Perched awkwardly on a tiny plastic stool at a tiny plastic table on the edge of the street quietly watching as tourists pass by representing every walk of life. Fried noodle meal number three in two days, taking longer to arrive than seems plausible considering the process involved. The wait, however, only serving to increase the anticipation and increase the enjoyment. The wait, and the chilling knowledge that each time may be their last authentic Thai street meal for a very long time.
A tiny, shrivelled man drives the taxi stutteringly, accelerating and braking with wild and irritating abandon, his seat pulled far forward to the strange position required to necessitate the participation of his miniscule legs. The uninterested passengers nod absently from time to time in the back seat as he prattles on, assuming this to be nothing more than the briefest of exchanges seemingly required in Thai taxis to establish the fact that the driver does, in fact, speak English and that, in fact, he is certainly capable of bigger, better things. Suddenly, however, the phrase “pussy show” catches their attention, leading to increased attention being paid. “Did he just say he knows the best pussy show in Thailand?” they wonder quietly. Yes, they learn, as the following long minutes involve descriptions of various tricks involving ping pong balls and stubbornly sealed bottles of beer, although he then abruptly moves on to a disjointed and confusing autobiographical account explaining how he came to occupy his current position, a riveting and unlikely story of woe and sexual prowess, featuring the villainous Asian market crash of 1997 that treacherously robbed him of exactly 1 million U.S. dollars. Eventually, however, he reaches the strange and somewhat distasteful conclusion that half a lifetime spent “eating and fucking, fucking and eating” has served him well despite his current financial hardship, since his enviable appearance, namely looking 47 even though he is actually 65, is directly attributable to “all that young pussy”. Of course, in reality he looked 65 at a bare minimum, though his current guests let this detail slide in the interests of not encouraging him to continue talking, ever again.
Marble floors, gaudy decorations, gold plating everywhere, “gourmet” popcorn on offer at what may be the most extravagant movie theater in which they’ve ever set foot. Even the King’s pre-movie propaganda videos are lent a whiff of class by the impressive surroundings. Bemusedly watching local movie-goers taking photos with the nude statues, one male and one female, strategically placed to indicate which huge, shiny bathroom is intended for which gender. Thus far, no transgender statues, which in Bangkok of all places, seems like a major oversight.
The crowd looks on benignly, reality suspended mentally as required for the enjoyment of any James Bond movie. They smile as random bad guys shoot wildly all around a dangerously exposed Bond, and chuckle happily as he easily seduces a woman who, by all rights, should hate him yet easily gives in to his charms and a night of super-spy lovemaking followed by a cleverly dismissive comment during his abrupt departure. They even ruefully shake their heads in amusement as yet another super-villain makes the critical error in judgement of devising an unnecessarily elaborate method of killing the troublesome British vigilante which, from the very start, seems doomed to fail. But despite all this willful enjoyment and careful ignorance of the laws of physics, they still can’t help but find themselves frowning in consternation and offended for their intelligence, furtively scanning the crowd to see if it was just them or if everyone was wondering what the hell was going on with that ridiculous airplane chase?
Browsing rack after rack of generically similar clothing, the baggy linen pants adorned with a profligacy of elephants, the psychedelic tank tops allegedly one size fits all, the loose-fitting women’s t-shirts sporting a wide, yet consistently similar, array of feathers and/or African animals, the shorts unfailingly ugly but enticingly cheap. Bargaining is tepid at best, perfunctory most often, with the starting price never so high as to cause alarm, the barely motivated customer countering with an offer only slightly less, both parties quickly meeting in the middle so as to facilitate the completion of the transaction and gladly move on to less awkward activities.
A small plastic table covered in empty Leo bottles, the extra-large kind. All around similar tables occupied by similar people are littered with similar items. The rain beats down loudly on the ragged blue tarp over their heads, splashing off the pavement to glitter in the fluorescent lights struggling through the gloom of an overcast evening on Soi Rambuttri. The teenage girl arrives with another round, accepting yet another payment in lieu of a workable system for handling short-term credit. The hours pass in a fog of beer, rain and people-watching, and eventually they stumble down the street to collapse into a dreamless sleep on the sheetless bed of their featureless hotel room. Such is Bangkok.