Is it really 3 weeks since my last piece? Doesn’t time fly when you get old. Yes I have managed to survive thus far. The conditions in the office haven’t really altered much save for the fact that at least another 8 playmates were sacked or had returned home following the completion of their tour of hell. The sackings were for indiscrete liaisons between the Adjusters and the very attractive lady Thai Interpreters. This is now frowned upon so most of the boys now have to find some solace in the seedier parts of the city – they tell me 2000 baht gets you quite a lot!
My memory of the last 3 weeks is somewhat befuddled. My colleagues decided that they needed to take me under their wings and drag me screaming to dens of inequities as they felt that I needed educating in the Bangkok method that they had themselves in all innocence discovered. The loosening of the Bush demeanour was started by the application of copious amounts of G&T, beer and wine. I understand that this resulted in my behaving completely out of character.
On one such sojourn, we ventured to Nana Plaza which honestly bore no resemblance to anything my Nana ever spoke to me about….. but before I go into much detail, I should perhaps take a step back and recount the events that led to this sordid evening of disgrace, apparently just for me!!
At lunchtime (Saturday) Rod, Stewart and I decided that we should make a visit to the local super market to purchase supplies. 3 bottles of gin and several cans of tonic and we were well weighed down I can tell you. Having finished work at 5:30 we returned to our apartments with our booty and agreed to meet up at Stewarts apartment as he is on the 12th floor - according to him it’s about midway between those of us on the 33rd (Rod & Colin); 25th (Gary) and 14th (Rollo) floors. I should mention here that Simon and Jeff were on their visa runs so were not around to take part in this gathering of us Cathars who clearly were ripe for the burning.
We all met and glasses were suitably charged with free flowing G&T, the glasses never seeming to be empty and within the 2 hours the gin and tonic was exhausted and the Thai food – ordered via room service by moi (an excellent choice of dishes) – had been completely devoured by all and sundry. The time was now. The Cathar Gentlemen (I think that has to be used loosely) were to take to the backstreets of Bangkok and to experience all that was on offer at Nana Plaza. See I managed to get back here eventually.
Now Nana Plaza is well known as an area of debauchery and obscenity where absolutely anything goes. I felt ill at ease about this. I was already wobbly (I am trying to lose weight but that was not the reason) and my head was spinning so my friends/colleagues guided me to various the shows on offer. There was dancing, table tennis, drag artistes and all manner of themed parties going on. The place was alive and buzzing – me I was dead on my feet and frankly didn’t know what the hell was going on. Nevertheless I was sat on a chair in one of the bars, where I promptly fell asleep much to the mirth of my compatriots. I awoke and really wasn’t feeling well and needed a pee. I managed to find my way somewhere to relieve myself but I cannot even remember that. I staggered out of that place and ended up somewhere, where some kind soul placed a bucket beneath my head – the rest you may guess. A search party had been dispatched as my absence had been far longer than was expected and concern was raised when no-one could find me. Standing on the balcony overlooking the seething masses below me with a bucket was not what I had imagined on this special night out. I was found and it was deemed that I should be taken home and tucked up in bed to sleep off the effects of the heat……... Thanks to Gary who took charge and ensured that I arrived safely back home.
A loud knocking on my door at 6:45am the next morning found me wide awake, suffering with a bout of light headedness – I put that down to the height of my room and the vertigo I have suddenly developed. There was Stewart smiling broadly and oh so chirpy making sure I was up and ready to catch the taxi.
My previous evening of shame was nought but a fuzzy memory. I could only remember that a light reprise had been arranged by our employers in the form of a fully expensed trip to Singapore today (Sunday 01-April). Fortunately, I was not so befuddled as I remembered this and myself preservation kicked in. I had already showered, dressed and was ready, much to the surprise of Stewart who expected me to be dead to the world. There’s still life in this old boy I can tell you.
Our visit to Singapore takes 2.5hr from Bangkok and is known as the VISA run. We International troopers hold tourist visas!! As a tourist it is a requirement of Thai Law that at the expiration of 30 days, tourists have to leave the country and when they return (even on the same day) the Visa will be renewed for another 30 days. We were collected from our suites at 7:30 and driven to the airport where we spent a leisurely 2 hours mooching around the airport lounge before taking to the skies. We were settled in cattle class and had a meal on-board Singapore Airlines. It was pretty mundane food stuff frankly – but it was something. We arrived in Singapore to discover that our return tickets only allowed us 2 hours before we had to make the return journey to Bangkok. We passed through passport control got our stamps and then sat around the airport taking in the splendour of this lovely airport with its lovely water fountains, lovely statues, lovely shops, lovely banks, lovely carpet, lovely food and ugly people. Have you ever watched the world go by in an airport and decided who the ugliest race is – we did and it was unanimous.
The return flight was similar to the outward flight. We arrived back in Bangkok got our visas renewed and knew from that moment we would more than likely be here for another 4 weeks. Singapore beckons in 2 Sundays time. We are really looking forward to yet another thoughtful trip arranged by our employer!!!!!!!!!
Last week, Rods family arrived in Bangkok – Pauline his wife and Matthew his 13 (soon to be 14) year old son. Now Rod had been looking forward to this visit as he would breathe some fresh air into his self-imposed hermit existence that he had endured up to now. He had told us all along that when the family arrived, we would see the real Rod – happy go lucky husband and caring Father. The rest of the gang decided that Rod should have the pleasure of his family on the first night. At work the next morning, Rod, bleary eyed - apparently from lack of sleep - told us they had gone shopping!!! Rod informed us later that the luggage had been left somewhere in Manchester and Pauline and Matty only had the clothes they were wearing. In this heat and humidity the humming would surely not take too long to become noticeable hence the shopping expedition.
I am going to skip a few days and move onto the following Saturday evening. The Stitch clan and a few invited colleagues met at the Restaurant Arun Residence that sits conveniently on the River bank overlooking some temple or other. It’s a beautiful spot and the food and company was very good. Thanks to the Stich clan for such a lovely evening. During dinner a thunderstorm decided to make its presence felt and whilst the lightning, thunder and rain rolled across the sky, Matty, who had been charged as photographer for the evening, took some shots of the lightning seconds after it happened. Typical, timing has never been the preserve of the young. Some of his work can be seen in the blog picture gallery. The evening was most pleasant and after dinner had been eaten and all were replete we made our way into Bangkok central where several sights for the young Matty was somewhat interesting. The usual teenage blaise attitude was shown, but we knew he was intrigued really. Stewart and I left the family to enjoy the teenage question and answer session and went in search of some fun of our own.
Stewart has this knack of getting me to drink when I really don’t need any more. I ended up completely sozzled (I am not normally like this honest) and we went from one seedy bar to another to another. I think we ended up at the Kangaroo Bar. The evening descended into nothing more than a blur and I have no idea what we did and even less do I remember returning to my apartment at about 2.30am. But it was a lovely evening – what I can remember of it.
Sunday, the boss had agreed to lend us his 7 seater car and a driver and Rod, Pauline, Matty, Stewart, Jeff and me were taken on a trip somewhere to the North of Thailand to a place called Kanchanaburi, better known as the Bridge over the River Kwai. 2.5 hours of driving and we arrived at the bridge. Boy was it hot. The sky was blue with not a cloud. The sun was shining and the temperature was well into the 40’s. We all gathered by the bridge and photos were taken (see Thailand album). The history of the bridge is well known and has some historic World War II coverage with even a film about it. We visited the mock-up of a prisoner of war camp and read some of the harrowing events surrounding the building of the ‘death railway’ as it was officially known. Letters from prisoners who survived give some idea of what it was like.
We left this museum and travelled the river Kwai until we came across the British World War II Cemetery. This is a UN controlled cemetery and is beautifully kept. The first thing you notice is how straight the headstones are lined up. Vertically, horizontally and diagonally, all precision laid out – stunning. The names of most of the dead are shown along with their age. Most were around the early 20’s. What a rotten life they must have endured to preserve our freedom. We must not forget.
Returning to the longtail boat, we travelled down the Kwai until we met with the Mekon and travelled to Khao Poon Cave – the cave of WAT. We passed floating boats that after dark become disco and brothel heaven. It would be good to see how these actually operate but it’s too far to travel for that experience. At least we have seen them and all you really need is a little imagination for the rest….
We arrived at the pier for the cave and alighted. It was still so hot and we struggled to walk up to the mountain top. When we eventually arrived, we descended the cave. The air inside was dry and arid. The place was hot. Figurines and the golden Buddha were to be seen in the main cave area with several other religious artefacts dotted throughout the cave complex. It was oppressive and we really needed to get some water into ourselves so we made our way through the labyrinth to the resting area above ground. It was still hot. We strode up to the main Buddha statue. He overlooks the river and evidently provides succour and comfort for the river people.
We returned to Kanchanaburi where we had lunch under the bridge at the floating restaurant. There was nothing special about the food, just a moment to relax in the shade and to refresh. We decided that we would like to have a go at elephant riding.
We walked outside towards the car park and came upon a Leopard. I asked whether it was ok to touch and was rewarded with a good few minutes, stroking the beast and being licked. I was feeding the Leopard with some chicken when he decided he preferred my hand and it took a little persuasion to get his teeth to let go. Undaunted by my experience, Matty had a go himself. He liked being licked – Rod you need to talk to him. Bangkok has done something to him…….
Our driver took us some 40 kms northwards to an elephant conclave. These are really beautiful animals – generally docile – but with fearsome strength. Pauline decided that she would watch as Rod & Matty got on their mighty steed, Jeff and Stewart onto another and me on another. Never have I been so uncomfortable on a ride before. I began to regret suggesting this. Eventually I got the hang of it – just stand up. We travelled up glen and down dyke at which point my driver asked if I would like to become driver. He hopped off and I straddled the elephants head. Now this was much more comfortable. At the drivers command my steed moved on into the river and then stopped. On command heffalump put his trunk into the river and swung it side to side causing the water to spray all over me – the little tyke. Now I was wet we moved on getting deeper into the water before clambering out at an appropriate exit. My knees were clamped tight round heffalumps head as I kept my mount steady and rock like. No way was I falling off this ride. We returned to base and dismounted. Another box in the life of the Bushmaster ticked off. Only another 30 years of adventures to do but I am getting closer.
Hometime. Our driver loaded us wearisome travellers into the luxurious surrounding of the car and whisked us home. 3.5 hours later we arrived at the apartments having had probably one of the best days ever. The day had not ended. We had been invited by the boss to have dinner with him and the rest of the International Team at the Secret Garden. We really didn’t want to but as they had waited for us and also the boss had provided his car and driver we felt obliged to show our faces. A quick shower, change of clothes and we met in the bar for a quick snifter and then ventured to the Secret Garden. Sat outside on a long table, more drinks were ordered and as the drinks arrived a gust of wind heralded the storm and within seconds large droplets fell from the sky. We were ushered inside and spent the remainder of the evening watching a terrific lightning display with huge thunderclaps and torrential rainfall. After dinner it was time to retire. I was exhausted from a day and a half of fun filled frolics with a great bunch of people who I am more than delighted to call friends.
I think that I have said much more than I expected and perhaps this is a reflection of the hectic lifestyle that is Bangkok. Its frenetic attitude clouds the fact that you have actually done an awful lot in the space of a few weeks. Let’s leave this blog here. Next episode I will tell you about the Thai massages, Songkran and whatever other things that I am led into by my crew of abborhents.
All photos are uploaded so feel free to have a look – Folder Thailand and then other folders within that.