It doesn’t feel like I’ve known James for more than five minutes, and really I’ve not spent much time with him since we met not long after my arrival. But he’s been such an integral part of my experience here that it definitely feels sad to bid him farewell. He’s off back to England to work a summer job - supervising a cleaning team at events as diverse as Live Earth, Wimbledon, Leeds Festival and the golf – and so has a big weekend planned to bow out of Bangkok for now.
The only problem with big weekends for me is that Saturday and Sunday are my two full days and teaching with a hangover, as I’ve already learned, is just not a good thing or very doable. Does this stop me going out? Of course not. And anyway, what else have I got to do? I either work or go out; staying at home is just not an option with that little room. And as James has been such a big part of my experience here, I wanna be there to send him off.
So it’s Friday night, a week since Paul left for Australia, and I’m feeling a little better after being so run down. I meet up with Jess and we head to Khao San. Our timing is perfect. Just as we settle down to some food the skies open and water (there’s too much of it to describe it as rain) pours down onto the streets of Bangkok, washing away a little of the filth and sending the stall holders on Khao San scurrying to cover their goods or pack them away. Inevitably the traffic in the city comes to a complete standstill and a message comes through from James to say he and Jeab are in a cab stuck in traffic. Jess and I count our blessings.
Eventually we meet up with James and Jeab in Gullivers. It’s noisy as hell and we struggle to chat. I try and talk to James about his holiday down to the islands with his mum but it proves impossible and we sit and laugh at Jackass 2, which is showing on the big screen, instead. God, it’s like being at home!
Paul arrives and immediately there’s drama. He’s lost 1000 baht somewhere and so flits about trying to find it. Then a bit later he’s chatting to a Thai girl he’s come with, explaining to her that he’s not a player, that his reputation is totally unfounded, when another girl comes up to him and hits him. I think he gets out of it by just walking away. Endlessly entertaining, that boy.
We head upstairs to play pool, and escape the louder than loud music. But there’s a queue for the pool tables and so James, Jeab and Dang, the girl who was with us when we were riding the bucking bronco in a strip club some weeks ago, decide they want to go to a club. Jess isn’t up for it. She’s being sensible and heading home, what with a full day’s work ahead of us tomorrow. I um and ah and um and ah but that part of my personality that always worries it’s missing out on something exciting kicks in and I decide to go with James. But just for a bit.
We get to a club but it’s shut for some reason so we head up to RCA, that road with all the swank clubs on, and go into a place called Flick. It’s pretty cool - slick décor and slicker clientele. We head through the R&B throng and into the electro house room. The music is amazing, as are the prices of the drinks. We all stand at a balcony and look down at the dancefloor, watching the Thais do their thing. They really can’t dance, it’s hilarious.I talk various clubbing hi-jinks with James. I realise just how much I miss clubbing and feel somewhat frustrated that, with work tomorrow in mind, I can’t let go and enjoy tonight properly. But I’m enjoying being here anyway and have a bit of a dance. We move down to the R&B room, for Jeab’s benefit, and carry on there.
After a while we move outside where James and I take the piss out of a Thai dude doing his best Usher moves. He’s actually quite good but is obviously showing off so we rip the piss mercilessly.
By now it’s pretty late and I really should go home. Unfortunately I have had just enough enough booze to think fuck it and I carry on with them. We head to the dreaded Spicy, which is full of the usual mix of massive farang guys and tiny Thai girls. I get hammered and dance with Dang until about four in the morning. It’s only at this point that I think, maybe I should go home. I do.
The phone rings. I answer. A female Thai voice starts talking. It bounces around in my head, making no sense at all. But what’s happened slowly begins to dawn on me… then reality hits when I see the time is 9.15am. I’m 15 minutes late for my first lesson. Fuck.
I’m lucky it’s a one to one – with the 12-year-old Bas who is back after a lengthy break (why this weekend??) – so Binnie only has one set of parents to explain things to. She’s not happy, of course, and doesn’t look me in the eye when I come rushing in just before 10. Ooh I feel bad.
Then I’m thrown a bit of luck when my 10 o’clock doesn’t show, so I have a bit of time to sort myself out before my 11 o’clock class. The next two hours trapped in a room with a rowdy bunch of eight to 11 year olds is the most painful two hours of my life, and I promise myself I will never, EVER teach on a hangover again. I almost fail to stop myself falling asleep with the devil children Nail and Nenny, but amazingly Max, my last lesson of the day, perks me up and we have a good lesson.
In the evening Jess and I head over to Bangkoknoi, the apartment complex where Ting and Sai live. The Bang Kae lot is there to have a goodbye meal with Hannah and Richard, who are heading back to Blighty. I give Ting a ring but get no answer. It’s been ages since I’ve seen them now.
We meet Anna, Louise and Sky in the restaurant and order some food. I’m on the sausage and chips - I’m too hungover for anything else. Others trickle in – Joey, Rachelle, Khilna, Lisa, Hannah and Richard, and some others.
Jess and I chat to Khilna. She’s drunk as hell, which is most amusing. She’s heading home as well so this is also the time we’ll see her. We have a good chat. She makes an interesting observation at one point during the evening - that she’s met loads of younger travellers on her way round that are always astounded she’s travelling at her age (29). They always ask her why she’s doing it now, totally unable to make sense of it. How naïve they are to think it’s as simple as go to uni, go travelling, get a job, settle down, live happily ever after. ’Fraid not.
It’s not long before Anna is no longer able to contain herself. A Thai woman has been performing on a karaoke machine all evening (terribly, I might add) but now Anna wants a go. The Thai woman is unable to resist and quite frankly there’s no coming between Anna and a microphone.
It’s a typical day at school, with nothing out of the ordinary happening. I’m just happy to be feeling better than yesterday.
Once it’s all over for another weekend Jess and I head down to Khao San once more, where we meet up with James and Jeab in Gullivers 2. I order iced coffee. James is dismayed but I still feel pretty bad from Friday. Drinking and work do not mix.
A bloke called Mat who I train with at muay Thai is there with his girlfriend. I chat to him a bit. He has the most amazing life, I decide. He designs cars and works freelance, going from country to country where the work is, earning enough to take a few months break before he starts work again. It’s usually during his breaks that he comes to Thailand to train. He’s heading back to the UK for a while, he tells me, but after that he’s got a contract here in Thailand, which he’s quite chuffed about. Our conversation is scuppered by his Thai girlfriend, however, who keeps looking over with a rather annoyed expression.
We move on to the Silk Bar where we meet James’s mate Al who, impressively, is trying to learn the Thai alphabet as well as how to speak the language. Watching Jeab roll her eyes as he tries to point letters and words out, I get the feeling he’s not got the grasp of it yet. Good on him for trying though. There’s a nice American chap there as well, both he and Al are teachers here as well. Who isn’t? Al is in Bang Kae like our friends, but the American guy teaches at Inlingua, the school on the floor above ECC. Al is funny as hell, and James and he have good banter.
They order a bucket of Thai whisky and Red Bull. I figure I’ll be all right with the Red Bull in it and have a drink. It doesn’t sit well. Luckily for my constitution, no one is up for a big night tonight and we bail fairly early. I get Jeab’s number, promising to get in touch and have a night out with her. Be interesting to see if that actually happens. Then I say bye to James, wondering when on earth I’ll see the guy again.