I’m back in Chengdu now, having had a stint in Singapore and Thailand, but rather than list the times I brush my teeth and scratch my head I thought I’d focus in on one weekend in particular… my own motorcycle diaries.
Saturday – Chiang Mai Thailand
I woke up thinking I had a hangover, but as I stepped out of bed I stumbled, which confirmed I was actually still drunk. The problem with waking up drunk is that you know the hangover’s coming. Like any premonition of bad news this is not a good thing. You know you must be taking preventative measures, but your whiskey brain keeps getting in the way.
Being drunk, alone and fearing the mother of all hangovers in a foreign country is no fun at all, so I decide to head to a girly bar. For the uninitiated, in Thailand there are literally tens of thousands of bars where men drink and girls swarm around you for company. The aim of the girls is get you to buy them a drink, from which they get commission. I usually avoid these places because these are also the bars where men will make arrangements to meet the girls after work to pay for a night of passion. However, in the daytime these bars are pretty much just opening and no-one is really expecting you to be a high spending customer (i.e. I can buy my own drinks and not be expected to buy drinks for others).
In my hazy state the lady bars also provided some advantages, such as there is always someone to play pool with and I like the attention they give me. Any man on a hangover is a well of self-pity, so going to a bar where everybody feigns an interest in my self-inflicted pain is not such a bad thing. I’m probably the only person to go to a girly bar with no interest in taking home the girls.
I slammed a bunch of UK imported hangover drugs on the table and we all watched whilst they fizzed in a glass of water. Looking around there was one of the standard lady bar customers, some ageing Swede looking remarkably like a history teacher, who clearly thought himself cool to be in such a place. I like the fact in these bars no matter how close to oblivion last night’s drink took me, I can still look down on the customers because for once I actually know I am better. I can even be rude and give him abuse, after all whoremongers earn no respect for what they’ve done to the lives of young ladies, and besides what could he do about it? Throw a punch? Doubt it. That ageing [email protected] had better land it before the heart attack kicks in. It would almost be worth taking one on the chin to see another dozy blight on the planet fall from place.
I kept silent – mesmorized by my fizzing drink. As always the old man persisted in trying to make friends with me. I grunted. In part because alcohol had decapacitated my brain, in part because I failled to see how I would enjoy this conversation. He asks me if I’ve tried playing pool with the girls telling me they’re “quite good”. They’re never “quite good”, in fact I win so often that I give them the losers bounty even when I win so that they can make their salary. What this idiot had done is mistaken his being “quite sh!t” with them being “quite good”. I played one game of pool to make my point, and left before he believed me and him could “be friends”. Maybe Sweden had run out of losers for him to hang around with.
The blistering sun of Thailand is hardly a forgiving place for a hangover, so I headed in the direction of my hotel. In the small alley this dog clearly recognised me, stood up and started growling. I have no idea what I’d done to this dog the night before, I’m generally not cruel to animals, but he clearly didn’t like me and I could remember nothing about the journey home. Maybe in the dark I’d stepped on him, I’m really not sure, but I had some spicy pork balls on me. Dogs can’t digest spice so I gave them to him and made a note never to use that alley again. That’ll teach the dog to threaten me – totally unnecessary, I hate stray dogs.
After a sleep I woke up in time to go have dinner with a local expat I’d met through a site on the internet: Susan. We did Mexican food – mainly because I needed high energy food to help me through the last of my hangover. Over a cocktail of burritos and coke I realised Susan was a special kind of person. Not only had she jacked her computer job in to move to Thailand to help poor children, she also lacked the ability to understand when an idea was inherently a bad one. She kept raving about the penultimate night of a Reggae festival 150km away on “the road of 762 curves” that she was going to miss. I said: “lets get motorbikes and go”
She said “yes”!
I double checked that she meant it, she did. This was not good news. I knew it was an inherently bad idea, but I never back down. She thought it was a good idea and therefore had no motivation to back out, so we rented motorbikes and went….
I checked over my motorbike: broken speedometer, dodgy right brake, and a front wheel which gave funny feedback as you turned. Seemed roadworthy to me.
By the time we left Chiang Mai it was 11’o’clock. Susan had assured me she needed no more petrol as the tank was almost full, and I had assured her in Thailand we didn’t need lots of warm clothes as Thailand was always hot.
As we rode through the jungle into the mountains, something from an ageing memory of geography class came back to me. Mountains are always f*cking cold, even in Thailand! Every few kilometres we would stop and add more clothes, so now we were wearing:
- all our clothes – this was only 2 layers
- rain coats – it wasn’t raining
- a towel on my lap and a plastic bag over my hand to keep the wind off
Once again I had not learnt my lesson about motorbike trips!
Luckily as we froze and I refused to admit I might be facing hypothermia, Susan’s “almost full” motorbike ran out of petrol literally outside the only open hotel we’d seen.
We knocked on the door of the hotel which had a sign saying “24hr room” and woke up the Thai equivalent of a red neck hick. He casually got up, strolled past us without looking and picked up an axe… then some firewood… “no, no, no, we don’t need firewood, we need a room” we over-acted to make our point. He looked blank.
After miming sleeping a couple more times “Fireboy” worked out why most people stopped at a hotel and led us to a room. It was a single room with a shower attached, but Fireboy wanted to show us around. He stood in the room flicking the light switch on… off… on… off… on… off… until I eventually made him leave. That night we huddled in the cold of the jungle wondering if they would make a Thai horror movie about the two stupid foreigners who got murdered by axe at a hotel they should never have been at. Fireboy was definitely disturbed.
When we awoke 4hrs later we realised we’d more or less stayed in a mountain-jungle paradise (with the exception of slightly odd staff). Still, no time for sycophants, a hot shower and we upped and left.
In daylight with her black and white crash helmet on Susan positively looked like a top-heavy storm-trooper – fantastic! We stopped at the most prominent view point and ate instant MSG noodles made with muddy water, and then caught some long-lense photographer snapping shots of the foreigners. He’ll be disappointed when he reviews them close up to see me subtly giving the finger, that will teach him not to ask! (a minute later some people did ask and we obliged pretending we were married).
At a hot spring we noticed they only sold egg. That would be egg boiled in the sulphuric water. For those not in the know, sulphur is a poisonous element, so effectively you’d be eating egg cooked in a mild poison. I passed and stuck to bathing in the hot spring instead. I then found an ice cream shop. Ice cream is an evil food – it tastes so good in hot countries, but will make you fatter, layers of body fat make you feel hotter, so you need more ice cream. I reckon without the invention of ice cream I would probably have a 6-pack (the muscle formation, not the drink).
Eventually, passing a car park for elephants, a sign advising of Rasta’s crossing (they’re probably too stoned to wait for gaps between cars), and a sign predicting there will always be “accidents ahead”; we made it into Pai. We found the site of the Reggae festival and discovered it was night-time only! We considered waiting, but Susan had work the next day and being honest in a land of mayhem and parties, I could afford to miss one Reggae festival.
It was a mini-adventure, it wasn’t life defining, I have written too much about it, and whilst fun it will probably not make the top 10 list of my life, but one question still lingers on – Why did Fireboy think we wanted firewood?
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