You’re thrown in, soaked in sweat, conditioned with cocktails and strong cans of beer, roughhoused, slapped-about for a time or two, then hung up to dry.
Bangkok is a bit like a washing machine – except you’ll often come out having accumulated a base layer of grime.
The following story took place in August, 2010. It is not an isolated incident…
Our protagonists, for indeed there were two, had recently convened at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
George, a 43-year-old land surveyor from Scunthorpe, had just alighted after 12 hours aboard flight TG912 from Manchester, and Henry, the older of the pair by five years and a recent Thai expatriate, had travelled down from the upcountry province of Khon Kaen where he taught English in a local government school. The journey had been, in Henry’s words, “extremely upsetting”, which George knew to construe as “absolutely bastard horrendous”.
Public transport in Thailand had cropped up more than once during their myriad Skype conversations and George was acutely aware that his long-time friend wasn’t particularly endeared by the local buses which had the “horsepower of one solitary pony with a calcium deficiency”, and trains that had two speeds: “stop” and “broken”.
Nevertheless, George was in exceptionally fine fettle after his flight and requested that they make haste to a bar where he might whet his whistle with a Beer Chang – his first ever on Siamese soil.
Forgetting about his woeful journey and buoyed at the thought of spending an evening amid hedonistic debauchery with his best pal, Henry quickly assumed the guise of attentive tour guide and hailed a taxi in his best Thai.
“Oi, over ‘ere… kap.”
After being swiftly chauffeured through the early afternoon traffic by a gentleman who apparently cared not if the trip came to its conclusion with all parties on board having been violently dismembered, our heroes divvied up the cost of the cab and, with George’s suitcases still in tow, entered an open air bar just a stagger away from Nana Plaza – a city hotspot of bare and writhing flesh.
As is customary with the uninitiated, George’s eyes lit up. They positively bulged, threatening to burst forth from his skull and bounce around the bar like a pair of ping pong balls.
This was Earth, but not as George knew it.
This was hot and bawdy and humid, and vibrant and rustic and raw, and – as he was approached by an almond-eyed waitress and issued with a tatty laminated drinks menu – and, this was… was this heaven?
Several bottles of the much-hallowed Beer Chang took a hold, and the pair found themselves sucked into a Bangkokian vortex. Laughter, mirth, merriment and bad singing abounded, and it wasn’t long before a brace of local females clad in insufficient attire and half an inch of makeup surreptitiously sidled up to the duo – perchance, they assumed, to join the party.
George was instantly and hopelessly in love.
Rat, so she went by, was a beguiling combination of button cute and lithe elegance.
She also, perhaps crucially, had her hand in his underpants.
Henry, however, a self-proclaimed seasoned expat, approached his quarry with a touch more caution, but it wasn’t long before he too had succumbed to the mystery that was ‘Cat’, and so a protracted spell of robust petting ensued.
Upon disembarking their respective sweethearts, Rat and Cat suggested that the newly formed quartet repair to a more discreet location which after a five-minute walk transpired to be a nondescript watering hole down a Sukhumvit sub soi.
George and Henry chinked together their freshly poured glasses of beer, their seventh – at least – of this impromptu matinee session of perverse and appalling behaviour. Each sporting ear-to-ear grins, they put paid to their drinks in one gargantuan gulp, an action which was in turn met with coos of admiration from the now omnipresent Rat and Cat.
This, thought George, was up there with one of the best days of his life – including the time he seven-balled old Mickey Kendall in the Red Lion in Doncaster.
But then, something utterly unusual happened – and so a journey of great woe and befuddlement ensued.
George woke up on a beach.
It was a lovely beach, with swaying coconut trees and soft powdery sand bordering a gently rippling expanse of azure blue sea. The sun dipped and teetered on the horizon, imprinting a golden aisle into the surf towards where George sat. It was indeed a textbook tropical vista – the stuff of travel agency windows.
Yet something troubled George.
Perhaps most pressing was the issue of where the fucking hell he was and how he’d gotten there in the first place.
Next he noted the absence of his bags, his telephone, his camera – and, quite notably, his best friend.
Henry was in a secondary school classroom teaching mathematics when he was treated to his first lucid thought in 48 hours.
Balancing himself against the blackboard, he scanned the classroom and was happily met with 20 bowed heads completing a textbook assignment.
A cursory self-evaluation led him to observe that, by the grace of Lord Buddha alone, he was suitably dressed in shirt, tie, pressed trousers and a polished pair of shoes. Maniacally scrabbling around his bag and pockets, he found that his telephone was also missing – and at the next available opportunity pecked out an email to George, keen to sketch out some semblance of the preceding events.
The effects of Flunitrazepam – also known as Rohypnol – when administered by those without the authority – in this case, Rat and Cat – can be cataclysmic. An extremely powerful sedative, it can also cause anterograde amnesia in users which is especially probable when mixed with alcohol.
George and Henry were given a dangerously high dose of Rohypnol which rendered them unconscious for over 12 hours, during which most of their possessions and cash were stolen but credit and debit cards thankfully left untouched.
In subsequent hours they continued as planned, with their itinerary – George would go to Phuket, Henry would go home – somehow programmed somewhere deep in their psyche.
Two days riddled with blood-bubbling anxiety later, Henry finally received an email from George which he opened with a great sense of foreboding.
Those Beer Chang are a bit strong aren’t they?
Featured image is by dentarg and used under a Creative Commons licence