For a Southeast Asian bonus round I’ve jotted down the tale of my first trip to the region back in 2010. You have to be kind of a jerk to get physically removed from two bars in one night, and it takes a real asshole to do so in a safe, peaceful place like Singapore. This story is about the time when I managed to pull that off. To be fair, there were extenuating circumstances…
For my thirtieth birthday I’d taken a 4+ day trip to Singapore from Darwin Australia, where I was working at the time. I spent the first two and a half days acting like a completely respectable citizen: I visited both the regular zoo as well as the “night zoo”, a few museums, and I happened to land on the one day a year when the presidential compound is open to the entire public. Walked all over town, saw the super-lame casino, took some pics. A few nice meals, a few casual drinks here and there, I totally kept it together, no going off the handle whatsoever. I even remember patting myself on the back for such good behaviour and thinking, “You’re thirty years old, young man! Time to start acting like a responsible adult!”
On Day Three I checked out of the pricier-than-preferable hotel I’d been in, bought a ticket for the rooftop pool/bar area above the casino but it was still early afternoon so I walked down the open market area of the Chinese district. I had no desire for shopping but there were a few stalls selling beer so I grabbed a chair and began tipping back some large mugs of Tiger. While trying to shuffle my backpack out of the way under the table, I struck up conversation with a few other folks enjoying the sun and the lager and by my fourth beer I was feeling pretty good.
I lifted my face off a beer-soaked table and looked around. Where the hell am I? How did I get here? I was in a poorly-lit bar with flashing lights and terrible Indian house beats in my ear. There were a couple bouncers near the door and one guy behind the bar but otherwise it looked empty. I reach for my backpack… Wait, WHAT?? My backpack’s nowhere to be found, I must’ve been jacked! I immediately reach for my wallet and I’m relieved to find it but the relief is short-lived because my credit card is gone and even worse, my passport was gone.
Jumping out of the couch-type thing I’d been sitting on I almost went head-over-heels and had to grab the table to stay upright. WHAT THE HELL? I’m not quite right and it’s not the “not quite right” of heavy boozing, something else is going on. I’m pretty sure I’m on drugs, but I didn’t knowingly take any drugs. Which means I’ve been drugged. And then jacked. Holy shit.
I stormed up to the bar and started demanding answers. “Who did I come in here with??” “When did they leave??” I had the bartender and the bouncers wide-eyed, all insisting that I’d walked in alone, bought a beer (the one I woke up in) and collapsed. I thought they were full of shit and told them so, then demanded to see the manager, which the bouncers obliged by taking me out the main door into a hallway (we were in some kind of complex, almost office-looking) and then through some nondescript door into the manager’s office. I explained the situation through yelling – the bouncers staying close to my sides – and demanded to see security tapes, which he not only refused but upped the ante by calling me a lunatic. (Granted, he had a point.) I can’t remember exactly what I said after that except that it definitely involved some threat of violence, quite possibly “I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU”, but the next thing I recall is being grabbed by both sides, struggling in vain, returning to the hallway, being dragged down the hallway, getting punched in the ribs and guts a few times, then finding myself on a sidewalk. Ooorph.
Take stock of the situation. A little bit beat up. No passport. No credit card. No place to stay. No clothes beyond what I had on my back. Even though I strangely still had my debit card, there was only about $100 left on it. A straight-thinking, non-drug-addled person would probably use their remaining money to find a room and get a taxi to an embassy the next morning. I decided that a better idea would be to go for broke. Figuring I was completely screwed, with stellar judgment I decided I might as well piss away my last hundred bucks in a blaze of glory.
My memory had ceased operation around 3 p.m. in the afternoon but I now found myself stumbling through the streets at night. It didn’t seem TOO late though… maybe 9 or 10? No phone or watch. There were plenty of people out. I found myself back in the Chinatown, pulled out all the cash I could and scoped out bars; my search ended upon finding one that had a good crowd of cute Chinese girls and karaoke. I grab a seat at the bar and a very pretty waitress leans across and smiles at me. A drink for me and a drink for you. I couldn’t believe it when she accepted, and doubly-so when she mixed herself a real drink rather than a Sprite with a light dash of vodka. I got talking to her and a lot of people around me and the good times started cranking. Grabbed a karaoke book and sign-up sheets and crooned some Megadeth. Slamming the drinks (maybe not the best idea since my head was still wonky from whatever blacked me out earlier). Fuck it, let’s party.
One of the bouncers seems to have a beef with me but I’m having a blast with everyone else, especially the girl behind the bar. We jump onstage together and treat the crowd to a duet and I half-pretend to ham it up by cozying up beside her while we sing. Big grin. All right.
After the tune she heads back behind the bar while I go in back to hit the head. On my way back I run into her, exchange smiles and we duck out of the main hallway to the pissers and into some little alcove-type-thing, a coat room maybe? We start to get better acquainted and things are going great until I hear an angry voice and she pulls away and then I’m pulled away from her. It’s the bouncer who didn’t seem to like me and he yells down the hallway and before I know it there’s another bouncer. The girl looks mortified and the dude seems like he’s going to blow a gasket. Ahhh, I know what the score is. The bouncer and his buddy both grab me and I try to protest – I’m willing to go peacefully, just take your goddamn hands off me – but either they don’t speak English or else they’re hellbent on roughing me up, in which case I figure I might as well make them earn their paycheques.
A few moments later I’m lying on another sidewalk, less drugged but way more drunk and slightly more beat up, down to about $20 in my pocket. I’m not in a real hurry to pick myself up this time, but after a minute or two I decide I’d better before a cop notices me and I fall onto the radar of the notoriously hard-assed Singapore legal system. As I roll over I feel something pointy poke my leg from one of my pockets that I rarely use… What *is* that? I pick myself up and have a gander. A hotel key? Where did that come from? I hassle some innocent bystander and ask where the hotel is and he hurriedly points me down the street and tries to put distance between us.
By harassing a few more pedestrians I manage to find the place – not a dump but not the Ritz either. I try to pretend I belong in the place as I step through the doors and the girl at the front desk smiles and says “Welcome back, Mr. MacKay.” Whaaaat. Up the elevator and to the room on the key… “my” room, I guess. I open the door and my bag is on the bed. I do not recognize this room whatsoever, there’s no “ohhh yeah” flash in the brain, this all looks new to me.
I rip open my bag in hopes of finding my credit card and passport but they’re nowhere to be found. I open all the drawers in the room, look in the bathroom, everywhere but they aren’t there. I stop and think for a second. As long as I’ve been travelling I’ve had this weird compulsion to hide my valuables in bizarre places, like under the TV, behind wall plates, in the ceiling if possible. I once had over $6000 in Korean Won stuffed into envelopes and stuck to the inside of a wall in a Chinese apartment with packing tape, but that’s a story for another time. I start tearing the place apart and after pulling the drawers out of the corner desk I find both my passport and credit card squeezed into the back. Relief washes over me and I collapse on my bed.
I’ve thought a lot about this since then and the only scenario I can imagine playing out is that I realized I’d been drugged as the chemicals were coming on, so I grabbed the closest room possible – this was very close to where I’d been drinking – did my best to mitigate the impending chaos and then let it rip. There’s no question I was drugged though, I don’t black out after four beers, and I was beyond sick the following day, far out of proportion to the quantity of alcohol I’d consumed or how intoxicated I’d been by the end of the night.
Ultimately I guess the moral of the story is if you’re drugged while alone in a foreign country just party hard and everything will turn out okay.