On Pattaya

Friday, 30 September 2011

I was afraid that if I wrote something about Pattaya - the city where I've been living and working - it would come across as bitter, shitty and lacking perspective. My flight home is booked, however, offering me fresh perspective.
If I stayed here much longer, the city would turn me into a long-term bitter shitbag, I think. Or more so than I am already.

I left my apartment, situated in Cosy Bay - a quieter beach-side area of Pattaya - and headed up the hill towards the 'motorbike taxi' station, as I had done before work for the past 3 weekdays.
The main street of Cosy Bay is made up entirely of massage shops, bars with loud dance music (catering to the large local Russian population) and 7/11mini supermarkets (one of the few places that tourists get to see the price of something before they take it to the counter.)
The sight of a passing white person triggers an almost knee-jerk cry of 'massaaaaaaaaaage?' from the female masseuses who sit gossiping outside each shop, whilst a white person passing a bar elicits cries of 'where you goingggggg?' - and it was the same on this particular morning.
I heard dance music coming from the road, also, and was delighted to see a street vendor's stall (wheeled along the side of a motorbike) being driven into the bay to the sounds of hard trance music.
This particular stall, however, was not selling alcohol, CDs or DVDs, but was stuffed with toilet brushes and feather dusters, leaving a trail of flying bristles, orange feathers and bemused onlookers in its wake.

I reached the top of the hill and offered a sawasdee kap to one of the group of waist-coated motorbike taxi drivers that were sat in a circle, smoking and playing cards.
I didn't negotiate the price, as I had managed to haggle to 50 baht for the past two days running, and assumed that today would be the same again. He handed me a helmet, recognising me. I jumped on the back of his scooter and we set off for the town.

The route takes approximately ten minutes. and is lined with layer upon layer of signs and adverts, offering MASSAGE, TAXI, LAUNDRY, GENTLEMAN BAR, ENGLISH FOOD, PIZZA and other tourist-orientated services. The signs are backdropped by huge billboards from development companies, offering property for rent or sale.

'New Luxury apartments built'.... 'why rent when you can own?'.... 'European-style decadence'.... 'Condos for sale, open January 2012, 65% sold'.

The billboards themselves were backdropped by huge, half-built apartment buildings, empty metal shells surrounded by cranes, block after block of building sites alive with the sounds of grinding masonry and the smell of burning plastic. Every minute or so we would pass a pick-up full of grinning Thai and Cambodian grafters being transported to their next site.

The bike driver braked a little too harshly at the foot of the hill, causing my nuts to be crushed (smushed?) up against his tail bone. A woman who stood behind a table at the side of the road, selling clear bottles full of red and green gasoline, laughed out loud and said something in Thai.
Three scooters, each carrying two Thai high school girls, stopped next to us and the girls started hitting each other on the top of their helmets and laughing.
A 60-something European man pulled out of the nearby Harley Davidson store on a deeply purring cruiser bike, and almost looked cool but for his saggy jowls, which fluttered miserably underneath his helmet.

We arrived at the road that I thought was Soi 12 (the road signs are impossible to see for all the advertisements) and I stepped off the bike. A man over the road clapped his hands loudly and waved at me, before pointing at his bike.
"TAXI?" he cried.
I wasn't sure if he was taking the piss or not. He probably wasn't. The men of Pattaya seem to assume that white-skinned people like to be driven around aimlessly on taxis all day, perhaps occassionally stopping to see a woman shoot a ping-pong ball out of her vagina, whereas the women of Pattaya are prone to thinking that white men want to be massaged into mush from dawn until dusk, only breaking to buy them houses with cheques that draw from their bottomless Swiss bank accounts.
"You want Taxi?" he shouted again.

I returned my helmet to the driver, and began to dig 50 baht out of my wallet.
We had stopped next to one of the 1000's of gogo bars that cover Pattaya. An older man, (who had his flimsy beige shorts pulled up to his tits) perhaps from Northern Germany or Scandinavia, was telling an uninterested, teenage Thai girl about his wife.
"She no love me. My wife very bad. I don't see her. I need nice girl to look after me."
The girl sipped on her bacardi breezer (it was 10am) and scratched her ankle, where a fresh, red tattoo glistened in the sunlight. He had probably bought her the drink, and she was probably waiting to see if he would pay her 'bar fine' - a fee for taking her back to his hotel room.
I gave the money to my driver.
"Nooooo, it 70 baht."
"What? Yesterday it was 50 baht."
"Noooo, today 70."
It wasn't the money that irritated me (an extra 50p), more the fact that I obviously had to go through the effort of haggling every morning, even with the same driver.
"Ok. You have a choice. Choice number one - I give you 70 baht now, and I never use you ever again. Ok?"
He nodded.
"Choice number two - I give you 50 baht now, and 50 baht every day for the rest of the month, meaning... you get around 2000 baht. Ok. Which one do you want?"
"You give me 70 baht now", he answered.