Yesterday afternoon, my partner and I headed to Stanley after the gym. I’m glad I didn’t suggest we go. I’m constantly being accused of wanting to go there “every weekend” often at the expense of “somewhere new and different.” But “somewhere new and different” got me food poisoning (Sai Kung) or has a crappy beach (Mui Wo). So I did what any loving partner would do, I questioned his decision.

“But we always go there! Are you sure you want to go there!? How about someplace new and different? Are you sure you can wait to eat until we get there?”

This last question really pissed him off. Poor guy is still trying to take off his holiday weight. You should see him when he gets hungry though. Not a pretty picture. He claims he’s hypoglycemic, but I think he’s just a bitch.

After eating a passable lunch with a good view of the water, we walked to our favorite dive bar, Smuggler’s Inn. What a dump! Scrawled on the restroom doors: “Unbutton the Mutton” and “Point and Piss.” Currency from across the globe decorates the dirty walls of the main room. Stapled, glued and possibly spooged on by the various tourists who have graced the pub with their drunken presence, you’ll find the Swiss Franc next to a U.S. greenback, the Thai Baht beside a Canadian Loonie. Outside, cheap plastic chairs and rickety wooden stools litter the front deck. It’s a hillbilly paradise.

But we love our dive bars and Smuggler’s Inn has a great jukebox. From Cyndi Lauper to The Eagles, The Talking Heads to David Bowie, you’ll find everything you want if you’re of a certain age. You’ll also find anything you want if you’re younger or a wee bit older. This can be a problem, but it’s a dive bar after all, open to an International House of Pancakes of drunks, dips, English Johns and their Filipina finds.

Prostitution is legal in Hong Kong. Pimps are illegal. This means that, theoretically, anyone can open up shop free from a threatening handler or thug. In practice, it means that down-and-out but industrious mainland ladies must operate a one woman brothel without protection. In practice, it means that flocks of Filipinas operate “freely” but really have male handlers hustling them out to would-be Johns. In practice, it means that it’s fairly common to open the city section of the local paper and read about a prostitute who has been strangled to death.

The other day, my housekeeper told me that she thought “those” women did it because “it” was easy.

“Really?” I said. “I think it’s hard.”

She didn’t get my joke.

Still, it can’t be easy operating alone, or with a pimp breathing down your ass. I’d much rather clean a toilet than clean some old bloke’s pipes. You should see these guys. Yuck! They’re beyond crusty, usually British, mostly curdled, and often pickled. I take solace in the fact that few of these guys can probably get it up at the end of the night.

But the group of Filipina’s we saw cozying up to the Englishmen at Smuggler’s Inn yesterday looked happy. They were playing Wii on an iPhone. Their laughter was loud and annoying, drowning out the languid guitar of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” with high-pitched squeals of sheer joy.

I asked my partner if he thought they were prostitutes, or wives.

“Maybe they’re companions.” He said.

Typical of my partner not to give a direct answer.

“What do you mean companions?” I demanded.

“You know.”

“No, I don’t.”

Turns out neither did he.

I said, “Well, I guess a prostitute can turn into a kind of companion. You know, after they’ve known each other a while.”

A couple of months ago, we were at Smuggler’s Inn when an old goat tried to chat us up. “This is my girlfriend,” he said slapping a Filipina’s lap. “My wife is back home.”

“This is my boyfriend,” I said patting my partner on the head. “My husband is back home.”

OK, I didn’t do that. Really wanted to, but wasn’t fast enough. Instead I just smiled, shook my head and tried to change the subject.

The Filipina thanked me with her eyes and looked out at the South China Sea.