Bombs, booze and boneheads!
2006-12-29 to 2007-01-03
Well I have always held the belief that I am a fairly forward thinking kind of fella but even I was surprised at just how far into the future I had gone after a hellish 22 hour bus journey from Vang Vieng (the Flying Fox place) to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
While you`re all languishing way back in the dark ages of 2007, thanks to Buddha who was around 543 years before Jesus, those of us in Thailand cheered in the far better and well rounded 2550!! I was meeting up with the gang from Luang Prabang for New Years and Chang Mai was set to go off with a bang, unfortunately the same was clearly the case in Bangkok.
7 Bombs went off between 5:20pm and midnight, three Thais were killed and several backpackers were injured. It is thought that it was the work of supporters loyal to a recently deposed Thai PM who was ousted in September (note to editor: am I allowed to even say that?! Check legal counsel as nights in the Bangkok Hilton are not advised by the Lonely Planet!)
Not that that is a bad thing, the Lying Planet is getting a scathing backlash from backpackers that feel that the authors are getting kick backs to promote certain places that are often not better than a lot of other, cheaper guest houses and restaurants. Some bars have signs outside advertising the fact that they are definitely not in the LP and people flock to them! (note to editor: seriously can someone shut this idiot up before he gets us into a lawsuit?!)
Anyway, back to the bombs. It caused the fireworks display to be cancelled which was a pity but the large lanterns that the Thais release into the sky lit up with a little fire for good luck were all over the place and it was a beautiful sight. The Thais are irrespressible and they started setting off fireworks of their own (very dangerous ones too) on the side streets much to the delight of backpackers and window repair men all around. They even resumed normal broadcast of some movie after the initial reports had come through! We cheered the new year through and then we went to a small bar that we had found days earlier who had a band and a songbook, you picked it, they played it! I was in my element and must have sung about 10-15 songs!
I have also found the best sausages outside Ireland in a place called the Laughing Leprauchaun (run by a Limerick man who left there in 1967) in Chaing Mai and we ate 4 meals in a row there, each time with some excuse to get sausages on the plate!
I have stated it earlier in this travel log that the people that I am meeting are really making this trip what it is, they are great people by and large who have a great outlook on life. And then, in a horrible oversight, in a terrible aberration to the form, you come across a right pillock! Well we found ours, who attached himself to our group by virtue of the fact that he was staying in our guest house and, as would become evident, he was travelling alone for a reason.
I was leaving Chaing Mai to come to Pai and was happy to say goodbye to the group if I could avoid this guy but in twisted irony he said that he wanted to go to Pai to and suddenly we were a `gang`! Fortunately two of my other friends decided to tag along and thank God they did. Now I am not a massive one for omens but the writing should have been on the wall when I took a picture of him and his eyes were red and there was a smoke coming out of his mouth but he wasn`t smoking! Come to think of it, I`m not sure he casts a shadow or has a reflection in the mirror! Two other signs that I did not heed was that his name was Damian and he was born on June 6th so that his last birthday would have been 6/6/06. Now if I`d known that Lucifer himself was a backpacker I`m not sure I would have agreed to allow him come to Pai.
Pai is a great little town which is pretty near the Golden Triangle and so there is a raging drug trade up here. Primarily weed though and there is a strange mix of Bob Marley/Captain Jack Sparrow lookalikes wandering around the place, smiling considerably more than the locals! A haze descends on the town in the evening but you won`t see this one on any weather charts if you know what I mean!
Accordingly though, it means that conversations with the other backpackers can be drawn out and rambling and it takes huge amounts of concentration to connect the thread from beginning to end. Every bar has a guitar which is begging to be picked up and the number of excellent guitarists is ridiculous. There is a reggae festival (coloufully named “We be jammin` Pai”) on next week which might explain the influx of dreadlocks and the increase in price of cigarette papers!
I am realising that my trip is relatively short for the amount of land I am covering but this is yet another place that you could spend a week or two at if not more. I met an Aussie guy yesterday and this was his favourite holiday destination, this little town, for the last 15 years. He introduced himself as James Bond so I think that his license to pill should be looked into…
And then the event that will always remind me of Pai. Our good friend Damien from earlier was out drinking with us last night when we stumbled on a bar that had a wall of people that had drunk 3,6 or 12 (double) shots in the space of one day. These modern day legends would then be immortalised by having their name written in chalk onto a blackboard no less which would last through the ages.
Well the giddying prospect of having his name written in chalk beside some luminaries as Daz, Gippo and Bluey was too much for our man to resist. He`d already had quite a few to drink so I thought it entirely appropriate that he would go for the 3 shot (bronze) award. I was playing Jenga with some other backpackers (a lot harder and more fun after a few drinks) when, 15 minutes later, I saw the owner go to the board and chalk up “Damo – Gold Award”!! WHAT?! I turned around just in time to see the first of his many falls as the 24 shots that he had just drank quite rightly decided to take over his entire motor neuron capabilities! LIKE WHAT?! 24 shots in seriously less than 15 minutes and there he was flapping like an epileptic beached whale listening to techno on the ground.
We got him up and he insisted he was fine and wanted more. I turned back to my game and then turned around again to see him swinging for the owner! I grabbed him and it was then that he punched me, (an occurence that unfortunately is getting far too regular air play in this blog) but despite the overwhelming urge to drop the prince of Darkness, myself and my mates tried to lift him out of the bar.
It was at this point that the alcohol had reached and clearly taken over the area of the brain that coordinates speech as he started to shout out in tongues, BLEAURGHHHH, GWAWLLLA, MNNNAAHHHH which sounded for all the world like the mating call of a horny Yeti.
Now I am not sure if any of you have had to carry the dead weight of a drunk but it`s like trying to lift 4 concrete bags that have arms that swing around and hit you in the head. We tried to lift this idiot and in a moment where we all lost concentration (basically each of us thought the other two had him), down he went with a sickening thud as the road conveniently rushed up to massage his face. UUUURRRRLL? was his understandable response to this new development. A huge bump on the forehead was his just rewards and we continued to try and lift him down the road, the first 80m taking nearly 30 mins.
There are no cabs around here so we had to stop a unsuspecting middle aged Thai couple who were driving a Ute and explain to them with gesticulating hands that our friend was sick and we needed to get him home. Our case wasn`t helped as he was in a heap on the ground revelling in the new language he had invented and was clearly the greatest exponent of! PLEURRLLLL!
Anyway, bless them, frightened out of their wits, this couple agreed to our plan and we hoisted the carcass over the side of the Ute and he crashed down into the back of it with another bang. MWWEEULLL? was what he seemed to say as I am sure he was wondering if our gallents attempts to get him home may actually get him killed! I am sure if he`d been able to talk he`d have asked why did we keep dropping him on his head but that was a luxury he couldn`t afford.
We got him back to the guest house as he was being thrown on the bed he turned around and smashed his head off the head board! (I have to confess I am laughing as I am writing this because it was truly something out of a Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges clip!). MMMMMWIILLL, he said as the now familiar soft caress of another concussion set in.
I won`t go into the horrors that awaited us as his body, blissfully free now of any responsibilities to decorum or basic hygiene, poured forth every kind of bodily excess. I truly hope you can read between the lines on this as I`m about to go to dinner and I can`t bring myself to think about it again. I stayed up all night then to make sure that he didn`t choke on his own vomit (something which I am sure his liver would have felt was a justified punishment). GWARGRLLLL he said finally, which I think you`ll agree summed up the evening perfectly!
So this morning after hardly sleeping, I am fairly sure that he is alive but that his brain may never be the same again. We have parted ways as I`m not sure if my travel insurance covers people whom I, with the best will in the world, keep dropping on their heads!
So we will try and spend a quieter night tonight in Pai and then I think it`s off to Chang Mai again and then to Bangkok. If I can find this much trouble in a town of 3000, what is going to happen in Bangkok?!
Oh, and if you see Damien, greet him in his native tongue which I think goes something like FFLAWNNNGEE!