Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 38: The beginning of the end, again

Peace be with you, and a side order of fries.

In every story, there comes a point which can be defined as the beginning of the end. This is that part, rolling slowly into Bangkok at 4.30am surrounded by smog and dark grey skies, which were slowly becoming lighter shades of the same dull tones. Gone were the beaches, gone was the sunshine, gone was the time, and we’d soon be following suit, getting gone, from here to there to still remain, in-part, everywhere. We’d planned to wind down over the next two days, do a bit of shopping and run a few last minute errands, but first, we needed a place to stay. We sleepily exited the bus and got straight into a taxi which took us to the Khao San road, where I’d spent an entertaining evening on my second night with the gang from the Lub D hostel. I went to find a decent place to spend our last nights, and after checking out two terrible looking joints I found one in a small hotel called Four Sons Place, which seemed clean and neat, bright white walls, black wardrobe and desk, flat-screen Tell Lie Vision and an en-suite wet-room, for roughly £13 a night. Done.

By the time we’d headed out for breakfast it was 8am and we sat in a big, quiet bar/restaurant, watching the last men standing from the night before, still boozing at a much busier pub across the road. There were a few Thai girls hanging around and we sat amused as a chubby, chavvy, bald dude practically begged one of them to come back with him, before getting into a small disagreement with some other leftover guy that she was making eyes at. I assumed he’d been buying her drinks there for hours, and now in the still light of morning, she just wanted to go home alone. You wouldn’t have blamed her. Before we did anything, we needed to snooze, broken bus sleep leaving us still shattered. We slept away the morning, swimming a bit more steadily into the afternoon. I’d found the name of a decent local tailor online and wanted to inquire into the possibility of having a new suit thrown together for me in the same style as the one which the tailor fucked up in Phuket. I walked in and was greeted by Sanjay, who assured me that despite the time constraints, it was definitely do-able. He measured me up again, as Sarah again gave clear instructions and we were again assured that it’d be fine. We told him of the last place and how they’d not listened and he promised all would be perfect. It turned out that Sanjay was a massive Arsenal fan, and I excitedly chatted with the first fellow follower I’d found in a while about current form and our oncoming derby against our arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. I asked him where it would be shown on TV and he said ‘everywhere’, but that he usually watches it at a nearby Irish owned bar. I said I’d probably join him there tomorrow and he told us to return at 10am the following morning for a first fitting. It turned out that Sanjay and his co-worker were Burmese, which automatically excited Sarah as she had set up and led an Amnesty International group at university and based her whole fashion collection on the Free Burma campaign. She asked if he would write something in Burmese which she’d wanted to get tattooed for a few years but didn’t know any Burmese people who could translate it, and after some deliberation he handed her back a piece of paper which apparently read ‘Freedom for all’ in his native script. I asked him if he knew of any areas or markets which were more Indian based as I wanted to search for some new princely robes, and he told us to go to the Phahurat market to find what we seek.


It was nearing 5pm as we were dropped off by our tuk tuk Tony, and rushed into the market which would soon be closing on a mission to find their sexiest Sherwanis, which I get taken up and wear as shirts, and there seemed to be a good few planted around, but nothing perfect. We walked into an outdoor market section which all seemed to be packing away, and found a stall which had a few I quite liked after trying on. I opted for a black one, which had a tunic collar, a body of beads and fancy embroidery. I managed to haggle the tired looking Indian Mama down to the reasonable price of around £20. It would’ve been half that in India, just like everything else, but I had something nice to add to my collection of evening and stage wear. Obviously I don’t wear them to bed. We went back into the market and found another shop which had some in a display cabinet. I looked through loads and liked a few, but she was going crazy on the haggle front, starting me at something like £80 each. I opted just to buy one, explaining that my endless pot of imaginary money wasn’t so endless, or imaginary. She understood, but I had my heart set on a deep dark red one with a shimmering paisley print woven into the cloth, sporting a collar and embroidery that only a Prince could pull off, and I was rocking it royally. We managed to get her down to £40, and Sarah said that she’d treat me to it for Christmas, which was handy for the both of us, as good presents are often hard to come by and you rarely end up getting something you really want or need without asking. Happily skipping out and past some more shops along the outside Sarah saw a sign which said ‘Masala Dosa’ and nearly had a heart attack. A masala dosa is a south Indian crepe, traditionally filled with potatoes, onions and various spices, cooked to a crisp and served with Sambar, a curry-like side dish and coconut chutney. They are delicious, and pretty hard to come by. We rushed in with tummies turning in anticipation and were not disappointed, being shot straight back to New Delhi on first bite, our last night there, which was very similar to today. We thanked the owner, gave our compliments to the chef, placed a good tip with the pittance we’d paid and left them with love. Namaste.

Masala Dosa and a happy customer

Next stop was a loose end which needed tying up, so we headed to Silom, first taking Sarah around the night market, which is bang in the middle of the red light district, getting some odd bits and pieces to give as gifts to folks back home and somehow getting lost in the neon Jungle. I could’ve sworn I knew those streets like the back of my hand, but in all honesty I don’t know the back of my hand very well at all, and it showed. After walking for what seemed like an age in the night time humidity of this sweaty city, we came upon a place I remembered, and then the woe was over. I entered the building where my journey began, and greeted the guy on reception fondly. It was he who recommended the museum of the arts to Brady and I on my first proper day there, and he let me into the luggage storage room where I’d faithfully left my Mac jacket and Chelsea boots after swiftly realising that they were surplus to requirements. I dug them, safe and sound, from behind a load of cases on a shelf, signed it out and thanked the guys, wishing them many blessings.

Buggin' Out

Finally our days work was nearing an end, and we hopped into a tuk tuk so Tony 2 could drop our tired bodies back at the Khao San Road, unfortunately, he dropped us at the wrong entrance, meaning we had to walk all the way down to the other end through a gauntlet of tourists shopping the night markets, and boozed up revellers stumbling around, to get  back to our hotel room. Perfect. The noise pollution on this street was ridiculous, at any one standing spot you could probably sing along and dance to five different songs, with a football stadiums worth of chanting and shouting over the top. There were people everywhere on this street, where the seedy underworld entwined so flawlessly with the seemingly innocent, creating a vibrant mess of civilisation building itself up and knocking itself down simultaneously. I liked it. There was a good vibe. After twenty five minutes of fighting through various opponents, we reached our sanctuary. I started my ritualistic writing, and after another of my days immortalised on page I became hungry. It was the barbeque meats we’d walked by on the way back, they always get me. I hit the streets on a solo mission, up and down between stalls to score a Pad Thai with chicken and squid from one street vendor, and a pineapple shake from another, returning to my lady with some tasty eats for the equivalent of £2 in total. We scoffed the lot, Sarah passed out, and I continued with my consistently expanding memoirs until 4am, when I rested my head on what seemed to be a plastic covered pillow, which I recycled into a cloud and floated off on.

Gauntlet of goons

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