Thursday, September 22, 2005

A night out in Wan Chai

Wan Chai is heaving. Countless people jostle past me, cars honk their horns in frustration while an old man sits smirking on a nearby wall. I smile warm-heartedly at him and he smiles back, his leathery face erupting in to a wide, toothless grin. I notice that Greg has left me behind so I start pushing and cursing until I catch up. We are headed for a nightclub called the Venus, which is a typical whore packed club where the drinks are not too expensive. We stop off to buy a couple of small chicken kebabs from an old woman standing behind a rusty grill and start walking again as we eat them. We finally get to the club and walk in. Clouds of acrid smoke drift to and fro, swirling around the room like phantoms. The noise of drunken chit chatter envelops me and I have to shove a few people aside to get to the bar. Greg orders some purple colored cocktail for himself and I settle for a pint of Stella. We look around trying to spot some cute girls but we are not in a hurry. Between Greg and I, we know most of the hookers here at least by sight. We find two stools and quickly pounce on them. We sit for a while chatting about Greg’s restaurant, Bush and the cold weather.
Slowly hookers start coming up to us to say hello and I chat for a while to one of the main mama sans. I seem to remember her name is Mali or something very similar. A mama san is basically the civilized version of a female pimp. Often, the more successful hookers, once they become a bit too old, decide to become mama sans. They approach the shier clients and propose various girls, negotiate prices and generally make sure that everything works out fine. They are more often than not very interesting people, open minded and engaging. We chat for a while longer, both laughing often and sincerely. In the end she tells me she has to abandon me in order to do some serious work. I smile at her, give her a peck on the cheek and tell her to call me if she does not find any customers tonight. She laughs, kisses me back and assures me she will call. Often, if a girl finds no work for the night, she will spend the night at a male friend’s house for free. This way, the girl gets to sleep in the city, avoiding the tiring trip back to Kowloon or Mong Kok and the male gets a free night of sex. It is exactly this kind of arrangement that Greg and I are planning to take advantage of tonight.
Several hours later I find myself quite drunk with four cute Thai girls in my arms. I know three of them from before but the fourth, which they tell me has just arrived to Hong Kong, is obviously unfamiliar. I have bought them all a couple of drinks and I sit on a stool, two girls in each arm, recounting some funny story. Every now and again I gently fondle a breast, stroke a leg or nibble on a perfumed lobe. I get plenty of jealous looks from older British men who are having difficulties finding girls but I mostly ignore them. To only one, who makes a particularly funny joke, do I smile and reply. I am having fun but I am getting quite tired. It is only three so the likelihood of convincing a girl to come home with me for free is unlikely. I weigh my possibilities in my mind. I can either call it a night and just go home and sleep. I can wait until five or six, when I will be more likely to get a free girl or, I can decide to be a little less stingy and fork out enough money to bring home one of the girls right now.
I pull the cutest girl, one of the three I know, closer and start whispering in her ear. I ask her to come back to my house. She giggles and asks for a thousand for two hours. I laugh uproariously and offer three hundred for all night. We argue for a while and finally settle on five hundred for all night. The other three girls leave, looking for someone else. I notice the Brit who made the funny joke earlier and I motion to the girls to go to him. They look at whom I am pointing to, smile at me one last time and then ambush him on the way to the toilets. I laugh as I seem him jump, clearly surprised, and then burst in to a toothy grin.
I turn back to the girl I have chosen and ask her real name. She tells me she is called Sumalee, which apparently means little flower. I buy her a last drink and we sit and chat as she finishes it off. I wonder where Greg is. I realize it is at least an hour that I have not seen him. When Sumalee finishes her drink we decide to leave. We get our coats and walk out in to the cold December night. I start flagging down a taxi but she tells me she would like to eat something first. We walk to one of the many stands that litter the streets of Wan Chai. I buy her something that looks like a glazed pineapple on a stick. She offers me a bite, which I courteously refuse. I watch her eat and am amazed by the dainty way she does this. She looks at me and suddenly I feel a burst of friendliness grasp me. I give her a big sloppy kiss on the cheek and we both laugh loudly. The old woman behind the smoking grill looks at us with a raised eyebrow but then she too laughs along with us.