Spa & Guesthouse
A Texan's Adventure in Bangkok's Premier Bathouse.
A Thai attendant watches over the Ang Lee-inspired gardens of Babylon.
By Brock Cravy
November 03, 2021
Perhaps, I secretly hoped that it was... a bathhouse.
I had just arrived in Bangkok with no clue where I had just been unloaded. Jak, the tutu driver, who had just hustled me, put, putted away. Irritated. Sorry, I didn't want to go to a "good shop on river." I wanted to spend the day, as planned, at the Babylon Spa and Guesthouse. I had already paid Jak 20 baht to see "good fashion" and "cheap noodle," now I wanted to see a good spa. You know, I had been anticipating this day of luxury for weeks, and the thought of being served drinks by the pool in the Ang Lee-inspired moss gardens intoxicated my senses.
A Thai massage awaited, a breakdown of western tension that included exotic fragrances, four hands, and fruity oils of my choosing. Luxury, I say! Obviously, Jak was paid a commission for bringing ignorant farangs (white folk) to these "good" places. Unfortunately for me, Babylon wasn't a lucrative destination for Jak. So he dropped me off several blocks from the entrance, I assume in spite, where I was left to my own reconnaissance.
I was positioned in front of the Danish Embassy. To my right was the residence of the Ambassador to Finland, and to my left was a posh elective surgery clinic in the lobby of the Grand Regency Hotel. I was close. Still, where was my Babylon? Just then, I heard the honks from a gaggle of gays descending from the ostentatious staircase of the Grand Regency. They were gentlemen of a certain age dressed in pressed linen. Were they Aussies, perhaps? The smoking implied that they may be British. To be fair, everyone smokes in Thailand. "Oy, I say! Would you be so kind as to point me in the direction of Babylon?" I yelled from the Ambassador's driveway. "Oh, honey!" they chorused. Nope, they were midwestern 'mo's on vacation from their cubicles. "It's just around the corner." The bear gestured.
I gave him a nod and a wink, then proceeded forward when I heard that bitch, "Mmm Hmm..." me. Let me explain some gay vernacular to you, "Mmm Hmm" is gay for, "You filthy slut." Why would this corn-fed gay call me a slut, a complete stranger? I mean, sure, we can be catty, but… Oh, Holy Jesus. The Grand Regency? Plastic Surgery? The Danish Embassy? Four hands?
Babylon is a gay bathhouse.
Full disclosure, I have never been that great at being gay. I'm just good at not being that straight. I am more of a 'Liz Lemmon" gay. Also, I haven't been to a bathhouse since the winter of 1996 when my friend Ryan tricked me into thinking that Club Dallas was an actual dance club in Dallas. It wasn't. Even when the doorman handed me a towel and a wrist key, I wasn't entirely sure what was happening. The most upsetting part of that evening was that my brown suede coat from the Banana Republic was now a complete waste of time. I looked so cute that night in my tight black shirt and a new style of jeans that The Gap was calling "Boot Cut." Now, I know what you are thinking, "Black shirt with a brown jacket?" I'll have you know that the jacket was the perfect shade of brown - when paired with black… you know what, I don't have to explain myself. I was 17 years old, walking in slow motion through a wave of eucalyptus and bleach-infused steam. I could have worn a dead cat and still have been the hottest guy in the room. I digress.
With this revelation, I was just as nervous now as I was then. I wanted my suede coat. Shit. All I had was a tank top. This was Bangkok; it's 95 with 70% humidity. My tank top would have to do. I was here to relax, dammit, not to indulge in an international buffet of anonymous hedonism.
My heart was racing like it was Oprah's farewell season. What the hell is wrong with me? I turned the corner, and there it was. It looked just like I had imagined it, a hidden garden, unlike anything found in the United States. I took a deep breath, clutched my pearls, and walked forward through the stone arches and into the ancient city of Babylon.
To be continued.
#Thailand #Bangkok #Bathouse #BabylonSpa #Thaibathouse #Babylon #BrockCravy