29 September 2006

Chapter 4 - The Arrival

The plane touches down gently at Bangkok airport at 7 a.m. Back home in England, it is Midnight which means we have been travelling, all told, for 18 hours. Six thousand miles. I didn't realise it was that far. In fact, another few thousand miles and I'd be in Australia which appears to be a hop, skip and jump on the map. Obviously, I won't be going to Australia. Mostly because I don't like Australians, but that's another story.

We get out at the airport and I retrieve my cigarettes. Almost 20 hours without smoking and I suddenly realise that my craving for tobacco has completely disappeared. For a moment I consider quitting. Just throw them away, you don't need them. No more coughing, no more random, terrifying chest pains, no more drunken missions to the 24-hour garage at 3 in the morning. Be free! Kill the beast! Toss the monkey from your back!

I suddenly remember that cigarettes here are a fifth of the price of those in the UK and decide it would be a terrible waste not to avail myself of such a bargain. Chuckling and shaking my head as the cigarette monkey wheezily clambers back up onto my shoulders once more, I light up. Bliss.

An hour and a half taxi-ride later, during which I sleep fitfully, we arrive in Pattaya.

My brother suggested we spend a week here for rest and relaxation before doing a little travelling. He warned me that there was an element of prostitution here in some of the bars, so I was prepared for it.

I think it's fair to say that he slightly undersold the position.

Pattaya is, pretty much, prosititute central. The place is heaving with them. I thought perhaps it was confined to a few seedy bars but, as ever, I was badly wrong. Very badly wrong. So badly wrong that I doubt whether I could have been any more wrong. Badly.

In actual fact, it's something of the opposite of my initial belief. There are a few bars that aren't prostitute watering holes, and these are generally filled with men that have picked up a lady somewhere else and decided to take her to somewhere a little more refined.

It's a culture shock.

But, more importantly, the drink is cheap, the food is good - although I'm eating on average 1 small meal a day because it's too hot here - and I could be at work. But I'm not. I'm 6,000 miles away from work and bills and everything that usually makes my life a misery. So, what is there to be miserable about?

Oh, one more thing. Every time I walk past a bar, there is a chorus of young women, all leaning towards me and shouting "Hello, sexy man! Hello!".

The women here have excellent taste and I applaud them for it.

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