Goodbye SE Asia, Hello Taiwan

The next few days after blowing it up were relatively respectable, relative to the previous couple months of this trip that is, and exceptional that they occurred in such close proximity to Khaosan Road.

After the night out with the hostel crew and then random-Canadian-Mike I slept until nearly 4 pm, when I kicked myself out of the blankets and roamed in the opposite direction from the main party zone and found an awesome all-day breakfast joint, a bookshop and a barber. That evening was chill, a few beers in the common room with some of the crew from the previous night. Shortly before calling it quits a recognizable face walked past, backpack in tow having just checked in… He looked at me and squinted, I reciprocally squinted, and he pointed at me and said “Zackry’s?” Oh shit yeah, it was Tyler, one of the Coloradans we’d met in Langkawi. We agree to grab a beer sometime the following day.

I started drinking at two minutes past noon the following day but at a medium pace. “Oh man, you’re getting into it early!” Tyler observed. Indeed sir. We worked out a rough game plan for the evening that involved hitting up a nearby jazz club I’d found on my walk the day prior or, if we in a raging mood, to just hit the strip and maybe find a ping pong show (this was on his checklist for Bangkok before his sister was due to arrive two days later). Awesome. I spent the afternoon sipping cold ones and hanging out in the common room, taking control of the Netflix and talking to everyone who came through. A group of youngins sat down after I’d put on Natural Born Killers and all of their jaws dropped, none had seen it or even heard of it. As the night wore on and my buzz grew stronger I still couldn’t find anyone to rally up for a night out though – I’d grabbed some food earlier with Tyler but he’d bailed on going out hard – so I wandered off to the jazz club by myself. When I arrived I was the only white guy there and the band was just going on, the sax player wasted no time in laying it down. I had the worst Old Fashioned I’d ever tasted before switched to Red & Cokes, they were good enough to stick around but at North American prices unfortunately. After one set a singer came out, a Thai woman in her early twenties with her hair bleached blonde, greeted the crowd in perfect sultry English and sang an absolutely stunning rendition of “What a Wonderful World”. I stuck around for a couple more sets, talked to the band on the patio then called it another (fairly) early one.

The twenty-third of December was to be my last full day in Bangkok before getting on a flight to Taiwan for Christmas Eve so I was a little bit keen on making it a good one but wary of going too hard and stumbling into Taiwan all jacked up. I decided to fill my day with culture rather than inebriants, heading toward the National Museum.

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It was kind of lame to be honest. In a square nearby there was some kind of food festival or something happening but I couldn’t see a way in, so I slid between a narrow gap in the gates, figuring no one would mind. Sure enough a police officer hastily ran over, with unpleasant-sounding yells exiting his mouthhole clearly intended for me. He wags his finger in my face, directing me to turn back. I try to argue, telling him I’m going this way. He wags some more. I argue some more. Another copper comes over to see what the kerfuffle is about. Alright, I’d better back down. Tail slunk between my legs I go back where I came from and take the long way back to the ranch.

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I chill for a couple hours then start cracking coldies. A German girl named Ilka sits next to me and we start talking, she’s just quit her job in the civil service – a lifetime guaranteed gig kind of thing – to come fuck around over here and figure out what she really wants to do with her life. Some other folks sit down around us and she starts talking about her area of expertise, the tax system (yawn). A discussion about taxation occurs (yawn). Alright, fuck this noise, time to troll it up – “You know what I think makes sense? Flat taxes.” Bedlam erupts. Ahh, that was fun.

One of the guys is a fellow Canadian named Alex, hails from Ontario originally but finishing up his PhD in Edmonton on, of all things, a type of ocean-dwelling fish called a hegfish that (obviously) can’t be found in landlocked Alberta. Ilka and I ask him a few questions and it doesn’t take much for him to get wound up on the subject, talking about “blood acidity”, something called a “slime matrix”, all sorts of other weird biology shit. I’ve never been interested in fish in the slightest but the guy’s passion for the subject makes it legit interesting, he should definitely be on Quirks & Quarks on the CBC or something like that, I could listen to him talk about this fucking disgusting-sounding sea creature for hours. We talked a bit about home as well and how he’d gotten his hands on the Stanley Cup on two occasions as his brother plays for the LA Kings. Noice.

Alex and a few of his crew crash out but Ilka and I decide to stay up for another beer or two, it’s going on 2 am at this point and we haven’t lit up the town yet so the prospects are diminishing fast when another Canadian guy – this fellow from the T-Dot – and two newly-checked-in Americans from NY and DC arrive. The Yanks suggest we go get some beer and food even though it’s 2 a.m., Ilka is out but TO is in and after some convincing I am as well. None of them have hit the strip yet so I give them the lowdown and it turns out all three are also heading to Cambodia (TO solo, NY/DC duo) so they pick my brain on Angkor Wat, Siem Riep, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

Most of the places that have kitchens have closed kitchens but the Yanks hit the street food hard and we order up some buckets – I insist that buckets are the only acceptable receptacle, to quote a legendary wordsmith. New York is being really picky, insists that she find street food without pork in it, I ask “Are you hedging your bets in case the Jewish god is real?” TO and DC cough on their bucket juice. NY stares and me, mouth agape. I take a long sip from my bucket. When I finish I ask her, “Are you Jewish?” “Yes, in fact, I am.” I take another long sip. “Don’t take it seriously, a lot of shit comes out of my mouth.” The boys are laughing their asses off, she’s not too crunchy about it but I don’t think she’s a fan of my sense of humour either.

We hit the streets and keep the giggletrain going by grabbing some balloons of laughing gas from a street vendor. I haven’t done this shit in years and DC’s never done it, we sit on the filthy, cigarette-strewn sidewalk and suck back a couple. DC gets surprisingly high for something like laughing gas, he’s jibbering on about god knows what while we just take it in. NY doesn’t seem to think too highly of this whole scene, apparently she’s too good to abuse inhalants on a piss and beer covered curb and tells us she’s going home…  Boys’ night out!

We find a new place and switch to proper glasses of rum and coke instead of buckets. TO and DC are into a pretty personal and heated discussion about traveling with non-girlfriend female friends on account of DC’s departure, I’m mostly staying out of it since we all acknowledge that I pretty much kicked off the shitstorm with not one but several of my comments, and a dude sitting alone at the table next to me asks me “Hey man where are you from?” He sounds Canadian as fuck so I answer “Fucking Nova Scotia buddy”, “Fucking right man I’m from Edmonton!” His name’s Joachim (we seem to meet a lot of people named Joachim) and he’s in Thailand teaching English in a town a couple hours away, just kicking it in BKK a couple days to find trouble. He pulls over with us and we talk about how the Oilers are doing this year, he’s super good shit, throwing high-fives around every few minutes and never stops smiling.

A guy from the table behind me taps me on the shoulder and introduces him and his crew, they’re three Swiss guys who ordered a tower of Chang (a tower is the same size as three litre colas) but aren’t up to the task themselves and were wondering if we could help. By all means, gentlemen! We round the chairs out and now we’re double-fisting rum and beer, for some reason the Swiss decide they should get rum too, it’s a seven-man circle and we’re all yelling back and forth over the table and the bar’s din at the people on the other sides. Needless to say we’re pretty fucked up by this point but it seems like a good idea to get some shots and more rum so that happens. The Swiss are keen to talk politics which makes me cringe a bit given the current climate, what I already know of DC’s politics, and how tuned up on liquor we all are by this point, but it all stays pretty amicable. Fucked if I can remember any of these guys names but we had a great time, swirling around and taking shots and talking shit for a couple of hours until about 5:30 when DC and TO decide they have to tap out. The sun is coming up soon…

I have to check out in five hours and be on a plane not long after so I consider taking off but the guys insist that it’s too late for that, I should just burn it through, if I go to sleep now I’ll just be fucked. This seems like a reasonable assessment of the situation so we do Jager shots and get another tower of Chang. Sweet jesus.

Somehow some sense snaps into my head around 9 am, I think it might have been the morning crowd walking around ordering breakfast and staring at us like the depraved monsters we are but it’s all pretty fuzzy. I bid the crew adieu and stagger back to the hostel. The free breakfast spread is out, I shove ten chicken nuggets down my mouthhole and pass the fuck out.

The staff wakes me up at precisely 11 am by my watch to tell me that it’s checkout time. Faaaaack. I’m never drinking again. I curl up on a couch in the common room and try to nap but the hustle and bustle is too much and mostly just zone out and give the wall a surly drunken staredown. Around 1:30 I head to the airport, still completely off my ass, pass out in the taxi, pour myself out into departures. I pick up the camping gear and cold-weather clothing I stashed here almost two months again when I first landed here from New Zealand and repack my bags in the middle of the airport floor. When I check-in for my flight to Taipei there’s thankfully no question about onward passage – that is, proof I’ve got a ticket to somewhere else – which is good cause I don’t have it, I’m making shit up on the fly at this point. I breeze through security and grab a beer to try to pull my shit together, I can barely swallow it. God I hope I get straightened out before I have to deal with Taiwanese immigration.

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I head to the gate to board my Christmas Eve plane, and with that, my Southeast Asia trip was over.

 

Or at least it was until I ended up back in Chiang Mai sixteen days later.  But that’s a story for another time.

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