It was a cave of lust. Past touts hustling massages and ping pong shows. Past crowds of men - Western, Middle Eastern, Asian – with arms snaked around Thai dancer’s bodies. Down a dark corridor on the third floor of a nondescript building in Bangkok’s Patapong Red Light District it waited.
Thailand sweats sex. From beautiful Thai women to condom vending machines in public bathrooms, sexuality churns through Bangkok’s musky air.
Women in skimpy bikinis with subtlety arousing or garish makeup beckon. Pouty red lips, hourglass curves, swollen breasts and long legs that reach heavenward like Babel’s tower.
A place where night’s shadow blurs the boundaries of sexuality into a sticky haze.
Cascade. The lady-boy bar.
Venturing inside, the Madam, a woman with a powdered pale face, severe bangs and prominent Adam’s apple escorted us to our seats. Joanie, myself, Shannon (our friend from New York), Scott (an old friend of mine from Ohio who now lives and works in Bangkok), and a few of his friends watched the 15 or so bikini-clad dancers undulating on stage.
Travel is a place to push boundaries (not necessarily physically, but psychologically and philosophically) as this night would prove.
A gamut of beauty presented itself: some tall with long flowing hair, others short and chestless, some buxom. Despite the diversity, all had one shared characteristic: at some point in their lives, all were men.
I watched the club’s other patrons and wondered if they also knew this.
Gender lines seem blurred in Asia. Men are often effeminate and much more affectionate and comfortable with the [platonic] physical touch of other men than Westerners.
A middle aged Asian man sat a few feet away and glowed as 2 dancers talked and entertained him. He was smitten by Aphrodite’s elixir, but did he know Aphrodite was a man?
Origin seemed unimportant and antiquated at Cascade. The now mattered, the rare immersion into the moment. A luxury our frenetic lives rarely permit or allow us to afford – who knows at what cost?
Travel forces us into moments of introspection and (often) to grope to understand ourselves as individuals and as a reflection of our environment.
There is no comfort zone for retreat, only the slight refuge of a hotel room where the sounds and smells of the exotic world outside still penetrate.
A loud bell rang and the club’s lights went on. The dancers left the stage for the dressing room (that was on the way to the bathroom and had no door).
A few remained on stage and I thought of Chery Tiegs, and her iconic poster the 70s, a tantalizing icon of beauty and perfection.
It wasn’t Cheryl standing 10 feet from us but a tall, Asian woman with dark, blown-out hair and welcoming smile. It was something different: something in the grey area between assumption and expectation.
It was Christmas and she was like a beautifully wrapped present. It might be the perfect gift or the surprise you’ll never forget.
Happy holidays from Bangkok.