It’s our last night of the two days we’ve been in Bangkok and Dylan and I decide it’s time to leave the disturbing and depressing example of “White People in Thailand” that is Khao San Road behind. We want to see other parts and areas of this incredible city and beautiful country and so hop a cab and clumsily attempt to explain in our nonexistent Thai to the disconcerted driver that we want to get to the Gay District and chill there among people who we might find more relevantly interesting, entertaining and fun. The driver is perplexed by the address scrawled in my Moleskin, he’s embarrassed and bewildered too by our gauche attempts to define the words “homosexual” and “gay” by an awkwardness of miming. We simply finally pile into the taxi, lapse into a trusting silence and feeling hopeful are on our way.
A forty-five minute quietly compelling and careening commute later, we find ourselves in another impressively urban area, distinctly less touristic and contoured by high buildings, several restaurants and wide busy lanes. It’s a much more business-type area of Bangkok and interesting enough but it doesn’t overly smack of “gay.” We pause after walking a while to take stock but we remain still unsure. We continue to wander around enveloped by the thick humid burgeoning Bangkok night, we’re weighed unpleasantly down by our huge traveler’s pack and shoulder bags, we grow tired and get basically nowhere. Gradually we accept that we definitely aren’t in an intelligibly homosexual neighbourhood at all.
After accosting a handful of mostly unhelpful strangers, we light upon an elegant older strolling man who seems most likely to be capable of giving us the succinct explanations and straightforward answers to the questions we have and the directions we seek. We are correct. He does and capably. This man is graceful and gracious in an offhand way, he’s not surprised to see or be accosted by us, he’s just strolling along and appears before us like he’s been “put” there exactly for us to ask him definite questions so that he can give us distinct replies.
This graceful and gracious man is accommodating and charming, he’s lived in Bangkok for twenty years and has a rigorous love for Thailand. He confidentially shares with us his various opinions and some personal details and accompanies us all the way to a sufficiently attractive modestly priced hotel that he himself recommends. He gives us clues too as to where to go for “good gay fun” and at the hotel we bid him grateful adieu. His farewell is warm and kind and refined.
We check in and once we are comfortably in our air-conditioned room at last, Dylan casts his towering and titanic travelers’ backpack energetically aside. I’m delirious with fatigue and prostrate, wearing as I almost always do the least appropriate footwear for a great deal of walking or for any manner of basic movement at all, let alone for what would be most suitable to something like world traveling and being a pavement pounding tourist. My feet as a result are almost always sore and destroyed. I collapse therefore with a plunge luxuriously face-down upon the big beautiful bountiful bed. I pass nearly completely out, I am exhausted to my core from the extended taxi ride and from all the walking and carrying. The Bangkok heat too, the heaviness of the bags, wearing those wrong shoes, none of these details help to maintain my energy or uplift my mood. Dylan by contrast is all shot up with excitement, his energy levels are luridly high. My exhaustion plummets me comfortably straight into sleep’s death embrace, it’s by this point almost midnight anyway…
I attempt to convince Dylan that a nap is the best idea ever and would be for the both of us “just the thing.” Dylan seems to sense some kind of trap. He defensively denies me and almost angrily replies, “NO. Cause then. You’ll just lie there. You’ll go to sleep. For good.”
I’m taken slightly aback by his vehemence and coo out a reassuring, “No I won’t” but Dylan refuses to be either tricked or convinced. Tensing his whole body, he flops upon the bed with an unrelenting bounce, he is stiff and unyielding, a nap is the furthest thing from all of his desire and interest or need. “Just twenty minutes,” I in my sumptuous sleepiness attempt to reassure and beseech. Turbulent and dubious, Dylan concedes.
Suddenly Dylan is “up and at ’em” once more, he’s firing ferociously to go. Dylan bustles about busily, stands straightly tall and disruptively commands, “Okay get up.” It’s immediately imperative apparently that we hit up the homosexual bars at once in Friendly Town.
“Just twenty more minutes,” I murmur into the pillows.
Dylan shouts something about us having actually napped already for nearly an hour. I’m too overrun with an all-consuming exhaustion to even attempt any version of opposing argument or any convincing defensive line. The thought of getting vertical and outside of the covers seems not just unattractive but vicious and impossible, I feel leaden and broken by the concept, to a point that is total in its oppression and lethargy.
“We have to go out!” Dylan shouts. “We spent all this time and energy trying to find the Gays and now we’ve done it! You’ll regret forever that we never went out and had the time of our lives in the gayest city in the world! We have to get out there and party with the ladyboys! You’ll never forgive me or yourself if I let you let me not make us go! Trust me, you’ll thank me later, we have to go out! We have to!” I’m so exhausted I manage to remain unmoved by this impassioned tirade, for all its impressiveness and extremity.
“What time is it,” I ask meaninglessly.
“Who cares what fucking time it is!” Dylan shouts.
“Go ask at the front desk,” I suggest, trying really just to get him out of the room and leave me to wallow beautifully in my nice and napping peace.
“Ok,” Dylan says. “I’m going downstairs and I’ll find out the goddamned time. But if when I get back and you are still just ‘lying there,’ I am going to fuck you in the ass. I am not joking, I will fuck you in the ass. A punitive assfucking, that’s what you will get so get up. I do not joke!”
That got me up faster than sheet lightning.
Dylan is startled and pleased. Imbued by ease of success and suddenness of accomplishment, he beams and smiles enormously. “We’ll have so much fun. Watch, I promise, you’re gonna thank me, it’s gonna be so awesome!” I ignore him and with sleepy sluggish sadness start pulling on some clothes. I’m peeved and defiant about the whole fucking in the ass threat thing.
“It’ll be so fun,” Dylan says again. His face is all radiant eagerness, his voice both soothing and conciliatory. I’m too drooping and drained to drum up any of my signature comebacks. I’m even too tired to roll my motherfucking eyes.
As a kind of revenge, I decide to go out basically “as is,” that is not get anywhere close to getting all dolled up at all and to just wear actual gray sweatpants, a grubby pale pink t-shirt, some nearby pair of forgettable shoes, a cheap straw hat even. Instead of contacts I wear huge heavy black-framed prescription glasses upon my deadbeat face. The glasses look like they belong to my dad, if I had a dad and if this dad was some kind of news anchorman from 1950. I look passably “cute” but excessively very casual too and not at all done up or eye-catching or anywhere close to my usual levels of Diva fierceness and fancy.
“So fun,” Dylan repeats. “Whatever,” I grumblingly mumble as I lurch with graceless grouchiness about. I gather my necessaries and glumly get ready to do some more of that thick humid Bangkok trudging. Dylan is all bright eyes and tail bushes, I am all “Fuck you” but drowsily, ineffectual as I am in my fatigue and defeat.
Finally we get out there and do the humid aftermidnight Bangkok trudge. The getting there takes a thousand forevers until we at last somewhere arrive. It’s a kind of open air partially covered alleyway and square, a “club cluster” sort of space and place. Seems this is where we go to enter what turns out to be a kind of Bangkok gay clubs hub and meeting place. The whole set up is a bit strange.
As we maneuver forward, we come across our elegant guide from earlier in the evening, we are just about to enter, he is just leaving. He is languorously delighted to witness our success in the finding and the coming, we in turn are pleased to be in passing strangely reunited with him so seamlessly. We the three of us smile, exchange greetings, he handsomely exits, we stride forwardly in.
The square space within is literally teeming with gay men of every imaginable stripe and kind. I’m beginning to perk up but continue to pointedly disregard the “See?” that radiates from Dylan’s bright shining eyes and face-splitting grin.
The first club we elect to enter is a karaoke bar and there’s a young handsome Thai man entertaining a calm cluster of homosexuals with basic karaoke renditions of those deathless Diva ballads which are so popular among the Gays. I have a couple drinks and smile pleasantly at the pleasant homosexuals seated all around in this complaisant karaoke setting. After one or two deathless Diva ballads more, we decide to check out the next club space place and enjoy immediately the charismatic hosting of some intimate stage show by two exquisitely captivating Thai homosexual Drag Queens. We enjoy the show for no more than a few minutes, we smile at and adore the hostesses and afterward we thank them warmly before leaving.
Wishing then to partake more totally of this homosexual club buffet, we take leave of this establishment also and push our way further and deepest in. We arrive at some enormous final club that is as huge as it is loud, it’s packed and very crowded, it feels surreal and exciting and totally crazy.
Inside we are demolished at once by probably the best sound system in Thailand. We realize we’ve finally found the most homosexual place in the country, possibly even the world. The club is the biggest most crowded gayest place we’ve ever seen, known of or been to. We are overwhelmed, giddy and amazed. We are fascinated, alarmed and happy. The music is booming and Dylan is excited finally to find himself somewhere in Southeast Asia that actually has proper sound, even if the music being blasted is the gayest kind of Diva Circuit House imaginable.
“This might be the gayest place on earth,” Dylan declares.
“Totally,” I agree. Wide-eyed, we marvel and we grin.
For every one hundred dancing and writhing homosexual Thais, there’s about ten middle-aged white foreigners calmly looking on. There’s only a smattering of the usually much more present Fag Hag quotient here and representing. We gaze with satisfaction around us and then are swallowed and smothered into the swoosh and swirl of many gay bodies careening and carousing, dithering and dancing. I unleash myself into the homosexual happiness and acquire a sweet sexy string of new best gay friends all in succession across the evening. The club is endless and huge and pulsing with gay men, we are blown literally away by the strength and seethe and scale of it repeatedly. The music is inescapably terrible but we endure and love it all as shards of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, Christina Aguilera, Cher and Madonna stab our ears and bodies with their homosexually worshiped Diva strains and melodies. The DJ nonetheless is competent and capable throughout, he knows his club and audience, the whole place is in every sense going “off.” We marvel as we immerse ourselves, we dance and we love.
Later we find ourselves upstairs and pick up our final gayboy hanger-on for the evening. I never clearly heard his name so let’s call him Khohn. “Watch this,” Khohn says and vogues for me. I make a show of being both interested and impressed before I dance in my own space and place again.
“You with him?” Khohn asks me, all gay and smiling. I smile back for reply and just keep dancing. “He with you?” Khohn asks Dylan. “Yeah. He with me,” Dylan says.
Khohn leans closely in exclaiming, “Yeah? He with you! He ladyboy?” and Khohn smiles proudly, happily, pointlessly. “You! Ladyboy.” Khohn announces again. I only smile a little bit back and give a partial shrug of one of my shoulders. Khohn grins in general commendation and some uncertainty. Then again he vogues for me. I offer once more that look of interest and of being impressed. Gay boys as a rule love to show off their signature moves and these moves are never by any sober person’s standards anything very remarkable or memorable but as a rule, the gay boy will want to repeatedly show you his moves and as a rule, you must offer that immediate face of the seriously intrigued.
“You! Ladyboy.” Khohn exclaimingly asks or announces to the world at intervals. Dylan and I smile and dance and grin. Later, another gay man joins our jaunty group. Khohn dances and makes a marked and meaningful movement with his head in my direction. In a clipped and confident voice Khohn to the newcomer says familiarly, “Ladyboy. Ladyboy.” The new gay man to our group dancingly pauses for a moment and muses politely, “Who. You?” to Khohn. Khohn makes the same adept head jerking gesture in my direction. He even goes so far as to jab me once or twice. “No. Him. Him.” he says. His expression reveals as though by right of his having “discovered” me a knowing and authoritative confidentiality. I gaze into the surrounding club’s dark pulse and steamed up details and continue to dance, my own expression a mask of warmly neutral inscrutability. Dylan continues too to dance and carouse and grin.
After lots more of this dancing, Khohn’s voguing and my feigning of being impressed, Dylan subtly gestures toward me and confides to Khohn, “Me love him. So much. He very special. He casual ladyboy.” Khohn stops dancing to consider the solemnity of these words. Dylan continues, “You know. Usually ladyboy so very nice? So much very fancy? Not him. He casual ladyboy.” Khohn blinks. Dylan then adds momentously, “New style.”
He pauses to let this clarification sink fully in.
Khohn dances and vogues and then says. “Oh.” He follows this brief and brusque consideration with an, “Oh!” as though suddenly everything makes real and genuine sense again. Reinvigorated and renewed, Khohn dances and vogues with heightened roguishness and greater oomph.
“I know Josh! From Hawaii!” Khohn suddenly says. I look at him blankly. Dylan gives me a “just go with it look” and so I say, “That’s wonderful.” Khohn smiles hugely, his happiness level is at a peak, he can’t stop himself from vogueing again just for me.
After we gamely endure more endless gay club Circuit House anthems, I finally begin at last to lose my fire and flare and am pretty much very ready to leave. Khohn looks about fit to vogue and show me off as his “ladyboy discovery” until sunrise and so I stealthily move to make my escape. I sit zen-like and statuesque for about a thousand years somewhere downstairs while I wait for Dylan to shake Khohn off and finally catch up with me.
Dylan and I are at long last reunited and he regales me with some lengthy explanation and overly detailed apology. I in my weariness can only think of the million years trudge home back to the hotel, I can’t imagine where I’ll find the strength to make it.
On exit, we’re suddenly presented with about ten bundles of giantly oversized stocks of green onions as thick and as tall as Dylan himself is. We cannot believe that these green onion bundles are “for real” or how or why they should exist in anyone’s reality. We’re so taken with these questions and the wonder of life that we pause to take some pictures to immortalize the surreality of things and I momentarily forget the intensity of my fatigue.
On the thick hot humid Bangkok night trudge home, we take still several more very drunken snaps of each other doing very drunken things. At last I run far ahead of Dylan, find the hotel by mere magical instinct and collapse instantly into the deepest stretched out stillness and public couches sleeping. When Dylan at last himself returns, he takes pictures of me serenely passed out calmly unconscious in the lobby. Moments later we are at last back in our great gay hotel room, safe, secure and happy.
“There. Wasn’t that great!” Dylan still drunk beams. I’m already half-naked and mostly unconscious still from my lobby sleep. “Who’s my casual ladyboy,” croons Dylan in a voice of subterranean satisfaction and the drunkest affection. He gets then also messily ready for bed and plops himself horizontally heaving and down. Fortunately the all-consuming urge to sleep is a mutual thing. Any possible erections, no matter how hopeful or indefatigable, are nonissues and safely out of everyone’s way. I can at last without interruption or disruption sweetly sumptuously sleep.
In the pitch and pleasing darkness, I fling my arm with careless familiarity across Dylan’s contented chest. “For Science,” I say in a voice muffled and my face pressed into the side of his susceptible neck. Dylan puts a lank free arm around me and sleepingly smiles. He traces with light loving fingers the back of my own susceptible neck and it’s time at last for signing off. This casual ladyboy says thank you Thailand, goodnight Bangkok and goodbye.