The mere mention of Bangkok's Nana Plaza at a New York dinner table peaked the interest of men and narrowed women's opinion of me. To the former I was a Don Juan and the latter regarded me as Gary Glitter come to life. To be honest I can't recall ever bar fining a go-go girl out of the notorious three-story sex complex on Sukhumvit Road Soi across from the ever-infamous Nana Hotel. I was more into Patpong in the 90s and by the 00s, Nana Plaza was too mercenary for my tastes.
The other night the Old Roué and I finished dinner at La Monita, a trendy Mexican restaurant. A meal with Coronas for two came to 1200 baht or nearly $40 or the price of a bar fine in Nana Plaza. It was early and the Old Roué suggested that we retire to a ground-floor bar at the wicked entreat.
"We can watch the changing of the guard."
I was glad to get out of La Monita. The clientele was too farangs for my taste. At heart I was a race traitor.
The Old Roue snaked through the parking lots and hotel garages and sidewalks to Soi Nana on his motorcycle. His nine year in Krung Thep has etched the short-cuts of Bangkok into his brain like a sailor's tattoo. He parked his Honda 250 next to a cart selling sum tam.
The owner nodded to the Old Roué.
They had a long-term relationship.
We entered the complex with flecks on rain dotting the pavement. The central cars had been moved back from the portal to provide access for fire engines. Nana Plaza and fire trap are almost synonymous, but the stars have favored the patrons and workers of the go-go bars. If a fire starts there, it will only because the property as a condo building was more profitable than the sex trade, but for the present Nana Plaza was safe since the sex entrepôt churned out more money than Belgium.
The two of us sat at the first bar. We were the only farangs in sight. It was about 7. Post time for the go-go bars was around 8.
"This is better than TV." The Old Roué ordered us beer. The doors to the go-go bars were open. The lights were blared white light, as the staff stocked the bars with beer, ice, and liquor. Mama-sans stood at the door awaiting their flocks. A few early arrivals wandered into the plaza and wai-ed the Buddha blessing their entrance. They laid flowers on the altar and proceeded to their respective place of employment.
"I like the transition." Nana was coming to life with hundreds of succubii seeking farangs.
"Newcomers are the first to arrive." The Old Roué had regarded this ritual countless times. The spectacle never tired him. He discreetly pointed to three older and dumpy farangs in shorts.
"They've left mother at home for the first time in decades to have s sex vacation with their friends. I make them for social workers or garbage men."
"I see them more as English railroad workers." The sweep-overs of these forty year-olds laid odds on my being right, except they passed us speaking an unknown foreign language.
"Serbs." The Old Roué wrinkled his nose. "Momma's boys to the man."
"Better this than becoming sex predators."
"Little danger of that from these boys. Look at how they walk."
The Old Roué was right. He was 65 and I was 60. The trio shuffled with apprehension. The two of us could have beaten any of them in a 25-yard dash.
"Ah, the first beautiful girl of the night."
"Wrong." Old Roué shook his head. "Check the way she's hurrying and fussing with her hair. That's a kathoey. Big hands too means big feet."
"Meaning big shoes." I picked up my camera. The ladyboy would have stopped traffic on 5th Avenue for blocks. Her heels were five-inch spikes. The dress revealed a goddess body. Long curls serpented down a slim back. I recognized her from a ladyboy website. Her name was Areeya.
"No photos. Not here." Old Roué admonished my absent-minded behavior.
"I know, I know." Nana Plaza had rules.
We observed the influx of wasted and aged farangs. Hope and despair mingled in their eyes.
I ordered another beer.
Girls showed up in clumps, but they were outnumbered by kathoeys.
"Where are all the girls?"
"It's a Tuesday night. Most of the best girls have been barfined for the week. They're sleeping with some old git, but they'll desert him on Thursday night. It gets busy then." The Old Roué was right and I started to count the ratio between females and ladyboys. It was about 50/50 and I mentioned the numbers to the Old Roué.
"It's all the same thing in the end. Farangs come here to answer a dream. Ladyboy or go-go girl. A young body makes them feel immortal at the gates of mortality."
The two of us turned our backs on the show. A fat heavyweight was fighting a well-muscled boxer on TV. The butterball had to weigh over 350. His reach prevented any offense from his opponent. We made a 20-baht bet with the cute bartender. She lost and actually paid me. I gave it right back. 20 baht wasn't what it used to be, but she could buy a coconut with it.
The stream of late-comers faltered and music blasted from the scores of bars lining the Nana Plaza.
"You feel like a go-go?"
I said no.
"I don't want to make a mistake and end up with a ladyboy."
Scores of the man ladies were thronging into Nana Plaza. Their beauty shone in the flashing lights. I had drank three rhum-cokes. Even I felt handsome.
"You have something against shims?"
"No, they're a lot of fun until your wife finds out." The Old Roué knew Junior Mint. He thought she was special.
"And how would your wife find out your transgression?"
"I don't know, but Thai women have an uncanny sense of a man's willingness to be naughty."
My cell phone rang. It was Mam.
I answered the phone.
"You at Nana?"
"Yes, have many ka-thoeys."
"Suai at night. Naki-at in morning."
They were beautiful at night.
I haven't woken with one in the morning, plus I was faithful to Junior Mint.
I hung up and the Old Roué said, "Uncanny is right."
It was time to call it a night on Tuesday night.
Maybe on Friday night it would be different.
I am not scared of ka-thoeys.