A European Vacation
I appear to have lost my muse and it is a bit of a bummer. For some 13 years, I have enjoyed returning home from the pub, sitting in front of my computer composing inconsequential missives to the Stickman site. These communiqués would sometimes follow the rules of the site that the stories should be related to experiences in Thailand or neighbouring countries but occasionally I would digress with tales of misadventures with fat wenches in West Midland hostelries, for which Stickman would be generously tolerant of.
He would also allow me to try out some novel length stories combining casting related subjects with a Thailand theme for the edification of my foundry students, for which I remain eternally grateful. With the establishment of the new national foundry training centre I finally have some security of employment. I will never get rich, but I am keeping the wolf from the door.
Of late I have led an uneventful life and not been engaged in mischief with deluded fat wenches as I have in previous years. Because I have not been experiencing the rejections of deluded females for some time, I have been somewhat devoid of ideas to write about. I have subsequently wasted my drunken hours on perusing Facebook and pimple popping videos on YouTube instead of producing my usual ramblings.
Well, I may not have completely lost my muse …. more mislaid it, just as I have misplaced a few things of late. I mislaid my passport a few weeks ago to my great humiliation knowing I had put it in a safe place I couldn’t remember, a subject I will return to later. More disturbingly is I seem to have mislaid my libido and enthusiasm for life. I also suspect my passion with Thailand is diminishing. Now I do assure my reader that I am not on the verge of doing anything rash and have not felt the need to contact the number for the Samaritans I have on my fast dial. I am not in the least depressed, but of late have felt drained and lethargic.
At 63, I am a relatively young man but still feel concern at the deterioration of my faculties. I am reliably informed that 60 is the new 40 but fear this mantra is expressed by people who have had easy lives and not experienced the hardships of working in the foundry industry for 40 years or not abused their bodies with strong drink, cigarettes and occasional fornication in that time as I have. In truth, I feel thoroughly shagged out but know I have only myself to blame for my situation.
I will however confess my spirits have recently improved when my eldest son presented me with a granddaughter some 8 months ago and within the last month my youngest son has given me a grandson. The importance of family has altered my perspective and the delight I get from my grandchildren is immeasurable.
I think I have discovered what true love really is.
I reported in my last missive my sons’ mother had moved in with me in our desire to laager the waggons of family interest and despite my initial reservation it has worked out well. She is a hardworking lass, has done a makeover of my flat at her own expense and contributes to the rent and household expenses. I confess I am not in love with her but in fairness she has put my life back on course, takes care of me and does not make too many demands on me. She also accepts my captivation with Thailand and acknowledges she is sharing my affection with my ex Thai wife who continues to bewitch me. My Thai ex-wife maintains my attention with regular contact and occasional naked photos to keep my interest.
My English ex-wife declares she is happy with our current relationship and would rather share my attention than not have me at all. A situation I cannot fully understand as I acknowledge I am no great catch but a situation I am perfectly willing to accept. I am comfortable with the relationship. She acknowledged my determination to visit Thailand in December or January but as she desperately needed a holiday herself asked that we take a vacation together in August and she would not complain when I later went to Thailand. I thought this a reasonable request, so we made our way to our local travel agents and in due course booked a week’s holiday in Bulgaria.
It had been some 13 years since I had taken a holiday outside of Thailand, so I thought it would be interesting to compare a European vacation to the experience of my previous breaks as a monger in Thailand.
Our destination was the Golden Sands beach resort in Bulgaria. It involved a taxi at 3 PM to Digbeth coach station for a National Express coach to Manchester Airport. A Balkan air flight of 3 hours deposited us at Varna Airport and a 30-minute transfer to our hotel. This compares to a 3-hour coach trip to Heathrow, a 12-hour Thai Airways flight to Bangkok and an hour transfer through horrific traffic to my hotel the Nana in Sukhumvit arriving after a journey of some 20 hours. The simple, short painless transition through immigration at Varna Airport was a delight when compared to the indignities experienced at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
The resort of Golden Sands is a pleasant compact seaside resort on the Black Sea and is rather picturesque with a 4 km beach and a long, pedestrianised strip parallel to the beach. This is serviced by a small number of diesel-driven tourist trains which I found extremely convenient and at £1.50 a trip, very economical. I could envisage this arrangement being preferable to the baht bus (songthaew) arrangement currently employed around the city of Pattaya but know the songthaew mafia would not allow it. I recall the attempt by the City authorities a few years ago to introduce a coach service around the city that was blocked by said songthaew mafia.
The hotel Lilia we stayed in compared favourably to the Nana Hotel in Bangkok and the Opey in Pattaya for the price paid but was inferior to the Centara Hotel in Udon Thani which was surprisingly cheaper than its Bulgarian equivalent. However, the Lilia Hotel remained very good value for money by European standards, the room was spacious and comfortable, and the bathroom built to a high specification.
I had never been on a fully inclusive holiday before so the experience of wearing an armband was new to me. Apparently wearing said armband allows you access to the dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also allows you free locally produced drinks all day up to 10.00 PM. My impression of the concept of “all inclusive” involved a vision of hordes of scutty Anglos abusing the bar to ensure they had their money’s worth. This was a perception I had received anecdotally from friends and colleagues. However as there were not many English in the hotel this propensity for gluttony did not seem to occur. There seemed evidence of a discretion I did not expect.
The clientele of the hotel, and the resort in general appeared to be from a variety of Eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, Moldavia and Ukraine. I must confess the quantity of young, slim, blond girls with tight little arses was on par with the quality of that which I see in Bangkok and Pattaya. Being an aficionado of Thai women, I had never realised the incredible beauty of eastern European women. However, the significant issue is that these girls are probably not available as many Thai women are.
I mentioned earlier I have not been enjoying the best of health. I am finding any exercise or exertion fatigues rather than invigorates me. A recent visit to the doctors revealed my blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol were well under control although my COPD was a minor concern. I am always anxious that if I contract another ailment, I will have difficulty getting holiday insurance. So, I was alarmed when my physician mentioned the last blood test exposed some macrocytosis which is an enlargement of the blood cells. He proposed this could be a vitamin 12 or folic acid deficiency which could explain my lethargy and recommended further blood tests. I suspected this macrocytosis may be due to my alcohol intake but kept my counsel.
I must confess for the first time in 13 years since my first visit to Thailand I do not feel particularly excited about my next trip to the Kingdom. In addition to my lack of energy my last visit was a little disappointing. I thought Bangkok had lost much of its previous charm. Prices were approaching London levels; the girls had become more mercenary and much of the fun of old had evaporated. I recall just five years ago a daily budget of £100 (5000 baht?) would confirm the illusion of the two-week millionaire. On my last visit a daily budget of £200 would often leave me destitute at the end of a drinking / mongering evening. I even found my days in Pattaya slightly disappointing compared to previous visits.
Nevertheless, my visit to Udon Thani was delightful, whilst I could not get into my hotel of choice, the Irish Clock, the impressive Centara Hotel was well located and exceptional value. My ex Thai wife Nat was well behaved and extremely entertaining that week. Those who read my Brokenman Part 17 will appreciate I had a wonderful week with her. However, I am disappointed in her of late. She is currently in one of the cyclic downturns in her finances. She is broke and no longer has her car. Without a vehicle she could not continue her daft businesses such as selling eggs. Without her vehicle I will have lost my chauffeur and her native guide services and I suspect that going up to Udon to see her is going to involve me in some substantial expenses, a situation I do not feel up to at present.
Whilst I complain about my relatively minor ailments, I must confess I was somewhat disturbed by a recent submission by the legendary Dana who declared he was suffering from an advanced prostate cancer. My father in law is in a similar situation so I can appreciate Dana’s predicament. Dana had been a prodigious writer to the site for a few years and submitted some entertaining and highly surrealistic missives. I particularly enjoyed the tales of breakfasts taken from the abdomen of captive ladyboys once he had secured their male appendages to the ceiling via a rope arrangement he had rigged in his Nana hotel bedroom. I met Dana at the legendary gathering of Stickman submitters and readers at the (now gone) Big Mango bar in November 2006. The event was well attended, and I made some very good friends amongst the Stick fraternity that evening. Dana was clearly the star of the show, he was highly feted by the congregation with metaphorical rose petals scattered before his feet. I bumped into him the following morning in the lobby of the Nana Hotel and although we had a short chat I doubt he would remember me. I do however remain extremely proud that Dana once informed me he considered my “Singing with Kipling” was a superb piece of writing. I shall take delight in that compliment to my dying day. I really wish him well in his current situation. I felt his comment he would rather be watching the Thai maidens on the sky train than his four walls in Boston very poignant.
I had outlined plans to visit the Kingdom at the end of November until the middle of December returning to the UK just before Christmas. For the past six years I have organised my schedule, so I have no courses to teach in December to facilitate a Siamese sojourn. In the last few years I have used the excuse of the annual pilgrimage to honour the memory of my late pal Phil Pascoe to justify the trip. However, I must confess my estimate that I would need about £3000 for my intended expedition this time and my diminished energy did cause me to review my plans.
I also face my annual income tax bill from HMRC in January, my youngest son is having his lad christened in mid-December and I have just picked up a two-week contract in late December to teach the fundamentals of casting technology to a group of engineers from a leading UK Automotive company, a lucrative exercise just too good to miss with opportunities for the future. I could not manipulate things to fit even a short visit in December or January.
So, it is with some regret I must inform my readers and friends I will not be joining them in Thailand this December. I must also confess I will not be postponing the trip to the New Year. The cost of flights in January are prohibitive and general high season costs somewhat excessive. As recompense I have been talked into taking another all-inclusive holiday by my English ex-wife in Lanzarote in February.
Is this the end of my association with the Kingdom of Thailand?
I certainly hope not. The thought that I will never again see old pals Mark, Don, Bernie, Barry, Keith, Jay and Sandy is just too painful to contemplate. I have even now received some photos from my pal Don of the exquisite creatures he has already engaged with in Pattaya in the past week which is enough to make me extremely jealous and regret my decision.
But mai pen rai, such is life.
In truth I cannot envisage a life where I will not be treading the walkway of Soi Cowboy or the exploring the floors of the Nana Plaza ever again. To never perambulate Walking street and LK Metro in Pattaya incites the request to put the pennies on my eyes with undue haste.
I have, at last begun to follow my doctor’s advice. I am reducing my alcohol intake, taking a little gentle exercise and complying with my medication. I hope to be back to fighting fitness within a few months.
So, I ask my readers to not give up on me completely. I have identified the month of May as an opportunity for a visit to the Kingdom. I appreciate it is not the best time being the beginning of low season but is a useful compromise, and I should have acquired enough resources by then.
I acknowledge that many of my Stickman pals will have vacated the Kingdom by then. I am sure that a couple of my expat / resident pals have not lost faith in me and will accommodate me for an evening’s drinking session during that time. I can only live in hope.
In the meantime, I take this opportunity to wish all my friends on the Stickman site a merry Christmas and, as always ask you to watch this space.
Interesting to hear your thoughts on your lack of desire to visit Thailand. I’ve heard similar from a good few others over the past couple of years with the combination of higher prices and less fun often-mentioned. There is still fun to be had, but one has to dig a lot deeper in their wallet if they want to party hard…
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