The other story I promised to tell you about, which took place soon after the new year of 2014 had begun, was a tale I call “Rescue Party.”
It started out innocently enough. My wife Thiphawan (Thip) was away visiting another temple and I had been tasked with taking our empty cooking gas bottle (LPG) to the gas station that has the facilities to recharge it. Let me add that this gas station was operating their service on the sly, so you could only go there after 7pm, in the dark.
I had made this run in my tuk-tuk (samlor; aka “skylab”) a half dozen times, so baw penh yong (no problem). Except this time, upon arrival, I was notified that the gas station no longer sells LPG. My guess is they got shutdown by the authorities. OK, so I headed out to other gas stations in the area that I thought had LPG. None that I stopped at had the facilities or were selling and at one point, near the Falang bar in Nong Bua, I decided to drop in for a beer before returning home.
This was risky for two reasons. For one thing, the Germans who operated the bar rented from my wife’s most influential aunt (Hatsadi). Not only Thip, but the rest of our family knew of the many stories surrounding this bar; how the Falangs get in fights with each other, drink all the time, have girls around and…
… well, that was the second thing. There were bar girls here and Thip was deathly afraid that I would fall into one of their clutches.
So, I was taking my life in my hands visiting this “den of iniquity,” but I didn’t care too much. I’d only been in the place one or two times previously and was curious to see how other Westerners lived. Besides, I needed a beer from all that running around looking for cooking gas.
No bar girls came over to my table and I enjoyed my Beer Chang. I think all the half dozen girls had other guys on the line. After a while, though, the bar owner (Kraus) came over and I reintroduced myself to him. Before too long, learning of my problem, Kraus led me to a vendor at the night market in Nong Bua – just up the road – who had LPG gas stuck under a bamboo bed. I exchanged my tank for a recharged one and I was back in business. Dropping Kraus off at the “Sanook Bar,” I decided to stay, thank him, and have another beer.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Thip had returned home and found me missing. She knew I had gone to get cooking gas but should have returned long ago. So, she put out an “all-points bulletin” for my apprehension. At the heighth of the operation, there were probably half a dozen family members out looking for me.
My tuk-tuk was spotted outside the Sanook Bar by a female member of the family. Because it would have been improper for her to go into the outdoor bar, a male member of the family was instructed to retrieve me.
Pawt is my favorite of Thip’s brothers. He’s a friendly guy and everyone gets along with him. Well, all of a sudden, he was sitting beside me at the Falang bar. I ordered a beer for him and a refill for me, then we left.
(Pawt and his daughter Gay; Imbune lower left)
(Gay's daughter sleeping, thanks to an "Isaan Air-Conditioner" - styrofoam ice chest with a holdecut in the lid for an external fan to blow in and PVC pipe cut into the sides for air vents coming out; inside is filled with ice)
But, we didn’t go home. Pawt lead me to a Thai bar a short distance away. You could hardly spot it as a bar, but, yes, there were bar girls here, too; not sure if they were “full service,” like at the Falang bar. But, it was nice to have one sitting by my side, pouring my beer. Pawt was well known here and when we finally left, my last words to my new friends there was “Mu un” (tomorrow). Well, I haven’t seen them since; not that I didn’t want to, but mostly because word gets around…
It was rough going, getting back. By this time, I was in no shape to be driving anything, including a samlor, followed by Pawt in his motosai. Thip was relieved to have me home and stories were told, all except any mention of the second bar…