Bangkok: Melbourne 2 pt 1: The lovely Layla

A few days before we flew out to Phuket, Jo had a message from her boss asking if she’d be able to fly over to Australia in order to help out with an issue her company was having, we knew that when she took her job on that she would have to travel a lot, however we weren’t expecting there to be such a quick turnaround from being asked to go somewhere to actually being on the plane… We spent some of our time in Phuket preparing ourselves to fly out to Australia, we got back from Phuket on Monday and flew out to Australia on Thursday… Barely time to get used to sleeping in our own bed again.. I know, it’s such a hard life isn’t it?

The flights to and from Phuket had been brilliant in regards to Jo and her fear of flying, in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking she wasn’t afraid of flying at all… She has a few new coping mechanisms which she’s trying out and thankfully, they seem to be working, our time walking around the airport before our flights was relaxed, no panicking from Jo, no worried looks… She seemed like a whole new person, as a result of Jo not being on edge I found myself relaxing more too… In short, I think we actually enjoyed ourselves wandering around the airport.

We boarded the plane and still, Jo was not worrying, i’ve never seen her so relaxed on a plane, she was brilliant… Unfortunately, other passengers sat around us were less than brilliant.

The man sat in front of Jo had an annoying habit of reclining his seat as far back as he could, before pushing his body back with force in an attempt to get it (unsuccessfully) to recline a little bit more… The man sat directly behind us spent most of the flight kicking the back of the seat, luckily Jo slept for a large portion of our nine-hour flight so it didn’t affect her too much, but still, it was a bit on the annoying side.

Pardon the pun but the flight simply flew by… Before long we were in Melbourne airport, our cases appeared on the luggage carousel and we were heading into Melbourne, a short(ish) bus ride and we were in the middle of the city and pulling our cases toward the hotel that is going to be our home for a couple of weeks.

At the hotel we find that we’ve been upgraded to a nicer room because we’re booked for so long, the girl at reception gives us a smile and says that there’s a little surprise in our room for us too… The short journey in the lift consisted of me excitedly listing off things the “little surprise” could be…

A koala.

A Kangaroo.

A naked lady.

It was none of these… A fruit basket is nice tho I suppose.

Our room is nice, we’ve been to Melbourne before so we sort of know our way around… What we weren’t prepared for is how cold it is here…. Note to self, pack a woolly hat and gloves next time!

It was late (well, sort of late) and we needed food, the casino complex is close by and they have a food court so we ended up there for dinner, for about $15 (£7.50) we had a plate of spicy rice and veggie curry (yes, we’re still vegetarian) a huge plate of food, very spicy and very tasty… Our first night is going to be an early one being as Jo has to go into work on Friday morning.

Friday morning passed with any adventures, Jo went to work, I caught the train with her and then caught the train straight back before spending the day writing up a blog (I’m toying with the idea of referring to myself as a writer as opposed to saying i’m an ex steelworker as I think it sounds a bit sexier…Ego!) Jo got back from work and decided she wants to go to the casino, we visited the casino last time we were here and managed to walk out with more money than we arrived with, which was brilliant.

So, Jo’s plan is to withdraw $200 (£100), play on the roulette wheel for a while before heading off for some food, we start the night with a drink at the bar, it’s Friday night and the casino has a really nice sort of “pub” vibe… Lots of people just chatting and drinking, lots of very glamorous girls walking around (our time in Thailand has given us both a pretty strong Escort radar) in pairs looking for rich men to become associated with… We find a roulette table, it’s a $2.50 table, i’m pretty sure this was a $1 table last time, I decide not to play, instead Jo has $100 worth of chips and plays alone with me standing next to her enjoying my beer, Jo plays a few games with a little bit of success here and there, A couple sitting next to us (including possibly the most Australian sounding man i’ve ever witnessed) are playing and having similar success to Jo, another couple at the other end of the table are playing too, they are total newbies and are placing chips in places but then counter betting against themselves, basically meaning they can’t lose but also, if they win they don’t actually gain anything, after a while I see Jo has got a nice pile of chips, she seems to be doing quite well… She asks if I want to put a few chips on the table, I decline but then I get a number flash in my head (for the life of me I can’t remember what it was but for the sake of this blog i’ll say it was number 27) “27” (or whatever number it actually was, I whisper to Jo.. She puts a chip on 27 and amazingly it won.. 35/1.. awesome! Jo continues to play, I just let her get on with it, she’s having some wins and some losses, suddenly I get “00” in my head “put chips on 00” I say… Boom! We win again! the Australian bloke beside us is amazed at what’s going on… So am I.. A short time later and i’m counting Jo’s chips and putting them into piles, we exchange one pile for $100 (our original stake) I put the $100 chip in my pocket and Jo continues to play…

I’ll take the story away from roulette just for a short while at this point…

When Jo first got this job, we were told we’d travel around to different countries, we were told we’d have a liaison officer and various other bits and pieces, i’d jokingly, and still do on occasion decide that Jo actually wasn’t working in quality, but was in fact a spy… We’d be out and about, i’d spot someone looking a bit suspicious, or simply wearing sunglasses indoors (one of my pet hates) and decide that they were spies too, spying on Jo while she did her own spying (yes i’m a child)… Anyway, back to the roulette…

The Australian bloke is amazed at the pile of chips Jo has accumulated, he’s on a bit of a losing streak so says his goodbyes and leaves the table… We are joined at our table by a young man and his Asian girlfriend, the games continue and we find ourselves chatting to them both as we play, Jo says that we don’t have casinos where we come from to which the young man says to his girlfriend “They live in Bangkok”… At no point had we mentioned Bangkok, I look at the man, I look at his girlfriend (who by the way was Bond girl levels of attractive), I take a look at our surroundings in this casino… I come to one conclusion. Jo is indeed a spy.

Soon it was time for us to get some food, we walked away from the roulette table with $300, so all in all a pretty good result… I still have no idea how that man knew we were from Bangkok tho. very odd.

We walked around the complex for a short time looking for food, it’s a little later now and there are more groups of glamorous girls walking around in pairs… We see two men, a younger man and an older man walking arm in arm with two glamorous looking Asian women, we think maybe the girls are bought and paid for ( I see the older man a while later arm in arm with a very young-looking women in a tiny mini dress… God bless Viagra eh?) we search for an age trying to find food… Finding vegetarian food isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially if you’re a vegetarian like me… I actually don’t like the taste of vegetables… They have to be covered in spices or in a curry for me to actually enjoy them… We ended up eating curry and rice again before heading back to the hotel for some sleep.

Saturday daytime (well afternoon being as we slept in) consisted of us wandering around Melbourne, looking in shops and stopping by cafes for food and drink, I find myself missing Bangkok more and more, I miss the weather, I miss the atmosphere, Melbourne is cold, the streets are full of beggars and homeless people, Like Bangkok, Melbourne has a massive divide between the haves and the have nots, high powered Ford muscle cars drive down streets lined with homeless, women carrying shopping bags full of designer clothes sidestep to avoid a beggar sitting on the footpath… I find myself being overwhelmed by it a little, Bangkok assaults the senses, i’m used to it but here I find myself struggling, maybe it’s because i’m cold, maybe it’s because i’ve not seen begging on this level since the last time I visited England… Maybe i’m just missing Bangkok.

Saturday night and Jo decides we’re going to find somewhere nice to eat, she’s found a Mexican place that sounds brilliant so off we go on a mission to find it.

Now, I don’t know if it’s the tall buildings, or if it’s all the neon signs, or if it’s because everything is upside down in Australia… But, trying to use google maps here is a bloody nightmare, you can be walking straight ahead with your route perfectly lined out for you when suddenly the screen goes mad and the route takes you somewhere you didn’t want to go, after a few failed attempts we ended up using a mix of satnav, google maps and good old fashioned detective work to find the restaurant… A restaurant that was full.. Well, there were seats that were empty but they were reserved for “Julia’s party” we know this because the waiter kept appearing and shouting at the people waiting “Are you Julia’s party?” .. We left before Julia and her party arrived… Hope you enjoyed your dinner Julia.

A quick internet search later and we found ourselves another restaurant that sounded pretty good, we did battle with google again to actually find the place, a 6-floor climb to the top of a building and we were there, a dark and moody looking place, classic spaghetti westerns were being projected on a wall… My first reaction was that I liked this place… Jo asked a waitress if they had a table for two, we were shown to a table and we sat down.

[SQUEEL OF BRAKES]

Restaurant owners, bar owners, waiters and waitresses… Has it ever occurred to you that every now and then, maybe once a month? You could check your tables to make sure they don’t rock back and forth? Why is it that I always seem to find myself with a table that moonlights as a seesaw or a catapult, threatening to throw my food and drink over a restaurant depending on where I happen to place them on the table?

We sit at the table for what seems like an age… Waitresses are walking around the restaurant, barmen are creating cocktails behind the bar… Me and Jo haven’t been asked if we want a drink. Jo gets the attention of a waitress, she asks if we can order drinks, the waitress responds with a voice that I can only describe as horrifying. Her strong Australian accent wasn’t the issue (in fact I love the Australian accent) the issue was her tone and the fact she seemed to have gotten her nose and her vocal cords mixed up… This added to her all-around air of unfriendliness just made things worse… We ordered drinks and ordered food, the drinks arrived and I almost lost mine as the wobbly table almost launched it across the room… I’d ordered vegetarian quesadillas, we’d asked for no sour cream (Oh I hate sour cream) sadly i’m pretty sure they still came caked in the stuff, so we ended up taking the top off them and I just ate the bottom half and the filling, the noise in the restaurant became annoying, loud dance music, people talking…. In this enclosed space I found myself struggling to relax… We ate, paid our bill and left.

We found ourselves a rock bar, i’ve no idea what it was called or where it actually was, all I know is the place was packed, the drinks were nice, the music was good and the atmosphere was brilliant… After a few drinks we continued on our mini-tour of Melbourne at night.

We find ourselves standing outside Spearmint Rhino. I’ve never been to Spearmint Rhino, the night was still relatively young, we were both there outside the door, I looked at Jo… Jo looked at me… We sort of gave each other a “shall we?” look…. Next thing I know we’re running up the steps like two school kids trying to avoid the teacher.

On first impressions I was actually quite impressed, Spearmint Rhino is a really classy looking place, living in Bangkok and holidaying in place slike Phuket and Pattaya we’ve walked past many Go-Go bars, Spearmint Rhino seemed to be on a completely different level, no semi-clad girls dancing on the bar here… The bar area was littered with women dressed in lingerie mingling with customers, a half-naked girl danced on the stage as a handful of men sat around the stage placing money into the band of her underwear… We find a seat near the middle of the room, I get some drinks and we sit, chat and watch what is going on here… By now the girl on the stage is naked, she dances slowly as the men sitting around her stare as if they have never seen a naked woman before…. The music stops, the girl picks up her underwear and leaves the stage, the DJ says “give a round of applause to the lovely Layla” I’ll describe this blokes voice using one word. CREEPY. He had the kind of voice I can only imagine would start off every telephone conversation with “And what are YOU wearing?” it was horrible (funny and a real joy to impersonate) but horrible…

More music played and a blonde women came out onto the stage, the gyrated around the pole for a while before some man waving money at her got her attention, she crawled toward him, took off her bra an let him put his money between her breasts… She looked older in the face than her body would leave you to believe, she offered him to put his money between her breasts but at no point actually looked at him.. in fact during her whole performance she didn’t look at the men once, she always looked just above them or to the side… She did not look like a happy woman.

We see various scantily clad girls taking men to a secluded part of the room for a private dance, they walk together hand in hand, then return a short time later wearing fewer clothes and with a smiling man walking behind…

As we sit and chat we find ourselves joined by a young woman in a turquoise dress, well... I say joined... She basically sat herself on my lap…Then, looking straight at Jo she asks, very matter of factly “Do you like girls… Would you like to touch me?” Jo looks at the girl, looks at her drink and says “ No thanks love” Turquoise dress wanders off into the night… I’m bothered by the men here, it really looks like they’ve never seen a naked woman before… A small group of men sit near to us, one of the men sits close to the stage, throws a few notes at the girl dancing before returning to his friends, grinning like a naughty schoolboy… A middle-aged man hasn’t moved from the stage, every girl that dances gets money from him… The Dj introduces every girl with his horrible creepy voice… The dancers all seem to follow the same routine… Dance slowly, hold the pole… Lose the bra… Lose the underwear… Flash the bloke who’s paying… Leave. Men are still walking hand in hand with glamorous girls to the private area… Each time returning with a smile.. Except one… He’s walking out behind the girl in the turquoise dress, he’s not smiling… He just seems to look a bit confused… What did turquoise do to him I wonder?

The DJ announces in his creepy voice that tomorrow is a “666” special…. Six dollar entry… Six dollar drinks… Six dollar dances… And they open at seven! Surely opening at six would have fitted the theme better? Ah well… Time to drink up and head back to the hotel.

We spent Sunday wandering the beach town of St. Kilda… We visited St Kilda last time we were here, and we’d promised ourselves at least one trip back to walk along the beach and see the penguins that live here, while approaching the rocks where the penguins live we passed two young boys arguing about the penguins…

“They are animatronic penguins!”

“No, they’re real!”

“No! Animatronic… Aren’t they mom!”

For the record, the penguins are not animatronic, they are indeed real.

Sunday evening was spent trying to find something to eat… I think if I wasn’t such a fussy eater it would be easier, but being as I am the one vegetarian that actually doesn’t like vegetables, I am destined to struggle… On our travels we did find “TGI Fridays” tho, a food chain i’ve never actually visited before… And frankly, i’ll not be visiting again, we’ve had problems while being in Melbourne, with customer service…. TGI Fridays was no different, so bad customer service, a dusty restaurant and cold food made me decide to never visit again.

I spent the end of Sunday night posting a review on Tripadvisor, which as everyone knows is the way us British complain about things.

Take that TGI Fridays…. Night night.

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Ade Cox

A working-class man from The Black Country, plucked from the factory and now living the best life in Bangkok