[Friday, January 24, 2014]

There’s a big courtyard called Tha Pae Gate in the beautiful Thai city of Chiang Mai. My first day there, a market was assembled where locals sold food and souvenirs. My last day there was a classic car show. This evening there was nothing. After a long day, I decided to just sit on a bench and watch life go by. I watched families having picnics. I watched an old man ride around on a bicycle with a white board that read “Free International Hugs.” I watched tourists sneak snapshots of monks in their traditional orange robes.

Free Hugs
A guy with naturally brown curly hair that had been dyed pink down the middle introduced himself and took a seat next to me. He was British and looked to be in his late twenties. I told him I was an American on vacation from teaching EFL in South Korea. He said he was here to teach fire-breathing at circus school. Alright, you win, guy with a way more unusual and specific job.
A Chinese girl approached us, cell phone in hand, and asked if she could take a picture of the man with pink hair. And since he didn’t do that to himself to avoid attention, he obliged her. Then she wanted a picture of the two of us together like the old friends I guess we appeared to be. I put my arm around him and smiled. Before walking away, she mentioned that she’d be dancing at one of the clubs down town tonight if we were interested in joining. We said maybe, but meant no.
When she was a safe distance away, Pink informed me that he was on too many drugs to do something that required coordination, like dancing. He asked if I could tell he was on something. “No,” I said. “Good,” he said.
It was then that we were met by a dirty hippie. He was a carpenter from southern France, white with dreads. Either anything and everything normally makes him laugh hysterically, or he was high. He said he saves money on accommodations when traveling by sleeping in a hammock every night. “What if there’s bad weather?” I asked. “What about animals and bugs? What if somebody tries to rob you?” He simply said he wasn’t worried about it. After all, he’s got a mosquito net and sleeps with his arms and legs wrapped around his luggage.
Hammock met up with his friends and took off. Pink had to go shopping and invited me to tag along. He told me the story of how he had sex with a girl in Laos who revealed that she was a prostitute after the act. “I should’ve known,” he said. To paraphrase his side of the story: She invited him into her room to watch a movie, one thing led to another, and he had to pay for her services. That was as much detail as he was willing to divulge. Fine by me.
After watching Pink haggle a poor old man nearly to tears for an e-cig, I decided to go my own way.


I saw a sign that read Night Bazaar, and followed the arrow. I followed sign after sign, arrow after arrow until I found myself on a street lined with nothing but bars. I walked to the end of the street and looked left and right, hoping to see a bazaar. There was nothing to see, so I walked back up the street. Like sirens, ladies stand out in front of their bars and try to lure men inside.
As hard as I tried to resist the temptation, I was lured. I took a seat. This bar wasn’t too popular. It was just me and about five women. You can see the appeal.
The woman who called to me was the only one who really spoke English well. She introduced herself and the other ladies. I wasn’t in the mood for a drink, so I just took a water.
One of the ladies positioned herself closer to me and lavished me with attention, sensually moving her hands and hips. I knew I was just a customer, but I allowed her to continue her sales pitch for a while.
The bartender asked, “You like her?”
“Yes,” I said. “She’s very nice.” Why do you ask? 
The bartender gave me the price for her special services. This sounds like the beginning of a story that will later be told with “one thing led to another” censoring the middle, and ending with an itchy souvenir. I feel like I’ve heard a similar story where the male lead should have known better.  
“Sorry. I don’t have any money.”
“No money, no honey.”
No problem.