So recently I have returned from my second trip to Thailand and if you haven't read the rather sordid tale of my first one then I advise you have a read of 'Taking it on the chin in Thailand'. This is an earlier blog of mine where I go into probably too much detail about the excesses of my previous visit and detail what happens when you and your room mate get drunk on a bucket of Thai Whiskey and red bull and let a sex mad homosexual sleep "on the floor" in your room....
Anyway if you have read that previously, or even if you haven't, you probably already have an idea of what Thailand is meant to be like from the various films, books and blogs that have been written about it in the past, and personally I think the film The Beach pretty much has it spot on. On one hand it is an idyllic beautiful place full of amazing Islands, crystal clear seas and smiling happy friendly people, and on the other it is a place of hedonism, where unscrupulous 'entrepreneurs' want to try and fleece you for every bit of money you have and health and safety laws that seem to either not exist or if they do then most people have smoked too much opium to care about them!
Now I will say this from the outset, I love Thailand. I love the fact they don't care about health and safety, that taxi drivers try to take you to their mates suit or jewellery store rather than wherever it is you've asked to go and that almost all non Thai foods they serve in their restaurants are literally inedible, so even where you may hear me moan during this blog post, rest assured I love Thailand and all the craziness that takes place within.
I am going to break this blog entry into several posts, as I could write at length about all of them. So lets start with actually getting in to "the land of smiles" as its known (that'll be the opium again).
Getting to Thailand from the UK is a long old journey and I imagine it is something that puts a lot of people off going because at 12-14 hours it is a long time to spend sat in what is pretty much a bus with wings that no regular person really understands how the hell it stays in the air.
It is especially challenging if you are over 6 foot tall and sitting in economy like me as you will spend most of that time with your knees wedged up by your ears and praying that the person in front of you doesn't decide to recline their seat as it will mean you are left folded up like some kind of human accordion. Now the problem with being folded up like this is not just the comfort, it's also that when you are on the return leg after 14 days of spicy Thai food, having your mid section compressed and your knees pushed up under your ears can inevitably only lead to one thing; yep, you inadvertently making noises from your derriere that an accordion player would be proud of, but the rest of the plane will naturally hate you for.
Obviously this lack of comfort (and I guess hygiene) isn't good for anyone, but flying to me is never a big issue as I know from the outset I am going to be uncomfortable so I just resign myself to the fact this is the case and prepare for the inevitable by chucking on my most baggy pair of combats, my loosest pair of undergarments and fold myself up and wait for the time (and potentially wind) to pass.
I also know even though it takes 12 hours that I won't be able to sleep at any point of the journey in such a public arena due to a previous 'incident' that I had on a train when I was a bit younger (see my blog 'A falling twit and a flying spit' for reference). However for me, as long as there are films to watch and the stewardesses are happy to keep bringing me free food and drinks then I am pretty much content to sit still for 5,10,15 hours at a time....in my head it kind of plays out like this;
"Oh 12 hours you say? Wedged into a tiny space with such little room my testicles are currently half way up my back and you'll need to put butter on my sides to squeeze me out of my chair? Yeah no worries, if you can just bring me a gin and tonic to drink, a microwave meal (that I can't fit in front of me) to eat and an edited for violence version of Rise of The Planet of The Apes to watch please I'll be of no trouble to anyone at least until the deep vein thrombosis kicks in".
Now arriving at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok is a nerve wracking experience if, like me, you have ever read the book 'Damage Done' about what happened to an Australian guy called Warren Fellows when he got arrested for drug possession in Thailand. Getting locked up for life in Bangkwang prison, he spent his days having to eat cockroaches to survive, his legs in shackles and regularly getting beaten and dumped in a cesspit by the guards just for good measure. Now, as this sounded not far off from what it was like at my secondary school that I went to and hated as a teenager, naturally I had no interest in ever ending up in a similar situation.
So as I get off the plane in Bangkok I'm instantly terrified that someone has planted Columbia's finest on me when I wasn't looking. I think to myself, "Oh God did my girlfriend Nai put something in my bag when I left it with her whilst I went to the toilet?" or "Did a baggage handler put something in there before he loaded it on the plane to then come and rob me of it if I get through customs at the other end?".
Illogically therefore I am always incredibly anxious as I approach the permanently miserable customs guy who I assume will ask me if I have "anything to declare?" before he will allow me into the country. Of course I don't need to declare anything (well other than maybe my own stupidity) as the concerns I am having are ludicrous. Firstly Nai is about as likely to be a drug smuggler as I am to be a male model, and secondly the baggage handler would need to be one well organised motherfucker to commit such an elaborate crime, which considering half the time they can't even put the bags on the right flight, this kind of clever ruse seems unlikely. Even so, as I approach the counter it still doesn't stop me from being half tempted to just hand myself in, drop my trousers and wait for the rubber glove treatment to commence. Luckily however I have never given in to my urge and as with previous occasions I managed to enter the country with my baggage and bum still intact.
And so the adventure begins...