Captain Hindsight – yesterday’s hero, tomorrow
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Date: November 2011
Street food was abundant in the immediate vicinity of the backpacker hostel but the sight of some rancid crustaceans in a sun-scorched bucket was enough to deter. Nothing less than a clean, comfortable restaurant would do for the first repast in this strange land. Foreign comestibles may not sit easy on the insides right now. No risks could be taken.
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 be careful to stay away from there!” confirmed the brother.
A hollow laugh shuddered from within you. Street food looked tempting and yet your wariness ignored your hunger. The belly growled, its ravenous urges somehow propelling your body through the languor, infiltrating the masses on the narrow footpath.
You passed beneath market canopies and evaded countless hawkers offering everything imaginable and other things better not imagined at all.
Your fatigue yielded to the proffers of a solicitous stranger, who suddenly took point.
Leading you and the brother towards a mysterious location called ‘The Garden’. The stranger’s promises of delectable traditional fare in an oasis of serenity sufficed to gain your trust.
Like fish out of water, you humored the local for a while. However, despite his friendly disposition and passion for Irish soccer hero Roy Keane, you 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 back near the market entrance.
Confused and crestfallen, the native wandered into the shadows and left you and the brother to your own devices. Your guards were up after that taxi episode. Neither of you wanted any more drama.
Finally, with the stomach making threats of an internal war on neighboring organs, a lively street full of bright lights and hope appeared before them, luring them off the main drag.
You thought it odd how the street had less touts, street food and annoyances on it than any other and as you walked the narrow alley between the restaurant tables that poured out onto the road on either side, it became apparent you and the brother were the center of attention. All eyes from the flanking tables and doorways locked on your faces.
The waiters outside the bar were friendly. Very friendly; a little too friendly actually…
The penny dropped immediately as you looked above at the flashing neon sign outside the restaurant – Spanish on 4.
So. left with no alternative, you turned on your heel, before performing the catwalk once more.
You strolled back through the narrow gap you, with a ridiculous “I’m a tourist get me out of here” grin plastered upon reddened cheeks.
Drunken hordes on 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 to swallow him.
Escaping fast on the brother’s heels, you had decided that was enough of Bangkok for one evening, approximately 37 minutes after leaving the hostel. The brother offered little countenance and so the compasses were reset. You retreated to base.
As you staggered back to the hostel, the resolve crumbled with the vitriol from their insides and you rolled the dice with some street food just outside the door.
Recalling your backpacking research, you 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 great relief, neither of you dropped dead and as you labored up the stairs to a bed and the hopes of a reasonable sleep for the first time in several moons.
You looked at your brother and grumbled.
“We should have just went there in the first place!”