(The backpacker capital of Southeast Asia – Khao Sarn Road)
Well, it was that time of the year again to say good-riddance to my work-desk, dusty computer, English students, wife (ok…only temporarily like..), and iron out a few groovy shirts, pack me backpack, gel me hair and head for The City of Noodle Soups & Nose-jobs, the one and only Bangkok. Planning meanwhile a new years hols that was gonna be one beer-filled time out on the razz.
A short one it was destined to be however, as the wife (Ms Su) had already written up my itinerary in black and bold which clearly stated that I was due on a Bangkok bus to her hometown of Nakhorn Sawan on New Years Day before lunchtime. There was no intentionally forgetting the appointment this year round. Poor-old me I only had two nights, it was already the 30th.
Jumping off the Suphanburi – Bangkok passenger van along Ratchadamri Road near Khao Sarn, I headed for the comfort of a sweet cost-saving room along Samsen Road not too far away. I don’t know about you but if I travel alone, I always prefer guesthouses; and that’s not cause I’m just a Cheap Charlie Scotman, I just enjoy getting the chance to meet new faces. Checking in at 300baht a night with the sun almost setting, it was sure time to sit outside order a beer, squash a couple of cockroaches and tell some Indian vendor that I didn’t fancy buying any nuts from him.
Not too long did I have to wait before my buddie Mr Ed from Pathumthani finally arrived, and that was an excellent excuse to order a couple more bevies ..for the road (to Khao Sarn that is..) and experience for ourselves the sights and sounds of this backpacker haven – renowned for its fisherman pants, hair-beads (and dodgy hair-dos), kebabs, hairy armpits and cocktail buckets. And not forgetting of course, that not such extinct species the ‘scheming tuk-tuk driver’ who loves nothing more than explaining to all the hapless backpacking travelers, something along the lines of “Hey you mister, where you go? I smell you no shower many days. Come on I take you, good soapie bath, good ladies, good massage, good service. I make special for you, you pay two ladies and get one free”.
Should you reject his offer, he’ll advise instead either a 10 baht trip to the Big Buddha Temple (with a tailor shop visit included) or a 250 baht ride to the Jatujak Weekend Market.
For the night of New Years Eve, Khao Sarn was totally packed out and not just with foreigners – in fact, I would say that at least 75% of the crowds hanging around the streets, walking up and down were in fact trendy young Bangkokians. Fortunately, we did go to Khao Sarn for the Countdown and not the Santika Pub along Ekhamai Road were over 50 folk perished that very night in a horrific fire which made world headlines (total is now up to 64). Luckily, I very seldom hit that area of the capital anyway, as I detest paying stupid prices for a small bottle of beer.
It’s like the Tsunami disaster, most of the awfully unfortunate foreign victims who met their end that morning were 1) well-off enough to stay down on the beach 2) family-friendly folk who were up early in the morning for a stroll. As for most of the tourists who survived – well, they were saving money by renting some cheap gaff well away from the beach half-way up a mountain and/or were not up early for a morning stroll along the beach as they had been out on the pish the night previous.
It was an all right New Year’s out, but I was more knackered than actually intoxicated by the time it was for me hit the bed sheets, at the very average hour of something like 3.
Up around mid-day, I found my buddie Ed downstairs sipping his coffee before I had a couple of cups meself. Looking at the watch and realizing that I was already a few hours late for the bus station, I said my cheerios to Ed and jumped in a taxi for the bus terminal and the trip to Nakhorn Sawan. Fortunately, my taxi-driver this time around was a quiet type and not one of those (been extremely common lately) who (as soon as they find out you understand Thai) ramble on non-stop for the entirety of the trip about either how friggin bad the PAD are or what friggin monstrosity Thaskin is.
A few hours late in Nakhorn Sawan, I was quickly picked up by the brother-in-law. Arriving at the wife’s home, it was as it is every year, the huge garden was decorated out, there was a fab home-made buffet and not forgetting the mandatory karaoke (even with a small stage!). Before I even had the chance to sample one of mom’s KFC-like fried chicken legs (often mis-spelled as ‘fried children legs’ in the odd upcountry restaurant) I was being egged on to sing a couple of Thai folk songs I knew by heart. Even though the sound system was as dodgy as my enthusiasm to sing, the family were happy enough with the performance – in fact, I think they were more impressed with my actual return to Nakhorn Sawan after a one year absence. So, after me flimsy karaoke renditions it was time to get back to the table, delve into some very edible snacks and of course swig a couple of bottles of Thailand’s fave drink, Chang Beer.
That night and some of the next day I got the exact kind of questioning I knew was coming “Steve what are you and Su going to do with your plot of land?” or/and “When are you gonna build a house on the land?” What it is, is that mom divided up all her land earlier this year and dished it all out to her children. Pretty jammy like, the wife (in a kind of lucky land draw) picked the best and biggest piece of them all. However, all the pieces of land are like jigsaw pieces, so if we did eventually move to her hometown, I’d be so close to home that singing karaoke would probably turn into a nightly village feature. This year, we’ll give some more thought to building a house there, but for me I’m happy enough where I am at the amount.
It wasn’t back to Bangkok yet, and that next day and night we spent at the fantastic Khlong Lan National Park in Kamphaeng Phet province; a province I had never been to before. Going there is worth a blog on its own, so experiences for that day and night can wait for the next blog.
Upcountry this New Years kinda brought back fond memories of the same time 4 years ago. It was the fun of that New Years that gave me the idea to write my first ever blog for www.thai-blogs.com (see A New year Upcountry). Never did I know then that 4 years later I would be making a full-time living out of writing.
Ok, I know it’s a little late, but Happy New Year!
BTW, visit www.ThaiCultureBlogs.com every Monday where I am reposting some of my older blogs from 4 years ago with new ideas and photos. Richard is posting some of his as well as some new blogs about life and culture in Thailand.