In The Beginning There Was A Beginning
• Regent Hotel Shanghai
• Ruitai Hong Qiao Hotel
• Summit Service Apartment Shanghai
• Tian Ping Hotel Shanghai
In July 2005 I started writing a submission for this site – I submitted it in July 2006.
It didn’t set the world alight. I received two email comments (both were gratefully received – even though one of them seemed to be totally disconnected to and from anything I thought I’d written). It also drew the comment from Mr. Stickman, and here I quote, “.”
Such is life.
So nearly a year later I’m submitting this – as part of what I always self conceived as a trilogy.
I don’t rush into anything – ever.
I’ve had the same job for 31 years and lived in the same flat (that’s English for apartment) for 25 of those years.
No, no you can bet I don’t rush into anything.
Except relationships and marriage that is.
You have now got the drift – that’s what this is about. Like many other stories it may well have you shaking your head about the stupidity and folly of others who (almost) live on the same planet as you. I will be the focus of your disbelief, derision and scorn. What may be different is that there will be no blaming the Thai half of the “road crash”. There will be no stories of duplicity, lies (well that is just about true) and no cheatings (except mine). There will be no sick buffalo involved in this tail.
And so the story started in 1999 – October. I was then 49.
In my life there had been many inappropriate relationships ….. and some (three to be precise) that were appropriate but which I failed to hold on to. Such is life.
My life had become one of going to work, working, coming home from work, sleeping, going to work…… Such is not life.
I have simply no clue where the idea of going to Thailand came from. Really no idea!!
Unbelievable as it may now seem, in 1999 the internet had only recently been installed at the college I work for and my ability to use it was only recent. However, I dutifully and assiduously misused my employer’s time, electricity and telephone connections (as I am doing now).
Eventually I found an outfit advertising tours (ho di ho) to Thailand. Transatlantic telephone calls were made and an eight day tour arranged for a cost of £1,300 – not including air fares.
This is your first opportunity to fall about laughing. Yes I did say £1,300 – not including air fares.
OK? Bothering to read on?
So it was nearly £1,800 for eight days (including flight but not spending money).
Hotel rooms were included in “the package” however, once in Thailand it was easy to establish that the hotels involved were Bangkok 5 nights at 500 baht and Pattaya 3 nights at 300 baht. So going on £90. So where was the other £1210 going? There was a tour guide included!!!!
Here is a small aside, if you are reading this and considering going to The Homeland then just email the Nana Hotel (they won’t even ask you for money up front for your reservation) then book a flight and go! Honest! Easy! Nothing to fear (“there is nothing to fear – the ultimate reassurance and the ultimate dread.” Søren Aabye Kierkegaard or one of those dudes).
Still I don’t regret the money. I knew no better and had no way of knowing better.
So, it was that I arrived in Bangkok at 3:30 AM one October morning. I already knew that there would be no guide to meet me (not even for £1300!). But I did have the name of the hotel I was booked into. Of course I made the mistake of getting a limo and not a taxi – but then so what, 600 baht as opposed to the £20 (1,200 baht) I’d pay to get to Heathrow.
What was surprising was that the limo driver really didn’t know where the hotel was (no, really didn’t – the fare had already been paid and taking longer to get there was likely to reduce any tip he thought he might get). Now not knowing the hotel was surprising as it was the Grand Inn Sukhumvit Soi 3 Nana Nua). Have a look! It looks a lot better now in those photos.
The Grand Inn is 30 yards from “the” Sukhumvit intersection. You can see the Nana Hotel from the front door. A lady in the Nana car park could spot you winking at her from the porch of the Grand Inn. But then a lady in the Nana car park could probably spot you winking at her even if you were orbiting in a space station.
So, it was I, armed only with a downloaded map of Bangkok, that secured the limo’s docking with the Grand Inn at about 4.30 in the morning.
Yes, I was expected!!! A room was booked!!! And paid for!!! I was shown to it.
It was everything I wanted. Small, clean, basic, bigger bed than I’d ever seen before. But best, truly, truly, truly awe inspiringly down at heel, run down. It was everything I wanted. Honest! Why else had I come to Bangkok? I had not, repeat not, come to see the elephants or sample the charms of the rainforest or to patronise the hill-tribes. No, I had come to sleep in a room just such as this .
I was tired. It had taken me the best part of 48 hours to fly from London (delay taking off, missed connection and enforced night’s stay in Zurich). I examined the view – perfect (brick wall of house / hotel / whatever next door). I over examined the mini-bar.
I can truly say that never in my life had I been happier. A seedy hotel-room (If a designer had been asked to do seedy they could only have aspired to this). No-one in the world, other than the tour organiser and the check-in clerk, knew where I was. And I had eight nights in this new found heaven.
Around noon there was a knock on the door. A friend of the tour organiser had come to call (OK, there were 3 people who knew where I was – but how?). I had, of course, never seen him before (and have never seen him since). He left – what we talked about I no longer remember – think I forgot as soon as he left the room. At one o’clock the tour guide arrived – a Thai woman in her 40’s with an Englishman in his 70’s (real strange relationship that one – but of course that’s another story).
They gave me an orientation of the immediate area, down and back to what I now know to be Robinson’s. I was truly in heaven. The smells, the noise, the bustle, the heat, the life. Wooow!
Somewhere along the line we sat and had a beer. “What did I want?” I knew the answer – many, many women and three in a bed for sure and dipperty dodie. So what did I answer? Something like “O, I don’t know – anything really.” Why did I say that? Why? But really, why?
The guide said she had a friend and that I could meet her that night.
And so back to the hotel with the arrangement that we would ALL meet in the foyer at 7.30 that evening.
I’m English, so at exactly 7.30 I walked down the stairs. I remember everything with crystal clarity. At a table 3 people sat. The back of the 70+ geyser’s head. Opposite him the tour guide. To her right and facing me a Thai lady. I remember what I was wearing, I remember what she was wearing – a black dress (her not me). Good looking, attractive? Yes. But I was disappointed. The dress was a little too demure for my tastes and perhaps she was a little to old. Never mind.
Some small talk, then we went to a nearby restaurant. I was invited to call my new found friend Suzy Wong. I declined, we’ll say her name was Ant (it wasn’t but I’ll protect the not so innocent). I’m a gentle man (two words not one). We all talked, or at least I thought we did. 70+ and Thai tour suggested that we go to a go-go and that Ant could go home. I am a gentle man. Ant could of course come too (how life spins on such infinitesimally small decisions). Ant and my thighs touched. A photo was taken of us – it remains the best ever taken of “us”. We left the restaurant hand-in-hand.
We went to a go-go bar. Now I know, somewhere in Soi Cowboy. A taxi was involved as it was really, really, really, really raining.
Go-go bar. Wooooooow.
But I am a gentle man. I was with someone.
Back to “the” intersection. Ant and I were left on our own – the bargain already implicitly struck. Thai guide and 70+ disappeared into the rainy night having imparted the information that we left for Pattaya the next day.
Ant suggested we go look for one of her friends in a local bar. Now I know the German bar – soi 7. We found her friend and her boyfriend (now her friend’s husband). He was a nice bloke – he really does work for an oil company. He spoke reasonably good Thai. However, now I know that his knowledge of Thailand essentially extended to the foyer of the Landmark hotel – being in Soi 7 must have been a big adventure for him.
Couple talk took place.
Look, at that point I had been in Thailand less than 21 hours.
I suggested to Ant that she came to Pattaya the next day.
Stop it. Stop it. Stop smacking your forehead with the palm of your hand. Alright?
You know what she said?
Back to the Grand Inn. Much, much (much) sex. Much talking, or so I thought. In retrospect it was me talking and Ant Thai-style smiling. How easily us foreigners delude ourselves.
Next morning, still only just over 24 hours into my Odyssey we aquaplaned to Pattaya. Taxi with bald tyres doing 80 MPH when it could and rain falling like stair rods. And so to the High Five Hotel. That evening Miami Bar, Bamboo bar – you may well know it all. Pattaya? Woooooooooooooooow!
The next day and I’m on a sub-tropical beach (actually Jomtien beach) with Ant. Heaven could not be as good.
Was it only 4 days we were in Pattaya? So much life. Days on the beach. Rain sometimes, (in fact often). I remember hawkers pushing carts near the Bamboo Bar nearly up to their waists’ in rain water. I remember avoiding a downpour in an area that Ant described as the Muslim Bar area. (Muslim Bar area my friends in London!) I remember Ant falling off a banana boat at Jomtien and later saying, “I not scared, I know you save me.” I remember Ant searching out a sentimental Thai tape for me and I remember the establishment of “our” song (When will I see you again?) Ah.
We visited Ant’s house near Jomtien. Well City Bank’s house really. Ant was struggling with a mortgage arranged by a bloke from the north of England called Bob. The house was essentially unfurnished.
And so back to Bangkok. Thai and 70 were now leaving “us” alone – they concentrated their attentions on a Malaysian and disabled American touree.
Ant and I were a couple left in our own space.
Then they all went away and mercifully left Ant on our own for two last nights in Bangkok.
Since the morning after the first night I had given Ant no money. I had given her a ring (that had been my mother’s). We went to City Bank and I paid that month’s mortgage. I brought her a gold bracelet.
Eight days after I had arrived we went together to Don Muang. We had one of those photo booth pictures taken (it remains the second best picture ever taken of “us”).
I flew to London.
Those remain (in some sense) the best continuous eight days/nights of my life.
Five months later we were married. On the 1st May 2000 Ant and I flew to London to start “our” life together.
In the next episode of “Markin’s Decent Into Chaos”, marvel as suspicion, surveillance and supervision rear their heads. Wonder as love turns to an arid and barren region of misunderstanding. Gasp as I have to explain to a female police sergeant (who is discharging me from custody) that, “…I’m a kind and gentle man…” Reel with disbelief as my bankruptcy looms and most of all laugh uncontrollably as I dream of another relationship in LOSS (the land of smiles and smells).
But animal lovers don’t worry, there are no sick buffalos.
So hurry up and send the next part! It sounds like it will be another interesting tale of what can go wrong. You set the scene very nicely.