Day 5. Status: still alive. I have worn my cardigan every day that I’ve been here, including in the 35 degree heat. Especially in the 35 degree heat. Never underestimate the power of Cardigan.
Today I ate self-assembled soup-in-a-bag, fresh from a food stall. I took my passport to the Vietnamese embassy, went up along the river for 40 baht, made my way to Khao San Road. After a few walk-bys I tried haggling and was dreadful. I bought some hippy, backpacker clothes in an effort to fit in. I came back along the river at sunset for free, and met a Thai man named John who gave me his address, wants me to send him a postcard from Leeds.
Last night I visited my second sex district, went on a motorcycle taxi, and got drunk with some retirees. As your dedicated correspondent I would like to report the following news, just in: feeling hungover in a hot country is All The Bad.
My first night out alone in the Big Smoke. I went to Nana, soi 11, highly recommended. It was jam-packed with bars, restaurants, stalls, lights, beer, backpackers, locals, prostitutes, weird old white men and a night market selling the usual assortment of dildos, fake North Face bags, weaponry, and kids’ t-shirts. This part of the city is where “Little Arabia” and “Little India” are so all of the different foods are on the menu. I ate Thai again, but not right away. I did my standard awkward triple walk-by before toughening up and tentatively ordering some food and a beer from a street vendor with chairs and tables set out along the kerb. In English. iFail. Met a Canadian couple – the woman, one of these excellent humans who don’t get self-conscious or lost for words; the man awkward and shy and obsessed with trains. Us socially inept people need to stick together. We all ended up eating together, discussing the relative merits of cold-water versus warm-water crabs with a couple of South Indian guys. Then a Thai woman wanted to park her party bus where we were sitting – that’s not a euphemism – so we paid up and went our separate ways.
I ducked into a packed-out kerbside bar named Charlie’s, half-hidden along a little sub-soi. Here I met Lynn and Stuart, my 60-something retirees from Manchester. They had the only table with a spare chair. I asked if I could use it, sat down, got chatting. Stuart bought a round. An hour later I realised I’d missed the last BTS home. We were pretty spiffy by this point and, yes, I did just use the word ‘spiffy’, what of it? We crossed the road and went for late drinks at one of the party buses on the kerb, little VW vans that’d been converted into colourful cocktail bars with fairy lights and loud Western music. That brilliant Thrift Store song played. Time passed.
Lynn and Stuart became worried about me getting home. They offered me the sofa in their hotel room, insisted I stay rather than trying to negotiate the city at stupid o’clock in the morning. I considered it – the idea of waking up in the morning having spent the night on the hotel-room sofa of a couple of hungover retirees who’d probably not remember who I was or why I was there was appealing. But I declined. It’s early days. I don’t need to collect all the anecdotes in one go. Having said that, the A-Pair-Of-Retirees-Got-Me-Drunk-Then-Tried-To-Get-Me-To-Go-Back-To-Their-Hotel-Room-With-Them angle is a good one. But it would do them a disservice. They were lovely. Once they’d gone, I managed to get a taxi home. The guy stopped on the way back, parked up right in the middle of the road and got out to chat with another guy in a taxi on the other side of the road, never mind the rest of the traffic on the road. This happened twice. I eventually realised this was because he didn’t know where he was going and was getting directions. Not to worry, though: I got back alive.
Day 5 and still alive. Who’d’ve thought it? I’ve had some successes and some failures. I walked back from the BTS tonight because a taxi refused to take me, then motorbike man #1 took one look at me and rode off, then motorbike man #2 tried to massively overcharge me. I got tired of asking and walked it. 30 minutes down a brilliant Thai-filled street. They stare at me like I’m the only farang they’ve ever seen, and I look at the floor and feel uncomfortable. It’s a good street though: markets, stalls, real Thai apartments, garages that spill into the streets, bundles of hundreds of overhead wires not much higher than your head, hairdressers, family-owned internet houses, shacks and sois and smog.
The chorus of dogs has started. That means it’s time for bed. You lot should be here. It’s really somethin’ else!