Sabai Sabai Memories
In those days, right on top of His Majesty's 60th birthday, I flew out of North America for the first time, on a 747 for the first time, to Asia for the first time and into the beginning of the best part of my life (so far!) that took place in the Kingdom of Thailand. Thanks to my interest in MIAs and Thai bargirls, I was headed to the Federal Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 8 where I knew one could have bargirls in the room, mai pen lai (Boy,did I have a lot to learn about after-hours life on Sukhumvit!). However, I'd never heard of Lonely Planet, Khao San Rd (no great loss there!), the Thermae and at that time, nothing had been published by my favorite authors – Chris Moore, Jason Schoonover, Jake Needham and Stephen Leather. Yeah, what an FNG I was..!
Well, when THAI International got me to Don Muang and I got over the shock of heat, humidity (weather elements I loved dealing with in December, being from Cape Cod!) and the general chaos of a wacko airport in the Third World crammed with beautiful pooying, my first big disaster was learning that a bag I'd checked in with THAI in Dallas / Ft.Worth had gone missing! Bummer!
However, the authorities and THAI couldn't have been more helpful and my missing bag was brought to my hotel a day later. Along with that happening, I dealt with my first hotel cabbie, got my first boom-boom at a massage parlor and took a hang yao boat for my first ride along the Chao Phraya River, going to Wat Arun where I met young Buddhist monks who I had a great chat with. Like everyone else within Bangkok, they seemed to be more than willing to welcome a 23 year old like myself into their beautiful kingdom.
What fully hooked me on Thailand was the pretty young girl I got for my first over-night stay. Her name was Cat (she insisted on the English version, not Maew, the Thai) and we got along perfectly right away. We made love so many times in a style I would rarely see again in that part of the world until my wife and I became tilacs in '97. Cat was such a friendly girl and so understanding with a newbie like me. I didn't get any of the "My sister sick; my mom sick; my brother in motorcycle accident; family need new water buffalo" bullshit I would hear endlessly in Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong, Thermae, the Grace, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and elsewhere in Thailand. Being a cherry and Cat being an honest sweetheart, I fell in love and even though I barely lasted a week financially on my first trip to Thailand in '87, I fell in love not just with Cat but also with Thailand. I sadly lost Cat to another farang (a fellow American, too, damnit!) in August '88 but I kept the kingdom herself and she always welcomes my return from the States…
Moving on to the fall of 1995…when I was still hanging out in Bangkok, I always stayed at the Sukhumvit Crown Hotel off Soi 6 (and still do when I'm making visits from my second home upcountry in Chiang Mai) and one of my best friends and teachers when I was continuing to learn about Thailand in '88-'90 was a Thai-Chinese cabbie at the hotel named Suchart. He's left the hotel but in '95 he was still employed there and one night he and I drove off in his beat-up old Datsun cab to an open-air seafood stall not far from the infamous Patpong.
We pulled in, got stools and after he ordered us a pair of Singha, Suchart proceeded to get us enough fantastic seafood to feed an army. It was delicious food and we ate waaaaay too much of it, along with plenty of Singha. When dinner was done, I paid the checkbin and we hit some girlie joints where we kept right on drinking and getting more khee-mao by the nano-second. Our drinking adventures ended when Suchart looked at his watch and realized that if he didn't get home to his wife, she'd kill him so we rode back to the Crown and when we pulled in, he giggled at me stumbling away from the hotel and asked as to where I might be going. Equally shitfaced, I laughed right back and told him I was going to Soi Cowboy. More laughter. When I asked him why he was laughing, he pointed out it was about 3:30 AM and that the bars were all closed. I just looked at him and grinned back, telling him I'd go to the Thermae, mai pen lai. He shrugged, wished me luck and off I went.
Going down Soi 6 and out to Sukhumvit, a little of my drunken bravery faded because I'd never been to the Thermae before but then again, I was still drunk enough that it looked like a good adventure to me.
At the old Thermae, you had to go down a scuzzy-looking little alley way from Hell and I did this, chuckling at the toilets that were conveniently placed outside so you could see men, ladies and katoeys doing their thing as you walked into the bar. I got inside and after fighting with a freelancer over an empty barstool she claimed had been hers, I met another girl, bought her lots of Lady Drinks and Mekhong-Cokes for myself as we – sort of – had a nice little conversation that concluded with me offering to buy her out for 500 baht but that she'd only come with me to the Crown and literally sleep with me as I was just too drunk for sex. She laughed at this but agreed and my final amusing moment on my first trip into the Thermae was around closing time when we were being thrown out and I tried desperately to figure out what that damned blinding light was that was coming into the bar. My girl laughed and informed me with tons of sarcasm that it was the morning sun!
We got to the Crown, I puked all over the horngnam and within a couple hours, she asked to be paid her 500 and I did, thanking her for sanuk before passing out in bed, the mighty sex warrior(NOT!)…
1999…It was January and I was shortly going to be married to my beautiful tilac in Chiang Mai. In the meantime, I was with her in Bangkok entertaining my parents who had come for the wedding and had never been to Thailand before. Likewise, one of my best friends, a Pommy from Brighton, had two of his mates over and after my bride-to-be took my folks back to their hotel, my friend and I took his two buddies over to Nana where we had a ball and then I encouraged them to come with me to the new Thermae.
We got inside and I had fun messing with the FNGs by joking about them in Thai with the tough freelancers that make the Thermae what it is. We all had some laughs, I turned down offers because of my inpending marriage, my friend couldn't make up his mind and of the two new guys, one just wasn't interested in any of the girls at all and stayed with his drink, watching the unique show. As for the other..?
Well, he'd met a girl he was sort of getting along with and while he wasn't sure he wanted her, she definitely wanted his baht and she tugged him away from where we were sitting to negotiate him outside to a tuk-tuk. How did she perform this concept? Only in a painful way that could only happen in the Thermae: she affectionately put her hand deep into his pants and tugged him up the stairs by poor ol' Willy! Welcome to Bangkok, puen..!
Also 1999…Three weeks after I was happily married to my wife, Nong, I was coming back into the center of Chiang Mai on a Yamaha Mate, returning from teaching English to a student of mine. Most of what you're about to read comes from my mother, Nong and my dear English friends Dave and Justin because I myself have no memories of it – praise Lord Buddha…
Apparently, from what I was told by the Chiang Mai Police, my Yamaha was clipped by a Mercedes-Benz that was hauling ass along the road I was on. Being an idiot like most people in Thailand, I quite stupidly was riding without a helmet. When my bike was struck, I fell off and hit the shoulder of the road with my head, splitting my skull open. I was lucky to survive the impact and even more lucky that the Chiang Mai Police and Emergency Personnel responded as fast as they did.
I was taken to a hospital in Chiang Mai that turned out to not be the best one you could hope for so I'll leave it unmentioned but it was my friend Justin – hom I was supposed to meet at my sister-in-law's bar – Sax Music Pub – on Moon Muang Road, who told Nong that I hadn't shown up and that I was never late for anything. Nong freaked out and began contacting the police until I was discovered at that hospital. She came with Justin and my good friend Dave and when they found me, my face was so smashed up that I couldn't be recognized worth a damn. I was deep in a coma that I'd stay in for three weeks so I guess I was the luckiest one in the group as the hospital was lost to me.
Dave proved his worth as one of my best friends by calling my mom in the States and telling her what had happened to me. At the time, the doctors didn't really think I was going to survive much longer so Dave voluntarily chose to go through all these details with my mom and after the call was done, she flew back to Thailand lao-lao.
The four of them plus tons of in-laws, Thai friends and expat pals, all came to see me and wish me their best even though I couldn't hear them. My wife and my mom had me transferred to what is probably the best hospital in Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai Ram – and I was completely taken care of by Dr. Joe (his real Thai name is typically twelve miles long so he insists on just being called Dr. Joe; his kindness and his professionalism are thousands of miles longer…) who helped me come out of the coma and gradually get most of my memories back. I owe him, as well as my mom, Nong, Dave, Justin and everyone else who chose to care for me and mine. Now I'm back to normal (of course, normal for me means more than a little bababobo..!)and yeah, I still do ride around once in a while on a Honda Dream (usually as a passenger!) but I keep danger for places like Cambodia and the Muslim section of the Philippines (other stories for another time, sports fans!) and in the meantime, I'm grateful beyond belief for my wife, my mom, my in-laws and all my outstanding friends from all over this world of ours.
I hope you enjoyed these tales and that if you haven't come to LOS yet, you will!!!
When I look back on some of my wild times in Thailand, I smile quietly to myself and reminisce about the freedom that I ad. But funnily enough, as much fun as they were, they are not things that I want to repeat. I guess we move on.