Red Light Morning to Night: Nana

Well hello again. It’s me, Seven. I’m doing my best to live the dream in case you can’t, so at least you can read about it. Today’s exposition is part 2 of a series called Red-Light Morning to Night, and it consists of exactly what you think. So let’s hit it:

The day began with a quiet Skytrain ride to BTS Nana station. It was partly cloudy and cool for a Bangkok Saturday and I had a good feeling about what the trip would bring. My friends Lucky and Mao Moo and I were taking on Nana for an all-day-and-all-of-the night extravaganza. I was the first to arrive at Stumble Inn and since it would be rude not to wait for my compatriots, I of course ordered immediately. Full English breakfast. It was glorious.

Two fried eggs, two sausages, a pile of bacon, toast, hash browns, tomato, black pudding, fried bread, beans. I put the eggs on the toast—delectable. Inhaled the sausage—perfection. Savored the hash browns and bacon, alternating bites along with gulps of Singha—euphoric. I even tried the black pudding even though I don’t like black pudding. In seconds, it was gone—sinfully good. Snacked on the tomato as an afterthought and eschewed the beans, since I’m American. Then leaned back, completely satisfied and buzzing from the sensory overload. Just at that moment, Lucky and Moo turned up and at the same time, an Englishman asked if he could take a photo of the framed Manchester City top on the wall behind me. He remarked, “I can’t believe I flew 8,000 miles and the first thing I see is that.” Lucky and Moo quickly caught up, both on food and beer, and then we leaned forward, elbows on the bar, to watch the foot traffic on Soi 4. The female staff at Stumble Inn have poise. They know not to be too pushy while also being friendly and attentive. Every counter wiping or beer refill comes with a lingering, winking-smiling beat, where she hovers just a bit too close or fervently touches an elbow, hoping for an invitation to join. I did what I always do, which is to wai over-politely and quickly shift back to gazing soiward. Lucky does the same. Moo, however, can’t resist tormenting a hostess, whose job it is—in his mind at least—to keep him entertained by trying to deflect his hands while he tests how obnoxious he can be before she gives up and bails in exasperation.


Lucky wasn’t drunk yet, so he kept busy by making keen observations and formulating theories. “I’ve just realized,” he said, “that all the freelancers arrive at once.” I cast an eye this way and that, and confirmed his assertion. He continued, “I wonder if they all live in the same area and share a taxi, or if it’s pure coincidence. Either way, they’re punctual. Surely there’s no time card to punch. It’s pretty amazing to see that kind of discipline from working girls.” I silently agreed. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen gogo dancers stroll in late, despite the pay dock it costs them. Sometimes they can’t even be bothered to get out of bed for work, and that, in some places, is a hefty fine. Yet these girls, who report to know one, except maybe the mafia, arrive dutifully at a designated hour. Remarkable. After a few more beers, Lucky’s observances will be more along the lines of “Look at that girl with that crotchety old man. I bet she’d prefer me. Do you think I should ask her?”

As it drew nearer to noon, we left Stumble Inn to get a change of scenery. A very small change, since we only crossed the street to Hooter’s. There, we were served by the lovely Angsada, who dutifully brought us beers in glasses shaped like big-busted women. Somehow, it made the beer taste better. We passed the time by watching the circus of various types of people who lumber back and forth on the soi. Overly-cologned Indian men and overly-veiled Muslim women competed for the majority. In the end, the Indians won out. There are also a few regulars who call this part of Nana home, like the Thai man with the tumor on his face. He always seems unsure whether to sit or walk, and when he walks he doesn’t seem to have a destination. I watched as people skirted around him while also pretending not to see him. In such a crowded place, he must be so very lonely. Then there’s the crazy lady who used to haunt Patpong but for whatever reason has relocated to Nana. She paced back and forth, having one-sided conversations with bar staff and customers along her route. Occasionally she stopped to argue with herself. Sometimes she’d break out of her daze long enough to offer sex in exchange for money with a random unfortunate who inadvertently walked too close. And this was our occupation for the next few hours.

Hooter’s is directly across from Hillary 2, which had been full of local drinkers for hours already. My friends and I watched as two Hillary hostesses helped a falling-down drunk mid-30s Thai lady in short-shorts with a tattoo on each thigh into a tuk-tuk. A few moments later, her husky farang boyfriend followed. They called it a day at 2:30. We called it quits at Hooter’s and popped next door to Bar 4, followed by Bus Stop and Rest Hub 2. By then it was dinner time, but it was too early for the Taco Truck, so we jammed back to Stumble Inn for a cheeseburger. It was then that I began flagging, and my memory of eating the burger is fuzzy, but I know I did because I distinctly remember looking down at an empty plate while licking my fingers. The food brought on a second wind, and we were able to muster up the strength for a few games of pool at Hillary 4. We were easily the youngest dudes in there, and that’s saying something. It gave me hope that, as long as I exercise a little bit, I could live long enough to be like one of the old codgers tottering around Hillary 4 with a lady half my age wiping the sweat from my brow and tickling my sad old bells long after they’ve stopped ringing. Ahhh, what a retirement that would be.

At 8 pm we headed to the Taco Truck for a margarita. The freelancers were in full swing. I’m always fascinated by the ones in the Nana Hotel car park because…….well…….most of them are deaf. I’m not sure how it happened that a large contingent of them decided to make this spot their turf, but they did, and if you think not being able to hear somehow weakens their position on the soi, you’re very wrong. These are some of the toughest and most street-savvy girls in Bangkok, and they can handle themselves. I’ve known a couple of them for several years and can sign a little, so I always make sure to say hello and tell them they’re beautiful.

After downing our ritas we headed up to Balcony Bar, because the Plaza hadn’t quite come alive yet, and the Balcony is a great place to relax and watch everyone coming to work. When we sat down, there was a sullen middle-aged man in khakis and a polo shirt getting drunk while one of the lady bartenders consoled him. Lucky and Moo were busy talking about football so I had no choice but to be distracted by what was going on with this other guy. I couldn’t really hear him because he was mumbling, but the lady I was speaking so loud the deaf freelancers probably heard. She was saying, “I know, you still love her you send her money but now she with customer.” He warbled something into his beer. She continued, “You can go knock on the door, go inside and say him ‘What you do? She with me.’ And maybe you and she stay together. But not say you want to hurt yourself. Why? You can stay here, pick new girl, never mind. Why you want to die? Have many girl here.” I tried to remember the last time a woman made me feel like killing myself……it was way before moving to Thailand. I silently thanked my lucky stars that A—I wasn’t living in the US, and B—I no longer based my happiness on the approval of someone else.

At long last we could wait no more, and began our tour of the Plaza, starting out as we always do, in Mandarin. Some fantastic girls in there. The tunes were great, and we wanted to stay and have a few girls over to sit down, but it was the first friggin’ stop of the night. Too early to get dug in. So we bounced, with tentative plans to return later. Then it was on to Billboard and their rotating stage. And bubble bath tub. Oh, and incredibly hot dancers. This was another place we could easily spend several hours in. But Nana is like Disneyland. You want to try to ride all the rides before the park closes. I made a mental note of a few girls’ badge numbers as we were leaving. One stunning creature made a frowny face and gave me a thumbs down as I approached the door. I stopped and pointed at the door, then made a half circle with my finger and pointed back at my seat, which is the universal sign for “I’m leaving but I’ll be back.” She made a fist with her pinky finger in the air, which is the universal sign for “You promise?” to which I responded with a nod and then blew her a kiss. That flipped her frown upside down and she turned back to dancing, and I knew I’d break my promise. I was way too drunk to come back. Then we took the stairs to the 2nd floor and popped into Rainbow 3, where my friend Ay has worked for the last 5 years. She’s naturally beautiful, with huge unnatural fake boobs. I always buy her a drink, one because she’s an old friend, and two because she lets me play with those big fake knockers. Mao Moo found a girl who didn’t know him yet, which is to say she didn’t know not to get within grabbing distance. Moo doesn’t like to buy drinks for girls and usually denies them, unless he’s really really inebriated. He bought a drink for the unlucky lady, and she sipped it in between Moo’s attempts to remove her bikini top.

Lucky is a master of nonverbal communication. He has his own brand of sign language that bears no resemblance to real sign language but works surprisingly well. He was sitting off on his own with a pale slender lady on his lap. From what I could discern by watching his gesticulations, he was asking her to come over to his place before work the next day or the day after. She was nodding emphatically. Then she got up and walked off. I thought he’d struck out, but she returned shortly with her phone and they both leaned over it while Lucky typed something. I assume it was his Line ID. Then she really did disappear and Lucky joined us, grinning from ear to ear. That was when I started to feel really sleepy, and I made up my mind to head home. But Mao Moo had other plans. He grabbed onto me tightly and said, “Not so fast.” He then proceeded to drag me to Butterflies, Bangkok Bunnies, and Spanky’s, where we arrived just in time for a show. But by then I was seeing double, so what I witnessed was four girls on two couches making out with one another and licking whipped cream of each other’s nipples. And while Mao Moo was distracted by that spectacle, I slipped out both of the exit doors and stumbled down to the street and onto a motorbike taxi, and that was all she wrote. The next day, Lucky said that he and Mao Moo ended the night in Patpong. Moo was up dancing on a pole in Black Pagoda. Somewhere along the way he’d lost his shoes and his shirt. On hearing that, I was glad I went home early. That could just as easily have been me.

Stay tuned for part 3 of Red-Light Morning to Night: Soi Cowboy. Until then, follow me on Twitter for nightly reports from the RLD @BangkokSeven or browse the photo archive on my FB.