By Zack Pinsky
Phuket is a remarkably crazy place.
My friends and I rented a four-bedroom villa (with a requisite remote-activated waterfall) as a home base for drinking games and the occasional nap. We were passively Tindering, taking care to check our matches’ profiles for the phrase “I’m a ladyboy,” which was the case for about two thirds of them. (Aside: when unmatching on Tinder, the app asks you for a reason, and “incorrect genitalia” surprisingly isn’t an option. We went instead with the decidedly inaccurate “no reason”).
After a day out, we returned to the villa and downed some beers and red bulls in the pool before the three of us went out to the fabled Bang La Street. It. Was. Nuts.
The street was awash with people, music, flashing lights, aggressive peddlers trying to sell ping pong shows, alcohol, prostitutes, drugs, and seemingly anything and everything else. There were lots of what I guess were natives, with a healthy mix of tourists mostly from neighboring countries and Australia.
The drinks were cheap, there were scantily clad Asian women dancing everywhere, an endless string of bars in all directions and it was all delightfully overwhelming. We settled at one of the quieter places (relatively speaking) and got Jack and Cokes (in a pre-mixed bottle!).
After unsuccessfully hitting on some South African girls, one of the cute waitresses took an interest in me and sat with us, her arm around me as she chatted us up. Her coworker then came by and strongly suggested I buy her a drink, pointing repeatedly to an item on the menu called “staff drink” (190 Baht, around $5, about or slightly more than a typical drink). I found the idea of buying a drink for someone who works there (essentially just paying for a girl to flirt with you) both highly unusual and intriguing, but never legitimately contemplated doing it.
She was cute, though, the group all agreed.
After more bar hopping, I assumed the night was winding down, but we popped into Tiger Bar around 1:30 AM and realized that this was where we should have been spending our entire evening.
The bar was huge, resplendent with intricate tiger decor throughout. The three of us hit the dance floor, where we found a shockingly large number of attractive, unattached girls. I found a cute one, asked her where she was from and her friend had to translate. Since she spoke no English, I just started dancing with her immediately.
After several minutes of heated dancing, her friend returned and asked me if I wanted her, to which I confusedly replied “yes?” She asked how much I would pay for her, which took me aback. I said that I wouldn’t do that and they politely left. Huh.
I then found my friend, who informed me that his pretty girl was also a prostitute—what were the chances?! We found our third friend, who was chatting up a girl, and let him know that based on our sample size, we could say with near certainty that she was also a prostitute. He decided to stay, anyway.
We headed home (leaving the third friend to his own devices), and after some sleep and a few waking hours of daylight, found ourselves back at Tiger Bar. I found another very cute Thai girl (again, no English, likely a prostitute), and when I was ready to leave, I realized I didn’t have any cash for a cab back to the villa. I’d spent the last of it at dinner and I’d removed my credit cards so they wouldn’t get stolen at the beach.
I tried some other random ATM cards I had in my wallet to try withdrawing cash but they didn’t work. I told the girl this through google translate (I have no idea how effective it was), saying that my friends unfortunately took all my cash. Probably for the best, as it removed all possibility of trying to get her to come back with me.
I then asked her if she had any money so I could get home, the irony of which was not lost on me. I got her number and told here through google translate that I’d call her (which I had no intention of doing but it seemed like the easiest way to extricate myself from what could’ve been a somewhat awkward situation), and started the mile and a half walk home.
Although I had the address and the name of the village where we were staying, Google Maps didn’t recognize either and I had about 10% battery on my phone. A minor panic setting in, I walked back what I was pretty sure was the general direction of our place.
I could find the main road near our villa, but wasn’t sure which direction to go from there. After asking a few people for directions and politely turning down offers for a ride home, I gained hope from the diminishing price offered to take me back.
Somehow, a combination of alcohol, wit and a general sense of direction and self-preservation lead me to our villa as the sun started to rise. Most of my friends were asleep, and there were no prostitutes within sight. Another successful and seemingly normal night in Phuket.