After dinner with Steven, I wandered around the rest of The Babylon Bangkok hotel on my own. Though the decor was still questionable — I couldn’t decide if it was Babylonian or Buddhist — it was undeniably a gay oasis, far away from the bustle of Bangkok. As well as having a pool, restaurant and gym, it also had saunas, steam rooms, a whirlpool and a dark room.
Wandering through the hotel, I soon got lost. It was cavernous with walkways leading to halls and endless private booths. I could hear people moaning within, unrestrained. There were also guys in various stages of undress, fooling around in the halls, kissing, groping and sucking one another.
I became so disoriented that I started traveling in circles and ended up back at the locker room twice. I went up and down so many stairs that I couldn’t tell which level was which. I finally found the dark room, but I wasn’t sure if it was on the first level or in the basement.
The dark room was another maze, with guys lurking in the shadows, seen only as silhouettes. It was so dark that I couldn’t see the walls. I had to pat my way through to the other side. There was a lot of shuffling in there and people whispering to one another but nobody seemed to be having sex — not from what I could tell anyway.
I went back upstairs and walked through the space a few more times, trying to figure out where I hadn’t been yet. I pushed through a door and found myself at the top of a semi-covered staircase. I thought it was the pool area at first, but it was a new bar with guys lounging and having drinks.
I felt like a quick drink might help me get my bearings, so I took a seat by a group of men smoking cigarettes over pints of beer. A sort of jazzy house music drifted through the air and the room was lit by a warm blue light. There were also ferns and foliage hanging from above, and pouring down the walls.
I sipped my drink, watching to see who was going in and out of the nearby shower area.
A guy sat in the empty seat next to me and lit a cigarette. He ordered a drink, then turned and introduced himself as Ken. He was originally from New Zealand but was now working and living in Hong Kong.
“What do you think of this place?” he asked.
“It’s growing on me,” I replied.
He admitted that he visited Bangkok often just to come to Babylon. He had never really toured the rest of the city much, but instead rented a room for a few days in Babylon just to relax. “You can really be yourself here,” he said.
And maybe that was it. Sure, there are no laws against anti-gay discrimination in Thailand and same-sex marriage isn’t recognized, but perhaps this place allows locals — and Westerners like Ken and myself — to forget about all that.
When I finished my drink, I excused myself to explore the showers.
The dry sauna was completely empty, and the Jacuzzi was overflowing with people, so I went into one of the steam rooms.
It was so dark that at first I thought I was all alone. Once my eyes adjusted, I realized that it was packed full of men but I couldn’t tell one from the next. I tried to step forward but kept bumping into limbs. Soon an orgy started to form. It made me feel claustrophobic so I respectfully excused myself. Plus, I’m more of a twosomes or threesome guy anyway — group formations aren’t really my thing.
Despite the decor, I guess Babylon is Babylonian in many ways. But really, it can be whatever you want it to be. To Steven, it was more of a social club. For Ken it was a gay resort where he could let loose. And although I hadn’t quite figured out what it was for me, I certainly will be back to figure that out.