Where do I begin? At the beginning I suppose…
It all began on Friday night. We finally dragged ourselves away from the playstation and left the apartment around midnight to hit the town. Most bars close at 1am and there are only a few outdoor places open all night, so we weren’t anticipating a big one. Roland got a call from a girl we’d met the previous day suggesting we all meet later. She said something about a free mini bar, or a free bottle of whisky. Anyway, they work in a bar till 1, so we agreet to meet at 2 (am).
We grab a few beers, watch some pull, hop in a taxi (yes we hopped, it was a stunt I can tell you, two Scotsmen hopping into a taxi in Bangkok!) and call the girls, pass the phone to the taxi driver. They give directions in Thai, the taxi drops us at a petrol station. We’re going “aye??” in our broadest Scots accents. Then a woman approaches us, “Are you loland? Lee’s friend?”, “errr, yes…”, “ok, the minibus is over here”. Minibus, what the f%$#?
The girls arrive a while later and it transpires what they were saying to Roland is that they’re going to a temple. Where is it? About five hours away? It’s 2am. Ok, when will we get back, we don’t want to leave the playstation on her own too long. Tomorrow, maybe 6 o’clock at night. Few Scots words exchanged, ok, what the hell, go for it, what’s life without a little adventure.
7 hours on a minibus later, we arrive in a Thai village in the middle of nowhere. Truly in the sticks. 10am, we arrive, bit tired, they get the whisky out. It’s 10 o’clock in the morning, even us hardened Scots had to refuse at that hour. We hang around for a few hours, eat some food, get some kip, then they prepare the money trees (photos to follow). There must have been 30’000 baht, an English teacher’s monthly salary, on one of the trees. There were 10, 1’000 baht bills on the top alone. That’s enough to rent a single bedroom apartment in the centre of Bangkok for a month.
Then the music arrives, and the money trees and the two farangs (that’ll be us then) are paraded through the village to the temple. Dancing was compulsory, the whisky was most welcome at that point, and there were many hands to shake and people to bow to. Just as we thought we were nearing the end, they went for another lap round the village just to make sure we didn’t miss anyone!
So we give the money trees, the monks looked most somber considering they’d been handed a small fortune. We pray, then it’s back for more food and whisky and then there’s Thai boxing later. Thai boxing I cry, great, I’ll have a go. So there’s much excitement about this, it’s only a play fight they assure me, but it’s very exciting all the same. Later on a deaf, mute lad offers to give me a little practice. Three or four practice kicks later and my shins are swolen like golf balls. There will be pads in the fight though right? No, jesus christ, you’ve got to be kidding, I’m not getting in the ring with that guy who I cockily said good luck to in Thai earlier. I’ll be slaughtered.
Managing to bear the shame, we head down to see the Thai boxing later on after I’ve been massaged, creamed, and iced to reduce the swelling. It starts with the kids, vicious little chaps I can tell you. Then the power goes, so there’s no light. After half an hour we get bored and head back to the temple to be delighted by a choice selection of Thai balads to which only the men are dancing. There are 4 scantily clad girls gyrating around on the stage, but exclusively guys dancing otherwise. It’s not a nightclub in Scotland I can tell you!
Curious as to what time we’re getting back to Bangkok, it’s now Saturday night and fast approaching midnight we discover the bus will leave about midday on Sunday to begin the 7 hour return journey. But I have to try and do some work on Sunday. Hmm, what a conundrum that presents. Well it’s too late to get the bus, but there might be another one. So at 3am myself and Ice (a girl) to see if we can get a bus. Transpires the first bus leaves at 5:30am, but gets to Bangkok around 2pm. If the minibus leaves at 11, we could be back by 5, so two and half hours in the bus station to get back 3 hours earlier just doesn’t seem worth it.
The minibus finally departs around 3pm after going to two temples, someone else’s house for food, and jeez knows what all else was necessary before we left. By this time my appreciation of Thai hospitality is wearing thin. I’m really not excited at the prospect of 7 hours of my perfectly good playstation time on a damned mini-bus. If only we’d known, they have power and a TV on the bus, but alas, the playstation along with a change of clothes, a toothbrush, a jumper, a spare pair of socks were just a few of the things we hadn’t taken with us for this unexpected weekend adventure.
All in all, it was an adventure. We saw genuine Thai culture. A house with no running water, an outside toilet, we slept with about a dozen other people on mats in one giant room. We ate real Thai food. It was definitely cultural immersion and it certainly gave us a renewed appreciation for our air-conditioning in the apartment.
Thai hospitality is unparralleled. It competes even with the legendary Scottish hospitality. However, I felt at a certain point it went a little beyond generous into invasive. We were told we’d be back in Bangkok the following day and it was two days later before we got back. We had nothing with us but the clothes we were wearing, I only had a t-shirt and jeans on. We weren’t told up front what was involved, we were told what it was thought we wanted to hear.
I’m glad we went, and it was an interesting weekend. Would I go again, probably not. If nothing else, it certainly was off the Lonely Planet! 🙂