Well, THAT happened.
I’m back in the Big Kok. I’ve been back here for four weeks, already worked for three. I’d hoped to have a little holiday to recover from the massive holiday I just had but, being secretly sensible, took the first desperate job offer I received. I now work at a SCHOOL. A PRIMARY school. Teaching the absurd, semi-formed human beings that some people refer to as children. Excuse the shudder. Let’s move on.
Bangkok is not the same as it was when I left. My favourite chumbles have departed and I’m no longer hunkering down in my lovely, lonely, dark little apartment. I’m staying with the BBF and young Martian, who uses the wrong prepositions and who can’t tell the difference between the ground floor and the first floor because he’s American. There seem to be fewer Alan carcasses. There are more mosquitos. The loudest birds in existence have moved into the trees around the apartment block. They love sunrise. They REALLY love sunrise. Before sunrise has even begun to lighten the sky to the dark navy of dawn, they get excited and start cawing and cawing and cawing and CAWING AND BLOODY CAWING. It lasts for A Very Long Time. It is impossible to sleep through. 4 o’clock and I’m awake and furious and daydreaming about a gun I’ve never owned but feel increasingly nostalgic for. I’m furious because they’re alive and waking me up too early in the morning, and because nobody is shooting them for me. WHY IS NOBODY SHOOTING THEM FOR ME? My new workplace is just under an hour’s commute – the train in the sky, change lines, dismount, walk, coffee, done. I will move, soon – tomorrow in fact – into an apartment across the road from my new workplace because waking up at 6am to go to work IS NOT A THING.
I don’t really mind my job. One good thing about it is the holidays. There seem to be many. I don’t get as many as BBF, who only works approximately 3 hours a day, except Wednesdays and Fridays, and Thai holidays and all the days that surround them. He does write maths exams, though. Wordy maths exams. Sit down to one of BBF’s maths exams and you’ll sample something along the lines of: Pleng and Best were at school one day and they both wanted some sweets. Pleng had B20 but Best had B120 and a broken leg. To get to the sweet shop, Pleng thought they should walk730m along Henry Durant road and up Ratchadamri road, but Best thought it would be shorter if they bought a jetpack and flew straight there at 120mph. If, on the way, a building caught fire and a fireman needed to rescue an old, old Chinese lady who was staying in her son’s top-floor flat 150m up while he went on an extended holiday to Rome in order to escape suspicion in a murder enquiry, what would the shortest length of a plank of wood be that the woman would require to traverse a bridge in a cup of tea with a 50m radius and a height of 80m and in which the spoon kept falling in because the sides were too slippery?
Back to holidays. The most recent public holiday – Father’s Day and the birthday of His Majesty The King – was a yellow holiday. HMTK was born on a yellow day, and yellow is worn, by choice and requirement, throughout the month to celebrate and show respect. We had a long weekend, spent it in camping bliss at Erewan waterfalls. You may recall Erewan Waterfalls from a previous post, in which I said almost nothing about Erewan waterfalls but posted a rather spectacular photograph instead. Here’s a reminder:
Erewan National Park is an easy trek north of Bangkok. Except when you leave in an airconless minivan from Victory Monument, crawling through the city’s sweltering, greasy, orange-lit night for 40 minutes before glancing out the window and, in horror, surely you’re mistaken, James, is that… that’s not VICTORY MONUMENT? And being back, after all that traffic, that waiting, that uncomfortable sweating, in Victory Monument, back where you started, a man steps onto the minivan and presses the button for the aircon that is broken and looks at you all and says, The aircon is broken, gets out, leaves you to crawl once again through the city’s sweltering, greasy, orange-lit night like some annihilating cyclical nightmare. Only this time you escape the city, windows down and a warm breeze cooling the engine-hot van you stop by the side of a road somewhere and the van disgorges and a new van fills up and the new van has aircon and the journey continues, cooler now, soaring away from the glow.
Getting to Kanchanabri you hear the driver call Farang! Farang! (foreigners! foreigners!) to the taxi guys on their motos, their tuktuks, their sidecarts. And when you get off you walk away from the taxi madaaaame?s to research what you should have researched before, not liking the scrum of arrival in an unknown place and at night and the taxi drivers being always all men. But this time you see BBF chatting away, Thai and English, looking at leaflets, and you think uhoh, but you go with it, and you get into the songthaew and are driven, not far, not too bad, to a hostel where you can sleep in a bungalow or sleep on the water, and you choose – of course, why wouldn’t you – to spend the night on the water, drinkng wine and looking at the lights down the banks of the river Kwai.
The next morning you get the bus to the National Park, easy peasy, only an hour or an hour and a half, away from the city and up into the hills it gets greener, cleaner, fresher. You get off at the campsite and rent your gear and the ranger shows you some tents, lets you choose, and you’re overlooking the river again, just up from where you were last time.
You spend your time at the waterfalls, snoozing in or around your tent, reading In Cold Blood and drinking so much cha nom yen and ohcha that you’ll get a caffeine withdrawal headache on Monday. You get your feet eaten by fish but in a non-threatening way, and you make fires in a stove and cook your own food – corn cobs, stir frys, bacon, bananas, apples. BBF impresses you by opening a can of chick peas using only a cement step, and you impress him by mixing a perfect cocktail out of pineapple and aloe vera juices with spiced rum.
Now, back at work. Tomorrow is another public holiday, and then next week our kids have exams. Then Christmas for the next big trip – festivities with a Karen hilltribe and BBF and his parentals, followed by a road trip around northern Thailand – the hills, villages, maybe Myanmar, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai.
And then a new year. Last in Thailand for a while. Best make it a good one!