Turning Back the Years

If you asked most blog writers to name their favourite post they’ve ever written and then asked them the same question one week later, there is every chance you’d receive two different answers. I think you would if you posed that question to me.

In March last year I added a Popular Posts widget to my sidebar which totals hits on each post, and as of writing today, the one with the largest total of individual page views is Thai Ladyboys – Pattaya with 5,394 hits. Most of those views have arrived from random searches, and with its title, that trend will probably continue for a good while yet.

The Beginning Part Two is probably the all-time favourite post that I have written, although tomorrow my choice might differ. It is the story of my first ever day in Thailand, and it lies buried deep in this site’s archives. It has also only registered 106 hits on my Popular Posts widget, and I’d like to give it the chance to tally a few more by reposting it today under the header title Turning Back the Years. I believe it to be a much stronger post than Thai Ladyboys – Pattaya.

There is a prequel to this post suitably named The Beginning which was the very first story I wrote for Beyond The Mango Juice back in August 2008. The Beginning recalls how myself and a friend got slightly drunk in a bar in my hometown in England, and after grabbing our passports, we headed for Heathrow airport to book the next available flight to Thailand.

A few hours into the flight we both awoke from our drunken sleep and realized to our horror we were in mid-air and heading for the Land of Smiles, a country we’d never been to before. When I telephoned my father from Bangkok, he replied rather loudly.

“THAILAND… you said you were going to the pub (bar) and then coming around here for dinner.”

After making a few minor tweaks to the post, The Beginning Part Two – Revisited picks up the story. The year is 1999.

The Beginning Part Two – Revisited

Don Muang International Airport January 5th 1999

The two athletically built young men strode confidently and purposely through customs control, clean-shaven, not a hair out of place, stylish clothes neatly pressed. Their whole demeanour was something they were born with, something you could not acquire. Tom and I followed behind, middle-aged, overweight, unshaven and dishevelled, it was a look that had taken years and plenty of wasted money to achieve. We passed through customs with no problem and entered the terminal.

We both stared at the two beautiful Thai women sat behind the glassed money exchange counter. We had about 400 pounds in British banknotes between us and ATM cards as back up, and it was time to get some Thai coin. We guessed their English would be so bad we’d have to go into broken English mode with a little mime and theatre thrown in to get them to understand us.

The three English language variations we knew were plain broken slang nasal English, pidgin English and a type of jargon similar to Jerry Lewis and the Nutty Professor. I opted for pidgin as the latter might lead to arrest. Different countries had different rules, and we didn’t know any of Thailand’s.

“Wallet wants money comes, you can do” that should do it I said to myself.
“Could you repeat that sir” she replied, speaking in perfect English with a slight American twang.

It had been delivered with a look that said they must come from a country where English is 53rd choice in the other language school curriculum. I upgraded her to nasal English for the cash transaction. She deserved better, and she merited full stops, commas and paragraphs.

Wallets reloaded we headed off. Outside the terminal, we fought off the surge of taxi drivers begging us to jump in and fill their cars with cigarette smoke. Somehow we found a less hassled spot of mother Thailand and an Australian chap came over and introduced himself. Gary had been visiting Thailand for many years, and hearing we were heading down to Pattaya, gave us some advice.

It was our first time in Thailand, and Gary couldn’t believe his luck. He gave us the low down on hotels, bars, shows, soi’s (streets), you have got to meet my friends, shopping, markets and all that. I felt like asking Gary what time we could have a crap each day but decided to give it a miss. Like all good advice in life, we divulged it, churned it around, spat out most of it, then swallowed what little was left.

The Australian chap, I’ve forgotten his name, advised us to jump on a bus to Bangkok’s Ekamai Bus Terminal and from there get one of the regular routes to Pattaya.

Like all good advice….our taxi pulled into Ekamai Bus Station not too long after with me guessing the Australian chap would still be at the airport boring the ass off somebody wet behind the ears. We had not tasted alcohol for about fifteen hours, and we had to get a beer soon, but first things first, bus tickets. Tom gave it a go this time starting with Queens English, getting a reply in third variation English and concluding the deal on a wing and a prayer. Our bus would be leaving in about two hours, it was hot, and we needed a drink.

Have you ever been walking along the side of a road minding your own business, deep in thought when unaware to you a police car or ambulance pulls level and at the same time puts on its siren? Scares the bloody life out of you. Well, what happened next was similar.

We were walking down a road, about five minutes away from the bus station looking for a bar, deep in conversation when this tremendous big elephant with a bloke (mahout) on top comes ambling past us on the road. Unusual, I’d never seen anything like that in England. I wanted to shout after it “Stop you’re heading for the airport, Gary (remembered) will bore the trunk off you,” but once again I gave it a miss.

We eventually found a bar (kind of bar) and after sinking a couple of beers started to open up about our doubts, fears and what a general mess we’d drunk ourselves into. Yesterday we were sat in an English bar and now next day sober, and we had found ourselves walking the streets of Bangkok. It’s surreal what drink can do to you.

Back home we’d heard stories about tourists in Thailand getting beaten up and robbed by taxi drivers and this was part of the reason we’d opted for the bus. Having survived unscathed on the short taxi journey from the airport to the bus station, we were now relaxing with a few beers and starting to feel a little more upbeat.

After a brief discussion about never having heard of a bus driver overpowering fifty-five passengers and robbing them, we both agreed it was time to chill and make the most of our unplanned holiday. Anyhow, we’d sit at the back, and the bus driver would be knackered by the time he got round to rob us.

I do enjoy sitting on a bus and watching the world go by. Having noted that the bus driver did not measure up to my fears, more five foot two with lots of ribs than the one hundred and twenty-five kilo, seven-foot tall, shaven-headed psycho we’d discussed over a glass of the gold stuff, I sank deeper into my seat and relaxed. With our cheap and tacky sports bags well stocked with cans of beer, the bus pulled away and set off for Pattaya. From deep inside me, around the rib cage level, I hoped the elephant had managed to drag himself away from Gary.

The bus rolled into Pattaya Bus Station around nine in the evening, and darkness had fallen hours before. I remember thinking what a strange country we were in. It was wintertime in Thailand, nine in the evening and about thirty degrees Celcius, and it seemed very odd when compared to England’s cold season. We were both sweating as much as a young newspaper girl on her first delivery day approaching the gate of the Battered Pit Bull Rescue Home. We disembarked, our mood on a high and our empty beer cans hidden low at the back of the bus.

We were quickly ushered into the back of a pick up come bus and having earlier decided to find a hotel near the beach, and the driver had merely nodded at our request and waved us inside. Inside was outside because the converted pick up had a canvas and metal tubing cover over what would have been the open back, with the side canvas rolled up to allow you to breathe in the stifling hot air.

The tailgate had been removed, and a step led up to a bench on either side. At a guess, it could hold about twelve passengers, and it drove off with four Thai’s hanging on at the rear and about fifteen sweating bodies crammed inside. There are hundreds of these baht buses as they are known in Pattaya, and you jump on and ring the bell whenever you want to depart, they’re cheap and user friendly too. Good old Gary.

By the time we hit Beach Road, there were only four of us sat in the rear, I wondered if any of the departed had fallen off the back. At the time we didn’t know it, but we were heading from North to South Pattaya, and we rang the bell just past Soi 6. The flash of white teeth acknowledged we had overpaid the driver, but we didn’t care, booking a hotel for the night was a high priority on our must-do list. Second things second, first we needed a drink. There was an empty-looking small bar about 30 metres away and with our stomach’s pulled in, we waddled towards it.

The bar had four tables outside, and we sat down at one and breathed in the hot moist night air. A pretty young bar girl with a broad smile appeared, took our order and disappeared back inside. Putting things into collectives, you get a herd of cows and a gaggle of geese. We were all of a sudden hit by a posse of pussy, and we got to our feet. Platform shoes, flashing thighs, small pert breasts, tight, taut ass, we sat back down, willing but unable to run. It would be an understatement to say we were scared, but the Beginning Part Two had begun.

Footnote: We never did see Gary again or the elephant. Hopefully, they have married and are living together somewhere in Australia. Their days spent together rounding up sheep and the evenings sat on their veranda sipping ice-cold beers.

Photograph Bangkok Traffic     © Copyright 2008 Mike Kramer, FreeLargePhotos.com.

Photograph Aeroplane – Free photos for websites – FreeDigitalPhotos.

Photograph Baht bus by nakedsky

Photograph Bangkok Skyline by Argenberg


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

16 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Martyn great idea and good to read it again. I’d forgotten about the Aussie! Chances are he’s married a camel somewhere in the outback (think about it).

    Occasionally I will go back to a post hidden deep in the archives, but in all fairness they don’t really warrant uncovering.

    This on the other hand is a classic. I wonder how many of the long term visitors to Thailand started this way.

    I can just imagine sitting at the bar(40 years ago) and thinking I’d arrived in paradise 🙂
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Wat Thammikaram Worawihan(วัดธรรมิการามวรวิหาร) Prachuap Khiri Khan =-.

  2. Talen says:

    Martyn, A classic tale if ever there was one…and one that is very similar to my own.

    We lost a guy early on but we found out what happened to him a few weeks later. Apparently he fell in love with the cashier in the very first bar we visited. She was easily 50 and the scariest woman any of us had ever seen. Sometimes alcohol is not your friend.

    Excellent read, it brought back many memories of my first trip. It’s true what they say you can never have a second first trip…but re-living the first trip over again always brings back the same feelings.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Knit One Pearl Two the Thai Way =-.

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Mike I remember you commenting on the original story, I think it was that comment which led me to your blog. I don’t know either if it’s a good idea to relaunch an old post but I’m giving it a go with this which is probably my favourite.

    Initial signs are it’s not getting many reads but that could be the timing of the release. Saturday is historically my worst hit day of the week, I guess a lot of people are out and about, and not on the computer. The post will be somewhere on my front page and sidebar for the next 4 – 5 weeks, so it should get a reasonable view and chance.

    I’ll smoke a Turkish & American blend cigarette and have a laugh about your joke. Cheers.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Talen thanks for the scary woman story, I had a good laugh reading it, is it posted on TLOS. Bangkok and Pattaya must have hundreds of tales like that, you can see why everyone falls in love with the pretty ones on their first trip. The first trip cannot be bettered for the sheer experience of it but later holidays can match it by seeing the great sights of the LOS and also by feeling a little wiser and closer to the country itself.

    I commented to Mike about the timing of my post ( posted mid Friday, Saturday’s not normally a good day). Have you any thoughts on the best times to release a new story.

  5. Talen says:

    Martyn, As you can imagine I have quite a few stories that I would love to post and would get a lot of viewers for but My English mates wouldn’t be too happy if I let out some of those secrets. Like one night when we played bar scrabble and hit maybe 20 bars and one of our group fell madly in love with the ugliest ladyboy I had ever seen…he swore it was a female even after he flashed us!

    Weekends aren’t generally a great time to publish a post but what gets published during that time will get seen during the week. I’ve never worried about posting at certain times ( I should ) but mid week always seems good to me. Mid morning American time is good because you can catch the American traffic and the early evening Europe traffic at the same time.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Thailand in the News Week Ending 03/06/10 =-.

  6. Siam.Rick says:

    OMG, great story, Martyn. Well told and written. Loved reading a classic First Timer’s Story. I’ve told my story to several friends of my first night in Bangkok, in fact, I wrote it for Stickman. Ewww, what newbie doesn’t? I arrived in BKK at night too and my friend from back home took me to Angelwitch. Talk about polar opposite to my life back home! (This was a planned trip, not a pub lark!) I must write that one for my blog. Which may come sooner than I think since one tends to run out of subjects sitting here in the Great White North.

    As for good times to post, Monday morning! After that any weekday, as long as you get it online before offices open in the west. earlier in the week the better. Saturdays are the worst! I know this due to the detailed reports I see at my company, which is in the news business. Readership goes in waves through the day: first thing in the morning, huge! Bit of a lull then rising at the morning break, a lull then big jump at noon. Next big jump though nothing like morning is late afternoon before folks go home at 5p. Evenings and weekends suck big time. Now peaks may differ for blog readers, but not much, I should think. We have many blogs online and they get 1,000 to 30,000 hits in a day. We have one guy who gets tens of thousands hits a day!

    I made a mistake publishing my “Canadian Boys Must toughen Up” for Friday morning. I got pretty high hit number relative to my usual, but I would have done much better holding it for Monday.
    .-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Canadian boys need to toughen up =-.

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I guess you’re right in that anything put out on a Friday or Saturday will get viewed Monday or onwards. I tend to find an early morning Thai time slot (just after midnight UK) works pretty good for me but I have a tendency to post one minute after I’m happyish with it rather than wait.

    A few of your ‘boys nights out’ stories would make a good read. Unfortunately mine are way back in my Pattaya days and there were so many they have all become muddled into one another to make sense. Alcohol does that. Thanks for the reply to my question.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Rick I think every single guy hitting Thailand for the first time is hit by the ‘polar opposite’ effect as you put it, compared to their life back home. I know I was, the difference was beyond anything I had ever experienced before and even now when I’m in Thailand I sometimes pinch myself and think how lucky I am. What a big difference to the UK.

    My site hits normally take a dip on weekends although sometimes the opposite is true but generally Saturday is not the best of days for me. This one went out Friday morning and likewise I think I could have timed it better but that’s life.

    I did find my hits in January were the highest ever but tailed back last month. I can only think that after Xmas most people are skint and stay at home on the internet more. Makes sense. Cheers Rick.

  9. Siam.Rick says:

    I’ve had good Saturday or Sunday numbers sometimes, too. And my January was the best ever, too, so you are probably right, people were holed up at home. Especially since hits tailed off in February.
    .-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Canadian boys need to toughen up =-.

  10. Catherine says:

    What an excellent story! I was riveted all the way through, wondering just what you were going to get up to.

    My first trip to Thailand was (in comparison) a mild affair. I managed to do all of the proper things in the first few days: Grabbed off the street by a ‘policeman’… that sort of thing. Not exciting at all.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Seven Tips for Learning the Thai Language =-.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Rick I think weekends bar possibly Sunday night are not too good a time for Thai blog hits. Maybe sports bloggers do good during our bad times.

    Back to your original comment,

    ‘I must write that one for my blog. Which may come sooner than I think since one tends to run out of subjects sitting here in the Great White North.’

    Living in the UK as I do then hitting on subjects is at times difficult. Once the holiday posts have gone it’s back to scratching around for a decent topic. That makes the trips to the LOS even more important, you really do need to go there with posts in mind. At the moment my barrel is pretty low but luckily I’m back in Thailand fairly soon.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine thanks for the read and compliment……I think the ‘first time in Thailand’ effect is more exciting for the blokes because of the sheer easiness of attracting women, young ones to boot and that’s something 99% of us have never had before and having hit middle age kind of doubles the feeling. Nowadays your great times are happening every week, long term that’s probably a better deal.

  13. Hilarious post, it makes my travelling seem so tame and I have to say, when I go to the pub I’ve never ended up in a different country! (Well, not by accident anyway).

    I’ve bookmarked you cos I haven’t got time to really browse your blog just now but I want to come back to it and read other stuff.

  14. john says:

    Ah nice story martyn reminds me of my first journey to Thailand myself I arrived alone first time in the far east and 30 times later the place still gives me that kind of buzz
    Thailand with all its current problems drags me back time and time again

    But the very first time in Bangkok meeting up with some new friends that came from Nepal just before me was a blast great lads 1 of which I still see to this day 10 years down the line

    My name being john it seemed to be a good idea back then to go into big johns bar soi cowboy where I made a unplanned encounter with a lovely girl and been 6 months in the Indian and naplai Himalaya lets just say I was weak and who could blame me he he
    .-= john´s last blog ..new Thai biometric passport in london =-.

  15. Hoo Don says:

    John I have also racked up 30 odd trips to Thailand and I never seem to tire of them. Sure Thailand has its problems but I look on them as not mine. Though the thing that does bother me at the moment is the strength of the Thai baht. At under 50 to the pound it is going to give me and many others a problem long term.

    For a bloke, Thailand is a very easy country to land alone. Company is never far away and your weakness was understandable.

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Hospitality Software – Thanks for your comment and it is strange what trips alcohol can send us on. Six thousand miles is no doubt not a record but it’s a pretty good effort.

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