Welcome to the Khao San Road Circus. In case you haven’t done your backpacker year of squatting abroad, or just missed the memo, Khao San Road is legend. Legend for its endless supply of eager young backpackers disembarking from Bangkok Thailand for the wilds of Southeast Asia and all of the hedonism that will soon thereafter ensure. It is the ultimate backpacker refuge and a den of sinful capitalism. Here you can buy just about anything you want and even more things you never knew you wanted.
“You want Boom Boom mister”
“Ping Pong, Ping Pong…very niceee pussssssy”
“Three piece suit. Make you handsome man. Now you not so handsome.”
Today I am a Khao San Road Street tout. And these are my competitors catch phrases. I am not going to lie. Their products are superior. Far superior. Prostitutes, vaginas exploding with inanimate objects, and of course, suits made to order – and who doesn’t want a tuxedo at 2am in a sweltering urban jungle of filth. When all is said and done though – the mark of a true salesman is not measured by selling a product that sells itself. Nay – Sex, drugs, and lady boys – can intrigue even the most apprehensive of shoppers. Scorpions on a stick, digital glowing t-shirts, bottomless buckets of blinding eyesight grade alcohol – anybody can sell that shit. I want to sell. And on Khao San Road, real street hustlers don’t slang the glitz. They don’t slang no glamorous neon pink shirts quasi gay Aussie mates would buy. Naw – the real hustlers sell China’s finest vibrating back massagers, bracelets with the names Chad, Denise and Susan to people whose names are not Chad, Denise, or Susan, and the classic wooden frog who croaks when you stroke his back.
Street touting isn’t for the faint of heart mind you. You gotta be hungry. Six months ago I got my feet wet learning the craft on the streets of Rome by being a Gatherer, but selling on Khao San Road in Thailand is another beast altogether. When you sell in Rome you are basically selling the same dream tour as your fellow street hucksters. I would liken it to stock car racing, where each car is basically the same. The win comes down to the driver (think: Tom Cruise, Days of Thunder). Selling on Khao San Road however, is more like streetcar racing, where competitors don’t face the great equalizer of a level playing field by selling the same completely unnecessary goods. One must learn the art of supplication. I was a Ford Fiesta running up against Ferrari’s and Mazeratis.
Would you rather have knock off iFone or a Chinese made back massager?
A digitized t-shirt with a stereo equalizer that grooves to the music? Or a wood frog that croaks when you stroke its back with a stick?
Sales, especially street sales, can be a tough gig. You can get rather envious of your fellow salesmen who seem to be able to close sales with ease as you struggle to just find a deal, but what you are doing for work is only part of the picture. The environment you work in life can be just as important as the job itself. Some people work in an office with a water cooler with women that wear pantsuits, I work in an office with Red Bull –Vodka buckets with women that have dongs. Its relative sure, but it can make all the difference in the world when you are clocking in long hours of work. It doesn’t matter how many frogs I sold this day, the amount of pleasure my pocket back massagers brought to my reluctant customers, or even the amount of baht (Thai money) in my pocket really – what matters is that I found a little piece of Bangkok that captures all that I love in life: cheap delicious food, attractive women with questionable intentions, and endless supplies of knock off goods for things that I didn’t even know that existed. I had found my sales Shangri La – a Southeast Asian Disneyland, except with the added allure and intrigue of Princess Jasmine potentially having a cock.
At the end of a day of street touting, success isn’t a forgone conclusion. It takes more than knowing your craft. It takes more than persistence and a thick set of skin to win the day. But when the end of the day arrives, when the haze of the sun peaks it’s head through the smoggy pollution of the Bangkok, when you walk the streets that lay before you that are lined with the disgusting carnage of all of those glorious goods that were consumed shamelessly and cast aside like a dirty morning after mistake on this famous Khao San Road, you won because you knew what all the great sales people on Khao San Road know: Drunk people will buy anything.