None of the crappy iPhone pictures in this article are of Ning, unfortunately. I took some, but my SLR was stolen by a hooker :(
Mike Alderson fans himself as he sits on a red plastic seat, sweating outside a noodle shack in Bangkok. He’s a 55-year-old IT engineer from Dorking who came to Thailand on holiday two years ago and got hooked. I met him last night on the Khao San road, home of tits, tits and fake tits. He had a Thai girl on each arm, both of whom looked like they just fell out of a shampoo advert; 19 max, pissed off their faces and eager to pound Mike into nirvana.
Shocking news: Bangkok is famed for its prostitution, and men flock from all corners of the western world to sample its go-go girls. Even Mike has begun to realise this, and wouldn’t let me take a photo of his face. His shoes were pretty rad, though, so here’s a picture of them instead:
Sure, you may have just scratched holes in your own skin at how horribly predictable it is that Mike would be wearing strappy sandals with white socks, but it’s men like him who keep this industry going – men who are too inept to get a glamour model nympho girlfriend back home, and unafraid to assume that the shift in continent makes them irresistible.
Mike is spectacularly special when it comes to this point, explaining that: “back home, I could never get near a girl like that, here there’s thousands of them gagging for it”. A charmer in looks as well as speech, he strongly resembles a cooked noodle and wears a Chang Beer vest with traces of Pad Thai on it. He maintains, however, that: “the girls here love farangs [foreigners], they just think we’re better looking than Thai men”.
Mike is only too happy to comply with these desperate sexual needs, and has had a number of Thai girlfriends as well as seeing prostitutes occasionally. His current girlfriend is called Ning, and – guess what? – she's an 18-year-old (the no ID kind) stripper. She turns up wearing a bandage dress and heels and fawns over Mike, whispering in his ear and giggling like a demented Disney character. She tells me that she and Mike have been seeing each other for six months, and that she loves him “too, too much”.
When asked whether she wants to go and live in Europe with Mike, she rolls her eyes at me all Missy Elliot being like "whuuuuut". The British embassy in Bangkok has for years been overrun with requests from middle-aged men looking to bring back their young girlfriends to live the dream in Milton Keynes. Understandably, the employees at the embassy are now a little jaded and tend to delay these visa applications indefinitely. The era of mail order Thai brides seems to be waning a little, resulting in the emergence of a new kind of system: the vaginal retainer.
This is an ingenious system where, in order to avoid the hassle of trying to ship over a non-English-speaking teenage sex worker because you really, really love her, you keep things simple by paying your newfound love a wage to stop hooking while you're back home drinking depression ales in a windy pub garden by an A-road in Kent. This, Mike is convinced, is the ultimate solution for everyone. When he’s in Thailand, he gets to screw Ning as much as he wants with no need for jealousy. When he’s not, she’ll sit around waiting for him to come back.
The terrifying contradiction about this surfaces when Mike begins to speak of his feelings for Ning. Though he routinely has sex with other hookers, he maintains that he sees a future together for the two of them. He’s dead keen on moving to Thailand to be with her full-time, and punctuates this by pawing her tits while confessing his undying love for her. The giggling and face-licking reaches new heights as she reciprocates. When he leaves to get ready for a night out, Ning explains that he’s one of her three farang boyfriends, all of whom have her on a retainer. She even gets all Vybz Kartel by pulling out four phones; different numbers for her family and her male banks. “Mike is not rich man! Australian man is better!” comes the final judgement.
It’s the kind of brusque clarity that crushes cynicism into the ground and spits you out at a place beyond cynicism, which, as everyone reading an article about the new fad for vaginal retainers in Bangkok's red light district will know, is a place called despair.
Or maybe I'm just being a big baby. Maybe this relationship actually makes sense for both of them.
Follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseTravel
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