Saturday, 1 December 2012

Bangkok Birthdays.

39th Birthday

Two weeks ago I turned 39 on the 19th of November (or Movember as some people call it). This got me thinking about where I have spent my other birthdays since leaving home at he age of 32.

32nd. Northumberland, England. I was working on my MSc at Newcastle University while contemplating selling my Morpeth house. I ended up selling online thus saving around £2000 in estate agent fees which funded about three months of travel costs.

33rd. Chengdu, Sichuan Province China. After a challenging two week bus journey through the eastern Himalayas from Kunming to Chengdu, it was time to chill out in one of China's large western cities. The Tibetan culture was fascinating along with the trek up Tiger Leaping Gorge. Hiking past the glacial Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was thrilling as the infant Yangtze crashed through the canyon far below. Being breathless at 4800m in Litang was another strange sensation. I didn't see the famous pandas of Chengdu but I did get my hair tipped blonde.

34th. Taiwan. I started working (briefly) as an English teacher in Taipei. Shortly afterwards I met a girl in the south of the country going by the name of ZiTing Chen. She invited me down to Tainan where she stuck a candle in a cake from 7/11 outside a temple smelling of joss-sticks. I was moved by her tenderness and two weeks later I quit my job and moved into her place. I lived with her and her family for around 7 months before going to plant rice in the Philippines. I am still heart broken about losing her.

35th. I was still wandering Asia sporadically when my new buddy Austrian Armin invited me to Pattaya, Thailand. I went and spent my 35th birthday in a heady cornucopia of sex and beer. One highlight (that I can barely remember) was dancing with an Armenian busker on the beach who was banging tambourines. He gave me one and off I went dancing and chanting gibberish with a tambourine. He didn't share his tips despite my skilled contribution.

36th. Trang, Thailand. Swedish Eric turned 60 on the same day so we ate a steak at Welcome Home - Trang's only western food joint. This was followed by a trip to Pri's Bar and onto karaoke at Nat's jungle junkyard. I also remember Pat dumping me around this time as I had to move out of her house shortly by the end of November. I had not long had my excellent Honda Phantom.

37th Phuket, Thailand. I had just started working at Headstart International School and had embarked on a PGCE. I had also just recovered from Dengue Fever which is potentially fatal! I had lost a lot of weight after 3 nights in Hospital which was expensive as I had no insurance.

38th Phuket. I had given notice to quit Headstart and was looking forward to a break from work and a motorbike trip to all of Thailand's 77 provinces. I was itching to escape Phuket after almost two years. I was looking forward to going to a Buddhist Monks' retreat in Surat Thani and biking through the mountainous North and the traditional Isaan regions.

39th Bangkok. I found myself hanging out with Matt and Geordie Neil. We treated ourselves to a two-lady 'massage' at Dr BJs which was delightful. The full English Breakfast at The Queen Vic was pretty good too. I also bought a new laptop which is already saving me money as I'm staying in on a Friday to write this. Acer Aspire 9000bt (£180) all in.

I feel like I have become entrenched in Thailand and I am hoping my 40th will be in somewhere like Australia, India, Nepal or Central America. I am rapidly approaching 4 years in Thailand and it's starting to feel too long for AWOL Geordie. The problem is that I have landed an enjoyable, well-paying job with a great bunch of colleagues in a beguiling city. I feel like I have slipped into a comfort zone that I have never quite known before. I have to snap out of this mind set if I am to continue my journey. I didn't intend to settle anywhere!

Mysterious Fan Incident

A strange thing happened recently. I was sound asleep one night when the plastic blades of my electric fan spontaneously shattered. I was covered in shards of plastic as I groggily woke up trying to fathom out what was going on. I guess the fan shaft wasn't running true and the resulting vibration caused too much stress for the material the blades are made from. Either that or the Thais are right and my room is haunted. Sends shivers down my spine thinking about it.

I bought another cheap-ass fan which broke a week later but I managed to merge the two together and create a working hybrid although the colour co-ordination leaves a lot to be desired. It's not like my room (with no glass in the windows) will win any feng-shui prizes anyhow.

A few random pics

English Alex used to work in Trang but he now has a great job in Malaysia. He was in Bangkok as he was flying to the UK for Xmas. Here we are in Soi 7 Beer Garden enjoying the German booze and the attention of some old freelancers.


Oom is a student at Bang Khen University. She is studying to be an English Teacher. We went on a date and ended up eating a KFC family bucket between us. Who says Geordies don't know how to treat the ladies? Needless to say I haven't heard from her since.

Even though this is not a great photo of either Neil or myself, it's the background that is the important thing. Neil has this massive picture of the Tyne on his office wall. We tried to make it look as if we were actually there but didn't really succeed. This the closest I've been to home in almost 7 years.

A Friday afternoon after work. Enjoying a beer or two with the lads. This winter weather goes right through you. The guy at the front-right, Dave, is a very interesting chap. He's the kind of bloke you can listen to all night. He was in the Royal Marines before getting into acting. He's been on TV in the UK and US. He has written books and been in documentaries about Thailand. He currently teaches drama at my school. Top bloke. You'll notice that I'm the only one with a tie on. Maths teachers - always maintaining the standards.

This is The Queen Vic on Soi 23. The English breakfasts in here are superb. This is Neil, Matt, Emily and some random drunk Aussie bloke who kept saying that Neil should be a doctor. The guy lost his shoes 5 minutes later. He also said he had 6 bar girls the night before and paid 2000bt for a taxi. That's enough to get you to Cambodia so I have no idea how he did that. He also said he had to fly to Perth at 7am the next morning and we reckon there is NO WAY he'll have made that flight! Matt and I call these sorts of folk two-week millionaires (and we're jealous of them if truth be told). This day was meant to be an alcoholiday but we fell off rails when happy hour started at 4.30pm after our breakfast.

Loy Kratong

Another Thai traditional ceremony. This was my fifth Loy Kratong. The flowery things on the tables are Kratongs that the kids had lovingly made out of banana leaves, bamboo and flowers. The teachers are in their Loy Kratong uniforms.

At night they float their Kratongs in rivers. Since our school doesn't have a river they improvised by constructing a massive paddling pool. It was a really nice atmosphere after school with traditional music, dance and food.


Look at this food. How crap does it look?  I had my first ever double Big Mac last week. I really want to get away from all this corporate shite. I ate this as I was waiting on Rajan to come and take us to Chonburi Town.

Here he is with his nice car. I hadn't been in a proper car for ages. It felt strange. Rajan is the other maths teacher and he has fully subscribed to the modern world with his mortgage, car, wife, kids etc. He is one year younger than me and I don't envy him any of it. He is well and truly stuck here whereas I am free to go anywhere I like at the drop of a hat. When he told me he only has two more car payments left, I involuntarily shuddered.

This is what normal Thai people do. Not Bangkok people but normal people in the rest of the country. They eat food and drink whiskey on a mat on the ground. The sea is behind us but the white chairs that line the promenade all, bizzarely, face inland?


I have been going to the gym once a week for the last few months. I have been running 2.4km each time. As a 39 year old in the Royal Navy, you have to run it in 12m36s. When I was 17 I did it in 7m50s. In July it took me 18mins!! That really shocked me. I blame the booze, tabs and zero exercise since I moved to this 'party' country. Yesterday, I did it in 12m18s. I was delighted to have finally made it but I was absolutely wrecked at the end of it.

It is scary how out of shape you can become. 18mins is a ridiculous time. It's only slightly faster than walking speed. However, I doubt many people I know here could pass this particular test. It's a worry. I hope I keep going once a week to maintain this level of stamina.


I bought some dye last week to highlight my hair. This is all part of my personally-perceived mid-life crisis. I am sure some of my hair is starting to go gray although it's difficult to be certain because of its colour. The bottle remains unopened but we shall see.

Toon Army?

So what has happened. Four defeats in a row to opposition you'd have thought we would've taken 12 points from. No strength in depth.

Monetization - online guru

This is a term you hear a lot online. Eventually, when I quit teaching calculus I want to create a website about travel, retirement and finance. I aim to generate a small income from this endeavour. Back in 2009, as a trial, I attempted to monetize this blog. I checked today and it's made a massive £3.04. That's about £1/year.

I would love to provide financial information for travellers and retirees when I have more time. Perhaps even write a book or two. It's my dream that any income generated would fund my own travels. However, £1/year will not sustain my costs (as minimal as they are) so I better start thinking outside the box.

Hehe. £1/year. Bill Gates better watch out.


Mai wang leoy - I'm not available
rib roey - done
neung pown neung pee - £1/year

1 comment:

  1. Hey Stephen,
    Happy Birthday! I've enjoyed your site for years (starting when you were in the Philippines) and always enjoy your offbeat humor. Great idea about a book! Take care.


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