2012. The first time when I was in Chiang Mai, I got kicked out (with Pablo, from Spain) from A Little Bird Hostel after 2 nights there because we smoked weed and made lots of noise pollution by strumming the guitar and singing during broad day light, at noon to be specific, and just 5 meters away from the grumpy receptionist at the reception area. LOL! Well, let’s not go there. That’s not what I want to babbling about here right now. I wanna talk about my experience with a then-prostitute named Leng during my second visit to Chiang Mai. Kindly put away all the dirty mind away from your brain because this life-story has got nothing to do with sex. Cheers!
I met Leng when me and another backpackers from my hostel visited Zoey Bar. It was crazy. There were so many prostitutes roaming around hunting for their preys which normally a white dudes a.k.a walking-ATM-machines. I just sat by the bar and people-watching. It was fun though. Some of them were lucky enough to get young, good looking guy. Some just have to satisfied with fat, bald, dirty-old-man. Some of the clients were sober but most are drunkards. Heh!!!
While busy people-watching, suddenly a young lady approached and say “Hi” to me. She is kinda pretty and sexy. And the conversations begun:-
Her: I no mood tonight. I don’t want to do business tonight. I hate it. Drink with me? I buy you drink, ok?
Me: Well, OK. Jagerbomb then.
(And then she ordered 4 fucking jagerbomb in Thai language from the bartender. 2 for her, 2 for me. Awesome)
Her: Are you from Hawaii?
Me: (Laughed out loud). No! No! From nowhere and my name is Anita. How about you?
Her: Leng. My name is Leng. But my business name is Sarah.
Me: Business name?
Her: Yeah. Dirty business. Selling my body. I’m a prostitute. Still want to talk to me?
Me: I am not in a position to judge anyone. We can talk, if you still want to talk.
Her: Thank you. I am just tired. Day time have to work, night time have to open my legs.
She looked really depressed. We talked a bit but the whole environment just wasn’t that right for a so-called serious conversation. The music was getting louder and the crowd getting bigger and insane. I asked her if she has to work tomorrow during day time ? She said no. I gave her my number and ask her to meet me 2pm at McDonalds. She was so happy (I don’t know why?!), she hugged me and thanked me. Oh wow!
So I met her the next day, as promised. She wasn’t as sexy as last night. With loose straight-cut jeans, long-sleeves t-shirt, a pair of trainers and light make-up, I almost unable to recognize her until she smiles. We were having our McD lunch together and having a quite heavy conversation at the same time.
According to Leng, she have a good job, a decent job during day time. She work as a admin personal in a good office but her salary is not enough to feed her elderly mom and sick dad and she also have 5 younger brothers and sisters to feed. All of them still in school. She doesn’t want any of them to quit study to just because they pity her. She doesn’t want any of them to be like her. She believe in good education will helps to change the life of her family. She turned into prostitution 1 and a half year ago when one of her sibling been accepted into local university but the scholarship received was not enough.
Why prostitution? According to Leng, she could get another job as a cashier or bartender or waitress during night time but it gonna take lots of time (as she have to work in a office during day time, and she loves her decent career) and the pay was shit to cover 8 of them. She has tried and all she got is exhausted-ness. Meanwhile, being a prostitute, an educated English-speaking prostitute like her, she only have to spend 2-3 hours per night with her customers and receives quite a handsome amount of money (if accumulate those money) that not only able to feed the whole family with good meals but a bit of luxury such as TV, washing machine, bed, etc and most important, on-going treatment and medication for her parents.
Then I asked her, for how long she wanna be like that? She said “until no one wants me anymore” and I saw tears from her eyes. I asked her, if there is one thing she likes that she could swap with prostitution? “Tailoring! But I don’t know how to.” I asked her again, will she really going to stop prostituting if she know how to tailor? “Why not? It is a decent job, decent business. One day, I want to have a boyfriend, have a family. I don’t want my dark past to haunt me. I also want to be dependent and not cling on my husband all the time. Sharing responsibilities is good for making a good family”. I nod. Understood.
I asked her if there is any private tailor or dress-making school in Chiang Mai and she nod. We left McD and took a tuktuk to Ratchamanka Street to Uangdoi Design (a tailoring school). After listening to the explanation on the course of studies, duration of studies and the fees, I did not think too much or too far. I asked her to sign-up and agree to pay for the whole course. Well, that time I was pretty loaded and have no financial problems at all, so for few hundreds bucks, it wasn’t even a big deal at all. She cried a lot when she signed up for the 12-months part-time (8 months for full time) course.
Me: Promise me, save up money to buy a modern sewing machine and once you graduate, stop selling yourself. You are good girl. I have faith in you.
Leng: I promise! I promise! I will never let you down.
Me: Not me. I want you not to let yourself down. Have a fresh start in one year. You have to update me with your progress. You don’t have to pay me back. I don’t want that. When I visit you again someday, you have to make me a nice dress. Deal?
Leng: Deal! (She hugged me and cried, non-stop).
The reason why I write this story is because recently Leng sent me an email and her graduation picture (sorry, I couldn’t share it here as I want to protect her identity and I don’t want people to know her as a prostitute anymore) and told me that she going to start her tailoring business (at night) soon but will keep her day job. So she will have 2 incomes and more time spend at home to look after her folks and siblings. Congratulations Leng. I am proud of you.
**Although I am broke now, I am happy that I’d help when I was still capable of doing so and I did.
We kept in touch until 2014 and I guess it was my fault that I was a little bit too busy traveling around that “pushed” her away. I never heard from her since July 2014. I went back to Chiang Mai in March 2015 and tried to find her but she no where to be found 😦 I did asked around and nothing. But Leng, wherever you are, whatever you do, I wish all the good life.