Friday, August 19, 2011

The long arm of Thai Law

I had a hell of a week on the escaping the law tip. I’ve had two pretty solid events, and that’s not even counting the jaywalking, street drinking, and tax fraud that I commit on a daily basis.

First off, to my parents: skip this post. Just skip it. You don’t want to read it. If you do read it, I don’t want to hear about it. Make it easy and click on a “best of” link on the left side toolbar. Seriously.

Alright, I assume that worked.

I ended a recent post with a pretty awesome pun about the long arm of Thai Law. In my last full day in Bangkok, I did in fact have a run in with the law, sorta.

I got off a canal boat near Siam Square, and I was heading to the BTS Skytrain to go back to my hotel and to drink with my friends.

I’m not that regular a smoker and I frequently jump off the wagon. However, in Bangkok, I smoked all the time, just like everyone else. I feel fine mentioning this fact, as I’m sure my parents respected my wishes and stopped reading.

Anyway, as I neared the Skytrain station, I flicked my butt, just like always, unless I’m in the woods or something. I walked up onto the skybridge to the train platform, and some guy in an official looking uniform stopped me. I was wearing headphones, a Kia Tigers hat, and sunglasses and wearing my backpack. I had no idea why he stopped me.

“Where you come from?”

I took this for an English lesson. “The canal boat.” I replied.

“You threw a cigarette.”

“Did I?” I’m not going to do this in dialogue. The dude pulled me aside and made me sit sown, and his friend in a similar uniform showed up. They said that I would have to pay a 2,000 baht fee, around $70, an outrageous price in Thailand. Hell, the fine for smoking in the subway in Korea is $30, and Korea is a much richer country, and nobody would ever smoke in the subway anyway.

They asked my name, when I was leaving, and where I was staying. I evaded answering any of these questions. I said that I had learned my lesson and I wouldn’t toss cig butts anymore. Also, I was never sure if they were legit or scammers, so I didn’t want to pay. Plus, I didn’t want to pay. They told me Bangkok was like Singapore, “same -same,” and that litter laws were harsh. I've been to Singapore. Bangkok is a lot of things, but it has next to nothing in common with Singapore.

At some point, the guy (security guard I guess) tipped his hand and said that he would call the police if I didn’t pay. Ah, so you aren’t the police! He asked me to sign a paper admitting guilt, and I scribbled a false signature. I never gave my name or ID or anything. I asked if I could call my friend for advice. They saw my iPod and mistook it for a phone, but I said I could only call with wifi, which was unavailable where we sat. They told me to go downstairs to collect my cig butt.

I went downstairs. I searched a long time for my butt, but it had clearly blown away. I found a cigarette butt and made a big production about picking it up. I don’t know if they were still watching me, but they were obviously still upstairs and a bit far behind me.

I made a break to the north, the way I had come from. 3 minutes later, I was back at the canal. I crossed under the main road at the canal bridge. I was sure I didn’t have a tail, so while under the bridge I took the opportunity to remove my hat and sunglasses to throw them in my pack, and I started carrying my backpack like a brief case. On the other side of the road, I cut into the mall, the Siam Paragon. I walked through the mall and took an alternate route onto the subway. Really, I probably should have just taken a motorcycle taxi, but I also wanted to do this on my own.

Three stops later, I was home, and scott free. The next day, I was in Hong Kong, then Seoul, fully out of the woods.

A few nights later, some friends and I went to Monkey Beach, a club in Apgujeong, Seoul. I had beer for dinner at a local bar beforehand, so I was pretty liquored up by the time we left. I was wearing flip-flops. A few girls in my group were too, but clubs in Seoul tend to either forbid flip-flops or allow them regardless of gender. Not Monkey Beach. At Monkey Beach, girls with flip-flops are cool, dudes ain’t. Strange, since it’s a Thai themed club, and everyone wears flip flops in Thailand.

I tried to get in anyway, of course. The door guy stopped me. Other friends of mine went in after me. The guy still wouldn’t let me in. “Wait here,” he said. For what? At first, I thought there would be some kind of resolution, but apparently he meant for me to wait until my friends wanted to leave the club in a few hours.

Anyway, as my friends are all rock stars, at some point one of them comes back to the door holding shoes. I put them on and gave him my flip flops. He was still wearing shoes. I had no ida whose shoes I had.

The door guy asked me where I got the shoes. A friend, I said, but I have no idea who. I guess my friend had extra shoes. Three door guys immediately shined their flashlights on the floor and walked into the club. Who knew this was such a major transgression?

Turns out it was my buddy Dong Ho who spotted me the shoes. We traded back in the bathroom, and I got in line to buy him a bucket, along with one for me. I never did get kicked out.

The lesson? Jaehak 2, Comeuppance 0.

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