Oct 19, 2010
The first leg of the trek over to Bangkok (courtesy of Korean Airlines) was from Seattle to Seoul and it took over eleven hours. Trying to relax in my customary window seat, I amused myself with a selection from the movie channel (an oldie, The Hustler, featuring Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman), then worked out a navigation scheme for the three audio chan-nels that on occasion played tunes I liked. But despite a fair-sized bi-bim-bop meal served by the stunning Korean stewardess, my body refused to recover from the abuse of the past weekend (too little sleep and too much self-indulgent eating). As punishment, I had to endure not only a painful stomach, but also a migraine and plugged sinuses. Guess I hit the trifecta.
A miserable beginning for this new chapter of my life.
We actually flew not into Seoul, but the new Incheon Airport about thirty miles to the west. Its sparkling interior resembles a ritzy shopping mall with prices designed to soak unwary, jet-lagged passengers. I took a mini tour and wasn’t overly impressed. But perhaps this was a reflection of my decision last year to put South Korea behind me. I’d had decidedly mixed experiences with the country, first laboring there as an English instructor for fifteen up-and-down months in 1995 and 1996, then a pair of quite pleasurable follow-up visits a dozen years later. In other words, it’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to work there.
Though “only” five plus hours down to Bangkok from Incheon, it felt far longer. I gamely attempted to get some sleep, but it only came in brief snatches. I felt awful. To be sure, much of this came from my careless, pre-departure overeating, but it’s also true that my once-reliable body cannot handle these long flights like it used to, even compared to a few years ago. It reinforces the suspicion that in the future I’ll be cutting back on my travels.
Enough writing for now. All that sugar from the Cokes I imbibed wan-dering about in the heat this afternoon, fighting off sleepiness, is wearing off. I’m going under.
Oct 20, 2010
I almost missed my friend Alex at the Bangkok airport. An expat with a never-ending curiosity, he had introduced me to Thailand a couple years back and had graciously volunteered to once again help me get oriented. But I was delayed waiting for my luggage to appear and he nearly gave up on me. Because it was close to midnight, I wouldn’t have blamed him for tossing in the towel and am glad he stuck around.
We took a long taxi drive to the area of Sukhumvit Road famous for its ladies of the night. Alex helped me check in at an upscale tourist hotel there, then took me out for a late-night walking tour. I was already dazed from lack of sleep and the groupings of beckoning women only added to the surreal atmosphere. A preview of my new lifestyle? Well, I guess I could get used to it.
None of the alluring girls accompanied me back to the hotel. Just Alex. As mentioned in another post, my prior visits to this country were limited by one month Tourist Visas, resulting in a sense of urgency in sampling the goods. Not any more. As Alex and I neared my hotel, I realized that with all my affairs back home in order and no sentimental attachment to Seattle, I could spend the rest of my life here if so inclined. There’s no longer any reason to hurry.
I got to bed around 4:00 a.m., local time, and could only sleep for a few hours, giving me the entire morning to get up and on the road to Pattaya (about two and a half hours south of Bangkok). I’d told the manager of the guesthouse I’d be staying in that I’d be arriving between one and two in the afternoon and wanted to give myself plenty of time in case I got lost (which has happened, by the way).
Checking out of my hotel, I had to ride the Skytrain a couple stops (per Alex’s instructions) to get to the Eastern Bus Terminal. The main chal-lenge was not the heat, or figuring out how to ride the elevated train, but the luggage I was lugging. Thanks to my fastidious packing, it was not overly heavy and my knees held up without complaint the entire day. But it made me slow and clumsy. In exiting the Skytrain station, I was tardy passing through the ticket machine cattle shoot and got nabbed by the flipper doors, forcing me to fight my way free.
At the terminal, I made a mistake (as I sometimes do when jet lagged) by letting an official-looking guy take charge. As he hustled me out towards a departing bus, and I saw I’d have to make a final mad dash to catch it, I gave up the chase. I signaled this to my host by crossing and uncrossing my arms once in front of me. He appeared to get the message, promptly moving on to another confused-looking tourist. I re-entered the terminal, found the booth for the buses to Pattaya and bought a ticket.
It was an uneventful ride down. Musing about my new life, I found my-self recalling that early ‘80s Red Rider album, As Far As Siam. I took in the partly cloudy sky and imagined it was three decades ago and that I was moving to this country as an energetic young man with years of good health in front of me. What a different life that would have been! Merci-fully, though my body has slowed down, the spirit of discovery endures unbruised. How else to explain packing up my life at age fifty-three and starting a new adventure? Lunatic Fringe?
Oct 26, 2010
I always expect to get a routine going far sooner that is practical, and that has been the case here so far. After a week in Pattaya, I’m still trying to find the time for the myriad of projects I want to get up and running. The mornings have been the easiest: I wake up, do a few stretches, then may-be some stair stepping if I’m especially ambitious. I take breakfast on the tiny table in front of the TV and follow it with a relaxing meditation ses-sion. Afterwards, I power up my antique Compaq PC (circa 1998) and work on my memoir for a couple of hours, breaking for an early lunch. But then, as the afternoon heat settles in, the schedule gets fuzzy. Not sure if it’s laziness or simply my body still adjusting to the tropics, but I slide into a minor stupor. End up sprawled out on the bed, gazing up at a large, disgustingly happy painting of a family digging up clams on a beach somewhere.
At least the evenings are straightforward. Once over the jet lag, I’ve been able to stay up into the late hours, which is when things get fun at the local bars. Last Thursday I found one with a collection of friendly ladies and went there four straight nights. But something was missing, namely that special person whom I could have the hots for. In fact, of the four or five women whom I’ve “befriended” so far, the two most desirable — in-deed the only ones I have found halfway attractive — are, alas, both on the heavy side. One still has her pregnancy fat while the other features unnaturally thick legs. Not attributes I particularly appreciate.
There also was another negative with that place. A woman friend of the proprietor stopped by one night and treated everyone within earshot to nonstop chattering. The pregnancy-fat girl was giving me some very use-ful instruction on my Thai writing, so I tried not to notice. (In truth it was all gibberish to me anyway, both the loud conversation in Thai and the weird squiggles). After that I began looking for a more suitable spot to hand my pool cue and may have found it last night. This one is in the same outdoor complex (which is a collection of a half dozen miniature bars), adjacent to one of the main entrances. It’s a bit cramped, though I’d stopped by before in past Pattaya visits to meet a woman or two. The current head bar girl (Nok) is an excitable, late thirties woman with — I have to mention this, though it is not one of my turn-ons — a pair of prominent breasts. We played over a half dozen games of pool and I enjoyed her outgoing, fun-loving spirit. This is exactly what was lacking at the other locale.
Interestingly, a third location has come into play. While in the midst of my four nights of fun at that first bar, I noticed a familiar face at a nearby watering hole. This turned out to be a woman named Bom, whom I had played Eight Ball with a year and a half ago. What a pleasant surprise! She’s a serious player who would usually wax my ass unless I had my game in top shape. I did a side trip over to her place both Saturday and Sunday nights. Loads of fun, though once again I got pummeled.
Oct 26, 2010
Though my bar expeditions have been rewarding, I still was longing for a special someone with whom I could enjoy more than the occasional game of pool. Accordingly, I expanded my search and after finishing my Eight Ball Rounds one night, went to a place one block south of the bar complex called Boomerang. This is a roomy drinking establishment that features live music. In the past, the ladies there had dressed as schoolgirls and I’d had a couple of interesting take-home dates. This year, however, it seemed rather dead with no one in uniform. 😂 My waitress for the evening, who went by the bar girl name of Lawt, chewed gum and could not play pool very well. But I was moved by her story, about how she’d come to Pattaya to make some money to help the family back home, and gave her three hundred baht (about $10) when I left.
The next night, I decided to see Lawt again and ended up having one of the best times I’ve ever experienced here! I even learned her real name: Rasamee. With a live band providing some quality music (The Beatles), we drank, laughed and developed the hornies for each other. Initially, she had another customer to wait on but I didn’t mind, that after all being her job. Once he left, however, she gave me her full attention with more or less constant physical contact.
Overcome by the spirit of the evening, I blurted out a promise to come back the following night, pay Rasamee’s bar fine and take her home. (It’s fun to build the anticipation.) It was at this point, when all appeared to be going so well, that we hit a major bump in the road.
Alcohol is world-renowned as a social lubricant. What it also can do is reveal things about a person one might not uncover right away. And so it was here. Earlier, Rasamee had said that the boss discouraged the girls from having wine or liquor by taking it out of their tips. I replied that she should feel free to order whatever she wanted since I was footing the bill. (This is my usual strategy: get the lady loaded.) So what does she do but go get a large bottle of beer with two glasses of ice — one for her and one for another waitress. If I’d stopped to think about it, the opportunity of meeting a second woman that night (who wasn’t bad looking at all) should not have been a major inconvenience. But being somewhat of a control freak, I was annoyed because my “date” had not cleared this with me first. Then she did the unpardonable. Grabbing me by the back of the neck like some scruffy animal, she laughingly forced me to take a couple sips of the beer over my protests.
For me, it’s the coercion, not the booze. I don’t care for beer, but I can drink it. However, I don’t like being handled, even if it’s in a joking man-ner. My instincts began warning me that this woman might be a bit much and that I should make a polite exit. I elected to follow this inner voice despite an overall fun evening, departing as pleasantly as I could while mentioning that tomorrow night would not be good for her going home with me. She was puzzled, of course, but there’s no way I could tactfully explain that I’d gotten a bad feeling about her and needed to get the hell out of there.
And so ended the initial encounter with the woman who would become my Thai girlfriend.
Nov 3, 2010
Awaking from my guilty nap this afternoon, I was treated to the sight of a dozen or so small ants crawling about the bathroom sink. This was the third or fourth attack this week, beginning Sunday morning when they were all over the bathroom counter. My main concern is with my health — I don’t like having to use the bug spray every day, breathing in the fumes. It also means having to keep my toothbrush and other dental tools in the main room.
It’s too bad that Pattaya — beginning with my accommodations — seems to be turning into a less than pleasant fit. It is difficult, for example, to get in the proper mood for my entertaining style of memoir writing when dealing with an invasion of insects. (Also makes me reluctant to bring anyone home for the night.) And when I wish to make a quick 7-Eleven run, I have to cautiously navigate my way down a narrow street, there being no sidewalks. I normally enjoy taking walks, but not if I have to be constantly looking back over my shoulder for tuk-tuks.
And don’t get me started on the mongrel howling that punctures the still-ness of a peaceful night. Good thing I long ago learned the importance of bringing earplugs along on my travels.
I probably shouldn’t be speculating in this fashion, being in a gloomy mood this evening, but it may be that Thailand isn’t going to work out. I have always been one who requires a certain degree of comfort in his sur-roundings and such things as buggy apartments, noisy neighborhoods and traffic dodging do not go over well. (Even my bed is too hard. I need to go find some kind of mattress cushion so I don’t feel like I’m sleeping on a park bench.)
I’ve now scrubbed down the bathroom sink and counter with liquid soap, which seems to have at least temporarily solved the infestation problem. Also, one of the fellow residents here has told me that once we are into the winter dry season (in another week or two), the ants depart the build-ing to frolic about outside. Either way, I hope to have seen the last of the little marauders.
Nov 8, 2010
For those who have not been following my story, Oiy (a funny, attractive Thai bar girl) was my very first fling when I visited “The Kingdom” back in 2008. Though things did not work out, she continued to stay in touch with annual email greetings, which were actually pleas for money. Her most recent solicitation was three months ago. Since I was then in the middle of my Thailand preparations, I (wisely) decided to ignore it and wait until I’d made the Big Move before contacting her. (See Oiy Redux for more details.)
I waited about ten days after arriving here — time enough for the jet lag to recede and my thinking to clear — before emailing Oiy. In addition to the usual greetings, I shared the joyous news that I was now in Thai-land! She quickly and happily responded, asking how soon we could get together and hoping to hear from me again. I dutifully emailed back the next day, explaining I was living in Pattaya but sidestepping any meet-ings by asking how her family was.
Apparently, that lack of enthusiasm has dampened her interest as I have not heard back in over a week.
What happened? I’m guessing, to demonstrate my ardor, I was supposed to have suggested an immediate rendezvous. Perhaps invited her down from Khon Kaen where she’s at present living with her family. (An eight hour bus ride.) But I wasn’t ready for that. Instead, I preferred to find out more about her and her family first via email exchanges (Google now has a translation option that kinda works) before any rolls in the hay. It’s a cautious, prudent approach to a woman I hardly know.
But how strange that Oiy, after diligently remembering me year after year (with money admittedly as her motivation) now apparently gives up after I, at long last, move to her country and get in touch. There was much I liked about the woman and being my “first”, she has a place in my heart. I’m now confused and slightly hurt by her silence after that initial mes-sage. (Not that I really have any grounds to complain, considering the way I ignored her emails over the past two years.) Think I’ll wait a while longer for a response, being by no means starved for female company.
A week later…
My patience having finally run out, the message yesterday morning to my beloved was brief and to the point. I told her I had waited over two weeks for an email and had now found another girlfriend. All quite true, I might add.
There probably was no real need to contact her, it being clear she wasn’t exactly devastated by not getting to see me. However, I wanted to assert a measure of control by “shutting the door” so she’d be less inclined to pester me again for money. Also, I must confess, I’m angry with her and genuinely savored the (to me) just-desserts aspect of my goodbye com-munique: So, you want so much to be my girlfriend and have me respond to your emails, only to then, after I make the effort, go and forget about me? Well, I have news for you, honey: You’ve been replaced! (And how different this all is from Seattle, where it often seemed to me the women were the ones who wielded the power, particularly on match.com. Here I appear to be holding the cards for a change.)
I would never hear from Oiy again.
Nov 23, 2010
I’ve now logged over a month here and am at last beginning to develop a structured life. This includes exercising three mornings a week, putting in serious hours on my memoir (entitled In Love With Asia), and some self-study work on the baffling Thai language. (If I can halfway master the alphabet, I may look for a private tutor.) To top things off, I’ve even got a special female acquaintance: Ms. Drink-My-Beer Rasamee, of all people. I had not really planned on seeing her again, but ran into her one afternoon a week or so after our little scuffle at the Boomerang and ex-changed pleasant hellos. I returned to her bar that night. This time we hit it off with no extraneous wrestling and went back to my place. She is quite attractive for her age (forty-six, but looks ten years younger), has a sense of humor, and is an uninhibited lover. A bit thick in the legs and, as I’ve already noticed, aggressively playful, but that’s all part of the pack-age. She seems more taken with me than vice-versa, so I’ll need to be careful about that.
The biggest challenge so far is trying to balance my memoir efforts with Rasamee’s stay overs. When she does that, I get little quality sleep and the following day is basically wasted. I need to find an acceptable ratio of working days and passionate nights. Writing versus sex…I wonder how Ernest Hemingway handled this? Not to mention his drinking. Need to try and read A Moveable Feast again.
My nascent social life received a boost two weeks ago when Nok’s newly renamed bar had an opening night party. She made a point of inviting me to it when I passed by earlier on my way to dinner. I cautioned myself that these affairs were often not to my liking, but ended up having a super time. The hors d’oeuvres were very tasty (grilled chicken with spicy Thai seasonings) and Nok pawed me for part of the evening while nearly go-ing into hysterics over another American’s buffoonery. (Seated at the bar with his head bent back, he slapped the countertop while making seal barks. I later complimented him on his performance.)
Alas, that was the last I saw of dear Nok, who apparently has moved on to another job somewhere. However, the pool shark from two years ago that I have re-established a rivalry with (Bom) has relocated to Nok’s bar (the area is one big employment carrousel). On two or three occasions each week I get in some games with her around dinnertime — before the evening crowd arrives, if it ever does. But this routine faces obstacles, specifically a new bargirl there that I’ve taken a real disliking to. Not particularly good looking, her raucous voice rubs me the wrong way. So on some nights — such as tonight — when I stroll by the bar and see her there without a customer, I just can’t find the enthusiasm to stop in for some pool with Bom for fear I’d have to include her. For that matter, now that Nok is gone, that place has no one that interests me. Makes me want to talk to the owner — he’s often plopped down behind the bar, smoking and watching TV — and ask him what the hell kind of joint he’s running. The location next door, on the other hand, almost always has a few nice lookers. When I went by tonight around seven, four middle-aged West-erners were already parked at the bar, downing San Miguels and flirting with the girls. Maybe worth a closer inspection?
What fun this all is! Every night, if I so desire, I can go out for Thai or Chinese cuisine, maybe play a bit pool afterwards, then decide if I want to visit Rasamee’s bar for some live music (with the option of paying her bar fine and taking her home). Except for eating out, none of these oh-so-agreeable activities were ever a part of my life back in Seattle. And the good times are in some ways only just beginning. Out towards Pattaya Beach (maybe three quarters of a mile away) can be found dozens of bars and go-gos dotting the main arterials and lining the access roads. The Soi 7 and 8 Streets in particular are packed with boozing and schmoozing opportunities. A whole new world awaits, which will only become more lively as the tourist high season approaches. I’m looking forward to get-ting out and experiencing it.