It doesn’t hurt to smile …

Well, maybe this 5 min read might change that universally accepted adage!

Was about 11o’clock last night when I left the hotel to do my usual – get some food, walk around, find a bar, get some live music in, and hopefully get lucky (in other words, upstage a band!!)

So I’m walking down Istiklal drooling at the shop windows and a guy comes up to me and smiles. I smile back. Guy is in his late thirties, well dressed, and tries to strike up a conversation.

Turk: Are u looking for something?

Me: Not really (continue walking)

He follows me with the usual

T: Where u from / how many days here / are you liking Istanbul …

I mumble my responses not wanting to engage at all. I’m not someone who’s not seen this before.. from the streets of Patong and Khaosan to National market and Linking Road .. they are all the same! In Istanbul also on an average you have 5 people a day come to you with the same pick up lines (can I have a light / you look like a Turk / do you want me to take a photo of you) so I’m not new to this .. So I continue walking!

He was smart and witty and spoke refreshingly decent English so I kinda made some hesitant conversation..

T: I know of this really cool club down the street that my brother is the manager of.. you don’t need to stay! it gets quite busy later and lots of fun crowd and plenty of girls! Have a look and see if you like it. You could even come back tomorrow!!

Me: Not really keen on such places. I’m looking for a live music bar. Do you know of any?

T: They have live music there too sometimes. We could have a look? If you don’t like it, you can go elsewhere. It’s 50m away in any case..

Me: Ok let’s peep in and see, tho I’m telling you right now that I’m not gonna stay..

T: That’s totally fine! As you wish, my friend

A min later we reach this place! Bang off the main street with an empty cop car parked 10 mtrs away … place was called Monaco Club. The guy gives the bouncers a handshake and tells them I’m with him and waves for me to come on in.

I’m gonna pause here .. just to catch my own breath before going ahead ..

I enter a dimly lit shady kinda club (again, I’ve been in way worse) few guys at tables with about 20 girls around … mostly Russian Estonian Belarusian from the looks of it. He gestures towards a table

T: Have a seat.

Me: No I’m good. (I was standing by the table)

A waiter comes up to the table with 2 coke looking drinks and a plate of nuts. Haven’t seen service like this in a 5 star I’m thinking to myself. I told him I’m not drinking! 2 girls come to our table and try to strike up a conversation with the 2 of us..

By now I’ve seen enough (or so I thought) and I told the guy I’m leaving. Next thing you know is there’s a bill at the table (that I haven’t even yet sat at)

All this has happened in less than 2 mins since I’ve entered this place!

I didn’t even look at the bill.

Me: I never ordered anything. I haven’t even sat here..

Bouncer #1 appears: (in thick Turkish accent) You have to pay. You came here. You got drinks. You talked to girls. You have to pay! (all true, I guess)

Me: I’m not going to. Call the waiter and check if I ordered anything. Ask my friend if you want. He told me I could have a look.

I turned to look for the guy “my friend” who brought me there. He was with the manager and the bouncers. I’m certain the look I would’ve given him would match the one Judas received, in a place not too far away from here!

So I’m on my own! Bouncers 2, 3 and 4 join the party. I still haven’t even seen the bill.

B1: how much money you have on you.

Me: (raising my voice) I’m not paying!

B2: (grabs my wrist in one vice like grip) you cannot leave till you pay

Me: Call the police

B1: (grabbing me by the throat) show me your wallet. I wanna see what you have. I promise i will not take any thing. I just wanna see!

There’s no way I was gonna get past 4 or maybe 5 of these middle eastern mountains that even Mohamed might’ve found difficult moving!

They went thru my wallet. Took out everything. Didn’t find enough there.. Though there would’ve been more in there to buy a couple of rounds of drinks in a regular bar.

Then started shoving their hands in my pockets.. getting more and more aggressive with every passing second. I’m pretty sure they have weapons on them. I now glance at the bill. It was about 1300 Turkish Lira!

They still hadn’t found anything. so they ask me to open my sling pouch thingee! Now that’s where the real money / passport etc was .. one of the guys sitting at a nearby table switches on his phone light to help them with this search .. like they needed any help!

so now they’ve found euros and roubles and rupees and dollars.

They start counting, all the while still saying we just wanna see. We are not gonna take anything! All this – while 2 guys are holding me down and one “customer” is providing a torchlight!

He takes a few 100$ notes out and puts that hand on my shoulder, telling me don’t worry. it’s all ok! the guy holding me from behind deftly relieves him of the notes; smooth as anything you would ever see. They pretend to give me all my money and docs back and even start putting my stuff back together! I grabbed whatever I could and ran for the door. They made a feeble attempt of trying to say you have to pay and stopping me (nothing quite like it was before) but I knew they had taken what they needed to! They could’ve had a lot more I guess, but there’s still some honour amongst thieves!

Found a cop two mins later and tried to tell him I had been robbed. He looked at me strangely and smiled and said he didn’t understand English! Clearly was also on the take. More guys started gathering around and asking what the issue was and I realised I probably was setting myself up for more damage than help if I hung around there any longer!!

I met a friend post that and she told a couple of years ago 3 male friends of hers came here. Same story except that they had that coke looking drink.. next thing u know they woke up in a room with 4 naked women, bottles of champagne and a bill of 4200$

As I sit in my ‘safe’ hotel room reading similar stories on the internet I’m wondering how they still continue to get away with it! and also thinking that I got away pretty lightly in comparison! I didn’t sip that drink. I wasn’t asked for my cards. I still have my limbs intact!

I’m just wary of smiling 🙂