Thursday, 13th August 1987 5pm
The boat crossed to the mainland and I arrived back at Surat Thani at 5pm. I sat in a café and had a very pleasant chicken rice dish in the company of a social worker from London and an accountant from Grimsby.
We then boarded a nice empty air-conditioned bus together at 8pm and set off for Bangkok.
Friday, 14th August 1987
We arrived at Bangkok bus terminal on time at 6am. It was a theatre of noise, dirt and traffic and a world away from the paradise I had left on the island. The three of us teamed up to barter a tuk tuk taxi to take us to Kao San Road; the backpackers district. We thought we had done okay to get him down from 60 baht for one person to 60 baht for three people. We hadn’t realised it was just a 10 minute ride around the corner.
Kao San Road was full of guest houses laid out in an urbanised version of what I had left on Koh Samui. The TV and restaurants were on the ground floor of each one and the rooms were directly above.
Quite a few on the list that I had cobbled together from recommendations were full. I tried the “VIP” but there was nothing dong. There were no rooms at the “Hallo” neither, nor at the “Rainbow”. I finally got a single room for 50 baht at the “Chart”. The room measured 4ft x 7ft and had just enough space to open the door without the door hitting the bed. But it was private and secure and the bed was comfy enough. It had a little electric fan. There was nothing else.
I ordered a cheese omelette in the Chart café downstairs. It turned out to be cheese, tomato and onion between two slices of brown bread. There was no sign of any contact with eggs. I asked if it was really an omelette and I was told it certainly was. It was delicious.
After a short sleep I ventured out into the big city. My first task was to try to find and air fare to Hong Kong. Surprisingly it was very difficult to find anything reasonable. I couldn’t find any one way tickets cheaper than 5700 baht (200 USD). I went round a lot of the travel agencies in Kao Sahn Road but it was the same story everywhere. It wasn’t just the price there was little availability either.
In fact I was just about to book a cheap ticket in business class on Air Lanka when “Student Travel Australia” came up with one 3800 baht seat on a Cathay Pacific flight the following Saturday. I grabbed it.
With a ticket out of the country now secure, I now started to explore Bangkok. After a few missed turnings I found my way to the jetty on the Chao Paya River. The 5 baht express boat turned up. It was a very long and thin affair which kept dipping into the muddy waters. To me it looked dangerous and more than once I thought we would overturn.
The boat got me to the central post office where I checked my poste restante in an air- conditioned atmosphere. Bangkok was excessively hot and noisy and I was tired. I revived myself with a few glasses of sugar cane juice (3 baht each) and I made my way up Rama IV road. It was a much longer walk than I had expected and I gave up half way and carried on by bus.
The buses were curious single deckers with a London-Transport-type roundel stencil- sprayed on the side. They were all full to the brim with a conductor at the back struggling to move around to take fares.
I alighted from the bus at the Siam Centre, found a tailor and got a quote for the business suit that I would need for teaching interviews in Japan. I accepted the quote of 2400 baht (100 USD) and then celebrated with some Dunkin Donuts at a nearby shopping mall.
The bus back in rush hour was the most crowded bus I had ever been on in my life. It hardly moved at all in the slow traffic and I spent 30 minutes with my face in someone’s armpit as the I saw the landmarks of Bangkok slid slowly past out of the corner of my eye. Bangkok had truly horrendous traffic congestion. I finally spotted the Democracy monument, the stop for Kao Sahn Road, and leapt out.
I celebrated back at the Chart guest house with a well earned Singha Beer. That night I watched The Coca Cola Kid on the screen at the Chart whilst eating a Thai meal based on beef and cabbage.
Saturday, 15th August 1987
I decided to forgo another cheese omelette and went across the road for a breakfast at the “VC Guest House”. I had a delicious fruit pancake with coffee and read a copy of the Bangkok post whilst chatting to a guy from Northern Ireland.
I then went, by 3 different buses, to the Pat Pong red light district. In the daytime it seemed very tame. There were a few touts but little evidence of what all the fuss was about. I had a milkshake in a supermarket café and when I came out there was an elephant in the middle of the street. I looked into some of the bars down the street but there was nothing in any of them.
I returned via the post office and dropped in another tailor’s shop to order some shirts.
I went back on the boat. It was more nerve racking but it was a lot more pleasant than a crowded bus.
I walked around the Imperial Palace, around a pleasant market nearby and finally back to the Chart. The evening was a quiet one. I watched 3 James Bond Films on the television, played cards and listened to a couple of Thai girls singing and playing guitar.
Sunday, 16th August 1987
I went to the historical museum and got cornered by an orange-clad Buddhist student and spent some time discussing politics. I bought some Kloster beers and had beef and chili for lunch. I spent a very lazy Sunday afternoon doing nothing in particular. I just walked between all the guest houses watching the films and dodging the cassette sellers who were circulating and selling pirated cassettes at 3 for 100 baht.
I met up with an American guy who I had last seen on the turtle beach and with two other British lads caught tuk tuks to the Pat Pong area.
We went into the “Blue Hawaii”, just one of the numerous joints that offered the same basic thing, and had a few beers. We watched in amazement at the stuff going on around us before escaping in a tuk tuk back to a more normal bar closer to the hostel. The four of us drank a lot that night.
Monday, 17th August 1987
I was too dehydrated to keep my appointment with the tailor the next morning and postponed it until 3:30 in the afternoon.
The bus to the tailor was not the best possible cure for a hangover either but it had to be done.
The return bus ride was even worse.
In the evening I succumbed to the tape sellers and bought some Crowded House tapes.
Tuesday, 18th August 1987
I called the tailor on Tuesday but the suit wasn’t ready so I went to the Japan Information Centre instead.
In the evening I teamed up with some people from the Chart and went to a local disco called Cleopatra’s. They were charging 40 baht for a beer so it promised to be a cheap evening.
We stayed in the disco until 4am dancing to Thai music all night. At first it was interesting but as the night went on it got a bit monotonous.
Wednesday 19th August 1987
I woke on Wednesday quite late. I had a coffee and a banana pancake whilst reading a copy of the Bangkok Post. I was already a connoisseur of these pancakes and had decided that the ones in Bangkok were not nearly as good as the ones in Koh Samui. They were all a bit too salty and heavy.
I was feeling the effects of a worsening cold and was surprised to find that they sold Fisherman’s Friends cough sweets (from my mother’s birthplace – Fleetwood) in Bangkok.
I took the boat to the Sheraton and picked up my suit. I had a coffee and met a girl from LA who was living and working in Japan. She assured me that it wouldn’t be difficult for me to find a job there. It wasn’t so expensive either, she added.
The bus ride back to the hostel just about killed me
Back at the hostel I tried the suit on. I was pleased with it and I folded it into my ruck sack carefully.
I still felt rough.
I had a vegetarian meal whilst watching an autobiographical film of Golda Meir on the television.
That was probably not the wildest night on offer in Bangkok.