I arrived in Bangkok for a couple of nights where I hoped to catch up with a pair of old friends. Having worked in Thailand several years ago on various engineering projects I know a few expats in Bangkok; therefore I planned to catch up with an American and Scottish guy each evening on this transitory visit. On the first day I went to see Bill, who is from Ardrossan in the west of Scotland. If I remember accurately, Ardrossan is renowned for its horizontal driving rain and unreliable train schedules back to Glasgow.
I went to Bill’s new two-bedroom apartment in Asok, nestled in Bangkok’s colorful central business district, which is seemingly modeled from the set of Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner movie. He had a little quiet Asian trophy wife sitting in the far corner of the room muttering a few pleasantries as we both chatted and caught up on things over cold soda waters and ice he procured from a qualified source. As a general rule I never consume ice outside of five star hotels in the Far East lest I be smitten by the ancient asian potty god. That would be the large white seated statue with the resolutely closed eyes and no smile.
After the drinks, Bill invited me to go eat nearby and we settled on Korean barbeque at the pristine, high-end Terminal 21 shopping center in the heart of Asok. The food was a compromise and not the greatest choice (I wanted Korean and he wanted Mexican) as Bill guardedly disclosed to me over dinner that he did not like spicy food! Living in Thailand? Must be attributable to his Ardrossan plain-fare upbringing I suppose. Fleetingly, I thought back to the mediocre carryout fish and chips I once had there during an unremitting bank holiday rainstorm. Just like Bill I grew up in Scotland and while the food may tend to be insipid I did later go to University in England where I met Richard Rideout and Kevin Ginley – or, as we affectionately called them; Madrass and Vindaloo. Today, Kevin still makes an amazing curry. He’s probably making one right now or shopping meticulously for the ingredients, albeit with expiring discount coupons. When Kevin was my roommate he would mark his calendar and set his watch to buy maturing pork pies that shelf-experienced their sell-by dates at the Newport Pagnell pre Tesco supermarket, and thus he completely owned that little nasty freezer box inside the top of our tiny kitchen fridge.
After our Korean culinary compromise, Bill and I went around the corner to the world-renowned and salubrious Soi Cowboy area for a few drinks. We started at the west side in a country and western kinda bar that had live music. The singer was an unwanted advertisement for Marlboro; a skinny older smoky Thai guy with a grey skin complexion and long stringy hair who serially murdered all of the Eagles greatest hits. Sam seemed oblivious to the flat hatchet job Marlboro did on these fine, but generally overplayed tunes. When I faked some leg muscle seizure to switch bars we walked eastwards to the Shark Bar, passing the backdrop to that underwhelming movie Hangover II. Irritatingly, Bill was stridently humming “there ain’t no way to to hide your lyin eyes.”
In the Shark everything seemed vibrant and I dutifully bought little fake coke looking drinks for some of the toothsome strumps following their undoubtedly pedestrian on-stage gyrations. About halfway through my favorite Rihanna song the Shark closed suddenly. My iPhone said the local time was only 8:45 PM. But the lights brusquely came on and another gaggle of little Thai ladies that sadly did not qualify to be on the stage swept us all out the door in unison and into the Soi. Bill said that was very strange as these places usually heave all night with loud drunk Englishmen and even louder fat German tourists.
Oh well said Bill, lets go into another bar as there are dozens right here. I did not detect any Rihanna sing along as he took the lead. However, the bars were all closing in the Soi, pouring drunk Englishmen and Germans onto the street. It was like a small rolling power outage while we followed this gathering multi-cultural crowd in a singular quest for an open bar. Picking up a contingent of Japanese all wearing customary beige shorts, this small tourist legion spilled awkwardly onto the main Sukhumvit road. We were all repeatedly asking each other what was going on and we heard various theories from a German that Soi Cowboy was being closed as a result of Thai government protesters and police desires to clear the Asok part of town to ensure order.
On Sukhumvit everything was closing—the shopping centers, the restaurants, the subways, and even those little street side shanty carts that sell plagiarized Mission Impossible DVDs and dildos. We could now be measured in hordes as I felt I was on the set of Keanu Reeves’ The Day the Earth Stood Still or the Tom Cruise remake of War of the Worlds. And Traffic was legendary as I looked warily around for big snake-like robot eyes or horn-blasting tripod invaders. Swarming westward Bill and I were separated in slow motion like in one of those overused ubiquitous movie scenes.
When I did finally get back to my hotel, on foot, I found out that we had just experienced a military Coup D’état and General Prayuth Chan-ocha had placed the entire Kingdom under curfew until further notice. Since CNN was also taken off the air, I was unable to receive any of this Breaking News from Anderson Cooper.