Where Am I?
One of the better parts of travelling in Thailand is the public transport system, being as it is, frequent and cheap. Getting around the country is never a problem at short notice and you can take your pick from steerage to luxury class. Depends on your pocket.
I’d been sitting in Jay’s restaurant idly reading the paper and trying to train Boo to bring more beer on command, Boo being a teenager with a telephone habit and thus deaf to all requests, pleas and screams of anguish. But we had a good
relationship-she talked to her chums on the phone, I got my own beer and she took the money as I passed by on my way back to my table.
David hove into view and plonked himself down with a sigh, before helping himself to one of my cigarettes. He’d got it lit before I reminded him that he didn’t smoke and I came to the conclusion that matters feminine were occupying his attentions once more.
For a change he had positive news- he’d got a job with some foreign film company that was going to be making a movie about the Vietnam war and which was to be filmed in Thailand.
I laughed at this and pointed out that a skinny, bespectacled, prematurely balding freak was hardly in keeping with the Hollywood ideal as the hero in an action flick.
The only thing that he might have in common, I suggested, was his ability to throw temper tantrums when things didn’t run in his favour.
He grinned by way of reply and then helped himself to my beer.
“My job,”, he intoned loftily, ”Is to be a ‘fixer’”.
“Pray tell me my America’s friend, what is a ‘fixer’?”. I asked.
Dave explained that as it was a foreign production company then they wouldn’t speak Thai and as his relative fluency in the language would help them to find the props, hotels and whatever movie companies need to film on location, then he’d been hired.
“Right then Dave, you are an expeditor?"
He giggled, ”I can’t pronounce that, so we’ll stick with ‘fixer’”.
This was all very good we agreed, (though I did wonder how long this particular career move would last), and I did ask why the company hadn’t just done it the easy way via bribery. But then alas, he wouldn’t have a job and if any bribing was to be done he wanted his slice of the action. So there.
“How do you get some beer in this joint?”, he asked looking around at Boo who was pointedly ignoring him.
“Boo,”, I shouted, ”Bring beer or I’ll kill you."
Boo stuck her tongue out and continued with her conversation but changed the subject to one of big, ill mannered, smelly farangs who interrupted her time.
Dave worked out the self service idea and helped himself to a couple of bottles from the fridge then sat down again without handing over any money to Boo.
“Well, Col, about this movie then………”, he said, ” I need your help."
“Always a catch Dave isn’t there?”, I laughed, ”And here’s me thinking that you merely wanted to shoot the breeze with one of your mates for an afternoon."
Dave laughed in reply, ”Bullshit to that, this beer is on expenses. Anyway, do you think that your mob could get hold of 500 empty .50 calibre shell casings?”.
He sipped his beer then continued, ”Naturally there would be a gratuity in it for you."
I sat back in my chair and worked out the request before saying, ”No chance-the army recycle them. Anyway, cartridge cases are expensive and someone would steal what you got. But,”, I suggested, ”How about you get hold of 500 of those lens cleaning spray canisters and paint them a copper colour?. Strewn around a battlefield with the tops cut off and some movie magic, nobody is going to notice that they aren’t exactly the right size."
He thought for a minute before asking, ”Where do I get them then, smart arse?”.
Well, it just so happened that there was a recycling outfit in Din Daeng and as the locals say, ”Bisnit is bisnit”, I suggested that we wander round for a looksee.
I explained further that we would be saving his production company a fortune and thus a proportion of this fortune could be sidetracked as a ‘consultancy fee’, for yours truly.
Then I walked across the Soi to Jays’s shop and helped myself to a can of the spray then handed it to Dave and suggested that he call his outfit and okay it.
We sat amiably for a while waiting for the messenger to arrive on his motorbike and as we did so, he illuminated me on Japanese bondage techniques and how they improved a chap’s sex life immeasurably. My point that a chap’s life expectancy wouldn’t be immeasurable if Japanese husband arrived home to find what was happening was taken with ill grace, and that I was missing the point.
“You’ll be missing more than that one day Dave.”, I smiled in reply.
The boy turned up, got the sample then zipped off to his office.
Shortly Dave’s handphone rang and he got the o.k., that if he could find 500 of them, then try and get them within four days.
We flagged a passing tuk-tuk and after patiently explaining to the driver where we wanted to go and how to get there we trundled off to the dump. (The driver being somewhat confused that we didn’t want to go to somewhere naughty although we both did tell him in Thai where we wanted to go: Perchance the carbon monoxide addiction that tuk-tuk drivers suffer from?).
Once there we found millions of the things in one dedicated hopper so negotiations began and were continued in the time honoured Thai way. That is, slowly.
A deal can always be done and a deal was duly done at 1000 Baht for the lot and the dump got to reclaim them if it was o.k. by us. This was just fine by us.
We agreed that a pick-up truck would collect them up the next day then walked back to the street and found another tuk-tuk to return us to Jay’s.
“Huh,”, snorted Dave,”Bloody rip off that was, 1000 for that lot."
Yea,”, I replied , “But your lot are going to pay 15 grand though aren’t they?. Plus expenses."
e got onto the handphone again and within seconds was grinning and giving me the circle and thumb sign.
Later as we got stuck into some oysters and suki together, my missus turned up and after eating a few oysters announced her intention to go home for a few days. Noting that I wasn’t invited, Dave laughed and suggested that I find myself a minor wife.
Pla gave him the, ’Slime’, look before smiling sweetly and bopping off home to watch the TV. and eat the contents of the fridge.
The following day David arrived in a pick up truck containing a driver, two cans of gold paint and a fat envelope. We split the proceeds then he with pick-up left for the dump and the consignment.
I walked across the bridge to the news stand and bought a ‘Post’ before returning to the office. As I climbed the stairs the bonus felt nice and comfortable in my shirt pocket and on reaching my desk I opened the newspaper to begin to wait for Robert’s arrival.
After a time the phone rang and assuming that it was Pla wanting to know where I was, (?), I picked it up expecting the standard question, "Where are you?”. (All Thai folks do this- really they do.).
It was Dave: ”Col, can you get a few days off?. If so, then get your skinny butt up to the location and you can be an extra in the movie."
Somehow I didn’t think that a skinny six foot Scotsman would be very convincing as a dead Vietcong and said as much.
“No, no, no,”, he replied, ”We need extras to play battle fatigued, alcoholic pilots. Why, there’s no need for you even to act. Just be yourself………"
Well, that clinched it for me and as he rattled on about hotels, money, food, drink and wimin’, it began to sound like an offer that I couldn’t refuse.
I only had two questions and those were, ”Dave where is there?. And, are there any real aircraft?”.
“Sakhon Nakhon and yes.”, he replied. ”oh,”, he continued, ”There’s only one decent hotel in town so I’ll book you in there for later tonight as soon as we get there o.k.?”.
“Okey dokey Dave, I’ll go home and get a bag. See you in a whenever”. I replaced the phone and contemplated my future in movies when Rob appeared at the top of the stairs and announced, ”Beers up- downstairs”.
After locking up I went down to Jay’s to find Robert nose to nose with Boo as she tried to carry on with her never ending telephone conversation. Eventually she giggled and gave up then handed Robert two bottles of beer.
Rob’s attention was fully occupied by the procession of wenches walking down the Soi as I told him of my plans but eventually he asked where the epic was being filmed.
My eyes were following a couple of lovelies and as I had a mouthful of beer at the time was somewhat distracted, I replied, ”Errrmm Nakhon Sawan”.
Why Nakhon Sawan I don’t know, but my subconscious must have been reminding me that there was an airfield there, a flash hotel and it was surrounded by army garrisons.
I had also spent some months pursuing a lovely there who worked as a pharmacologist in a Government hospital but was determined to carry her virginity to the grave. She was great fun though and a highly educated woman from a fairly impoverished background.
There began the demise of my career in movies, but I was probably further distracted by the thoughts of the hoi thawt in the Chinese restaurant in Nakhon Sawan. Hoi thawt is oysters fried in battered eggs- lovely, and they don’t come much better than the ones cooked in there.
Robert guffawed, ”Nahkon Sawan……..christ remember that show I did there?. Never again. Never, never, never."
I laughed along as I remembered arriving home to find Robert looking like a join the dots puzzle following repeated assaults by divisions of mosquitoes whilst he was trapped on an island in the middle of the river.
We sat reminiscing for a while before I made my excuses then went home to pack the essentials required for any sojourn in the boondocks of Thailand.
Money, shreddies, toothbrush, spare t-shirt.
Everything else can always be got locally so no need to walk around looking like a pack mule.
(Do backpackers ever actually notice the astonished looks that they receive in Thailand as they stagger around under a monster rucksack?).
I walked to the end of the Soi and got a motorbike taxi sorted out and after the customary chat with the rank as to what I was up to, we set off at a nice trundle towards MoChit bus terminal.
As usual on a Sunday the driver obeyed the inverse law of motorcycle taxi drivers which states, ’That the less traffic on the road then the slower the motorcycle will be driven’.
It’s a Thai thing you see- the more traffic you see impeding your progress then the faster that you must try to go to keep up time.
MoChit was virtually empty, it being that dead time between the departing hordes having left and the returning hordes arriving back. The next bus was in half an hour and was virtually empty so I wandered away for a coffee and a bun before buying a magazine
and some refreshments for the journey, which would take about 3 hours as I was going super luxury top deck. (The other passenger got the bottom deck).
Arriving at the appropriate platform I saw a solitary bus bearing the destination Nakhon Sawan in Thai script. A security guard approached me and in one of these incidents that characterise the difference between our cultures asked me in English, ”Where you go?”.
“Bpye Nakhon Sawan." I replied. (Going to…….).
Again in English he said, ”Come, come”, then took me by the arm and led me the two meters to the front of the bus. Then pointing to it he said, ”Nakhon Sawan."
“Luu laeow, duu neea- Nakhon Sawan!”, I replied. (I know. Look here, (it says)Nakhon Sawan.).
He nodded vigorously a beaming smile on his face, and I couldn’t help feeling that no tourist was ever going to get lost with this guy around, which to be honest is rather nice.
He then motioned to my bag and said, ”Beer here cannot”.
I took this to mean that no beer was allowed on the bus, which never stopped anyone anyway, so I thanked him and boarded after promising not to open any cans within the confines of the bus station. Honour satisfied he stood there until the driver started
the engine and after a cheery wave wandered away, presumably look for other lost souls to point in the right direction.
I settled into a seat near the front and after reclining the backrest looked out the window and tried to work out what was bugging me: I’d told the security guy at the apartment where I was going. I’d told Jay, and Rob knew, therefore my missus would be bound to know where I was. So just what was it that was lurking there in the back of my mind?.
The bus drew away so I pulled the magazine and a beer from my bag and smiled in expectation of Pla’s response to where I’d gone to……..Then sat back to enjoy my solitary journey to Paradise City. (Nakhon = City. Sawan = Paradise).
After a relaxing and scenic journey, the bus duly pulled in to the station and as the best hotel in town was directly across the street, I headed there and asked the girl at reception for David’s room number.
Who?, was the reply.
I repeated my request and suggested that he might be booked in under the name of some American movie company. Blank stares met with this information and you could see that they thought that maybe this was a farang gone troppo and best to humour me.
Well, a brick wall is a brick wall in any culture so I said a, ‘Thank you very big’, and left the place.
Once in the street I sat on the low wall around the hotel and tried to decide what to do given that Nakhon Sawan isn’t quite the most happening place on the planet.
There was a Dunkin’ Donuts, a fast food joint and two night clubs.
These were the sort of places that Americans would be found, though one of the night clubs was located in the only other half decent hotel in the place, so that seemed to be a reasonable bet.
A samlor hove into view so I flagged it down and explained to the driver that I wanted to go via Dunkin’, and the night clubs. He was to wait outside whilst I stuck my head through the door of each one until I found who I was looking for.
The chap was amenable to this course of action and after the standard compliment on speaking Thai, laughed and suggested that it was a funny sort of a tour that I was after.
There was a rice and chicken stall there so I bought a couple of cans of beer and handed one to my driver with the comment, ”That it’s been a long day”. He replied, ” They always are”.
Duly, we mounted up and putted along the dark, warm and deserted streets of Nakhon Sawan, chatting away as we did so until we came to a halt outside the donut joint.
I could see no-one inside who looked remotely like a farang so we headed off to the fast food place where after a cursory peep inside it was apparent that this venue had drawn a blank.
The first nightclub was deserted, it being far too early for any rational Thai to get their dancing shoes on. As we slowly made our way up the hill to our last port of call the driver asked me if it was any particular girl that I was looking for?
I laughed and replied that I’d had enough of Nakhon Sawan girls thank you very much, and then explained just who I was actually looking for.
Being a samlor driver has it’s advantages and one of them is that they know everything. And as the guy assured me, there weren’t twenty Americans resident at present. In fact he didn’t think that there were even ten and not even sure about the possibility of there being one. Though there was an English teacher, but he wasn’t just too sure about the nationality.
“Bloody David,”, I thought, ”Did he mean the place or the province?”.
It was getting late so I asked the samlor to take me to an apartment block which I knew that rented rooms by the night and after paying off the driver, checked in to a smile from the girl who remembered my previous visits.
Luckily the fridge contained beer and after opening one and thinking evil thoughts, I rang the mobile number that Dave had left with me.
“Yo!”, he answered.
“Yes?”, I said.
“Col, where the hell are you my man?”, he asked.
“Nakhon Sawan,”, I muttered, ”And just where are you exactly?”.
“Me?. I’m in Sakhon Nakhon. Where I said I’d be.”, came the laughing reply.
Then of course, the penny dropped; I’d managed to get about 500km off course. Me being in central Thailand and he being in the North East.
“You still there?”, he asked.
“Yup, I’m still here and into dork mode,”, I replied quietly.
Dave laughed long and hard before saying, ”Not a lot of jungle around there is there?. Anyway, we’re filming a war movie not the fucking nouveau riche."
He then spent five minutes rubbing in the fact that he was sitting in some highly expensive restaurant surrounded by a bevvy of potential Miss Worlds with a table loaded with all sorts of exotic food and drink in front of him.
I kept the handset to my ear and sipped slowly, glad that he was very far away just at that particular moment in time.
“Anyway you dick head ex- pilot, I’m about to return to my party. So, I’d best give you the good news I suppose, eh?”.
I agreed that he should give me some good news.
“They’re gonna cut the scene with the pilots anyway………..”, and with a final bray of laughter my handset went dead as he cut the connection.
I looked at the silent receiver in my hand then looked out the window at the empty and now wet streets of Nakhon Sawan then dialled the number of my in-laws in Sena.
My wife answered the phone and after exchanging “Harro’s”, I said to her; ”Pla, you are never going to believe this………"
“Really?,”, she replied with a smile in her voice.
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