Footloose Scot

Footloose Scot by Jim Glendinning Read Free Book Online

Book: Footloose Scot by Jim Glendinning Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jim Glendinning
jungle. After ten minutes a pickup drove up behind us, and the driver, a white man, shouted at us to pile in. This was the Cave Lodge owner and in twenty minutes we arrived at his place. Perched on a slope above the bank of a river was a wood and bamboo building, and on each side a few cabins.
    Here I spent three days, hanging out just as I had been advised. There were trips on the river and to nearby caves to look at stalactites. But the most interesting activity was the evening discussions and tales which took place around a large table. There must have been six or more nationalities in a total of twenty people, and most had a story. The meal over, some more beers were ordered, a joint was being passed around and everyone was mellow. A couple from Liverpool described the problems with their rented jeep. It would not engage in reverse gear, so sometimes they had to push. A lawyer from Oregon explained why the Rajneesh guru, who started a commune in Oregon, had such a success in the USA recruiting well-educated followers. Some hours later, those with cabins would leave and the others would stretch out on the dining room floor.
    Arriving at Bangkok's brand new airport in 2009, the first thing one notices is the slogan "Long Live the King" on each jet way - a reminder that Thailand has a constitutional monarchy. Inside the busy terminal, a throng of pestering taxi touts offered rides to downtown Bangkok. I changed some money, found a pay phone, made a reservation at a guest house recommended in a guidebook, and took the express bus into town.
    "Strictly no drugs. No visitors in Guest Rooms. Sex tourists not welcome and will be discharged. Smoking in guest rooms is a crime." In the heart of the busy Sukumvit area of central Bangkok, the Suk 11 guesthouse was efficient and friendly, and enforced its rules. Converted to Thai rustic style, the guest house/hostel offered dorm beds and private rooms, with or without private bath. I took a private room, with a shower on the balcony, for $14 including breakfast, and immediately turned on the air conditioning as relief from the high heat and humidity. April is off-season and Suk 11 was only half-full. The guests were all foreigners of all ages, from South Africans to Europeans. Internet access, a library, and a meditation room were available. In the reception area, fans whirled overhead and the sound of flowing water came from an adjacent courtyard -an oasis of calm in the noisy city center.
    Outside was a different matter. Leaving the guest house I stepped out into a narrow street, lined with parked cars, motor bikes plus drivers waiting for customers, and sidewalk vendors selling hot and cold snacks. I passed the Sabai Sabai Massage Parlor, the Pickled Liver British pub and Charlie Brown's Tex-Mex Canttina before reaching a 711 convenience store, where I bought a soft drink.
    Later, I struck up a conversation in a restaurant with a large British man enjoying a plate of noodles. He said he was captain of a Russian ice breaker ship working on the Pacific Coast. He regularly came to Bangkok off-season, never booked in advance and always negotiated on the phone at the airport a steep discount at a four-star hotel. Returning to the guest house I watched an argument outside a coffee shop. A middle-aged Australian in a bright beach shirt was threatening to call the police if a street girl didn't return his passport. "C'mon, sweetie," he kept saying, "Just hand it over, and we'll be friends again." She eventually did, but only after he paid her an extra 1,000 baht ($30).
    The traffic noise was constant, the heat was serious and everywhere seemed crowded. Bangkok has a population of around 7 million. Despite the 2006 political coup by the generals, violence along the southern border with Malaysia and bombings in the capital, which have affected tourist arrivals, to my eye Bangkok seemed much like the last time I had visited 20 years before: vibrant, energetic and full of people. However,

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