The Elvis themed bar at Glasgow’s Prestwick airport. The King himself stopped here to refuel in his military days, the only UK soil he ever set foot on. After an afternoon in Glasgow picking up a few holiday items I’m sitting in departures awaiting to board a flight down to London. Sipping down a Corona and struggling to engross myself in a book I ponder what the next month will have in store.
Time to board the short trip down to Stanstead, a snip at 50 minutes, the next flight will be considerably longer. I can't recall the flight at all now, probably due to the Vodka Red Bulls last night, buts its lost in a daze of all the short halls over the past few years. Arriving at the airport I nip on the train and manage to avoid paying, nice one! The ten quid or whatever they're asking will go a lot further in the bars of Ko Samui.
It's new years eve and the streets of central London are teaming with part-time piss heads singing and puking. Out the tube station and across to my friend's bar where I’ll be employed for the evening, just collecting glasses and suchlike. It's her cousin whom I shall be travelling to Thailand for a month with, we’ve been mates a long time now. Excited is not the word! The evening passes fairly quickly and we toast in the new year with a drink, my only real memory of the night was a group of girls doing a rehearsed dance to some cheesy music. Pretty fucking fit though it has to be said!
We knock off around two in the morning and with a bag full of beer and hearts to the brim with hope, excitement and nerves (at least mine anyway) we get on the tube to Heathrow Airport and start swigging back the beers and listening to a bit of drum and bass on my MP3. Excellent. We’re in for a long night as the check-in isn’t till 6.30 AM however we’ve got some Jameson to keep us warm in the last cold we’ll be experiencing in a while.
We run into a couple of fellow travellers while outside having a smoke, a blatantly sleazy old Nana type (nothing personal, I've been. It rocks!) in his forties and an altogether more interesting American guy. We exchange travelling stories for a while and share some whisky. He tells of adventures of far away lands and you can detect a far away sadness in his eyes, money spent, on the final leg home.
Aware that drinking too much before a flight can be an expensive mistake after being refused aboard a flight in Grenoble a while back, a little sobering up and we make our way to check-in. We’re flying with Ethiad with a stop over in the UAE. It's my first experience of the Middle East. That oil sure makes a buck.
The flight's endless. The films are good although (as opposed to the food!) the staff wear strange veiled headgear and speak excellent English. After what seems like an eternity the engines start to emit a different tone and the screens go blank. This means either of two things, firstly that we’re all about to die imminently, or that we’re started to descend into the place that hardly a day goes past – since my last visit three years ago – that it doesn’t enter my mind.
Touchdown. Bangkok. The biggest, nosiest, most congested, polluted, dangerous, and alien place I’ve ever encountered. I truly love it.
It's early, 7 in the morning maybe, the sun not long risen in the far east. After immigration we run into a young farang couple looking to share a taxi to Th Khao San. My friend jumps in the front and the rest of us get in the back. The city sprawls before us as we hurtle along the expressway dodging and weaving throughout the maze of traffic. The girl’s in the middle and wearing tiny little shorts, my gaze meets her tanned, soft, toned legs. Averting my gaze quickly I can't help my mind wandering on to what tonight may bring.
We get out on to the street and out of the air con taxi. The first real belt of tropical heat hits us. Still wearing jeans we wander up Khao San and after some debate we unsurprisingly opt for a morning beer. Finding an inviting looking bar / guesthouse we order a couple of large Singhas and set up the pool table. Suitably refreshed after a few of these bad boys each, we saunter off into the swell of humanity and find a hotel.
After a shower and a change we decide to head out again, unable to sleep. Now might be a good time to try the local whisky I offer. “Why not fxxx it?” was my partner in crime’s retort. A bar smaller than my living room with a pool table not much bigger than a dartboard provides us with a half bottle of Samsong, some ice, Red Bull equivalent and coke. Listening to reggae, sipping away it perhaps starts to actually sink in that I’m on the other side of the world.
It's half an hour later now and we’re both absolutely hammered. Let me reiterate that point, absolutely fxxxxd. I presume thinking that now would be a good time to put our heads down and we head back to the hotel and crash. Next thing we know it’s a fair few hours later, just starting to get dark I think. Bangkok by night. Still drunk and ready to rock and roll we grab a shower and head out to see what happens.
I think we had a drink or two in Khao San then decided to head down to the reputable entertainment establishment, Soi Cowboy. Our taxi driver helpfully insisted “cowboy no open, cowboy no good, King birthday” etc. Having been here before I kindly declined to take him up on his offer of an alternate venue and asked him to proceed to Sukhumvit.
Arriving at the entrance to the soi an orgy of neon lights, whores, baby elephants, hawkers and beggars were on site to greet us. We bar crawled for a while, hopping from bar to bar gathering the Dutch courage I guess to pursue the inevitable.
Walking, sorry staggering, down the soi a while later, our eyes present us with a couple of striking young things who persuade us with not much difficulty to enter their place of employment for a drink or two. I remember a lot of giggling and flirty banter but not much else about the bar. I don’t remember any dancing on stages so it must have been a beer bar of sorts. After a few drinks our brand new friends took us to a short time place at the end of the soi. The rooms were fine, better than expected. My girl had ordered a couple of drinks discreetly so I was delighted when two Heinekens arrived in the room. We showered and had incredible sex.
We’re outside now in the still baking heat of the night. We study the finances and realize between us luckily we’ve got just about enough to get us back across the city. We say our oh so heartfelt farewells to our ‘girlfriends’ and catch a cab. We end up back at our first port of call much earlier that day, a couple of nightcaps and we go and hit the hay with music blaring out my cheap stereo.
So that's it, a little journal of the first day of a truly wonderful holiday. I'll be back no question. I first travelled in 2004 and spent 3 months in Samui amongst other places. From what I can see things haven't changed that much in this short time, however from reading other submissions it would appear a lot of our attitudes have. I will continue to enjoy it for what it is, for me anyway. A beautiful country with a lot of con men but far far more genuine and warm people, partying for a week for the same dosh as a night back home, the indescribable feelings of excitement of not knowing what the next day will hold, waking up with the soft, caramel coloured skin of a smiley, cheeky little Isaan minx rubbing against mine, the sand between my toes, an ice cold Beer Lao on a sweltering day in the hot season, the healthiest and tastiest food I've ever eaten, meeting people far far more interesting than your average night down the local… I could go on but you all know what I'm on about anyway.
Live long and prosper!
Sometimes we can be too analytical about things in Thailand and sometimes it is best just to enjoy ourselves, as you obviously do!