Bangkok: until next time

So It’s over…

Thailand has been on the UK amber list for a while, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before it moved its ass up into the red zone… And well dear reader (yes YOU) it happened… Thailand is in the red zone.

My last blog (yep, still hate that word) was all about how we had come back to England and how we would be moving back here… Well, we got back to Thailand and spent 14 “wonderful” nights in a “luxury” ASQ hotel… Don’t get me wrong, the hotel was ok (if a little dated) but it was far from luxury… Unless of course, your idea of luxury is as having various people shove swabs up your nose with varying degrees of depth to give you three COVID tests over the length of your stay… Seriously, each COVID test seemed to get deeper and deeper… I swear the last one tried to worm its way into my brain.

During our stay there was concern that Thailand could move from its position in the amber list to the red list (in regards to travelling back to the UK) if it moved to red during our stay it had been decided that I would leave ASQ and fly straight back to England… There was no way we would be paying the extortionate amount of money for us both to stay in a UK ASQ… Seriously, some fucker is making a lot of money out of all this.

Anyway… Thailand dodged a bullet and remained on the amber list… We left ASQ and headed back to our apartment.

A few days later we were in a car heading to our friends' house, everyone had prepared or bought food, the plan was to drink, eat and enjoy each other’s company… We all knew our time together as the group we’ve all grown to love was coming slowly to an end, Me and Jo would be leaving soon… Henry and Angela were leaving too…A great time was had by all… It was sad to think this would be one of the last times we would be together for some time…

A few days later and we were travelling to Cha Am with a couple of our friends to spend a few days near a beach and to visit two of our other friends who were staying there while Bangkok was on lockdown, we’d hired a villa, it wasn’t great, I get the impression it was once great, but now it needed some TLC, it did, however, have a nice outside area and a pool….It also had a group of dogs living nearby which would put on a lovely “fuck you, we are werewolves” howling show every night…. We met up with our friends and had some drinks, food and laughs before two of them heard back to Bangkok( one of them was heading back to the UK) and we moved from our wolf infested villa to the villa with our friends, we were joined by another friend… It’s a bit of a friend’s revolving door I know for more drinks, food and laughs… We had a great time riding around the area on bikes and enjoying delicious food (man, it amazes me how one person working in a kitchen that is essentially a shed with one gas burner can produce such delicious food)… We found ourselves at a beach called models beach, a beautiful beach set up with props for Instagram wannabe models to pose for pictures… We sat, we chatted, we drank smoothies and then I had a flash of inspiration… We should take pictures… But not the usual type of picture this beach usually inspires people to take… Anti-influencer pictures… The brief was simple, each person had to take a picture… Funniest or worst picture would be the winner… I didn’t win… But hey, it’s not the winning… It’s the taking the piss out of influencers that counts right?

We had a great time at Cha Am… It was great seeing our friends… As we left we hugged and I said I’d see them again… At this time I didn’t realise I’d be leaving so soon.

Laying in bed on Thursday night, ready to fall asleep I found myself googling BBC news… There I saw the red and amber lists had been updated… I looked at the list and saw Thailand was being moved to the red zone.

“You’ve got to go back” Jo said… It was too soon… I didn’t feel I’d said my farewells properly… I honestly thought I had more time… Jo frantically tried to contact the airline to change my flights… We found ourselves unable to sleep… What had been such a nice quiet, peaceful night seemed to have descended into chaos.

After a few hours of sleep I awoke… I was stressed… I was worried… I was going to have to fly halfway around the world alone… I’d have to leave Jo in Bangkok alone… We haven’t been apart in over two years… I felt awful.

My flight was changed… I’d be flying from Bangkok late on Saturday evening… I spent Friday cancelling my visa and going for a COVID test… All the time my stomach was a stress induced mess… I felt terrible…

I awoke on Saturday morning feeling better… I had calmed down, I had stopped panicking about flying alone… I was at peace… Our maid Dah arrived to clean the apartment, when she finished I gave her a hug to say goodbye, she sobbed, I didn’t think she would cry… I felt terrible… Dah left and our friends arrived for a goodbye beer… A few minutes later two more friends arrived… We chatted, we drank… I don’t say “goodbye” (even though I’ve used the word goodbye here quite a lot) It’s not goodbye… I know I’ll see these people again… It’s “until next time” After they had left I found myself wandering around the apartment... My apartment… An apartment I’ve loved from the second I had laid eyes on it… I didn’t want to leave it…But I knew I had to… All too soon it was 8 O’clock… My car had arrived to take me to the airport… Our friend had arrived to keep Jo company when she got back… We hugged, we said our “I’ll see you agains” (fuck goodbyes) and me and Jo headed off toward the airport… Jo would see me off then head back… I hated watching her walk away… I hated thinking about her upset in the taxi going back to the apartment that had been our home for the past year… But, I had to keep my head clear… I had to get my arse on that plane without screwing anything up.

So… I have an ongoing problem when I go through airport security… I’m handing my things over to be scanned… But I’m terrible and getting myself sorted once the scan is finished… It’s as if I’ve never had to put my phone and wallet back in my pocket while trying to fasten my belt up before… I’m a mess… I worry that I’m holding up the line… So this time I made an extra special effort not to get flustered… This time I was going to do it right.

I removed my shoes and placed them in the plastic tray, I removed my watch and belt, I placed them in a tray along with my phone, passport and wallet… I removed my laptop from its bag and placed it in the tray… I put my hand luggage case onto the table and headed off to be x-rayed (or whatever they do)… I calmed myself… I walked back to the desk and collected my things… I carried them over to a separate desk and slowly got myself sorted.. I was feeling so proud of myself… No being flustered… I made sure I was neat and tidy, looked at the plastic trays and thought “I know, I’ll be nice… I’ll take those trays back to the desk” I picked up the trays and walked back to the desk… Where I saw that in my quest to not get flustered I had left my hand luggage case on the security desk… I saw the case… Thought “shit” and grabbed the case… The girl at the desk said “wait” as I grabbed the case, she didn’t look too happy… Then another girl appeared and said, “It’s ok.. Take”... Which I read as “take your case dickhead”… A little embarrassed, I took my case and walked away.

I arrived at the departure area and marvelled at how Thai people can manage to use as many seats as possible whenever seating is available… One seat for them, another seat for their bag and oh fuck it “My mobile phone needs a seat too!” I wandered around and eventually found a seat where I spent a while messing about on my phone while mentally assessing my fellow passengers… A couple of Thai girls taking selfies… A grumpy Englishman swearing under his breath… Two men in wheelchairs… The flight gate opened and we all headed toward the boarding gate, after a short time we began boarding the plane… In front of me, a young Thai girl was holding her phone engaging in a video call with a friend… The man in front of her stopped walking suddenly and (because she was so engrossed in her video call) she walked straight into his suitcase… He grumbled… She ignored… This happened a total of three times as we walked toward the plane.

I (after a little bit of confusion) found my seat… And found I was sitting next to one of the wheelchair users… I settled myself, I chose which film I would watch and prepared myself for the flight… After a meal of Chicken Pad Thai (well I think it was Pad thai… Whatever it was, it was delicious) I began to watch my chosen film “Mortal Kombat” oh dear God it was shit… After suffering through the terrible film I put my eye mask on and fell asleep… A few hours later I was awoken by a commotion beside me, the wheelchair bound sexpat (yes I had decided he was a sexpat) was having a medical emergency… “Do you need a doctor?” I heard the stewardess ask… “Do you want oxygen?” she asked… “Oh shit, they’re going to divert the plane” I thought… Wheelchair sexpat asked for oxygen… I heard the sound of the mask going on (I still had my eye mask on) and he seemed to settle… So I went back to sleep… Well, I tried to… The wheelchair sexpat began having more issues… “Do you need a doctor?” the stewardess asked again… “Oh fuck this I thought” and took off my eye mask… A stewardess approached me “Do you speak English?” she asked “yes” I sleepily replied, she pointed at wheezy, the wheelchair bound sexpat “As you can see, he’s having a medical emergency… I’m not asking you to watch him all night, but if he deteriorates, can you let us know?”

“Yeah, sure” I replied… As she walked away I put my eye mask back on and fell back to sleep.

I awoke to find wheezy the sexpat was still alive… I watched another film, played some games and enjoyed the rest of my flight… The plane came into land in Amsterdam, as the wheels touched the tarmac a young boy sitting close by shouted “OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO CRASH!” I laughed maybe a little too loudly… Cool kid… Really cool.

The flight from Amsterdam to Birmingham went without incident… There was a strange mix of passengers on board… An Asian passenger was being a bit of dick about wearing a facemask, the crew kept making announcements and one member of the flight crew made it her personal mission to make this rebel obey the rules… Fair play love, fair play.

A glamorous looking black lady was on board… Lots of jewellery, expensive looking clothes… Quite a striking figure… But what made her stand out was her two companions… Two young men… One of which had the worst body odour I have ever encountered… It made no sense… She looked so good… Why didn’t tell her companion to take a bath every once in a while?

I was sitting alone, I found myself thinking about my life in Thailand, places I’d seen, things I had experienced, the people I had met… I found myself feeling low, It was as if it had suddenly dawned on me that it was over… The adventure had ended… I missed my friends… I wanted to turn around and go back.

The Plane landed and we seemed to wait for an age to be released into Birmingham… We sailed through (pardon the mixed metaphor) through the passport control and paperwork checks and found ourselves in the baggage claim area… This is where things went downhill.

There were (I think) five baggage carousels… None of which were moving… The room was full of people, but nobody was able to collect their luggage… I could hear grumbles, I could see people were not happy… A member of staff walked by and an angry older man asked him why there was no movement… The staff member said something and headed out of a door leaving the man behind… We waited for what seemed like an age… A young woman who had been on my flight stood close by, she would look at her watch, then her phone, then back to her watch… She looked agitated… An older man appeared and tried to start a conversation with her, his opening gambit of moaning about understaffing didn’t seem to spark any interest, after a few minutes of being ignored he walked away… An announcement was made of the loudspeaker system but it was so quiet nobody could make out what was being said… An angry looking woman with a crying child seemed to be getting angrier by the minute… I feared there was going to be a riot…Suddenly a beeping noise erupted and one of the carousels began to move, a cheer erupted from the lower part of the room… Still, our carousel remained still… Then it moved and about ten cases appeared… They were collected (well, six of them) and then nothing more… For twenty minutes or so the remaining four cases went around and around…

The girl who ignored the older man said “I don’t know why they (the staff) don’t do anything… What are they just wandering around?” unsure if she was talking to me or not I ignored her and picked up my phone to call Jo (when in doubt, call the wife!) More time passed and another staff member appeared, he said something to a group of people and they all bolted away from the carousel “What the fuck is happening?” I thought… the people scattered but a handful remained “well, he’s not telling people to get out so it can’t be a bomb scare” I thought… He spoke again and I thought I made out the words “Amsterdam” and “One”… He walked toward a door, I intercepted him “Excuse me, did you just say Amsterdam cases are on carousels one?” “Yeah” he mumbled and then disappeared through a door.

Now, I was pissed. The screen had clearly stated our cases would be on carousel five… Had my cases been travelling around carousel one all along?… I was pissed off even more when I saw that my case had been damaged by someone clearly not taking care of it… I was tired (I’d been travelling for almost twenty four hours) I was cranky… I was missing Jo and missing Bangkok.

My cousin met me in the arrivals area and drove me home. We chatted but I found that I couldn’t keep my train of thought… I’d start a sentence and then sort of come to a mental brick wall halfway through speaking and just stop... I think I had become too tired. I simply couldn’t function anymore. The journey had physically taken its toll… And emotionally I just wasn’t right… I feared that I would crumble, I didn’t feel as strong as I usually feel, I thought “oh shit I’m going to end up crying aren’t I?”

For the record, I didn’t cry. I’m not saying I won’t tho… Given time.

Until next time….

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