I landed in Bangkok on Christmas Eve and found the city to be absolutely delightful. The streets were lined with dazzling arrays of lights tantamount to the fluorescent cheeriness of a thousand Yogurt Lands. The boulevards were chock-full of friendly fellows of all orientations and deformities, many of whom were insistent on you seeing a rousing ping pong show – really a site for the whole family – where a woman, most certainly sober – volleys ping pong balls, lemons, golf balls, and other such objects out of her genitalia. As I am not the theatre type, I passed on this lovely opportunity and opted for the walking tour of the city instead. While I confess that the temples were astounding, the water transit system invigorating, and the overall structures of the city quite compelling – it was the people, the colorful, affable, precious little people – that turned Bangkok from a normal Asian megalopolis into a magical kingdom full of love, laughs and adventure. Perhaps it was the omnipresence of miniskirts and “massage parlors” which made the city so dazzling, but I dare not reduce Bangkok’s charm to a single trick, no, credit is equally due to the swarms of black-eyed Europeans and their dazed sex-workers in tow, the convincing lady boys that parade the sidewalks and the lady-men that leave so little to the imagination, the stalls that hock scorpions, maggots, Viagra, vibrators, and cockroaches, and their neighbors with limitless stocks of tazers, brass knuckles and assorted torture devices at wholesale prices. For three splendid nights my girlfriend and I explored this quaint town of limitless potential (in most cases potential to contract a life-threatening virus and or find yourself eviscerated in an organ-harvesting plant) and it was superb. As for the food – there is no comparison on earth.
Then, with our friends en route from Kathmandu, we elected to leave the gates of Eden, you know, the gate located next to the dreadlocked Israeli engulfed in vomit, no no, beside the group of Brazilians screaming at the polio-inflicted homeless man, yes, across from the Burger King, right, right, no, if you find a group of Koreans taking photographs of cracks in the cement you’ve gone to far. Yes, well, anyhow, we spent a night and a day aboard various modes of transportation that would even irritate the ever-chipper John Candy himself (of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles fame). The journey’s chief discomforts stemmed from an unforeseen plague that has apparently been decimating Thailand’s delicate socio-ecosystem for years. Though one might expect the admittedly luxurious tourist-buses to be insulated from the ravages of said pandemic, from first hand experience I can say that nowhere is safe. You see, a seasonal infestation, an invasive species if you will, blankets not only the country’s beautiful shores but the very infrastructure of the nation itself, threatening the native way of life, and its less hardened visitors, to the brink of extinction. They are Australians, and they are deadly. Had I the authority, I would advise immediate and unequivocal quarantine. Unfortunately, I believe no such warning shall be heeded, and we can only hope that their spread is curbed and contained by meteorological factors which prohibit the wearing of garish tank tops and flip flops.
We arrived, sun burnt as lizards, on the island of Ko Phangan, famed for its full-moon parties, unabashed substance abuse, and unchecked debauchery. The shores were subsumed in glass, with few specks of sand to be seen. The cosmic collision of both the full moon and the New Year foreshadowed a dismal reality; the storm was approaching. The Australians were amassing. Poseidon unfurled a thousand monsoons upon the island in a matter of hours. The seas raged and the firmament collapsed upon the island in a violent splat, but still the island stood. Their ranks were too large in number. Poseidon was weak. The Gods were dead. Where were our protectors, now, as the hordes filed rank? Rather than hear a single more “Oy, Oy, Oy,” we hatched our escape.
We fled to a more remote part of the island accessible only by water taxi. There, on our small strip of beach, we discovered another disturbing species residing on what we’d anticipated to be our sanctuary. Appropriately, the main hostel there was called “The Sanctuary”, a yogic retreat. Inappropriately, its residents were ostensible sea-gypsies washed ashore by some horrible tsunami that managed to sweep the denizens of the world’s most bizarre and depraved psytrance clubs, Ibiza, Goa, Burning Man, Cancun, onto our otherwise serene strip of beach. They were unlike any spectacle I have ever beheld before; a flock of Europeans, bedraggled beyond recognition yet still of the jetsetter type – utterly statuesque, frolicking throughout the beach and forest, each hour entangled with a new partner, enduring daily colonic cleanses when the tides permitted. They dressed in leather garb and tattered harnesses, swordless sheaths and raccoon tails, their Renaissance garb betrayed only by the vestiges of neon paint and steam-punk goggles from the previous nights. We asked few questions. They were harmless. We endured.
Our friends arrived and we spent an idyllic week on the beach gorging on phenomenal coconut concoctions and rehydration salts. All the while the constant thump of outdated techno blared from the island’s many clubs, which, having outlived the predicted apocalypse, opted to never cease partying for the remainder of eternity.
Twenty-four hours after New Years I found myself sitting on a cliff overlooking the ever-warm sea. The still infuriated, now emasculated Poseidon futilely hammered away at the shoreline with everything left in his salty arsenal. I saw the colossal red glow of an atomic test blossom on the horizon. It turned out to be the first moon of 2013.
Two days later I left the island with severe congestion and a broken heart. On my last night in Bangkok I was forced to sleep beneath the incandescent glow of a Burger King. As the sun rose I beheld the last of the transvestites cat-walking the boulevard on her last call of the evening. Then I drowsily stumbled into Kuala Lumpur.