1. Welcome to Bangkok.

So the aeroplane didn’t kill me.

​The screaming baby and crying mother next to me almost did though. I kept trying to smile at her to cheer her up, to show her there was some good in the world. She’d glance over, tears all rolling, and there I was with my kindest smile. She kept crying. 7 hours. An overnight flight spent watching films about corruption and not even nearly sleeping. At least there was a very questionable wet food served. Imagine humous with bits of weird black stuff in? That. Served with butter and jam. I asked for a beer and a wine. The wine was a bottle of white, with a bottle of red spilled all over the outside of it. I didn’t mind. Both went down nicely. The girl kept crying.

Got the bags. Got a taxi. The driver didn’t talk at all. I like that. He did nod off though, doing about 80mph on a flyover. He can’t be falling asleep can he? Then he slammed on the brakes with nobody in front as he woke up. Several lorries swerved to avoid us. He’d been sleeping alright. I didn’t complain, don’t want to make a fuss. Vans full of chickens flapping about the humans. Vans of humans flapping round the chickens. This city is mad. The very definition of madness. I got out of the taxi, stood on the pavement, when a motorbike tried to run me over. Welcome to Bangkok.

8. Chiang Rai

As I’d hoped, The North was cooler. In many ways; temperature, the people, the fridge. I’d decided to go even further north, surely it’d be even cooler? I tried to ask at the bus station, which bus I needed to get to Chiang Rai. 
Blank looks and noises fired back in my direction from an increasingly angry man. I’m an ignorant bastard, and I wanted to apologise, but I didn’t know the word. Fuck it, I thought, and I did what all British people do; pointed and shouted louder. They threw my bag on a bus and I was soon moving. No idea where, but I’m sure I’d find out. 

I turned up at Chiang Rai and dumped my bag in a shitty little room. I thought the mosquitos and lizards in the room would keep an eye on my bag. 

I walked down an alleyway, off a side street on the edge of Chiang Rai. The sun was beating down on a road made of dust and dead animals. At the end of the dust was a fresh fruit stall, with fresh fish, all kinds of weird meat on a stick. And there was a guy, with about five and a half yellow teeth, long scruffy grey hair, and a face that told me he’d had a million drunken nights with a million terrible mornings that surely followed. He’d had a hard life, and was still hard at work. By hard at work, I mean sat in the shade with a fan pointing at him, sipping on a cold one. I didn’t speak a word of this mans language and, I’m taking a guess, but I don’t think he spoke a word of the Queens either. I’d been after some coffee and water to help sooth the hangover. The guy was weighing me up, I could feel it, as I was stood there with my shit teeth and long scruffy hair, sweating. I couldn’t decide what to have. When, suddenly, the most wonderful thing happened. He pulled up a little plastic chair next to him and pointed at it. I was in no mood to argue. I sat my white arse down, in the shade, as he reached under his stall and lifted the lid on a massive cool box. He pulled out an ice cold beer and passed it to me. 
Tsssskkkt. 

Ah yes. 

Relief.

His semi-toothless smile grinned back at me. 

He sipped his beer. I sipped mine. 

We didn’t exchange a word. Then he cracked another two for us. This went on. 

Sat in the shade, drinking ice cold beer with a stranger. We didn’t even try to talk. 

It was bliss, no mundane conversation to endure. I couldn’t have been happier.

Watching the lizards and birds eating insects. 

Watching a dog across the dirt sleeping on top of a hot scooter seat. 

Watching an old lady cycle past with 14 boxes of vegetables and a ladder tied to her bicycle in the midday sun. 

Watching the world go by. Watching and drinking.

The clock ticked and I decided to thank the guy and head off. I slapped down $10 for the guy’s trouble. He handed it straight back to me, and I’m not a translator, but I think I was asked if I’d like to fuck off. What a guy! Off I fucked, back into the world, doing my best impression of a sober man.
At midday the next day I found the same dead end fruit and meat stall. I sauntered up. The same guy gave me a knowing grin from the shade. I opened my bag and opened two cold beers and passed him one.
We enjoyed no talking for a while. I drained my beer with him and left him the other four beers I’d brought along. I knew he’d enjoy them in the right fashion. I had a bus to catch across the border to Laos.

7. Chiang Mai 

We made it to the new shack in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, around 9am. Aimée said she needed to “get ready”.
“For what?” I silently wondered. Where are we going? What had I agreed to this time? I hoped it wasn’t something major that I’d completely forgotten about. Again. I was sweating, not because I was oblivious to what we were doing, but because I’m an English man sat in a jungle town. I walked over to the fridge and there it was; the Holy Grail. A cold beer. Three to be precise. I cracked one open and whipped my t shirt off, reclined on the bed and found a football fixture on the TV that I could watch but couldn’t even hope to pronounce. But I loved it. Horizontal, beer, football. This is my happy place. 

I half watched it, and half watched Aimée in the mirror ‘get ready’ for something or other. I never will understand why she ‘needs’ to do anything as she’d already woken up looking like the most beautiful person on the night train. Not that it was hard, but still, properly beautiful! She hadn’t spoken to me in half an hour, although she’d exchanged a couple of glances in my direction through the mirror. I noticed her cheekbones, I’m pretty sure she’d noticed my slight beer belly. I kept drinking. I couldn’t be sure if this was the silent treatment or whether makeup just requires an enormous amount of attention. I did what any sane man would do; I kept very quiet. I mean, what could I have done? Her expression was blank. It’s definitely not her birthday, I’m sure of that. Had I said something? Had I not said something? I need a shower, get this sweat off. All that silence was disturbing my football. I opened the bathroom door, and there he is, a giant 6 inch cockroach looking at me, grinning. We were both about to meet similar ends I feared. 

6. A religious vision after the Night Train.

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​I never did sleep on the north bound night train. Every time my eyes got heavy the train would scream like it was awakening from a cheap horror film nightmare.I needed to use the shitter, so I staggered down a corridor that was built for a man a good foot and a half shorter than I. 

I would not wish an Asian shitter on my worst enemy, but one on a night train being shared by hundreds of people and probably livestock too? It’s proof that there’s no God, or if there is, He doesn’t really care all that much. 
The bugs. 

The flies. 

The hole in the floor surrounded by all sorts. 

The distinct lack of tissue paper. 

I didn’t even run the tap for fear of what might come out. 


16 hours later; we arrived. I walked down the platform with the smell of stale piss heavy in my nose, past a few thousand of the usual, “tuc tuc sir?”, and “taxi, taxi, cheap, cheap?” lines of questioning.

I looked around and saw a female taxi driver in the distance, I’ve no idea how old, it’s hard to pinpoint the age of an Asian person post-40; but she didn’t ask if I wanted a taxi, she was leaning against her taxi, not particularly arsed, and I immediately liked her. I actually pursued her for a lift to our next shack. The car was nice, Air-Con, leather seats, very much unlike Asia. After 5 minutes of driving she pulled over and said to me, “I’ve no idea where I’m going, do you want to direct me?”. 

I could only see her wrinkled eyes in her rear view mirror, but I could tell a smile was developing all over her face. She knew. I knew. This was ridiculous. I’d been in her city for 7 minutes and she’d like me to direct her. What a blagger! I’ve rarely felt so connected to a 40-80 year old woman. Only at this moment did it occur to me, like a clear cut religious vision: she’s not a taxi driver. 

5. North Bound; out of Bangkok… 


Woke up on a Monday morning with a splitting headache, a dry mouth, a sweat on, a semi, and the usual overwhelming urge to surgically attach myself to my pillow. 

Trouble is, this isn’t my usual blues. This is a whole other kind of blues, that stems from the briefest of conversations. And it was the age old, “ask him at 7am” kind of question, and any old grunt in return is the absolute authority she’ll need to handcuff me with at a later date. 

The question? 

“Shall we go and travel Asia?”. 

“Mmurrghh.”

48 hours later, the flights are booked.

But the symptoms of this hangover were different. They didn’t come from a traditional hangover. I wish they did, because at least I’d be paying the price for a half decent night propping up a bar. But no, this was a result of heat, of little water, of zero sleep, of being somewhere my Casper The Ghost body was not designed to reside. 

I had to get out of Bangkok. The city of never-ending wrong. 

A place where the cockroaches are 6 inches long and the rats are a the size of cats. A place where the cats are the size of wolves and the dogs are for dinner. An optional side of sticky rice or noodles are par for the main course. 

I gotta get out of this place and head north, where it’s bound to be a welcome kind of cooler, and I’m a Northern English man; which is better in ways that if you had to ask, you could never understand. 

North bound. 

4. Tuc Tuc Sir? 


I need a cold one.This Bangkok heatwave is killing me. As are the people. But everywhere I look it’s, “Tuc Tuc sir?”, “taxi sir?”, and the classic, “we’ll tailor you a suit sir?”- in this heat?!!! Fuck off.
I must have seen one thousand Buddhist Monks today, all beautifully silent. But they seem to be leaving the big existential questions of this world to the millions of Tuc Tuc drivers to pose. Of which there seems to be two main soul defining questions;

“Where have you come from?”

“Where are you going?”



Wow. Great questions lads. And kind of the point of my trip, but right now I need a cold one.

3. Bangkok? What Pho??!


I’m a man who likes to plan ahead, so I headed to a temple at exactly the hottest time of the day, mid-Bangkok heatwave. The parts of me that hadn’t melted along the 2 mile walk turned up at a temple called ‘Wat Pho’. I did wonder the very same thing. There was a man, who had half as many teeth as is required, who sidled up to me.
“I’m historian, I take you round Wat Pho, I teach you, otherwise you no understand?”

“No thanks mate.” I said.

“Ok, ok, you want boat ride?” He gurned back.

“No than- hang on, you were a historian two seconds ago?” 

“Ok, ok, you need taxi?”

“Fuck off mate.”

The temple was beautiful. Or at least I imagine it was, I struggled to see through the sea of selfie sticks and idiots waving them like a surrender flag to intellect. Not that I’m an intellectual. 

I shoelessly trundled around a huge golden reclining Buddha. Not quite sure of the significance, maybe he was every bit as hot as I was and needed a rest? Maybe he’d fancy a beer after all the selfie sticks had exhausted him I wonder? I was standing outside The Grand Temple, and I must admit, it was truly Grand. I thought of all the hundreds, thousands of poor souls who worked on it in this heat, chiselling great sculptures, making golden mosaics, carving incredible scriptures into rock and wood, which have stood the test of time long after their grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren, and the millions of people who will get great enjoyment from such a masterpiece. And the monks, who so mindfully stroll around their Holy Place. But moreover, in a moment of enlightenment you might say, I suddenly feel hugely connected, to the pair of pigeons who have just shit all over the roof and went to sit in it. Smirking at all the idiots around. My kind of people them pigeons. My kind.

2. Bangcock…


Woke up at 2.22am in a hot, hot sweat. The air conditioning decided to go on holiday some place else, not quite sure where, but it’s definitely not here. 

Every single thing here is unbelievably hot; the food, the cold shower I needed was hot, the fridge with my water and beer in; hot. Not quite everything, I forgot about the ladyboys; they’re a weird creature that needs to be accepted by the many, floating somewhere in the abyss between genders, definitely not a man, and most definitely not a woman. They’re a car crash. Maybe I’d just found the wrong ones. Yet you still can’t help shoot the briefest of glances over, to observe, whilst quickly moving on. Back to a sweaty sleep.