Walking and Smoking, or How to Kill Time During the Lockdown

Salutations BKNites readers. My name’s Bangkok Seven (or BKK7, or just Seven), semi-permanent guest writer and aging Pongmonger (Patpong whoremonger). In the prepandemic world, I went to the red-light district known as Patpong 7 nights a week, 50 weeks a year, without fail. So the latest lockdown has caused more than a little strain on my otherwise predictable life. For one thing, the number of gogo dancers hitting me up for cash has tripled, which would have crippled me financially were I not saving obscene amounts of cash by being stuck at home these past two months. So saturated was my surplus that I finally broke down and bought a TV after 12 years of Thai life without one. It’s not connected to anything. I use it to watch old Mandalorian and Rick and Morty episodes. Oh, and I just picked up an old PS2 console, in a desperate bid to quell my boredom. It hasn’t, so far.

Over the last couple of days, rumors have begun to swirl about a possible end to the lockdown tomorrow, though it’s not confirmed yet. Apparently, the restrictions have nothing whatsoever to do with Covid, and have been kept in place to quash student protests around the city. If the Thai government is trying to make more people hate them, they’re doing a really good job. As farang, all we can do is shake our heads and hold our collective breath as we wait for permission to go to bars again.

In the meantime, I’ve taken on a new hobby. I call it “walking and smoking.” What’s that, you ask? Prepare yourself for the big reveal. It’s this thing where I go walking around the streets while smoking a cigar.

Since most restaurants are closed, and the ones still open can’t serve booze, there’s really no place where an old fart like me can lean back and light up a stogie. I tried sitting on my balcony a couple of times with a bottle of port and a Cuban Partagas, but it was too benign a setting. Thus, as a last resort, I started a regular habit of hoofing it around my neighborhood while puffing away like a scowling, wrinkled dragon. This past week, I went out every night, and it turns out there’s still stuff to see out there in the streets of Silom.

Patpong is mostly-dark, but there were a few bright oases. French Kiss is open every night, as is Le Bouchon. A couple of Thai-owned bars are mutely open, meaning they don’t play music, and I imagine they might serve alcohol if you know the secret handshake. On Soi 1 last week, I stumbled into a film set. Four huge farang in black leather jackets were doing a scene in front of Kiss Bar, using it as a façade. They had to stop filming every time a car passed by.

Soi Thaniya was surprisingly bustling—even though all of the bars were shut. I popped into the newly-remodeled Thaniya Plaza building and was overjoyed to find Wine Selection open and jammed with fantastic fare. I foresee myself spending obscene amounts of money in there.

It turns out that Silom is a small world. On each of my jaunts, I ran across many familiar faces. It was a comfort to know that many of the locals are like me—they don’t venture much beyond our neighborhood. And why would they? Some of the best shops and restaurants in all of BKK are contained within a two-block radius of this little borough.

One night I spotted the half-Thai half-African street whore that normally patrols Patpong making her way down Soi Convent in regular business clothes. It appears that—shockingly—she has a day job. I also saw the owner of a Patpong gogo bar having dinner in Sala Daeng. I won’t say who, since his lovely female companion might not have been his wife.

Dusk is magic hour in Silom, and not just for photographic reasons. It’s the time when the corporate bank buildings release all of their employees into the street, a shocking number of whom are gorgeous, hi-so chicks. I’ve never seen so many breathtaking females in pantsuits in my life.

Inevitably though, my smokewalks led me each night to the speakeasy I’d found the week before. The vibe in there has morphed into something closer to singles game night. On Friday, there were around half a dozen customers and 10 or so girls in two large clusters. One group was playing strip Jenga, and the other were engaged in a game of blackjack, using whiskey shots instead of money. It was a very relaxed affair. They even permitted entry to three shy Thai guys.

As the night wore on and people got drunker, things got sloppy. The half-naked Jenga players spent more time searching the floor for missing pieces, and the blackjack game descended into a sloppy group make-out session. Meanwhile, I sat quietly in a high-backed leather chair in the corner, observing it all in silence. Occasionally the dudes scrutinized me with sideways glances—an expression I’m very familiar with. It’s the look a punter gives when they’re wondering if the whoremonger on a first-name basis with every chick in the joint will eventually steal their girl away. In my mind I said, Don’t worry buddy. I’m not interested in the girl on your lap. And suddenly, I realized I’d answered an age-old question: Can a man be platonic friends with a woman? The answer is yes, as long as he already has a harem, and no spare time to take on another sex playmate.

Eventually, all the other customers left, and I found myself alone with a bunch of broke, unemployed gogo dancers. Their pay for the night was 200 baht—a fee that wouldn’t have covered my lunch. You’d think these girls would be depressed. And maybe they were. But when a Thai pop song came on, they belted it out like they didn’t have a care in the world, and jumped up to dance with complete abandon. Their resilience and optimism are beautiful.

Speaking of, let’s all take a cue from those girls and keep our hope alive for a reprieve from this dystopian nightmare. Let us drink beer.

And follow me on Twitter @BangkokSeven. The second the gogos open, I’ll post pics. Cheers, everyone.

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