We had wanted to do something better than just sitting around cheap bars and partying with other tourists (which, how it turns out is exactly what we ended up doing) so we walked into a Thai travel agent and booked a jungle trek through an area of wilderness up by the Burmese border. The closest town/city/somewhere in-between to that area was Chang Mai. One night train later and we were walking around picturesque Chang Mai.
The hotel/hostel we had booked for us was one that was run by the people who organised the jungle hiking. Our trek was a total of three days, two nights. The nights we would spend in the villages of our jungle guides. Let me tell you it was definitely jungle that we were in. At some points we were waist deep in jungle swamp, other times the guides would cut a path with their machetes.
There were seven other members of our group (excluding my housemate). Three English girls, two English guys, and a Polish? (If I remember correctly) couple. Here is a photo:
Walking through the jungle was fun. It was a great experience, but that’s not what this story is about. This is about what happened after the trek. It is worth noting though; on the last night, in one of the villages I hung out my clothes because they were so damn wet from all the swampy terrain and wet plants. I awoke the next morning to find all my clothes gone save the ones I had been wearing the night before. No-one seemed to know where they had gone.
As we were leaving all the kids from the village ran out to wave goodbye. They were all wearing my clothes. Nothing fitted them very well… I decided they could have them, they seemed so happy with their new attire.
As soon as we were back in Chang Mai I went to a market and bought a new wardrobe. I still have those fisherman’s pants and a bunch of singlets. I somehow really liked that the children had taken my clothes.
We had become moderately close with our fellow commonwealthians over the last few days, so we all decided to celebrate our new friendship with a whole lot of booze. We all met up at a cool looking reggae bar in the middle of town. We started drinking, a lot. After a few drinks the flower kids started making rounds. The flower kids were wide eyed children who pressed you to buy flowers.
For some reason Harry (not his real name) took issue with the tiny sales people. He got up and beckoned them all on to the dance floor where he waved 100 baht in front of them and then proceeded to demonstrate an elaborate dance move. This dance move I realized was impossible for children to perform, maybe due to arm body proportion… I dunno. So the whole bar watched on as Harry laughed at poverty stricken children falling over themselves. Finally someone took umbrage with Harry’s behaviour.
A redheaded Scottish girl who was sitting with some unsavoury looking Thai men stood up and strode over to Harry.
She started yelling. Harry yelled back.
The Ska band had stopped playing.
She pushed Harry, Harry pushed her back. The unsavoury looking, tattoo covered Thai men stood up and started yelling in Thai. I was painfully aware of the machetes two of them had at their hips.
I was pretty sure their tattoos were gang related. Everyone was still yelling. It was getting pretty tense.
Now I was really angry at what Harry had done. But I wasn’t the one to try and stop him. Probably because I was so shocked when I realized what the fuck he was doing. However I didn’t really want to see this escalate into Harry being dismembered by Thai gangsters. So I stood up and went to Harry’s aid with the other guys in our group, Adam (not his real name) and my housemate. This meant still more shouting only now from us as well. Eventually the decibels lowered, I don’t really think anyone wanted this much trouble. The Thai guys were still seething, so we offered to buy some rounds. This didn’t seem to impress them too much, maybe because I don’t think they were paying for drinks in the first place. The Scottish girl (who was now calm) managed to talk them round. We all sat down and made good on our promise of more liquor. Harry and the Scottish girl weirdly started hitting it off. No-one seemed to care anymore.
Everyone got very drunk.
After a while one of the girls, Sally (not her real name), got up and slurred something no-one understood then walked out of the bar.
“Ah isn’t someone going after her?” I asked her girlfriends.
“nah she’ll be OK. I bet she’s gone for some food or somthin'” was the general response I received. I was unimpressed at the lack of interest in their hammered friend’s welfare. Not that I think women can’t take care of themselves, but a heavily intoxicated white person alone at night in Chang Mai doesn’t sound like anything anyone should want to happen.
So I went after her. It took longer than I thought and she’d somehow got much further than I thought, but I eventually found here talking to an old street stall holder who didn’t really speak English. I pulled Sally away.
“What are you doing? where are you going?” I asked.
“jussss goin’ ….. home” she managed to finally answer.
“I don’t think you should run out into the night like that” I told her.
“ssfine im goin’ home” she said, just before she ran off for the main road.
I caught up with her attempting to hail a Tuk Tuk. “are you coming too?” she asked when she saw me. “to make sure you don’t die on the way, yes” I replied. She got into a Tuk Tuk. It was difficult to try and make her hold her vomit until we got out of the Tuk Tuk. As soon as we reached the hotel she jumped out and ejected the contents of her stomach onto a golden lion statue while I was paying the driver. We went up to their room (the girls had a shared room).
Sally started taking her clothes off while putting music on. All of her clothes.
“Oh no” I said “I have a girlfriend”
“come on, why did you commmmmm…” she trailed off.
“You are crazy wasted and you know I have a girlfriend, we are not having sex” I was a bit more stern this time.
She took me by surprise as she jumped up and yanked me on to the bed.
“Goddam it! stop, you are so goddam attractive, I don’t want the temptation, stop doing this.” I yelled frustratedly.
I had stood up and walked over to the arm chair in the corner. “go to sleep” I said as I flopped into the chair “I’m staying here”. She looked at me, lay down and passed out almost instantly. I was awake all of maybe two minutes more before I too passed out.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
I woke up, startled. There was someone banging loudly on the door. I got out of the chair and looked at the window. It was still dark. Sally was still dead to the world, though sleeping naked and without a blanket (granted it was maybe 35 degrees Celsius). I went to open the door. It was my housemate. He was on the verge of tears and stained with what looked like a little bit of food, or blood, or something. He said it was blood.
“What the fuck happened to you?” I asked.
“You have the fucking room key you fucking dick” he said shakily (the expletives may have been different but you get the idea).
Before I could answer the next door opened and Harry came charging out followed by Adrian who was yelling something like “leave it Harry”. I didn’t know they had the room next to the girls, apparently it was a coincidence. Harry started getting aggressive with me.
It was mainly drunk rage drivel but from what I could make out he was angry because he thought I had slept with Sally. Harry had a thing for Sally so naturally he wanted to fight me because I had stolen her, according to him. Adam was half halfheartedly trying to calm Harry while also laughing.
My housemate didn’t care much about Harry at this point, he started loudly straining out words.
Now everybody was yelling in the hallway.
Two hotel staff members walked into the hallway and started yelling at us in broken english.
“Too much noise! outside!” they yelled, it wasn’t bad customer service they were yelling because Harry had flown off the handle and started yelling at them as soon as they opened their mouth.
Adam calmed Harry down and they both went back into their room. I promised to stop making noise and the two hotel staff left. I turned back to my housemate who was still angry.
“I killed a dog” he said.
“what?” I didn’t know what else to say.
My housemate recounted what had happened after I left the bar. After a while he had thought I went back to our hotel so he got a Tuk Tuk back to our hotel. Only when he got there he found I was not in fact in our room. So he went searching for someone who worked there. No such luck. The place isn’t staffed until the morning.
He realized that if I wasn’t there I would have gone back to the hotel where our English friends were staying. Unfortunately he had used all his remaining cash to get from the bar to our hotel. So he resolved to walk.
Now if you’ve been to Chang Mai you’ll have noticed, there are a shit load of feral dogs. Maybe even more dogs then people, I don’t think they count them though. So walking around deserted streets at night is dangerous because packs roam around looking for food or trouble.
He walked down an ill lit side street.
He was met by a pack of feral dogs.
My housemate is quite smart so he knew not to run, he made himself seem big and imposing by bellowing and waving his arms in the air. All of the dogs backed down, except one.
It charged for him.
It was at the other end of the alley so he had a few seconds.
Chang Mai is really in some ways quite idyllic (except for the dogs, and there is a bit too much litter), especially it’s side streets. People live in houses with white stone walls around them, a bit like Japan. Outside their walls people put big pots with flowers, vegetables, and vines. Most of the time there is a thick bamboo pole to hold up some of the more vine like plants.
He grabbed one such pole from a pot nearby.
As the dog was mid lunge he hit it in the head. The dog went sprawling.
It went to get up and start growling so he hit it again, in the head.
Then again, and again.
The dog was dead.
Inadvertently my attempt at chivalry had resulted in my housemate going through a life threatening traumatic experience.
We left Chang Mai without talking to our English friends. We bumped into them a few days later back in Bangkok, the conversation was awkward. Then we all went for a drink…. at a reggae bar no less.