Bangkok: FFS

I have left Australia for Thailand for what I’m sure will be one week of exploring, misadventure and general debauchery.

Due to an error in my working visa application – the Australian government informed me over the phone that I could enter the country on a tourist visa while my working visa was still pending, then two weeks later informed me this wasn’t the case and I would have to leave – I have fled to Thailand. The trip has cost me a solid half of my remaining savings, and means I will be returning to my idyllic outback farm with around £250 to my name. This is not ideal, and I am rather incensed at having been misinformed and forced to spend all my savings and vacate the country. But nobody ever got a puddle of milk back into the bottle by weeping over it. And so I am in Thailand, whether I like it or not, and I am going to make the most of this most irritating of detours.

I probably sound quite privileged and selfish, don’t I, moaning about having to travel to a pretty country with a throbbing backpacker scene. The reason is, I was growing very fond of my little farm and the friendships that were blossoming there. I was enjoying my slow transformation from a weary old seen-it-all city bastard into a healthy and cheerful farmer. Bangkok feels like a large step backwards. But again, I’m here now, and there’s nothing else for it.

My first impressions of the city could be summarised best by a long, slow emptying of the lungs. I never wanted to visit Thailand, for the simple reason that everyone does. I had a stereotype in my head of what it would be like here, and lo, upon arriving at my hostel at 2am after a delightful 20 hours of transit, the first conversation I overheard was two American frat bros talking about how they got into a knife fight outside a brothel and how they hate anti-gun liberals and how badly they both want to get laid. Sigh. Abandon all culture, all ye who enter here.

I’m staying at a self-proclaimed party hostel, due to its being the cheapest one I could find. I feel old. I’m not sure when that happened, exactly, but at my ripe old age of 25 the idea of fifteen sunburned men in neon vests screaming at red beer pong cups, whirlpooling around one or two English girls clad in arse-cheek pinching shorts seems rather bland. Give me a gloomy bar and a weird old man to chat to any day.

I just really dislike the idea that people travel halfway around the world to a country with a fascinating new culture, and all they want to do is shag about and get pissed. It’s not my idea of fun and never has been. I’m partial to a beer, if you’ve read literally anything I’ve ever written you’ll have picked that up, but I prefer alcohol as an accessory to silly adventures and a lowerer of inhibitions that enables people to reveal their true selves without weeks of getting-to-know-you chatter. I loathe the muscle bound, tribal tattooed masses with their chest beating and arse-grabbing.

thailand at night

But maybe I’m being too harsh. I’ve barely been here one day. I’m going to try and make the most of it. I’m heading out now to wander the streets all on me bill, and perhaps I’ll find something to love about this place. Or perhaps I’ll just sink a couple of those buckets you hear about and stop being such a moany pretentious wanker and end up dancing with my top off in some ping pong show ladyboy frat bro fuckhead dancefloor.

Truly, it could go either way.

Travelling Back In Time To Break My Father’s Nose, or, The Weirdest Story I Have Ever Written

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Do you think you could beat your father in a fight? What about when he was in his prime? My uncle asked this very question at my father’s birthday dinner last weekend, and my father, without a hint of irony or humour, gazed straight into my eyes and told me he would ‘massacre’ me, even now. He’s 59 years old with a hernia and a beer gut, I am 25. The hubris. This simply won’t stand. Something must be done.

I am going to break your nose, old man. Not now, not today, while you’re old and feeble and your best years are behind you. There’d be no satisfaction in that, there’d be no challenge. No, father, I’m going to go back to the 1980’s, I’m going to find you, and I’m going to make you wish I’d never been born. Continue reading

Jill

Last week, on a sunny Thursday evening after work, I’d had a couple of beers with friends who were heading off to watch the rugby. I said goodbye, and hopped on a bus home. I was on the back seat and watched the bus slowly fill with people. An old woman stepped on, and headed straight for my back seat. She asked me if I minded her sitting next to me, and I smiled and shifted along to give her more room. I didn’t pay her much attention. She was wearing a pink t-shirt, and had her hair in a ponytail. She didn’t look very old, for an old person. Continue reading

The Night Train

Leaving the air con cool of the hotel, we walked out into the oily heat of a Saigon evening. Our guide, a tiny 57 year old Thai woman called Lek, who seemed to hate everything Vietnamese, hailed a taxi. We climbed in and were whisked through the chaos of whirring motorbikes beneath the infinite mass of telephone lines. We arrived at the train station after dark. Continue reading

A Forgotten Conversation

As you advance through countries, you will find that you assemble a patchwork quilt of memories. There are countless stories and moments which you take in your stride while you’re travelling. Some of them stick with you forever. Many are forgotten, and the memory dredged up years later while flicking through an old journal, jerked out of the subconscious by the scruff of its neck. Continue reading

The Definition of Freedom

11-3-2015Enjoying-bia-hoi-in-Vietnamese-way

I know, right? Intense title for a blog post.

I’ve been around the world a couple of times, and I’ve learned a few things. One of the most prevailing is this: freedom is a completely subjective concept. Some of the most liberated individuals I’ve met have come from countries we view as oppressive. To illustrate this, let’s compare Vietnam with the good old US of A. Continue reading