Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bangkok Night

I just had a crazy night and I wanted to get it down. I still haven't slept, and am hanging out in the business lounge for Thai Air - I'm off in a bit to get a free spa treatment and massage - because I can and because it might help stop me from being so wired. I'll then save it as draft and post it after I get round to writing Crystal.

I landed in Bangkok, and figured I'd head in and find a cheap hotel not too far from the airport. After a brief adventure on a totally friendly moto-taxi who helped me out when I was trying to walk down the edge of the freeway with a whacking great rucksack, I found a cheap hotel. I then grabbed a cab to the Marriot in Sukhumvit where I had left my hat and jeans - (of course). I got there at about ten, and was fortunate to run into a woman who I had got on with well during the shoot, having pudding in the bar. She bought me a couple of Singha and we caught up. At half ten she had to go to her room to Skype her husband, so I said goodbye - (which I had been unable to do previously as I got whipped off to sign some forms). I then headed out into the soi, lost in thought, consulting my Lonely Planet guide and contemplating a depressing solitary final night.

And then - and forgive the tense shift but this was when the weird stuff started - someone appears right in front of me and says "Alex!". I know nobody in Bangkok. I have no idea what the fuck is going on. At first I fail to recognise her. She is in the remnants of a witch costume that she has been wearing for school assembly. It's the girl from the boat. On her way home from a meditation course. I ask her if she's eaten. She says no, and so we jump in a cab and she takes me to a place she knows. Before we are even seated she orders a jug of strawberry margarita. I figure she knows what she's doing. Unfortunately the waitress knows less, but it's palatable. I let her order food for me as she is bound to know what's good. She suggests something that is not on the menu, so I agree. It's brilliant. The best thing I've had since I left Bangkok.

We chatter for a while and then cab it to a massage parlour. It's shut, sadly. But on the way I am getting a whistle stop tour of Bangkok nightlife. It's past twelve though, and all the massage places are finishing up apart from the ones with "happy endings" which neither of us want. Another cab and we're at a converted tuktuk/bar somewhere drinking good mojito and talking random stuff about everything. I find an ease with this girl as if we've known each other for years. Despite the fact that I am knackered from an early start, a boat, a plane, a load of shopping and a load of walking. She clocks this, as I am more than characteristically silent. But quite rightly she overlooks it - "It'll help sort out your jet lag." But also how the hell can she read that from me on one meeting? She is intensely spiritual and has been meditating all day after the witchy assembly in the morning. This might have something to do with it.

Mojitos down, she starts to click into gear. Her self appointed mission is to give me a great last night and show me as much of Bangkok as she can. Another cab, or is it a walk? and "What Gender?" she asks, pointing. Got to be a man... Looks like a woman but no Adam's Apple. I ask her about this. "The operation only costs a few hundred baht. They can do all sorts of things - for 350 baht and an overnight stay you can be a virgin again!" She touches her belly. Suddenly we're in the Algerian quarter, in the shiniest restaurant I have ever seen. "Isn't it shiny!?!" She says with delight. It really is. It's right in the middle - all the bustle is around us. Two terrible western trannies are trying out their new kit on the table behind us. I snap them rudely, pretending to snap her. They see the flash and leave. "Let's get hummus!" I'm stuffed but the hummus is too good to miss. I shovel it in on good fresh cucumber and tomato. I can't finish it but she can and then it's THE FLOWER MARKET. By now i'm in a buzz. It's about 2 in the morning and exhaustion is doing odd things to my head. Trails are happening and I am getting motion repeats from the scuba diving. She asks eight taxis in a row to take us there. They all refuse. She waits a while until she knows that the taxis that are coming by haven't seen her get refused. She asks a new one and he takes us. But is he going the right way? Who knows? We wind through strange side streets and suddenly it's the flower market. By now I am totally tripping out and it is a blur of colour and people and sound. Millions of flowers, and hardly any customers as they are setting up ready for Saturday morning. Vast baskets of lettice are hauled around amid constant chatter and bustle. Orchids are piled high. Rare flowers, cheap flowers in bulk, bags of rose petals. Huge chunks of ice in a warehouse. A siamese cat. Stuff stuff stuff. Colour colour colour. Noise noise noise. It's half two but it might as well be day. An old man is changing his trousers. A blind old woman laughs uproariously at something her young friend has said. Trucks piled with veg are swarmed on by wiry antmen. Children run around all over the place. Many are helping. Dogs wander and sniff and wee on the lettice. Crushed veg is carpetted underfoot. We go in a wide circle. There is some water and a temple. She buys some orchids and some white roses. 70 baht in total. Less than a pound. "Feel how heavy that is!" she gets me to hold the orchids. "Think how much that would cost in the UK!" She's right. I hold her roses. They have no smell. "More market or look at the temple?" Look at the temple! We look. She reads a plaque at the base of the temple. I start at the same time as her. She is done in about 2 seconds, I in 8 to 10. Perhaps I am slow and time has truncated for me. People sit in a circle round coloured contact lenses, staring at the boxes in slow motion. I am occasionally groping my camera from my day bag and taking photos. Every time I replace it in a different pocket or part of the bag. My hands move slowly because the air is too thick. I am not functioning correctly. She notices. The logical step - go home! Another cab, the driver has no idea where we are going. We help. So does Lonely Planet, my constant travel companion. The hotel! I ask her if she wants to "come up." She has a boyfriend. I regret my impulse. It has not been what the evening was about. But it pulls at me like I know her, like i've known her all my life. I head to my room and get into bed. My eyes close and sharks and octopi dance in front of my closed eyes with diving bell helmets. Occasionally a voice reminds me that everything is connected to everything else. I read the secrets that I've written on the inside of my eyeballs in italics and smile. Something huge is explaining that I need to remember that the world is bigger than what I can perceive. This is exhaustion on a grand scale, or it's mushrooms in the food, or it's a flashback. A cockroach snaps me back by running over my chest. I bat it off the inside of my bed and it hits the wall with a satisfying thunk. It's ten to six. Sleep is no longer an option. I read my book a while. A wasp flies from the window into the centre of my neck and vanishes. I check all my cards and my passport. Nothing lost. All in place. Pack. Coffee. Taxi to airport. Check in. Take stock.

Brilliant night. Information overload. Bangkok never sleeps. I met the right person at the right time in the right city. Our last exchange: "Of course I'll email you! I'm not going to be ashamed of telling someone that I think they're attractive. Now here's 70 baht for my half of the taxi, and thanks for a great night." "That's the thing I love about this town - those two sentences together. Perfect."

As for the crazy stuff, it took me all the way home. I was up for 36 hours and the plane flight was great fun if a little random. Insects were a common part of the experience but everything was benign and I relaxed into total knowledge that I was hallucinating when I got woodlice on my leg in the plane - the plane is full of insecticide. The woman next to me was a little concerned at me I think. Probably worried I was a terrorist, since I was sweating, fidgetting and grinning. And occasionally jumping and looking at things that weren't there. And mumbling to myself. The girl insists that she didn't give me anything holotrophic. Who knows. Could be a combination of factors : Exhaustion, a massive electric shock, flying too soon after scuba, and hey - maybe i got a tiny tiny bit of neurotoxin from the krait through a scratch in my skin. I don't care. It was a brilliant night, and without doubt it will stay with me for the rest of my life. This link goes some way towards expaining what it was like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6DD1k4BAUg

No comments: