Today is thirty six degrees C, which, by the reckoning of any sensible man, is bloody ridiculous. However, we are growing accustomed to these temperatures and have, by degrees, been setting the aircon unit in our room higher, to a comfortable twenty five. And that’s to keep us cool!
This time of year back home we’re stoking up the stove like Casey Jones’s fireman to achieve that kind of warmth, and we have woken to the kind of temperatures that you are recommended to keep your fridge at. The other night the surly landlady in a rare moment of approachability demonstrated how cold she was by rubbing her arms and making brrr sounds. It was twenty five degrees, so, in a rare moment of camaraderie, I showed her the temperature back home on my phone. She was wide eyed with shock.
All of the beaches on Koh Samet have resorts on them. Little beach huts on stilts built onto the volcanic rock which are way out of our price range, and today we’re back at Ao Nuan. Because these are resort beaches, there are no sunloungers for hire, which means you have to lie on your towel.
And you are back there in England thinking that it’s all easy for us here. Not a bit of it, we have our problems too.
GO ON THEN, YOU TELL ME WHERE WE SHOULD EAT TONIGHT YOU BASTARDS! GO ON!
Right. Now you understand.
Anyway, the sand is not quite mattress-ey enough for my liking, as is its way, but I have invented the bum scrape, a technique that allows one to maximize the comfortableness of the beach which involves squirming the buttocks around to create a hollow into which you can settle. The “bum scrape”.
Nel, ever more uncouth than me, called it an arse hole.
Last night we decided that we should go to the Reggae Bar which, I’m sure the more intuitive of you will guess, is a bar dedicated to reggae, specifically Bob Marley.
There is a large Honda parked outside which has a sidecar painted red gold and green. The backrest in the sidecar is a guitar, neck upwards, upholstered and bolted into position. Cool!
Bob Marley’s Honda
The band arrived, three very cool looking Thai blokes, and, after the customary twanging and tune up, launched into Imagine, John Lennon. They were warming up, but it sounded good.
Then they began playing Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Pink Floyd and other stuff I didn’t know.
At first there were only two couples in there but it soon started to fill up.
People were applauding between songs, and the guitar player would say, “good. We like hands. Good strong hands, for your wife.” We found this very funny, though on reflection, I have no idea why, except that this is Thailand, and lots of things seem funny.
Soon, a whole bunch of girls in underwear arrived. The collective noun for these girls is a skimpy, and I know this for sure because I’ve just made it up.
Nel reckoned that they were wearing rather less than their underwear, but I don’t know because I didn’t look, I just refuse to give attention to girls who’re asking for it.
These girls, so stereotypical of Thailand, and the number one reason to come here for many men, seem to me to be curiously sexless, and no, I’m not gay.
They are an invocation of the exotic east to be sure, but mostly little older than children. To me anyway, being a middle aged bloke.
There was a table of oriental gentlemen, Koreans or Chinese maybe, and four of these girls skipped over to their table, giggling and dancing, to encourage them to have a good time and spend more money.
It is a curious phenomenon, because surely everyone must have heard stories about how someone they know has been taken for everything.
His Thai girlfriend and he building a house here somewhere, and then, once he’s sunk his life savings into it, and borrowed more than he can hope to pay back in his lifetime, to please her, she moves her brother in. Who turns out to be her husband.
These inarguably lovely girls in underwear, do men imagine that when she goes out in the evening, not knowing that tonight will be the night that she will meet her future husband who is, by chance in the same bar she’s in when he could have gone on holiday anywhere in the world, and when she might have gone to a different bar, does he imagine that they go out with their mates in their smalls? Really? Or that they’re just gagging for it from an elderly fat white man?
Having said that though, there are couples that you see around who’re older and look like they’ve been together a while, because she’s not hanging onto his arm and giggling at everything he says, and occasionally you’ll see a white girl with a Thai man, or a young couple with a baby who you can just tell are committed to each other and the baby.
And then, I guess, there are sometimes contracts and understandings that work for both parties. And that’s ok.
So. At about 9.30 one of the waiters in the reggae bar was called up and the band blasted through a load of Marley covers.
This waiter bloke, he can sing. He really can.
When they’re not doing indescribably bad karaoke, they have this thing about not just doing a cover, but singing it like the original and this wiry Thai bloke had the nuances of Bob down. Really.
And then a man came and sat down opposite us at our table, a skinny fidgety bloke with a bottle of Pepsi. We thought perhaps he wasn’t quite the full ticket, he kept stealing glances at Nel.
That didn’t come out right.
I mean, it wasn’t because he was stealing glances at Nel that made us think he was a bit odd, she has asked me to point out, but that he was furtive and nervous and a bit strange.
Thais, weirdly, like white skin, and you often see bin men, or fishermen, or people walking down the street, or men riding on the back of the cess pit emptying truck shading their faces with a square of cardboard or something, or wearing balaclavas in the thirty five degree heat!
This is, Kev tells us, and we have no reason to disbelieve him, because having white skin is demonstrating to the world and everyone else that you don’t work outside. That you’re not a peasant.
And, when you think about it, it’s not so different from in the UK, I mean, the queen isn’t brown as a walnut is she?
If you see a bloke in the pub who is a mahogany coloured and has a pleated pleated face, like Keith Richards, you know he works on building site, or plays guitar for the Rolling Stones.
Practically every type of cosmetic you can buy here has Whitening Effect written on the package, skin cream, deodorant, everything.
But what is different here is that when jobs are advertised, they will often state in the ad that only white skins should apply, and that wouldn’t be tolerated even in Devizes, though it probably would in Pewsley.
Anyway, I offered him a cigarette, which he smoked and didn’t like at all, from the look on his face, and,
when I ordered a drink, I got him a Pepsi too. We would have got him a beer but we weren’t sure it would be the right thing to do, him looking as odd as he did. He thanked me and we clinked glasses and said shock di kap, which means cheers! Or good luck!
And then, in perfect English he introduced himself as Dr Soncram and asked what we do.
No, not really, though he did have a little English. He ordered himself a whiskey when we left, bloody chancer!
Papa Roger’s was shut by now, and so we went to guitar boy’s bar where we met a very friendly and amiable Irishman, who was in there because on the way home earlier he’d been confronted by a pack of dingos and turned around. We had a pleasant hour chatting with him and then, in Thai style, three on a scooter, took him back to his hotel so he didn’t have to confront the dogs.