Captain Hindsight – yesterday’s hero, tomorrow
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Date: November 2011
Street food was aplenty in the immediate vicinity of the backpacker hostel but the sight of some rancid crustaceans in a sun-scorched bucket was enough to deter them. Nothing less than a clean, comfortable restaurant would do for the first repast in this strange land. Foreign comestibles may not sit easy on their insides right now so no risks could be taken.
Like the proverbial albatross around his neck, the jet-lag weighed heavy and was mirrored by the brother as they dragged their feet through the shady streets of Silom, Bangkok. The night was alive with human traffic and alien aromas; a not-so-sweet intoxication of the senses. As the oppressive heat sapped energy reserves, a mind starved of sleep retained little from the reconnaissance mission at the hostel computer.
“What one was the gay street?”
Meeting the look of fear in the brother’s eyes, a response was mumbled.
“Soi 2. No wait, Soi 4”
“We’ll have to make sure we stay away from there!” , confirmed the brother.
A hollow laugh shuddered from within. The belly growled, its ravenous urges somehow propelling his body through the languor, infiltrating the masses on the narrow footpath, beneath market canopies and past countless hawkers offering everything imaginable and somethings better not imagined at all.
Their fatigue yielded to the proffers of a solicitous stranger, who suddenly took point. Leading them towards a mysterious location called ‘The Garden’, the stranger’s promises of delectable traditional fare in an oasis of serenity sufficed to gain their trust.
Like fish out of water, they humored the local for a while, but despite his friendly disposition and passion for Irish soccer hero Roy Keane, they had to relieve the stranger of his duties after a mere 500 yards – his desire to perambulate down a dark, narrow street devoid of restaurants, lights or humans had a stronger scent of fish than the putrid lobster stall they skipped past near the market entrance.
Confused and crestfallen, the native wandered into the shadows and left yours truly and the brother to their own devices.
Finally, with the stomach making threats of an internal war on neghboring organs, a lively street full of bright lights and hope appeared before them, luring them off the main drag.
He thought it odd how the street had less touts and annoyances on it than any other and as he walked the narrow alley between the restaurant tables that poured out onto the road on either side, it became apparent he and the brother were the center of attention. All eyes from the flanking tables and doorways locked on their faces.
The waiters outside the bar were friendly. Very friendly; a little too friendly actually…
The penny dropped immediately as he looked above at the flashing neon sign outside the restaurant – Spanish on 4.
Realizing they had stumbled onto one of the streets to avoid, an impromptu exit was required. Unfortunately, this was a rather short Soi – a dead end in fact.
So. left with no alternative, turned on their heel they did, before performing the catwalk once more.
Back through the narrow gap they strolled, with a ridiculous “I’m a tourist get me out of here” grin plastered upon reddened cheeks, the hordes either side wore gleeful grins at the obvious misfortune of the two lost souls. The waiters giggled and whistled, mainly at the brother, who at this stage had broke into a power walk, knocking all aside in hopes of finding a hole in the ground.
Escaping fast on the brother’s heels, he had decided that was enough of Bangkok for one evening, approximately 37 minutes after leaving the hostel. The brother offered little countenance and so they reset their compasses and retreated to base.
As they staggered back to the hostel, their resolve crumbled with the vitriol from their insides and they rolled the dice with some street food just outside the door.
Recalling his backpacking training, he led the brother past those vendors that hid behind cobwebs to the stall where the food sizzled loud and empty chairs were scarce, hidden among local faces who milled around the busy chef.
To their relief, they didn’t drop dead and as they labored up the stairs to a bed and the hopes of a reasonable sleep for the first time in several moons, he looked at his brother and grumbled.
“We should have just went there in the first place!”