The Japanese lady in Bangkok

Submitted into Contest #191 in response to: Make Japan (or Japanese culture) an element of your story.... view prompt


Romance Contemporary East Asian

Liem was gazing out of the car window.

 “Is it your first time in Bangkok, Sir?” the taxi driver asked him.

“No, I’ve been here twice” he said.

 Liem felt as though it was his first time in this city, however. He did not remember anything about the city as the last time he came here was nearly ten years before. In his memory, it was just a city like any other city in this world. Nevertheless, he had a feeling that Bangkok had changed a lot and emerged to be a world-class city with modern buildings and advanced infrastructure.

“I didn’t think it would be that hot in November,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s hot all year round here,” the taxi driver replied.

“Very similar to Saigon,” Liem thought to himself. “Perhaps, it’s better to live in Hanoi which had a cold winter.”

 Hanoi was his hometown while Saigon was his dream city and also the hometown of his ex-lover. After more than an hour struggling with the traffic jam, the car finally arrived at the hotel entrance. It was a 5-star hotel, like any other 5-star hotel in this world. As Liem entered the lobby, he felt a pleasant smell, the smell of the rich perhaps. After checking in, he took a nap before going to the hotel rooftop bar for a welcome party of the workshop which he would attend the next day. When walking into the elevator, he suddenly saw a familiar face.

“Oh, Emma!” he exclaimed. “Long time no see!”

“Liem! Glad to see you here!”

 Emma Watkins was a British woman living in France and an expert of Alpha corporation, the workshop ornigazer. She had to travel a long distance to be here. They talked about their journey and other little things until the elevator door opened. A hotel staff led them to the rooftop bar, where Emma introduced Liem with her colleagues and other guests.

A handsome man greeted him with a charming smile.

“Hi, my name is Miguel,” he said. “I’m a Colombian working for the marketing department of Alpha corporation”

“Hi, I’m Liem.”

 They exchanged the business cards. Miguel glanced at the card and said.

“Your name looks like an anagram of mine. So you are my Vietnamese brother”

“Wow, amazing! So you’re my Colombian brother,” Liem said laughing.

 He thought this Latino guy seemed to be a social butterfly. His charismatic style reminded Liem of Berlin in the Money Heist.

“Does Colombia take part in the World Cup this year?” asked Liem.

The FIFA World Cup had just started and became a popular topic in the party as football (or soccer in American English) was a popular sport all over the world.

“No, that’s sad” Miguel replied bitterly. “I wish Colombia could do it”

“It’s strange as Colombia is a strong team. As far as I remember, they had a great performance in the last World Cup and even reached the quarter final.”

“Exactly! But they did not do well in the qualification round last year. So I have to support Mexico in this World Cup because my wife is a Mexican”

 Miguel drew the smartphone from his pocket and showed Liem the photo of his family including his wife and daughters took in front of the Louvre Museum.

“Lucky man!”, Liem said. “You have a beautiful wife and lovely daughters.”

 Miguel smiled cheerfully.

 Afterwards, Liem took some food and drinks, then came to another pub table where a Malaysian were talking with an Irish man. The Malaysian was about 50 years old but still looked younger than the Irish man.

“It is insane”, said the Malaysian. “We have to fly an empty aircraft back and forth.”

“To keep the slot?” asked Liem.

“Yes, to keep the slot. So this zero covid policy of China must not be a health issue but a political one. It benefited nobody”

“If something happens,” Liem thought to himself. “It must benefit someone”

 Then the Malaysian talked passionately about history.

“When I was at school, I think history is a useless subject. But then I realize that history is very important. If you know history, you can understand a lot of things happening in this world. For example, when you visit Taiwan, you will see it looks a lot like Japan. Why? Because Taiwan used to be a part of Japan Empire for half a century until Japan was defeated in the World War 2.”  

“Yeah, history tends to repeat itself so it would be useful to know it,” Liem added.

 Then they moved to another topic which was more comfortable.

“Will you support England in their first World Cup match against Iran?”, the Malaysian asked the Irish.

“No, I won’t support England. I may support Scotland or Wales but England… Never!” the Irish man said, shrugging.

“Why?”, the Malaysian man asked surprisedly.

The Irish man said nothing but smiled.

“If this Malaysian man knew the history of the bloody Irish war in the 20th century as well as the great famine in the previous century, he wouldn’t be so surprised,” Liem thought to himself.

 Then a silver-hair man arrived at their table holding a cup of champaigne.

“Well, let me introduce the cleverest man of our company, Antoine Leclerc!” the Irish man said. “We call him ‘The professor’”.

Just glancing at his face, people could guess that Antoine was an intellectual. He tried to be humble but could not hide the pride of his wisdom.

“He looks very smart,” Liem thought to himself. “But not nerdy like the professor in ‘Money heist’”

“France seems to be a strong candidate to win the World Cup. Do you think so?”, the Malaysian asked the French man.

“We have two stars on our jersey,” Antoine proudly said, pointing at his chest. “Soon it will be three after this World Cup”  

 Then he told them about the intriguing stories in China where he lived for a few years.

“Xi Jin Ping is very interested in football. So Chinese big bosses invested a lot of money in football clubs and hired many superstars from Europe so that Xi can come to their clubs and watch those footballers”

“That’s why a lot of Brazillian stars refused the contracts from big European clubs to go to China,” Liem added.

 Then Antoine showed the screen of his smartphone in which there were some Chinese letters.

“Do you guys know it?”

“Wow, Alipay.” the Malaysian exclaimed.

“Exactly. When I came back to France, I used this app to buy goods and get 10% discount. It’s a policy to encourage Chinese spending money in France. The shopkeeper was annoyed at me and said ‘Hey, you are French’. I replied ‘Wo shi Zhong Guo Ren’.

 They laughed out loud.   

 At the next table, Liem heard a beautiful Polish lady complained with two Thai men.

“Years ago, when people heard I’m from Poland, they would say ‘Ah, Chopin’. Now they all say ‘Ah, Lewandowski’”

“Well, it’s not too bad to be a Polish”, the Vietnamese thought to himself. “At least, people know Poland is a country, not a war”.

 Liem had a good time talking with a lot of people all around the world. They were all nice people, but who could be graceless in Bangkok? When he was about to leave the party for the football match between England and Iran, he took a look at the night sky and sighed. This scenery reminded him of a wonderful night in Saigon when he first met his ex-girlfriend, also in a luxury rooftop bar. He was engulfed by happiness back then, whereas all that he felt now was meaninglessness. Been there, done that. Liem felt so old even though he was just 32 years old. It seemed that nothing and nobody in this world could surprise him anymore.

“You’re leaving a bit early,” remarked Emma.

“Well, I’m leaving to watch your team England play in the World Cup,” Liem said, smiling.

 The next evening, after a long day listening to presentations in the workshop, Liem took a stroll along the street and found an Irish bar where he could watch the World Cup football match between Germany and Japan. The bar was almost full. He found the only empty seat at the corner beside an Asian lady.

“Are you Japanese?” asked the woman.

“No, I’m Vietnamese” Liem replied.

 He thought it was funny. When he was in the United States, Chinese spoke Chinese to him but he understand nothing, a Filipino stared at him and said he was like her fellow-countryman. When he was in Bali, the Indonesian supposed he was an Indonesian. He wondered if Korean would think he was their fellow-citizen, too.

“But I support Japan,” he added. “Japan is my favorite team. Are you Japanese?”

“Yes. My name is Ayumi Takahashi.”

 Ayumi was a 30 year-old Japanese with charming eyes and simple clothing style. Had she been German, he would say Germany was his favorite team which was also true for he liked both Japan and Germany.

 He received the bottle of Chang beer from the Thai waitress who was a transgender woman. Then he clinked bottles with the Japanese woman.

“Cheers for Japan”

 Sitting next to Ayumi was a young German. He was not like other Germans Liem had ever met or perhaps our protagonist just had never seen a German in a bar. He was energetic, talkative and had some sense of humor. His British female friend was an even more enthusiastic supporter for Germany football team. After Germany scored the opening goal, they were comfortable and teased other people around. The young British woman, who looked beautiful and smart, asked a Thai woman who had a big butterfly tatoo on her back and sat with an old Scottish man.

“You support Japan, don’t you?”

The Thai woman nodded.

“Well, if you support Japan, then you should shout f*** Germany, and that means you f*** him because he’s a German”

The young British lady laughed loudly with her German friend while the Thai woman was bewildered. Her Scottish boyfriend was apathetic. He seemed not even know the rule of the game he was watching.

“She might not be an admirable woman but she did not deserve to be treated like that,” Liem thought to himself, feeling sorry for the Thai woman.

 The Japanese team played pretty well but they lacked a bit of luck to score the equalizer before half-time.

“Come on! They need to do better!” Ayumi expressed her disappointment.

“Japan played very well, indeed” Liem told Ayumi. “But Germany is a strong opponent. Japan must try harder”

 They did try harder in the second half and scored two goals in ten minutes. When Asano scored the wonderful second goal, the German supporter had his hands on his head, being silent while his British friend almost cried. Whereas, the Thai woman jumped and shouted cheerfully. All the Asians in the Irish bar did the same while the European men suddenly became quiet. Ayumi burst with joy and suddenly hugged Liem.

“Congrats Japan!” he told her. “It’s unbelieveable!”

“Thank you. I’m so happy”

When the referee blew the final whistle, a young British man who was wearing the jersey of England danced cheerfully to tease the German. Despite his disappointment, the German supporter tried to comfort his British female friend.

“They played better. We lost and have to accept it but we still have a chance with two other matches”  

 Then the German, the British, the Thai woman, the Japanese and the Vietnamese all clinked their cups and bottles to cheer for Japan, the winner of the match.

“Come with me!” Ayumi whispered to Liem.

 He followed her. They took a stroll on the street, talking about their lives.

“Where do you live in Japan?”

“Kyoto. But now I live here, Bangkok”

“Kyoto is a very beautiful city with amazing temples. I’ve been there before Covid. I wish I could stay there for a month”

“Are you happy now?”

“It’s a strange question,” Liem said hesitantly. “My life seemed to be a gloomy ballad. I’ve always felt unhappy… Until I saw you in the Irish bar tonight”

 He suddenly held her hands.

 Ayumi smiled shyly. Her face turned red.

“Me too!”

  Liem felt a gentle breeze of Bangkok blowing through his hair.

 When getting out of the aircraft which arrived in Hanoi, he felt the cold air of winter. Suddenly, his phone rang as he received a text message from Ayumi.

“I miss you!”

 While other people shivered with cold, Liem felt warm.

“It won’t be a cold winter anymore,” he thought to himself. 

March 26, 2023 14:27

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Rabab Zaidi
01:03 Apr 02, 2023



Dao Huy Kien
03:30 Apr 02, 2023

Thanks for your nice comment :)


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