies down on her back, raises her legs over her head, halfways rolled backwards. She inserts, lits and smokes two cigarettes and offers the last drag to a male member of the crowd. He cringes, refuses, so she puts them out in an ash tray.

I ask her how many girls are working in the show. Seven, and ten in the place. Mai is in the show, she explains, she’s doing something with a banana. I don’t really want to know about it, so I ask if her friend is in the show.

"No, she’s with the hotel. She do massage in room. Massage and sek." "Sek?" "Yes. Sek."

The next act involvs lighting the candles on a birthday cake, inserting a straw and blowing them out, one by one. Again, the same member of the audience is offered to blow out the last candle. When he tries to she withdraws the cake and laughs. That kind of puts him off, so he refuse to try a second time regardless of her promises. She offers it to another guy, he blows it out.

The second part of her mini-act consists of playing a merry little two-note tune on a small trumpet.

When she’s about to leave the stage, she comments on something to Mai, throwing a fast glance my way, and again, I have to ask for a translation.

"She says you’re the only one with a smile. Nobody else smile."

I realize that outrageous as it is, this must be a very boring job. Especially if the crowd is uptight and tense. I make up my mind as to try my best to show my appreciation for their work.

The girl on stage is sucking up rings with a straw, and depositing them on the neck of a bottle. It looks impossible enough to do with your mouth, and sure enough, this apparently not being her day, she fails so many times that in the end she just puts the rings on the bottle with her hands, look down to the floor with a sad smile and give herself a little applause.

I ask Mais friend, her name is Yo, if she wants a drink. Of course. She fetches a cola and sit down on my left side. She starts to massage me, so I turn to Mai, she grins without me having to say anything, says something in thai, they laugh.

One of the cute girls, they’re of indeterminable age and quite similar to each other, do the string trick again, this time it’s a line of connected razorblades she pulls out of her vagina.

After that, a big-boned woman shoots helium-filled balloons with darts. Then she turns the straw my way as if to pop my big bald balloon. I slowle raise myself up, put my hands in front of my face in a theatrical gesture and shout "No, no!"

I’ve become quite the center of attention.

Even though the room is well filled with people, I now have a third girl standing behind me. She comments,

"Two girls! Sandwiched between two girls good. Have you ever had two girls?" "No," I have to admit. She strokes me over my semi-shaved head, and then throws her long, black hair over it, her nose in the back of my neck, she happily shouts, "Now you have hair! You will have to bring me along wherever you go!" "You’re crazy," I shout back, she escalates, "You too!", and continues, "We’re all crazy!"

The main talent enters the stage, shows us a plain white A4 paper. She then wraps a filter marker pen with some cloth, inserts it and hunch over the paper. Her crotch is moving, her face a tight knot of concentration.

The room is filled with people, and to my astonishment, more than half of the crowd is female. There are one or two western women, the rest look asian.

"That’s strange," I comment, "so many women. Swedish women don’t really like this kind of stuff." "Yes, they’re phillipine women. And japanese. Many asian women come here, every night." "That girl, over there, the really cute one with the short black skirt, does she work here, or is she a guest?" "No, she come here to watch."

As a rule, the westeners have a hard and/or guilty look on their faces, the asians look either interested or disinterested. And of course there’s me, smiling, joking with my girls, making noise.

After considerable time, the filter-pen act is drawing to its conclusion. The artwork is an uncannily well drawn portrait of one of the members of the crowd, and in a bit shaky but very clear writing the text "Welcome to Thailand"

Mai leaves hurriedly, as she’s up next. She comes on stage with two coca-cola-bottles, one filled with water, the other empty. She inserts the water bottle, rolls over on her back with her feet almost touching the ground over her head, and empty the bottle. Covering herself with a small towel, she then inserts the empty bottle, and fills it with what seems to be coca-cola. I’m astonished.

Yo puts her head on my shoulder, I stroke her hair.

The other part of Mais act is the banana thing; laying on her back, she inserts half a banana and by thrusting her hips at the same time as squeezing, she makes it fly in an two meter arc, into her outstreched hand so she can repeat the whole manuevre again and again.

When she returns, I ask her how the hell she did that coca-cola thing. She just points at her cola-filled glass and smile. "Secret, huh?" I realize.

Now the whole show starts all over with the first woman coming onstage with an unopened cola bottle. She shakes it vigourously, hunches down on it and open it with a loud pop.

I’ve had enough. I thank Mai and Yo, get up and pay my bill. After giving them a tip of a couple of hundred bath, I scurry for the street like a rat out of a maze.

There, ’Schumacher’ stands waiting. I get into his tuk-tuk, and immediately he wants me to tell every detail of the night. It’s quite apparent that he’s heard it all several times before, but anyway he takes great delight in hearing about it, laughing like a happy child at every detail.