A night in Bangkok

Kevin Stewart on his way to a "ping-pong" show in Thailand. (Submitted)

There were four of us on the trip to Thailand last summer. We had a doctor, a dentist, a musician and a journo – not the most likely crew but, hey, we all wanted to see the world and we certainly all liked to party.

We decided pre-trip we were going to wing it. So when we arrived in Bangkok we set up camp at the backpackers hot spot, Khao San Road.

Khao San is like nothing I imagined. It’s a dirty, old road lined with shops, hostels, massage parlours and, of course, bars. The street never sleeps. At night, the lady boys and hookers are everywhere and they only ever have one thing to say: “You want Boom Boom?”

The first day we just tried to take it in. We wandered the streets and checked out the shops. We quickly realized if you’re white in Thailand, you can’t take a step without someone coming up to you and calling you some sort of celebrity and trying to sell you something. My friend the musician, who has long hair, would always get: “Hey Captain Jack, want to buy a suit? Come on Joe Sakic shopped here!”

Avoiding scams and trusting no one was all we could do. Even the places that seem like legitimate tourist companies ripped us off. The number one rule in South East Asia is to always keep your wallet and passport on you. Even when you think you’re safely on a bus, someone could be underneath you in the luggage compartment rifling through your stuff. Trust me, it happened.

While wandering the streets, we heard there were Muay Thai fights happening that night at a stadium not far away, so we figured we’d check them out. Muay Thai is a combat sport, similar to the UFC, minus all the rolling around on the ground. Once again, when we arrived, we didn’t know what to expect.

The stadium was fairly small, tucked in between two buildings on a basic city street. Outside we grabbed a couple beers, which we were allowed to bring in. Walking in, there was a metal detector set up, but no security paid attention to it and I’m not convinced it even worked. We were ushered to our ring-side seats the lady convinced us to buy for $20.

Two young Thai boys, who couldn’t have been much older than 12, hopped into the ring and did a sort of pre-fight dance ritual.

I remember thinking, “Oh, this must be the pre-show.” Wrong.

Once the dance ritual was done, the boys squared off and fought. Watching two 12 year olds beating the hell out of each other was one of the most awkward experiences I’ve ever had.

As the fights went on, the fighters’ ages increased, our drinking increased – and the number of knockouts increased. If you wanted to meet a fighter, all you had to do was go grab a beer. The fighters got ready in a big open room next to the beer stand. People were able to walk right through the room and you could even stop and have a smoke if you wanted.

The last fight of the night gave us an unexpected surprise. Every fighter so far had been Thai, and this match had a Thai fighter squaring off against a white guy from Sweden. I assumed he’d lose. Wrong again.

He broke the Thai fighter’s leg with a hard kick in the first round and followed it up with the most over-the-top celebration I ever saw.

With the fights ending, we started following the crowd out of the stadium and down the street, drunk with no game plan in mind. We stopped and debated taking the subway, when this took-took driver started yelling at us that he would drive us. We paid no attention to him till he dropped his price to about two dollars and we couldn’t resist.

We crammed in the back of the took-took, which is a motor bike, with a small carriage attached to it, built for two people, not four fairly big guys.

We asked our driver where the good clubs were, but it was only 9 p.m., so he recommended we catch a show.What kind of show? “Ping-Pong show.” What happens there? “Girls open coca cola with pussies.” Sold.

We pulled down a dark alley with absolutely no lights – extremely sketchy, but we were drunk so we didn’t care. Walking in, the doorman told us the price. We didn’t have enough, so he just took what we had and let us in. What we saw next was probably the most outrageously funny or disturbing thing I will ever see in my life.

There were about 100 people gathered around this small stage, some laughing, some gaping in disbelief, all staring at two people front and center having sex on stage. We settled in at the back. Our waitress got us drinks and tried to get us to come out back with her. We politely refused and turned our attention back to the stage.

The show was half an hour, starting with the sexual intercourse, where the man does a cartwheel while having sex and moving on to different girls coming up and showing off their various talents. Some of the tricks involved Coca Cola bottles, Ping-Pong balls, darts and glow and the dark beads. After 30 minutes, it restarted and they did it all over again.

We quickly decided once was enough and headed back to Khao San Road to party the night away.

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  • Show Comments (2)

  • Viola Pruss

    Hi there Kevin,
    Though your depiction of Khao San Rd. is good (just as I remember it), I disagree with you when saying that "Avoiding scams and trusting no one was all we could do." I travelled in the region a number of times myself. Yes, I kept track of keeping nothing important in my luggage and not leaving my money and passport out of sight. However, there is a difference between the popular tourist spots and the Thailand that sees few visitors.

    I did my own share of partying with Thais, at a Thai bar, and without anyone else "white" in the room. I can't account for most of the night but I safely returned home with all my belongings. Sure, much of that was probably due to the nice hotel lady whom I went partying with. But I can't say that I would agree that all of Thailand or South-East Asia is a huge scam and people have to move through the streets in fear. Normal common sense and a safe pocket close to your body should keep you safe from theft. Keeping a watch on things in "tourist" areas is a rule that applies to pretty much ANY country.
    People are already afraid of Asia. Travellers who seemingly enjoyed their trip should not encourage the idea that it's not a safe place (I very much think Thailand is extremely safe, being a sole, female traveller). And to be honest, from what I've seen most of the young backpackers that lost money to theft or fraud were not acting very smart in general.
    Other than that, Khao San Rd. is not a good representation of Thailand. It's the equivalent of a Five-Star Resort: It caters to your tourist expectation without connecting you to any form of culture.

  • Joy Watson

    I totally agree with the first comment. I spent three months in Thailand and never had anything stolen from my luggage or person, and in fact most of the Thai people I met in my travels were friendly, respectful and willing to help when I was lost or had a question. Of course there were several individuals who saw our Western faces and tried to give us a higher price for whatever they were selling but the possibility of getting ripped off is something you have to deal with in all countries, including Canada. Taking a tourist hotspot like Khao San Road and using it as a metaphor for the entire country is unwise, and does a discredit to the rest of a beautiful country.

    Also: Using the word "hookers" in 2012…really? Please reconsider the derogatory language you use to describe a marginalized group of people

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