lady with red afro

Bent Over in Bangkok – Part 2

Waking up sore, parched, and with the funkiest flavor in my mouth from the food poisoning that wrung me out the night before – I blinked a few times, and saw my dorm mate, Anna was already back from her morning errands. What time is it? Where am I? Am I delirious?

As my special man friend was coming to meet me in Bangkok in only two days, it was high time to suck up any lingering stomach woes and get my girly on.

Anna and I walked to the salon in the scorching heat; there were a few moments where I was certain I was suffering feverish effects – the heat came rolling off the streets, and warped the facades of the building. So. Hot.

Finally we walked into the Burberri Salon, where the ladies welcomed us with a thimble sized cup of ginger tea, and washed our feet with rose water that had orchids in it. Obviously I threw up most of my personality the night before, because this is just not the kind of place Brandy Bell frequents.

luxury spa

Where am I?
photo: Unique Hotels Group

After a ticklish pedicure, and a massacre of a manicure (um yes, that’s part of my finger – no, please don’t cut it off) I fell a little bit asleep in the chair while this angelic woman massaged my head. Ahhh, finally life is good, and easy, and I can’t believe I haven’t been going to posh salons my whole travel life. At this moment I made my resolution to stop being such a travel tightwad and pay up for the better things in life.

This is when I made the decision to get my hair colored at this salon ( 1000 baht / 33 USD) instead of the ghetto joint I spotted around the corner (500 baht).

“Excuse me, please – do you have time for a hair color?” I asked the lady and she brought over the book that has those creepy little hair bundles. We held lots of them against my face – I kept turning down their offers to bleach my hair into blonde oblivion, or go purple- insisting that I love having dark hair.

We came to a mutual decision that it would be a dark brown with red undertones – like a lovely rich warm cinnamon stick.

They escorted me to the hair portion of the salon, exclaiming over my incredibly blonde roots, which they could see now that I was lower to the floor and they were standing over me on plastic stools.

“You have blonde hair! Real curls?” “Yes, blonde hair – real curls!” She covered her mouth and giggled- silly farang hair.

She mixed the color, cloaked me, made sure I had wifi on my phone, and started to portion the hair. She brushed the color on, and it started to itch. Hmm. That’s never happened before, but I am sure I am being a silly, sensitive farang – after all, it’s a L’Oreal professional salon.

The temptation to itch my head was overwhelming, and I did a teeny tiny scratch when her back was turned. Ahh – that felt great. Naturally, I texted my uber-responsible-always-responsive-life-saving friend Katie.

“Katie, is it normal that hair dye is making my head itch?”
Two seconds later, she responded “hmm, it doesn’t usually happen, but you’ll be fine”.
Well, if Katie said it, I believe it. Mind over matter, Brandy.

About 75 more seconds of hair dye application and I felt like there was a nest of red ants on my head. I started scratching with both hands, not giving a single damn that my hands were getting covered in dye. The stylist shooed my hands away, told me it was “okay, okay – normal, normal” and gave me a comb to scratch with while she kept going.

Unwilling to be the weak little white girl who can’t handle an itchy hair dye, I sat and squirmed. Then I looked in the mirror and noticed that my neck was turning red. Really red. ACK. In fact, it’s getting hot in here, so hot that I am not breathing very well.

“No! no more!” I told her, pointing at my neck.

“OH NO – shampoo KAA!” she said, and the other girl came running in to fan me while she started scrubbing my hair “shampoo – shampoo – okay”. As she rinsed my hair, I saw her hands come off my head holding massive clumps of my hair. “oh no kaaaa” she said again, clucking her tongue and scrubbing furiously at my scalp.

Immediately, my throat felt better, breathing was easier, but my eyes were wide with shock.
Oh my god, all my hair is going to fall out.
Oh my god, I am going to be bald. Ohmygodohmygod, my head isn’t even the right shape to be bald.
Ahhh. Breathe, Brandy, Breathe.

After five minutes of insane scrubbing, she wrapped my hair with a towel and got me to sit back in the seat. “Okay Kaa” she said while removing the towel.

Sweet baby Ronald McDonald – I have a mangy, red afro. FUCK.

lady with red afro

Yup, that’s basically me
Photo Credit : robbisaurus

“Package please!” I said, but she naturally didn’t understand the command. “Where is the box for hair dye? I have allergy.”  She didn’t understand, so I got out of the seat to look in the trash when I saw the sink. So. Much. Hair.

I lost about 1/4 of my hair in 4-5 minutes. What’s worse? The remaining 3/4 is now “hot red”. No, not pretty ginger (yes, there are such things) I am talking, “ohh, why would anyone do that to themselves??” kind of color.

Found the boxes in the trash and I was pissssssssed.
1) The hair product was NOT in fact L’Oreal but some random brand “majik colors”
2) this was a bleach based product. Bleach. On a platinum blonde going dark. Oh hell no.
I felt my throat getting red again, but not with allergy – with anger.

Then I realized it wasn’t her fault – if a Thai native person wanted to go dark brown, odds are that they would have to use a bleaching product to achieve that. Whew. Breathe Brandy, accept cultural differences. Don’t be that kind of traveler.

I walked to the reception area to pay for my spa services and politely take my leave so that I could go freak out in private. “3000 baht please” said the girl.

“I’m sorry – what?” I said, giving her a chance to change her mind.

“700 for mani / pedi and 2300 for hair dye.” she said, giving me the hopeful eyes.

“I’m sorry, but the color was on for three minutes, it burnt my hair, and lots of my hair fell out. I don’t feel that I should have to pay for that. Also, the price listed for hair color is 1000 baht. ” I said, trying to remain calm and fair.

“Yes, start at 1000 baht – you have much hair, so 2300 baht.”

“No, I am sorry, I won’t pay that. I am very happy to pay for the mani / pedi but I can’t pay 2300 baht for that hair experience.”

“Ma’am we use 3 boxes of hair dye for you.”

“No, you used 2, I was in the trash.”

“Okay, 2 boxes, 2000 baht.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t pay 2000 baht for that, but I understand you used a product for me, and that costs you money.”
I am dying to drop 700 baht on the counter and walk out but using every ounce of strength to not be a dick.
Knowing that the girl at the desk is not the salon owner makes it impossible for me to stiff her on the cost of the product – I don’t want her getting into trouble.

I resign. “Okay, I will pay 1000 baht because it says on the menu, and that covers the cost of the product.”

With a sigh, I handed over the cash and walked out the door.

When my hair dried, the true color came out and it was far worse than I could have imagined while in the salon. I cried a little bit, knowing I can’t alter the color for a while if I want my hair to have the chance to repair itself. For now, I am a partially bald hyper ginger who now sympathizes with that clown at McD’s.

Of course, my luck was about to change : my special man friend arrives in Bangkok in only 1 day! The only thing I need to do is get a bikini wax, and everything will be fine.

What could possibly go wrong this time? Ahem, you can’t imagine. Stay tunes for Bent Over in Bangkok (this time it’s literal) Part 3!

PS. This portion of the series will be coming out to newsletter subscribers first — jump on the mailing list and get my humiliation delivered right to your inbox. Trust me, it’s going to be worth it.


Brandy Bell loves adventuring around the world. She’s been a solo female traveler since 2006 and has visited over 25 countries, made countless international friends, and now writes to inspire you to travel in a sustainable and responsible way.

'Bent Over in Bangkok – Part 2' has 1 comment

  1. May 29, 2013 @ 12:23 pm Angela

    I was a hairdresser before I started traveling and the allergic reaction could have been (partly) caused by the fact that you just had a head massage. A head massage opens all of the pores and some other stuff. Your scalp (as you now know) reacts really badly when you dye your hair right after a head massage. I’ve heard multiple horror stories of people losing hair and ending up with second degree burn wounds on their heads.


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