When Time Just Slips Away
• South Lake Hotel Changchun
• Swiss-Bel Hotel Changchun
• Yatai Hotel Changchun
• Green Land Hotel Chengdu
Time just slips away when you're in Bangkok. From the moment the terminal door opens on arrival, and that blast of hot air wraps around, to the moment the terminal door closes at departure and that blast of cold air spells the end of another stay in the LOS. What happens to the time in between? There's never enough. It races away and I never seem to be able to catch up with it. If I wake up alone half the morning has gone. If I wake up entangled with a warm sleepy BG it's after midday by the time I get out and find something to eat. Then maybe catch up with a friend across town for a beer, maybe see an old standby for some afternoon delight after which, thinking that the day is still young, I find that the sun is sinking like a stone, it's lighting up time and the rush hour is on. By the time I've fought my way back to my hotel, got showered and changed, it's dark and another night on the town is underway. Hop on the skytrain, jump in a taxi, so many places to be, so many girls to see. I look at my watch and I'm sure I can see the hands moving round as time just ticks away. If it would just slow down. Once, many years ago, time stopped. If I could just re-capture that moment. Prolong it for more than just those few brief seconds. But it's as though for once stopping time, like I'd made some sort of Robert Johnson style pact down at the Asoke Junction crossroads, I have to pay back my debt with time itself each time I return to the City Of Angels. For each twenty four hours I spend in Bangkok the city takes back six. At least that's how it feels.
I remember the night when Bangkok wrapped itself around me in an embrace from which there has been no escape. It was on a pedestrian overpass, of all places, in the days before the skytrain. A river of headlights and red tail lights stretched up and down the length of Sukhumvit Road below. The traffic roared. The aromas of street food and drains hung in the lead filled air. Air so thick you could almost touch it, almost taste it. So hot that even Noi had strands of hair that clung to the side of her face and neck in a sheen of sweat. God she looked good. A big full moon was rising towards Phra Khanong. Lost in the unlikely intoxicating beauty of it all I held Noi, and Bangkok held me. Time stood still. It was something beyond a "perfect moment".
Suay worked in the small restaurant of a Banglumpoo guest house. Her English extended about as far as the menus she dropped with disinterest onto the tables of hopeful diners. Those bright eyed backpackers who were yet to be either embraced by the city or allowed to leave untouched. For now they had all the time in the world and Bangkok, for them, was just a big chaotic looking place. For now all they wanted to do was eat. If they were lucky Suay would remember to go back and take their orders. It often seemed to come as a surprise that she should return to see what they wanted. Suay was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. "She very stupid", Noi would whisper to me. "Same same buffalo", she would say. "She work here two years why she no speak English"? This was coming from Noi who once said of a good friend of mine from Ireland, "I no understand him, him no speak English very well". Suay was from somewhere in Isaan that probably people in Isaan had never heard of. In these stories of Thailand the word Isaan is often followed up with the word "beauty", or, "stunner". This did not apply to Suay. Suay did not live up to her name. But I liked her, in a feeling sorry for her kind of way.
I sat with a cold beer. It was that time of day when there's a lull on Bangkok's side streets. Soi dogs lay in the middle of the road and street vendors slept where they sat before life returned at dusk. Suay came and sat with me. On a scrap of paper she had the lyrics to The Beatles song Yesterday. She obviously liked the song, didn't understand a word of it and asked if I could translate it for her. With my mangled Thai, and her grasp of English revolving around the menu it wasn't easy. But in the end I thought I'd done okay. She studied what she'd written. Her strange little face unfolded into a smile and she seemed happy. I persuaded her to give it a go in English. "Okay" she said, "yesterday all my vegetables seemed so far away". It always brings a smile to my face whenever I hear that song now.
Somewhere along the line Suay became friendly with a young Norwegian guy. He didn't look like the brightest bulb in the hallway it has to be said. "Him look very stupid", Noi took great delight in saying. "Him look same same Suay", she said. They seemed well suited. A few years later I went back to see if Suay was still there. I was surprised, and pleased, to find that she'd got married, had a baby, and moved to Norway. There's hope for us all I thought.
Once Bangkok had wrapped me in its arms I drifted away from Banglumpoo. I didn't fit in with the backpacking crowd after that.
In a hotel room on Sukhumvit half the morning had gone before my phone woke me up. Nuch wanted to meet up for lunch. Living North of Mor Chit, as she does, we arranged to meet in Nonthaburi. That meant I could almost fall out of bed onto the skytrain to Saphan Taksin and take a boat up river to where the air was fresher. "Okay Nuch I'll see you by the big clock", I suggested.
"Okay", she replied, "see you big cock". Being, as she is, a respectable girl I didn't have the heart to correct her. It makes a nice change to spend time with Nuch. Holding hands to cross a busy road is as far as it goes. I enjoy the innocence of that, for an afternoon at least. We talk and eat and laugh and occasionally touch while bobbing gently up and down in the floating restaurant on the Chao Phraya. But in no time at all the river is reflecting a red sunset sky and I'm heading for one of the last boats back. By now the clock tower is casting a long shadow down the street and, as if to emphasize how time is ticking away, its face is illuminated by the last rays of the sun and I'm sure I see its hands move as I run for the boat. Nuch waves as I slip away.
"Bye Nuch", I say, "see you next time".
Darkness falls as the boat makes its way back towards the city lights. Where did the day go I wonder. Time just slips away when you're in BKK.
Oh yes, oh so true. Time really does just slip away here!