In which the
folksinger recalls one night in Bangkok,
where the world’s your oyster.
By Amy Speace
2000. My younger brother Matt was living in Southeast Asia
and invited me to come visit to trek around for a month. We had no set
itinerary, just a desire to see Vietnam
and the Thai islands and have an adventure.
A few weeks and a 17-hour flight later, I was walking down Kao
San Road in Bangkok,
looking for the café my brother said I’d find him in. It was very The Beach: a road that seemed to be the
gateway to the backpacker trail of hippies and ravers and dropouts and
walkabouts, a steaming, humid pavement that reeked of pot and piss lined with
outdoor cafés filled with hippies and ravers and dropouts and walkabouts making
plans, waiting on visas, drinking morning beers with their banana pancakes.
I heard my name called amidst the steaming throngs and
turned to see my brother sitting casually at a café, waving, just as he’d told
me. He held up two chilled beers. I was bleary and tired after the long flight,
but he’d had the day planned well, from the beers to the two-hour Thai massage
to the temple tour to dinner to a late-night hang on a road called Soi Cowboy.
I’d heard rumors of this place – the red light district.
Although I’m a fairly well-mannered folk singer, I’ve been to a few strip clubs
with friends. I’ve had friends who stripped to make rent, or to pay for law
school. I’d seen the lap dances, smelled the cocoa butter, wondered about the
law of gravity when flinging triple-D’s around an oily pole. So it didn’t creep
me out – too much – to go see a Thai strip club with my little brother. We hopped a rickshaw that darted through the
chaos of Bangkok nightlife. The
creep factor crept in when the rickshaw driver leaned back and said in his
broken English, “You want go see sex show? Girls fucking donkeys. You want?”
Um. No. Ew.
I was surprised that this district seemed rather civilized,
less like the seedy street I envisioned. More like Bourbon or Beale
Street. There were clusters of post-college
backpackers with the boys trying to seem cool and girls giggling and
well-dressed elderly older couples, out on date night, and junked out single
men, leaning into the alleys, in torn military fatigues, a cliché from a 70’s
film. Beautiful Thai women stood at the club entrances like carnival barkers,
“Nice naked ladies inside. Come in. You like?”
Matt and I chose one at random, lured in by the lack of
cover charge and the need to get out of the Bangkok
steam, a humidity that clings to you like syrup. We took seats at the bar, a
large semi circle stage with two gold poles at either end and two bikini-clad
women working the bar. Red velvet curtains, clean lounge, black leather barstools,
the dark club lit by purple and blue neon, like a mid-high range corporate
strip joint in NYC. Not Joe’s Topless in Newark.
We ordered drinks and the show began.
It started slow and, to my experience, normal. Pole dancing,
choreographed erotica, G-strings with paper money tucked in like flags at the
hip. Then a girl, completely naked and shaved, sat down, spread her high-heeled
legs wide and proceeded to slowly pull a long string tied with what looked like
little Koosh balls out of her vagina. I shifted a bit uncomfortably. The next
girl sat down and pulled a similar string, but tied with razor blades.
I squinted, shifted and crossed my own legs. Drank another
beer. Looked to my brother, who said, “Just wait.” This went on, and alongside
the women who pulled long strings out of their ya-ya’s were the women who shot
bullseyes with darts, launched ping-pong balls at customers, sucked on
cigarettes and blew smoke rings out of their nether regions. This was
impressive. This was no NYC strip club.
But then, the piece de resistance came. I was
A woman danced out, naked, and shimmied over to the bartender,
who placed one of those old-fashioned bottles of Coca-Cola on the dance floor
next to the pole. The dancer stood above the bottle, legs parted, and pliéd
seductively over it, teasing it with the lips of her bread box, up and down,
side to side. Then, in one move, she grabbed the bottle with her hoo-hoo (No.
Hands.), flipped herself upside-down on the pole, and drained the soda into her
The patrons clapped and shouted, slapping their hands on the
dance floor. I was aghast, and laughing, probably a bit drunk at this point.
The dancer righted herself, placed the empty bottle down (again: No. Hands.)
and twirled up and down the runway. Not a drop escaped.
The bartender then placed another bottle down. Jack Daniels.
Next to the pole. The dancer again shook it on over and did her thing. The
crowd went bat-shit wild as she chugged the entire bottle with her watusi. Once
more, she flipped herself upright and danced down the runway.
My jaw scraped the tabletop as my brother laughed himself to
tears. The crowd cheered. I was dazed, confused, a bit freaked out, and yet I couldn’t
take my eyes off her. Again: nothing drained out. She held that shit inside of
I thought I heard my brother say, again, “Oh, no. Wait for
The bartender took bids from the crowd like farmers at a pig
auction. An Australian man won, and plopped his money down. The dancer was
shaking her groove thing, stirring up the booze in her coochie. Mr. Oz frothed
at the mouth while the bartender produced a glass of clinking ice cubes and
placed it in front of the big winner. The dancer strutted over to Winning
Bidder, gave him a flirty look, did a fifth-position plié over the glass and peed
out a Jack & Coke. Winning Bidder raised the glass high to the cheering
crowd and downed the drink in one gulp, slamming the glass upside down on the
floor to a wolf-rabid crowd. The dancer kissed him full on the mouth, licked
her lips, smiled and left the dance floor to a well-deserved standing ovation.
And that is the last time I ever need to step foot in a
Amy Speace’s new album Land
Like a Bird is out now on Thirty Tigers. www.amyspeace.com
AMY SPEACE – “GHOST”