I was now in my mid-20’s and probably at my peak. Whatever that means. I was well over six feet tall, athletic, dark blond hair, blue eyes, strong, toned and had been worshipped by the sun for nearly 18 months. I wasn’t an Adonis but I was about as physically refined as I was ever going to be. I was also more confident and reassured than previously. My time in school, university, employment and now on the road had given me a quiet confidence and some presence. I was still insecure about my looks, but I knew I could get by……..All of which was about to pay dividends…..I was about to win the lottery. Luckily I’d remembered to tick the box for no publicity.
I was staying in an isolated hotel right on one of the many beaches which surrounded the tropical paradise known to the world as Penang. Me, I just called it Paradise. I was inexperienced in the world of hotels. I’d been living out of a rucksack for the previous 10 weeks while circumnavigating Australia. I was used to bohemian hostels or the floor of a greyhound bus. A hotel was a rare luxury, affordable only because it was off-season and there was very little demand. This hotel was almost deserted. I was upgraded to a superior suite. I had many Malaysian staff fighting over my inability to give anything but measly tips in return for inordinate services. The generous exchange rate versus the Aussie Dollar together with the equatorial climate put pina coladas on my radar. The prospect was made even more compelling because, if you were able to swim to the bamboo bar situated like an oasis right in the middle of the hotel swimming pool, they were half price. For the first time in my life I felt like a film star. What type of film was about to be determined. Possibly not Hollywood.
I love walking on beaches. Particularly if they’re fringed by palm trees, the sun is the only object in a dark blue sky and you can walk in the shallows of the ebbing surf as it invades previously undisturbed sandy plateaus. And so it was on my second afternoon. I decided to walk the length of the beach and see where it led…
After 20 minutes another hotel came into sight. Set back with a lush lawn separating the grand buildings from the beach. The grassy area was surrounded by a chain fence giving it the appearance of being private and clearly belonging to the hotel and its guests. There were a number of tables with large umbrellas protecting the occupants from the power of the insistent sun. It appeared to be tea time as there were several waiters loitering on a terraced area with stiff white aprons, carrying trays and awaiting further instructions. The area looked like a normal up-market beach hotel in every way apart from the fact that it was conspicuous by its lack of people. In fact, it was empty. I suspect that this was the only reason that I was welcomed so warmly and offered a table in the middle of the chair and table convention. I was wearing a t-shirt, swimming trunks, carrying a rucksack, covered in sand and rather unshaven. Clearly not a VIP. But very possibly interested in paying to drink tea.
I ordered a teapot and became engrossed in reading my Malaysian tour guide. I never noticed their arrival but they quickly made their presence felt. A group of four vivacious Chinese girls had decided to sit at a table in very close proximity. They could have chosen one of the many tables that stretched into the distance but had clearly decided they needed to be close. To begin with I remained undisturbed and uninterested. But the raucous noise of suggestive giggling became hard to ignore. There was also that moment when you become conscious that you are being observed, the subject of some furtive interest. Four young, pretty and unusually coquettish Chinese girls were indeed sitting very close to me and drinking cocktails. It was clear that they were playful, although they had elements of the stereotypical Chinese reserve in that, while they might have been talking about me, they were not making direct eye contact.
After about ten minutes of continued incomprehensible, noisy ribaldry I decided to call their bluff. I was the one that made eye contact with the ringleader who held my gaze. It took a millisecond for my mouth to work. I said ‘Hi’ to the girls. After a quick perfunctory swap of notes the ring leader asked me if I’d like to join them in quite acceptable, if broken, English. I had nothing else on my agenda for the day so decided this might be fun. I quickly established that they were staying at the hotel, were friends on holiday and were cute. Two of them spoke acceptable English, one had a basic grasp and the other one, the prettiest one, just giggled (a lot). For them it seemed having a young, fit Englishman in their presence in his swimming trunks was both amusing and exciting. However buoyant they were there was also an element of Chinese discretion and respect in their dealings with me. A nice juxtaposition. But they were charming and wondered if I might like to join them at the hotel disco that evening at 10pm. Again I checked my diary. Nothing. So I accepted gratefully.
I walked back to my hotel with a spring in my step. I had never been invited to a disco before by a stranger, let alone by four. I wasn’t sure if there was any hidden agenda or whether an evening of dancing around four handbags was to ensue. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I needed to have a shower, a shave and a makeover. I needed to look cool. Sadly the contents of the rucksack weren’t in this respect encouraging. They didn’t seem to contain the ideal outfit for tropical disco dancing. I eventually managed to rustle something vaguely acceptable together and headed off to meet my destiny.
Destiny was not to be rushed. My palpable excitement meant that I was on the dancefloor at exactly 10pm. Keen. Normally this would have been an impressive first move, but there was no reception committee. In fact the only person in the small yet intimate nightclub was me…and the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. I waited. 10.15pm...10.30pm…10.45 came and went. Just me, a rum and coke and the bass line. I was just about to leave when, at 10.55pm, much to my surprise and barely concealed delight, the girls arrived. No apologies just a lot more giggling. They seemed surprised to find me there. On the surface they seemed indifferent, I suspected a mixture of shyness and Asian etiquette, but I could detect a certain excited tension. The ringleader, the one who spoke the best English, took the initiative and asked me to dance. In fact the girls took it in turns to ask me to dance. Pass the parcel. The dancing started apart, just shapes and much laughter. Gradually it became more tactile and slowly became more flirtatious. The girls were drinking and it seemed like the alcohol was talking. It also seemed as if they were having a competition to see who could be the most daring. They cheered at any hint of physical content and each dance became more intimate. By 1am I had held each girl close and had been unable to escape my growing sense of excitement becoming evident. My ill-concealed erection had brushed against the thighs of a couple of the girls during increasing closeness. This was their fault. I was blameless. They were definitely cute and clearly not the type of demure and innocent Chinese girls that one might have expected.
Everything seemed to be going extremely well, although where this was leading was not entirely clear. I didn’t want to make an inappropriate move as I wasn’t sure of the protocol. Best behaviour, even under severe provocation. Soon after 1am they decided they were tired. I was a gentleman and insisted that I walked them to their rooms. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. But it soon became clear. Nothing. In fact what in my head was ‘doors’ became one ‘door’. They were sharing one room. They’d had a lovely evening and goodnight. I was allowed to kiss each of them on the cheek but goodnight (and goodbye). More giggling.