Stickman Readers' Submissions September 8th, 2008

My First visit to Thailand

I have never been too good at this sort of thing and normally when I sit down in front of a PC and try to pen anything it all becomes a big chore. However I felt a bit duty bound as I am an avid reader of this website and I thought I should make an effort to contribute. I discovered the best way for me to do this was to write a couple of sentences here and there when I thought of something. I dipped in and out of this document over the course of a couple of days penning my thoughts and before I knew it I had some sort of article. Probably not the most efficient way to write, as everything was out of sequence but I got there in the end, and believe it or not I grew to enjoy the procedure. Who knows I may even do it again. Anyways here goes.

I have never been much of a traveller and my idea of a good holiday was 2 weeks off work pottering about the house. However that all changed when I saw an advertisement for Thai Boxing. Let me explain here right away that I do not see myself as some sort of warrior on a quest but it just so happened that about 5 years ago (whilst in my mid 40’s) I found myself doing a bit of night shift mini cabbing (private taxi) in Glasgow. Just about every weekend I would be in some sort of confrontation and thought that I needed to do something to both keep me fit and prepared if things came to blows. I happened to be in a shop where I saw a flier for a Thai Boxing Club. Wasn’t sure what that was, but having been in the forces when I was younger and having punched the odd bag, thought I would give it a go. Rang the guy who ran the club and before I knew it I was going twice a week. The guy, Billy, who ran the club, was an avid Thailand and Thai Boxing fan – although at that time he had never visited the LOS. It wasn’t long before his enthusiasm had rubbed off on me, and I was reading up on Thailand in general. Unfortunately the money side of things wasn’t too good for me then and a holiday wasn’t really on. Billy and his wife, Jacqueline, did travel over for a 2 week holiday in Koh Samui in 2003. Of course when he came back I was as jealous as hell when he regaled me of the stories about training, watching the shows, (only the Thai boxing shows, wasn’t so fussed about the katoey shows, but each to their own) good food, cheap beer, and the friendliness of the people. About a year after they came back my circumstances had changed allowing me to plan a trip. Originally I was coming on my own but eventually Billy and his wife thought they would come back for a 2nd time with me. Billy’s sister in law worked in a travel agent's and she booked a holiday for us. The deal for me was a flight from Glasgow to Heathrow (London), and then direct from there to Bangkok. We would have 3 days in Bangkok and then a mini bus would take us down to Hua Hin. 10 days in Hua Hin before travelling to Bangkok for our flight back. Billy and his wife got a hotel package included, where I opted to find my own hotel when I got there. I think for me in June 2004 the cost for the flight was £448 – that’s probably about $900 US.

Arrived at the old Don Muang airport on the Sunday and was picked up by Billy and his wife’s hotel transport. We were driven to their hotel, The Amari Atruim, where I left my bag whilst I set off to find a hotel. Had done a bit of research and by my reckoning I should have found a hotel close by. Wrong – nothing, but I did find a bar/restaurant, where I had my 1st beer in Thailand. It seemed like nectar but I think I was just overwhelmed by the occasion. Started out walking again and then got caught in the biggest rain storm I’ve ever saw. The rain was battering about 4 foot of the ground and I got absolutely soaked. Made it back to their hotel but I was like a drowned rat. A taxi had just dropped someone off and I hopped in. Don’t think I asked for it by name but mentioned I wanted to go somewhere to drink, luckily the driver spoke a little English, and within about 15 minutes I was getting out at the front of Nana Plaza. It was early evening and the streets were just starting to get lively. I thought to myself WOW – this is the place. Fantastic looking women everywhere. The smell of food, cooking, burning incense, thumping music. Even a couple of elephants walking down the street.

I tried to check in at the Nana hotel but didn’t like the prices. I know it’s relatively cheap but I knew I could get cheaper places from the research I had done. Went inside Nana Plaza and went to one of the 1st bars on the left – Lollipop. Couldn’t believe how well I was treated with all the staff fussing over me. Luckily there was a young Englishman there just starting out on a golfing holiday. He had been over a few times and knew the score, which he was happy to share with me. Within minutes he organised one of the bargirls to take me out to buy a new dry T-shirt (hadn’t picked my bag up from my friends hotel yet), and then she took me to book into a hotel just down the soi. Cable TV, on suite, AC all for 600 baht.

Back to the bar and a few drinks for the English guy, the bargirl and myself. I did have a walk around upstairs in the Plaza and popped into a few of the shows. Not being moral here but it’s just not my cup of tea, just as lap dancing clubs in Farangland aren’t my cup of tea – but I’ve nothing against anyone else enjoying it. Anyway my 3 days in Bangkok just flew by – but I have to be honest and say at that time I wasn’t really comfortable with the crowds and pollution, but over time I’ve learnt to accept it and now I really love it. One other thing of note about that 1st time in Bangkok is when I went for my 1st and probably last Thai massage, I think it was on Soi 2 off Sukhumvit Road. The old lady who did the massage could have been easily 80 years of age with fingers like steel pokers. Got to have been the most painful 1 hour I have ever spent. Also very embarrassing – not just wearing the pyjamas but also all the pulling and pushing didn’t do my stomach any good, causing me to break wind at an alarming rate. I ended up apologising profusely with the old lady saying “No ploblem” and giggling like a hyena. Needless to say big tip for her, and big red face for me.

After Bangkok it was a mini bus down to Hua Hin. My friends were again staying at one of the bigger hotels – The Marriot, whilst I found a really nice place a bit farther up the road – 690 baht (Proving you're a true blue Scotsman! – Stick>. Once we had settled in we all went for a walk around the beach area / Soi Bintabaht, where we noticed a Thai boxing stadium – The Thai Boxing Garden. We went inside and made an arrangement to come training the next day, whilst I also booked a room upstairs at 600 baht. That was me in heaven when I booked in there the next day. The trainer was a guy called Petch who was an ex fighter who had fought at all the big stadiums in Bangkok (I’ve recently seen him on TV on “The Contender – Muay Thai” reality show). I had some fantastic days going downstairs to the ring in the morning and sharing some food and conversation with Petch, before an afternoon training session when I was joined by Billy. Have to be honest and say we were wasting our time training, as we were too old, too fat and it was way too warm for us. We would have been as well giving over our 300 baht and having a lie down in the sun – but it was good fun and it gave us good memories.

One other thing that sticks in memory from Hua Hin is meeting a Thai lady called B in one of the bars. She said that she did not work in the bar but was visiting her friend, who was the manageress, for a few days. I went back there a few nights on the trot as she was pretty, mid 30s (not got much time for younger woman), spoke good English and was good to talk to. Eventually after much persuasion she left the bar with me one night – no barfine may I add – and we went for something to eat and then on a bar crawl. She did not drink but I put away enough for two. Was not expecting to spend the night with her but at her suggestion she came back to my room. I was too drunk to do anything and that included going for a shower or brushing my teeth, much to her annoyance.

In the morning she wouldn’t take any money from me and was in fact offended that I offered. Took her for breakfast (this time I did have a shower and brushed my teeth) and all was well. Went back to the bar a few times after that and again everything was okay although I never asked her to leave the bar again with me. Whenever she saw me walk down the street or in another bar in the soi she would always make a point to come and say hello. A few nights go past and I go back to the camp and the front door is locked stopping me from getting to my room – knocked a few times and rang the bell but didn’t go overboard as I didn’t want to wake the household up – it was about 1 AM by then – so I walked around to another bar and had another drink. Got speaking to one of the bar girls and asked her if I could bar fine her and could we use her room for the night as I needed somewhere to sleep. “Yes, no problem”. Paid the fine and went to the 7 Eleven where I bought myself some shower gel, toothbrush and toothpaste. Big mistake because who’s there when I turnaround but B. She went absolutely crazy asking why I pay bar fine for this girl, why I buy shower gel and toothpaste when I not do for her. She really went to town on me and said she would pay the bar fine for the girl that I had just paid for. I was really speechless and didn’t know what to do other than give the girl who I had just bar fined a few hundred baht and left her whilst I returned to my own room. I eventually knocked someone up to open the door and got into my own bed. Never saw B again after that. I didn’t think I had done too much wrong. Lets face it, it’s a Friday night tradition in Glasgow to get blotted and fall into bed without doing your ablutions. But it taught me a lesson about how important face is to a Thai and also how volatile they can be when they lose it.

Soon it was time to go home but I had caught the Thai disease and fallen in love with the place. I take Thailand for what it is. I don’t try and change it or the people. I don’t fall in love with Thai girls (apparently me butterfly), I don’t try and give them my values or expect them to have those values. If I don’t like the way I’m being treated or feel I’m getting ripped off then I do the same as I would do in Farangland, and take my custom elsewhere.

Would I be back? You bet

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Stickman's thoughts:

Very nice report indeed. It just goes to show that you do not need to go on a shag fest to enjoy Thailand AND the bar areas.

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