This One’s For You Bud
Last week I attended a funeral service for one of my very best buddies in life, a man I had known for over 30 years. Thomas Myers Milligan died on May 22nd at the age of 49 after fighting a very brave battle against cancer, a very brave battle indeed. Thomas ( as he liked to be known ) never complained about his illness and never turned bitter throughout his fight, he remained positive until the end.
Thomas loved Thailand like you could never imagine. Tom and myself went together to Thailand for our first trip back in 1999 and we made many others as a pair in the years after. Like I said Tom adored Thailand to bits.
The Beginning Part Two was Tom’s all time favourite post on Beyond The Mango Juice and is the story of our first ever day in Thailand and is a post I recycled back in March this year under the header title Turning Back the Years. I am recycling the story once again today but make no apologies for doing so. This one’s for Tom and if he can get God off the internet then I’m sure he’ll read it. Thanks for some great times bud and I’ll miss our weekly drinks here in England.
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 Tom got rather drunk in a bar in our 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.”
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 demeanor was something they were born with, something you could not acquire. Tom and myself followed behind, middle aged, overweight, unshaven and disheveled, 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, 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 want money come, you can do” that should do it I said to myself.
“Could you repeat that sir” she replied, spoken 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 second language school curriculum. I upgraded her to nasal English for the cash transaction. She deserved better, she merited full stops, commas and paragraphs.
Wallets reloaded we headed off. Outside the terminal we fought off the onrush of taxi drivers literally 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 on 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 still sopping 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 time, 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 it’s siren. Scares the bloody life out of you. Well what happened next was similar but amazing replaces scare.
We were walking down a road, about five minutes away from the bus station looking for a bar, deep in conversation when this great big elephant with a bloke (mahout) on top comes ambling past us on the road. Amazing, 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, 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 unexpected holiday. Anyhow, we’d sit at the back and the bus driver would be knackered by the time he got round to robbing us.
I really 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, darkness had fallen hours before. I remember thinking what a strange country we were in. It was winter time in Thailand, nine in the evening and about thirty degrees celcius, 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, the driver had merely nodded at our request and waved us inside. Inside was actually 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 fell 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 what is best described as a posse of pussy, 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 cool beers.
Thanks for some great times bud and I’ll catch up with you again sometime. Tell God to get a bigger refrigerator because the way we used to drink there won’t be any room for his lemon and lime. Sweet dreams soldier.
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
Martyn, I am so very sorry to hear about your good friend Tom. I do remember this post as it was one my favourite’s as well.
.-= Catherine´s last blog ..Chris Pirazzi Updates Slice-of-Thai.com =-.
Martyn, I’m Very sorry to hear about the loss of such a close friend. I remember reading the beginning the first time and thinking you would be a force to be reckoned with in the Thai blogging world. You can never compete against something so well written and from the heart.
” THAILAND… you said you were going to the pub (bar) and then coming around here for dinner.” A classic line that made my day.
I’m sure Thomas is smiling at your gesture and will live on through you.
.-= Talen´s last blog ..Hua Hin Jazz Festival 2010 =-.
Martyn clearly a sad and early end to a dear friend. I think the post is a suitable epitaph. I always enjoy reading it.
Who knows perhaps Tom will finally sort out what happened to the Aussie or indeed the elephant 🙂
.-= Mike´s last blog ..Wat Thong Kung Samut Songkhram =-.
Sorry to hear about your loss but a great story as a remembrance!
.-= Camille´s last blog ..Koh Samui, Thailand daily weather update; 9th June, 2010 [del.icio.us] =-.
Martyn, It’s always sad to lose a good friend ,espically one that you made soooo many good memories with ,Tom was a good friend , and he will always be in your heart, and every once in a while something will remind you of a time you shared together and it will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eyes as well, “THATS WHAT FRIENDS OR FOR.”
.-= malcolm´s last blog ..BUTTERFLY HAVEN =-.
Martyn, your post is indeed a good way to remember a dear friend. How sad that you should lose him so young. A lot of bloggers and blog readers are grateful to you both for what you have brought to Thailand, and those two posts are great examples of that.
.-= Lawrence´s last blog ..Revolutionary Cave City, Lao PDR =-.
good post buddy and right to the heart i really feel for your loss its a sad loss to lose a friend but take heart that you new each other
don’t apologise about the post lots of us love the blog i dont always have time these days to comment as much as possible around the net but cancer is a tough one i lost a friend to cancer recently on my return from Thailand
you just sit there some days and start to think a lot about it all but we need to keep chugging along and enjoy life love are family and friends
Thomas sounds like a fun bloke doing that trip first time with you just makes me laugh ya daft sods cherish those times i bet he did
regards John noi Jamie
.-= john´s last blog ..send money to udon thani /Thailand =-.
Thanks for everyone’s comments, I’m sure Tom will have read them and hopefully he’ll put a bit of good luck your way.
We talked about our first day in Thailand many, many times. From Tom a big thank you.
I also love to vacation in Thailand. Every year my husband and I are going on holiday to Thailand, especially Pattaya beach. This October we plan to return on holiday to Thailand. Is a holiday so we are waiting. Thanks for sharing 🙂