Writers don’t go on holiday. They just write somewhere else. This week it is Patong Beach, Phuket.
Our visit is a small contribution to bolster the Thai tourist economy against the onslaught of coronavirus cancellations. That’s not entirely a joke. We’ve been here four or five times before, and I’ve never known it so quiet.
Of course, I have barely had time to check out the beach or the bars because I’ve been so busy pounding the keyboard. Yeah right!
Our ritual parade along Bangla Road got me thinking about this blog.
If you haven’t been there, I’m sure you get the idea. It’s a kilometre or so of open-air bars and ‘nightclubs’, half of them blasting out live K-rock so loud you can’t hear what one band’s playing over the racket from the combo two doors down.
Every bar has at least half a dozen pretty girls in skimpy skirts waving cards advertising Singha beer for 80bht – about four Aussie dollars – there are street sellers with things that whirr up into the spiderweb of power lines flashing like mini space stations. One even had Elsa with a propeller on her head. I’m sure that one was approved by Disney marketing.
Then there are the other street hawkers, who outnumber the bar spruikers and the traders ten to one. Each has a card inviting me to a ‘ping pong & sexy show’.
Bangla Road is better known amongst Aussies as Ping Pong alley. You knew that, didn’t you?
I haven’t been to any of the shows, but I have intelligence from people who claim they have. The name has to do with what happens in the shows with ping pong balls. I’m blushing at the thought, but you should see what else is offered on these signs. The items are numbered like a Chinese menu. Ping Pong is number one, of course, the classic. But wait for it, there’s more. Egg show, fun show – I’m guessing that would have to be better than the scary show, right?
The one that stopped me dead in my tracks was ‘fire show’. What the hell? My loved one suggested it might be akin to fire-eating only with other bodily parts. Surely not! Fire show got me looking closer still until I found ‘Mouse Show’.
What on earth happens to the poor mouse? Has the act been approved by the Thai RSPCA? My mind boggles.
I have this weird image of walking into a dingy room somewhere and having a waitress come up and say, “What would you like tonight, madam, sir? Some number 4 perhaps, a 19? Only ten per cent more to add a number seven.”
Would you believe me if I wrote about raunchy stage shows involving domestic rodents and bursts of flame? I suppose if you’ve been to Phuket, you might.
I’ve read Clive Cussler. RIP. Did you see he passed away? Sad. My favourite scene of his was the one where Dirk Pitt jumped out of a falling helicopter over the Caribbean. He shot down the baddies’ chopper with his handgun, caught the girl in mid-air, dived into the ocean, then came up with a bathtub which he sailed back to Florida. I may have got a few of the details a little awry – I’m wracking my brain to remember how on earth he got hold of a bathtub – but that’s pretty close. I loved it. Dirk Pitt could do that for sure.
On the other hand, my mate Randall Krzak was torn to bits by a reviewer for daring to have his character eat in a cafe in Pakistan called Ali Baba’s.
How culturally insensitive can you be? Come on, Randy!
Randall lived in Pakistan for several years. He took his lunch two or three times a week in a cafe called Ali Baba’s.
Truth is stranger than fiction. Also, much less culturally appropriate.
I think I’ll leave ping pong to the recreation room at the local YMCA. I’ve got enough credibility issues with young women who solve crimes because the cops can’t, and teenagers dodging bullets in guerrilla ambushes.
Speaking of which, click here for The First Guerrilla. It’s still 99 US cents, but maybe not for much longer.
Last week I did some final, final, edits on Meet Me Under Brooklyn Bridge, which is the follow up to Meet Me at the Hanging Tree.
I’ve also been plugging away with a new character, a Victorian London petty criminal who finds himself caught up in international intrigue. Ping pong anyone? I’m somewhat stalled on that story because I had this other idea for a hard-boiled detective novel.
I’ll let you know how it all works out.