Bangkok: Pattaya and its incompatibility with having an early night.

Jo had a bee in her bonnet… Not an actual Bee (that would make her scream) and not an actual bonnet (being as Jo does not currently own a bonnet) But yeah, Jo has a bee in her bonnet. She’s had a frustrating week at work and she wants to do so something over the weekend… She’s looking at destinations we can fly to, she wants to find a hotel where she can relax and de-stress… Jo and her bee filled bonnet are very stressed at the moment.

During the later part of the week i’m bombarded with Facebook messages… “look at this place “Look at that place” etc etc but i’m not feeling it, I hate going places without properly planning it… Does planning a weekend trip late on a Thursday afternoon sound like a good plan? No, it doesn’t… But the bee continues its assault on the bonnet…

By Thursday night, the plan to go away seems to have died and Jo is now thinking of getting another tattoo instead… The bee in the bonnet has grown silent it seems.

Friday morning, I receive a message on facebook from Jo… “We’re going to Pattaya.”

The bee has won. The bonnet is in tatters.

I pack a suitcase while Jo is at work, she’ll finish mid-afternoon and a car will collect us and take us to Pattaya… I’m not to upset, I actually love going to Pattaya… Plus, the hotel she’s booked is one we’ve visited before, a relaxing weekend seems to be on the cards.

yes, a relaxing weekend in Pattaya… Pattaya, One of Thailands party capitals.

The drive to Pattaya is nice, I listen to music while Jo conducts a meeting vis conference call as we make our way through the Friday afternoon traffic… We arrive in Pattaya and check into our hotel.

We’ve paid extra at the hotel for lounge access, throughout the day snacks and soft drinks are available… Between 6 pm and 8 pm alcohol is free too in the lounge, a quick check on my watch… It’s 6:15… Drink time!

We drop our bags off in our room and head down to the lounge… We sit, we talk, we drink, Jo has gin and tonic, I have whiskey and coke, at 8 pm “happy hour” finishes, we’ve drunk a few drinks… Maybe too many… We decide to get some food… The plan is to get food, maybe have a quick drink and have an early night… Such a good plan.

We find an Indian restaurant, there are a few people inside but it’s by no means busy, as we enter we can smell food… It smells delicious… We’ve been on a no meat diet since we got back to England from Download festival (y’know.. that painfully long blog I last posted) so we ordered vegetarian food (obviously) vegetable pakoras, tikka paneer, paneer curry and some spiced potato… The food was delicious, the tikka paneer was a bit underwhelming but everything else was amazing… The ice cold beer was great too… The food was so good we decided that Saturday nights dinner would be Indian too.

We left the restaurant and headed off back to our hotel, we walk down the beach road, our mission is to find a bar with a toilet because Jo was desperate for a wee… So maybe we could have for one drink before we head off to bed…

We find a bar, the music is not too loud, but the music is good… I can’t remember what the song was… But I know it was a song that made me want to be in this bar… Like almost every bar (in fact, it could be EVERY bar) this bar has bar girls… I have my views on bar girls, I accept them, I accept what they do, I struggle with how some men treat them or react around them, but yeah… Bar girls are a part of living in Thailand… The girls here are different… There are no semi-naked girls shaking their arse to a repetitive dance beat, just a bar full of attractive girls just enjoying themselves and making everyone feel at ease…

Our planned “one drink” didn’t go to plan… The music was good, the bar was fun… We ended up drinking way too much while laughing and Joking with a friendly bar girl called “Kate”… I lost count of how many drinks I had… I know I drank Jack Daniels… Lots of Jack Daniels… Jaeger bombs and Tequila… I don’t like Tequila and I hate lime… So the custom of Licking salt, drinking Tequila and sucking a lime got swapped with drinking tequila and chasing it with Jack Daniels… I didn’t feel drunk… I know at some point both me and Jo were wearing wedding veils (at some point all the bar girls were dressed as brides) but still, I didn’t “feel” drunk… In the early hours of Saturday morning we said our goodbyes and made our way back to our hotel.

At 5 am on Saturday morning I awoke with a massive headache, it would come and go in waves, for a brief few seconds it would disappear, only to return stronger and more painful… I sat up in bed, the room began to spin, causing me to feel dizzy and sick… The headache was getting worse… It was 5 am and I had no pain killers… I drank some water, threw on a bathrobe and sat outside on the balcony, I had an idea that fresh air could help… It didn’t… In fact, it made me feel worse, I crawled back into bed, the spinning room and headache making me feel awful… I must have fallen back to sleep for a short time… When I awoke I felt even worse… I ended up in the bathroom vomiting into the toilet… Historically if I have a headache/hangover, being sick usually makes me feel a little better… Not this time… The headache got worse and the spinning of the room continued…

I crawled back into bed as Jo went to get me some pain killers… I took the tablets and tried to get some sleep as Jo when downstairs for breakfast… Sleep failed and I ended up out on the balcony again, drinking water… A few minutes of fresh air later and I was heading back to the bathroom to be sick again… Thankfully now the headache was easing… I still felt ill but at least my head was beginning to feel less painful.

Most of the day has been lost to me and my hangover… At lunchtime we head to the pool to lay on sun loungers, i’ve decided not to drink alcohol, instead I drink coke and sitting chatting to Jo, at one point we’re joined by a Norwegian sailor and his wife, we chat for a while before they wander off to continue their day… We stay by the pool for a while before Jo decides to head off to a mall to buy an outfit to wear tonight… A night i’ve decided will be alcohol-free for me.

There’s a fashion event at the mall, there are lots of kids (young kids… Children.. yes, that’s the word) dressed in dayglo colours.. Bright greens, pinks… Their young faces covered in make up (call me old fashioned but the sight of a 5 year old with bright red lipstick and a face made up for a nightclub never sits right with me), everywhere we go we see these children wandering around, stopping at every opportunity to have a photo taken, Thailand is selfie obsessed anyway… This just pushes things to a whole new level… There are men walking around with expensive looking cameras, massive zoom lenses attached to the front… each one aimed at some young girl dressed like an extra from a 1980s pop video… Some of the parents are dressed in bright colours too, their dayglo child looking nothing more than a fashion accessory to make their outfit stand out just that little bit more… Vanity bothers me, this level drives me insane…

We wander around the mall for a while, Jo needs to buy an outfit… We’ve decided that I need to eat something, I feel light headed… In fact I feel awful. We struggle to find anything vegetarian-friendly, vegetarian-friendly and easy on a stomach that seems to be under a full attack from alcohol poisoning… We end up in a place eating rice… I still felt awful.

Jo found an outfit and we head back to the hotel, an afternoon nap seemed to help me feel a little better, we headed to the lounge for a quick drink before going out to get some food… I try to drink a beer… I struggle to drink, I feel bloated and still a bit sick… We leave the beer and head off for food, spicy Indian food is avoided and we end up in an Italian place on Beach road… We order pasta and a cheese pizza, the pizza is delicious, possibly one of the nicest pizzas i’ve ever eaten… And still eating no meat… Yay us!

We walk to the bar we were at last night, i’ve decided to drink in moderation… No mixing drinks and I have no plans to get drunk.

“Kate” the bar girl from last night is at the bar talking to two older white men, we walk into the bar and are seated opposite the bar, we are greeted by a younger bar girl, we saw her here last night, she’s an attractive Thai, has odd coloured contact lenses, braces on her teeth and a tattoo on her arm which I told Jo last night I thought was fake, Jo was convinced it was real… Either way it’s a nice looking Japanese design… “Beer” (not her real name obviously) remembers us from last night (I, however, don’t remember much from last night) we’re joined by “Kate” after a while and the four of us end up playing Jenga while drinking,… Board games, bar games are a regular thing in the bars here… Single men will play games against the girls… If he loses, he buys more drinks… He wins? Then depending on the bar who knows what may happen. As the four of us are drinking, chatting, playing Jenga i’m aware of the bar girl sitting opposite us… She’s attractive (as all the bar girls here are) a slim girl, with long flowing black hair, she’s wearing a short denim skirt and a black and white top… She’s chatting/flirting with a European looking man, he’s buying drinks, touching her, she’s giggling, flirting, doing her job… She disappears, which I give no thought to, why would I? I’m busy playing Jenga after all…. After a short time “denim skirt” returns… Her clothes look a little “dishevelled” .. She hands the man (I presume) his mobile phone… He looks at whatever image is on his phone and his eyes almost pop out of his head… I’m guessing he wasn’t looking at a funny facebook post… As our group plays Jenga (I didn’t lose at all by the way) “Denim skirt” and her “friend” indulge in some heavy kissing before they head off into the night.

We chat to “Kate” AND “Beer” as the night goes on… We find out that “Beer” lives with “Kate”, “Beer” is from Phuket but moved to Pattaya because it’s cheaper to live here… Jo asked “Beer” if she likes Pattaya, “Beers” answer was a nice insight into the real “Beer”..

“Do you like it here in Pattaya?”

“No… But I like people”

I’m guessing being a bar girl in Pattaya is “nicer” than being one in Phuket… “Beer” seems genuinely fond of “Kate” she talks about how she’s nice and how she enjoys “Kates” cooking… We finally find out that “Beers” tattoo is indeed fake… It cost 20 baht she tells us, and she can change it whenever she wants… “Beer” has a very “ditzy” character… She giggles a lot, she’s young looking and acts young, “Kate” very much comes across like a “big sister” to her… Still, we play Jenga… It’s during one of these games when I see a different side to “Beer”… “Kate” is at the bar, “Beer” has pulled a block out of the tower of Jenga blocks (I write this just taking it for granted that you know what the rules of Jenga are), once you pull a block out, you have to place it on top of the Jenga tower… “Beer” places the block on top of the tower and the tower wobbles, now, at this point drunken, childish, ditsy “Beer” becomes ultra competitive and a woman who has a really good understanding of balance and concentration… The Jenga tower went from being certain to fall to being manipulated by “Beer” by her not releasing her initial Jenga block, but using it to rebalance the whole tower to a point where it stood steady and stable… I’m looking at “beer” she steadies the tower then immediately slips back into childish/ditsy mode… She plays the part well… “Beer” is a very intelligent girl… But being a bar girl you have to be intelligent… And a great actress too… I’ll explain… Or try to.

A bar girl has to understand the psychology of people… When a person, couple or group of people walk into their bar they have to gauge those people and make a decision on how to act around those people… Being too flirty could make some folks leave… Not being flirty can make people leave… Some girls are overtly sexual, touching, kissing… Some girls are simply friendly… Visiting a bar on two separate nights and you can see one girl using different tactics… One night she’s easy.. Yours for the cost of a few drinks… Another, she’s a friend, just someone to talk to… I’m looking at “Beer” she’s younger than most of the girls here… She’s worked Phuket, now she’s working Pattaya how long as she been doing this? I’ve already seen “Denim Skirt” leave the bar with a customer tonight already, how many different characters does “beer” play every week? Will “Beer” be leaving with a man tonight? It’s a sex trade I get it… But I see tonight that it’s not just a sex trade… I’ve been looking at this all wrong… It’s a sex trade if YOU want it to be… You can walk out with a girl if you want… But there’s something else here… There’s an answer to loneliness here…I’m socially awkward… I struggle making friends… I struggle breaking the ice with strangers… If I were here alone (why i’d be here alone I have no idea) this situation, here in this bar would be ideal… Yes, it can be sex for hire… But it can also be (as let’s face it, it is tonight) it’s also FRIENDS for hire. You don’t have to be lonely, for the price of a few drinks a pretty girl will be your friend, she’ll chat to you, she’ll play board games with you… It doesn’t have to lead to sex (don’t get me wrong.. It probably almost always does) but it doesn’t HAVE to. I’ve seen men in these bars… I’ve judged men in these bars… I actually believe i’ve been unfair… There is so much more to this “bar girl” thing.

As midnight approaches we say our goodbyes, we pay the bar bill and head off into the night…

We walk into town, we pass lots of bars with bar girls that are on a different scale to the bar we just left… Scores of girls wearing next to nothing, gyrating and dancing (badly) to repetitive dance music… Men being called into bars by the girls…. It’s sordid… I don’t like these bars… The men here I feel deserve to be judged (Christ, I sounded like Batman there)… We hop on a baht bus and head toward walking street (the gogo bar centre of Pattaya) it’s the end of the season here, in high season these streets would be full of people, tonight it’s almost empty… As the baht bus makes it’s way along the street I see groups of freelance working girls lined up along the road, waiting for customers… Groups of men are approaching single girls, perhaps taking advantage of low season and seemingly trying to bargain a two for one deal or a group discount, I don’t like this aspect of Pattaya… Yes, they’re prostitutes… But they are still women… They are still human after all and deserve to be treated as such.

Walking street is actually quite busy… we go for a drink in our favourite rock bar…. The band is playing rock classics, the singer still hasn’t managed to learn the lyrics to the songs.

As we leave the bar and walk up the street we are stopped numerous times by people trying to get us to go to a ping pong show… We decline every offer, after a short time walking along the street we head back to our hotel… Passing lines of working girls as we go… I like the quietness and peace of low season Pattaya, but seeing these girls sadly lined up for customers that simply aren’t there is quite sad.

A good nights sleep is followed by waking up with no hangover… Thank God.

We don’t have breakfast at the hotel, apparently, yesterdays breakfast was awful… We end up at a small restaurant having a delicious breakfast of Pancakes… I love Pattaya, I love the fact we can travel here as easily as visiting Blackpool back in England… I love the bar we discovered (despite having no idea what it was called) and I enjoyed spending time there…

Pattaya… It’s a place that I suppose is easy to hate… But it’s a place i’ve found way too easy to love.

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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