Tunnels of Purgatory
I'm going to take a jump back in time and post a trip report on the Biergarten on Suk Soi 7 in Bangkok that I did in 2005 for a Bangkok board. The pic on the left shows what it looked like back in 2005 and the one on the right what it looks like today. I lifted both from the Net.
The Bier Garten was renovated inside and out in 2008 and more work has been done since. It's no longer the sleazy place I described in the T/R, Think of the T/R as a frozen snapshot of bygone days.
Tunnels of Purgatory - the Biergarten at Suk Soi 7
Freelancer beer bars have always seemed in-between places to me. There are better options in LOS for either serious drinking or girl hunting, but much worse ones as well. The bars themselves are usually ramshackle and offer only a minimal comfort. More attractive girls are often just a stone's throw away and the male customers tend to be a sullen if harmless lot. It's sort of a whoremonger's limbo, somewhere between P4P heaven and hell.
Within this niche, the Biergarten at Soi 7 has achieved semi-legendary status. Its location in the heart of the Sukhumvit pink zone is a huge factor in its success, but the biggest attraction is the never-ebbing supply of girls willing to spread their legs at bargain rates. Nothing about them screams bar girl or hooker, but if they were to become any more accessible for P4P, they'd have to turn themselves into public parks.
These girls look... well, normal. A few bear the scars of too many years in the flesh trade, but mostly they're the kind you see riding the BTS every morning or behind the counters of noodle shops and convenience stores. Some are attractive, others less so. On the whole, it's average ho's for average Joe's rather than mingers for mongers.
The bar functions like a scaled-down P4P version of a Wal-Mart. It relies on self service and doesn't offer high-end products, but the everyday low prices can't be beat. There are no mamasans or bar fines and none of the blatant sexuality, pushy solicitation, loud music and rowdy drunkenness that mark a lot of go-go bars. Unlike massage parlors or brothels, a punter can spend as much time as he wants browsing the aisles before he decides to buy. When he does find a girl that strikes his fancy, he simply smiles or nods and she comes right over. After some conversation, they either leave together or he moves on to another girl.
Many guys find that an appealing setup, from the Skid Row decor and cheap beer in bottles to the direct negotiations with willing girls. It's sort of like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks - not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Average mongers, average girls, average bar, great location. Put them together and what do you get? The Biergarten on Soi 7. It falls considerably short of the pinker pastures of BKK pussy paradise, but is nowhere near the dark caverns of P4P hell on Soi 3. The Biergarten runs right through pussy purgatory and a lot of punters seem content to explore its many tunnels.
I once asked a star provider at an upscale Bangkok P4P establishment what she thought of the Biergarten. "Old man cheap Charlie place," she instantly answered. A harsh judgment and not entirely unfair, although it would have been more accurate to say, "Middle-aged man cheap Charlie place." You'll encounter some gray beards as well as downy-cheeked youngsters still in their teens, but most of the male clientele falls in the 35-to-50-year range.
There's no doubt that for many of the guys who frequent the Biergarten, it's really about PP4P - penny pinching for play. The Biergarten could serve as the headquarters of the ICC (International Cheap Charlies, pronounced "ick"). These connoisseurs of cut-rate I'm Gay are determined not to let their Bangkok breaks break their banks. And there's nothing terribly wrong with that. It's their money to spend or not spend as they choose The cheapos themselves suffer most from their excessive attention to dead presidents and live Thai kings. Through their reluctance to part with few hundred baht extra, they miss much of the joy and excitement available in LOS and settle for pale versions of the real thing. I've heard that someone once tried to open the ultimate cheap Charlie joint in BKK- bring-your-own booze and inflatable love dolls instead of bar girls- but I dismiss that as an urban myth.
For my own tastes, there's a bit too much of the "Bah! Humbug!" spirit at the Biergarten. Like Ebenezer Scrooge celebrating Christmas with a bowl of gruel, morose cheap Charlies sit hunched over their beers, worrying they've given a taxi driver or food vendor 20 baht too much. I don't know if visions of stunners ever dance through their heads, but they are determined no freelancer will get more than the absolute bottom rate.
However, there's an enormous difference between what could be called thrifty Charlies - who don't want to pay too much yet thoroughly understand how the game is played - and the truly cheap Charlies, who somehow find pride in taking advantage of desperately poor girls. The extreme cheapos fancy themselves great bargainers, wise in the ways of P4P and the world, but they're not really liked or respected by the girls. They have about as much street cred on the lower Suk as Vanilla Ice does in the South Bronx.
The Biergarten is not my favorite spot in Bangkok, nor is it one that I'd actively avoid. Usually I've gone there in the company of friends who like the place much more than I do. A visit from February is a case in point. It was my last full day of a seven-day business trip to LOS. By 1.30 p.m., I'd finished everything work-related and was on the way with a colleague to the lower Suk. I planned on stopping by the Eden Club but he preferred the less structured approach to P4P of the Biergarten. I agreed to have a beer with him before I took the short walk to Soi 7/1.
At 2.00 p.m., maybe 20 punters and twice as many girls had already gathered on site. Only a few mongers were locked in conversation with girls. Most of the guys were sitting alone, just sipping their beers. A quick glance around didn't inspire me to abandon my plans to visit the Eden Club, but my friend was already motioning over a girl, apparently someone he knew. Her facial features were more Korean than Thai, with her hair cut in a punk-inspired style and dyed a reddish hue. She was thin - borderline anorexic - and dressed in drab clothes. I didn't consider her attractive.
As she sat down next to my friend, she smiled with the sad eyes that usually signal a starfish. He introduced us but I've forgotten her name. She spoke English quite well, if with a heavy accent. He asked her the standard "How are you?" questions, then about her campaign to find a sponsor. She wanted 40,000 a month to become a one-man girl, but with takers in short supply, she'd consider a "time-share" arrangement under which two guys pay 20,000 baht each. He pressed her for details and she tried to explain how it would work. It began to sound more like a clip-card approach - pay for nine sessions in advance and get the tenth for free - than joint-custody P4P and seemed about as workable a notion as building a perpetual motion machine.
My friend had obviously heard this before, found the subject amusing and wanted to entertain me with it. That struck me as poor P4P manners. However oddball her ideas, the girl didn't deserve to be humiliated in front of another farang for the price of a drink. The more she talked, the more I struggled to follow what she was saying, and it wasn't all because of language difficulties. I began wondering if some of her non sequiturs might be the result of a pill or two to take the jagged edge off the P4P grind. I tried to see if her pupils were dilated, but that's always hard to tell with Asian girls and I couldn't really decide.
Anyway, the conversation was depressing me and I decided to split for the Eden Club. My friend asked me to return to the Biergarten after my session so we could have dinner together. I agreed, more to maintain a collegial relationship than out of any desire to spend more time with him. On the way to Soi 7/1, I attracted the attention of a tout for one of the Indian tailor shops. "Nice suit, boss. Where you get made?" he asked, but I just sighed at the Sikh on the Suk.
As usual, the 90-minute session at Eden Club rocked my universe. I was so taken with the lead heroine of my dynamic duo, the fabled Gina, that I immediately booked a take-away session with her, beginning that night at 10.00 p.m. I worried my eyes might be bigger than my dick, but I was determined to maximize the sexual content of my remaining hours in LOS. Besides, I've had a weakness for girls named Gina since my high school days, when I met a lovely (and horny!) debutante from Richmond with that name. Throughout the years, I've fondly remembered her as VA Gina.
Still basking in the afterglow of total satisfaction, I went back to the Biergarten to meet up with my friend and have a beer to restore vital body fluids. The place had filled up considerably since mid-afternoon. Almost all the seats at the bar as well as the side tables were occupied, with girls still outnumbering punters by two or three to one. I couldn't see my friend, so I went deeper into the bar in case he had changed position, as befits an experienced monger. It was sort of like walking down Commercial Avenue on Chicago's South Side back in the 1960's - you could hear six different languages spoken in half a block. Not surprisingly for a place named Biergarten, there was a heavy German presence and about equally many Brits and Aussies. There was also a sprinkling of non-German continental Europeans, from Italians to Finns, but very few North Americans.
Both the girls and the punters held around 5 on the conventional 1-to-10 scale. If you plotted the looks of the bar's males and females on a graph, you'd end up with a classic bell-shaped curve. A few examples were at either extreme of the curve and most were bunched up right around the mid-point. I saw a couple of real cuties, but many more who wouldn't be winning any prizes for beauty unless in a contest arranged by a kennel club. A few were prime candidates for Miss Bangkok Bow-Wow 2005. Nevertheless, one of the pug uglies had drawn considerable advantage from her looks. Back in 2003, the BKK municipal government had offered a 100,000 baht reward for the best suggestion on how to make the city a more beautiful place to live. The Biergarten pug won it by promising to move to Pattaya.
The opposite side of the Biergarten equation - the punters - were on the whole a nondescript group, although there were a few memorable exceptions. I thought I had spotted several U.S. celebrities, members of Howard Stern's Whack Pack, but not so. The Gary the Retard look-alike proved to be a member of an inbred Appalachian tourist group and Elephant Boy turned out to be speaking Norwegian. Some of other guys had definitely been hit with the ugly stick, maybe even the whole tree. I couldn't decide if one guy looked more like Homer Simpson or Yoda with clipped ears, it was pretty much a toss-up.
There were also some eternally re-occurring beer bar types. A 90-pound weakling, the kind that always got sand kicked in his face at the beach in the old Charles Atlas advertisements, sat furiously scribbling in a notebook. He looked every inch a nerd - Coke bottle glasses, coat-hanger arms and legs, a Spiderman t-shirt, swimming trunks and flip-flops. I don't know if he was writing a letter to his mother or the program for a new video game, but he was oblivious to his surroundings. He could have just as easily been sitting in the Topeka Public Library and I wondered if he realized he wasn't in Kansas anymore. I imagined him clicking his heels together and saying, "There's no place like home! There's no place like home!"
At one end of the bar was a bigger loser - much, much bigger. This guy was about 5'8'' and must have tipped the scales at a minimum of 350 lbs. If I'd been at a beachside joint in Phuket or Pattaya, I'd have been tempted to shout, "Free Willy!" He had bristles on his chin that would have done a wart hog proud and the tufts of hair on his head looked like something a cat coughs up. He wore a sweaty sleeveless top that was too short, allowing his hairy belly to billow over the waistband of his 4X bermudas like the filling out of a jelly donut. His butt cheeks smothered the barstool, with saddlebags of fat hanging from the edges. He seemed a hopeless gutter-ball case; a TV makeover show that took him on would end up titled Mission: Impossible. I doubted even the least attractive girls at the Biergarten would ascend that mountain of blubber without significant compensation for hazardous duty.
Then an ingenious thought struck me. If he walked into the Grace Hotel, he'd be the most appealing male specimen there. In the land of the mega-hideous, the merely repulsive man is king. It reminded me of a great scene from Alice in Wonderland, in which the Duchess' baby turns into a pig and scampers off into the woods. Alice commented that while the baby would have become a dreadfully ugly child, it made a rather handsome pig. Of course, the Biergarten beluga couldn't really reign in P4P hell, despite his comparative good looks. The other guys at the Grace would skin him alive just to hear him scream, then sell the carcass to the Japanese as whale meat.
I found a seat near the entrance and ordered a beer. The guy beside me was spooky looking to the max. He had eyes that never seemed to blink and a haircut just like Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was dressed in jet black clothes, with a long-sleeved shirt buttoned to the collar. I don't believe in vampires, but I'm convinced BKK has its fair share of serial killer wannabes. I pictured this guy saying, "Good evening, Clarice," perhaps with a German accent. Even if he didn't go as far as Hannibal Lector, he could easily be the type to put parakeets and hamsters in a blender for a small-animal smoothie.
The P4P ocean is full of weirdos who present dangers for any provider, inside or outside LOS, but the waters at the Biergarten appeared safer for trolling than most, despite a few off-putting types. The punters were almost exclusively Western farangs, so at least the girls wouldn't be contaminated by the toxic sands of beaches from the Middle East.
A few yards away, a tall, handsome young fellow represented the opposite end of the Biergarten appearance curve. He had tanned, movie star features and a very athletic physique. One of the most appealing girls in the bar, a perfect spinner, was glued to his side. He'd done well for himself, considering the general pool of talent. But if I'd had that kid's looks and body, I'd be somewhere else, making a play for the likes of Paris Hilton, not squandering my youth on P4P at the Biergarten.
Although the bar was full, the atmosphere was still very low-keyed. Not much noise, no blatant drunks. Some of the guys I'd noticed two hours earlier were still sitting in their original seats, silent and motionless. Maybe they were seeking enlightenment by meditating on their chit glasses and had passed into a trance. I began pondering if they were the P4P equivalent of the predatory fish and insects which remain still for hours, then suddenly lash out when suitable prey moves into range. I imagined one of these patient punters swinging round on his stool, grabbing a girl by the arm and asking breathlessly, "Will you take 500 baht short-time?"
Inside my head, I saw myself doing something outrageous to rattle the guys. Maybe jumping on the bar and shouting through a bullhorn in the style of a 1960's campus protest, "Girls of Biergarten, unite! You have nothing to lose but your cheap Charlies." Or more in keeping with my personal style, yell that I was paying 5,000 baht S/T, just to see of any of the cheapos would faint.
In fact, I did nothing but take a swig of beer. Whatever fascination Biergarten held for me was fast waning. I assumed my colleague had found a more entertaining way to spend the evening than dinner with me and I began to think about how I would wile away the hours until I met up with Gina from Eden Club again. A quick bite to eat, then... to shop or to rest? That was the question. I was leaning towards the shopping option when I noticed a girl who brought my focus back to P4P. She was in her early twenties and quite attractive, at least a 7, maybe an 8. Great facial features (for a facial), good figure, nicely dressed in jeans and top. Without much trouble I could imagine she was one of the often-mentioned-but-seldom-seen university student freelancers. She was standing with a few friends inside the entrance to the Biergarten. All were above average in looks and didn't appear in a hurry to enter into the beer bar bargaining zone.
I winked and smiled at her and she smiled back, so I motioned her over. She spent a few moments discussing the invitation with her friends, and they all turned to look me over. Some giggling and grins in TG style, then my chosen cutie moved to join me. I realized I'd been caught up in the "kid in the candy store" syndrome. Like an eight-year old with birthday money burning in his pocket, I wanted to buy more sweeties than I needed or could handle. I'd just had a two-girl session that had left me pumped out and I planned to meet one of those girls again in a few hours, yet now I'm thinking about an in-between adventure. My spirit was willing, but my flesh would definitely be weak, if not limp. With a lot of effort and a tablet of Viagra, I might - and it was a big might - be able to do justice to the Biergarten babe, but that would leave me with about as much energy for the all-nighter with Gina as the winner of the Boston Marathon after he crosses the finishing line. I didn't want to rely too heavily on chemical sex-drive enhancers. Jerking off won't make you go blind, but excessive use of Viagra can, or so I'd heard.
I figured the only way out of my predicament would be to go for some kind of exotic oral variation, such as a hot-tea BJ. Just thinking about it brought a little life back to Mr. Skippy, but he wasn't ready for straight-up BKK boom-boom. As the girl sidled up next to me, I asked her name. She had trouble understanding me and that dashed any illusions about her being a university student. After a few tries, she grasped what I was asking and told me her name was An. Pronounced in the first tone, An means harmony in standard (putunghua) Chinese; I had no idea if it had the same meaning in Thai. I then asked her if she wanted a drink and that was easier to get across, since I gestured to my beer and the bartender with the same sweep of my hand. She nodded and ordered and the bartender brought her some fruit concoction.
I didn't want to dis Miss Harmony, but our conversation was going nowhere. How the hell could I negotiate a hot-tea BJ if she had problems comprehending "What's your name?" She kept looking back at her friends and giggling, which was intriguing and unsettling at the same time. She definitely seemed new to the game, even if she wasn't a university part-timer. A lot of guys prefer rookie nookie and that's understandable if you're out after a longer-term girlfriend experience, but didn't bode well for what I hoped to get.
Out of curiosity and sheer momentum, I kept on going and asked her if she wanted to go back to my hotel with me. She asked "What hotel?" and I told her the Landmark. I know it's a major violation of Cheap Charlie bargaining strategy to reveal that you're staying in a four- or five-star hotel before you agree to the price, but I don't think many girls actually have a sliding scale based on the star rating of the punter's hotel. They're mostly concerned about the time it will take them to get to and from the hotel.
It was then time to talk price. She had a hard time grasping "How much" When she did understanding, she had an even harder time saying it, but with the help of pen and paper, I learned her price was 1,500 baht for S/T and L/T wasn't an option- "No like," she said.
I'd pretty well decided nothing exciting was going to transpire between Harmony and myself, but I wanted to find out if her repertoire included sucking as well as fucking. She did't understand "blow job" or "sa-moke" or "yum yum" and it would have been a bit much to start with sign language with half a dozen punters watching our interaction. I just let the matter drop. Silence for awhile as she sipped her drink, then she asked me if I wanted her to "go back Landmark." I shook my head "no." She looked peeved and if she'd possessed the vocabulary, she'd have probably asked me why. As it was, she shrugged and went back to her friends. I paid my tab and left. I had ventured very little and gained almost nothing, other than the knowledge that an attractive Biergarten FLer seemed confident she'd get 1,500 baht for S/T.
The open-air restaurant on Soi 7 directly across from the Biergarten was doing a roaring trade and I figured I could do worse for dinner. A lot of punters were there with girls, but also a fair number of farang tourist couples and even a few Asian family groups. I stood waiting for awhile for a waiter or waitress to notice me, but none did. Just as I was about to leave, an older man - maybe the manager - said something in Thai and motioned for me to wait. I don't know what he said, but I assumed it was the equivalent of O.J. Simpson's last words to Nicole, "Your waiter will be with you soon."
A waiter did indeed turn up and I had a tasty and cheap dinner. The raw oysters on the half-shell, Thai style, were especially good. After I finished my meal, I went back to the Biergarten one more time to see if my colleague had turned up. He hadn't, but the place was indeed crowded by then. There was considerable traffic both in and out, with heavy competition for the cuter girls as they returned in hopes of a second or even third S/T session.. Quick as a rat up a drain pipe, punters would approach the cuties as soon as they entered the bar. I didn't notice An, but I didn't stay more than a few minutes this time.
My take-away with Gina turned out to be an exceptionally memorable experience. Smooth and sweet, she was like dipping into a beaker of warm honey, but that's a story for another thread.
A few hours after we fell asleep, the night took a big swing for the worse, I awoke with stomach cramps that kept me doubled over on the way to the bathroom. I am no stranger to food poisoning and figured that was what had hit me, probably from the oysters. I'll spare everyone the details, but the 30 minutes that followed were among the least appealing of life. Projectile vomiting and diarrhea turned my digestive tract inside out. Once my system was empty, I thought it would recover quickly, just as I had done many times in the past. I didn't want to disturb Gina, so I lay down on the sofa in the sitting room (I had a suite). Chills gripped me and I began to shiver uncontrollably. Gina woke up at that point and the sight of me trembling like a leaf in a storm terrified her. She thought I was having convulsions. She immediately phoned down to front desk, screaming in both Thai and English. She then rushed to me and, in tears, berated herself for not noticing I'd been sick. I tried to convince her it wasn't that bad, but I wasn't sure I believed it myself. I couldn't stop shivering and my stomach felt like I'd swallowed razor blades.
A couple of guys from hotel security quickly appeared in the room and they were spooked by the shivering as well. The senior guy wanted to call an ambulance, I guess he didn't fancy having a farang die on his watch. I absolutely refused that idea, but agreed a doctor should be summoned. I spent the 45 minutes until he arrived alternately sweating and shivering. Gina and the two security guys hovered over me the whole time, asking if I was OK every time I closed my eyes.
The doctor was very good. He diagnosed me with acute food poisoning and severe dehydration. The shivering and sweating was a result of fever. In a five-star version of M*A*S*H, he strapped my hand to the TV remote for the intravenous antibiotics and hung the infusion bag from the bedside lamp. He left me with a half dozen different kinds of pills, including Valium to help me sleep. Feeling no pain, I dozed off around 6.00 a.m.
I woke up around 4 p.m. and was in good enough shape to make my flight back to the States without too much discomfort. It took a few more days for me to recover entirely. I learned a couple of important lessons from the whole episode: 1) don't eat raw oysters in Bangkok; and 2) if you're going to get sick, make sure you're staying in a five-star hotel and are with a girl from the Eden Club. I'm sure an off-the-rack freelancer wouldn't have handled the situation nearly as well.
And the Biergarten at Soi 7? In short, it's to P4P like Ronald Reagan was to American politics - not as good as his supporters hoped he'd be, not as bad as his detractors feared he'd be. My overall impression was reinforced by my experiences that day [and by the short visit Oct. 20]. It's not a bad place, but not a great one. If you have any expectations of pulling one of the nicer looking girls, then you have to pounce quickly or invest considerable time in waiting. If you're content with (or turned on by) a woman who's less attractive, you'll have plenty of choice. At the Biergarten, you'll forgo the sublimest pleasures of BKK pussy paradise as well as avoiding the horrors of P4P hell. I've never had a really satisfactory session that originated at the Biergarten, but that's what purgatory is all about - avoiding hell, hoping for heaven.
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