Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Freewheelin' in S.E.A - Day 6: Tyre-d of waiting for you

We had planned to get an early start and hire motorbikes, then ride around the area seeing sights, but after waking up at 8am, showering and getting ready it took everyone two hours to eat breakfast, then the guys stated they still had to shower, meaning it would be gone 12pm before we’d even got started. Now, ever since I was younger I’d always thought I’d die in a road accident, which has meant that I’ve always avoided riding bikes, but I was willing to overcome my fears in my quest to say YES! to everything I’ve ever hated or been scared of, however when Maddie stated she’d rather join the other three amigos and go tubing I concluded that that was a better idea. We grabbed a few cans of Beer Lao from the local store, and I bought a waterproof sealed bag to hold my camera, iPod and mini speaker before grabbing our tubes, signing a declaration that it was at my own risk, then being marked with the number 22 on my hand.

Let me stand next to your tyre

They drove us up river on the back of a truck which held our tubes on the roof, and dropped us off at the starting point. It was dead quiet, and along the riverbank stood a plethora of abandoned bars. I could imagine it popping off on a busy mid-afternoon, I could see the spirits of a thousand ravers, staggering around, slipping into the water and doing stupid shit to each other for the amusement of their imaginary friends. I was glad that they had been shut down. This was infinitely more peaceful, the way you’d imagine it was meant to be enjoyed before a couple dealers and opportunists took a strangle hold to the neck of the community in order to generate the wrong kind of tourism. It was bliss as I drifted along smoking a chopstick and staring at the sun. I saw some waves breaking up ahead and thought ‘Yippee’ as my tyre dipped into them. I didn’t realise that the breaking was caused by high rocks being hit by the water floating past them, until one of them met my back with a sharp sting which felt like it may have sliced me. The impact nearly knocked me out of my ring, and my beer got lost in the battle to save my spliff, which was a success. Ieke followed, also taking a hit, then Eran’s ring got caught, and he ended up standing on the rock. It looked like he was walking on water, which for an Israeli Muslim could be considered by some as a slight against the power of Lord Jesus. Either way, it looked pretty cool. We found a nice sandy spot and drifted towards it to check out each other’s wounds and catch some rays. Thankfully we were relatively unscathed, but you could imagine the panic of that same situation whilst on ‘shrooms or opiates. Not recommendable. I broke the silence with my mini speaker sending sounds of the sixties, and beyond, across the river which everybody was happy about. After about forty-five minutes, we jumped back in our tubes and floated for the last hour to the end point. We then sat along an old bridge that crossed the water for another hour, sharing a spliff and blaring some tunes, the bridge swaying along with our hips as we danced under the lowering sun.

A bridge over formerly troubled water 

Now in much need of food, we hit up an organic spot that farmed their own vegetables, and once we’d ordered, the waitress shot off on a moped, returning ten minutes later with a bag full of food. Even Jay-Z’s trainers aren’t as fresh as that. Speaking of fresh, I took my 66th shower of the week soon after, got ready and went outside to hang with the Spanish armada, who had recently returned on their bikes. I nicked Diego’s keys to take his scooter for a ride, no helmet, no experience, just keys and a throttle, which I turned fully, whizzing up the street for about half a mile, then taking four left turns and ending back at ours ten minutes later. Another first, and I didn’t die. Win, Win.

My day crew were all ready by this point, so we hit up The Otherside again, this time getting involved in the squared off seating area, drinking cheap whiskey with coke and red bull by the bucket load, singing along to a load of suspect songs, and speaking with the others about our respective lovers that we were all missing even more, in our emotional states, before being joined by Paul and Eric. Then the DJ dropped it again, Celine Dion doing my first name no favours at all as the strangled cats all shrieked along. We downed our remaining drinks and joined the rest of the revellers next door at the Moonlight Bar for another bucket. Standing in the toilet queue I said hello to a stranger, and he introduced himself as Dion. I excitedly told him that was also my name, and we hugged. He’d never met another Dion before, and I’d only met two myself, up until then, both at the Secret Garden Party on consecutive years, which is a strange coincidence in its own right. After another hour, the lights went off, and everyone stood chatting in the dark bar, unfazed. I assumed by the lack of reaction that this was normal protocol, but I thought it was pretty shit. I swiftly regrouped the crew and we all left together, grabbing burgers and pancakes from the street sellers outside. My last J left me swerved in the kind of way that smoking when really drunk does to most people, although I’m usually immune, or maybe just levelled by other substances. I noticed it in the wet room, nearly slipping as I reached for my towel, and as I laid on my bed the contours of the room span like a vortex. I clung onto my covers, buzzing whilst simultaneously sinking into a semi-surf sleep. I had to be up in 5 hours. What a pickle.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A – Day 5: Please a-Laos me to introduce myself

I awoke with a jolt at 6am, and rushed towards the private train hole to empty my bladder onto the passing tracks. I received the 150 baht breakfast I had ordered the night before around half an hour later, a plate with two under-cooked, cold fried eggs, half a cold frankfurter, some lukewarm beans and two slices of soggy bread, stylishly served on a cracked wooden dinner hall tray. It was like being back at school, except in those days the meals were free, and tasted better. We got chatting to a forty-three year old Spaniard by the name of Pablo, who was also travelling to Vang Vieng with his best friend, the slightly younger Fabian. We joined forces, went through the border together, shared a cab to Vientiane bus station then haggled down the price of a minivan to take us 5 hours north to our next destination. It pulled up with two others already seated, a Thai guy named Paul, and a Belgian named Eric. They said they were cousins who were travelling together. I didn’t question it. Along the rocky, half made roads, we pulled up next to a great lake, which had two boats with five kids split between them, racing along the water. It was wide and beautiful, with great, glowing, green trees and a few huts built along the edge. The three boy boat beat the two boy effort after a good start from both, strength in numbers succeeding once again. The kids didn’t seem to mind, one of them immediately back-flipping into the lake like he hadn’t a care it the world. At last, I had finally witnessed some natural beauty, unless you count the woman with the string of flowers stuffed inside of her lady garden from the night before. Perhaps I could call this a close second, but either way, I was ready to see the real world, not the really real world of Bangkok. You can say what you want about a flower in full bloom, but I’d take slowly watching it grow over witnessing the finished product die, any day. The same can be said for countries. Travelling through the developing world excites me. You know that you are more than just a statistic, and whatever you bring, be it money, knowledge or even just a smile from a foreign face, impacts the communities tenfold to what it does back home in the monopolistic metropolis where nothing seems to really make a difference. My first truly inspiring sight of freedom obtained, time for some more…

Children of the Freewheelin' World

I’d heard somebody complain about a guest house called Pan’s Place, saying that its owner was more interested in shifting weed and mushrooms than he was about the rooms. That was all the recommendation I needed, and the four of us marched forth, from the bus to the front door, which was five minutes up the desolate road. It turned out that my new Spanish brothers had one joints worth of weed left, so I rolled one of my infamous L’s and finally had a first kiss with my beloved companion, after nearly 6 days. BOOM, BOOM, BAT, BA-BOOM BA-BOOM BAT! There was a hang out area in Pan’s courtyard, literally, a deck made of bamboo that had four hammocks and loads of cushions all around. I took a comfortable residence in the first hammock I’d ever laid in, slowly swinging through the stonedness as smoke slithered out of my mouth like a snake. We gave 20 bucks to the owner, Chris, and he returned soon after, handing me a fat bag stuffed with fifteen grams of Thai weed. Sorted. Two guys and a girl joined us, Ben from Canada, Eran from Israel, and Ieke from the Netherlands. I struggled with conversation because I was too blissed out to be paying attention to anything other than my spiralling thoughts. Feeling lean as a runner bean after my unwanted detox, I said bye to the new crew and went with the others to a restaurant that had meat spinning on barbeques outside. All it takes is one rotation of a duck roasting on a spit and I’m sold. I saw at least four before I walked through their door.

Feeling satisfied by my meat intake, I strolled back to the hostel with Maddie and the Spaniards, who had reproduced another brother in the short time they’d been there, so now there were three, Diego completing the trilogy. I clung onto whatever conversations I was caught up in, trying my best to learn Spanish in one evening, whilst helping Fabian improve his English. The other two could speak both languages fluently, and often spoke half and half, which reminded me of my father’s side of the family, who all communicate in Greeklish. Both crews re-joined forces, and hit the street in search of a bar. It was like a ghost town as we strolled the dusty roads in search of a watering hole and it gave me flash-backs to being alone and on mushrooms one night in Tombstone, Arizona. Only weeks before, Vang Vieng had been a notorious party town, boasting around a death every fortnight, and countless injuries due to mass amounts of cheap alcohol intake whilst floating from bar to bar down the Mekong river in a tractor tyres inner tube. We’d heard that the town was closed down because of the bars were all selling opium and mushroom shakes to the revellers, but decided to come anyway, in the hope that there was still good times to be had. I’ll be honest, it didn’t look likely. I sang “Show me the way to the next whiskey bar” and tumbleweed rolled past us. We followed it, and finally found one place that was open called The Otherside. Unfortunately as we walked in ‘My heart will go on’ by Celine Dion was being blasted from the speakers, and sixty odd pissed up party people were singing along. It was gross. I’d rather be hit in the eye with a banana any day. That turned out to be the last song, it was like fucking for hours on MDMA but being unable to cum, a frustrating anti-climax to say the least. I hung in the hammock and had another Boom-Bat, making up my own translations of what the guys were talking about in Spanish and laughing along with them, then went off to shower and sleep in a happily sedated state.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A – Day 4: Market down as another win

Maddie entered our room to shake us from our slumber, we had to check out at 12 and it was 11.30am. After a quick shower and bag packing we were downstairs and ready for the weekend market. Our gang of five had become eight, our American pal Amy joined us, along with a Scottish guy and a German girl whose names escape me. We lost Alex and Scott to the doctors, as Scott had a bad fever, probably due to the previous night’s banana incident, so the six of us jumped on the Sky Train to Chatuchak Park. We parted ways in order to make the navigation easier, agreeing to regroup at 3.30pm. Maddie was looking after my passport in case we needed them for the train booking later, so we stuck together and made our way into the vintage market. It was a mad mess of indoor stalls which were reaching boiling point underneath the heat of the afternoon sun. I needed some clothes as I’d brought hardly any with me, and almost immediately saw a garish Zebra print shirt which was perfectly suited to the animalistic beach vibe that I was going for. I asked how much and the Thai hipster guy replied 200 baht. I chucked 150 at him and he started dancing. Maddie would stop to check out every stall that had any dresses at all, and I’d scour up and down, then report back with where looked good for girls. Being raised by a single mother and older sister has definitely made me a good shopping buddy, but the fourth day without weed hadn’t afforded me the patience to wait whilst she tried on at least two items per stall. This place was like the Camden stables were ten years ago, a mass of vintage band t-shirts, old converse, cowboy shirts and items of Americana, mixed in with a whole heap of mass produced shit that no discerning shopper would ever consider purchasing. I decided to cut an old band t-shirt into a much needed vest, so I ran up and down the narrow aisles in search of one with The Doors. After about twenty minutes, I was successful, finding one with the band on the front, and a quote on the back which read “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite” Cost me about a fiver which I gladly paid, before navigating my way back to the park to meet the others and get some delicious street food.

Brady, Maddie and I headed off to the humorously named Bang Sue station, purchased tickets to Nong Khai which is on the border of Laos, then took the train back to grab our bags from the hostel and wish our friends a fond farewell. We took a cab with our three backpacks in the boot, and headed to the train station. Brady got his ticket to Chiang Mai, as he couldn’t join us in Laos due to visa restrictions; we hugged as I sung ‘Bye Bye Brady, Brady goodbye…’ in my head and then darted off for our train, making it with just a few minutes spare. We had a ten hour journey to the border in front of us, but it was a sleeper train with air conditioning and seats which were swiftly converted into beds. By 9pm, everyone was seemingly asleep, except the two of us who were chatting up until we realised, then quietened down. Within a few minutes Maddie conked out too, so I drew the curtain across her bed then started trying to work out a route for Sarah and I to travel when she arrives in Bangkok. After about an hour, my map was marked out with a few choice places, and I laid back on my bed. I looked up at the void above me, pen still in hand, and wrote ‘The Freewheelin’ Troubadour loves you’ on the space above my face, peaceful in the knowledge that every soul that lays there from now on will know how I feel about them. My feet were going forward on the bed, and it felt like I was being pulled into a time warp as the train gently rocked me to sleep. Another new marker on my map of life was approaching in the distance.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 3: What’s poppin', baby?

Both hanging like rapists in Tehran, Brady and I went and got a traditional Thai breakfast in some local joint. The strange concoction of eggs, onions, spice, and some other unidentifiable ingredients did enough to mop up the remnants of last night’s buckets, and we jumped in a tuk-tuk, ready to start the afternoon, as we’d missed the day. Just as we neared the Golden Palace it started to piss down, and as we pulled up a local twelve year old girl sold Brady a couple of cheap plastic rain ponchos. We must’ve looked like a right couple of arseholes as we entered the grounds, all green and bright pink, like a couple of walking glow-sticks at a rich nu-ravers fifteenth birthday party, circa 2009. To add insult to injury, it stopped raining almost instantly after putting them on. That cheeky ol’ Lord playing tricks on his disciples, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”. I pulled mine off and lost it somewhere shortly after.

It turned out that the palace was closing in half an hour, although they were still selling tickets at fifteen bucks a pop to unaware tourists. We knocked it on the head, had a brief walk around the grounds, and then shot off to see the Reclining Buddha at a temple called Wat Pho. At forty feet high, and one hundred feet long, this gigantic golden statue depicted Lord Buddha himself, laid on his side looking even more Zen than usual. It was alright. The grounds were really peaceful, and there were shrines everywhere. The hazy afternoon tiredness was taking its toll but Brady, who was soon to be teaching in Phuket, wanted a nice leather satchel so he’d look even more like a distinguished gentlemen then he did already. We walked in circles trying to find Chinatown, and when there realised it was just a spiralling mass of shit stores, all selling the same stuff from door to door. There was a stereo area, a sunglasses area, a gun area but nothing worth buying or eating. I was shocked, if they keep this up they’ll have no chance of taking over the world. In total we’d walked about five miles, and my body was drained as darkness descended upon us. We were carried home by another Tony, who dropped us at the night market. Brady got given the old “Come look” by another guy holding a card with a load of ping pong tricks listed. I stayed downstairs as he went up, but then thought I should probably help him out, so I marched up the stairs after thirty seconds or so and said “Come on, lets go”. We agreed we’d check it out for a drink with the other guys later, found a nice tan satchel for the boy wonder, and then hit the hostel for another shower and more drinks with the Lub D massive. 

Our gang played a few drinking games with some lame ‘spring break’ type chicks from Canada, offing our cheap bottle of Sangsun rum with relative ease, then bailed on them to hit the streets of Silom. Alex, Scott, Maddie, Brady and I all agreed that we had to witness one of these infamous ping pong shows whilst in Bangkok and the first guy that approached us held a card with a twenty-strong list of pussy performances his bar had on offer, with FREE ENTRY, NO CHARGES written on the bottom and he gave us the promise of 100 baht drinks. It sounded good to us, and we entered a dark blue bar with seats all around and a stage with four poles, each adorned with its own second rate stripper in various states of undress. Almost immediately, a skinny, bookish type started pulling flowers out of her flower, all joined by string which she proceeded in tying around each pole, whipping another metre or two out every minute or so. She had a kind of grace I had never witnessed before, she seemed earnest in her work, producing more flowers than a sunny spring. I went to take a photo on my phone, and a raging stripper came at me. “NO PHOTO” she screamed as I tried to blag that I was sending a text. I hadn’t taken any shots, so I showed her my gallery and declared my innocence. “DO YOU WANT TO DIE” she shouted. I just grinned in her face, thinking about how amusing an anecdote my death would have been, when I got reincarnated as a pimp.

So, you're guaranteed to pull...
I walked towards the toilet, past four or five more girls, and one of them grabbed at my crotch. Now I finally know how it feels to be a woman at a Kasabian gig. Before I could even get my cock out at the urinal, one of them was on me, “Ooh, big man, you want a hand?” Now, I can get stage fright at the best of times, let alone when a prostitute is hanging off of my back trying to watch me aim at a dissolving yellow block. I told her that I couldn’t piss with her standing there, she pretended to leave, but kept popping her head around the door like she was playing peekaboo with a two year old. I gave up, zipped up my fly and returned to my seat to tell the guys of my plight. Then out came a birthday cake with thirteen candles, which were quickly blown out through a straw by some past it blonde who looked happy to be there. She then bent over in front of us, and smoked a whole cigarette in about five drags. We all applauded, she was a good sport and that was some talent. I could see why Bill Clinton fell for Monica Lewinsky. Another of the ‘girls’ looked proper suspect, like a brick-layer with a boob job that still liked a fry up. Out of nowhere we and the table to the left were under attack by missiles from her gusset. When the second one landed in a glass beside me, I realised it was half a banana. The next one came right at us, hit an ashtray that Scott was holding then headed towards his head as I dodged to the left. “Something just hit my eye”, he said with a hilariously panic-stricken face, “Either the banana or some juice just went in my eye” he worriedly explained, as the rest of us fell about in laughter. I’ll never forget that look; it was pure fear in the most unlikely of circumstances. I told him to go and rinse it, but he was obviously still worried after my experience and asked if I’d go with him. I felt sorry for him and with a bladder ready to burst, I agreed. However, as soon as I got into the toilet I had a change of heart, quickly locking myself in a cubicle to freely wee whilst he fended off the attention and washed the Hep C out of his eye. We returned to finish our beers, witnessed three balloons on the ceiling getting shot by fanny fart darts, and an egg being laid, then cracked into a bowl, then went to settle our bill. Our 100 baht drinks had each had an extra 1000 each added to them for the show. We argued, I threw down my 100, fended off one of the performer’s baskets with a 20 and got out of the door first, followed by Scott, Maddie and Alex. No Brady. Worried he was getting killed by rabid hookers, I ran up the stairs, back in, and grabbed him. “They stuck me for 300” he said disappointedly. Still, £6 isn’t that high a price for such a hilarious series of events.

Alex suggested a place called Soy Cowboy, and a tuk-tuk Tony obliged us once again. This place was like Disneyland for whore mongers and the depraved, an ugly, vibrant, neon blast to the face from every angle. I liked it. After a quick scout around, we let Maddie pick the destination, a place named Spice Girls with a long, narrow stage and seating all around. We were sat in a booth and given a drink menu. They were double the last places price but less chance of extra costs. I don’t really recall any of them doing anything, perhaps they slowly stripped but I don’t really remember. What I do remember in great detail is the guy in the booth beside us. He was a ratty looking white dude in a black shirt, with an intensely attracted look on his face. He was gripped.  What gripped me was when I looked down to clearly see his prick poking up through his white, linen trousers. I whispered to my right for confirmation from Alex, then pointed it out to the others, and we constantly laughed at his little boner as he lapped up the attention he was getting from the girls, who could see dollar signs in his lonely eyes. They each had a number on them, and if you wanted you could pay a bar fine and take them away from the stage for the night. We finished up; I took a final look at the still aroused rat-man, and chuckled my way out of the door. We said we’d do one more bar then home, but after walking into a place called Déjà vu, we felt like we’d seen it all before, and walked out. A guy on the street was selling cooked bugs, and we took the bait in our drunken state. For 20 baht we got a bag with an assortment of crickets, tiny frogs, cockroaches and some other unappetising shit. Still, it was another new experience so we gave it a go. The crickets and frogs weren’t too bad, but the other ones were pretty gnarly. We took a tuk-tuk towards our hostel, and once again committed that cardinal sin of seeking another beer and ending up in McDonalds. I was having more showers than summer in London so far at this hostel, and added to my tally before doing another wet bed dream dive.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 2: The people, united

I awoke in a pitch black room which was cooler than a moonwalk on the sun, and rolled over to see a white dude getting out of the bed that the black guy was sleeping in when I entered. This place sure can change a man overnight, I thought, before introducing myself to him. His name was Braden Bryan and he was from Colorado, Which is the same place that the first best friend I made on my American adventures, in San Francisco’s Green Tortoise, Zach Lauffenburger, is from. Another good coincidence, which turned out great. He was automatically appointed as my best mate in Bangkok, a role which he undertook admirably. I needed a new backpack as mine was broken in India, a fact I’d forgotten to remember until I packed my bag, an hour before I had to leave London. A worker from the hostel who said hello to us as we hit the street told us that one of world’s largest malls named MBK, which contains over two thousand shops, would be the best place to try. I asked him if there was anything else good to do around there and he pointed out the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre which was next to MBK on the map. It was cloudy but extremely humid as we walked to the Sky Train station, and were blessed by the coolness as we got on. It started to rain as we got off, and we ran into the arts centre, which had a spiralling interior, not dissimilar to New York’s Guggenheim. Brady and I strolled around getting to know each other, already ‘getting’ each other’s in-jokes and admiring some amazing paintings and sculptures. My favourite was a piece called The Noah, by Prateap Kochabua which depicted a chaotic scene of a ship in the midst of a storm and apparent kraken attack, with multiple half-human, half-fish characters all fighting for their lives. We hit the mall, and were instantly overwhelmed by its length and size. My knees went weak at the thought of navigating it in search of what I required, but I fought the urge to turn and run, and within half an hour I had found a nice looking knock-off North Face black backpack, large enough to carry a cut up corpse or two. Not that that’s what I’m planning for, but it’s comforting to know I have something suitable, just in case.
The Noah, by Prateap Kochabua

We made our way back to our hostel, got showered and cracked open a few brews out front, whilst chatting with the growing gang of travellers about plans for the night, and beyond. I said I was planning on heading to Vang Vieng in Laos, then travelling down through to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap and then fly back to Bangkok from Phnom Penh, in order to obtain a fresh thirty day visa and meet my lover for another adventure. One of the girls at the table said that she was planning the exact same thing, so I said “Let’s do it together then”, to which she replied “Yeah!” and we high fived. I hadn’t even caught her name (Maddie), but already I had found a travel buddy. We were joined by Alex and Scott, two guys from Middlesbrough that had just flown over after working in Australia. We quickly gathered more and more guys and dolls, finally deciding to hit the Khao San road. There were roughly fifteen of us, so we lined up three tuk-tuks, clambered on top of each other, over loading the small vehicles, and told the drivers that the first one there would get an extra 100 baht. There were seven of us on one, three seated, two squeezed into the narrow foot well, one guy sat on the battery and the crazy Thai guy driving. It was ten minutes of pure madness as we flew through traffic, bellowing with constant laughter and abuse directed towards the other tuk-tuks. “Come on Tony” people kept shouting at the driver, which clearly wasn’t his name. We left the others for dust, and arrived a good few minutes before they rolled in to see us all checking our watches.

We did the famous ‘walk in, walk out’ at the first bar, before going into the smoky second for a beer. There was a Thai three-piece, playing surprisingly good renditions of famous Brit-pop classics. We lasted about half an hour before seeking more kicks, and ended up getting ushered into a nightclub which sold booze by the bucket load. Literally. Brady and I split a rum and coke bucket, then hit the dance floor. There was a motley crew of foreign travellers, locals, and potential prostitutes/pimps, all fist-pumping in unison to the heavy beats of whatever crappy form of dance music we were listening to. It was good fun, I’m sure the booze helped, but we were right in the thick of it. I even pulled out my famous running man/electric boogaloo combination during a dance off started by our mob. That was it, there’s nothing you can do but leave once that dance is busted out, there is no further high point. Still, we opted to try and find one; loading up another three tuk-tuks that promised to take us somewhere good. It seemed like miles away when we eventually stopped, and I don’t even think we paid the driver, Tony v2.0, as we walked into the entrance of another club to be greeted by a guy with a drinks list, offering us a private table. Just as the guys were about to be sold on the idea, I noted that the Grey Goose they were requesting worked out to £70 a bottle. It was obviously a scam, so I warned everyone off of it, and we opted to head home. When there, I decided I wasn’t ready to end my night, but everyone else seemed groggy, tired, and unwilling to look for an offy, so I set off on my own to find another beer. Now, if I were looking for sex I could have had it on tap, what with the numerous loose women saying “take me home” as I ambled around getting lost, but looking for a drink left me the only one getting fucked (over), as every shop and street around seemed abandoned. As I made my way back down the Silom Road, I looked up to see a drunk guys dream in the form of golden arches. With my stomach somewhat satisfied finally after no earlier dinner, I made my way back to the hostel, had my third shower of the day and threw my drunk wet vessel onto my bottom bunk bed. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 1: A road to somewhere

I stepped off of the plane after a long trip from my beloved London, which included a stop off in my beloved Delhi, into the pulsating humidity of my soon to be beloved Bangkok. Luckily I’d had a last minute panic, after weeks of procrastination and nonchalance, which had at least left me with a destination in this new city, the Lub D guesthouse in Silom. Although pretty shattered due to little sleep I opted for the Sky train, giving myself my first challenge of the trip. It was pretty much just like getting a tube back home, except you get a plastic coin instead of a paper ticket, and they have the most beautiful air conditioning known to man. It lifted me out of the humid haze and I suddenly felt awake again, more than awake, ready to take on the world as I excitedly watched the tall buildings of Bangkok whizz by. Then I got off, and just like when opening the oven door to check on your dinner, it hit me again. It was twenty-eight degrees and 8 p.m, and living in London where the last few summers have been a wildly inconsistent let down (except for the collective warmth of mass MDMA use), this felt hotter than hell itself. My broken backpack wasn’t helping either, but I sweat my way all along Silom to my hostel.
I threw a few bills at the young girl behind the counter, exchanged a few pleasantries and smiled at a few strangers, then ran upstairs, threw my bag in my dorm and dived into the shower. It was positively freezing, and I loved every second of it. I threw on some clothes and went outside, where a group of people were having drinks and talking, I asked a girl who was smoking for her lighter, as the airport in Delhi had stolen mine, then stood there and smoked my cigarette in silence, before strolling off to check out my surroundings and grab some dinner. My first meal alone, and what a treat it was. Me and Myself get on very well, you see, often doing things for each other’s amusement, and We treated I to an amazing prawn pad Thai, and hefty portion of fried squid. If I’d had my Sarah to share it with me, it would have been an acceptable amount, but I took the piss with how much I managed to consume of this amazing meal. I left feeling suitably stuffed and as I walked through the neon hustle and bustle of Silom square’s night market. A guy in the street outside a Thai massage place asked if I wanted a massage, I said I possibly might, so he dragged me somewhere completely different down and across the road. I kept slowing down and looking at stalls but he persisted, saying, “come look, come and only look”. That sounded like a good deal to an inquisitive mind like mine, so I followed him up a flight of stairs and through a door to be faced with what was quite clearly the madam of a whore-house holding a calculator, saying oil massage, boom boom boom, 1000 baht. I realised that boom boom boom must mean sex to the Thai, when speaking to foreigners, whereas in the west it just makes everybody say way-yo. WAY-YO. The far from inconspicuous line up of about eight girls behind her, in skimpy nighties and underwear, cemented the fact that I was standing in my first ever brothel. That’s one to tell the grand kids. I stuttered out some shit about having a friend coming tomorrow and that I would be back then with him, before darting out the door and back to my hostel quickfast.

I returned and said hello to a big welsh guy at the bar named Rhys and asked if he minded me joining them outside. I sat with a group of about eight people from Wales, America, Thailand, Ireland, Australia and England. The first English guy I met was Andy. I asked where abouts in London he was from, and he replied “Enfield”. “FUCK OFF”, I responded, shocked that the first Brit I’ve met on this ‘lonely’ journey is from my own home town. MADNESS! SHENANIGANS, I declare. The settings of the scene all shook, and out stepped all of my loved ones (everyone), all part of an epic ruse after choosing to come and join me on this journey. Those last two sentences were untrue, but we’re all together anyway, and that coincidence was enough of a sign to assure me that I was still on the right path, which I found ever since leaving for America in the winter of 2009.

I went to bed after a few too many cigarettes and not enough weed, as everybody I had asked had some horror story or another to tell and hadn’t come across any. I took another shower which was warm this time, and entered my relatively empty eight bed dorm, where there was one American guy I’d briefly said hello to, and a black guy that had been sleeping the whole time, whom I hadn’t met yet. Tomorrow would be another start. I didn’t know where I was going.