Samui House Party
For the uninitiated in the ways of the land of smiles, many Thai message boards and websites can give the impression that the country is one large open-air den of iniquity full of cheats and swindlers, where tourists are frequent victims of random, unexplained violence.
While these elements are definitely apparent, they tend to be overemphasised because it’s always such a shock when something negative happens in our beloved Thailand. I have had a few bad experiences but they are massively outweighed by the many acts of spontaneous kindness.
Buddha day in Samui earlier this year is a good example of why I can easily forgive LOS its faults. It was 22 May 2005, the day after my plane landed and, to my horror, I found out that all the bars were closed for the whole day. This day marks the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.
All over the country, the natives traditionally go to temples to listen to sermons by revered monks and make merit. Shortly after sunset, candlelit ceremonies take place. Thankfully, the staff at the bar near my room in Big Buddha beach on the island’s north coast had other ideas.
I was sitting in the bar on Saturday night drinking Singha and, while a Sean Paul CD blared out “In the early mornin’, in the early mornin’”, I played the obligatory game of pool with one of the staff. I was winning and she started to chat with me.
“Everywhere close tomorrow,” she said. “Close for Buddha.”
“So where can I go for a drink. Is there anywhere open at all?”
“We are having party tomorrow, you can come to our party if you want. We can pick you up tomorrow if you want to come. Do you want to?”
“Damn straight hippy.”
“Yes, I’d like to come. I’ll be here at 5pm. OK?”
“OK,” she said. Then she potted the black and the white at the same time and howled with annoyance. I won on a foul. Everything was coming up roses.
The next day I mooched down to the bar entrance with a couple of friends and a big pack of beers, down to where a pick-up truck with two of the bar staff and a Thai bloke in his 20s was already waiting for me.
“This is my son,” said the bar owner. “He doesn’t speak any English.”
I hopped in the back of the truck and we drove down a few back lanes for about 15 minute as it grew dusk, down dusty broken roads past row on row of palm trees, until we halted outside a piece of land where four houses had been recently built. In the garden which they all fronted onto, there were half a dozen barbeques on the go, crazy small dogs hurling themselves around with excitement, and mischievous children tormenting the mental dogs. About a dozen Thais, mostly women, of all ages were drinking, chatting, eating and enjoying life. I recognised half of them from the bar where I had been the previous night. I guess this was their home.
There were plates crammed onto the table brimming with seafood and salad, pots full of spicy Thai curry and lots of rice, chicken legs and noodles waiting for me to devour. All the adults were well-oiled with booze, apart from a couple of the younger Thai men – the brothers and sons of the ladies there – who were relatively quiet and spent most of the time playing with the children and dogs.
All the houses were open and I was given a tour. I could imagine Lloyd Grossman’s dulcet tones asking ‘who lives in a house like this?’ as I scanned the teddy bears, perfume and, bizarrely, kitchen utensils, which were all paraded before me with much gusto. What a great set of colanders my hostess could boast about.
The food was delicious and the sweet smells sent the dogs into delirium, but they knew better than to prod their noses among the spread. The most beautiful of the girls, Beer, gave one hound a smack on the snout when he tried to thieve a succulent chicken leg from off the table. I took pity and tossed him a bone.
After stacks of fodder and booze had been sunk, night fell. The outside lights were switched on, the karaoke machine was plugged in and the shrieks of dreadful, sozzled voices, crooning along to incomprehensible Thai songs, hit the breeze. Every tune seemed to be about a girl who loves a guy, but their tryst just doesn’t work out.
Then it was my turn. I lowered my voice as deep as possible and ranted out Sean Paul’s “In the early mornin’ come par with us. Sexy lady come par wi’ us.” And dropped some serious moves too, all to whoops and cheers from the inebriated congregation.
Thirty minutes later, two of the girls were on top of the table, booting empty bottles out of the way and throwing outrageous shapes to the dance music with deeply focussed looks drilled into their brows. Never one to waste an opportunity, I hopped up onto the table, jumped between the two of them and did some near-the-knuckle wiggles.
Later, while I was on a mission with one of the Thai sons in the truck to buy more booze from somewhere, the most beastly looking of the hostesses had taken a shine to my friend. She was a frizzy-haired, cling-on look-a-like who was stalking him around the compound and he was getting stressed.
“Geezer,” he shouted, grabbing hold of me for comfort when I arrived back fully-laden with dozens of bottles. “I’m out of my depth, geezer. She won’t leave me alone.” I looked over his shoulder and saw her gazing with amorous intent in his direction. “You’ve got to help me,” he pleaded. But despite my best efforts, she just wouldn’t leave it alone, and he was too anxious to tell her that he had no interest. It took Beer to make the truth plain to her in Thai, and the look of love swiftly fell from her leathery jowls.
The vast amounts of beer and Sangsom were taking their toll on me and one of my last memories was poking a dog under the table with a stick and watching it go wild. I played a brief bit of football with a sweet toddler, but one of my soft return passes knocked the child on his back and I decided he just wasn’t up to my playing level. My soused efforts to convince the youngster that I was really Michael Owen similarly failed to impress.
My last memories were being carried into the back of the truck. They had decided that I was in no fit state to manage the trip home alone and insisted on giving me a lift. Sangsom and coke had claimed another victim.
I woke up the next morning with a stinking hangover and a massive grin. Two White Russians for afternoon breakfast soon wiped out the former.
It wasn’t close to being the most wild or outrageous night. Nothing of special note occurred. In Thailand, even when nothing much is happening, the gregarious, friendly people and spirit of communal fun – with a little help from Singha and Sangsom – somehow usually manages to create a great night.