A bubble butt that is evident in any position is proof of the existence of the gods.
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Yes, I know I rag on Pattaya’s gay sexpat community far too often, branding them all as disgruntled prissy queens who live for yet another drink while yearning for a taste of fresh Issan boy-flesh. I’m sure there are plenty of gay expats living in Pattaya whose lives do not revolve around boys, booze, and the blue pill. And there are plenty of gay touri who visit Pattaya for the sun, beach, culture, and camaraderie, not for the cheap boy-whores of questionable age and the cheap alcohol of questionable proof.
Face it, the sin city of Siam is a mecca for the disgruntled and disenfranchised as well as the for deranged and sexually depraved. If its inhabitants were of a jollier sort it’d be my kind of town. But all one need do is read a day’s worth of posts on one of the gay Thailand message boards to quickly be clued in to how unhappy Pattaya’s sexpats are with the paradise they’ve decided to call home. Where else in the world can you find that many old gay men who bitch and whine about everything. From tiny restaurants that won’t take a dinner reservation to the nationality make-up of visitors to music volume, smoking policy, boy-count, drink costs, and size of the bars they live their lives in, regardless of the subject Pattaya’s sexpat community willingly demonstrates how disgruntled with their lot in life they are.
How can a tropical paradise filled with readily available boys, cheap food and booze, and a built-in community of like minded individuals result in such unhappiness? Why do so many of Pattaya’s pensioners turn to alcohol to numb their senses?
Yup, smells like science to me.
Or maybe that’s just the stench of the waters off Jomtien Beach . . .
Thanks to research done by neurogeneticist Galit Shohat-Ophir and her team at the University of California, San Francisco, Pattaya’s sexpats will be glad know the blame is not with the grumpy old codgers or the bars who offer them libations in which to drown their sorrows, but with the boys. In fact I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic to know that once again they have something about their miserable lives they can blame the boys for. The English playwright William Congreve may have claimed that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but science has now proven it’s the men who have been rebuffed that you really need to worry about. And rejection makes them drink like a fish too.
The researchers studied a brain chemical called Neuropeptide F (NPF) in fruit flies, which works similar to Neuropeptide Y (NPY) in humans. Neuropeptides are small protein-like neuronal signaling molecules that influence the activity of the brain in specific ways. They either excite or inhibit neurons and are involved in particular brain functions, like pain alleviation, reward, food intake, learning, and memory. Both NPF and NPY work on the reward section of the brain. When levels of these neuropeptides are low the brains attempts to mediate the shortage which can have striking effects on behavior.
Alcohol influences NPY levels in humans as does NPF in fruit flies. Scientists already knew that when fruit flies drink alcohol, reward pathways in their brains are activated, making it a “pleasurable” experience. They also knew that social interactions are among the most rewarding experiences, rising NPY and NPF levels even higher. So the wanted to see whether the two types of rewards were connected in the brain.
The scientists put 24 male fruit flies in one of two situations. Half the males were placed in vials in groups of four, each group with 20 female flies that were ready to mate, allowing the males to mate with multiple females. The other half of the males were put alone in vials, each with one female that had already mated, making her reject any courtship advances. After four days of repeated mating or rejection – a routine typical of your average Pattaya sex touri and sexpat alike – the male flies were moved to new containers containing set amounts of food, half containing alcohol and half without.
The researchers expected to find that all flies prefer food soaked in alcohol, a pleasurable experience that raises their NPF levels, regardless of whether or not they just got laid. What they found instead was that the rejected males had a high preference to the food with alcohol while the mated males had an aversion to the alcohol-containing food. On average, the males who didn’t get any nookie drank four times more alcohol than those who had a happy ending, showing that much like males of our own species, male fruit flies when spurned, drink to numb the pain of rejection.
The dramatic results – the first discovery of a social interaction that influences future behavior – were unexpected, but according to Dr. Markus Heilig, the clinical director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Reading this study is like looking back in time, to see the very origins of the reward circuit that drives fundamental behaviors like sex, eating and sleeping.” Understanding the brain pathways responsible, he says, could help explain more broadly how rewarding behavior is reflected in the brain, and how the brain mediates complex behaviors.
Not that members of Pattaya’s sexpat community has even been accused of complex behaviors, or having a brain, but the results of Shohat-Ophir’s study does help explain their predisposition for consuming large quantities of alcohol: too many duds, too many bar boys who do too little, too many nights spent in the pursuit of dick with no happy ending in sight. But then cheap booze is always more fulfilling than cheap sex, and since Pattaya’s sexpats take pride in obtaining the latter it should be no surprise that they over indulge in the former.
Ah well, bottoms up!
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If there is one thing I’ve learned in life it is that nothing drives traffic to a blog like Channing Tatum’s penis. Channing’s penis recently married his long-time girlfriend, which should put an end to all those mean, vile ‘he’s gay’ rumors that nasty bloggers have been spreading, all of whom should be seriously ashamed of themselves. Oh, wait. That’s me . . .
In case you haven’t heard – and let me be the first to welcome you from under that rock – Chan’s penis has a new movie opening this Friday night. Yes, I know: it seems Chan’s penis has a new movie opening every Friday night, but this is his long awaited stripper biopic, Magic Mike, featuring some of Hollywood’s tastiest pieces of man flesh. And Matthew McConaughey is in it too.
The movie is loosely based on Chan’s penis’ early days as a male stripper in some Florida dive bar. Two of Chan’s ex-fellow bar boys recently sued, claiming Chan and his penis ripped off their life stories. As though getting naked for a room full of trailer trash bitches in heat constitutes a life. Or a story. Showing that he has a future in politics, Chan denied. What he should have done was tuck a hundred dollar bill in their respective g-strings and have been done with it. Though that probably would have led to a night of male-bonding of the most intimate kind. Oh, wait. That’s right, he’s straight and married now.
Boomer! We got a job for you!
The movie version of the boys have all been out stumping the PR trail trying to work up interest in their little film, which really is a waste of everyone’s time ‘cuz all you have to do is say: Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Ritchie and you are guaranteed blockbuster box-office draw. Especially since the producers of True Blood have kept Joe’s ass undercover so far this season forcing drooling fans to pay to see it on the big screen instead. I’m not sure why the movie’s producers thought it would be a good idea to have Jonah Hill appearing shirtless on the talk show circuit to hype their movie, but . . . what? Oh, my bad. That’s Matthew McConaughey who has been doing the shirtless hype thingy. Well, it could be worse, at least Russell Brand isn’t in the movie.
Anyway, since internet searches for Chan, Chan’s gayness, and his penis in over 508 different languages have funneled the masses to my little blog, I thought I should do my part to hype his latest’s movie’s opening and could think of no more better way of doing so than to post a few shots of Chan and his penis in their younger days. (Yes, pix of Joe Manganiello and his penis would be an even bigger bump but so far Joe has been reticent about showing off little Joe so these will have to suffice.) Yes there are actual photos of Chan stripping his clothes off at the tender age of 19 during his first career as a bar boy, though considering his acting skills he is still making his livelihood by taking cash for taking his clothes off in his second career as a film star as well. Ah the circle of life.
For the record Channing’s penis does not make a guest appearance in the movie, nor do any of his co-star playmates, not even the gay penis. Which shows you the movie is not very true to life. But there is butt. Of several different sizes, races, and persuasions. And if that doesn’t beat the latest Tyler Perry in drag movie, Madea’s Witness Protection Program, at the box office, then there’s something not right with the world.
(By the way, though it will not be opening until next month, can someone tell me why Hannibal Lecter is staring in the new Batman Movie, The Dark Knight Rises?)
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Some years ago it became popular in the U.S. to hold a ‘Take Your Kid To Work Day’ that was supposed to boost employee morale. I’m not sure that having a bunch of rug rats running through the office was a good idea, nor was the expected resulting pride in their parental unit’s job that forthcoming when little Johnnie asked why daddy spent his entire day toiling in a small cubicle. Sometime you don’t have to think too hard to figure out why the rest of the world finds Americans so funny.
Hauling you kid to your workplace isn’t optional for others in the world. Day care is an extended family concern that often means packing the kids up and taking them along with you. Then mom or dad gets busy trying to make a buck and the kids are left to fend for themselves. It’s not unusual to see vendor’s children trying to amuse themselves at street markets in SE Asia. And they can often be quite entertaining.
This little tyke with her mom at the morning market in Luang Prabang tuned the world out while she played with her new toy: a raw egg. Though not quite at the level of a Game Boy as toys go, it held her attention. I guess it’s nice for kids in the west to have computerized games and portable videos to keep them occupied, but I have to wonder if that constant sensory input doesn’t retard the natural imagination and creativity of children. I think this little Laotian girl may be getting the better end of the deal. And at least she knows what she’ll be having for lunch.
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Boxing is not a sport you normally associate with being gay. Sure there’s Oscar Dela Hoya, but try to name another gay boxer. Okay, fine, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
And Lennox Lewis.
And Fernando Vargas, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Juan Manuel Marquez . . . Oh, never mind.
Closeted boxers aside, it’s still not a sport you would associate with the gay world, and you certainly wouldn’t expert boxers to chase after a gay fan-base. But this year’s Olympics will feature a battle royale between two hunky pugilists who do just that. Though going into the ring, just for the record, Britain’s Anthony Ogogo is the current title holder. Not just for his name, but also for the fact he appeared nude in a photo spread for the gay magazine Attitude. And then there’s the homoerotic video that Ogogo did with Olympic Gymnast Louis Smith – you’ll want to hunt that one down on YouTube.
Ogogo is up against Indian boxer Vijender Singh for the hearts and minds of gay fans. Singh, an Olympic Bronze medalist has been dubbed “the Indian David Beckham” Not that he has appeared in any revealing underwear ads. Though Ogogo has. But both, when out of the ring, are models, reality TV stars, and both have endorsement deals that would make Michael Phelps jealous. The two will be meeting head to head at the London Games, and both intend on taking home the gold. Their rivalry is not just in the world of fashion and rainbows however, they’ve duked it out before. And it was a contentious finish.
Thanks to his raw sex appeal Singh became a pin-up in India after returning from Beijing with an Olympic bronze. Since then he has done modeling in India and appeared on that country’s version of American Idol. Hot, hunky, and muscular, the gay boys in India have been swooning over him for the last four years. And he enjoys their attention.
When asked how he feels about being a gay icon, Singh said, “It’s a part and parcel of fame and I am totally cool with it.” He added his wife, whom he married last May, has never had an issue with his friendships with gay men, or with the numerous rumors that he was fond of bi-sexual hook-ups before their marriage.
Pressed to address if he enjoys his gay icon status he said, “Why not? It’s nice to be desired and I also admire good looks in both men and women. So, there is nothing wrong in being wanted or idolized or fantasized about. I don’t see why there should be a negative connotation to someone liking you or desiring you.” And 2.5 million more gay boys in India fell in love.
Ogogo, on the other hand, put his money where his mouth was. Or at least his booty. He too works the runways when out of the ring, and appeared on one season of Britain’s Big Brother. And then there was the nude gay magazine spread which certainly explained why he’s known as “Beautiful Brown Suga” Ogogo. And not that it’s the least bit gay, but Ogogo recently took up ballet too. Or is that tutu?
But his latest dance craze is so that he can learn to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee in time for the Olympic Games. He qualified for his Olympic berth only recently at the European Championships, the final Olympic qualifying event, and this will be his fist Games. At the age of 16, having won a world junior title, Ogogo was on course to compete at the Beijing Games only to suffer a serious shoulder injury in 2007. “I was told I would be out for a year so was kicked off the Olympic boxing program and lost my funding,” Ogogo said. “They basically said I was useless to them injured. I was heart-broken. I remember watching James DeGale win gold in Beijing. I was sitting at home with my arm in a sling thinking where did it all go wrong. I just thought I need to make sure I am there in London.”
In late 2009 the new performance director for the GB team invited Ogogo back to have a trial with the squad. “He rang me up on my 21st birthday and told me he had been so impressed with me he wanted me to start back which I did in January 2010,” he said, adding, “ And I haven’t looked back.”
It’s been a rocky road for Ogogo, after a series of wins in 2010, at the 2011 European Championships he fell in his first bout. Four months later at the World Championships after taking out the third ranked boxer in the world he lost to a Brazilian southpaw and missed his chance of landing a spot at the Games at the first Olympic qualifier. Two weeks later he faced surgery on his shoulder – memories of his 2007 injury and the end to his Olympic dream loomed large. But Ogogo mended quickly, won his next few fights including his defeat of Vitalk Bandarenka of Belarus in the semi-finals at the 2012 European Championships – which garnered his spot at the Olympics – and joined the British Olympic Association’s Team GB last month.
The London Games will be Vijender Singh’s third Olympic appearance. The first time out at the Athens Games Singh lost his first bout and brought his Olympic experience to a quick close. Four years later in Beijing he stunned the world with his bronze medal performance. His was the first Olympic boxing medal won by the country; it changed the face of boxing in India. For the London Games India will field seven boxers, several – including Singh – are serious medal contenders.
The following year Singh won a bronze again at the World Championships, a gold at the Asian Games, and in the same year was named the top ranked middleweight by the International Boxing Association. In 2010, Singh along with five other fellow Indians won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Boxing Championships. But his career took a nose dive soon there after. His controversial loss to Ogogo seemed to shake the 26-year-old’s confidence resulting in Singh being knocked out in the first round of his bout at the 2011 World Championships, and like Ogogo he missed his first opportunity of landing an Olympic berth.
A gold medal win at the World Police Games in New York seemed to turn things around for Singh, and at the Asian Boxing Championships in Astana he finally landed his Olympic spot. Now preparing for his London battle Singh says he is taking a six month sabbatical from endorsement deals to concentrate on his sport. “I will not be going for any tournaments. I will stay in India and continue my training,” he says. “The training schedule will continue normally, and once my coach is back, we will discuss and see if we need to make a few changes.”
The son of a bus driver who worked overtime to pay for his coaching, Vijender’s boxing style – hooks and uppercuts – are often compared to the style used by Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky films, and Singh cites him as one his primary influences, appropriately so considering Singh’s movie-star like lifestyle. Regularly featured in India’s entertainment and gossip rags, Singh has appeared on game shows, an Indian dance reality show, and had been signed to appear on a boxing reality show until he was sued by his management company who’d been cut out of the deal.
Controversy seems to follow Singh, along with gay rumors. The police registered a case against him last year for the improper use of the national emblem (he’d had it printed on his wedding invitations) and more recently he threatened legal action against a model and reality show contestant Susheel Jangira for “breaking his trust” by releasing a music video he appeared in back when he used to do part-time modeling to fund his boxing career.
Singh says the recently released video angers him because it is sleazy and was released without his consent. Susheel says his embarrassment is due to an entirely different matter. Her publicist released a statement explaining the problem:
“Apparently the shoot required Susheel to do some intimate dance moves with the macho man. The unusually shy Vijender was uneasy with the ‘closeness’ with his co-star. His face was flushed with embarrassment and the crew members could notice his awkwardness in this unchartered territory.” It seems rumors surrounding Singh may have had some base, and a photo shoot he did for the New Delhi Times of the boxer peeking out of a closet may have been unintentionally ironic.
Ogogo, on the other hand, has far less concern with public intimacy. When he appeared on Big Brother he frequently did so nude. And the behind the scenes video of his layout for the magazine Attitude shows just how comfortable Ogogo is with strange men checking out his naked booty. And while Singh points to Rocky as an influence, Ogogo says his favorite film is Troy, but admits after seeing the film Scarface for the first time he spoke in a terrible Latino accent for about 3 days and called everybody a ‘cock-a-roach’.
Both boxers are looking forward to their appearance at the London Olympics. And both feel confident of their chance at winning a gold medal there. Says Singh, “ I will prepare well for the Games so I can give my best in every fight and win all of them. It will not be easy, because everyone will come prepared. But I am confident; I work hard, nothing can stop me from doing well in London.”
And Ogogo echoes that sentiment. “I feel happy, therefore confident. More confident than ever that I’ll get to and achieve big things at the Olympics Games,” he says. “ It’s been one hell of a journey for me the last 18 months, now it’s time to enjoy doing what I love doing . . . Boxing.”
The two middleweight hunks will meet in the ring once again in London. Singh has experience going for him, Ogogo has a 1” height advantage and youth on his side. The last time the two met, at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Ogogo prevailed. And boy was Singh pissed.
The Commonwealth Games were supposed to be India’s shining moment on the boxing stage led by their Olympic champion. Singh. His defeat at the hands of Ogogo in a 4-3 decision on points rocked the SE Asian nation and left Singh with only another bronze medal to add to his collection while his younger opponent walked away with the silver. The Indian team lodged a protest, which was rejected and Singh went into a huff, refusing to speak to reporters.
The controversy came from the referee’s calls in the third round of the bout. Singh was leading 3–0 on points going into the final round, but was twice given a two point penalty for holding, the second coming just 20 seconds before the end of the bout.
Singh lashed out saying that the penalties were unfair and harsh. “If the referee thought I was holding Ogogo then he should have penalized this guy as well. He was also holding me,” he said. “It’s a joke that somebody has won by scoring points just out of warnings.”
Vijender was not the only boxer to have lost due to warnings. Earlier in the day, two of his teammates too were penalized, for hitting their opponents below the waist. Ogogo celebrated his biggest career win in style. But he was upset over the way Vijender behaved in the ring saying Singh could have no complaints about the scoring, “because he was doing illegal things” like holding and keeping his head down.. “If you think the warnings were harsh then even I didn’t get points for some of the clear punches I landed. Even if he had not been warned, I think I would have won,” Ogogo said.
“I found his Achilles heel. I’ve beaten him. I can’t believe it. I’m very happy,” Ogogo said of the bad-tempered fight, adding that the win was massive. “Now I just want to win a gold medal in London.”
Brackets for the bouts which begin on July 28 have not yet been set but there is a good chance the two gay icons will be meeting inside of the ring once again at this year’s Olympics as Singh attempts to bring home a higher-valued metal medal and Ogogo tries to win his first. With Women’s Boxing debuting at the London Games, gay fans of the fish variety already plan on being glued to their television screens. As gay friendly as these two middleweights are, crowds of gay boys should be joining them.
[‘The XXX Games’ are a series of posts about hot Olympians, gay competitors - both present and past - and general articles about the 2012 London Olympics of interest to gay men. So, yeah, lots of hot male eye candy. Click the XXX Games graphic below for additional news, stories, and pictures.]
It seems like every trip I make to Thailand with a group of friends, one of them turns out to be exceptionally cheap. I don’t mean somewhat frugal or cost-conscious. I mean down right cheap. Miserly. A skinflint. But that can be quite entertaining in its own right. It’s hard to do cheap well. And an American trying to be cheap is no match for a Thai trying to pry open a touri’s wallet – you don’t stand a chance.
But Karen’s passion for squeezing the last nickel out of every dollar helped make a memorable trip become an even more memorable one; she insured that we got a great deal – totally unbargained for – that at the time seemed to be much ado about nothing. That her money savings antics gave the rest of us something to laugh at was an added bonus.
I knew Karen before the trip. She was not a close friend, but more friend than acquaintance. Her love affair with money had not been something I’d noticed before. She was a CPA, her partner an attorney. Just past 30, Karen was a tall blonde athletic in build and friendly in nature. Hearing that several of us were going to Thailand, she invited herself along and proved to be a good travelling companion. At least during the first part of the trip.
Karen had travelled extensively in her pre-college days, backpacking her way through Europe. She had great tales to tell of her previous travels including one about three days spent confined in a snow covered no-name town just inside of the Russian border, the local authorities deciding an American travelling alone was the perfect victim to hold until sufficient money had been paid. She saw it as a unexpected three day visit to Russia, and provided the locals a lesson in how difficult it is to force a bribe of any size out of someone who values her pocketbook more than her life.
Her cheapness didn’t really shine through during the first few days of our holiday together. My friend Ann had booked our hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, both were cheap and downmarket enough to fit Karen’s taste. Though she took to bartering with a bit more passion than the rest of us, it wasn’t like she refused to spend money. Just that she always had to get the best possible deal. Regardless of the cost.
When we returned to Bangkok we went to look at a $25 a night hotel, and ad for which I had pointed out to Ann in Thai Air’s on-board magazine. I’d meant it as a joke. Ann, who could be quite frugal in her own right, was ecstatic. Of course it was a major dump, so we took a pass. And found instead a nice hotel nearby for a bit over $50 a night that became our hotel of choice for the next few years. During our inspection of the other hotels on the soi, Karen discovered one with $35 rooms and decided it was a better choice, booking herself a room that was small, cramped, and done in red. Red walls, decades old red carpeting, a red ceiling, and a red bedspread that was dark enough to hide the numerous stains it had gathered over its lifetime. Whether it was the result of spending too much time in a red room, or just that her natural inclinations finally took wing, from that point on Karen became a money-saving monster.
Both hotels, just across the soi from each other, had tour desks. The tour company operating out of Karen’s hotel, serving a more downmarket crowd, offered much cheaper prices for the same tour itineraries as the tour desk at our hotel. And they were willing to barter. So we let Karen work her magic, arranging a car and driver for a day trip to the Damnoen Saduak floating market. Cheapskates are not my favorite type of travelling companion, but I have no qualms about taking advantage of their skills. The tour company would not lower their price by much, but did allow Karen to score us a few extra hours of travel. Using up the hours she’d fought so hard for meant an early departure so after loading up with caffeine we were off to the floating market at 6:00 am the next morning.
Every newbie touri to Thailand wants to go to the floating market. All it takes is seeing one picture of the vendors in their small wood boats poling their way along the canals and you’re hooked. The actual experience for most, unfortunately, does not live up to the hype. Most people take one of the numerous large tour buses to the market and share the experience with a few thousand of their fellow touri. They don’t know any better. And neither did we. But thanks to Karen’s thriftiness, we arrived to find a sleepy little Thai version of Venice just starting to come awake.
The more you haggle for prices in Thailand, the better you get. Experience is a great teacher. So you also learn a few dos and don’ts. One of the most effective ploys is if the seller is not coming down to the price you’ve decided on, walk away. It has the same effect on a Thai as seeing a twenty dollar bill blowing down the street does in the U.S. They take off running, hands stretched out ready to grab the cash. You may think you are a touri, street market vendors see you as baht. And they’ll never let you get away.
Conversely, the worst bargaining technique to use is to make use of whatever it is that you are bargaining for before agreeing to a price. Pop the cap off a bottle of water and then ask how much and you’ll get screwed. Wait until you get to your destination before asking how much the ride costs and you are at your driver’s mercy. Except he will not have any. Having five of your fellow travellers jump into a small boat while you are still on shore haggling over twenty baht . . . Karen was not a happy camper with her travel mates. And she got the worst seat in the boat as a reward.
But the old lady who began polling us through the small waterways of Damnoen Saduak was pleased with the bargain she’d struck and rewarded us with a lengthy tour of the back canals of the town, even stopping at her home to offer us refreshments. It was a lazy morning, a languid ride, that offered a stupefying view of shallow banks overgrown with scraggly weeds occasionally broken with the monotony of some villager’s small hut. Six cameras clicked away constantly. We’d found the ‘real Thailand.’ We’d stumbled into the hidden part of the Kingdom that touri never get to see. At least we did until the first long-tail boat filled with touri to swamping capacity with its diesel racing car engine belching fumes and its ear-shattering engine howling echoes of pain came tearing down the canal. The tour buses had arrived.
When we got back to the dock the sleepy little town had transformed into a bustling metropolis filled with fat, sunburned visitors crammed together on rickety wood walkways precariously perched high above the waterway. Even then, vendors selling all of the same crap you could find back in Bangkok outnumbered touri two to one. Using long bamboo poles to transfer merchandise in exchange for baht, they stood in their tiny boats striking quick deals over tacky souvenirs with the hordes clamoring for a purchase – both monetarily and literally – far above the banks. And another haggling truism became evident. When your tour bus is leaving in five minutes the vendor you are bartering with knows which of you is constrained by time. Desperation in all of its forms is always costly.
Our plan when we’d arrived that morning was to take a quick boat tour and then afterwards wander along the banks of the river sampling the numerous delicacies offered by old women who were cooking the food on small braziers mounted in their tiny boats. It was a postcard picture perfect ideal that appealed to all of the senses. But by the time we arrived back in town, the old women were gone, the smoke of their cooking fires replaced by the diesel fumes of the long-tail boats. The tranquil setting had turned into tourism on steroids. Plan #2 was to get the hell out of Dodge.
Mother Nature it seems has a firm belief in karma. People who are tight with a buck always end up paying one way or another. It’s the only answer I’ve been able to come up with for the odd phenomenon that I’ve seen hold true over and over again. Those who find it difficult to let loose of a penny secrete a scent that mosquitoes find hard to pass. The sluggish water we’d been touring through was an ideal breeding ground for the little creatures and while they left five of us alone, they’d turned Karen into a travelling blood bank, extracting their pint of blood from her quite freely. The itching in her palms had expanded to itching all over and she needed relief. A believer in old wives tales and home remedies, or just out of desperation, the answer in Karen’s book was Tiger Balm, and for some odd reason the vendors of Damnoen Saduak considered little jars of Tiger Balm a great souvenir to sell to touri.
And so the hunt began.
From shop to stall to strolling vendor to floating vendor, Karen began hitting up everyone in town who counted Tiger Balm among their wares for the best price she could negotiate. Hers was a systematic process, the initial twenty vendors she haggled with was not about making a purchase but rather finding out just how low she could get each to go. Deftly pushing touri in search of the perfect postcard, the best straw hat, the tackiest souvenir with an elephant glued to it out of her way, she trounced vendor after vendor, her starting price lower and lower as she made her way through the market.
Finally satisfied with her market research and ready to make a purchase for a pittance, Karen spied an old Thai lady in a disintegrating cotton smock standing in the middle of a bridge over the canal, a small shallow basket her entire storefront, a half-dozen jars of Tiger balm – slightly out numbering the amount of teeth in her mouth – her sole product. Karen moved in for the kill.
Their transaction was not a pretty sight. Both went at it with a fury that would put a pair of heavyweight boxers to shame. Using threats coupled with tales of woe and poverty highlighted with pleas of mercy, both speaking in a language unknown to the other, the two begrudgingly gave up a baht at a time, slowly moving to a price somewhere in the middle of where they’d begun. The five of us were embarrassed over Karen’s thriftiness. The locals watched in awe, all with anticipatory glee evident in their smiles. A deal was finally struck. Twenty-two baht the agreed to price. Both gave the other a congratulatory nod, winner or loser (and which was which was debatable in their respective minds) the battle had been hard fought resulting in mutual respect for each other’s skill and efforts.
Karen carefully counted out the exact change and handed her part of the transaction over. The old lady palmed the coins, then reached down, grabbed the hem of her smock, and pulled it up over her head exposing her thin naked body and aged almost hairless cunt while crackling with glee. Karen was dumbstruck. Ann peed herself in laughter. The crowd, who knew what the punch line was, laughed uproariously. And the old lady dropped her dress, turned smartly on her heels and stomped off looking for her next victim.
It was undoubtedly one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had in Thailand. Being new to Thailand at the time and having no Thai I’ve never figured out if there was a setup spoken during the bartering or if the old lady was just bat shit crazy from the get-go. It wasn’t a one-off, the reaction from the locals proved otherwise. Perhaps it was a trade of scratch for snatch. I don’t know what the old lady’s story was, or why jars of Tiger Balm were necessary to her act. But twenty years later I still giggle whenever I see a jar.
We headed back to Bangkok with Karen itching and scratching the whole way. She wasn’t brave enough to attempt haggling for another jar until we were back safely in civilization. The final bitch slap awarded for her parsimoniousness was the jar she bought at the Family Mart on the corner by our hotel that was marked with a fifteen baht price tag. That and that she will always be known among my circle of friends as Tiger Balm Karen.
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