Around this time each year since we’ve moved back to Singapore, my mate, Owen, likes to make a trip over to hang out and do a bit of a journey somewhere in South-East Asia. Last year we ended up in Bangkok, Thailand for a few days and the previous year had us eating and drinking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The time we had in Bangkok must’ve left a bit of an impression, because Owen decided he wanted to do it again, even staying in the same hotel, but there would be a slight difference this time around for a couple of reasons — Due to varying circumstances, both good and bad, he had come into a bit of disposable cash in the lead up to this trip. As an added bonus, this also meant he could bring his girlfriend, Rochelle, so I obviously asked Anna to tag along, too, on a much needed break after the insanely busy year she’d had. The initial plan was them to arrive in Singapore on December 26 and the rest would be as follows:
- We’d all stay in Singapore until December 28 when we would fly over to Bangkok, Anna and myself taking a later flight than Owen and Rochelle.
- Anna and I would be in Bangkok until January 1, when we would fly back to Singapore due to Anna having to work the following day.
- Owen and Rochelle would fly up north to Chiang Mai on January 2.
- On January 7 they’d both fly back to Bangkok to spend another couple of nights.
- Owen and Rochelle would return to Singapore on January 9 to hang out a bit more.
Let’s not forget that Anna was involved in this trip now and she likes to spoil people when they visit. She’s also aware that Rochelle suffers chronic back pain so she took it upon herself to add this little footnote to the trip:
- On January 11 we would catch a ferry over to Batam Island in Indonesia and stay at a private resort where her and Rochelle would get massages while Owen and I drink by the pool.
- We’d take the ferry back to Singapore on January 13 and Owen and Rochelle would fly back to Melbourne, Australia that evening.
Owen had been excited about this trip for months after he booked it all, sending me constant updates of how many days, hours, and minutes it would be until they arrived. I was excited, too, because we always have a great time on these trips, it’s a blast having Owen here, and this time we could show Rochelle around, as she hasn’t really seen much of this part of the world.
Everything was going according to plan until I received this message on Christmas night:
Everyone I know had been having trouble with flights around Christmas, including my friend, Liam Collins, and his fiancé who were stranded in Changi Airport, Singapore for almost two days due to constant canceled flights and delays when they were trying to return to Australia. For Owen and Rochelle, their only alternative was to pay AU$1,700 (US$1,053) each for a one-way ticket with QANTAS, which is a bit pricey for a flight to Singapore so it now appeared that, instead of getting in at 5:00pm on Wednesday, December 26, they were now scheduled to arrive at 1:50pm the following day. Let’s see how that goes…
Thursday, December 27, 2018
I messaged Owen when they were at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne and all seemed to be going smoothly. In a weird coincidence, another friend of ours that we hadn’t seen for a long time would be around for a substantial portion of this trip, too. When Anna and I had our wedding in Malaysia in 2011, one of my old friends and groomsman, Pat Corrigan, brought a girl called Len Gonzales as his guest and she hit it off well with Anna and all of my friends. We hadn’t seen her since, but I occasionally hear from her on Facebook and she now lives in Bangkok. In a bizarre twist of fate, not only was she in Singapore that day, she was staying in the exact same hotel as Owen and would be on the same flight back to Bangkok as Anna and myself the next day!
As luck would have it, Owen and Rochelle’s flight was delayed by another hour, but it wasn’t anything major. When they arrived they checked into their hotel located just around the corner from our place, Hotel Nostalgia, and then Owen utilised his drunken GPS from previous visits to swing around in order for them to hang out and play with Kermit for a bit, but before long Anna had realised that this was the perfect excuse for her and Rochelle to go and get foot massages, leaving Owen and myself to pull up a stool each at Coq & Balls for a few drinks. Anna messaged me when the massages were done and we went to another place that Owen always visits repeatedly when he’s in town, Joo Chiat Beef King, him trying to think of ways to smuggle the broth base home in order to make his own the entire time he was eating. In fact, leading up to this trip he had been talking about the beef noodles almost as much as the actual holiday itself!
Once done, we all went back to Coq & Balls, Len later joining us after getting misdirected by Google Maps, and settled in for the night. Due to it being only two days after Christmas, there weren’t many of my local drinking buddies there as most of them had gone overseas for the holidays. Still, we had a great night, just the five of us plus my friend, Jasper, even though Anna had to leave a little earlier than the rest of us to get up for work the next day.
Here’s how it looked:
Friday, December 28, 2018
Anna had to work on Friday so we were going to fly out at about 8:30pm, but Owen and Rochelle were leaving in the afternoon so they swung by our place and watched the basketball with me for a bit until it was time for them to make a move, as Owen’s team, the Portland Trailblazers, were playing the Golden State Warriors, a game the Blazers took in an ugly overtime win. Len’s plan was to go into the city and look for a camera so I just went to the gym in the afternoon, followed by a bit of writing.
Len’s quest for a camera was to continue at Changi Airport as she had decided to go early and check out the range in duty free and once Anna was back from work we caught a cab to the airport too. When we checked in, though, there was a small problem — Despite the fact that we had pre-selected our seats, I had somehow been given a window seat, something into which I am physically incapable of fitting. Len had an aisle seat up the back and was happy to switch so that made the flight a little more comfortable for myself and whoever was initially supposed to be sitting next to me.
We eventually landed in Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok and I completely forgot how terrible that airport is, but then it dawned on me that it really isn’t that much worse than any of the New York airports. I turned on my phone and was immediately inundated with messages and photos from Owen telling me they were at Bangkok Bar, maps of the best routes there from the airport, best drop-off points, most cost-effective means of transport, and pictures showing the bar’s proximity to our hotel, which was directly across the road.
Len got in a cab to her hotel with the promise of meeting us later in the night, Anna and I got in another taxi so we could check into our place, the Ibis Suites, and then we went down to Bangkok Bar. It was the same bar that Owen and myself had spent the bulk of our time in last time we were here, complete with the exact same awesome metal band playing, but Owen was absolutely shit-faced when we got there on this occasion. A little background information on the origin of the title of this post is probably necessary at this point; I really only drink beer and Anna prefers rosé if she can get it, otherwise she will usually have whatever red wine they have. Owen had adopted the curious drink choice of gin and Coke in recent years, which causes a lot of confusion when ordering a round, and Rochelle wears a morphine patch due to chronic pain resulting from nerve damage in her back so she doesn’t drink often, generally just opting for Sprite so a pint, a rosé, a gin and Coke, and a Sprite was what would become our standard drink order over the course of this trip to the befuddlement of anyone who served us the first few times around.
Anyway, Len eventually joined us and we sat back and watched the band, they later came and hung out with us after the show as they do every time, and we met a few other cool people over the course of a great first night in town:
Saturday, December 29, 2018
It was pretty late when we got back to the hotel the previous night and we also knew that, based on the condition Owen was in when we arrived at the pub, he was probably going to be out of order for the bulk of the day so Anna and myself decided to get something to eat and go shopping. We certainly weren’t wrong about Owen according to the messages I received that afternoon (below, right) where he also pointed out he had 14 gins and Coke that night.
As you can see, Anna and myself did what we always do when we’re in Bangkok, we went and got some awesome, cheap noodles. That trek into town began with a coffee or two each at StrEATs, the cafe in the bottom of our hotel, before catching a taxi to the Ratchathewi district of Bangkok, where the Victory Monument stands. We got out of our taxi at the same time as a woman, resplendent in a full Louis Vuitton tracksuit, got off her scooter and Anna and myself began our mission; to track down some noodles. We walked down several streets, dropping into jewellery stores and passing stalls selling ready-to-eat pig faces and beef tongue, both of which were tempting, I absolutely love beef tongue, but we had noodles on our collective minds and soon we found them. We stumbled upon a store selling small bowls that you can eat in one or two bites, similar to the ones we found in Bangkok in December 2016 when someone managed to eat 40 bowls in an hour. This time a small bowl of noodles would set us back ฿12 (US$0.37) with a range of appetisers and side dishes available for no more than ฿59 (US$1.85) so we got ourselves a few bowls of noodles each and a couple of appetisers, but realistically, we could’ve eaten one of everything on the menu each, however, Anna also loves Thai desserts, especially mango sticky-rice, and she was determined to hunt some down in the mall.
Once we were done with lunch we walked down to Siam Square, a shopping mall Anna loves to look at every time we’re in town, taking in the Victory Monument en route. Siam Square has some pretty unique shops inside so you see a lot of interesting characters floating around there, too, such as the two nuns having coffee in a store with the slogan “Eating, Flirting, Enjoy.” As per usual, Anna bought a ton of stuff, especially shoes, as well as gifts for friends and colleagues, got her mango sticky-rice, and I got a t-shirt and matching wallet with weird cartoons of Steve Buscemi, Donald Trump, Freddie Mercury and the like hanging out, but after a couple of hours we decided to catch a taxi back to the hotel, passing a massive parade on the way, so she could get a two-hour foot-massage and pedicure. When Anna went into the massage place, I checked out a secondhand bookstore on our street, but as always happens when Owen visits South-East Asia, from out of nowhere came a clap of thunder and then a torrential downpour similar to having an unending bucket poured over you. I waited under an awning for a while, but it didn’t appear to be ending anytime soon so I just braved it and went back to room, towelled off, and read a book while I waited for Anna to return.
When Anna came back the rain had stopped, but the streets were completely flooded, more than ankle-deep in some parts. Owen and Rochelle were just going to eat dinner at a cafe in their hotel so Anna and I decided to do the same, going to StrEATs again, only to be told the kitchen was closed so we had no choice but to wade down the road and find somewhere else to eat, Anna’s main concern being the safety of her newly-painted toenails. Fortunately, her pedicure handled the water just fine and we found a restaurant that had a decent looking menu and also boasting that they “serve special pizza.” Visitors to this part of Asia, particularly neighbouring Cambodia, would be aware of what happy pizza is, however, drug laws in Thailand are extreme, with possession of weed being treated the same by police as having heroin so my guess a “special pizza” wouldn’t be quite the same thing as what their neighbours over the border sell.
The weather was a bit calmer after dinner, the streets still flooded though, but we walked down to meet Owen and Rochelle at Bangkok Bar again. Midway through having some drinks, Rochelle decided to get a foot-massage, something that Anna was easily tempted into again, leaving me and Owen to drink and chat until their return. When the night ended we made our way back to our respective hotels, Owen stopping briefly for a photo next to a local guy wearing a Dominique Wilkins college jersey and red mohawk wig who had passed out against the window at McDonald’s. Strangely enough, it wouldn’t be the last time we would see that fellow:
Sunday, December 30, 2018
It was New Year’s Eve eve and we knew the following night would be a rather large one so the four of us decided to take it relatively easy on Sunday. Well, at least by our standards, anyway. The day started at Chatuchak Weekend Market, a market Anna and myself always visit while we’re in Thailand, as does it seem, a large portion of the world (this is a direct quote from the website, hence the grammatical errors):
Chatuchak Weekend Market (or Jatujak Market; Thai: ตลาดจตุจักร) is one of the world’s largest weekend markets covers area of 70 rai (27 Acres) altogether divided into 27 Sections, contains more than 15,000 booths selling goods from every part of Thailand.
Chatuchak Weekend Market,is very popular shopping centre to Thais and has become a popular place to tourists and foreigners who stay in Bangkok, has over 200,000 visitors each day(SAT-SUN) 30% is foreign. There are almost everything can be found here at a bargaining local price (not a tourist price), and most vendors actually come from local factories, like antique wood carving, clay handicrafts, local souvenirs from every parts of Thailand, Buddhist amulets, wooden funitures, hand made decorated flowers, plant, ceramic wares, dools, Thai Bejarong, Chinese wares, graden decorated plants, stones, trendy fashions, silk, hill-tribe outfits, fluffy dogs and more miscellaneous, etc.
The market’s website is being a little bit humble there, because according to Wikipedia, Chatuchak Weekend Market “is the world’s largest and most diverse weekend market, with over 200,000 – 300,000 visitors on a daily basis.” I’m also of the opinion that it must be one of the easiest places in the world in which to get lost. Anyway, one of our first stops was at a roast pork stall where we grabbed a small bucket each and we were on our way, looking mainly at t-shirts, vintage items, and stupid outfits for our dog. Probably one of my best purchases at the market was this odd little Japanese number (above, left), featuring a man paragliding using his stretched out scrotum with his testicles between his toes to get full surface-area out of his nut-sack. Incidentally, when we had later returned to Singapore, both Anna and I asked some Japanese friends what it was all about and we were both told he was Tar-chan from the manga and anime series Jungle King Tar-chan. A little more about Tar-chan himself, the dude on my shirt (the salient points are in blue bold if you can’t be bothered reading it all):
Tar-chan is the main character of the series. He is a young man who was raised in the African wild. His address is: African Savanna, Three Trees 7-4-10. He was abandoned in the savanna as a baby and found and raised by Etekichi. Other than this his past is unknown. Though there are often many humorous flashbacks to his past, whether or not any of them are true is unclear. Tar-chan’s hobby is cooking, and his specialty dish is eggplant with mustard and misozuke. He is a dangerous drunk. He loves nature and animals and protects them from poachers. He can imitate the special abilities and speak the language of various animals, because he was raised by animals himself. With his superhuman reflexes and strength, he is a well-known fighter around the world, yet he is usually forced by his wife Jane to do the cleaning and supply the food. He does not seem interested in protecting his reputation as a grappler though; only in protecting the peace of the jungle. When Tar-chan first met Jane he could not speak human language well. He was able to master submission holds after reading a fighting book for only one night, which demonstrates amazing mental ability. However, he still lacks general common sense. Tar-chan has super human abilities and strength and typically fights with his bare hands, but there are times when he will use weapons such as a blowgun and boomerang. He also has superhuman recovery, and has been known to recover quickly from injuries that take a normal man several weeks to recover from. When he takes on too much damage, he powers up by defecating, known as Poop Power Up (うんこひりパワーアップ Unkohiri Pawā Appu). His body is extremely flexible, and he can bend backwards to lick his own buttocks. Additionally, he can stretch the skin of his scrotum to glide, in a manner similar to a Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel. Although he is a brave man who cannot ignore those in danger, he is also an incredible pervert and treasures his many pornographic magazines left behind by tourists, which he collects. However, he said “To react to a beautiful girl is the instinct of the average man, the only one I truly love is Jane”.
Sounds a bit more interesting than regular old Tarzan — At least while watching Tar-chan, you wouldn’t have logical problems ruining the show for you that Tarzan presents, questions like why he doesn’t have a beard when he lives in the jungle without modern conveniences. Who cares? He can recover from any injuries by taking a massive dump!
We continued around the market, Owen and myself stocking up on bizarre t-shirts, Anna and Rochelle getting some dresses, as well as Anna buying a costume for our dog that makes her look like a pineapple, just in time for Chinese New Year. Chatuchak Weekend Market all gets a bit similar after a few hours so we went over to a nearby flea market that takes place in front of, and inside, an old shopping mall. This place sold everything and I was tempted to purchase a couple of old Nintendo hand-held games, but there was no way of checking if they worked. I love looking through places like this and could’ve spent all day there, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea so we moved on to our final stop of the night, yet another market in what appeared to be an old airfield, the Camp Vintage Flea Market. It is in fact the location where old train cars once sat and the original Train Night Market was held, however, now the place has aircraft hangar-inspired sheds with plenty of old cars and planes around. We had a quick look around, but one thing that separates the Camp Vintage Flea Market from the others that we had visited that day was that it also has a ton of great food to snack on and a lot of craft beers and other booze. Len was flying out to the Philippines the following day to spend New Year’s Eve, but she still had time to hang out with us for one last night of eating and drinking.
Yes, I did purchase a t-shirt featuring a guy flying with the help of his enormous scrotum, but we saw plenty more that day:
Monday, December 31, 2018
The closing day of what had become a hectic and crazy year was finally upon us! In the 12 months leading up to this day, Anna and I had traveled together to Thailand three times (not including the current trip), Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, Australia, Hawaii, Japan, China, Austria, Turkey, and South Korea with a few extra journeys abroad thrown in just for good measure for Anna alone, and now we were punctuating our year with one last night out in Bangkok.
Owen and Rochelle spent the bulk of their day shopping in MBK Center, while Anna and I explored areas around our hotel that we hadn’t seen yet and coming to a unanimous decision that we were not going anywhere nearer to Khao San Road, firstly because it would be painfully crowded, but also because it was almost certain that a group of young bogans would start a brawl. It wasn’t something we overheard people planning or anything, you could just tell. While we were walking around I received a message off Owen saying he had bought me a present; on previous occasions that I had been to Bangkok I had seen t-shirts for sale that had a picture of the shitty 90s pop group Hanson with ‘Nirvana‘ written beneath it in the text the grunge icons usually used to use, however, I could never find my size. I’m sure these shirts started out as a genuine mistake, but tourists found them amusing so they now still churn them out purposefully to make a few cheeky dollars. I still wanted one and when Owen and Rochelle were shopping, they stumbled upon one of the shirts that would fit me so they picked it up for me. Cheers, guys!
After we had finished exploring and eating, Anna got a final massage for this trip, I read more of my book, and then it was time for the four of us to meet up and line our stomachs before the year came to a close. Some say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that is 100% incorrect — The most important meal of the day is the one that you have immediately before commencing a big night out so as not to get too drunk too quickly. This only works, however, if you don’t accompany that meal with an entire carafe of red wine, just some simple, good ol’ fashioned poor judgement on Anna’s part.
After dinner we went back down to our usual hangout for the night, Bangkok Bar, where a table was waiting out the front for us, as was the guy in the red singlet and wig that we had previously seen passed out in McDonald’s on Saturday night, this time clutching a bag full of homemade, thus most likely illegal, fireworks.
The band from Friday night were playing again so our night was spent drinking, chatting, and just like last time Owen and myself were both here at the start of the year, laughing at old people dancing to a cover of Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine (LANGUAGE WARNING):
The night was advancing and Bangkok Bar was getting quite busy so Anna decided to go back across the road to use the bathroom in our hotel room. Owen, Rochelle, and myself just spent our night chatting amongst ourselves, as well as with random people who ended up at our table, including a guy who looked suspiciously like Josef Fritzl, but soon it was 11:30pm and it occurred to me that Anna had been gone for at least half an hour. I went up to our room and found her snoring on the bed so I checked to see if she was okay, an action met with a response of, “after I went to the toilet I decided to have a quick nap, but I think I’m just going to sleep now. You enjoy yourself.” She was fine and insistent that I go back down and count in the New Year with Owen and Rochelle, something I did that went off without any problems from the guy with the bag of homemade fireworks.
I stuck around for another hour or two, but we were flying back to Singapore the next day so I didn’t want to overdo it, but it was definitely a fun culmination to a busy year:
We flew out back to Singapore the following day, because Anna had to work on the Wednesday, while Owen and Rochelle stuck around for an extra night before flying north to Chiang Mai to look at temples, explore the old town, and play with elephants in rescue sanctuaries. After Chiang Mai, they came back down to Bangkok for a bit and then flew into Singapore on the evening of Wednesday, January 9. That night we went out had and some dinner and drinks in Robertson Quay and the following day they went and had a look around Bugis and Gardens by the Bay before meeting up with me for drinks one last time at Coq & Balls, but Friday is where the real fun on this next leg of the trip began.
Friday, January 11, 2019 – Sunday, January 13, 2019
Not only was Friday the day we would be going over to Batam Island to kick back in a private beachside villa for a few days, it also happened to be Rochelle’s birthday. Anna had the afternoon off work so Owen and Rochelle swung by our place around midday and we went to the market so they could have their favourite beef noodles for a final time. When Anna was done, she met up with us and we grabbed our luggage and took a cab to the ferry terminal. The terminal wasn’t too busy so we were through immigration in no time at all and, even though it is only 20km (12mi) off the Singaporean coast, Batam is technically in Indonesia, making this an international trip, allowing us to take advantage of the duty-free shop. The limit for alcohol is one litre (33.8 oz) so I got some beers, Anna bought some wine, Owen a bottle of gin, and Rochelle a bottle of rum, however, the lady serving us politely informed me that that was the amount allowed to be taken onto the island — We could sit in the terminal and drink as much as we could finish while we were waiting for our ferry, as long as we only bought a litre at a time. When they’re only charging S$8.30 (US$6.10) for three Heineken bottles, I’m going to take advantage of that offer so we sat around for the next hour, drinking and laughing, waiting for our ferry to arrive.
Once aboard we started talking to a couple of older American men that were on the ferry who were traveling to Fishhead Island, a private island the pair own. Later on in our stay while we were relaxing in our pool, Owen and I were discussing what we would call our private island that we will no doubt purchase at some stage in the future. His suggestion was Bitchin’ Island, but I think I’d prefer to opt for something more regional-sounding, like Tam Pon. I guess we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.
When we arrived about 20 minutes later at our destination, Montigo Resort, we quickly checked into the resort and then boarded a golf cart to take us down to our three-storey beachside suite that would be home for the following two nights. We had a look around and this suite was awesome; the first floor was a kitchen, an enormous living room, bathroom, and then a patio area with a private infinity pool. The second floor had our two bedrooms with an ensuite each, and the top floor was a massive outdoor party area covered in cushions that could fit at least 50 people. Soon our bags arrived, but what we didn’t expect was that they had also brought with them a guitar, a chocolate cake, and seven other staff members to sing happy birthday to Rochelle.
Although there were plenty of amenities at the resort such as golf, an archery and shooting range, fishing trips, that type of think, we spent the three days there just hanging out in the pool, playing music, drinking and snacking on salted-egg-and-crab-flavoured seaweed chips that cause rancid farts, and just chatting about anything and everything, mainly Owen and myself reminiscing about the stupid stuff we used to get up to back in the day. During the day we would order room service and when we got hungry at night we went down to one of the several restaurants at the resort to eat and then sat in the outdoor bar with a shisha and some drinks until it closed at 11:00pm, at which time we would go back to the suite and continue to drink and chat. Rinse and repeat.
The view from the suite was incredible, overlooking the beach with the Singapore skyline still visible in the distance. At one point it drunkenly occured to us that Singapore is an hour ahead of Indonesia so when we were looking at the Singapore skyline we were looking into the future. Deep. Anyway, take a look for yourself at how we spent the next couple of days:
Sunday eventually arrived and we had to return to reality. Sundays at the ferry terminal can be a bit chaotic so Owen and Rochelle took an earlier ferry back just to make sure there weren’t any delays and they would be at the airport on time for their flight back to Melbourne that night. Anna and myself took it a little more leisurely, returning to Singapore later that evening.
As always, it was great getting to hang out with Owen and Rochelle, as Owen and myself always enjoy ourselves on these trips and tend to return with far more t-shirts than what we originally brought with us. Thanks, Anna, for booking the resort, we hope Rochelle had a great birthday and figure by now she has already realised that she left her birthday cake in the fridge at the resort. We can’t wait for your next trip over here, but we’ll see you both in April when we’re back in Melbourne for our friends’ wedding. Also, we’ll try to catch Len again when we’re next in the Philippines.
I guess now the best way to close this post would be with one of my favourite images of Thailand, no disrespect intended: