Wish You Were Here...?
We’ve all been there, had a fantastic holiday, the last couple of days ever so slightly tainted by the fact that the wonderful suspension of reality is drawing to a close and you are about to return to your somewhat humdrum existence. It’s only natural to feel a little glum, to find the journey home disagreeable, maybe even shed a tear. Unfortunately I shed far more than that and there was nothing natural about it.
It had all started so well. Having spent an idyllic fortnight on Phi Phi Island quaffing Singha beer, overeating and lazing around in the most breathtaking surroundings, it was now time to draw this wondrous experience to a close. This meant a two hour boat trip from Tonsai to Phuket followed by a night in Patong before taking on the arduous eighteen hour journey to Heathrow via Bangkok.
Patong is essentially my idea of hell, it is everything that is bad about western tourists, the places that cater for us and the ignorant way we behave. Bangla Road in Patong is where I would be spending my final hours in Thailand, a place full of ladyboys, prostitutes, blaring music, souvenir hawkers and cheap booze. Not my usual habitat but for one night I would appreciate it’s unsubtle charms.
My girlfriend and I checked in at our plush hotel and headed for the bright lights and brouhaha. It was quite early and still light so we decided to go for a couple of drinks before finding a restaurant. So far so sensible and civilised. We found a bar called The Shipwreck and plonked ourselves down to marvel at the mayhem in front of us. At this point there was nothing to indicate that I would soon be entering my own personal world of mayhem.
Amazed at the freak show right before our eyes, we decided that we’d eat later and enjoy a few more drinks. A decision which would ultimately lead to me forfeiting my dignity. A rather loud, disparate group of antipodeans soon sat on the adjoining table; this would ordinarily have been my cue to leave but somehow I became embroiled in conversation with these Australian hicks. Fishermen, a fisherman’s mother who’d come to Thailand to have her teeth fixed, her husband who was younger than her son, a strange bunch.
Before too long my girlfriend and I had fully integrated into this cluster of boozing oddballs, we’d foregone our romantic meal overlooking the Andaman Sea and the tone of the evening had altered considerably to something rather more raucous. No longer handicapped by my usual inability to dance I was in fact dancing, flamboyantly flinging a fisherman’s mother around an impossibly small bar to be precise. What fun. Further drunken chaos ensued until fisherman’s mother, during a break from our gyrations, plunged headfirst from her stool and rendered herself virtually unconscious. With fisherman’s mother swiftly dispatched to her hotel, we continued to drink with our new found friends. Now, my girlfriend is not necessarily sensible where drink is concerned, far from it in fact. However, on this occasion she must have been able to spot the folly in going drink for drink with these interbreeding sea dogs as she had tempered her intake. Believing I could imbibe with the best of them, I applied myself to the task in hand and was probably discussing joining them for a life on the ocean waves or some such rubbish. This meeting of minds continued and following a desperate struggle swallowing some tequila we all headed for another bar. We’re now approaching the outer limits of my memory; I recall my flip flop tearing apart and continuing with it’s remnants flapping around my ankle but apart from that the only thing I can bring to mind is the indignation of being amongst some of the most beautiful women in South-East Asia yet being approached by the most unfortunate looking Thai woman I’d ever seen. To her credit she was quite a tenacious troll, not at all perturbed by the presence of my girlfriend or my polite revulsion. Anyway, these were the giddy highs, all I had now were the degrading lows offered by tomorrow.
I was awoken by violent shivering, an aching, blackened foot and other unidentifiable yet ominous sensations. I slowly orientated myself with my surroundings and tried to process whatever information I could gather. Whilst I couldn’t really recognise the room I was most heartened to see that the figure sharing the bed was not only female but also actually my girlfriend. Result. I briefly wondered if my physical discomfort might be attributed to any of last night’s characters but decided to put that thought to one side.
My girlfriend soon arose as we had a fairly early flight. Ever the gentleman, I told her to use the bathroom before me, an act of kindness for which we would both later be truly thankful. It was finally my turn. The apparition gradually emerging through the steamy mirror bore a faint likeness to me although certainly not the tanned Adonis of yesterday. I closed my eyes and foolishly failed to appreciate what would be my last moment of calm for hours. The toothbrush was the trigger, no sooner had I popped it into my mouth, I began regurgitating like an emperor penguin with a hungry brood. I hung my head over the toilet until the animal noises subsided. Thinking I’d expelled all that was necessary I climbed into the shower, this would revive me, I’d soon be back in the land of the living. Not so. The pain in my body demanded that I adopt a foetal position, all the better for evacuating my bowels whilst retching of course. This was beginning to make Midnight Express look like Center Parcs. Crouched in a shower tray full of liquid faeces and bile my thoughts turned to the gruelling journey ahead, I had about an hour to get myself into shape otherwise I’d be going nowhere.
My girlfriend went for breakfast and left alone in my cell I racked my seemingly shrunken brain for a solution, the same useless brain I might add that had got me into this mess. Lay down on the bed was it’s response. Not exactly a eureka moment considering how little benefit I’d derived from the last four hours of laying down, was another twenty minutes of supine panting really going to help? Of course not. All too soon my time was up and I had to make my way to reception to check out. I say ‘check out’, in reality I just relocated my retching from the hotel room to the restaurant toilets.
A minibus arrived to take us to Phuket Airport and I was still some way from having what could be considered a settled stomach. I was hopeful that we would be the only passengers on the minibus so that I could continue to heave into a carrier bag in a less self conscious way. Obviously that couldn’t happen and two bright, chatty women sat directly in front of us. Although these rather large women had taken an age to haul themselves on to the minibus and into tiny Thai-sized seats, the speed with which they moved on hearing my maiden on-board animal roar was quite incredible, leaping over seats like seasoned free runners. My ashamed girlfriend apologised on my behalf whilst they cowered as far away as possible within the confines of a minibus. Inured to this abasement, I continued to heave, burp and sweat when I ought to have been taking in my final sights of Thailand’s beauty.
For my girlfriend the situation reached it’s nadir at Phuket Airport. Having struggled through check in, I made straight for the heavily used Thai latrine and unloaded from every orifice. Thinking that by this time there was little inside me other than shrivelled organs I joined my my girlfriend who was struggling to find a seat in the departure lounge and to her credit she was still managing to extend something akin to sympathy towards me; this was soon to change. What I hoped was about to be a belch leaped from my mouth in the form of spew. Suddenly free seats in my general vicinity were abundant. My girlfriend was furious but thankfully my delirium shielded me from the vicious tongue lashing I was no doubt receiving. Fighting her natural instinct to disown me, she presented me with a tiny plastic bag to use. This may have been helpful for a hyperventilating toddler but not so a fully grown man throwing up with the force of a water cannon. Even in my exhausted state I could see that the tiny bag would only serve to funnel bile up into my face and as such I continued to use the floor. Now, what would any decent, self respecting man do in this situation? That’s right, half heartedly tread it into the carpet with a flip flop.
This turned out to be the last expulsion from my withered body but taking no chances I spent the next eighteen hours with a sick bag to hand, refusing liquids to the point of desiccation.
I maintain that I was suffering from both poisoning of some sort and amoebic dysentery; my girlfriend insists I drank too much and that I’m an idiot.