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Book Review And Followup For "Off The Rails In Phnom Phen" By Amit Gilboa

Updated on September 25, 2011

Off The Rails In Phnom Phen

I recently read the book "Off The Rails In Phnom Phen", written by Amit Gilboa. I found the book to be a captivating account of the wild and unbelievable lifestyle enjoyed by travelers who had settled down in Cambodia in the late 1990s. The book discusses the lives of individuals that have left western society to spend their days smoking grass, snorting smack and sleeping with teenage prostitutes. Time Magazine describes the book as "Like a gonzo rant from Hunter S. Thompson".

I must say that I do see similarities to Hunter S. Thompson's "Hell's Angels", where the author spends time riding with the Hell's Angels in Berkley California in the late 1960's, all the while writing a book about his experiences. While the author (Jewish American, Amit Gilboa) did manage to capture the same style of gonzo journalism that was made popular by Hunter S. Thompson, I found one striking difference. Reading Hunter S. Thompson's books, I never felt that he was trying to suggest that he was any better than the unsavory characters that he was traveling with and writing about.

While reading "Off The Rails In Phnom Phen", I felt that the author tried to portray himself as a respectable professional that would never normally indulge in heroin and teenage hookers. He often referred to it as "research for his book", and tried to act as if it was painful for him to partake in such socially unacceptable behavior. When he referred to the people he had spent several months traveling with and considered to be his friends as "losers", I found this distasteful and hypocritical.

After living on the Island of Phuket (Southern Thailand) for more than a decade, I have my own collection of bizarre experiences. Unlike Amit Gilboa, I can not claim to be better than the people I have lived amongst, whose stories I am about to tell you. This article is written as a parody of Amit's book, a similar collection of my own stories, that I feel are comparable to those Amit describes in his book.

Bangla Road
Bangla Road

Off The Rails In Patong Beach

Shortly after settling down in Phuket in July of 2000, I took a job teaching English at a local language school. I found an advertisement in the local paper calling for native English speakers to teach to children. I had no experience, nor did I have any qualifications, however as I had suspected, the only requirements were a nice smile and a dress shirt, with the ability to string a few English words together.

It did not take me long to realize that my fellow teachers were not professional educators with university qualifications, to the contrary, they were mostly social misfits with a heavy addiction to drugs, alcohol and sex. During my first week at work I was introduced to a wild Englishman by the name of "Kurt", and immediately we hit it off. We became partners in crime, spending most of our time either drinking and womanizing, or plotting to do so. Kurt had been in Thailand for a few years at this time, and he could speak Thai near fluently. He was also quite a handsome devil, well spoken and bursting with confidence, a real ladies man.

Kurt arrived in Phuket near penniless, and he had long since burned all his bridges back home in England. After a few months he was able to earn enough money teaching, to sustain himself and get back on his feet. During this time we would spend many nights drinking in the beer bars and discotheques of Patong Beach. With what we earned on a teacher's salary, we could not afford to pay the bar fines and take the girls from the bars. Kurt was charming enough to convince most women that their evening would be better spent with him, earning nothing, as apposed to going off with a rich bloke that they didn't really like. When this failed, he often decided to simply "dine and dash".

Things began to go sour for Kurt shortly after he got involved with a bar girl named Noi. He had fallen head over heels for her, but as they say in Phuket "you can take a girl out of the bar, but you can never take the bar out of the girl". Shortly after Noi left him he lost his job, he was again penniless, with nowhere to go, and nobody to turn to. Because I was also living off a meager teachers salary, I was unable to offer much help, aside from the occasional meal that he would otherwise have gone without.

His only income was coming from a private student that he had met previously at the language school. He had told me that she was a wealthy middle aged Thai woman in her 50s, who had fancied him and invited him to give her private lessons. Apparently her English lessons would take place in the swimming pool at her home when her husband was away at work. Kurt never told me about the specifics, only that he had to do whatever he could to earn money, and she paid well. This weekly gig was only enough to feed him for a day and keep him drunk for an evening, nothing that he could live on.

Finally after searching for work for almost a month, with his rent past due for nearly two months, he was able to secure work at a school in Northern Thailand. Now the only problem was to get enough money to arrange transportation to Northern Thailand, and just enough to live off until his first paycheck. It would only require a few hundred dollars at the most, and I offered him the money, but he refused.

He had placed an advertisement in the local paper, offering his services as an English instructor. He was contacted the following day by an older German bloke that was looking to have his girlfriend take English lessons. The German was an obvious sex tourist, a sloppy, fat, pig of a man in his late 40s, with a 19 year old girlfriend that he was unable to communicate with. When they arrived for the first lesson, Kurt arranged for the German to pay the first month in advance, and then suggested they begin the first lesson immediately.

He explained that his apartment was set up as a classroom (a bold faced lie!). While the German bloke waited at a coffee shop across the street, Kurt took his girlfriend back to his apartment and seduced her. He told me every detail, proudly exclaiming that it took him less than 5 minutes to get her naked. It was easy to see why the poor girl would be attracted to Kurt, he was far more attractive than the filthy sex tourist who was paying for her English lessons.

That night I went out for a beer with Kurt, it was to say farewell, it would be the last time I would see him. He left Phuket with the 5000THB that the German had paid him for (servicing his girlfriend), and he was headed to Northern Thailand. I have been in contact with him from time to time over the years, and I understand that after a few months of teaching in Northern Thailand, he was back on his feet again and has never looked back.

Kurt is just one of hundreds of people that I came to be friends with during my time in Phuket, however his story is one that I will always remember. It was the first time I saw a man down and out in Thailand, but it certainly would not be the last.

Beer Bars And Nightclubs In Patong Beach

The Shark Club Nightclub
The Shark Club Nightclub

During the 1990s The Shark Club dominated the nightlife scene in Patong Beach. Back in those days there were only two real nightclubs in Patong, The Shark Club and Banana Disco. The Shark Club was far more popular than Banana Disco, with a far better atmosphere and more of a party crowd. The Shark Club was filled with hundreds, if not thousands of people on any given night (mostly beautiful young women). This is what made the Shark Club popular with single male tourists traveling to Phuket.

SENSATIONALISM

THE FILM MAKER - Jordan Clark of High Banks Entertainment LTD., of Victoria B.C.,Canada. Jordan may be a talented film maker full of passion and determination, however I will suggest that he is not qualified to fly into town and report on the topic of Thailand's sex trade as if he has some insight. Before one can begin to understand, dare to criticize, or share their opinion on a subject, they should first gain some experience of their own.

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    • travelinasia lm profile image
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      travelinasia lm 6 years ago

      @walker600,

      My thoughts exactly "well done to him"!

    • profile image

      walker600 6 years ago

      Interesting Read, It's amazing some of the stories your come across when you live here long enough! Well done to him. You don't need to be rich to be happy in Thailand!