Bangkok Buzz: Part 3

Category Series
By Jayne Renault
Time 9 minutes

It wasn't long before I heard the telltale tune of an electronic doorbell. With literally thousands of 7-Eleven stores throughout Thailand, you're never too far away from one. 

The obnoxious ping that sounds as the door slides open had me conditioned to brace right before for the aggressive AC could slap me in the face. I left my sunglasses on in a sad attempt to hide how much of a degenerate I was that day while I wandered the aisles of prawn-flavored snacks.

I think the first wave of my hangover is crashing down right about now…

I grabbed a bottle of water and one of those generic packs of electrolytes for good measure, but of course, there was a much more important element to the mission at hand. No hangover trip to a Thai 7-Eleven would be complete without acquiring the holy grail of pre-packaged breakfasts - the ham and cheese toastie.

I mumbled a sheepish “Sawadee ka” to the girl at the till. She smiled. And I know my Thai is not the best, but I’m pretty sure that roughly translated, she meant, “Wow, you look like hot garbage.” She handed my plastic wrapped sandwich to the other guy to have it toasted up while I handed her the cash.

At the time, it felt like waiting for that tasty thing to cook was going to be longest five minutes of my day. Little did I know it wouldn't be the last of my unfortunate delays.

“Hello!” I hadn’t noticed the young man peel my grilled perfection out of the toaster and shove it into its little cardboard sleeve. I smiled my thanks to him, bracing myself once again for the extreme temperature shift as I walked back out into the sweltering daylight. 

The infamous 7-Eleven toastie is easily the best third-degree burn for your baht in town. The heat seeping through the cardboard into my fingers should have been enough to remind me of this, but I’m impatient at the best of times, and I was extra hasty in my post-soirée stupor that day. 

I took a generous bite and instantly regretted my decision. 

A reflexive sharp inhalation was followed promptly by a choking cough. People stared and shook their heads as they walked past. They clearly had no pity for me. 

I know, I know… I have no one to blame but myself.

I probably should have just spit that piping hot chunk back out into my bag, but what little pride I had left forced me to keep it in my mouth and accept my punishment. I stiffened my upper lip and wiped away my tears as that callous, cheese-filled, flaky pastry scorched its way down my throat. What’s more is that as I continued with my obvious struggle to eat and walk, I tripped over my own foot and stubbed my exposed toes on the sidewalk. 

To say I was a sight for sore eyes might be a bit of an understatement.

Well, I might look like a total mess, I thought. But no one knows who I am here. So, at least I have that.

The directions the Belgian gave me had seemed pretty straightforward. But when I finally started to rise above the fog of the night before, I realized I hadn’t even seen any BTS station yet, and the sneaking suspicion that I had gone in the completely wrong direction started to settle in.

Walking up the unfamiliar streets, I thankfully found a city map next to a bus stop on the side of the road. I stared at it endlessly while I nibbled tiny bites off my scalding hot sandwich. It took me way too long to figure out where I was in the world.

As a totally arbitrary rule, I don’t ever take the bus. You have to know which line, which direction, which stop... And especially doing all that in a foreign language? No thanks. I’m nervous enough asking for directions when I've got my wits about me, never mind when I’m a pile of steaming hot trash.

So, once I located myself on the map and which direction it was that I needed to go in order to find my way back home, I obstinately continued on foot. 

I really have no explanation for the level of stubbornness I exhibited that day. It was hot as balls - Bangkok’s noontime sun was showing me no mercy for my wretched hangover. And I was definitely hungover as shit - maybe even still a little high? Plus, I was wearing flip flops - not exactly the best choice of footwear for a cross-city trek. I could have easily turned around and made my way back to any Skytrain station to cover ground a lot faster. I could have just as easily hailed a cab, for that matter. But I was feeling cheap. And again, I felt like I deserved to be punished. Some lazy form of repentance in an attempt to absolve me of the ribbons of shame that come along with such an unforgiving hangover.

About halfway through my expedition, I realized I must have left my bottle of water and the electrolytes on the counter at the 7-Eleven. I literally face palmed myself.

And so, I walked. 

Checking the maps that I stumbled upon every so often. Regularly finding that I was off the mark and having to backtrack to get back on track anyways.

For nearly two hours.

So dumb...

And just when I thought I was going to be lost forever, I emerged at the other end of a street called Soi Kraisi and finally recognized my surroundings. I breathed a weary sigh of relief - I’m going to make it!

Turning the corner at the gaudy, bright yellow K-Bank, I finally found myself back at the familiar tree-laden Rambuttri footpath. As per usual, the gauntlet of shrewd Thai hawkers at the entrance to my little enclave was fully loaded. 

“Eh, tuktuk? — Tuktuk!”
“Hello, hello!”
“Sawadee kup!”
“You want ping-pong show?”

I didn’t even blink behind my sunglasses in response to the standard onslaught of heckling and tongue popping. The familiar stench of last night was still heavy on me; the touts knew as well I as I did that there was no way I was going to be their next customer.

I was totally exhausted, and sweating a bunch - I could feel my hangover's second wind picking up. Rounding the final corner, I could almost smell the quiet waiting for me inside my room just a little further down the path. Almost there...

“Jayne?”

A tremor of sheer dread rushed down my spine and out of my bare, bruised toes. Good lord, who could possibly know me here right now?

I did recognize the voice, but I was still pretty dazed, so it took me a moment to place the name, as well as determine where it had actually come from. He made it easy for me though — the speaker rose from his tiny folding chair in the shade of a nearby awning and walked towards me.

Fucking great…

He was a tall, reasonably handsome young man not much older than me. The ends of his shaggy blonde hair were extra sun bleached, and his deeply tanned skin told stories of many a beach day. He hasn’t said enough for you to know yet, but he was Australian. 

Just the total antithesis of anything that has ever come close to being one of my types. 

But I did hook up with him about a year ago all the same. 

It was okay.  

“How are you?” he said, offering me a completely unnecessary hug. 

Unnecessary because he went totally AWOL after our last encounter.


Noah worked for an adventure travel company that guided groups of feisty twenty-something on trips through the notorious party culture in the south of Thailand. I am familiar with this culture because I was one of those twenty-somethings not so long ago; my introduction to Thailand and the subsequent love affair that ensued with the country had been as a direct result of one such trip. 

There are a handful of similar companies that cater to that young, thirsty clientele, and the guides who work for them tend to overlap quite often, forming an interesting micro-faction of the expat community. So, even though Noah hadn’t been leading my pack, we crossed paths a few times during my stay.

At first, I was put off by him. Like I said, he wasn’t really my type. First of all, he was little too beardy for my liking. Then he toyed with the many girls who were all horned up on holiday juices, shamelessly encouraging their tactless groupthink flirtation, which just turned me off even more. I'm all for healthy competition, but I don't really get off on being part of the hungry throng vying for a single piece of over-chewed meat. Plus, for whatever reason, I’ve never had a thing for Aussie accents. My pussy is a bit hipster like that.

But as time went on, and I sunk a little deeper into my own holiday heat, I found myself warming up to him. To the point that we fumbled through an unexpectedly pleasant poolside makeout session one night in Railay after just the right amount of Chang beers and flirty dancing at the aptly named Last Bar. I was told that it was generally frowned upon for the guides to hookup with the travelers. But even though we didn’t have sex that night, I got the impression that Noah didn’t really follow that rule. 

That said, much to my surprise and delight, his kisses came without any looming sense of sexpectation. Just a nice little bout of making out simply for the sake of it. Which was… Well, it was pretty nice. It was enough for us to connect on Facebook before I left anyways. 

I had become so enamored with the Banana Pancake Trail vibes that I immediately set out to plan my return to South East Asia while I was on my the flight back home, and only a few short months later, I was back for some deeper solo exploration. Although we didn’t make any major effort to stay in touch beyond the odd photo like or comment in the meantime, I reached out to Noah shortly before my triumphant return to Bangkok. I do live for the thrill of solo travel, but it always helps to have a man on the inside. 

For extra tips on what to do, I mean! God, get your mind out of the gutter… It’s not always a sex thing.

As it happened, he had a little time off from the guiding grind around the time that I arrived, and was “happy to hang.” And once we found ourselves alone together without the prying (or jealous) eyes of other group members, we were able to dig a little deeper.

He was more intelligent than I had given him credit for, and the conversation over our spicy steamed chicken rice flowed as smoothly as my Singha beer. I learned that he had completed his undergrad in biochemistry, and had been on track to carry on in the same field with grad studies when he suddenly realized he actually had no desire to follow that path and hopped on a plane instead. I could obviously sympathize.

Turned out that he had a lot more to offer than that archetypal Aussie babe thing going for him anyways. 

Or maybe it was all just an elaborate ploy to get into my sweaty shorts. In which case, it apparently worked. 

It was completely dark by the time we had finished our street eats and made our way down to Khao San Road. That’s where we found a number of his coworkers along with a sizeable travel group already planted on their plastic chairs outside a classic Thai bucket stand. It was the group's first night in town, so chances that things would get a little weird were pretty high.

I recognized the faces of some of the other guides from last time. But I knew none of them would remember me; Noah’s quick introduction of me confirmed my suspicions. I tended not to make the most splashing impression when I was lost in a sea of loud, drunk personalities like I was on my inaugural journey through Thailand. Which suited me just fine - it’s easier for me to disappear whenever I feel like it that way.

After hours of drinking in the street and sweaty dancing at The Club across the Road, the night began to cull the less serious partiers from the herd - I was decidedly amongst the weak. Still a little jet lagged, I didn’t really feel the need to go all out because, as my passport can confirm, this wasn’t my “once in a lifetime Thailand adventure.”

When he wasn’t right next to me, Noah had been watching my movements from across the dance floor all night. “I’ve got some beers back in my room,” he suggested in the end. “You’re welcome to join me.”

I knew it was our Bangkok equivalent to Netflix and Chill, and I was totally down. “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

And so, leaving the messy crew of wasted fledgling adventurers behind, we weaved arm in sweaty arm through the Khao San bustle all the way back to his place.

[To Be Continued...]

Posted on Jul 12, 2017

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