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