I have to admit this trip came with a lot more partying than I’m used to – it’s easy to enjoy life too much on this island. People let loose and there’s a lot of drugs on the island, and sold very openly too. This indicates a strong mafia presence which I got to see first hand one late night sitting in a tattoo shop getting my first, and not so much planned, bamboo tattoo – woops! (It turned out great though.)
Those six hours I sat there drawing and tattooing the surprises just followed each other. Being in my profession I tend to see what kind of drugs people use. So, a man
in his late 30s comes in and you can see that everyone in the shop respects him. I see the signs of a prolonged habit for uppers mixed with opiates – probably smoking heroin. He sits down in the shop, seems to be the boss, and sells small bags or red pills to the boys working late in the bars. For 100THB a pill being up all night doesn’t have to be a problem. So they come to him to fix it. He has some kind of sarong tied around his waist and he has his product hidden under it. Then suddenly he pulls up a gun from there – and my tattoo artist tells him hurriedly to “put that thing away” and takes it from him and puts it on a shelf in the back of the shop. Yes on a shelf. It’s a small revolver but it will get the job done.
Later during the night they continue with the big stuff. Lots of going back and forth to the harbour and one man looking pretty nervous carrying a small bag coming in several times, running his errands with the man with the gun for protection.
This is their reality. The police driving past regularly most definitely being paid off. Some guys sitting around the shop, protecting the stash I guess, and others running the errands. What gives insight into how normal this has gotten to them is how their wives come around with babies in strollers to say hello. One of the wives taking the husband’s phone right out of his hand demanding attention, and with the risk of losing face he cannot react with anything else than obedience. These fully tattooed fighting men running drugs still seem to put family first. Showing off the new baby to their friends and relatives during nightly drug runnings. Or seeing the big boss sitting playing candy crush on his phone being a bit bored between business transactions.
Through this I wasn’t scared but after seeing the gun I got a bit more careful about
how I reacted. Still it’s better knowing what you are dealing with than not knowing. I guess there’s a divide of opinions here. But I don’t shut my eyes to make life easier. Ignorance is bliss but it’s not real. If you look around you on a street at home you will be able to see drugs changing hands but I have never found myself quite in this situation before – sitting in the lion’s den which is a front for their other businesses.