Bangkok at night. Possibly the only view of a temple he experienced while in the city. Photo by Lucas Stoffel.
“The scariest part about Bangkok was not the taxi driver getting me a hooker,” said Luke. “It was how drunk this other guy got me in the bar, and me jumping out of the tuk-tuk on the way back to his apartment.” On a spring trip two years ago, artist Lucas Stoffel made his way to Thailand en route to Laos, photographing temple architecture and local culture. He almost got more than he bargained for. In the spirit of my recent Worst Spring Breaks Ever article, sharing his story of Bangkok misadventure seems only appropriate.
Bangkok, Day One: Race from the Cabbie and the Pimp to the Hotel
Our protagonist arrives at the airport confused, lost, hot, tired, and unable to speak Thai. Waiting in a taxi line a million miles long, our handsome Luke is soon approached by a free agent driver. In New York City, this procedure is referred to as “hocking a gypsy cab,” and not at all recommended. Although Luke has lived in New York for almost ten years and knows the rule well, he tells the driver, “I’ll give you twenty bucks if you find me a hotel and take me around the city.” Moments later, he’s in the cab.
After agreeing to a spooky hotel which the driver has procured, Luke returns to the cab wondering whether this arrangement is in fact a good idea. He asks to go see a temple. Oblivious to conversation about architecture and culture---or perhaps inferring some unintended hidden meaning like “temple” means “whore house,” the driver becomes fixated on women in general, dropping less-than-subtle-hints about romantic liasons in dark-shuttered rooms. “I’m not wanting to say, ‘Dude, I’m gay,’ because I don’t know how that flies in Thailand, and instead of a temple he takes me to a bar,” says Luke. Once secreted inside a back-alley, deserted watering hole, our passenger is entreated to buy his driver and random barfly friend (later seeming to be the pimp) a round of beers. It is about four o’clock in the afternoon at this point, and the trio are the only people in the place. They sit in strange, poorly lit silence drinking warm-ish Thai beer.
Then, the girls start coming out. “One sits right next to me. I am thinking, ‘Oh God, oh Jesus, no.’ The taxi guy keeps saying, ‘She can show you the temples, she can take you around.’ I say no, and then there’s a second round of beers somehow on me. I want to get out of here; I am dying to go. So, I ask for the bathroom. The girl, who is now sitting on my knee, shows me upstairs and around a corner. I am thinking, ‘Oh God,’ and I run in and lock the door. I pee and when I go out, she’s still waiting,” says Luke.
Between Bangkok. Our protagonist visited cultural sites in the more serene Laos. Photo by Lucas Stoffel.
Stranded in a strange bar and/or potential brothel in a remote Bangkok neighborhood with no replacement taxis driving by, Luke finally convinces his girl-happy cabbie to take him back to the hotel.
However, the cabbie is one hundred percent pissed. He repeatedly tells our hero that he has f’ed up this day by not helping out the (possibly prostitute) girl. He’s angry, Luke’s angry, and the driver keeps asking for twenty more bucks. Feeling that he has just bought this guy and random (possibly pimp) friend two beers apiece, and paid twenty dollars to be taken nowhere---certainly not a temple---Luke says, “No way.” He says this while leaping out of the cab and racing to the aforementioned fearsome hotel room. The driver and pimp return together and knock on the rickety wooden door for a long, long time. Luke pretends not to be home and doesn’t answer, while hiding in the corner.
Bangkok, Two Weeks Later: Race from the Date-Rape Guy
Advance the plot, it’s 8pm and Luke has just landed back in Bangkok on a return flight from Laos. He goes to a different, less sinister hotel. Things are looking good. After doing some shopping and dropping off his bags at a locker, our man wisely avoids further proximity to sensual Thai lady companions by making way for the gay club. Once there, he sits outside feeling uncharacteristically nervous about going in alone. Presently, an attractive Thai boy convinces him to surpass these instincts of foreboding and go inside. The boy gets Luke completely wasted drunk, and attempts to pull him into the bathroom where the night's more sordid escapades can take place. Thankfully for Luke, and to The Makeout Man's chagrin, the bouncers kick them out of the club before anything can happen.
However, our hero soon realizes he’s in the street riding in a tuk-tuk alongside The Makeout Man. Like the other cab ride, this one does not seem to be headed for a temple. They turn down a dark alley, and The Makeout Man says his house is nearby---at which point Luke realizes this is actually not The Makeout Man he is with, but The Date-Rape Guy. Panicked despite his drunken state, Luke is freaking out. As the tuk-tuk pulls to a stop, he throws himself over the side and bolts. He runs like lightning to the main road as The Date-Rape Guy calls after him. Vaulting into the first cab he sees, Luke hands over the card with his hotel name on it and returns again to safety.
What are Mr. Stoffel’s thoughts on Thailand after these two races to escape sexual peril?
(1) “It was wild crazy nightlife, including the best drag show I ever saw. The streets were busy, the town was full and wild---like the song, "One night in Bangkok and the world is your oyster.”
(2) “I never had Thai beer before. It was good.”
Footnote: In case the humor wasn't obvious enough, please note that this is a story of what not to do in Bangkok in many ways. These activities are probably not safe, certainly not typical, and definitely not recommended for the average traveler.
Enjoy the "One Night in Bangkok" 80's Music Video by Murray Head: