It’s not easy being a Thai bar boy and having to spend over two weeks with a group of Americans who do not speak your language, are unfamiliar with your customs, and eat weird food at odd hours. It’s not easy being a Thai bar boy and being away from your friends for more than two weeks, not having other Thais to talk with, and not having other Thais to just be Thai with. It’s not easy being a Thai bar boy and travelling with a group of Americans, trying to keep their personalities straight while trying to take care of their vastly different needs and trying to keep everyone happy. It’s not easy being a straight Thai bar boy when your ‘friend’ is gay, two of his friends are lesbians, another one an obviously gay boy, and yet all four enjoy being intimate with you. If you are a Thai bar boy and are lucky, your ‘friend’ isn’t a complete moron, realizes your predicament, and after more than two weeks of major stress tells you, “That’s it. As soon as we land in Phuket, you are officially on vacation.”
Noom, my bar boy friend and current love of my life, didn’t really believe me about the vacation, or wasn’t sure what I meant. But got a bit of a clue when we landed in Phuket and I picked up his suitcase and carried it outside for him. The switch in roles, after a momentary bit of confusion, brought on a big smile. It had been his idea to come to Phuket, he had a Grand Desire to see the Phi Phi Islands, and all of a sudden it seemed he was going to do so. While on an actual holiday.
The rest of the gang had not been forewarned, my decision to give Noom the week off being a spur of the moment one in reaction to the precarious state of his mental and physical well-being; having worked hard at ‘taking care’ of not one but four farang at once had left the boy a wreck, a shell of his normal self. He needed a vacation. And I didn’t think he’d last long enough to wait until we returned to Bangkok. Not knowing there was a change in the status quo, outside the terminal the gang turned to Noom with an expectant look, waiting for him to arrange transportation to the hotel. Instead, he leaned back against the wall, crossed his feet, then his arms, smiled, and said, “Nooo. I on holiday!”
I do believe I’d created a monster.
There was just a bit too much glee, a bit too much smug self satisfaction in the look in his eyes as he made his grand pronouncement. The girls thought he was just being cute. And so began a waiting game with neither side making a move toward doing diddly about getting into town. Helena figured out theirs would be the loosing team first, and turned to me for help. I’ve learned quite a bit of Thai on my numerous trips to the Kingdom. Of much more use and importance, I’ve learned that smile they use. The one that says “I love you dearly but I’m not about to budge”. I flashed my Thai smile at her and then translated with a thumb jabbed in Noom’s direction, shrugging my shoulders as if to say it was out of my hands, I said, “I’m with him.”
For the first time on their trip the newbie visitors to Thailand were faced with having to resort to their own skills in sorting out and choosing a transpo option into town. And damn if they didn’t fail. Miserably. Out of all the possibilities for getting to Patong Beach, they believed the lie that the shuttle bus would be a private ride, booked our seats and then sat, packed into a mini van’s tight quarters with no a/c running while the tour bus operator waited to shanghai enough other guests to fill its seats. Noom rolled his eyes. I laughed and immediately blamed him for picking such crappy tour guides.
Of course the ‘shuttle bus’ into Patong Beach isn’t just a slow ride during which you get to play the role of a sardine. There’s also the potential for money to be made (if you are Thai. Money to be spent if a farang). The bus always has to make a stop at the office, supposedly to rearrange passenger loads, which provides touri ample time to peruse a plethora of day trip tour options and book as many as your heart’s desire. At prices twice what you’d pay once you get into town. The girls went crazy picking the things they wanted to do. The tour staff went crazy thrilled with the stupid farang about to blow a wad on overpriced trips. Neither took Noom into consideration. A bad move on both their parts. Frankennoom made the call: “Nooo! I on holiday. I pick.” And settled the matter by getting back into the van. It may have not been his money at stake, but he knew it’d be partially mine. And my money is his money; he wasn’t about to let the girls waste more of it just so they could participate in a scam in Phuket. Besides, when it comes to scams in Phuket there are plenty of opportunities. No reason to fall for the first one that comes your way.
Vacationing Noom was a big difference from Working Noom. And I loved watching him embrace his new role. When we got to the hotel and were safe in our room, instead of his normal routine, which is all about taking care of my needs, he found the free tea bags (free working its magic as well on Vacationing Noom as it has always on Working Noom), made himself a steaming cup, pulled up a chair on the patio and kicking his feet up on the railing settled back for a comfortable rest. And the start of his tropical holiday.
We’d all agreed to meet by the pool a bit later to talk over tour options, the girls being loaded down with brochures they’d picked up at the ‘bus terminal.’ I headed down early, deciding I’d better take a few minutes to explain the new arrangement to the group before their new travelling companion joined the party.
Everyone agreed a boat trip to the Phi Phi islands was a must-do. Good thing because to Noom it was the only reason we were in Phuket. When he joined us we were all busy pouring over brochures weighing the different options against the different costs and even though he’d not be able to make heads or tails out of the infinite details he joined right in. As badly worded as most English brochures in Thailand are, whoever wrote these had the soul of a lawyer. It took careful reading to see that, for example, while all tours went to Maya Bay where The Beach was filmed, some actually landed, others dropped you off shore to swim in the lagoon, while others motored by, your Maya Bay experience being a quick photo op of the farang who’d booked passage on better tours. Besides price, the major difference between the half dozen different tour operators was fast boat/slow boat, half day/full day, and which minor stops along the way you’d prefer.
The girls thought they’d’ made their decision and checked with me for agreement, still too new to the idea that Noom was now an official touri. Beginning to enjoy his new found status almost as much as Noom did, I passed the buck, “Don’t ask me,” I told them. “Noom’s making that call.” Normally a Thai hates to make a decision of any kind. Especially without knowing what everyone else wants. But my dark skinned muscle hunk version of Frankenstein had no such qualms. But did take to his new role responsibly, slowing going back through each brochure, carefully assigning each to a specific pile he started on the table (I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned his positioning/OCD thingy) before finally pulling the winner out with a clear and decisive, “ Dis one.”
Bartering for purchases in Thailand is routine. Everyone knows you need to haggle over the price at any market. What you may not realize is published pricing on day tours can be bartered too. To be honest, I did not. Never even considered the possibility. But my boy knew better and feeling it part of his job as a touri got us an incredible deal on our tickets. The 1,500 baht tour ended up being a 700 baht boat ride and we made it a point the next day once on board with what seemed like half the island of vacationers to loudly discuss what a great deal the tour was for only 300 baht. Ruining someone else’s vacation is a sure fire way of increasing the enjoyment of yours. But that was fun yet to come. It was getting late and getting time to decide what we’d do that evening.
Mr. I’m On Holiday had plans of his own and with no choice in the matter we followed Noom to the beach for the sunset. The difference was subtle: instead of deciding, telling, and following we were down to just following as Noom went wild on holiday picking the beach, where we would eat for dinner, which shops we’d stop at to peruse, and which matching beach towels we’d buy for the following day’s outing. He was having the time of his life. But there was still something missing. Or something still there. The damn farang.
The poor boy was still surrounded by farang and was still trying to follow their conversations, several going simultaneously, peppered with slang that was new to him and made little sense. The poor boy was still surrounded by farang and their odd customs, strange behavior, and just which one was he supposed to be walking arm and arm with down the street? The poor boy was still surrounded by farang. Period. His soul yearned for the company of a fellow Thai. So it was no surprise when he led us to Paradise Complex and into My Way that he immediately went into ‘thank Buddha here are some Thais’ mode and settled in, cackling away in delight, deep in a conversation with one of the bar’s ladyboys. Noom was in his element, surrounded by Thais, taking up residence in a gay gogo bar. His normal nighttime activity. Noom was a happy camper. And on holiday.
The girls were happy too. They’d had fun in the gay gogo bars in Bangkok, but being lesbians weren’t all that thrilled with all the peni on display. My Way, and the bars in Patong Beach in general, are not the meat markets of Bangkok. They are more of a cabaret in nature, drag queens galore, some studly guys too, but at least they kept their shorts on. And the show’s numbers were musical extravaganzas, not guy on guy sex acts.
Chis was not as happy. Used to Bangkok’s bars, and a nightly dose of male flesh – including an up close and personal experience back in his hotel room – he’d been missing his fun during our time in Chiang Mai. He’d been looking forward to hitting a gogo bar again. But at My Way, not a nipple or ball was in sight. But Chris is a good guy and tends to go with the flow, so he channeled the lesbian within himself and joined in with the girls for party time.
The staff at My Way are used to old gay guys who come in, sit quietly, drool, and stare at the hot young men on stage. They are also used to straight couples or groups on vacation who come in, titter, and stare at the glamourous ladyboys. What they are not used to is two and a half dykes determined to party their asses off. The girls got rowdy. And loved the show. And showed their love, yelling, clapping, and throwing baht around. The ladyboys returned the love, thankful to finally have an audience that appreciated their fabulousness. The girls were sung to, hugged, and showered with attention. Their enjoyment was infectious and even a few of the breeders got into the mood. A few of the grumpy, drooling old men slunk away. And Noom decided as much as he’d desired some Thai time, there was too much fun to be had and joined in on the party.
The place was hopping and the bar’s owner appreciated our contribution to the night’s festivities, sending over a free round of tequila shots. Noom does not normally drink alcohol, but like with all Thais ‘free’ is magical and free drinks at a gogo bar was something unheard of in his world. He knocked his shot back like a pro. And why not? Noom was on holiday.
We closed the bar down that night and then stumbled back to our hotel, everyone trying to not think about how early we had to be up the next morning for our trip to the Phi Phi Islands. Back in our room and in bed, Noom snuggled up to me and I decided to treat him to a true Thai holiday. “Where you from?” I asked him.
He looked at me, a questioning eyebrow raised.
“Where you stay?” I asked and he giggled, catching on.
By the time I got to, “How long you stay Phuket?” he’d fallen off the bed in laughter.
He got up, grabbed my wallet off the desk, threw it on my chest, and trying to mimic countless customers he’d dealt with in the past said, “How much long time?” and snorting with laughter dove on top of me.
I earned a good tip that night. And Noom enjoyed what thousands of touri experience with a bar boy when on holiday in Thailand.