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Bangkok – a day out in the ‘Big Mango’
Eyes like ‘dugs bawz’ and halitosis shit-breath, we checked into the Woriburi Hotel after a long, neck-breaking journey from Glasgow to Bangkok, via Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. The Woriburi Hotel was a one thousand Baht per night hotel on Soi 4, just up the road from the infamous Nana Plaza: ‘The World’s Largest Adult Playground’ (according to the sign above the entrance).
I hadn’t noticed that the Woriburi Hotel was located on Soi 4 when I had booked it; I was more interested in the reviews, and the reviews said it was a decent hotel with a swimming pool on the roof. I was in Thailand with my wife (a Thai national) and our daughter (16), and son (12). My wife’s brother (Gao) who lived in Chonburi had offered to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel. As we rolled past ‘Nana Plaza’ and the surrounding ‘fun bars’ I could see by the expression on his face that he was thinking: wtf – why would they decide to stay here with the children?
Anyway, the kids hardly batted an eye-lid at the seedy shenanigans; they had seen it all before in ‘Sin City’ (Pattaya), and weren’t really fazed or embarrassed by it. Up in the rooms we got showered and freshened up and then went out in search of some scran. I was so ravenous I ending up buying some bbq chicken from a mobile street-vendor on the way to the restaurant; for the main meal, we opted for the buffet at ฿200 a head in the Ibis Hotel; the food was lovely and we left stuffed, so we decided to go for a walk before going back to the hotel.
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Soi 4 was buzzing. Freelance ‘ladies of the night’ and Katoeys (ladyboys) worked the lone farangs (foreigners) who sauntered up and down the soi. Bargirls waved and shouted from the bars: ‘hey, hansum man – where you go?’ Balding, overweight western men strolled shamelessly with their stunning Thai girlfriends. With one hand on their balls, and the other in their wallets, I had seen it all before; the girls were as cold as the ‘ice’ that they smoked and were in it merely for the money.
Later, when we got back to the hotel, the kids asked me some questions about the ‘working-girls’ of the soi, and why they did what they did. I had a good relationship with my kids and we could speak about most things; I told them that there were probably many reasons why the girls did what they did, but that poverty – most likely, was top of the list for most of them, especially in the beginning. My daughter nodded her head thoughtfully, as she computed things in her brain; she was a good girl, open-minded and non-judgemental. I was pleased about that.
The next day we decided to go on a tour of Bangkok – just me and the kids, the wife was meeting her sister who was on holiday from Sweden and they were going shopping in Chinatown, along the Yaowarat Road.
The Sukhumvit Road was only about a kilometre away from the Woriburi Hotel, and about 50 yards down the Sukhumvit was the Nana Skytrain (BTS) station. The station was as clean and pristine as a surgeon’s scalpel – cleaners (wiry, old Thai women in spotless uniforms) polished finger prints from stainless steel handrails and swept up miniscule grains of dirt from shiny platforms and stairs; a solitary policeman motioned for us to stand back from the edge of the platform as a sleek, modern train gently slowed to a stop in the station.
With a click and a ‘whoooshh’ the doors slid open and we hopped aboard with some clean-cut Thais and a few western businessmen. We rode the cool, air-conditioned train to Sala Daeng Station (5 stops away), gazing out the windows at a modern and futuristic Bangkok. The skytrain was pure ‘big city’ travel and was an interesting way to see the ‘Big Mango’, AKA Bangkok, or Krungthep (as the Thais call it).
We were headed for Lumpini Park, but Sala Daeng station was also the closest station to Patpong – the notorious night market /ago-go and sex show location. From Sala Daeng station you could look down on the two sois that made up Patpong. During the day it looked dull and depressing but at night Patpong was a neon extravaganza that was bustling and alive.
We jumped on the downward escalator and made our way over to the park, navigating safely a busy, bumper-to-bumper boulevard in the process. Lumpini Park – named after the birthplace of Lord Buddha (in modern day Nepal), was the pride of the city: ‘a dear, green place’ for the people in the heart of a chaotic, concrete jungle; the one-hundred and forty-two acres of open space at the edge of Bangkok’s financial district provided solace for many an over-worked office-worker.
We sat on a bench at the lakeside and watched fish and turtles break the surface of the water. Sweaty joggers pounded past us on the pavement. I leant my head back skyward and closed my eyes – the sun was hot and I could feel my face burning.
‘Look Dad,’ my son spat out excitedly: ‘…what’s that?’
Startled, I opened my eyes and looked over to where he was pointing only a few feet away – a huge lizard was crawling out of the water onto the grass.
WTF! It looked like a f#cking Komodo Dragon.
‘Look that up on your phone,’ I said to my daughter: ‘search for ‘lizard lumpini park.’
Turns out, it’s a ‘Giant Monitor Lizard’ and the park’s full of them, as we’re soon to discover; they’re everywhere, huge big things. Anyway, after bouncing around in the park for a bit we head back over to the Sala Daeng skytrain station. Next stop is Saphan Taksin (3 stops from Sala Daeng) and the mighty ‘Chaophraya River’.
When we exit Saphan Taksin Station my daughter points out the Sathorn Unique Tower, or Ghost Tower. 80% complete when they pulled the plug on it back in the Asian Financial Crisis of 97, the tower had been abandoned and left to rust and decay in the monsoon rains. Bangkok is full of buildings like the Sathorn from around that time, but because of the Sathorn’s location and the ease of getting there on the skytrain or riverboats, the Sathorn Unique had become famous as an urban exploration destination.
We had been planning on climbing the Ghost Tower. My daughter had read that you could slip the security ฿500 and they’d let you in to scale the debri-strewn staircase that rises 49 floors to the top. I was up for that – we all were. The views across Bangkok were supposedly spectacular. But then we found out that a Swedish backpacker had hung himself on the 43rd floor in 2014 and ever since then the authorities had clamped down on the illegal expeditions. Only a short distance away, the Sathorn Unique’s twin – the Lebua at State Tower, stands fully complete and majestic. We stand at the foot of the huge ‘Ghost tower’ for a few moments, admiring the architecture, before snapping a few pictures and then heading for the river…
The ‘Chaophraya River’ is only a few hundred yards from Saphan Taksin station. We head down a busy market-stall lined soi towards the pier, the skytrain rumbles and rattles overhead as it heads for its next stop Krung Thonburi across the river. Down at the pier there are tourist boats offering sightseeing tours but you can get the same experience from the riverboat taxis that ferry commuters up and down the river all day long for a fraction of the price.
My daughter wants to visit the Khao San Road in Banglamphu. The Khao San Road is ‘backpacker land’. We buy a ticket for N13 (Tha Phra Arthit Pier) and wait in line with a bunch of high school children and some blue collar workers. The boats are big, noisy, diesel-spewing work-horses. When it roars up to the dock we hop aboard with the rest of the passengers and stand at the back to get a better view of the historical riverside landmarks that we’ll pass, like the magnificent Grand Palace, and Wat Arun, one of the most iconic temples in Thailand.
The riverboat journey is ‘the bollocks’. I’m amazed at how effortlessly the captain can manoeuvre and position the big heavy boat at each dock we pull up to. Everything is bang, wallop, scud, boomth – and we’re off again – at high speed, cutting a wake through the Chaophraya as the captain heads for the next dock.
Later, at the Khao San Road – I can see the kids are not impressed; too many disrespectful, pissed-up backpackers, says my daughter. And I had to agree. My kids are half Thai and when they are in Thailand they feel connected and are respectful of Thai customs and culture. Despite the minority ruining it for the rest of the decent folk in Soi Khao San, there were lots of captivating activities being performed by farangs and locals alike: juggling, and magic tricks, and violin busking, and singing. With its Bohemian vibe, the Khao San Road is an interesting location but it’s way over-commercialised and we didn’t stay for long.
We went back down to the river and sat on a bench in a small riverside park. It was twilight and in the dimming light of dusk Bangkok looked picture perfect. We stayed for a while, watching the orange glow of the sinking sun cast shadows over the city as it slipped behind the concrete skyline. A myriad of tugs and tourist boats passed by; in the background a huge firework exploded and lit up the sky.
We got a tuk-tuk back to the Sukhumvit and began the one kilometre march up soi 4 to the Woriburi Hotel. We had been out all day and we were famished; the kids, however, were more tired than hungry so I said that I would wait for the food that we had ordered and they could continue on up to the hotel. As I stood at the street-vendor’s stall waiting on our sticky-rice and grilled chicken, a good-looking Thai women in her late 30’s /early 40’s smiled over at me and asked if I wanted something more ‘aroi’ (delicious) for ฿2000?
‘Mai aow krap’ (no thank you),’ I told her, and smiled: ‘I’m married.’
The lady swaggered seductively around the bbq and stood beside me. ‘My name is May – I married too. You sure you no’ want lady?’
‘Sure…’ I repeated. ‘I have a lady back at my hotel – my wife, a Thai lady from Buriram.’
May shrugged her shoulders and smiled in submission: ‘…okay, mai mee panhaa (no problem).’
May had a nice face but she was underweight and gaunt and she probably wasn’t getting as much custom these days as she would’ve done in her younger years.
‘Are you hungry?’ I asked her.
She cracked a self-conscious smile and nodded her head.
‘Pick something,’ I said, pointing to the bbq: ‘…and I’ll pay for it.’
May spoke to the street-vendor in Thai and then turned her head to me and said ‘…eighty Baht.’
I handed over the money to the vendor.
‘You very ‘jai dee (good heart),’ said May.
I smiled and told her: ‘mai pen rai (you’re welcome).’
The street-vendor wrapped up my food and handed it to me and I started making my way back up to the hotel. I was f#cking knackered. We had done a fair bit of sightseeing and walking today in the baking, Bangkok heat. As I crossed the road to the Woriburi Hotel I glanced back down the street and noticed May walking with a farang (foreigner) in the opposite direction. I was glad to see that she had pulled. Despite being a hardened ‘lady of the night’ I suspected May was ‘jai dee’ too.
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Only Raising Dust On The Road
The first Part of my book/novel (novella – approx. 25,000 words in Part 1) is available for download at Amazon in Kindle format.
Only Raising Dust On The Road
By Raymond Carroll
A novel set in Thailand
Part 1 – ‘Buckfast, Lager, & Fags’
‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a novel set in Thailand. The book has been serialised into 4 novella length books.
Part 1 – Buckfast, Lager & Fags (approx. 26,000 words), follows a group of friends from around the globe as they embark on a money-making enterprise to Thailand.
Micky, is a heavy-drinking, drug-using Scotsman who has been hired by his friend ‘Slim’ to manage a bar on a tropical island on Thailand’s eastern gulf coast. Slim’s business partners: Sanjit – a South African-born Indian, and Connie – a white, Afrikaner Durbanite and Sanjit’s girlfriend, have recruited Winston (Sanjit’s South African Indian – ‘hood-rat’ – cousin) to be bartender. Can the mismatched motley-crew make this venture work? Nothing in Thailand is ever as it seems and dangers abound along the way.
The story is told from a multiple character first person point of view and takes place in the late 1990’s.
‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a work of fiction.
Lots of profanity throughout. 18+
Part 2 – ‘Same-Same But Different’ on sale at Amazon…
Buy Part 1 of Only Raising Dust On The Road on Kindle and paperback at Amazon
‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’
Copyright © 2017 Raymond Carroll