|I've heard that one night in Bangkok can make a hard man humble, but how's a man to know unless he goes. This is the third time I've been to Bangkok, and for such a loud, dirty, crowded Southease Asian city it has suprisingly grown on me a little every time. Every time I return it is a little cleaner and more modern, with the new shopping malls and Starbucks to show for it. But like a spicy Thai red curry, you never know what is going to be in the mix, and it just might burn you.
I had a night to kill before heading south to the islands, so I strolled through Khao San Road on my own to do some shopping and people watching. You can find anything on Khao San Road: pirated CD's, fake driver's licenses and college diplomas, T-shirts, tattoos, flip flops, massages (dubious and regular), juggling balls, socks, fried cockroaches, knives, shoelaces, plane tickets, you name it. You can also find trouble.
After a little shopping I stopped into a bar where some music was playing. Every night is a party on Khao San Road. After watching the live music a bit, some Thai girls started dancing around me and one started talking to me. Like I said, I've been to Thailand, so I know the routine. Usually when Thai girls talk to you in bars they want to go home with you, and although they won't say it upfront, they want cash.
So I made casual conversation with this Thai girl who was really nice and said she was a student and asked about my travels and how long I was going to stay in Thailand. She said she came down with some friends to Khao San Road for some dancing, and usually she doesn't come here. We talked for awhile and she said she was ready to leave Khao San Road, even though it was early, and asked if I wanted to come to her house to meet her roommates and maybe watch a movie.
She seemed sincere and nice, but I had to make it clear that I was not interested in sex or paying her. She said ofcourse not, and if I didn't want to come with her that is okay. Being alone with nothing to do, in a moment of "why not?" I took her up on the offer and we took a taxi 5 minutes across town to here apartment.
When we entered her little pad, nobody was there and she said her roommates must have just left. Her apartment was a small square room with a large bed, an entertainment center, a bathroom, a small balcony and not much more. I was curious how three people slept here as she poppped in a movie for us to watch.
About halfway through a lame Thai comedy that was sub-titled in English I decided it was time to go and told her so. She then said,
"You pay me now, okay?"
A little confused, I asked her for what, and she said for coming home with her. I explained that was ridiculous and anyways we didn't have sex.
All of a sudden, her demeanor changed, and she got very serious and direct.
"You agree to come home, you know for what, you pay."
"Um, no," I said, "We didn't do anything, I didn't want to do anything, and now I am going to leave."
I got up to leave and discovered that she had put a special lock over the door knob, while I was in the bathroom I'm assuming, so that there was no way to open the door. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
"What is this? Open this," I said.
"You no go until you pay," she was now raising her voice.
"I'm not paying." I then walked out onto the balcony to look for an escape route and found that her balcony was like a cage, with white concrete Roman-style columns to waist heigth, and metal bars going all the way up to the ceiling. There was no way out. I realized at that moment this is something she has done many times before.
"Let me out of here," I demanded.
"You pay me money or I call police, tell police you came here and now no pay me. Tell police you rape me."
Oh my god, this was getting serious. Yet I wanted to call her bluff.
"How much you want," I asked her, getting desperate to get the hell out of there.
"3000 baht." She said, which was about $100 dollars, and which I did not have on me.
She got out the phone and said she was calling the police. In this moment a decision needed to be made. With Thai police, I heard, it is really hit or miss. They might come and realize the predicament you are in and help you, they might believe the girl and force you to pay and/or arrest you, or most likely they would just like a bribe to clear the situation up. The odds of me getting out of there with my money were getting slimmer and slimmer.
I grabbed the cell phone out of her hand. She grabbed the land-line phone and said she was calling hotel security.
I once again asked her to stop this nonsense and gave her phone back to her and reasoned with her to let me leave. What could I do? Anything physical would be assault, and crying for help might land me in more trouble. I told her I would give her a little money, 500 baht, to unlock the door.
She picked up the phone again and said she was calling her friends and they would get the money out of me. Shit. Possibly another bluff, but it was back to negotiating time.
But when a little, innocent-looking girl has you locked INSIDE her apartment in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, in a part of town you are unfamiliar with, and she is threatening to call the police or her thugs, the bargaining chips are not on your side of the table. Write that down.
The negotiations ended with her getting all of the money in my wallet, about 1500 baht ($50 US), a 20 euro note hidden in my wallet, which she knew was there (I KNOW she's done this before), and all of my pride.
The unlocked the door, screamed something to me in Thai, and I double timed it to the street to catch a taxi and escape to the safety of my guesthouse, where I would remain until I left Bangkok in the morning. How does the song go?
"One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me"