Almost exactly one year later, I am back in Bangkok. My first visit was in a professional context, as I have flown from Nuremberg on what would be my last business trip with my team before relocating to Vietnam. That trip was memorable for different reasons, but mostly because I made it a cultural trip while avoiding everything Bangkok is reputed for. This time, it was a totally different story. This time, football brought me here, and it drifted me all the way to the other end of the spectrum. The football club I am part of, the Saigon Raiders, took part to a friendly 6 vs 6 tournament organized by the local team, the Bangkok Vikings. And so, one American, two Germans, one Canadian (yours truly), and a handful of the craziest Brits of our squad flew two hours west to South East Asia's well established decadence capital: Bangkok. Luckily, I had the chance last year to visit the other Bangkok and its untold story. But, not this weekend. I should have known what I was in for when one of the Brits added me to a WhatsApp group named "Bangers Tour 2018".
Final Call for Bangkok
On Friday afternoon, we all met at the Heineken Lounge of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. With the team gathered around the table and a beer tower flowing, what better timing to announce that I won't be drinking this weekend. "Nonsense!", they said in an indignated tone. I was indeed in the middle of my semi-annual two-month long off-booze cleansing. On top of that, I had a health check follow up appointment in the coming weeks and wanted to make sure not to tweak the numbers with a weekend of boozing. While some tried to understand the rationale behind such a decision, others made it their mission to try and make me cave through the weekend. Unlucky for them, I'm stubborn as a mule. Despite their countless attempts at various occasions, they didn't succeed. Although, at this very moment, early in the weekend, the decision for "Turkey of the Trip" was already sealed.
Soon enough, it was time to board the plane. We had agreed earlier that day that last one to arrive at the airport would pay the first round. Danny showed up last, faithful to his usual laidback "Greaser" look with his rolled up sleeves on white t-shirt, skinny short shorts, Chuck Taylor's, and a black dufflebag to his shoulder. He had just enough time to supply the team (...minus myself. You're welcome, Danny!) with a few cans before the final call. On the plane, the boys decided to rearrange the seating allocation despite the clear announcement from the cabin crew that all passengers must sit at their allocated seat to ensure the proper weight distribution required for a smooth flight. All it took was a message from Danny announcing free seats on the sixth row to see everyone but the German join the party to the front of the plane. Thanks for obeying the law, Jonas... or were you simply too drunk to make any sense of the announcement?
With a Limited Edition Vikings Cup deck of cards in hand, Hoggy started a drinking game that wouldn't last until we landed. By the time we got out of the plane, some of the boys were already feeling tipsy. While hoggy was working on hiring a van to bring us to our hotel located right in the heart of Sukhumvit, at the Radisson Suites on Soi 13, everyone scattered instantaneously like a bunch of toddlers at Toys'R'Us. We finally regrouped and left the airport and got to the hotel in a record time. At the hotel, we had just enough time to check-in, shower and change that it was already time to meet up with Sven, the other German who flew a day before, and his buddy Marcel, also German and living in Bangkok since 7 years already.
Boys Night Out
We kicked off the weekend at Above 11, a jazzy sky lounge offering a great view over the concrete jungle in a dimmed ambiance. On the way to the bar, the gang, all wearing their Raiders polo shirts, ran into Johnny D who had just been turned away by the bouncers for not wearing shoes. This genius showed up to the venue wearing flip flops despite the clear instructions to wear closed toe shoes we had previously shared on the WhatsApp group. Some might say he did it on purpose and had his own agenda for the evening. Who knows?
At the sky lounge, I genuinely thought: "Oh, it's not that bad! This is definitely my kind of venue and the boys don't seem to insist too much on me drinking!" Besides, I was hoping to have fooled a few of them with my Ginger Ale on ice with a lime. We enjoyed a couple of drinks and a few good laughs while sitting just behind the bizarro Raiders. A group looking awfully similar to ours was having the same kind of night just a few tables across. They were also an all male group wearing polo shirts, which ressembled of what we could look like twenty years from now. It wss like we were in another dimension or a parallel universe, like in that scene at the end of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" when the main character sees himself on his death bed. Spooky! A quick pitstop at the toilet to pee in an all-open urinal facing a window of the 40th floor, and we headed to the Australian Pub & BBQ to enjoy a live band and their billboard hit covers. A few more drinks and the evening took a sharp left turn to Soi Nana, a.k.a Bangkok's ass hole. The night went wild, as the lads were slowly getting closer to the caveman stage. First stop was at Spanky's. I let you imagine what goes on in that bar. Things escalated fast between an exhibitionist Hoggy whipping it out in public, and a hungry Johnny D who earned himself the well deserved nickname "Pacman" for eating more than a Pad Thai on that particular night out. He was face deep into his plate up to his sideburns. Second stop proposed a bubble bath on one end of the bar, a conveyor on the other, and a bell attached to the ceiling right in the centre. An army of ladies in swimwear will yell if you dare touch the bell rope and beg you to ring it. At that bar, ringing the bell announces a round of shots for every single lady in the Jacuzzi and on the conveyor. That night, no one dared ringing it, but some ballers did make it rain with a stack of 20 Bhat (1 USD) which generated the same excitement.
Final stop for that night was at Mixx, a night club where every single woman is way too hot for not being a "professional". Marcel, the local among the group, informs us that they are indeed "professionals" and up for grabs provided your conscience does not get in the way. Thanks, but no thanks! Thai women on the main dancefloor, and an all-Kazakh lineup in the smoking room. The Bangkok night market is well segmented, to say the least.
As the caveman crave was building up, we stopped at a diner for grilled cheese sandwiches and tom yum soups. I was simply chilling at our table when a lady with her boyfriend (or client... who knows?) turned and looked at me with a surprised look. When her boyfriend went to the bathroom, she rushed to our table to give me her phone number. Upon the returb her deceived boyfriend, the both left hand in hand. Past our table, she turned one last time and looked at me doing a hand gesture that suggested a phone call. Everyone read "Call me!" on her lips.
We got back to the hotel around 4:00am and decided to jump in the pool. The pool was closed at that time, so we all jumped with our boxers to avoid getting caught. Of course, Hoggy skinny-dipped. No surprise there. We've seen an awfully lot of Hoggy's junk on that weekend. At 5:00am, it was time to call it a night and get some rest before the football tournament.
A few hours later, we met up for a light breakfast before heading to the stadium. Hoggy and Aron looked at me dead in the eyes and said that if ifinished top scorer of our team, I'd be exempt of being prematurely voted "Turkey of the Trip". I took these words seriously and promised myself to deliver an outstanding performance. After breakfast, we took the BTS, Bangkok's sky train, for a a few stops before hopping on motorbikes helmetless for a few kilometers. It shocked me that motorbike drivers in Bangkok don't offer helmets to their clients. But, then again, does the eggshell we wear in Ho Chi Minh City really protects us of anything? Food for thought.
We played a six-a-side four-team tournament with eight-minute games at group stage and a twelve-minute final. For lack of qualified goalkeepers, we shared the two courageous volunteers among the four teams. On one end of the pitch, Jonas who simply decided to keep on partying with a cigarette to his mouth and a beer in his hand throughout the whole tournament. It was impressive to see how many shots he stopped singlehandedly, as he did not spill even one drop out on the astro turf. Those skills earned him the title of "Man of the Match". On the other end, a Finnish Viking (who's name I forgot). Hoggy qualified him of one of the best goalkeepers he's ever played against. Probably because he carried a dry spell during the whole tournament, as the Finnish marvel kept frustrating the Raider at every attempt. Truth is, this guy is not even a goalkeeper. He is a lateral defender for the Vikings and hardly ever kept the goal in the past. So Hoggy just sucked on that day, but the "Turkey of the Match" went to genius Johnny D who comes to a football tournament without packing his cleats. He had to borrow Twem's Vans shoes to play. He still managed to score one goal, as opposed to none for Unlucky Hoggy.
For my part, I did fulfill my promise and finished top scorer of our team with 3 goals, including a brilliant top corner strike that was argued to be probably the best goal of the tournament. Hoggy and Aron, on the other hand, did not follow up on their promise. So, here I am writing this report to you as "Turkey of the Trip".
After the game, we headed back to the hotel and went straight to the Jacuzzi. Finger foods and rounds of beer, served by our rooftop pool bartender, Tum (a.k.a Tommy), accompanied the dick soup we found ourselves in. At some point, a beautiful lady showed up and walked toward the Jacuzzi. She quickly changed her mind and turned right back into the pool. She probably understood she wouldn't fit right among eight wild boys and a symphony of fart jokes.
At 7:00pm, it was time to meet the Bangkok Vikings at their squad HQ located only meters away from our hotel. They were all waiting for us accompanied with their significant others around a long table topped with half a dozen beer towers. It only took a few minutes before the first drinking game. Finish your beer as quickly as possible, flip your empty glass upside down over your head and place it back on the table. Round #1 went to Greaser Danny. Round #2 followed exactly the same concept. Only, this time it was the girlfriends who raced against each other. The Dane, Mexican and Swiss had nothing on the two Thai, as they both occupied the two highest steps of the podium.
The party then turned into a Pub Quiz opposing four teams over four categories. "The Winners", "Peng Boy Nate", "J-Star" and "xx" raced neck to neck over a series of questions about football knowledge, sports knowledge, general knowledge, and song title guessing. My team, "J-Star", delivered a solid performance with Aron covering the oldies classics and myself guessing hip-hop songs in a split second. Se came very close of winning, but not close enough. "Peng Boy Nate" won the competition.
It was now time to move the party to a club called Sugar. It was a hip-hop club and I could be happier. We booked the VIP lounge with bottle service for the two squads and partied for hours. A few of us then transferred to Insanity, a club ranked in the Top 100 night clubs in the world. Despite Aron pre-arranging guest lists for us through a friend who happened to be a resident DJ at that club, the ladies at the reception couldn't find our name in the system. After an intense negotiation and a few slow motion shouts from Caveman Twem who was losing his temper, we finally settled for a bottle service that guaranteed our way in. After an hour observing the acrobat on rope and the dancers on podiums, the lights were suddenly turned on and the staff rushed us to leave. Marcel explained to us that the official closing time for bars in Thailand is 2:00am, but the police normally let's the party go much longer in exchange of a generous contribution. Evidently, an agreement was not reached on this particular night. All the ladies in the club then started panicking for not having enough time to find a client for the night. Tough luck!
On our way out, a sudden craving for burgers brought us to hop on a tuk-tuk toward the nearest McDonald's. Near the main entrance, we must have dodged around thirty rats feasting in the pile of trash. During the quick meal, Caveman Twem couldn't stop yapping in Marcel's ear. Luckily, Marcel was a good sport and thought he'd better laugh than get mad. Aron and I had a different opinion, so much so that we conveniently lost track of him while walking out of the restaurant. I guess we were too focused on dodging the rats and walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction. On our way back, we were stopped at every corner to join one of the improvised bars on the sidewalk. A cupboard for a bar, and a few folding tables and plastic chairs will do the trick. At this very moment, we spotted Twem sitting at one of the tables playing Connect-4 against a "T" member of the LGBTQ community. "See you later, buddy! We're off to sleep!", we said and left to our hotel. When i got to my room, i found Greaser Danny - my roomie for the weekend - still fully clothed in a comatose state on top of the linen. I had to remove his shoes, socks, and even pants while making sue he held on tight to his underwear. I mean, taking care of my friends doesn't mean i want to see them naked. I placed a bucket on danny's side of the bed, as he rolled himself under the sheets, and I finally had enough space to sleep on my side of the bed.
Kop kun krap
My trip ended on a more mellow note. I woke up on Sunday morning next to mouth-breathing Danny, my roommate for the weekend who had drank a bit too much. I barely had time to pack and a find a surprise unflushed vomit in the toilet that it was already time to check out. A surprise to which all Danny found to say to defend himself was: "Sorry, mate!", in his usual nonchalant tone. The boys left to the airport to catch their 4:30pm flight, and I went around to get some food and a full body traditional Thai massage.
As I'm writing this post, I am kicking back at the airport Starbucks, waiting for boarding and flicking through the shared pictures on WhatsApp. Somehow, in that collection of memories have slipped a few pics of Twem kissing his Grinder conquest’s junk. "What did I just see!?!", I texted the boys. Aron immediately shared the insight that Twem felt bored and disappeared to the airport's mens room ten minutes ago. Too much information, you think? Consider yourself happy not to have seen what I saw!
I went back to enjoying my tall black coffee, trying to forget the u forgettable, to the sound of a beautiful Thai women calling drinks behind the counter with her irresistible accent: "Caramel Macchiato-haaa! Capuccino-haaa! Vanilla Latte-haaa!"
PS: Kop kun krap!