My first trip to Thailand, anticipatory excitement fuelled by what I had read in the Spartacus guide, was in 1988, but a couple of years prior to that I had had my first taste of being quite deliberately a 'sex tourist' on a trip to Tunisia. An acquaintance in London was an elderly, sophisticated, charming man who made annual trips there and I think the tales of his racy exploits put the idea of going into my head. I went on a week-long package holiday to the island of Djerba just off the coast. It was November if I recall correctly and my less than grand hotel (the cheapest I could find in the colour brochure) had a desultory, end-of-season look to it; its strip of beach stretched near-deserted beneath a washed-out yellow sky. At least it was a bit warmer here than in the London I had just left.
Early on, as a gesture towards being a regular tourist, I joined a hotel-organised group travelling by jeep to visit an historic Berber village on the mainland. We soon broke down with a puncture in a scrubby, isolated spot and, bizarrely lacking a spare wheel, had to wait a couple of hours for relief to turn up. I think my scepticism about Arab efficiency dates from that time. Over a tented lunch of couscous, lamb and assorted vegetables our guide advised us to behave conservatively when we reached the village. Waving a finger of admonition at a young couple who had been freely demonstrating their affection for each other up to this point, I said, 'So remember, couscous but no kiss-kiss.' (I fancied myself as a bit of a wag). On the way back to Djerba that evening, there was just one other vehicle on the long, dark, straight road and our driver sped along mere yards behind it. One of our group told him angrily to leave a bit more space. He looked back uncomprehendingly and continued as before.
There was no obvious gay activity at my hotel, but I was attracted to one of the waiters and would sneak shy glances at him. At an evening meal he leant over my table in serving me and I thought I heard him mutter 'I love you'. I was too surprised to react. As he walked away I wondered whether he had really said it or had I imagined it in my lust for him? To this day I'm not sure. Certainly he showed no further interest for the rest of my stay, but that could have been because he assumed I wasn't attracted to him after all. Ah, the price of diffidence.
But I did force myself to engage in some indisputably sex touristy behaviour. Strolling round the local town of peeling, whitewashed buildings where groups of old men sat drinking small glasses of tea, I met a fairly muscular, queeny young guy, not at all my usual type, who sensed my desperation, named a price and then jumped up onto a stone wall beside us and whipped out his cock for my delectation. We were in a secluded spot, so I sucked it with a show of enjoyment; he came, a little money changed hands, and that was that. Much more to my liking was a small-framed urchin with street-smart eyes who took me to a grubby room and, the two of us lying on a mattress on the floor, allowed me to rub against his naked bum. All the while he kept insisting that I mustn't tell anyone about what we were doing. I kept promising I wouldn't. I think I managed to come.
On my last full day I bought some figs from a market stall which I could see were not very clean but ate some all the same and duly went down with a bad case of the runs. I had a horrendous night. The following morning, still very delicate, I was passing a carpet shop when I saw a slim, stunningly handsome young man alone inside. Easily the best-looking one I'd seen the whole trip. Ignoring my condition, I propositioned him with all the urgency of one who knows he has a flight to catch later that day. He readily agreed and steered me towards a curtained area at the back of the shop. I couldn't help noticing that one of his hands was now fiddling with my backside. 'No, no,' I said with a worried smile, 'I fuck you.' Horrified frown and instant collapse of proceedings.
That about summed up the trip really. Not exactly a successful debut as a sex tourist. No doubt it was in the expectation of things being a lot easier (and they were) that I made that first trip to Thailand a couple of years later.
Anything and everything about gay life anywhere in the world, especially Asia, other than Thailand.
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