Oh, you already have a ticket. Please wait while the rest of the group assembles.
Now listen up. Welcome, everyone. This evening’s walking tour begins here at Bali Hai, the romantically named but malodorous main place-for-tying-up-boats in and out of Pattaya—more a pier with extensions than a harbour. Pattaya has no ambition to rival Hongkong or Sydney, or indeed any other coastal town you may have heard of. Here, it’s just squid boats, the odd speedboat and ferries to Ko Larn.
That is not to say we are not proud of our town. Up there to your right observe our prominent PATTAYA City sign, which may remind you of the one on the hill above Hollywood, CA, except their letters don’t light up and change colour as ours do. But we’re that kind of city.
On our left, observe the majestic sweep of the waterfront as it arcs round to join Pattaya beach. Really, it’s the waterback, since what you’re looking at are the rears of the ocean-side businesses along Walking Street.
Out in the bay, marvel at that unusual ship, actually a restaurant. Illuminated from stem to stern with LEDs, controlled no doubt by some clever microchip that sends waves of changing colour down its length. What’s that you say? It looks like a disgruntled cuttlefish lying in wait? Yes, I’ve often thought the same myself. Notice its name picked out in blue neon Chinese characters, suggesting that its prey consists of groups of indiscriminate diners from that great country.
Now, I shall lead on with this old car aerial to which I have cleverly attached a small teddy bear to help you locate me in a crowd. You’ve seen other groups with small teddy bears? I appreciate the potential for confusion. My advice is to get to know my teddy bear, and don’t get lost. Once separated from our group, you could be kidnapped and sold into… well, I’ll just say anything could happen. And in Pattaya, anything means anything.
The first point of interest here on the left is an establishment called ‘Crazy Russian Girls’. Standing outside I spy four girls who may well be Russian and, quite possibly, crazy, though I doubt whether they’d turn away a mad Ukrainian if she looked the part. It seems strange to come all the way to Asia only to seek the company of Cossack women no matter what their mental condition but perhaps visitors from the Motherland are more comfortable when the tariff is recited in their native tongue.
No, sir, we won’t be stopping here. Home-grown entertainment is less expensive. But I see you are keen to experience bars of that kind. Let us hasten to a go-go, the jewel in the crown of the Pattaya night-time scene and, rendered precisely as it is here, very much a Thai invention, along with kick-boxing, Red Bull and fighting fish.
Well, yes, madam, some have cited the exploitation of women amongst the go-go’s less savoury characteristics, but how can you express an opinion on the topic unless you have seen for yourself? I see your husband agrees.
There’s copious choice, but shall we try this one? No, I do not receive a commission. I chose this one in the spirit of encouraging creative bar names. If you look up to the fascia you will note it is called The Pheromone Club. Subtlety is not a Funtown quality.
Everybody settled? Close enough to the stage? Good. Give your drinks order to the lady in the ironed shirt. No, not that one, sir, that’s a bikini.
Notice the young women on the stage, the ‘dancers’, are wearing the same, except for those who have dispensed with the top. I am told these less modest performers are paid more. Or possibly they’re feeling the heat. Notice they take the precaution of looping their bras over their shoulders, the more convenient to recover them quickly should the wrong policeman come through the door.
Why wrong? I mean one who doesn’t have an investment in the bar.
Perhaps you have seen enough? Dancer No 195? Being your guide, I don’t generally have time to notice what’s happening on stage, but I agree she is a beautiful young woman. Silicone? Yes, there’s too much of it about. To the Pobaan mind authenticity is more attractive than magnitude. No, I didn’t mean you, madam. Yes, sir, I agree that No 195 is entirely natural, but we must be moving on. Pobaan Tours operates a dynamic one-drink policy and we have another bar to sample.
We’re just waiting for you, sir.
Before we go into this next bar I should warn you that the performers here wear a lot less than in the last place. You’d prefer not, madam? Well, talk it over with your husband and perhaps we’ll see you inside.
Now, gather round. Have a look in the dark corners where the fun is less raucous than here in the middle of the bar. It is in such out-of-the-way nooks that these hopeful country girls get close to finding a Western husband. Close tonight; tomorrow night, who knows? Yes it is like a David Attenborough nature film isn’t it, sir? I’ve often thought that myself. Don’t look now but over there you’ll see a white haired Asian gentleman, so doddery he could be on day release from a twilight home. I said don’t look now. Too late. Luckily he hasn’t noticed.
A girl is sitting on his lap, as naked as the pink piglets she has often seen born in her Isaan village. She is bouncing gently on his lap, perhaps to keep him alive by stimulating his circulatory system.
Here, ladies and gentlemen, at the climax of our tour, is proof of a cultural phenomenon, if proof be needed, of the infiltration of the mobile device into every aspect of our lives. See, oblivious to the pretty naked girl gyrating rhythmically on his lap, the old man is transfixed by his smart phone, which he is holding against her back.
Messaging his wife? Calling for a taxi? We’ll never know.
And that concludes our tour. Oh, you’d like us to leave you here, sir? And you, sir? Well, ladies, if you like to follow my teddy bear back to the coach.