“There are a hundred guys around that corner and they coming to fuck you up!”
There turned out to be about ten guys, small Thai fellows loaded up on three bicycles but the odds still didn’t look good. My guesthouse was about 500 metres away down a long, dark road and, at 2am in the morning, the last bar was closing and the last witnesses with them.
Hmmm, I thought, the Lonely Planet didn’t warn me about this one…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. How did I come to be on the verge of being expertly beaten up by a gang of young Thai men? And who was the beautiful blonde Dutch girl crying as the situation was explained?
It began, as many adventures on the road do, with too much alcohol. I was in the north eastern party town of Pai, Thailand and was making the usual one street bar crawl, a routine that usually landed me in the Bebop bar my midnight, just before the official killjoy curfew imposed by the Thai government.
A local ska band was rocking the joint and the upbeat atmosphere was only improved by the teenage Dutch girl, called Emma, who was making eyes at me. I headed over and, over the roar of a ska version of Hotel California, we began to yell in each other’s ear about Buddhism, of all things.
But each time she seemed to be too engaged in the conversation and I was thinking about kissing her, a small Thai guy who introduced himself as Nat kept handing me beer and trying to get her attention. Emma clearly wasn’t interested and so I just waited for him to go away.
But he didn’t. Even when the bar closed and we walked back to her guesthouse, Nat kept coming up to the Emma’s side and trying to put his arm around her waist. She kept squirming away and I couldn’t work out why she didn’t say anything. Oh well, I guessed, she’s only 19, maybe she hasn’t yet learnt to assert herself.
I decided to help by stepping in between them every now and then as though by accident and leaving Nat out in the cold. This merry dance continued all the way back to her guesthouse where we sat with some friends who had brought back more beers. Finally I decided to head home, reasoning that we had time and this whole Nat business was just way too much.
The next evening I was in a bad mood. The blues of being alone on the road came back and hit me hard and I found myself sitting miserably in the corner of bars, lonely and unloved. On the way home I saw Emma and stopped to chat. She saw how down I was and wanted to sit and console me somewhere.
Before we could though, a friend of Nat’s came up and started yelling at her:
“You don’t know what you do! You are a flirt. Now there are a hundred guys and they’re going to fuck him up,” he insisted, pointing at me, “You flirt first with Nat and then with him, you make problem for everyone and now they fuck him up!”
A few metres behind him sat Nat on his motorbike, looking very drunk and very pissed off. The bikes carrying the ten thai dudes showed up on the corner and looked for all the world like the beat-up-a-foreigner squad. I didn’t really understand what was going on and didn’t know the whole story but it wasn’t looking good.
I walked straight up to Nat and offered him my hand, apologising if I’d caused him any offence the night before. He took my hand reluctantly but refused to make any eye contact. Then the shutters started coming down on the bar and Emma was trying to tell me to meet her back at her guesthouse.
It was a ten minute walk back to my bungalow and suddenly the prospect of being beaten up by ten young Thai boxers seemed very real. I knew from other expats that when you mess with a local there’s no sense of fair play in Thailand, he just comes at you with all his friends and you’d better run.
Emma was now crying and I stole away as quietly as I could towards the bridge, hoping I wouldn’t hear the revving of engines behind me. A lone motorbike came from the main road and I ran over, waving my arms anxiously. The female Thai lady riding eyed me curiously and nodded a casual assent as I begged her for a ride.
3 minutes later, I was in my bungalow, locking the door shut and wondering if all the engines I heard on the main road had come looking for me. I didn’t know how real the threat had been but I was pretty sure Emma wasn’t worth it.
Either way, it seemed like a good time to hit the road.