Beer Garden is located a couple blocks off of Sukhumvit Road, on Soi 7. It is what is known as a “freelancer bar”, a meat market in other words, where Thai women go to find a foreigner willing to part with some of his baht for a brief interlude of intimacy. With dimensions resembling that of a warehouse, there can be two dozen girls lounging around the maze of counters some nights, chatting with their friends while keeping their eyes peeled for a “customer”. If there is a heaven for lonely old men, it surely includes a place like this.
I ended up sitting next to Bam one July evening purely by accident. We swapped looks, but with her square, rather plain face and tiny figure, she didn’t make much of an impression. After awhile, to kill time, I got out my language notebook and begin practicing writing Thai characters. This is the way I meet women over here and it works amazingly well. When they see the pages I’ve churned out, demonstrating my seriousness, they practically fall over each other attempting to give me instruction. It’s a natural, nonthreatening way to make a connection. Soon Bam had joined the nearest barmaid in writing down Thai words that I’d comically mis-pronounce, which kept them both entertained.
Where Bam and I hit it off was when I had her write the words in Thai for “zero baht”. I copied them onto a small piece of paper then, reaching over the bar, took my running bill for the evening from its wooden cup and replaced it with my scratchings, all the while keeping a straight face. The audacity of this had Bam in stitches for the next ten minutes. (The barmaid was somewhat less amused, being responsible for the bill, but was a good sport once she realized I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one.)
This was the first of what became three consecutive evenings of at times uproarious fun. Bam would try to teach me some Thai while I looked for ways to send her into semi-hysterics. Although I like to see myself as a composed, somber individual, at heart I’m a comedian and am delighted whenever I find someone whose sense of humor is on the same wave-length.
When I showed up later in the week for what I hoped would be a fourth night of frolics, Bam informed me and the barmaid (who had become part of our little gathering) that she could not join us. Though I had been tipping my petite instructor five hundred baht each night ($14), this was not enough to pay the rent and she needed to find a serious customer.
If had half a brain, I’d have seen this coming. This was a freelancer bar, not a nightclub, and it was naive of me to expect a lady there to welcome my rib-tickling company night after night only to be left with a pittance. On the other hand, shelling out more baht for the company of someone I was having such a super time with might be a worthwhile outlet for my new riches.
Not being interested in trying to find another lady to entertain, I soon left for home. The featured music that night was grinding electronic garbage and I needed some quiet time to consider my next move.