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Cock Tales

Hazell and I had booked a bus to Bangkok from Ko Lanta, so we parted temporarily from Charlotte and Francis, leaving them to enjoy their extra day on the beach before their flight to the capital. We were herded from one coach to the next and adorned with little stickers proclaiming our destination. Amid a throng of over exuberant American minors, we took our seats on a bus which was, in comparison with recent experiences, the height of luxury. Large, spacious seats, a blanket, air conditioning, and even a toilet, soothed the pain of being treated like a cognitively challenged gaggle of lemmings. Under my Mickey Mouse duvet, a corner of my mind longed for the dirt and discomfort of Jaffna.

 

We disembarked close to Khaosan Road, the backpacker ghetto of Bangkok. We declined kind offers from local taxi drivers to take us miles around the one system, and opted to walk the few hundred metres to our destination. A walk down Khaosan Road at 5am is a stark cultural insight. Last night has yet to end and gap year types stumble aimlessly from all night bars, making desperate attempts to unite lighter flame and snapped cigarette. Asexual prostitutes lure such individuals into their expertly spun webs, devouring their young clientele, leaving nothing but a hazy memory the following day. Others enjoyed the famed ’Thai Masaaaaaaaage’ while passed out in the reclining sofa. Between the prevailing detritus, robed monks strolled collecting their early morning alms.

 

Previous experience of Bangkok had generated a false sense of security, and fairly soon we were lost on our way to Samsen Sam Guest House. A tropical storm struck and we took cover in a street which it transpired, was only a few minutes walk from our destination. Nonetheless, in a strange twist of fate, we ended up paying for an overpriced taxi journey after all. Thankfully the guest house is a comfortable place to stay, run by very friendly staff and a playful dog.

 

A return to Bangkok also gave us the chance to meet Hazell’s uncle David and family for lunch. We asked the taxi driver to take us to ‘Robinson’s’ department store, ending up at the wrong one, before taking another cab with a driver who had a twitch which compelled him to flick the indicator stick up and down repeatedly. He also wanted to take us to Hanoi, which last time we checked, was in Vietnam. We jumped out at the next set of traffic lights. It was wonderful to see the Thai fraternity of the Cockles, particularly Harry, the son of Hazell’s cousin Michael and his wife Nut. We enjoyed lunch together, while Harry stared at Hazell and I in a perplexed manner. It was a fleeting event, but we enjoyed our time with familiar faces.

 

We reunited with Charlotte and Francis and were soon enjoying the usual array of ’extra curricular’ activities available in Thailand’s capital, some of which require no further comments. A particular favourite was our evening at the summit of the Banyan Tree Hotel, sipping expensive cocktails (and mocktails; I opted for a very fine Shirley Temple), while enjoying the spectacular view and trying our hardest to eat a full meals worth of free crisps and nuts. It was a slight change of demographic for Hazell and I, and so suitably underdressed, we were asked politely at the front desk to remove our flip flops and replace them with generic, company owned loafers.

 

As the begrudging waitress attended to our perpetually empty plate of complementary snacks, Hazell suggested filling her handbag with the free flowing cashews and luxury crisps. Francis and Charlotte had recently spent far more time than us in civilised company and were therefore unkeen. At this point I lost my balance and felt a little light headed. Staring down at my Shirley Temple, I concluded the cranberry juice must be strong in these parts. Then it happened again and we all felt it, and judging by the faces of the other guests, so did they. My first reaction was that high wind must be rocking the tall building slightly, a hypothesis quickly disproved by the lack of wind and look of concern on the faces of the staff. This obviously wasn’t a common occurrence. ’Earthquake?!’ I offered. Frank told me to fuck off. Customers were leaving in droves and Francis’s vertigo took hold as he clung with white knuckles to the furniture. Charlotte helped him to the ground floor while Hazell and I made sure we finished our nuts before joining the large queue of departing customers waiting for their bill.

 

The following day our friends were on the plane home and we discovered that we had in fact felt the impact of the earthquake in Burma. Perhaps not what we had planned for a final evening together, but the untamed horse that is the Cockman’s adventures has a habit of bucking wildly. It had been wonderful to see our friends and we hoped they returned home feeling at least slightly rested.

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