Hello, sunshine. It's nice to see you again. I think I'll stay awhile.
Yesterday I experienced a rite of passage one year and two months after my first arrival in Bangkok that takes most gay men only a day or two to plunge into. I went to Babylon, not the Biblical contemporary of Sodom and Gomorrah, Bangkok's premiere -- and possibly only -- totally gay luxury hotel. Though I wasn't expecting to go out in a blaze of fire and brimstone, I'm pretty sure He wouldn't approve of some of the stuff that was going down there either.
I went with my friend Nestor, who for months had been regaling me with tales of his escapades within the place. Thanks to my slightly prudish streak and the superfluousness of a hotel with on-site dark rooms in a city where you can get a happy ending from pretty much any massage therapist for under $10, I resisted any urge I may have had to do more than live vicariously through his tall tales of tall men in the dark.
Then last week a taxi driver changed my mind.
"Silom Soi 2," I announced when I got into the cab.
"Oh, you're going to DJ Station," the driver said. Then he started singing a song with "DJ Station" as its only lyrics. "Have you been to Babylon?" he asked around what I assumed must have been the bridge. "Sathorn Soi 1." New song, new lyric.
I wasn't sure if it was an invitation or just some friendly information from a taxi driver to someone he figured was just another horny gay tourist looking for a thrill over a few days in Bangkok, but my curiosity was piqued. Now I knew where the famous Babylon was located -- right along my thrice-a-week running route.
It's not every day that a straight guy (and I presumed that's what the driver was) gives two thumbs up and a song and dance to a capital city's gay mecca. If it was good enough for him... A few days later, I told Nestor that I was ready to take the Babylon plunge
It wasn't at all what I expected, which was a seedy-looking facade with a tacky-posh interior design, sort of like the love motels in Buenos Aires. It's actually a boutique hotel with a pool, several bars, a gym and a restaurant that serves excellent food. Oh, and there's also a maze of dark rooms where guests and visitors (100 baht, if you're under 30, 260, if not) retire for "fun," to use the Thai euphemism for sex.
I wasn't interested in any of that, but I stripped down to my swimming trunks anyway because that's what people do there. "So what exactly do you like about this place?" I asked Sonny, the guy who'd come to Babylon with Nestor and me, as we sat by the pool. He seemed bored, like he was only tolerating the experience. But as it turns out, he's quite the Babylon regular.
"I just like to come and touch a little bit."
Oh, so that's what they're doing these days. It sounded a lot safer than what I imagined was going on behind those closed cabin doors. Sonny excused himself to go get touched.
After dinner, Nestor took me on a guided tour of the grounds. I couldn't believe the things I saw -- or rather, couldn't see as we walked through the dark maze outside the cabin doors. I laughed nervously as hands grabbed my ass and crotch, swatting them away at first before balling up my towel and using it as a protective shield in front of me. I would have been flattered by all the attention, but it had nothing to do with me. They couldn't even see what I looked like.
I'd never been so relieved to be back in the light -- until I ran into the French guy who'd been chatting us up in the dark only minutes earlier. Finally, it all made sense. I wasn't planning on ever coming back to Babylon, but at last I got it. Like the Eiffel Tower, some things are best seen in the dark.