The Masshive Kok

I felt pretty rough this morning. Its not that we went out last night or anything, just felt out of sorts. Travel is a weird beast sometimes and often you don’t actually know where your headspace is. Your body is always a step ahead and it can take a fair swathe of time before you re-connect and realign. Felt like I was a man in limbo today, unsure of how and why he was on a ferry from a small island in the Thai gulf about to head to another massive foreign city. No home, wandering, a life in transit with everything owned strapped like a giant boulder to my back.

Once returned to Chumphon, we boarded a plush looking bus in order to get up north to Bangkok. The toilet on this vehicle was one of the worst I’ve ever dealt with, hunching notre dame style in order to squeeze into the bastard and then burning my back on the ceiling light. When you travel you always notice the little differences, things like the price of a Big Mac and the state of your ablution facilities. The toilets in Thailand are nothing to type home about, though I’m told that Thais are the cleanest toilet-goers in the world thanks to the water hose fastened next to every squat hole cubicle in the country. Personally, toilet paper has got me this far in life and I have no intention of plunging a water hose up my date in any circumstance. I don’t care how clean it is. I didn’t do it Morocco, nor Turkey, and I aint starting now. Pete and I remarked at how routine our bowel movements have become thanks to the preponderance of Pad Thai and Green curry in our diets. Grunt and splash has been the order of the morning, day in day out.

As you drive around the roads in Thailand, especially as you near the big city, you notice massive, countless images of the Thai King and his missus, usually esconced in gold rimmed frames and all sorts of elaborate fanciness. Over here, the King is a big deal and if you go messin’ with his ass your ass gets messed up big time. You cant step on currency because his mug is on it, can’t be derogatory towards him or any of his thousands of images, and you cannot give him the bird. A prominent personality over here in Thailand once got jail time for calling him ‘the Skipper’ – and he was intending to be nice! It’s good to be the King.

I’d been expecting the worst from Bangkok, after hearing about all the intense madness of the place and how it tends to do your head in. I have to say that on first impressions, though completely and utter chaotic and insane, I dug the place. After disembarking the bus ride Pete and I followed big T around the tourism-packed Khoa San Rd precienct with all its’ neon and mobile food stalls, wastoids and touts, and set up shop at a cosy joint called ‘Sawasdee Hotel’. We reunited with the British girls who were staying here also, as well as a pom called Matt who followed the chicks up from Ko Tao as well.

My first night in Bangkok was a complete Baptism of Fire. After smashing some Changs we all jumped in a couple of Tuk Tuks (bizarre little 3 wheeler taxis – kind of like the bastard child between a moped and a Ferris wheel carriage). Barelling through the night in our little Tuk Tuk, I felt welt land truly immersed in Bangkok, raging and veering wildly through the chaotic streets with no apparent traffic laws and the feeling that I could die courtesy of a bus head on at any moment. Bangkok is known for a few things, one of which is its thriving Sex industry. I recall an enjoyable night at Nan and Phil’s place prior to leaving, where we discussed at the dinner table the ins and outs of a Ping Pong show, elaborating crudely and having a right old laugh – one of the many reasons I love the family dinner at the Faribarns ranch. I wasn’t sure what my ethical stance was on a Ping Pong show, but I figured ‘when in Bangkok’ you’ve gotta go with the flow. Just like the bullfight in Spain, this would most likely be a once off. The tuk tuks took us to a Ping Pong show alright, but not a very good one, in fact, a shady one in a dark end of town. Pat Pong 1 and 2 are the main Ping Pong drags in town, and though the driver ensured us this was where we were going, it wasn’t. Just like the bullfight in Seville, though somewhat impressive at times, I couldn’t stomach too much of the Pong show, which was largely depressing and bizarre, significantly downbeat compared to some of the other joints we heard about in Pat Pong. The soundtrack was just plain creepy – all Savage Garden and soft romance tunes with all the synth and reverb of a late night Danoz Soft rock compliation sale commercial. Anyway, good or bad, I can say that I ticked the infamous Ping Pong show off the list. And I wont be going back. Smashed some calming drinks at a nearby joint called Gullivers and hit up the hotel room for some slumber – compromised slightly by the fact that Pete and I had to share the one bed. Avoiding the ‘dodgy uncle scenario’ by the skin of my teeth, it was a flashback to when we were 5 and 7, top to toe at Nan and Phil’s joint trying desperately to gain some sleep in a single top bunk and having Pete’s rank foot in my face.

Woke up the next day and moved to a room with two beds. Brekky in the cafĂ© downstairs and a spot of chit chat with the chickitas. Pete and I then wandered off into the madness, getting well lost in the Bangkok anarchy, eventually finding our way to the river and leaping aboard a vessel to head south into the balls of the city. After walking a considerable length along one of the busy main drags, I almost fainted due to the combination of the crack drenching heat and the constant, rapid madness of the city. I felt like I was walking through an endless labrynth of sheer repetition and madness – an assault on the senses and the brain. I sniffed roasting fruit, burning oil, fresh Pad Thai, sometimes a hint of hot garbage. The smells in the air always drift from place to place and afford the nostrils a smorgasbord of flavours to deal with. In a shopping mall I copped a whiff of one very potent scent that took my memory right back to when I was a kid; I worked out it was the smell of the hard chewing gum I used to get inside a packet of Batman cards. Pretty random, I know, and perhaps not very interesting, but it blew my mind. I love it when smells return to your life and take you back to a place you haven’t been for a very long time. Its all about the sentient conditioning.

With Matt now in tow with us, we wandered the afternoon around the bustling Siam district in the guts of the city, buying a bunch of stuff, including a sweet Canon camera which I’ll finally be able to take some shots with. Pete was on a mission to purchase up big in the wardrobe area and we dropped into Narry’s tailors for a measuring and the buying of much suits and shirts. Narry was a fully Sikh Indian with a kickass gold turban and looked like he knew how to tail a mean suit, though Pete would later feel a little compromised having Narry’s wandering hands floating about his package.

Consumating our ‘Man-date’, us three blokes then went and treated ourselves to some new underwear together from a counterfeit shack on the side of the road. We didn’t hold hands though. But we did share a meal together – a meal that also brought me back to my past. After an onslaught of Thai fare we decided the best option would be to get decrease the propensity of grunt and splash and solidify the movement down south courtesy of some staple Western food. We went to Sizzler. Its little wonder this chain went out of business in Australia, as we punished the all you can eat salad bar with the fury of three ravenous moose. Got our money’s worth alright. In the tradition of the fat guy in Monty Python, we were stuffed, though avoided throwing up in a little bucket or on any of the waitresses.

It’s funny how easy it is to become so accustomed to facing your certain death time and time again. After just a handful of tuk tuk rides the seeming lack of danger, though very real and present, had all but disappeared and the only major discomfort was attributed to inhalation of the toxic fumes blow out the crack end of the tuk itself. I was more concerned about contracting an acute case of Bangkok emphesema rather than having my block knocked around by an oncoming passenger bus, though the latter was far more likely. Moreover, I was a tad amused by the only Warning sign stamped on the tuk tuk interior, which clearly banned any farting inside the tuk tuk. Though, again, considering me and Pete’s bowel status at present, this was almost certainly in the driver’s best interests. I still ponder how many of those little tuk tuks get slammed by Bangkok traffic, and indeed, what the road toll is in this maniacal capital – smashes, fumes, Western flatulence, whatever.

Having not learned our lesson from Ko Tao, and seeing as it was the girls’ last real night here before heading back to mother England, we all hit the Khoa San rd for a spot of street buckets and good times. Bought a range of cheap counterfeit clothes from one of the many bizarres tucked away down the main drag, which was cheaper and faster than doing my laundry. Rocked out on acoustic guitar with a toothless Thai party animal who we’ll call ‘old toothless’ for want of his real name, and dealt with all manner of touts selling everything from percussive wooden frogs to free ‘fire shows’. Bought the ingredients of a Thai bucket from 7-11 and smashed another, this time with old toothless joining in for a spot of the hard stuff.

Gulliver’s was host to our drunken antic again tonight, and after the girls got considerably more bollocked I found myself along with randoms dancing stop the billiard table to bad techno and 80’s noise pollution. Found Matt the pom and we continued to evening’s festivities at a place nearby called Gazebo. Admission was cheaper for groups of five, and after running into 3 lads from Cornwall we joined forces – turns out as well as being cheaper to get in, the club also provides yourt five person group with a 1.6 litre bottle of Red Label Scotch. Extravagant consumption at this hour in anyones book, I had two on the rocks before losing my sense of mobility and opted for the boudoir not long after.

Until 4pm today I was drunk without question and failed to achieve anything worth noting down, except for writing a significant chunk of this waffling blog at a downtown Starbucks. One thing travelling aroud these parts has made me really appreciate is the how caffeine-spoilt we are in Melbourne and how rare it is to find a decent, drinkable coffee in this mammoth bloody city. It sprawls and winds and explodes with energy and madness, and still, despite all the variety and options there aint a good bloody coffee to be found anywhere. In former times I would have kicked myself in the coxcyx for ordering a Starbucks Latte, but my surroundings and drunken state declared my disdain for Starbucks treatised for now. It wasn’t great, but it was good.

If my mind wasn;t already blown through its roof then first glance at the nearby Grand Pavillion shopping centre was like c4 through the skull – the 9 story bohemoth mall was possibly the biggest I’d ever come across and contained a veritable onslaught of consumerist stimulus. We hit up the giant cinema on the top level and escaped the maddening world outside with sitting in on the new Indiana Jones flick. Not too shabby at all.

Once again outside, Pete and I assumed our role as Dog’s Ball foreigners, getting berated by every tout in town for either a wild tuk tuk goose chase or a special massage no doubt with free Henri Lee. We took a cab back to the Khoa San, met up with the chicks and hit the hay fairly early..

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