Bangkok: One-armed Bandit

The first words that came out of my mouth as I stepped off the plane at London Heathrow when we came back to England... “Fuck, it’s cold”… However… Let’s rewind a little… There are a few things I want to say about the flight… Flights from Bangkok to London… I’ll get to the cold weather later…

So, we flew from Bangkok, a two-part flight, 5 hrs or so to Oman, followed by a 7 hr flight to London Heathrow, first things first Oman Airways (a company i’d never even heard of before) were pretty good, the staff were friendly and the plane didn’t crash… So… Awesome.

We flew on the Boeing Dreamliner, with all the bad press (well deserved bad press might I add) that Boeing has had over the past few months I have to say my confidence in Boeing AND their aircraft has somewhat lessened… Add this to the fact that for the past week, every time i’ve logged onto Youtube i’ve been met with videos being suggested to me about planes, faults on planes and plane crashes, when it came round to me actually getting on a plane I was in a state of fear… I’m not scared of flying, but I have to admit i’d pretty much psyched myself out of this flight, but being a big brave boy, I sorted myself out and got on the plane.

Why is it that every time I get on a plane (Jo always books window seats) when the plane has a three-seat configuration, I always get the one person who falls asleep as soon as the plane takes off sitting next to me? Why must I feel guilty for having to wake someone up just so as I can use the toilet? Just bad luck I guess.

The in-flight entertainment was interesting on this flight, there was a range of recent movies to watch, one of which being “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a movie that only very recently got a release over in China, and then only after it had been edited heavily, this was the third time i’ve seen Bohemian Rhapsody, this was, however, the first time i’ve seen it in this format… Bohemian Rhapsody: The version with every gay reference edited out. Every gay kiss… Gone. Freddie telling Mary Austin he was gay… Gone. Even the throwaway gag about Freddie thinking Marys new boyfriend was gay… Gone. An appalling edit, an absolute mess, but still quite fascinating to watch… I’m guessing the Oman Airways edit of the Tom Hanks movie “Philadelphia” is a very short film.

Flights done (eventually) and we land at Heathrow airport… Bloody hell it’s cold, the temperature at Heathrow was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature we left in Bangkok was 38 degrees centigrade… It was COLD!

A quick train journey from Heathrow and we were at Euston station, waiting for our train to Birmingham, i’m people watching… Lots of glamorous women with lots of very curly hair (did perms come back in fashion while we’ve been away?) air-kissing each other in an “oh so sophisticated” way… Young business types marching through the station, all wearing the “young business type outfit… Dark (designer) jeans, Brown shoes, a half-length woollen coat, a neck scarf (that's not providing warmth, it’s just there for show) an arrogant walk… I look at these people marching through the station on there way to some big office building, so wrapped up in a haze of self-importance, i’m just wondering how they’d handle a real-life crisis, how would Mr Go-Getter handle not having enough money to feed his family, I’m living the life of someone i’ve never been… I’m living in a foreign land, I no longer have money worries… But still, I have the mindset of the man I was a short time ago… Careful with every penny, worrying where every penny comes from… I don’t like these people, this air of self-importance sickens me… I want to shout at them, you’re no more important than anyone else… We’re all the same… I was tired, I think i’d maybe gotten about an hours sleep on the plane, I knew we had to travel a while longer before the day was through… Tired and judgemental… Not a good combination.

We get on our train to Birmingham, Jo has booked first class seats, we’re sat opposite a middle-aged blonde woman with sharp features and piercing blue eyes, she looks a bit frosty… On the other side of the aisle is an older American woman, she’s talking loudly on her phone about meeting someone to sort ou a property she’s renting out… Am I evesdropping? No. She just talks VERY loudly. An old man appears and sits opposite loud American lady, he’s talking to himself about getting to Blackpool to see his sister… This train doesn’t go to Blackpool, he seems more and more confused as he’s now having a conversation with himself while trying to engage loud talking American lady, she’s buried her head into her laptop and is trying to ignore him, at this point the old man asks a truly valid question… “Are we people? Or are we an extension of computers?”.. American lady ignores him, sharp features buries her head into her laptop… I’m thinking the old man is possibly the wisest person on this train (despite the fact he’s on the wrong train to Blackpool)… He mentions Blackpool again, Jo tells him the train doesn’t go to Blackpool, the man talks to his invisible companion and they decide they’ll get to Blackpool somehow, the drinks lady arrives and he gets a cup of tea and she tells him he’ll have to get off at Preston and then get a train to Blackpool, the ticket guy comes around and checks our ticket, the old man doesn’t have a first class ticket so moves to another carriage… Loud American breaths a sigh of relief, Sharp features starts smiling and says she’s glad he’s gone… I sort of miss him. As the train pulls into another station a woman joins us in the carriage, she sits opposite American lady and proceeds to talk for the rest of the journey… LOUDLY. She likes musical theatre… She’s bought a packed lunch… She owns a nice big house… Her husband is French... Her friend wrote a book and she is a character in it… She will not shut up.

Eventually, we arrive in Birmingham, another short train ride to another station, a short cab ride to a car hire place and finally we’re driving back to Dudley to surprise my Mom (As described in my last blog)

After making Mom cry, and after a still ill Aimee had jumped into a cab to come and see us (tears and hugs) we went on our way to our hotel, to drop our bags off before heading back to our old house to spend a bit of time with the boys.

We left our house in Dudley with the boys as (pretty much) tenants, the plan was for the boys to stay there,live in and look after the place until we came back from this adventure , however, as soon as Me and Jo stepped foot back in the house it just wasn’t our home any more… We felt like we’d gone to visit the boys in student accommodation, the house was the same building… It just didn’t feel like “ours” anymore.. It was quite strange. Plus, i’m convinced the television has shrunk… Seriously, when we left it was HUGE... Now it looks tiny…Odd.

During the planning of this trip back “home” there were a number of food/ drink items that we wanted to eat while we were here... A sort of food “bucket list”, the first thing on the list? A bag of chips (there are NO fish and chip shops in Bangkok)... I have to say, even tho i’d been looking forward to fish and chips… I actually didn’t enjoy them.

We had planned to go out for a night out with the boys, sadly tiredness took it’s toll so a quiet night in watching a movie and eating Chinese take away became the new plan, by the way, the Chinese takeaway did not disappoint… By 11 pm Me and Jo were tucked up in bed at the hotel.

Saturday morning and early afternoon was taken up by shopping for clothes, there are plenty of malls and shops in Bangkok, sadly getting sizes that fit here is a nightmare, a Thailand extra large size is basically a medium in European clothes, so shopping just had to be done.

We had planned to go out for a drink with friends on Saturday night, but when we got back to England we found out that there was a surprise birthday party planned for my sister-in-law, so the plans were changed, a quick drink with the family followed by more drinks with friends later on…

We arrived at the party and were greeted by members of the family we hadn’t seen in over half a year, it was lovely to see people and let folks know how we’re getting on, it was also nice to hear how many people are actually reading these blogs, after about an hour we said our goodbyes and headed into town to meet our friends for more drinks, it was brilliant catching up, sadly jetlag played it’s part and halfway through our meal at a local balti house (Indian food ticked off the bucket list!) I found myself unable to keep my eyes open and I struggled to stay awake.. Nothing to do with the company, it was that pesky long haul flight… Promise!

So…. at 3 am on Sunday morning I woke up with a major migraine, i’d gone to my sister-in-laws party on Saturday night and not taken any headache medication (disco lights give me migraines), by 4 am i’m in the bathroom vomiting (historically this usually means my headache will begin to fade) We had planned to visit another friend on Sunday morning but sadly I was too ill to go, Jo went with Nick and I stayed in bed recovering from my migraine.

I woke up around 9 am, feeling a little better I decided to have a shower, so I slowly got out of bed… At this point all hell broke loose as the fire alarms in the hotel all went off.

I waited for about half a minute, thinking it was just a drill, but the alarms continued, I could hear people leaving rooms, so I quickly put some clothes on and exited my room and made my way downstairs to the reception, just as I got to the bottom of the stairs the alarm stopped, people made their way back to their rooms, I decided to go to reception just to make sure all was fine, I was greeted by a receptionist who looked quite shaken, it turns out a man in room 20(I think that's what I heard her tell her co-worker) had decided to have a shower but hadn’t closed the bathroom door, the receptionist had seen on steam pouring out from under the door to his room, she had mistaken it for smoke, she’d knocked on his door but because he was in the shower, he hadn’t heard her, so she hit the fire alarm… Glad it was all a false alarm I made my way back to my room, catching a glimpse at my reflection as I entered… It was at this point I realised my hair was all sticking up and with my migraine-induced pale skin I looked like a deranged clown. Awesome.

A quick shower (with the door closed) later, and I was ready to go to our old house to meet Jo, I decided to walk, hoping the fresh air would help clear my head.

It took about 45 minutes to walk from our hotel to my old house, it was a cold, fresh Sunday morning, the air is fresher here than in Bangkok, maybe there is something about life in England that is better than life in Bangkok… During my walk I encounter maybe four people… This amazes me, if I walk out of my apartment in Bangkok and walk for two minutes i’ll encounter 50 people, the streets are always full of people, here on this cold Sunday morning the streets are empty… I think I like it.

I arrive back at the house just before Jo and Nick get back from visiting our friend, Jo has arranged for us to drive to Wolverhampton to meet up with some more friends in a pub I love in town, my headache is still lurking in the background so I chose not to drink… However… £4.00 for two glasses of lemonade?!?!? LEMONADE?!?!? It doesn’t matter how great it is to meet up with some friends, it doesn’t matter how great it is to visit a pub i’ve not been in for over 6 months… £4.00 for two lemonades will bitter (bitter.. Lemon.. Get it?) the experience.

So friends seen, conversation enjoyed, lunch eaten…£4.00 Lemonade drunk… We head back to our hotel, we’re quite tired today, tonight's plan is to have a quiet meal at the hotel and then an early night, We had a great night... Except for (you totally knew something would mess things up) kids. Out of control kids. I understand, when you’re out with the family, the kids may get a little restless, after all they ARE kids… But… If your kids are running around a restaurant, bothering people at tables, and almost knocking waitresses over, it’s time to pull those kids to one side and give them some rules… Or stay at home and keep your rude kids there with you.

We planned to head into Birmingham on Monday, Jo is going to head into her old office to see some old work friends, I planned to go on a hunt for a leather jacket (dragging poor Nick along with me)... The hunt that was pointless, I did manage to wander around the city for a couple of hours, not enough time to find a shop that sells a decent leather jacket… But enough time to see countless numbers of drunks and drug addicts wandering around a city that could be great. It just isn’t. Mainly because of people. Remove the people, make Birmingham great… Maybe Thanos had a point with his whole “snapping his fingers and removing 50% of all life” thing. Our day of leather jacket hunting and drug addict dodging ended with me and Nick in a bar called scruffy Murphys drinking Jack Daniels, just one drink as i’d made plans to head back to my old workplace and go for a drink with friends (turned out to be FRIEND being as i’d forgotten to confirm the date with folks back at work.. SORRY!) A few drinks later (Guinness and Jack Daniels were cheaper than that bloody lemonade!) and some good conversation… Plus a rather drunk Nick it was time to head back to the hotel... Ready for Tuesdays adventure... A hair cut for Jo, and an afternoon in the pub with my Mom and Dad for me.

I’ve been drinking too much during this trip, seriously, I don’t think i’ve had a day back on British soil where i’ve not drunk alcohol (even the day I was recovering from a migraine I ended the night with a whiskey) however I don’t think my liver will get a rest today… Being as i’m off for an afternoon in the pub with my parents.

To cut a story short, drinks were drunk, conversation was had, more drinks were drunk… My liver hates me.

The West Midlands part of this trip was drawn to a close with a meal with family and friends at a local Indian restaurant, a circular table with ten of us sat around it, eating, drinking, chatting… We said our goodbyes to Mom and Dad and said we’d be back in June… It was a nice way to end this part of the trip… On Thursday we head to London.

A non-eventful (yay) train ride to London, a slightly stressful tube journey and we’re in Paddington (the area… Not the bear) On first impressions our hotel looks quite nice, we have a room on the tenth floor (i’m hoping for a window with a nice view)… I’m amazed by the speed of the lift, i’ve never known a lift go from the ground floor to the tenth floor in such a short time… Colour me impressed… Until we get into the room.

Our room looks as if it is in the 1970s. Someone went to the 1970s grabbed this room and bought it here to 2019. This could be the only explanation for this room being here in this time period… Unless of course, the lift travels at 88mph and (using the laws of the 80’s classic movie Back to the future) it is us that have been transported back to the 1970s and this room.

Time travel exists here in this hotel in London.

Prior to us coming on this trip Jo had planned a few things for us to do while we were in London, first of these was dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I love the hard rock, it’s a cool place to be I think as a music lover it’s an essential place to visit if your ever in London (or any other city that has a Hard Rock Cafe) we arrived at the hard rock and were greeted by a huge queue of people waiting to be seated, luckily Jo had booked us a table so we by-passed the queue, the cafe itself was really busy, each table was full and waiters and waitresses are rushing back and forth serving the customers, the thing that bothered me about the evening was the fact that despite this place being a music-themed restaurant, filled with music memorabilia and history, a lot of tables were filled with people who just looked like they couldn’t be bothered to be here, bored looking teenagers staring blankly at mobile phones, middle-aged women chatting none stop on their phones… Christ people, just go for a burger in a bog standard burger place, don’t take up a table that could have gone to someone that actually really wanted to be here.

After leaving the Hard Rock we wandered around London for a while, London was being disrupted by a protest group and many roads were blocked, we somehow found our way into the middle of the protesters camp during our walk in the night, all was quiet, but they had caused quite a lot of issues earlier on in the day and they had promised to cause more throughout the weekend.

After wandering through the camp we headed back toward our hotel but before heading off to bed we went to a bar close to the hotel for a drink, I left Jo to order drinks while I went off to find the toilets, when I got back to the bar Jo had acquired drinks, and the unwanted attention of some bloke at the bar (quick work, you have to admit) I positioned myself between Jo and her newfound “Prince Charming” he got the message straight away and backed off a bit, we had a quick conversation where he thought I came from some mythical place called “BIRMINAM” actually it’s Birmingham mate and no I don’t come from there… He’s confused about the fact I don’t like football and proceeds to tell us proudly “I’m a CHELSEA BOY!” was I supposed to be impressed by this? Intimidated? Either way I just shrugged and responded with “oh right”… At this point Chelsea boy knocks some other blokes beer off the bar, splashing beer all over the floor, we move away, drink our drinks in peace and then head back to the 1970s.

We had a terrible nights sleep back in the 1970s. Apparently comfortable beds didn’t exist back then.

Fridays adventure included a trip to London Zoo, I enjoy going to the zoo, this particular zoo, for the most part, failed to impress me, until we wandered into London Zoos butterfly exhibit… We spent an age watching the butterflies flying around, this would have been a truly beautiful and peaceful experience had not been for the addition of that thorn in my side… People.

Why oh why, if you don’t like insects or things fluttering would you wander into a bloody butterfly exhibit? Especially you young lady, the one with the dyed black hair and the painted on eyebrows! You don’t like insects? So why paint two caterpillars where your eyebrow should be? yeah, totally nobody noticed you waving your arms around like a two year old as you shouted “I don’t like it!”.. yes mate, you earned major “cool points” there didn’t you?

Bloody people.

Jo arranged for us to feed the monkeys. Last time we were anywhere near monkeys (back in Krabi) I found the whole experience a bit on the terrifying side. Yay, I was going to feed the monkeys. Double yay, the monkey feeding experience was in the Amazon area of the zoo, basically on the ground amongst the monkeys while the general public looked on from above. SO now I have monkeys AND being stared at by people to deal with… Trebel yay, there are mice scurrying around the floor in the Amazon area… I don’t hate mice, in fact I find them quite cute… But their scurrying freaks me out… Anxiety levels are going through the roof, I am not having a great time.

The zookeeper gives us handfuls of sweetcorn, she tells us not to stroke the monkeys as they may bite (anxiety level goes up)… We should just hold a pice of corn in our fingers and wait for a monkey to take it… At this point i’m just wanting to get out… Jo seems happy and excited, I just want to escape. Then I meet Bandit.

Bandit is an Emperor Tamarin monkey… She’s small, so small she could fit in your hand (not that picking her up was an option) Bandit lost an arm in her early life (one armed Bandit.. Get it?) Bandit loves sweetcorn and will gently reach out to take it from your fingers… Bandit, however, ADORES worms, if she sees you have some worms in your hand she squeals in excitement.

Yes, I fell in love with a monkey called Bandit.

The people watching from above didn’t bother me anymore… The mice scurrying round didn’t matter any more… Even the oversized bird walking around with a menacing look in it’s eye didn’t bother me… All I was bothered with was making that little monkey happy, the urge to stroke her was overwhelming, but we’d been told stroking was forbidden (plus it more than likely would result in being bitten) so I had to make do with feeding her sweetcorn and worms.

Sadly after a while we had to move on from feeding the monkeys, so we were lead over to the other end of the “rainforest” to get a closer look at the Sloth (We saw two sloths at the zoo, a male and a pregnant female) the male was curled up on a high shelf area, doing as sloths do.. Pretty much nothing, I was wanting to get back to the monkeys, after all the sloth is a rather boring animal… Then he moved… Only slightly, but he moved… Then he moved again, slowly stretching out his arm… The zookeeper told us he doesn’t move much and that most people that do this activity don’t really see him move at all... We were honoured… Then he moved again… Quite a lot… In fact, he slowly stretched out, then slowly made his way from his shelf, down a branch, pretty much looking me in the eye all the way, eventually crawling right past me before settling himself wrapped around a tree close by… It was amazing, a real treat… An amazing experience.

Sadly it was time for our tour to end and we made our way out of the rain forest and out of the zoo.

Still high from our Monkey and sloth experience we made our way toward Camden, I was still on the lookout for a leather jacket and Jo thought Camden market may be the best chance we have of success, i’ve never had the desire to visit Camden, i’ve always seen it as one of those places that people who think they are “Arty” end up, I guessed i’d hate the place and everyone in it.

We had been in Camden for a short while when we found a pub called “The Dublin Castle” there were pictures of Amy Winehouse outside, i’d heard of the place and knew she had some kind of connection to it, so I suggested we go in for a drink… A pint of Guinness for me and a pint of Trooper for Jo, the barman was a cool friendly kid, the two blokes at the bar (in complete contrast to “Chelsea Boy”) were friendly and chatty without being pushy, above the bar was a picture of Amy Winehouse, signed by her with a note thanking the bar for all it’s done for her… Jo adored Amy Winehouse so being here was really special for her… I noticed the bar had foreign money stuck behind the bar, obviously left by tourists over the years, Jo fished a 20 baht note out of her purse which the barman stuck up alongside all the other bank notes… Now we’ve left our mark behind the bar of a pub that is a piece of music history.

After our drinks we continued deeper into Camden, it was busy, loud, a little bit insane… But I loved it! We wandered around the market, we wandered around a number of leather shops until finally, I found the perfect leather jacket...And despite being in London with “London prices” was actually reasonably priced too… Bonus!

Both tired from our adventure and thinking about our flight back to Thailand on Saturday morning we headed back toward our hotel.

We had dinner in a pub called “The pride of Paddington” a nice place with nice food, we had a couple of drinks before heading back to our hotel… And back to the 1970s.

Another terrible nights sleep. I will not miss this room or this god awful bed. We’re ready to go home.

A short walk through the streets of London and we’re at the train station, a short train ride and we’re at Heathrow airport… Ready for our epic journey back home to Bangkok.

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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