Captain Jack’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 1
The Mighty Wizard’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 1
By The Mighty Wizard
I decided to write this series of letters during a fit of drinking the now 80 proof Jack Daniels. Yes, even Jack Daniels has now fallen to political correctness, having dropped its potency from 86 proof to 80 proof.
A little background. I am from Houston Texas. I consider myself an old Asia hand, having worked for an oil and gas seismic data company in China in 1991 – 1992. I visited Thailand twice and travelled all over Asia during that time. I have
been back to Thailand three times since, in 1998, 2000, and on this vacation I am about to describe, in November 2004.
I decided to write for a number of reasons. I have been an on and off reader of the great Stickman's site for years, having known about the magic of the LOS before the Internet made it known worldwide. Being from Houston, I sometimes
feel like one of those Texas oil guys that Christopher Moore writes about in "A Killing Smile", who drop into Bangkok after a long hard haul in the real world. Moreover, I did some things on this vacation that the vast majority of farangs
who visit Thailand don't do. Indeed I frequently found myself in situations where I was the only farang in the given situation. Is your interest piqued? Then read on, pardner…
I had been thinking about this vacation for about 6 months. I usually try to get out of America at least once per year, but often I make up my mind on a whim. This time however, I had it on my mind that I wanted to revisit the LOS. It had
been 4 years and with all the talk of Thaksin's democratically elected clampdowns, I had to see for myself how much things had really changed. I had a suspicion that things hadn't really changed all that much, but it would be cool to
visit the old haunts.
Moreover, I had some new things on the agenda. Namely, over the past 5 years or so
I had met and befriended my car mechanic and his wife here in Houston. They were both
from Thailand, he from the South and she from the Northeast.
Both were Chinese – Thai, though they were more Thai than Chinese. They had both gone to university in Bangkok, but had gone to America for graduate school where they had met and married. After school, they settled in Houston and he opened
his car garage. Over the past year, my mechanic (named "Chuck") had sent his wife (named Somkid) back to Thailand because of various medical ailments. Treatment was cheaper in Thailand than in America, but she had been gone for many
months before I told him that I was planning on going to visit the LOS in November after the American elections.
The week before I was to go to Thailand, I had heard news that my uncle on my mother's side had passed away. Suddenly, I had to take a few days off to attend his funeral. Then I had to drive back to Texas (the drive was about 1,800 miles
– 3,000 kilometres). Chuck had called while I was gone. He invited me to dinner the night before I was to leave for Thailand. The restaurant was a Thai restaurant here in Houston, run by one of his old friends named "Marty". So, when
I got to the restaurant, he introduced me to some Thai friends here in town, one of whom was the daughter of a Thai lady who worked as a housekeeper. This twenty something Thai woman had green eyes and was quite pretty! Alas, she was married to
a young Thai man who was finishing college and part of our conversation over dinner that night was his wondering whether to stay in America or to go back to Thailand for his future.
Meanwhile, Chuck told me the one of the reasons he wanted me to come to dinner. He wanted me to give his wife $10,000 in cash! After overcoming my initial shock, I asked him if he really trusted me. He joked that he knew where he could find
me if I decided to run off with his money. We laughed and had a great dinner.
The next morning, I was off at 5:00am. to the LOS. The flight was scheduled to leave for San Francisco at 7:30am, then after a two hour layover I was to go to Kansai airport at Osaka, where I would take off at 6:00pm the next day for Bangkok.
From there, I was scheduled to arrive at Don Muang at the customary time of 11:00pm. In all, the flight would be about 26-27 hours including layovers. I've made this trip back and forth something like 16 times, so I have learned how to keep
myself amused during these long trips. Strangely, the airline I fly often has an eclectic play list of music, which I have learned to copy down and look for after I come back from vacations.
I had never been to the famed Kansai airport, so I was eager to see what this man made island and airport would look like. It didn’t disappoint, having an exotic architecture to it. I saw the bridge to the Japanese mainland, but alas
I didn’t get a chance to travel on it or to see all of the airport. While waiting to board the Air Thai flight, I found myself in a classic Asian scene which I cannot begin to count how many times I have found myself in. The scene was a
dark, garish, dimly lit airport with a motley gathering of people of various nationalities comprising the passengers – Indian businessmen, Thais, Japanese, Chinese, with a 2-3 other Westerners besides myself thrown in for good measure.
The Air Thai flight had some lovely flight attendants, great jazz music and was only about 60 percent full. I had an entire aisle to myself! I seized this good fortune to take a three hour nap on the way to Bangkok so that I would have some time
to go out and have some fun after checking into the hotel.
And so it was. I was back in Asia! We got into Don Muang at 10:25pm, 30 minutes early. Relying on old memories, I bypassed the 600 baht taxi hawkers and flagged a metered taxi to my Sukumvit hotel. Cost with tolls and tip – 300 baht.
I was once again in my element – that swampy, traffic clogged paradise called The Big Mango. On checking in at my customary hotel and settling in, I walked a few blocks down to Soi 4 and the NEP. I crossed several youthful girls, perhaps aged
18 – 20 who spoke great English and who were up for fun. They were intriguing, but I felt like browsing around some more. I smiled politely and continued until I got to the NEP.
The scene has hardly changed in 14 years – the street vendors, the crowds, the music, the girls. The baht was trading at 40 to the dollar instead of 25, but that was it. At random, I went up the stairs to the left and went into Spanky’s
on the second floor. Not too much happening there and the girls were so so. I left after a drink and headed into Carousel (3 ?) nearby. I sat down and had some drinks. I had brought along a bag of novelty items from America, as I normally do.
The items I usually bring are piles of fake money, hand buzzers, Halloween cat masks, women’s hair wigs, and so forth. I had also purchased some bright flashy buttons that were sold on the street on Sukumvit. I bring them into the bars,
play tricks on the girls and bartenders, and hand out most of my trinkets. Inevitably, they love it.
Unfortunately, after I had only been in Carousel for about an hour, it was time to close. OUCH! I had experienced my first encounter with Thaksin’s Thailand. I made an effort to contact a rather pretty girl who had been on the dance
stage, but she didn’t seem interested. I decided to walk out and find someone else. As I left Carousel, I walked out at the same time with a girl who had also been dancing on the stage. She had red tinted hair and was hard not to notice
her, but other men had crowded around her and I felt I didn’t have much of a chance. It was strange that she hadn’t gone home with any of them. She looked up at me as I asked her if she was going out with anyone. As she sized me
up, she said no. She looked back at the bar to see if anyone was behind us. I immediately realized what she was doing. She had decided to go with me and was making sure nobody from the bar had seen her leave. That would mean that she was saving
me the bar fine. As we left the plaza, she put her finger to her lips as we walked passed two other girls. It was clear she was telling them not to rat on her for going out with a punter.
My new teeruk was called herself “Lek” (not her real name). She initially said she was 22, but later on I found out by looking at her national ID card that she was 28. When we got back to the hotel, we had our fun. I was initially
satisfied with one go around, but she kept wanting to go at it. We ended up bonking three times that night and once the following morning. I gave Lek 2,000 baht and told her I would be back at the bar tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I had some business to do. When I awoke the next morning, I had the hotel receptionist call my car mechanic’s wife, Somkid. I wanted to see her in order to give her the $10,000 that her husband had entrusted me to give her. After a few
moments, the receptionist told me that Somkid’s mother had answered the phone and had told her that she had gone to the hospital for an appointment. Somkid was supposed to be back around 12:00pm noon. After learning of that information,
I decided to go look for a bookstore and look for an English – Thai / Thai – English dictionary.
One thing I have noticed about Bangkok over the past 13 – 14 years is that the city has become much better stocked with bookstores that carry more interesting books. Being a big reader, I have a theory about bookstores, namely that
has a nation becomes wealthier, freer, and embraces democracy (or republicanism), bookstores and literature blossom. The Internet has helped immensely as well.
I didn’t have to look far for a bookstore with some good dictionaries. Asia Books had a branch just down the road on Sukumvit. After browsing for about 30 minutes, I picked out two books, paid for them, then promptly left. However,
while walking down Sukumvit back towards my hotel, I was stopped by a pair of young Thais perhaps 18 – 22 years old. They wanted me to participate in a survey, so I did. After asking questions related to my experiences in travel, they asked
me to come to the Taipan hotel whereby I would listen to a sales pitch and would get a small gift in return. Oh brother! I agreed to come, only on the condition that I could return to my hotel by noon since I was supposed to meet with Somkid.
So we left. I went to the Taipan hotel and listened to the sales pitch. It was for a travel group where after paying 360,000 baht ($9,000 dollars), you would become a member of the group and would get big discounts in all kinds of fancy hotels
and resorts located all over the world. It sounded nice and legitimate (they even have a website – www.rci.com), but the reality was that after flying 10,000 miles to go on vacation, I was not in mentally prepared to fork over $9,000 to
participate in ANY scheme, no matter how good or legitimate it might have been. After the company manager (a Canadian in his 50’s) came by and offered to drop the entry fee to 120,000 baht and let me pay the rest over time, I still refused.
I felt sorry for letting them down, but I had business to take care of. I said my goodbyes and left. To be honest, I also had felt irritated since what I had really wanted to do was meet up with Somkid. These people had promised that their pitch
would not be all that long, but it had taken several hours.
After I left the Taipan, I walked down Soi Cowboy and browsed the girls on offer. None were up to Lek, so I walked back to my hotel only to find that Somkid had come and gone. She had left a phone number for me to call, so I went back to
my room and called her. I told her about her husband’s money and that I really wanted to meet her soon. We agreed to meet again the next day at noon.
That left the evening. I knew that from browsing the Internet that Bangkok had a chess club. So after an evening nap I headed down to the Bull’s Head on Sukumvit Soi 33. It turned out to be a bit difficult to find as it was off of
a branch of Soi 33. Because of confusion as to where the restaurant was, I didn’t get to play in the tournament, but I did play a fellow named Jerry, an affable man from the British Isles. We played several skittles (low key) chess games,
where we Played with the rule of allowing no castling. Of course after a few drinks, we broke our own self imposed rules, so it was all in good fun. After about 2-3 hours of chess games, I went to Nana Plaza, found Lek again, and had another night
of bedroom Olympics. I had a bout of insomnia that night and told Lek that she could leave . I paid her long time and told her I would see her again soon.
Late the next morning, I finally met Somkid. She met me at the lobby of my hotel at 12:00pm. She brought her niece along, as she had planned a boat tour along the Chao Praya river to an island called Koh Kret. Her nice was very slim and okay
looking, but she was a bit tired because she worked a job as a cloth and clothing distributor that kept her up at odd hours.
Somkid took us to a large banquet hall for lunch. The restaurant had an impressive drive through. As we entered the place, we walked downwards along a circular stair and entered the main dining room. As we walked down the stairs, I noticed
that this place seemed rather old, as though it were perhaps built in the 1960’s or 1970’s. I was overcome with a vague familiarity that I had been here before. YES! As we were greeted by the Thai waitress, I saw lunch buffet tables
and I was struck with déjà vu. In 1991 during my first trip to Thailand, a co – worker named Gerald and I had been taken to this very restaurant by a Thai tuktuk driver. I couldn’t believe it! I asked Somkid how old this
restaurant was and she told me that this place was about 30 years old. When she told me this, I then told her that this place had seemed familiar and that I thought I had been here before when I had first visited Thailand. It was one of those
long forgotten memories that had lain buried because I had not taken any photos of the restaurant. How crazy! As we lunched, I looked around. I noticed that was the only farang in the place. I told Somkid that this restaurant looked like the type
of place where people would have wedding receptions. She told me that was sometimes true. I ate a great deal of food, especially red beef curry and fried plantain bananas. I felt as though I could take a nap. Too bad as we had places to go to
and you know what? I forgot to take photos of that restaurant again!
We got on a boat, stopping at Nonthaburi along the way to Koh Kret. Koh Kret is an island where the Chao Praya splits into the Om Kret and Lat Kret rivers. I learned that the island of Koh Kret hosts a community of 6,000 people, mostly of
the Mon tribes. Since we went during a weekday, we had the island and its shops mostly to ourselves. Somkid spoke to a community official for a while. We sat for coffee and I bought a huge clay pot for coffee drinking back home. While we sat there,
Somkid confessed that she could not swim! I told her I would jump in after her if anything happened to her.
We eventually left to go back to Bangkok, where Somkid told me that a the city had built a new subway that had a station near Lat Phrao road, not far from where her family home was. After having a seafood dinner where I met Somkid’s
eldest brother and his family (and once again where I was the only farang in the place), we agreed to meet again tomorrow. She told me that the subway ran to Sukumvit and that I could walk back to my hotel from there. And so it was. That subway
is magnificent, but probably consuming extremely heavy subsidies as there weren’t too many passengers patronizing it. It almost certainly would have been better to condemn property and then widen the roads by several lanes in each direction.
I fell asleep at 9:30pm and didn’t get up until 2:30am. I briefly left my hotel to check out the streets and Nana Plaza, but all was quiet on the Western Front. No fun and games tonight for this farang. I came to the conclusion that the
real reason for the early closing of nightlife in Thailand is that the Thaksin government is effectively imposing a curfew on the populace. It certainly hasn’t stopped the nightlife from rocking and rolling. I went back to my hotel room
that night and wrote about 10 pages in my holiday diary.
End of Part I
I'm in NZ at the moment, so no silly comments from me on submissions for a week or two…