Bangkok: Her name would be the title

I sit and write these “things” on a semi-regular basis… Actually I don’t do I?… I used to… Now, I just sort of write when inspiration hits me or… If I be more honest, I can be bothered to drag myself over to the laptop and actually write… I’m lazy folks… There, I said it.

I usually start off by reading my last blog, the one thing I don’t want to do is start typing, then realise I’m just writing what I wrote last time… What did I write last time? Oh yeah… My ears are gay… My ears are STILL gay by the way, there is no intervention that can save them.

Not that I’d want them to be saved… Bring on the anthems!

Life here in Bangkok is gradually returning to normal, yes, everyone (well almost everyone) is wearing facemasks, there are still temperature checkpoints at every store and the city is still seeing COVID as a threat, but things ARE getting back to normal, we’ve had no internal infections since the end of May, we’ve had cases reported, but they have all been folks flying back to Thailand from abroad, and all those cases have been identified while people have been in state quarantine… It sort of puts other, more developed countries to shame doesn’t it? Yes, I’m talking to you Great Britain and you United States of America.

So yeah, life is getting back to normal… We’re in the process of moving from our apartment, we’ve been looking for a while and looked at lots of different properties and we finally found “the one”… It’s an older building but has much more space than our current apartment, it has a good-sized kitchen, a massive living area, good sized bedrooms and a lovely big balcony area…

It’s on a much lower floor so we lose the view of the city but, the building has a lovely garden area where we can hear birds singing which is something you just don’t get on the 31st floor of a condo here in Bangkok… We fell in love with the apartment the second we walked in and we have fallen more in love with it every time we’ve gone back to look at it…

The apartment is located in a different part of Bangkok, our current apartment is located in a more expensive part of town, our new apartment is slap bang in the middle of one of Bangkok’s red-light areas… It’s full of beer bars and restaurants…. It’s full of LIFE… We can’t wait to move there, plus the building management has said they will turn one of the bedrooms into an office for us… Living in the red-light district AND having an actual office set up? I’ll be writing blogs all the time!

Jo had made plans to meet up with her friends for a night of cocktails at a local bar, my friend Christo invited me out for a few drinks while the girls were out enjoying themselves, we ended up in an Irish bar near to Bangkok’s infamous “Soi Cowboy” red-light area (what is it with me and red-light areas?) it’s a bar we’ve both passed a few times but never ventured into, tonight we decided to go in, and friends, I’m glad we did, it was brilliant.

There are many “farang” (foreigner) bars here in Bangkok, some are just a Bangkok bar with a few football shirts placed on the walls, some are just bars full of foreigners… This one (Scruffy Murphys) was different… As soon as we stepped inside it actually felt like a “proper” bar… Had it not been for the fact there were so many Thais inside you could ave been forgiven for thinking you were in a bar in England… A band was playing, A Thai girl was singing in an Irish accent (a bit odd) the drinks were reasonably priced and the food was good too, we sat and chatted about all manner of things as the band played, our waitress became a source of amusement for me, she was brilliant, she was friendly, she was efficient… But, she had a bit of an issue with hand-eye co-ordination…She bought the condiments over to our table after we had ordered food, but managed to get her fingers jammed between the condiments tray handle and a bottle of sauce, causing her to stand there for about thirty seconds trying to free herself… Then, later on, she approached us with a tray of drinks, she put the wrong drink down in front of me, I pointed out my drink was still on her tray and the drink I’d gotten wasn’t mine, what followed was a slapstick comedy sketch of her trying to balance a tray while swapping drinks over… All the time trying not to spill drinks over people… The band finished their set, me and Christo had swapped over to drinking Guinness and U2 began to play through the speakers… As the night continued so did U2… In fact up until the point we left, nothing but U2 was played… Scruffy Murphys, good food, good drinks… A bit of an obsession with U2.

As we left the bar and headed home I got a message from Jo saying that she and some of the girls from the cocktail night were heading to another of our favourite bars “The last drop”, Christo was tired so was heading home but I made my way to the bar for one last drink.

I have an issue when it comes to bars (well, some types of bars) here in Bangkok…

Beer bars are staffed by and promoted by girls… There are different types of girls who work these bars, inside you can have a run of the mill waitress girl, she’ll take your order, she’ll serve your drinks, then you’ll have the other girls who, if you’re a single man (or woman… Whatever) will sit with you, and for the price of a drink will be your company for as long as you’re in the bar… Or longer (depending on the bar, the girl and if you want to pay a bar fine)… As a man walking along some roads here in town you’ll be called into bars (and massage parlours)… As you walk past calls of “Hello!” or “come have a drink!” or “massage!” will be heard and I, when I’m alone and (despite the fact that Jo STILL denies it) being desperately shy tend to put my head down, ignore the girls and keep on walking… There are (rare) times when I’ll say “Mai Ow” (Don’t want) but as a rule, I just go into shyness mode and keep on walking.

Walking to the last drop I said “Mai ow” plenty of times as various women tried to persuade me to enjoy a massage or join them for a drink, tonight, fuelled with rum and Guinness at least I had the confidence to say “No thank you” even when one particular bold beer girl grabbed me by the arm and tried to drag me into her bar… I got to the last drop just before Jo appeared, I ordered drinks for us and awaited her arrival.

When Jo goes out with “the girls” I’m prepared for a few things… I’m prepared for Jo being perhaps a little drunk, I’m prepared for being introduced to at least one new friend she has made… The boy scouts motto… “Be prepared”.

Jo appeared, I drank another couple of pints of Guinness, we said our goodbyes and headed home… Jo had a tattoo booked for the morning so we couldn’t have a very late night.

Be prepared for a minor Guinness hangover Adrian… Be prepared.

Jo’s tattoo looks amazing, she’s really happy with it… The working week (well, Jo’s working week, being as I don’t have one) went as well as a working week can and soon we were heading into another weekend… Jo had arranged to take our maid Daa to the new apartment to see the new place and help her make a list of things we will need for when we move in…

I love the new apartment more and more every time I see it, I cannot wait to move in… Jo made her list and we headed back home, we’d been invited to a friends housewarming later (the same friend who didn’t fair too well in the pole dancing competition a few blogs back) so we had to head back to get ready.

Our plan was to have a few drinks at our friends’ place then head out for dinner… Rina (the pole dancer) and Alex (her French husband) were really good hosts and we met some really cool people, As midnight rolled past, we had sampled Saki (actually really nice) I’d found a white wine I actually liked and I’d managed to spark a minor international incident by adding Sprite to red wine (apparently the French take their red wine quite seriously), of course by this time we had realised that our plan to “have a few drinks then head out for dinner” had bitten the dust, we had a couple more drinks and then headed home, we’d had a good night.

The bars officially close at midnight here in Bangkok during the COVID crisis, however, as we walked home through the streets of Bangkok we saw a few bars that were still serving… We stopped by a roadside bar and had “one for the road” a good strong rum for me and gin for Jo, we chatted to the woman that ran the bar about how quiet things were… We’re all hoping for things to get better… As we talked numerous freelance streetwalker girls wandered around a street that was devoid of tourists and devoid of potential customers.

We awoke a little later than usual on Sunday and headed out for breakfast… Well, brunch really… We were joined by our friends at a place called breakfast story, a cool place in one of the alleyways here… After brunch and a chat, we went our separate ways…Jo had arranged to meet up with our friend to go for a massage later on.

After her massage, Jo called me to say she was on the street with the roadside bar and that she wanted us to go for some food and a drink…A few minutes later we were sat in a kebab place enjoying dinner, we headed down toward the bars and ended up in a small bar toward the top of the road, we were the only customers (sadly during COVID this has become the reality almost everywhere we go) we sat and drank, I watched the girls trying to entice customers into the bar… I was amazed at how many men simply ignored the girls… Ignored them the way I usually do… I was appalled at how it made me feel.

The girls, whether you agree with what they do for a living or not are in fact working, they are there to make money, that bar provides them with employment… A man walks past, they catcall, they wave at them, they try to get them to come inside and have a drink… But so many men just ignored them. It was rude… I have been rude in the past, I used to ignore them and keep walking by… I won’t be doing that again. In future, I will at least acknowledge them, I will at least treat them with a little respect.

We were given (sort of) free reign over the music in the bar, we ordered drinks and took it in turns to put music on… Another customer appeared who put a song or two on (well.. Maybe not song… Just some soulless dance music crap) but soon he disappeared… We took over once more, another customer entered the bar and decided to put some music on… This is where I got a little bit annoyed… I’ll do my best to explain.

The music in the bar was basically a laptop with youtube plugged into a sound system, a song finishes, you walk over, put your song on then go back to drinking… A pretty cool system right?

Well… It was… Right up until the “Other customer” walked in.

He walks over to the laptop, types something into the keyboard and walks back to the bar… Some shitty electronic dance music begins to play, I’m about to make some snarky “dance music is shit” comment to Jo when I take a look at the laptop screen…. He hasn’t just put on shitty dance music… OH NO… He’s put on a 58 minutes long playlist of shitty dance music.

I was fuming… I mean, dude, what the actual fuck.

I’d decided to finish our drinks and head out somewhere else, no way was I sitting in a bar listening to THAT shite or being in a bar where a person so thoughtless and rude could drink… I was furious… But British furious… Quietly polite furious.

We finished our drink and were about to ask for the bill when another girl came over and gave us free drinks. Result.

Right, I thought, after this drink, we leave… Then suddenly, despite only being a few minutes into his 58-minute long dance music wankathon Mr rude Youtube hogger left the bar.

The waitress switched off his playlist and normality was restored.

What followed was a night of drinking and taking turns on choosing music, Me, Jo and our waitress took turns, I think she was quite surprised at how I swapped from putting rock music on to playing gay anthems (gay ears and all that), She talked about how Lady Gaga is the queen of LGBTQ, and she told us about how she was going to university in order to get a job as a creative designer in television, then she said “but if that doesn’t happen I’ll just work here”

It’s depressing.

It’s very depressing.

I drink in these bars… I happily drink in these bars… Surrounded by these women.

I’m now left wondering what were THEIR dreams? What was their original plan?

Our waitress, whose name we never asked… But if we had, her name would be the title of this blog, has a dream… She wants to succeed, she wants to work in television… But her back up plan is this bar.

She was a waitress, a normal, everyday looking girl wearing jeans and a T-shirt… She wasn’t standing at the front of the bar in a low cut dress, she wasn’t waving at random men trying to get them to buy drinks… She wasn’t one of the girls who may or may not be taken away by some man just because he paid a bar fine… She is a girl with a dream, a girl with a plan. But if that plan fails, where will she end up? Will I walk past in a couple of years time and pass her as she stands out on this street, showing a little too much cleavage as she tries to drag me in for a drink?

I hope not. I hope she succeeds, I hope she gets that dream job, I hope she can escape.

But is she doesn’t… And If I do walk past her bar, at least I’ll pay her respect by at least being polite enough to say “no thank you” instead of just walking by.

Until next time…

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Ade Cox

A working-class man from The Black Country, plucked from the factory and now living the best life in Bangkok