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May 1, 2003

Sars Bar

Due to a crackdown recently on after-hours drinking in Thailand it's quite difficult to find late night bars and clubs to have a beer in. Colin and I therefore decided to re-dress the situation by opening our own bar in front of the hotel. Naming it the 'Sars Bar' we've spent the last five nights drinking there with an ever changing collection of customers and the hotel staff until the sun comes up or later.

Last night, however, the police turned up and closed us down (at least temporarily) so we had to move the business to the magic carpet (a carpet lying on the pavement around the corner reputed to accentuate the affect of alcohol). We've ended up drinking and partying all night every night for the last six days, which I put down to being an extended birthday celebration (it's only one party if you never sober up), and Colin's only seen daylight in Bangkok once since he arrived.

Yesterday after drinking until noon with a particularly dedicated Kiwi girl, we grabbed a few hours sleep then got up at 5pm to go and teach English with one of our new Thai chums, Peter, an English teacher at the university. Still pissed and shaky, our native English conversation consisted of complex phrases such as, "Beer good", "You like Jackie Chan?", and other random drunken thoughts that were flying around our brains. I think we may have found our calling.

May 3, 2003

New wi-fi Palm

Palm have just announced some new models. A new Zire with a built in camera and the Tungsten C which, finally, has built in wi-fi. Still no virtual graffiti area yet but having used the Tungsten W last weekend I liked the keyboard and browser so this should be one very useable PDA.

May 4, 2003

Bed Supperclub, Bangkok

time to go to bed
We'd heard that Bed Supperclub was rumoured to be another of Bangkok's ultra-hip nightclubs so we went out last night to check it out. The most impressive thing about it is the pod architecture - oval in shape, steel framed, and steel skinned, with a futuristic all white interior and padded pvc panels. Half of the building is a restaurant with huge padded sofas around the room which you take your shoes off and climb onto. There the staff wear all-white uniforms and furry boots and there's an ice sculpture as the room's centrepiece and lovely TAG McLaren loudspeakers on the walls. On the other side of the building, through huge sliding padded doors, is the club. Unfortunately, it doesn't stand up to being very impressive apart from its design. With a badly mixed selection of old house music, average sound (cheaper speakers), and a disappointing lighting system, it's clear why the hip of Bangkok have abandoned it and the main clientele are fat expense account tourists falling around the small dance floor. We left early after the staff took our half-finished drinks while our backs were turned.

We returned to the guesthouse, opened the SARS Bar, recognised some people passing by who'd been in the club, invited them over, and spent a very enjoyable night drinking with them until 07:00.

May 5, 2003

Thai Cinema

We went to see a new Thai film (with English subtitles) called Fake the other day. One of the bizarre but lovely things about Thailand is that at the beginning of films they play the national anthem, show pictures of the king, and everyone stands up. The film was a black comedy, the cinematography was fairly impressive, and we'd been to almost all the locations in it which probably means that we've probably been in Bangkok far too long.

May 6, 2003

Colin Flies Out

Colin flew back out to Oman today, which was just as well really as it's unlikely we could have survived much longer at the rate we've been partying. We had great plans to get up early and get lots done but when we found ourselves still sitting drinking at 08:00 this morning it was fairly clear that the choice was either to stay up or crash out. Being completely nocturnal by now, we decided to grab some sleep. We came to in the afternoon, just in time for Colin to grab his bag and run out to the airport bus.

May 7, 2003

Visa Hunting

I applied for my Laos visa today as I'm planning to take a trip up to Vientiane at the weekend. When Colin arrived back in Oman all the passengers were taken to a clinic and interrogated in case any of them had SARS. After two weeks of drinking he probably looked more suspect than anyone but amazingly they still let him in.

May 9, 2003

Off to Laos

I thought I was getting used to the Bangkok heat but the last few days have been incredibly hot. It's the hottest time of the year here and it gets close to 40c some days and only drops to about 35c at night. That, coupled with the fact that the humidity is near 100% makes it really hard to get around and do things.

Pete Tong was at Ministry last night so I held off my trip to Laos for another day so that I could go, and it was awesome. Fully recovered, I'm just about to head off to catch the train now and I'm travelling very light - only taking a toothbrush, keeping my room here in Bangkok and leaving all my gear in it.

May 12, 2003

Vientiane Drinking

The trip up to Laos on the sleeper from Bangkok turned out to be not at all like the relaxed night I was expecting. I ended up sitting across from Anne-Marie, a lovely, mad Irish girl who forced me to drink all night without any sleep at all and has been bossing me around since we arrived here in Vientiane. We arrived at the Laos border with hangovers where they were busy digging up all of the concrete in sight then we caught a taxi into town with a load of dead fish in it.

May 13, 2003

Laos Whiskey

Vientiane has to be the most laid-back capital city I've ever been to. You can easily walk around it, the people are incredibly friendly, and the food's lovely.

The other night we got truly lost in town whilst trying to get back to our hotel after drinking lots of Beerlaos and toxic Laos rice whiskey. I have no idea how we managed it as I knew that the bar was literally just around the corner.

Whether it's true or not I don't know, but I've just been told that the Laos government is cracking down on drinking and lots of drunks have recently been shot. Time to leave the country I think.

May 16, 2003

Return from Laos

The trip to Laos was terrific and far, far more interesting than I expected. Because it's south-east Asia's poorest country it's far less developed and there aren't nearly as many travellers. The roads are chaotic with people driving on any side they like and cows wandering across the main road into the country. I was in fact sorry to leave as I would have liked to have spent more time there but I definitely plan to return.

May 18, 2003

Bangkok Shopping

I've spent most of the last couple of days shopping to epic proportions in Bangkok. It's one of the best places I've ever been to for clothes, electronics and software so my bag is getting heavier all the time. I've also found a place that hand carves wooden panels so I plan to head off there tomorrow and add further to my luggage.

May 19, 2003

Bangkok Water Taxis

Just spent another day power shopping in Bangkok. I took the water taxi into town as it's by far my favourite way to travel across the city. They run through the narrow klongs or canals that criss-cross Bangkok and each boat carries about 90 people. The captains and line handlers are truly skilled, making it all look so easy as they dodge obstructions in the waterway at high speed then roar up to a dock at 20knots, slam it into reverse, then jump off and take a line around a bollard. One of the other benefits is that it means the locals are quite boat savvy as they jump on or off without the fear that most westerners would have on vessels.

This evening I went to see The Matrix Reloaded which was truly spectacular. The martial art scenes are slick, incredibly fast, and beautifully shot. The dialogue is witty, and they've even fixed some of the holes in their clothes. Just make sure you stay until the end of the credits.

May 20, 2003

Not The Last Night?

I was going to write about high-tech Bangkok tonight. Mobile phone chargers in the railway station, going for a haircut, sending a text message, and getting a discount voucher in response, electrically operated chairs and head massages. But I won't.

You know it makes sense to be packing when you're leaving first thing in the morning, but instead you find yourself wandering down Koh San Road at 02:00, pissed, avoiding ladieboys, and spilling ice-cream down your shirt while you buy twenty CDs from Run, your new music consultant. At the same time you're trying hard to believe that tonight is your last night in Bangkok, that tomorrow you're off to Brunei, then back to Europe, and the room you've kept for the last six weeks is no longer your own. No. I can't believe it either, but I'm already planning my next trip here just in case it's true.

May 22, 2003

Lost in Borneo

Yesterday started with the guesthouse staff in Bangkok trying to break my door down to waken me up as I'd slept through two alarms and the minibus to the airport was outside waiting for me. Having no idea how that could have happened after only being asleep for three hours, I pulled on some clothes, grabbed my bag, and ran out.

After a few hours of trying to sleep on the plane, we arrived in Brunei, and it wasn't at all how I expected it to be. I had hopes that it was going to be a bit like Singapore, and having heard so much about the Sultan being one of the richest men in the world, I was looking forward to a slick, modern, Asian city. Instead, it's much more like a small, backwater Malaysian town, lacking the high tech feel of Asian tiger economy countries, and the warmth of travelling in Buddhist lands.

The city is an architectural wasteground, and obviously not much money is being spent on it's infrastructure. The pavements are crumbling and the police are driving around in Protons. I took a trip out to the amusement park last night, which is out of town. It's was built by the Sultan for the people, and up until recently was free to enter. It was like a ghost town and there were only about seven other people in the entire comlex, but it was huge and beautifully built. Obviously, it would have made much more sense to spend the money on the country rather than waste it all on a figurehead amusement park that no-one goes to.

Thankfully, I catch my flight to London in three hours. Brunei is a hard place to spend more than 24 hours in.

May 23, 2003

More Flight Hassles

I walked back to the hostel yesterday, looking forward to leaving Brunei, and went up to my room to collect my bag. All the rooms have shared keys that you have to return to the desk, and so I was somewhat perturbed to find that the key to my room was not there, that I had a new room mate, and that he had apparently pissed off with the only key there was to get into my luggage. I only had a couple of hours until my flight left, so I began looking all over the place for whoever it could be, but I couldn't see anyone. I went to the warden's office to get them to open it but they were all away so I tried the main office, but that was closed as it was now prayer time. Time was going fast and I realised that my only choice was to break the door down if I was going to catch my flight. On the way back, however, I found a couple of cleaners, who, after some persuasion, began to try to find the warden's phone number for me. After a while they managed to dig it out and I called him and explained the situation. He said that there was no way he could get back but he would ask one of his friends to try to come over and open the door for me. This had all taken a long time and it was now going to be touch and go whether I would catch the flight so I walked back to the room and hoped that he'd soon be there. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in Brunei any longer, but worse than that, my return flight couldn't be changed, so if I missed it I'd lose it.

I got back to the room to see that my new room mate had returned and was lying on his bed with a far away look in his eyes. I was ready to kill him. I told him in no uncertain terms what an arsehole he was and how he had very nearly caused me to miss my flight, but he just looked back at me, clearly unaware that he was dealing with a person who could tip into violent insanity at any moment. But there was something in that look that I recognised. I asked him where he was from. "Copenhagen, Denmark", he replied. So I told him exactly what I thought of the Danes, then stormed out to catch my flight.

May 27, 2003

Back in Britain

After an 18 hour flight I arrived in Heathrow where it was cold and grey, and caught the tube into Central London as everyone was going to work, and even though it was a Friday, they all looked miserable. It was all a bit of a shock to my system after being in Asia for so long but I've already begun planning my next trip out there.

I'd timed things badly as Chris had just caught a flight out to Copenhagen for the weekend that morning but his car was parked at the airport, so I spent the day in London then collected it from Stansted car park. I ended up spending the weekend driving around Essex, discovered a lovely village called Wivenhoe with a pub next to the river, did a lot of walking, and spent three days living in Chris's mini. Then it was back to Stansted airport to meet his flight and we drove up to Bristol last night.

May 30, 2003

Bristol in the Sun

The weather's actually been pretty decent in Britain this week, causing much of the population to declare it a heatwave, complain about it being too hot, and don knee-length white socks with sandals.

I've been cycling and camping around Bristol over the last few days, taking advantage of the good weather and attempting to recover some form of fitness after two months of partying, though Chris et al have been doing their best to offset this by dragging me off to the pub at night. I also appear to have unintentionally stumbled into fashion while I've been away, as a girl came up to me in the park yesterday and asked if she could photograph me for her fashion degree.

May 31, 2003

Mobile Phone Recovery

I was in the pub last night talking with a press officer for Avon and Somerset police. One of my favourite stories that most of the newspapers missed out on was this;
A few weeks ago in a town in Somerset, a man's body was found half sticking out of a drain early in the morning in one of the main streets. It turned out that he'd been on his way home quite pissed the night before when he dropped his mobile down a drain. So he pulled off the drain cover and went down to get it. As you do. Only he got a bit stuck and they found his legs sticking up in the air hours later, quite dead.