Day 42: Cock blocked at Thailand's Erotic Garden


Some knobs are just hung that way. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli. (Can anyone name this drunk?)

THE self-proclaimed Queen of Erotica, more well-known in the local community as The Penis Lady, opens the doors to the Chiang Mai Erotic Garden for Emma and me. Little do we expect to be cock blocked by her amenable Australian husband – a lowlander – in our attempt to actually see the garden itself. It's a strange second act to Magic Land.

Leave it to a magic show, Magic Land to be specific, to disappear. However, in this particular case it hadn't vanished without a trace. Emma and I arrive in the empty gravel parking lot on the outskirts of Mae Rim – about 15km outside of Chiang Mai. A newly built sheet-metal warehouse that stands back from the parking lot. On the grass leading up to the building is a spread of human-sized cards, straight out of Alice and Wonderland. In front of them is a colony of cement rabbits, a tribute to the reproductive prowess of the vermin.

A Thai man armed with a brush dripping orange paint wanders down the stone path, explaining to Emma in Thai that the magic show has moved in town.

“I'm afraid this looks like an elaborate rouse to get you out here now,” Emma says with her light British accent.

I'm fully aware that nobody finds my company so worthwhile as to concoct such a scenario, and tell her so.

Last night, I returned from coffee at Black Canyon Coffee with Emma to find a message from her offering to put me up for the night tomorrow.

“As you like randomness... Check out tomorrow... Go catch a magic show and come and hang at mine... Spare room has your name on it if you want... I can offer a working space with awesome views and a cute, if not sometimes annoying, dog... Let the dice decided... Promise I don't bite (unless asked),” she writes.

I pondered rolling for it, then decided that it was too good of an opportunity to miss. Great company and a free place to stay is not something a person turns their nose up at, especially at the whim of the dice.

Any time I'm weighing whether or not to roll for something, I should simply not roll. It only makes sense to be rolling when I'm torn between options, not torn between rolling and doing what I want.

Emma is exceptionally easygoing and willing to work around my haphazard schedule, which involves trying to get a great deal of work done.

The morning got off to an incredibly unproductive start. With bits and pieces strewn about the dorm room, packing was a nightmare. I had unpacked one of my panniers so Nora and I could carry the climbing equipment, which left everything jumbled mess.

A rush job of packing leaves me throwing bits and bobs into a final ziplock bag with no clear idea of where any of it's supposed to go or how I have so much stuff without the capacity to carry; I did get it here in the exact same bags that I'm now trying to take it away in – what in earth happened.

With my room cleared by 10am, and nothing but a bottle of lotion that isn't mine left under the bed, I'm out the door to Overstand Coffee & Breakfast.

An acquaintance of mine from Phuket, Laura, moved to Chiang Mai about 18 months ago. She purposed six breakfast joints for our catch up. The die chose Overstand.

I didn't realize that Laura was still in Chiang Mai, until I bumped into a number of her friends on Tinder, which showed her as a common connection. For the following several days I did my best to find a way to meet up with her.

Unfortunately, she was a bit busy, flaky and indecisive, through is coming through for breakfast today.

I'm running about 15 minutes late by the time I pop into the little cafe. It's a high-ceiling, open-air restaurant with gray-washed walls wooden tables and a lovely crowd of customers, who are keeping the insanely attentive staff busy.

Laura and I, never very close in Phuket, play a little catch-up.

“So are Brock and Bron still in Phuket?” she asks. I bring her up to speed with what I know, which is that the power pair are off on a number of adventures after packing it in on Phuket a couple months ago.

The conversation as drifted to running, which is Laura's main activity, when the main making the coffees pipes in.

The thin faced man is radiating positive energy as he apologizes for jumping into the conversation, but couldn't help himself, as friend of his, Nisha Harish, ran the Marathon Des Sables and wrote “a complete guide to running” the race, which is titled: Big Steps, Long Strides.

The conversation manages to bring in a bit of his own story, which, like Nisha's, involved quitting his job back in the United States. He is now the proud owner of Overstand and looking at opening a branch in Pia, as well as a number of other ventures.

He showed us a picture of T-shirt that he first saw when he was 17 years old, which is buddy eventually gave to him. The yellow shirt has big black block letters across it that reads: Quit Your Job.

Obviously, that's not a possibility for everyone, but those that can see and seize the opportunity, seem very happy – I'm sure not complaining. At least not yet.

After coffee, I check on Soi 7 to see if the man who is capable of fixing my tank bag is open for business. He's not. However, a camera shop nearby is selling silca gel, which is what I need to pack with my camera and lenses to stop fungi from having a party inside the devices. After having paid a 120 dollars to have one of my lenses cleaned and fixed before the trip, I need to do what I can to battle the tropics.

Back at the hostel, I manage to get myself and all my gear on the bike. Like a cancerous tumor, my day pack has managed to grow with objects that seem to have no place elsewhere on the bike, yet will have to undergo chemotherapy, or at least be repacked, before I start in on my journey to Pai tomorrow.

My phone battery dies as I'm getting the final instructions on where to meet Emma so she can lead me to the house. The fuel light flashes on the bike, I'm 1.7 litters into my reserve tank.

“For fuck sake,” I grumble, attempting to find a spare USB charging cord to plug my phone into the bike.

A little further up, Emma is waiting on the far side of the road for me on her mini-motorcycle. We roll through a nice Thai neighborhood, most of the wooden stilt houses surrounded by cement block walls, the lower half solid blocks while the upper half usually more decorative blocks with holes in them.

Past some flooded rice paddies, we pull up to a large gate and into Emma's house.

It's a big Thai-style house that's been designed by a farang. A foreigner's touch is noticeable in all the details, from the the fact that the kitchen has an oven to the showering area in the downstairs bathroom being a few inches lower than the rest of the floor to prevent water from flooding the entire room.

The house feels like a bachelor pad, with various toys and gear spread out in the rooms, which have seen various amounts of use and cleaning. The dinning room, or what was most likely designed to be the dinning room, has not been used in ages. Emma sent over a picture of a line up of tiny dried frogs in various positions that she discovered in the room earlier today.

At first I thought she might be proposing we eat them, as I saw a similar lineup at the hill tribe village the other day. However, that isn't the case.

Upstairs is a bit cluttered, but feels more lived in than the downstairs rooms, which is the case – that's where the living room, Emma's bathroom and her bedroom are located.

Her dog, a short-haired mutt that has some Thai Ridgeback in him, was at first nervous about my presence, but quickly warms up to me; he's big loving eyes begging me for more attention.

We have a coffee upstairs, her lounging on the couch, me in a comfy chair. The coffee table is cluttered with papers and projects. An Alice in Wonderland adult coloring book sits on top of the pile.

“It's therapeutic,” she explains.

As daft as it might sound, coloring can help with post traumatic syndrome, especially when meditation isn't possible, she explains. Having watched an aunt and uncle of mine become completely consumed by the details of an adult coloring book before, it makes complete sense as a way to help the mind re-focus on something beyond a traumatic experience.

After are coffees, we decided to check out the magic show, which, ends up having been transported to a different location. However, we aren't in the know.

“So what do you want to do now,” Emma asks in the Magic Land parking lot.

“We can check out the erotic cafe,” she suggests. Magic Land and the Erotic Garden and Tea House are fairly close together.

Having never heard of it, I'm following Emma's lead on this one.

We take off on our bikes, winding through more Thai neighborhoods, before ending up on a country road. Signs for the Erotic Garden start to crop up on the side of the road: small banners with suggestive light pink Anthurium blooms that look a great deal like female genitalia.

Pulling up the in the gravel driveway into the well manicured front lawn, it feels more like we're invading a person's private estate rather than a place open to the public.

Katai Kamminga, The Penis Lady's real name, appears in the doorway of the tea house as we park our bikes.

“Are you open?” we ask.

“Since you're here, we're open,” she says. Had we checked Facebook or the attractions website we would have been informed that the site was closed from June 25 to July 25. Luckily, we didn't check.

Katai, is a slinder woman, perhaps in her mid to late fifties in odd textile shorts and a pink, thick-netted shirt.

She ushers us into the tea house.

“Make yourself at home,” she says. On the far side of the room is a bookshelf with a library of academic texts on erotica from different cultures. There are also phallic candles and phallic Bhutaneese wooden statues for sale.

Sitting with our freshly brewed tea in hand, Katai begins to tell us about the inspiration for the erotic garden, which is just about everything.

Erotic changes depending on the person, the family, the culture, she explains.

“What do you see here?” Katai asks, guiding our eyes to purple orchid blossoms sitting on the coffee table between us.

“I know I'm supposed to see female genitalia, but I really don't see it,” I say.

She looks through the blossoms for a prime example, but is forced to take us outside to prove her point. Just outside is a row of Anthurium blossoms.

The spathe of the blossom, light pink or red, is in the shape of female genital; the long spadix, erect in the middle, phallic. The flower is a marriage of the two.

“This is katyo [ladyboy],” she says with a laugh. “There is beauty in nature, in imagination, but people don't talk about the erotic. My ideas, my concepts start those conversations. Everything is erotic: the landscape, the flowers, everything.”

There is no direct translation for “erotic” in Thai. Like “romantic” they simply don't have a word for it, which is part of the reason that the Erotic Garden and Teahouse was raided by police last years, explains Katai.

The narrative is then picked up by Joe, Katai's husband, as he enters stage right.

Armed with white hair buzzed down nearly to his scalp and a red face, Joe has the gift of gab. Within moments of walking into the room and being introduced, he's spinning a yarn, which starts with the police raid, which we never manage to hear the final story.

Some people are described as fountains of knowledge, if that's the case, Joe is a geyser.

With an attentive audience, Joe steals the stage, if professor-style monolgue ranging from what's wrong with the design of the bathrooms at the place to Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka. And as if setting us up for a dick joke, Joe explains that his prize publication as an archaeologist is on “stiffness control mechanisms”.

He slides over Emma's and my snicker as he explains that the paper is about stone ago tools. He is in fact one of the leading archaeologists in stone tools, specifically in Australia.

Passively, almost unaware of Joe's rambling, yet fascinating monologue Katai flips through her phone occasionally pulling Emma or myself out of the conversation to look at picture of flowers or the police during the recent raid of the facility.

“But that's a different story,” he says time and time again, attempting to get back to some original tangent we were exploring, such as the dried fish trade.

The hours slip by, until it's too late to explore the Erotic Garden.

“I”m getting old, so I'm constantly unloading,” Joe admits.

“Can we just come back tomorrow morning?” we ask. Though they are still closed, Katai and Joe is more than happy to open their home and garden to us tomorrow morning. It's been a long, lovely chat with an aunt and uncle you're close to. Perhaps not what we were expecting, but did you know about the water resource issues facing Bhutan? But, that is, as Joe would say, another story.

#Thailand #DailyUpdate #Featured #featured

The Proposition

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