I really recommend you read part 1 first… it does not guarantee that any of my mindless ramblings will make more sense but it’s worth a shot!
Maybe you don’t like being told what to do. I get that. Here is a quick recap: Friends, beer, strange stuff, beer, castles & dragons, beer, food, beer, work, beer, Berlin Wall, beer, flight to Bangkok for more of the same….
In our last edition we left off in Berlin. I woke up in a daze. The night before was essentially an open bar as one of our partner companies kept the tab going all night in a low-quality, high-rise, German hotel disco tech. Being at my best intellectual state at 3 a.m. I had already ‘drunk packed‘ the night before… now that is good thinking! Too bad I left my retainer in the bathroom… now that is ‘drunk packing‘! Not knowing till well after one has to take the approach of ‘Meh, expensive mistake’.
I hit the buffet to re-prime my system; high end type with cold cuts, more of that German health food called ‘sausages’ (which you should really try), eggs to order, black coffee, etc…. then down to the lobby to catch a cab.
I see a Dutch individual that I know from ‘work meetings‘. He is an old school hacker type making a living in international defense Cyber Security. So he is a high risk individual to share a cab to the airport with while I simultaneously try not to puke, brown my pants, or say anything that I should not. The ride goes well…we were both a little slow that morning. We commit to discuss our companies collaborating in the future, nothing ever came of it, talked about fishing, and then go our separate ways at the airport.
I am convinced that the coach airplane seat was originally designed as a medieval torture device. Why anyone would put cloth or leather over a 5 gallon bucket with a cardboard toilet seat baffles my mind. Platinum status gets me upgraded about half the time but this was to be the other half. After a quick hop from Berlin to Frankfurt (and quick stop into the lounge for more ‘health food’ and some hair of the dog). In my premium state of being (as in high octane) and plebeian airline seat …I crashed hard. Not stirring till we were on approach to Bangkok (BKK).
When you have friends; they take care of you. When you have friends in the embassy you might pass customs, might get stamped in a dark hallway, and might get handed a burner phone in the taxi. It could happen. This friend, lets call him Jimbo since I like that name, is one of the good ones. Salt of the Earth and dependable whether you are zapping insurgents in Helmand Province or looking for noodles in BKK. Jimbo and I have been friends for a long time. As he put it once, ‘…we have a long and sordid history…‘ I trust him with my life and my stomach. So first order of business is to drop bags and get food.
The layover is only 30 hours for myself so this is going to be a whirlwind. Host Jimbo made a list of things we were going to to try to work through. I am blessed to have someone so organized to ensure I get the most out of my degenerate time, I mean as a church volunteer, during Operation BKK.
Due to unexpected simultaneous malfunctions of all video capture devices we will now skip to Australia….
Ok, just kidding. Hotel check in. Really nice place by Thai Standards. $30 so you know I went all out on the room. You can find rooms for half that if you are willing to go off the beaten path. Much less if you are ok with a hostel. This hotel was right around the corner from where Jimbo and family live.
After dropping bags it is time for a beer. I am reminded by my tour guide (His Holiness Jimbo) how to ask for two Singha beers. It is hot and humid so there is no reason to order more. The beer girls are very attentive so you will have no issue getting their attention. In fact they will often walk over, pick up your beer to see how you are doing, then either ask or walk away. It is kind of like a very attentive bar tender anywhere else in the world except they also want to illicit ‘other’ kinds of sales. Dodge that for now. It is a recurring theme in the underbelly of BKK though… Back to the mission at hand; in case you need to know…Two beers – Singha beers – ‘Sing a song’ or
Singha Song. If the bar maids are not rubbing your shoulders trying to get more (‘you buy me drink?!’) two frosty lagers will appear. Then disappear into your gullet, then reappear, then disappear. This goes on until you need food or no longer have Baht.
We sit at a high bar with stools facing the street so we can watch the street vendors and other goings on. Catching up with an old friend can be quick. Always feels natural only seconds after seeing them. We have done this many times before and after assignments overseas. Shift focus to the people watching.
Possibly four beers into catching up with Jimbo and there is a ruckus coming down the sidewalk. An old man is running from a younger guy who is visibly pissed off and trying to hit him with a stick. Only knowing how to say ‘thank you‘ and ‘two beers‘ I am left to write my own dialogue. This is hugely entertaining and done frequently while people watching. The younger guy is literally trying to kill the old guy! They dodge and weave the street side vendor stalls as the younger guy swings away. Eventually, the old guy threw a watch at the young guy and ran away. We all had a laugh but never missed a beat tending to our Singhas. Turns out the old man was trying to do a snatch and grab from a watch sales street vendor. Note to self; don’t steal watches in BKK.
Here is something that no one has ever said before; We are slightly lubed up and I am wearing jeans.
Time to find some shorts. We negotiate rides with three little guys on 125cc motorcycles. It is a standard cheap way to get around in Thailand. No less hilarious that I am about twice the size of the bike and pilot put together. We zip in and out of traffic dodging cars, ignoring red lights, and even onto the sidewalk when required. The rear springs along with the little 125 engine straining as people scream and dodge out of the way on the sidewalk.
Shorts acquired… here are some of the artsy shots while we trooped around the day.
All this heat and beer drinking made me hungry (and thirsty). It had been at least hour since since we ate. Jimbo suggested some noodle soup on a side street that he knows. Sold. We approached the woman running the noodle stand, pointed, grunted, and smiled. We were directed to sit and handed more Singhas.
The day was getting away from us. Even though the beers were light, the temperature is hot, the libations many and the night snuck up on us.
Bangkok transforms from a third world Southeast Asian mega-city that might just need some polishing up to allay the concerns of the meek or penitent into a something kind of like a cheaper, sex driven, Tijuana on strong acid, after dark. If you are a sailor (or just a depraved individual of moral flexibility) you will seek and find your own maximum comfort level in that regard. You can take it as far as you please though be warned that the human mind cannot return from some places. Here are the last pictures taken from that day with no explanations offered.
Mornings suck when you abuse your body. I rolled out of bed only hours after getting there. The curse of never being able to sleep in strikes again! (Certainly there is a witch doctor somewhere in the world that I can help me.) To the bathroom to pump & dump; what was likely to be an ongoing condition that day. My love of spicy always gets me in the end (…so to speak). Luckily the hangover has not begun. Sobriety did not find me on that morning; was still solidly drunk. I ping Jimbo to find he is still hurting and is unable to wander far from a restroom. My drive for the cure to my impending hangover doom was my primary motivation for braving sunlight. His wife makes a pork ginger soup that always solves my problems. Though I have seen her make the recipe many times I hardly could do it myself. It is an extremely simple recipe that requires browning some pork, adding some ginger, garlic, and onion, then pour on chicken broth. The reason this falls into the impossible realm is because I could hardly be trusted to maintain rectal integrity while simultaneously holding a cup of coffee.
After soup and coffee we load up the kids for a walk through town to eat street meat on sticks. They are the perfect age to not be around while you are hung over. . . but I always enjoy the little monsters anyway. As we walk through the streets they yell, ‘watch this Uncle Bobby!’ …then jump off something, throw something, or kick something. These are behaviors I myself had probably exhibited only hours ago in these same streets; so I totally get it!
It was to be only a short trip but the intensity of Bangkok takes its toll regardless of term. The airport was a welcomed site by the time the cab pulled up.
I snapped a few more pictures from the cab of the skyline. The city has grown since I was here last in the late ’90s. During that time I did tour Bangkok a bit. Given more time I would recommend touring the canals, ruins, and statues that dot the city and date back 700 or more years.
There is a ton of information about the canal tours at http://bangkok.com/attraction-waterway/. I would budget an entire day to the canals. My favorite memory of touring the canals was when the tour boat guide was informing us that the water was actually very clean. It looks dirty because of the boat traffic stirring up the mud. As he finished saying that, I pointed and laughed … a young boy, maybe 8 years old, was hanging over the edge of a dock with a turd about to drop. 🙂 Everyone laughed and the tour guide with the benefit of his megaphone yelled at the kid in Thai. So maybe use your own judgement about how clean the water is and whether to expose yourself.
At the airport ready to head to Australia for the next leg where I found some interesting art. After doing some research I discovered that this represented a Hindu myth about Krishna and Shesha which ends with the gods using a snake wrapped around a mountain to stir the oceans to release riches like the moon, a magical tree, and the water of life.
I will never get enough time in this city; even if I move there permanently. The people are friendly, the food fantastic, everything is cheap, and the history unique, complex, and interesting. There really are not enough adjectives to describe Bangkok. BKK can be overwhelming at times as the city tries to be everything – all in one place – all at the same time. Regardless of how long you have or what you choose to do with your time…. it never fails to leave an impression.
Part – 3 will follow – Australia. Back to work in Canberra, ACT . It was a non-touring site but I’ll run you through a couple of the hikes and sites I’ve done over the years. 🙂 Cheers!