Readers' Submissions

Land of Confusion Part 5

  • Written by Hunch
  • July 17th, 2015
  • 44 min read

I left Soi 10 in my wake, and crossed the main road via the nearest footbridge. I remember the fetid stench of human excrement baking somewhere close-by in the noon-day sun. The lone beggar up on the elevated walkway looked blameless. I descended from this unrarefied air onto the pavement below and strolled Sukhumvit heading south across the Asoke junction en route to the next hotel I had booked. I somehow resisted the temptation to traverse Soi Cowboy and witness its unflattering shuttered-up and bleached-out state of daytime undress. During the walk, I also recall wanting to confirm the exact location of a currency exchange booth I’d noted on a previous day, advertising exchange rates on a large LED that seemed consistently better than elsewhere. I recall the recollection, mainly due to the hideousness of a tattoo I spied on a Western gentleman who was just walking away from the booth with his Thai companion. I squinted through the sunlight and there was no doubt – it was a singlet-framed wonder, running from shoulder-blade to mid forearm – it was a Grandfather clock. It was supreme in its ugliness and sort of looked like Big Ben on steroids. I vainly hoped the money just exchanged would be put to better use.

I got to the hotel way before check-in time. I had a very light rucksack but as I entered the icy-cool, dusky foyer, I was perspiring lightly, like a female tennis-player at the first change-over at Wimbledon. Or a ponce. Normally, this place allows an immediate check-in but not today – ‘loom not leady, sir, please wait’. No problem, I had nowhere particular to be and was still enjoying not being the cause of someone’s constant annoyance now I was free of Jen. I thought I might as well seek to infuriate myself anyway, so I took out a Sudoku. A silly coloured drink arrived on a tray, but was most welcome. ‘Ah…welcome back Mister Hunch’, said the smiling young porter with a twinkle. ‘You remember me?’ ‘Yes…last summer you come. Room not take long, sir’.

After 30 minutes, the pretty young reception lady calls me back over and tells me the room is ready, and I’m getting a complimentary upgrade. The suite is fantastic, with a huge bathroom, fully-equipped kitchen and Allelujah – a washing/drying machine. Whenever in Bangkok, I always pay a little extra to stay at Centrepoint for a few days for this exact reason – It means I can pack really light (i.e. carry-on luggage) and wash my clothes regularly. Having a washing machine at this place too will help no end – it will save trying to dry hand-washed running gear draped all over every ledge and outcrop of a standard room. I only paid 50GBP a night for this on the original booking, so I’ve lucked out big-time. It’s actually a Serviced Apartment building but feels much more like a hotel. It has a really nice pool and big gym as well. Bangkok certainly still offers some great deals on accommodation if you do your homework. Of course, there is one disadvantage in appearing to live so well, which I’ll come to later.

With nothing to do today and all day to do it, it was time for another wander. I thought I would head South down the Sukhumvit lesser known to me. I ended up in Soi 33/1 alley which seemed to have a Japanese/Korean theme. On the right-hand side of the Soi were a brace of Irish/British pubs and I suddenly craved a proper Sunday roast dinner. I settled on The Royal Oak and grabbed a shaded bench at the front of the pub with a good view of the Soi. The patrons mostly seemed to be in the 50+ age bracket and a civilised bunch, quite a few married couples it seemed. I wondered if I’d regret ordering away from Pork, so played it safe and enjoyed my hog roast in a pleasant atmosphere. I idled back to the hotel and did nothing in particular, swam, read a bit. Tonight, I would visit Soi Cowboy for the first time on this trip.

At the appointed time, I took the short walk down to Soi 23 and a little way up, hung a left into the infamous lane. It was moderately busy and buzzy, the neon much more prominent now than my first visits ten years ago. As is my usual MO, I traversed the lane slowly, appraising the frontages (both living and inanimate), noting changes and additions. I reached the top of the Soi and as always, took a quick look in and around Country Road, a bar I had many enjoyable times in during trips past, and even found the occasional young lovely in there. No lovelies had showed up yet tonight and, as ever, the band weren’t really cooking, so I made my way back towards the other end of the Soi. In all my trips (13 and counting) I’ve only got to know three bars well on Cowboy – the aforementioned Country Road, Tilac and Baccara. The last two have been recently crossed off the list for their high nuisance factors – attitudes, bad service, and in the case of the latter, its compulsory 2 lady drinks policy and ‘Farang not really welcome but tolerated’ slant. Shame – Baccara used to be great until about 2012. In the last two years, I’ve taken rather a liking to Dollhouse. It has the same laid-back vibe of gogo bars I remember from my first visits. It doesn’t have the neon or the sheer number of young pole-huggers, but they have the odd looker or two and the music is good.

I chose a lurker spot up in the bleachers and was soon in a ‘pretend you not look me’ game with a wench. I’d stumbled across a Beatles medley in the DJ’s set which I was enjoying immensely. Periodically, the mamasan gently berated me for not having chosen a girl yet and helpfully pointed out that I could ‘choose what girl you like. Whit numberrr?’ The DJ followed up his Fab 4 section with some good 70s funk and the girl I’d been eyeing joined me after her changeover. Whoops! The stage gogo lights had definitely written her cheques that she couldn’t cash when viewed up close. And she had a guttural snarl of a voice. Oh no. I bought a drink for her out of politeness, but she did something that got her quickly dismissed – spilt the drink, hit me or insulted me loudly – I actually can’t remember which – only that she substituted herself in fairly quick fashion after. I must have given her my ‘Antonio Rattin’ look. (Rattin was the Argentine football captain famously sent off against England in 1966 for what the referee termed ‘the look in his eye’).

Anyway, all par for the course and no matter, there was a much better option onstage now and I soon waved her down. She was nice up close and spoke and behaved in a feminine manner. I quickly closed the deal with her – noting that she was almost a clone of the pneumatic ‘Jessica Rabbit’ bird I had barfined the previous night in Nana. Unsuitably attired, she soon returned and we were on our way out – I think, after the earlier altercation, to the mild relief of the mamasan. We reached Soi 23 and had just passed Crazy House bar when we suffered a mechanical failure. I noticed with cruel amusement the look of consternation on the Farang manager’s face, who was standing on Dollhouse’s outside decking area, as he saw me returning with the lady. He was quickly relieved to hear the reason – ‘broken heel’. Of the ensuing activities back at the hotel, I can’t actually recall a single detail – as mentioned, she was so similar to my previous night’s. It was Groundhog Day in Bangkok already. But my mind was probably already on tomorrow morning…I was meeting Annie for lunch.

Annie is my best friend in Thailand. We can talk about anything and have similar senses of humour and interests. She is the ex-fiancé of Pete, the friend and work-colleague of mine who first brought me to Thailand ten years ago. Annie and Pete were an item back then, and Annie went out of her way to look after me on that trip. I liked her instantly and still remember exactly how her voice sounded when, having just arrived in Bangkok for the first time and reached my hotel room (that she’d booked), I answered the already ringing house phone. She was calling from her busy workplace to say ‘Heeey Hunch. Did you have a nice flight? Welcome to Beeunggkok’. She purred the words.

Pete and Annie were due to marry four years ago. Annie’s UK visa was arranged and the wedding was booked for Hua Hin in September of that year. Around June, Pete had a meltdown, stopped answering her calls, emails and any other attempts at communication. Basically, he couldn’t handle the enormity of taking her from a good job in Thailand and bringing her to the recession-hampered UK. It didn’t help that our boss has just jumped ship at the same time, definitely putting both our careers at risk from the incoming incompetents. Anyway, I soon became broker, agony aunt and whatnot else for both parties, even though I sided with Annie. Very happily, we remained good friends. She is bloody gorgeous – a full Thai, but tallish, slender, high cheekbones and muted but exquisite Asiatic features. Like a more wholesome Lucy Liu. She speaks great English, after being International-schooled, and having become very Westernised in outlook. Copious British comedy DVDs have helped as well. And Skid Row!?! ‘I love them, na!!’

I didn’t contact her prior to my arrival in Thailand, as I thought Jen and I would be spending happy times together, and remembered how jealous Jen got last time I met up with Annie (Jen was invited on that occasion as well, but declined). Annie and Jen met a few times, but, as another submission writer recently put it ‘when foreigners introduce Thai women to one another, it always ends in a train-wreck’. While I was up in Mae Hong Son and becoming aware that Jen and myself were having our own slow-motion train wreck, I LINE-messaged Annie and told her I would be in Bangkok for a few days. We arranged to meet for lunch the following Monday in Soi 11. I was really looking forward to it – we always had interesting, fun conversations, and were easy in each other’s company. I’d also missed her last time I was in Bangkok – she was over in the UK visiting her new boyfriend. He actually lives and works in Bangkok somewhere and they met locally. One lucky man indeed.

I got to and entered the restaurant about noon and was somewhat rudely told to wait outside until they were ready to open. There were tables in an outside court-yard so it was no real problem. I sat in the shade and further annoyed myself with more Sudoku, looking up expectantly as each car approached, only for them to turn around and exit the courtyard. A while later, I looked over and recognised Annie’s very distinctive slightly loping gait as she picked her way towards me, a picture of class, completely unflustered in the noon heat. ‘Heeey Hunch’ she calls out in that purr. I love how she says my real name, like a favourite young niece. Tight white blouse with puffy sleeves. Checkered figure-hugging pencil skirt just below the knee. Plain black stilettos. And Annie was dressed nicely too, yuk yuk. She was already gently wittering some needless apology about her late arrival. My nerves (why was I nervous?) evaporated as we took our table inside and immediately fell into rapt conversation, to-ing and fro-ing news and gossip. The good food was incidental.

I shared with her my ‘confession’ that I’d already been in Thailand for a few days, up in Mae Hong Son, and filled her in on the Jen situation. I explained that I just wanted to see one last time if we could salvage anything together. Conversation worked its way around to Pete. She asked how he was doing and told me she still spoke to his mother regularly. Then, there was an unexpected lull for a few moments. ‘Hunch. You know how we met don’t you?…Me and Pete?’ The question took me by surprise. ‘Yeah? Khao San Road…you were out with your workmates and bumped into Pete and his friend at the bar.’ I’d heard the story many times. Annie smiled patiently for a few moments, waiting for the penny to drop with me. ‘What…so, you didn’t meet like that?’ ‘No…we met on ICQ’. It’s funny. I’d never heard of ICQ until a week before this moment and since I’ve heard it mentioned over ten times. (ICQ – I didn’t know – was an instant-messaging PC application popular around 1999-2002). Annie continued, ‘I was near Chatuchak one day with my mom in an internet café and Pete’s contact request up on the screen. We had a quick chat and he asked for my photo. We just became pen-pals from there. Pete never wanted anyone to know that’s how we met.’ Pete, Mr. ‘I’m the man’…well I never.

Of course, now the story of how they met wasn’t true, several other tales and other facts I thought I knew well couldn’t follow on and would have to change. Annie, keen to unload, now went through them with the correction pen. It was two years before they actually became a proper item and not after the so-called ‘third date’…one time he followed her (uninvited) to Samui and freaked her out by ‘surprising’ her. Of that, she said, ‘I thought…who is this weird English guy!!??’ More ‘this is what really happened’ details followed. All quite different from what Pete told me. I never had reason to think of him as a liar so was quite taken aback. I then got an account of his emotional coldness towards her when she visited the UK just after they got engaged in 2011. There was some strange business about the engagement ring – him giving it to her unceremoniously just before meeting his mother so she could be seen wearing it, etc. Refusing any physical contact, except for wanting rough sex sessions with her in the hotel they were staying at in London. ‘I didn’t like it’. For all her candidness, I was relieved the revelations stopped there…I was with them in London during this time and all the happy photos of us together now took on a different complexion. Their seemingly perfect relationship was in reality very different. Processing all this information and reeling somewhat, I attempted to finish the now cold pizza.

We got some Tiramisu and coffee and Annie talked about lighter things and about maybe having lunch again the next day. I could come to her workplace and we would go somewhere round the corner. Then her blackberry started ringing off the table – the office wanted her back. I took refuge back at the hotel to swim a bit, read Charlie Richardson and ruminate on the whole Pete story. The foundation of many of my early visits to Thailand – Pete and Annie’s relationship was now a melting mirage in the slack of the afternoon. However, there was one little treat in store before the evenings pilgrimage to Soi 4. Annie was a keen runner and she knew I was, and we’d always talked about going jogging. Parting from our lunch, Annie asked if we could go for a run tonight. If Benjasiri Park was okay with her, I was in. And so later we met at the gate outside the park. She got off the motorbike taxi at the foot of the BTS station steps and skipped towards me in tight Lycra pants and a light jogging top. It was broiling hot and as we trotted into the park I remarked on the jogging top. ‘because I only have this underneath’, she countered, flashing me an eyeful of a tiny fluorescent sports bra straining to hold her fulsome breasts. Surgically enhanced by one of Thailand’s finest surgeons, they were inflated at Pete’s request and generous expense. She could hardly give them back now, although she did say she was considering having them removed during our lunch. Not being a fan of silicone, I’ve always had to concede these to be a splendid argument against my viewpoint. She’d sought my opinion several times in the past whether they were too big, or ‘weird-looking’…and emailed me a photo or two of herself in her nightwear. If it’s possible to gibber via a keyboard I think I managed to in typing my response. I christened them ‘the twins’ which she didn’t seem to mind, cutely referring to them herself as ‘the twin’. The ‘twin’ were well leashed tonight and we completed a few sweltering laps, weaving through the mass aerobic class at the south end of the park. I ran apart from her for a few moments using the excuse that I was ‘checking her running form’ in order to fix the full-length view of her lycra loveliness in my mind. ‘Is it ok, Lung?’ ‘Yeah…its a…nice running action’.

That evening I had a quick bite to eat in the Biergarten. One character I noticed was an old guy, maybe 70 plus, with white hair, a crumpled suit and a dickie-bow tie. He looked like a disgraced former ambassador and was chaperoned to his perch by a young lady who seemed to have some sort of receptionist role, as I’d previously seen her next to the entrance behind a desk of some kind. The duffer was obviously a local celeb and his companion was quite pretty indeed. I used my interest in him to smile at her and she smiled back. I filed the ‘receptionist’ for future reference and hit the plaza. I thought ‘right side’ tonight, and so headed up the steps to Mandarin bar. I’d been in there a couple of nights previously and left in a huff after being annoyed at their limited beer selection. I hoped they didn’t remember, and flashed a big smile just to be sure. I tend to favour the downstairs bar of this establishment, being a low-key punter. Whenever I’ve been upstairs, I’ve got the impression I’ve just walked in after some horseplay or tomfoolery has taken place; the girls squawking in glee at some unseen outrage, and the tinkling echo of broken glass from a dropped monocle lens. Back downstairs, my Tiger fizz arrives. I sip, scan the room left to right, then look up.

Through stupefyingly pert breasts I see a beaming smile and those smouldering eyes – the ones that say ‘you’ll sleep well tonight, sonny boy’. She was dancing on the podium right in front of me and I had to crane a little so as to properly ogle her talents. I quickly waved her down to sit with me. She was late 30’s and most attractive. Experience had taught me well that this would already be the ‘top of my game’ this evening. Quitting while ahead, I barfined her with a haste that would pass as barely decent to the nuns who taught me at school. She went off to change and came back in a cute, loose-fitting Crimplene-like jumpsuit thing. It was very thin material and it was causing me all sorts of mischief as she pressed against me during the cab ride. She made suggestive comments between the driver and myself and he appeared to greatly enjoy his diversion from the Sukhumvit slog.

Back at base, the jumpsuit was really doing it for me and I didn’t want to just fast-forward to the silly towel dance section. She let me strip her slowly, peeling down the material over her silky curves, leaving her resplendent in tight black cotton underwear. This was removed very slowly between bouts of passionate kissing…as I was slowly being scraped to death by my own zipper. The saucy minx had a delightful surprise for me. Removing her panty briefs, I found the tiniest of tiny ‘floss’ g-strings underneath. She laughed at my surprise and gave me a lingering lap dance, facing away from me whilst sitting on my knees. I thought I would lose my mind before she relented and we moved to the shower. Between time and space now, I enjoyed a long, sensual soap and skin moment of heaven. Thai girls always seem to look so delightfully homely when they scrub off the make-up, don the shower-cap and furrow their brow as get down to the surgical cleansing. They don’t cut corners when it comes to bathing.

The next half hour or so ranks easily amongst the top three romps of my life. She was gorgeous – in my eyes at least – and was a talented love-maker with the right amount of years on her as well. She looked ten years younger than late thirties and put the usual silly puppy fat-laden 22 year old gogo tarts to shame. After tea and medals, she talked for a while about her son and her frequent temple retreats. I made a Bangkok Promise and said I would be sure to come and see her again. ‘Nice and early tomorrow, na? I not want you to come too late…’

I was vaguely aware that a major Buddhist holiday was imminent. I should have paid more heed to this but I was busy with a few admin tasks, most of which necessitated that I maintained the pretence that I wasn’t actually in Thailand. Only one person knows I’m here, (outside of Jen, Annie and now half the employees of Cowboy and Nana). But seriously, a single close friend is in my confidence. I now keep any Thailand visits on the very quiet – especially from work colleagues, as past knowledge of my trips began to negatively affect me professionally. For the same reason, family and friends are totally in the dark about my presence here. Again, it brought trouble my way in the past. Anyway, it’s a good excuse to behave myself like a Vatican emissary, lest I attract undue attention or require Consular assistance. A little aside here – on a similar incognito trip about 3 years ago, I managed to get myself snapped in a bar by none other than Stickman himself and my mug appeared in one of the Weekly Column photos! It just shows – you can’t be too careful!

I was meeting Annie for lunch again and about an hour before the time, she messaged to say she was bringing her colleague Bee. I had met Bee a year previously when, owing to Annie being in the UK, she arranged a date with me and three of her single colleagues. Two of the three turned up, and I recall Bee being an absolute knockout in her slinky dress, killer heels and with good English to boot. Her friend Nina was a real a wet blanket though, and it made the evening a bit of an ordeal. I was supposed (expected) to contact them again on that trip but in the end I didn’t get around to it. Bee’s presence today might be awkward then. But screw it, she didn’t seem too interested in me on the date that night. I wait in the lobby of their workplace for a while and Annie, sexily dressed in another tight skirt and heels, soon appears with Bee in tow. Bee looks quite different in her work uniform, much shorter out of killer stilettos. She also seems quieter and more prim and proper, which isn’t a bad thing.

We walk the short distance to a place I’d never been before – it’s the restaurant of a newish hotel called Ad Lib, which is located in the shadows of Bumrungrad Hospital. It’s swish and swanky and very impressive architecturally. Ultra-modern architecture often leaves me cold but this is a welcome exception. The food looks good – European and Thai – and I opt for something lame like a chicken Caesar salad. I find eating with Thai ladies a bit like drinking non-alcoholic beer – you have the sensation in your mouth but something is amiss. What I mean is, as an incurable grub-hound, I’m unable to concentrate on savouring and slurping my food the usual way, instead having to pay close attention to maintaining impeccable table manners and also being distracted by the inevitable charms of the ladies themselves. Today, Bee really does seem uncharacteristically bashful from how I remember her – quite brash and stand-offish. With her silky hair tied back in a neat ponytail, I can’t fail to notice her eyes today – amazing, large, rounded-off almonds… like Jen’s.

Annie plays mother goose for a while before the accursed Blackberries start humming and buzzing, heralding their required return and the end of our little lunch. As usual, Annie won’t let me pay but I remember it being quite pricey, unsurprisingly. It is a place I would recommend however, if you wanted to impress on a lunch date. The service was notably good also. (It’s off Sukhumvit Soi 1, behind the hospital). The two girls then make a suggestion that takes me a little by surprise – if I’m doing nothing later, maybe I could meet Bee for something to drink? A time is mentioned and it works for me – I can get in a longer run I have planned, go meet Bee, and then still have time to hot-tail it back to Nana to try and (willingly) keep my promise with Ms Crimplene. I head back to the hotel and watch more episodes of my True Detective DVD, to try and keep my mind off Thai women for a few hours at least. I head down to Benjasiri Park post-anthems and start off on a 5 mile run. Some Thai teenager joins me on lap 5 – he’s so obviously trying to show that he can beat me round the 750 metre lap while pretending to not notice my presence at all. I’m running a constant pace, so when he starts flagging and coming back towards me, he throws on another spurt of speed. It’s rather amusing, but he only lasts a couple of laps, which is a shame as it broke the monotony. Unsurprisingly, I’m totally shafted when I finish and though an experienced runner used to hot climates and thinking I judged the pace OK, I obviously went too fast. Runners need to be careful in Bangkok, and I don’t suppose the Sukhumvit Road pollution helped me, either. I feel all giddy and floaty as I exit the park. Noticing a uniformed goon shaking down another Westerner directly outside, I decide it best not to hang around and make my way back to the hotel to plunge into the pool for a while

Back in the room, I enjoy some idle time, surfing the TV channels. Then I pick up the phone. I see missed LINE and SMS messages. Annie: ‘Lung, Bee is gonna meet you at 7pm now not 8pm, is that ok, na?’ ‘You can meet her at Rain Hill’. Then an SMS from Bee: ‘Hi, I’m at the pub. Let me know when you’re here’. Dammit, can a man not go to a park in tight shorts and chase a Thai teenager for five minutes in peace??! I SMS Bee back: ‘I’m still at hotel, I only just got your messages – I will leave in 5 mins’. I hate rushing out, especially to meet Thai girls who’ve turned up 45 mins early! I was really late for our previous meeting last year by getting stuck in traffic, so wanted to avoid this again. I head off and I’m already sweating when I reach Sukhumvit Road again. Traffic is shafted and the Thong-Lo BTS is a bit of a hike. I flag down a motosai and thankfully he understands my pitiful Thai and we’re soon zigzagging, bucking and darting through belching traffic to Soi 47.

I make the Rain Hill complex 20 minutes later and I find Bee upstairs in Hobs beer house, looking calm and collected, sipping her German beer. She was demurely dressed in white blouse, just above knee-length cream shorts and ballet shoes. I had a false memory of her from last year, thinking she possessed a more curvaceous, Latina-type figure, similar to Jen’s. In fact she was quite petite, but still shapely. She was relaxed about my late arrival and I was soon calmed by her cooing, laid back voice. Conversation wasn’t mind-blowingly exciting but it came easy and we had a few gentle laughs as we sized each other up. Those eyes of hers could really cast a spell on a man and she was every inch rocking my ‘secretary’ fantasy, sporting thin-rimmed glasses that suited her face well. I noticed that she didn’t really ask me much about myself over the next 2 hours or so, and instead talked about her trips to Europe, skiing (dammit, I’d have to ski??), and having to bring proper Thai noodles with her wherever she travelled. It transpired she’d had a previous relationship with a Farang but I did not press the topic. One nice box she ticked was in saying ‘My hero in doing my fitness workouts is Annie’. It seemed she took staying in shape seriously and dare I venture, actually had a hobby! I then remembered at our earlier lunch when Annie, showing off a little, played us a video clip of her in the gym with her trainer, doing some advanced forms of ‘plank’ exercises. I drank in this Lycra-clad treat, and similarly now pictured Bee perspiring in her figure-hugging skimpies…I’d willingly be a laundry boy to both ladies.

Bee wasn’t hungry and as it got later, I realised I still hadn’t eaten. A waitress said the kitchen was closing but they could make me a Lamb Burger. It came out promptly and was one of the best burgers I’ve eaten anywhere. I made sure to eat it with a knife and fork and took immense care to listen to her and not spill burger grease anywhere, a Herculean effort for me. The pub was empty now and the staff were stacking chairs and tables. We went down to the street level and I watched Bee as she walked to the bathroom, noting her slim, shapely legs – she was a tidy bit of stuff indeed. There was a bit of an awkward pause while we waited for a cab for her and I just made sure I said nothing crass before shaking her hand. Fine, warm, porcelain bones. I reviewed our little date as I made my way back up Sukhumvit – I didn’t feel any real spark between us, but there was certainly an attraction on my side.

In all this, I’d forgotten Ms Crimplene in Nana Plaza! I quickened my pace up Sukhumvit and caught the BTS to Nana. I was instantly aware something was amiss as I got to Nana street level – things seemed much darker than normal and there were loads of people milling about in the street. Entering Soi 4, something really odd was going on – I met a tidal wave of people all coming the other way. It was only 11.30 but Stumble Inn bar was now in darkness, a portent of something terrible…I edged closer to the entrance to the Plaza and then saw my own version of a semi-buried Statue of Liberty – it was closed!!! I sank to my knees a la Charlton Heston and screamed mortally, ‘Damm you! Damn you all to Hellll!!’ Machu Bucha, the Buddhist holiday, had started a day early. Everywhere had closed-up, or more likely, the Authorities had mandated ‘early closing’. The BTS now seemed to have stopped as well, so I picked my way back through the chaotic hoards on Sukhumvit.

Bargirls and gormless Johns fought over every taxi. Thais jostled and bunched at the bus stops. I finally made the sanctuary that was South of the Asok intersection, where the madness abated. I heard a strangled guitar and soon came up on the Penalty Spot bar which was still open. Entering, a band plays and a handful of punters and bargirls are inside. A drunken scumbag is swaying like he’s doing a demented clog-dance with an imaginary Shane McGowan. I grab a table a mile away from him and order a beer. Moments later, a wizened old bargirl makes her play, getting ready to settle herself next to me. At the same instant the drunk literally teleports so he’s now next to the table, and begins his fall towards me. He goes down in stages like a giant redwood, so I’ve got time to grab the beer and leap out of the way. It kills two birds with one stone – I’ve escaped from the bargirl and Brown Bottle here is now out of the equation. The band murder a few covers as I lament my broken Bangkok Promise with Ms Crimplene. I quaff the beer and write the night off as a bad job.

Next morning I’m up and eating breakfast in the sunshine on the hotel’s pleasant terrace. The twinkling bellboy sidles up on the other side of the railing. ‘Morning Mr. Hunch. You leaving today…go to Pattaya’. He grins thievishly and he sees the flicker of surprise on my face. He chuckles. ‘Your taxi here already one half hour…’ That makes the taxi an hour and a half early…this guy wants to make sure! I don’t rush my breakfast but expedite my pack-up and check-out to help my driver, plus I’m keen to get to the shore. I get my second cheeky grin of the day – it’s the same driver who brought me from the airport a few days ago…we struck the deal for this run to Pattaya that day, and he seems surprised that I’m meeting him this morning in one piece. His recruitment into MI6 was now in jeopardy however, given his loose tongued encounter with the bellboy.

People bitch and moan about the drive to Pattaya but I’ve always liked it – especially this time of day, when encountering traffic is unlikely. Plus, there’s all the good memories of trips past. A lovely sunny morning, I enjoy the views as suburban Bangkok gives way to farmland and palm-tree lined hills. The driver politely asks if he can put on his stereo – sure – and Mor-lam Thai country music is soon playing at a low volume. I plug into the idiot brick and fire up some Crooked Vultures. During a stop at the gas station, I let the window down as the driver goes off to the restroom. Another taxi driver, stretching his legs beside his cab, catches my eye. He makes his way slowly in my direction. I instinctively know he wants to talk, so I remove the headphones and lower the window a little more. It’s a simple conversation, intoned with bawdy innuendo, nudges and winks. ‘Pattaya hab many lady’, he drily informs me. Whatever, he was a friendly old coot.

Pattaya creeps up on you. You’re in the suburbs wondering if this is actually Pattaya yet, then suddenly you’re hitting traffic at the top of Pattaya Klang, and in no doubt that you have arrived. Led Zeppelin’s ‘For Your Life’ comes on my stereo. I turn it up high. And as scantily-clad girls pass on motorbikes and the sense of Pattaya’s badness starts to seep in, I realise it’s THE perfect song to enter Sin City to – Zep fans will know what I mean. Page’s gut-wrenching abstract guitar solo, undiminished from a thousand listens, sends my head reeling as a group of fat, old, bad-ass farang bikers growl past us. I’m soon out of this reverie as the song ends and we reach the quieter, windy back streets of Soi Buakhao. We’re soon pulling in to the hotel on Soi Diana. I have to wait a little while in the large airy reception as the room is readied, during which time I start to feel oddly tired and achy. Twenty minutes later, hitting the room, I realise I’m coming down with some sort of food-poisoning, with dead-weight achy limbs and fever! I think back – it was probably those blasted skewered chicken sticks I bought last night on the walk back down Sukhumvit. I feel worse throughout the day, and can’t move from the bed, save for bathroom dashes.

About 7pm, I decide I better get my strength up and try and eat something plain. The outdoor pizza parlour across the street seems a good option so I hobble over there and order a margarita – nice and benign. The parlour used to sell slices but that was too convenient and profitable so they only do whole pizzas now, served with a generous helping of surliness. But by pizza arrived quickly and tasted pretty damn OK as I forced it down despite the protests from my stomach. I had to go back and lie down again as soon as I’d finished the pizza but an hour or so later, my condition had improved marginally, at least enough for me to risk a walk around town. If I didn’t go out now, I’d see nothing tonight.

After only a few minutes walking, I started floundering and thought I was making a foolish mistake going out in this condition, but I made Beach Road and the air seemed to rally me again. I decided to check out the gogo scene, but found every bar on Walking Street closed. Ah, of course – the main drag bars will be closed for the Buddhist holiday, but Secrets will be open!…wrong. There’s no way Soi 15 will be closed up, right?…wrong again! Soi Diamond?…nope, closed. Feeling ill in on Machu Bucha day was not the best way to enjoy Pattaya. None of the bars I could see in and around Walking Street were serving alcohol – not that I needed any – it was just an observation. Hoping Soi LK Metro’s gogos would be open, I walked back to the hotel along Second Road, and noticed some bars with the lights dimmed, numerous customers, and large plastic tumblers replacing the beer coolers. I was feeling decidedly ill again and quickened my pace back to the hotel. LK Metro was in darkness. I‘d actually been considering a plan of finding a gogo hottie, drinking through the pain and then barfining her. I was now glad the shutdown had put this daft notion out of my hands.

Thankfully, after a good night’s sleep I felt near to right as rain the next morning. See kids? Eat up your pizza! I eschewed the hotel’s lacklustre breakfast – almost redeemed by the poolside seating – and headed down the street to a British style pub. My appetite had returned with a vengeance and I put away a full English in short order – with some street-side people-watching on the side-plate. The pub had a sandwich-board outside, advertising the specials and whatnot. A waitress of indeterminate age (30 but looked more like 20) came outside and began fussing with it. She was petite and barely 5 feet tall. I admired her amazing legs all the way up to the tiniest of black miniskirts with a small slash in the thigh for even more of an eyeful. She was absolutely bloody exquisite, bearing an air of innocence and cheerfulness and not a single ink-mark or any other tacky adornments of any kind. Her shapely derriere disappeared back inside the pub – but as I sipped my extruded mug of tea she re-appeared and went back to the sandwich board again. I gazed in her general direction…she did not seem to be doing anything significant with the board. I detected a trace of a smirk on her face – the little bloody minx.

All day and nothing to do it in, but I’d say there’s worse places to be at a loose end. After a swim and doze, I headed down to Beach Road and did the Coconut Walk, from outside Mike shopping mall all the way down to the North end of Beach Road and back again. Again in people-watching heaven, I encountered plenty of characters along the route. The re-vamped boardwalk is finished and a great job has been done by remodelling the streetscape more harmoniously with the beach, widening the pathways and removing clutter and bottlenecks. Pattaya’s waterfront at least definitely feels more upmarket compared to ten years ago, and during the day at least, evidence of its sleazy reputation is more muted nowadays. I enjoyed the walk immensely, and even considered sitting under some of the beach’s palm trees, newly released from their deckchair tyranny.

I went into the Ripley’s mall and up to the top floor for lunch. I had only one thing in mind – a barbequed sea bass. There seemed to be a new youngsters manning the seafood stall who didn’t seem too interested in serving the farang. An insolent, tubby drop-kick could barely hide his contempt taking my order. I finished several chapters of my book and a plate of gyoza before the fish arrived – those young turnip heads had definitely ‘gamed’ me on this one. I was pretty pissy when I eventually tucked in but – oh that taste of BBQ sea-bass! Back to the hotel for a swim and an episode of True Detective before the next night-crawl.

I watched a couple of episodes of TD after a longer than planned swim and also a quick workout. It put me further behind in getting ready, so it was 9ish before I left for the street. I ambled my way towards Walking Street, taking in the ‘Boyz Town’ street on the way. No-one has a good enough excuse to be caught on a street with a ‘z’ in the spelling of Boys. I side-stepped one or two grasping hands…relieved to know I still had the Rivelino body swerve. I made Beach road – it was in its full garish splendour. Scratch what I said earlier about the sleaze being more muted, Scorsese would be having a wet-dream here. I ran the full gamut of ladyboys, whores, pimps, dealers, gawking tourists, sex-pats, burn-outs and fringe-dwellers. I found the sanctuary of the alley leading to the Pattaya Biergarten, ignoring the few rather listless cat-calls from the beer bars. I grabbed a nice large table inside with a good view of the screens showing 80s pop vids and was pretty ravenous so ordered a few plates of Thai fayre. Something I ordered wasn’t available or I said it wrong and the waitress corrected me rudely with an ‘attitude’ I couldn’t fail to mistake. Sighhhh, not this place as well? This is always a happy place for me!

A dish came out and I went to reach for cutlery. The same waitress chose this moment to reach under my reach to remove an unused plate, banging it off my arm in the process…I could feel the vibes from her. I gave her a ‘just piss off’ glare. The rest of the food came out in dribs and drabs, all banged down. I made no eye-contact whatsoever or comment. I made sure to order another beer from the supervising waitress, getting up from the table to do so. Coming back to the table, I caught the look of spite from Ms Yuck who, MIA for several minutes was suddenly in front of me again. I finished the meal ands another plate was snatched away as I reached for a beer – please…just Piss off! Paying the bill, I took the check-bin and started walking. I could see Ms Yuck now moving after me in the periphery but then she decided to back-off, seeing where I was heading. I approached the supervising waitress, just as she was leaving another table and placed the check-bin in her hands. She gazed back down the aisle towards Ms Yuck and added it all up. No need for anyone to say anything further. I then did a whole lap of the central bar so I could completely and elaborately ignore the ignorant fucking trollop on my way out.

I thought it best not to experiment with any of the gogos on Walking Street. I headed for Soi 15 and entered Babydolls, where I had a great time last year. Within seconds, I could sense and see the vibe wasn’t happening so I left and put myself at the mercy of touts and greeters. Wait a sec – there’s What’s Up a gogo. Never having been in there before, I found myself slightly repelled by the whole trendy ‘Bed Supper club’ effect of the exterior but I decided to enter anyway. The trendy, minimalist effect continues inside; weird translucent lighting, neon, white cubes of furniture. One other thing it has is loads of hot young girls, and for gogo bars, that is…a good idea. A quick scan round and I choose a seat facing the stage with the more attractive bunch of dancers. A tomboy takes my beer order and comes back with the wrong one. I send it back and hear the now customary volley of exasperation and insults brayed loudly in Thai to all within earshot. The wretch continues the tirade on returning with the beer a one year old could have brought me correctly the first time.

Some beautiful dancers are up on stage and on the changeover, one of the lasses I was smiling at joins me at the table. She’s lovely up close as well and her English is OK. I get her a drink and she perches on my knee, all peachy perfection. After a bit of small-talk, she tries to order tequila on my tab for two friends. I just say ‘no – one lady only’. She sucks it up well enough. After more small-talk she remarks on my now obvious interest in her. ‘How much is barfine in here?’ I ask. She says ‘Barfine?’ in a tone of complete surprise, like the existence of such a thing is some secret of the establishment I’m not supposed to know about. ‘1000 Baht barfine’ she says. I think she quoted a price for herself as well, I can’t remember exactly. I do remember answering along the lines of, ‘Oh, expensive bar…’ She looked down at my groin area and quipped, ‘You not so excited any more’, which, being spot-on, got a hearty guffaw from me and she soon joined in the laughing. She was pleasant company so I got her another drink. She took my arm and slipped it all the way around her lithe lower body. Her skin was silky smooth and she pressed against my arm a few times and stretched a slender leg across my knee. This would do until I finished my beer. I slipped a couple of hundred baht into her bra and she planted a lingering soft kiss on my cheek. I paid the check-bin, leaving zero to the house.

Heading back towards Soi Metro’s gogos, I couldn’t help feeling I’d made a dumb move passing up the What’s Up girl, and I’d already reached the ‘top of my game’ tonight. Arriving in Soi LK Metro, I entered a gogo opposite Office Bar and knew I’d made a mistake. I can’t remember the name, only that it was somewhat cavernous inside. There weren’t many girls and the attractive ones seemed to vanish as soon as I ordered my beer. A fatty came down from the stage and began haranguing me so I downed my beer and left ASAP. Where to go? Sugar Sugar on the corner of LK Metro came through for me last year, where I scored a really gorgeous dancer so I play ‘percentages’ and head round the corner to it. Inside this comfortably sized bar, there are a few nice dancers on stage. A few middle-aged farang slobs are dotted around the bar. They look like they all came off the same prison away-day coach, entered the bar and spread out. There’s an almost Indian-looking 30-something babe onstage, and we’re smile at each other for the whole three-song set before the changeover. She leaves the stage and…leaps into the lap of some giant blubberguts on the other side of the bar. A sleazy, similarly obese pal paws at her and she squirms with delight, tolerating and encouraging their antics. I notice the drinks lined up on their table and surmise she’s been partying with them awhile. My #2 choice soon leaves the stage and returns to her bouncy-castle customer. All the nice ones are taken! Ok…Pattaya, you win. “Oh, come on Hunch, best of five?” No…enough with you.

The taxi company I’ve recently been using for Airport-Pattaya runs sends a friendly punctual driver in the morning, and fears I had of being stuck in morning Pattaya traffic prove unfounded as we hit the highway in minutes. A while later we make a stop and my driver thoughtfully buys me a 10 baht bottle of ice cold water. He drops me at Suvarnabhumi departures after making great time, I give him a nice tip and get a handshake and a ‘hab safe journey’. With plenty time to kill, I suddenly remember something. The multi-part BBC documentary on Suvarnabhumi that aired shortly before my trip featured a few lovelies working at the airport, one of which I now recalled worked on the Eva Air check-in desks. I strolled down to that row and to my surprise I spotted the delightful young thing in her slightly dowdy green uniform. Smiling almost permanently, she looked even prettier than on-screen and it cheered me a good deal after my Pattaya wash-out and my mountain wash-out with Jen. On each trip to Thailand, I’ve always had much to contemplate once in air-side departures, and this time was no different. How does this place do it every time – leaving me such a state of conflicting emotions? A fortnight in Spain, it certainly ain't.

Ahh there he is…I call him Napat. I came upon this remarkable…thing…the first time I left Thailand – it’s the sculpture that greets all travellers on their departure from the Kingdom – a scene from the Ramayana legend – the Churning of the Milk Ocean. Napat caught my eye that day, and we’ve been mates ever since. Well, Nap, I made it out alive again. See you again, maybe. Don’t forget me, now…

Peace out all,