Sunday, 19 April 2015

Thai Whiskey and Temples: Bangkok Bound 1994

bangkok temple
On the Thai Road Again

I'd spent the last few days in England in a kind of dreary haze - that excitement now calmed to numbness.  Once again I felt like I was inbetween worlds.  Most of the goodbyes I'd said were short but sweet, leaving me not knowing whether I was happy, nervous or sad at the prospect of once more leaving my native shores.  Obviously it was time to go…

The house was empty when I jumped into the taxi with my brother's friends, Kev and Dean, late one afternoon.  My leaving was uneventful: only the pink tint of the oncoming sunset lifted my spirits.  Then, as we drove down the motorway, the sounds of The Rolling Stones on the radio began to charm me into the existence that was waiting for me…

As I looked out of the passenger window, I found the near-half moon watching as she rose high into the sky.  She kept her eye on me all the way
to the airport, and mesmerised, I watched back - imagining the places she'd find me in when she next looked down upon me.
Himalayan Range
Our Bangladesh Airlines flight was a few hours delayed, but no matter, for when we boarded our flight to Bangkok we found the plane nearly empty.  We sprawled ourselves out over the 5-seater middle sections, and passed the journey in unexpected comfort - until the boys got drunk!

Kev frightened one poor Bangladeshi couple to the other side of the plane; then continued to annoy their friends, sticking his head between their two seats.  Somehow, he managed to spill Dean's dinner all over him, even though they weren't even sitting in the same row. 

Oh, the joys of travel with my brother's best friends!

After breakfast, the captain informed us that we'd just passed over Delhi.  Varanasi was to our right... and to our left?  The Himalayan Ranges, blindingly clear in a beautiful blue sky.  I could have cried at the view I was beholding, I was so elated.  Travel, in those days, had me completely spellbound.

I was 23 yrs old.

reclining buddha
Temple of the Reclining Buddha 1995
Return To Bangkok

We arrived into Bangkok at about 6pm that night.  As soon as we passed through immigration, I took my leave of the boys.  We were all going our separate ways:  Dean was flying straight to Samui, Kev to the girly bars of Pat Pong.  I was heading to Khao San Road, to meet my friends from home.

As the taxi drove me through Bangkok, I was treated to what I thought at first were wonderful Christmas decorations, the trees all lit up with beautiful lights.  There were pictures of the King at every street turn.  Only later did I realise we'd arrived on the weekend of the King's birthday.

The taxi dropped me off in Khao San Road.  Tired and knowing I had only one night in Bangkok, I didn't mind shelving out the 320 Thai baht (£8 in 1994) for a decent room with its own shower.  Later, as I strolled out a little distance, I spied a familiar threesome sitting outside the Hello Bar. 

United with my travelling companions, we had a beer to celebrate, before Emma and I rushed off to scour the length of Khao San Road.  As we were walking, I looked up to see the half-moon shining down on me again... tilted now into an Asian smile.

tuk tuk
Tuk Tuk Travel!
Stricken by Sang Thip

Back at the Hello Bar, Worz and Neil were tucking into a bottle of Sang Thip.  I joined them happily.  Once we'd finished the Thai whiskey, the four of us jumped into a tuk tuk to speed our way through the streets of Bangkok, to Pat Pong.  We wandered the market, glanced into the bars of half-naked Thai girls... before heading to Pizza Hut for some familiar food. 

Familiar food?  Whatever did I want that for?  But who was I to argue with my friends' strange farang desires.  After dinner, we were too full to see a sex show, even though that had been the plan.  My second time in Bangkok, and I hadn't seen any sin yet.

Back in Khao San Road I was beginning to feel the effects of a long day's travelling, but somehow I was still convinced to come for one last drink before bed.  This turned into another bottle of Thai whiskey, after which it was 3am. I  was buzzing again and could have talked all night.  The Sang Thip was wicked stuff: we didn't really feel drunk; instead the amphetamines got our brains racing!

Years later, a Swedish chemist took a bottle back to his home laboratory.  He discovered 30+ illegal substances in its chemical make-up, strychnine - rat poison - included!  I kept clear of it after that.

Grand Bangkok 
emerald buddha
Wat Phra Gaew, Grand Palace Bangkok
The next morning I awoke early, dragged Emma out of bed and bought enough clothes to satisfy my desire to shop.  In the afternoon, Emma lead me out of Khao San Road, over five main roads to a tree-lined park towards... 'some temple'.  As we got closer, I realised we were at the Grand Palace. 

A bare-armed Emma was impelled to buy a shirt to cover herself up, so we could enter what I had told her was, 'the most amazing architecture I'd ever seen in my life'. 

It was worth the trek just to see Emma's reaction.  In her enthusiasm, she mirrored the delight and awe I'd felt the first time I'd visited, nearly two years before...  

grand palace
Grand Palace, Bangkok
'I walked around, eyes agog, amazed at such wealth and riches and opulence.  All that beauty and workmanship, strange jewelled mythological creatures and inverted temple rooves.  All glistening in the sunlight and concentrated into a wondrous temple complex.  
Thailand at surely its most magical!'  

Welcome back to the Far East!

Mia's Diaries 1994/95

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