Behind The Smile
the story of
Lek, a bar girl in Pattaya
By: Owen Jones
“Oh, bloody hell, girl! What have you got yourself into this time?” thought Lek as she was waking up yet
She had not slept much at all that night so far.
Her ‘boyfriend’, Ali, was still asleep and the fumes coming from his open mouth told her that he must have been
very drunk last night.
She had not noticed at the time, as she had been quite out-of-it herself. Her backside was
still throbbing though where Ali had tried to take her and had beaten her in his frustration at not being able
to manage it.
She could have one of the boys do him over for that, she thought with some degree of
satisfaction or even report him to the police. She decided she would, if she were bruised. Yet he had seemed
such a nice man earlier that night. It just went to show that you never can tell.
She wanted to get up and leave, but she had not been paid the 1,000 Baht they had agreed on;
yet she was frightened of him waking up in case he wanted to try again. It was not in Lek’s nature to take the
money from his pocket and sneak out, even though it was rightfully hers already.
There was nothing for it, but to lie there awake, watchful, letting him sleep and hoping
that the sleep would put him in a better frame of mind when he did wake up. Lek gave him one more furtive glance
and prepared herself for a long wait. It was 5:35 AM and she could not reasonably expect him to surface much before
The night before, Lek had been working in ‘Daddy’s Hobby’, a bar off Beach Road when a 30
odd-year old Arab, Ali, had sat down. Things had been very quiet for her up until then, although most of the
other girls were ‘out’. Lek had gone over to him to take his order and make him feel at home, as she had done
with other customers thousands of times before.
Lek and Ali had introduced themselves and Ali had ordered a bottle of ‘100 Pipers’ whisky,
soda water and ice. Within minutes and with customary Arabic hospitality, he had offered her a drink and she had
accepted gratefully. After all, she had thought, you never knew where things could lead, it was getting late and
she was more than a little bored.
Looking back over events, Lek thought she had seen some danger signs even at that early
stage. Why hadn’t she listened to her instincts? They had always stood her in such good stead before. Ali had
already been drinking before he got to her bar – she had noticed that, but then he had ordered a bottle of
whisky. It was not unusual to see Arabs drinking alcohol, but he was drinking this bottle too quickly and
insisting that she kept up with him.
Maybe ‘insist’ was too strong a word, but he certainly wanted her to go drink for drink with
him and he did not want to take ‘no’ for an answer. They had finished the bottle and Ali had asked her whether
‘she would like to go for something to eat’ – one of the many code expressions in her profession, which could
lead to lucratively-paid nocturnal employment. And sometimes a meal too.
She had accepted, but instead of going to a restaurant or his hotel, he had led her into a
noisy disco, where he seemed to know a group of other Arabs. (She had never found out where he actually came
from because his English was poor and her Arabic was non-existent; she had guessed at Abu Dhabi). She had not
been acquainted with the establishment, but it had been too full and too noisy for her tastes.
The toilets were smelly too and Ali was acting ‘weird’ in front of his mates, showing off;
showing her off; but also just showing off in general. He had also bought another bottle of whisky and danced in
an odd way, pulling her about just a little too much, pawing her, mauling her even, parading her in front of his
She should have seen it all coming then, she thought. Ten years in Pattaya had taught her a
lot, but she could still be too daft to listen to her inner voice. Sometimes, anyway. If she hadn’t been such a
good-natured person from birth, Pattaya could have done terrible things to her character.
Should she listen now? Get up; get dressed and sneak out, giving up the 1,000 Baht? No! Sod
him! She smiled to herself: ‘Sod him’ was a pun on what he had tried to do to her last night. The prick! But he
hadn’t been able to get it up! And serve him right – she had no sympathy. He had not said he wanted sodomy, if
he had she would not have gone with him.
Well …., not for 1,000 Baht anyway, she joked with herself.
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