Andrea: Bangkok seemed a natural choice for a birthday celebration--it's famous for calm, quiet evenings with friends. And maybe some debauchery. So we left Hanoi to arrive in Bangkok the Friday night before my birthday. I had warned my friend, John, who lives in Bangkok, that we wanted a proper night out to celebrate my birthday that night. The long line at Customs eventually filtered out and we hurriedly rushed to the sky train to get to John's place so we could make a night of it. We met John around 9:00 next to a building called NASA Vegas. Leave it to Thailand to reveal what really happens up in the space shuttle! No wonder astronauts are keen to orbit the earth in a tin can for 6 months at a time--they're all just gambling and attending zero gravity strip shows!
We picked up a few pre-drinks at 7-11 (There is a 7-11 on every corner here. More than we could ever dream of in the US!) and then headed to John's apartment in Winning Tower. We figure this is another example of developers taking building names from American culture. Perhaps Charlie Sheen had something to do with this? Well, the building was maintained by a company called T.I.T.S. so we're thinking Charlie Sheen definitely had some vested interest in this building!
We caught up and had a few drinks and before we knew it it was 2:00 in the morning. I still naïvely hoped we were still going out when John informed me that the plan was to go out the next night. That hadn't been my plan else I wouldn't have had so many drinks! But we stayed up chatting until 3:30 and had a good night so I can't complain. We talked a lot about missing home (John has lived in Thailand for over 3 years now) and he said his mom often talks about how she misses him, but she looks at the moon and knows that John is out there looking at the same moon and that comforts her. John doesn't want to hurt her feelings so he neglects to tell her that it's a geographic impossibility with the 12 hour time difference that they would be looking at the moon at the same time! Maybe he should get the guys from NASA Vegas to explain this to her.
The next day was Sports Day at John's school. He had to go at 1:00 to play a soccer game: Foreign Teachers vs. Thai Teachers. John showed us around the school and found us a place to sit, before being summoned for an impromptu sack race. As the game started, we realised that we were sitting right in front of two vigorously pounded drums, which coupled with four stands of cheering kids did nothing to sooth our headaches. If John's sack race skills were bad, his soccer skills were worse, and the 'falang' teachers ended up losing 3-1. John and his team-mates are convinced however that the game was rigged, as it was only the foreign teachers who were called up for the physically demanding sack race, and the soccer game started immediately after this finished.
We spent a long lazy day catching up and talking about the oddities of Asia. We laughed in acknowledgement as John mused about how all over the place you see kids wearing really surprising t-shirts like "Johnson Family Reunion 1984" or "Westchester School Ohio Water Polo Moms!". Churches must be sending these charity donations all over the world and the recipients are wearing them proudly. We ordered a hangover-squashing pair of pizzas which hit the spot, but at $30, it was quite a premium to enjoy a western 'delicacy' when we could have gone downstairs to a street-stall and filled up for a dollar each.
Evening washed over, and we spruced ourselves up a bit to hit the nicer suburbs of Bangkok. John insisted that we start in style, and we clustered around a little table at the Iron Fairies Co, an atmospheric bar with peeling wallpaper and black & white movies projected onto the wall (even in the bathroom). Absinthe was served in little brown medicine bottles, and a live band started playing haunted tunes. Although we could hear her, the singer only showed herself after the third song. The place was packed and Paeng pointed out a Thai movie star who was battling to secure a table.
Next up was a sports bar, where we met up with John's teacher friends. Many of them were from the UK and were here to catch one of the several soccer games playing that night on the big screens. In true English pub style, we played darts. Later we found ourselves at popular bar across town who served us a tower of beer just before closing, so we chugged and chatted as the patrons finished up and filed out. Our last stop was the most novel: pulled up on the pavement was a VW wagon converted into a travelling bar. The side flipped down to become a bar-counter, at which stools were line up, and the roof flipped up revealing a rotating disco ball and laser lights. Inside two bartenders served up cocktails in a blaze of neon and dance-beats. I ordered a plastic beach bucket filled with vodka sprite and the boys had beers. A French Swiss guy who was having a final drink before heading back to his hotel with his hired date, bought us a round of shots and we celebrated loudly. This is about as organised as street drinking gets!
The next day we slept late and lazily watched movies while we recovered. Street food and Gatorade made for a hearty breakfast, and later Paeng made a fiery curry for lunch. When it was time to go, we took an hour long cab to the Southern bus station for about $8! (You couldn't go 2 miles for that in London). While we waited for the night bus we snacked at KFC and were surprised to find that not only did they have their own in-store radio station but they had commissioned their own Thai pop-song... "blah blah blah K..F..C... blah blah blah." When 9:30 rolled around we boarded a night-bus to Ko Tao, looking very forward to returning to the islands.