The days in Bangkok blur into a stream of memories. The final assembly of the gang was completed late on Christmas Day, and was followed by a swift yet prolonged dose of beer and banter, the heat and infamous strength of Chang nearly my undoing as we roamed the late night wasteland of Khao San.
For the uninitiated, Khao San road is a short strip of concrete pavement in Central Bangkok that bustles with the trade of a thousand backpackers and the hawkers who cater to them. It is a monument to the success of the banana pancake trail, and a temple to the potent buckets of red bull and vodka that fuel its worshipers. Crowded with stalls of fake Ray Bans and tourist t-shirts in the day, it later transforms into a motley collection of bars and clubs that continue on to the wee small hours. The street hums with the raking noise of the frog toys pushed by a tireless coven of Thai women and a roadside wok sizzles as another order of pad thai is fried up for the masses.
Novel at first, the acoustic bastardisations of your favourite Bob Marley or Dylan song soon become tiresome, as does the incessant haggling, the vendors an ensemble of skipping records sent to test your patience:
“for you, my friend, very nice suit. Cheap price my friend, you like, very cheap for you”
“hello my friend”
“hello sir, my friend, you like suit, very cheap, very cheap”
Indeed, Khao San road can be a tiring place when you overstay your welcome. Despite this, it is an inevitability for those travelling through Bangkok, and no trip would be complete without at least one night lurching the streets with your empty bucket in hand, singlet slightly askew as you squint against the light, searching for lost friends. Tick that one off then.
On Boxing Day our gang swelled with the addition of another two members, including one switched on individual we shall call Brother Barefoot. Brother Barefoot comes equipped with no shoes, a most relaxed disposition and an uncanny ability to sniff out illicit excellence. It wasn’t long after reintroductions that he was casually expounding the wonders of Thai over the counter medicine, and his suggestion that we sample the wares was met with universal accord. The sun was scorching and the hangovers brutal; it seemed as if our unspoken prayers had been answered.
A very successful trip to the Pharmacy later and we were all piled into a tuk-tuk bound for Bangkok Zoo. Several packs of tramadol later and gang was having a right old time. Zoos can be depressing places at the best of times, but the warm weather and heavy sedation made for a pleasing wander.
Highlights include the particular attention paid to the affectionate bovine in the petting zoo and feeding (read, throwing food into) a laconic duo of hippos. After plenty of muttered abuse for the non-event that was Bangkok’s shark, which was stranded in a fucking paddling pool that, I might add, we paid extra to see, we were ready for a beer. Despite our disgust, it was a contented ride back to the backpacker ghetto – now renamed for all eternity “Cunt sand road;” a word play lost on the suit salesmen that swarmed as we trolled the fake wares lining the road.
Equipped with the finest arsenal of medication a moderate budget can buy we turned our attention south. A sedated sleep later and we stumble from bus to ferry, headed towards the promised hedonism of Koh Pha-ngan and a Full Moon New Year.
A decent swell, food no more substantial than oreos, and a lack of water conspired with the heat and waning meds, and I began to slip into the clutches of the demon nausea. A graceful wobble to the deck for a brisk airing and I was pulled back to the land of the living, eyes on the horizon as I contemplated the remaining hours.
If anything it was a gentle reminder to ensure you’re well fed and hydrated when getting amongst the finest across the counter Thailand has to offer – ying and yang and all that.