A thriller, set in Thailand
Two young men start new lives in Thailand. They meet girls and fall in love, but they also meet killers, drug dealers and gangsters. Camilla, a lesbian newspaper reporter, chasing a story, turns lives upside down. She is given more than she could ever dream of. She is impregnated with a daughter, but not in the normal way! Plus untold wealth. It all happens in Thailand.
THAILAND INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
In the early 1950s and through the 1960s, they invited groups of Thai communists to Beijing for training in ideology and propaganda. Some of those attending the training camps went further than just learning how to get their point across by talking or writing.
Groups of Pathet Lao insurgents infiltrated north Thailand, and local communist party cells were organised and sent to Laos and North Vietnam to learn terror tactics and armed struggle.
Some Chiang Rai Thailand Independence Movement (TIM) members crossed the border into Burma. They then moved south, back into Thailand to Prachuabkhirikhan, the provincial capital of Hua Hin, to keep their banned party from failing by making one last stand.
One of their leaders, Pu Yai, was busy creating mayhem, anyway or anywhere he could destabilise the government of Thailand.
Who was behind the anti-government stand, and why? Where, or more to the point, who did the money come from?
For several years, they suspected that the instigator was possibly a non-Thai, and likely to be British.
Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok
“IT IS NOW TWENTY past two in the afternoon! Where is my mate? The plane landed two hours ago. What have you done with him? Is he drunk? Have they have arrested him? Or maybe he has been kidnapped? Where the hell is he? Everyone else has retrieved their bags and gone.”
Kev was talking to himself, he did that when stressed.
An exhausted and frustrated young Englishman scratched his head and wished someone, anyone, would answer his questions.
He would also like to stop muttering to himself. No one else was listening to his questions, anyway.
Kev decided he needed to walk around and cool his rising frustration. He called for a cup of coffee; particularly when he saw the look of amusement on the face of the latest man he had confronted.
“I am sorry, sir, I cannot tell you anything,” stated an airport security officer. Whether he knew nothing about the flight or was just clueless about most things? Whatever, he was smirking, standing idly in his over-ironed shirt which had turned the cheap material shiny brown, leaving it to the imagination or a plausible guess how the seams of his shirt remained attached.
The airport emptying; the hubbub was quieting. Still no Nick.
Kev was not happy. Normally he is a very reasonable individual, he was not normally prone to talking to himself, today he was on the verge of becoming volcanic, not only that, he had answered himself. Kev had read in ‘Lonely Planet’ that here in Thailand you should not show your feelings and any sign of temper is frowned on, Kev was still wearing his L plates.
He felt an overpowering need to moan and whine; he tracked down an information kiosk.
“Before arriving at the airport I had just spent four and a half hours on a bus with a broken air conditioner. So, can you please help me?”
The look on Kev’s face had the information lady signalling urgently to the nearby security man, who came over and stood next to Kev. He carried on with his rant to the lady, and himself.
“You know it was cool enough when I boarded in the early morning, but the mercury steadily rose as the miles passed. So did my temper.”
Kev’s frustration was clear for all to see. The security guard had placed his right hand on his pistol, an over-reaction, but Kev was making everyone nervous.
Kev carried on with his complaint.
“By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, not only was it hot enough to make the devil jealous, there was not a whiff of a breeze.”
He remembered all too clearly the perspiring Westerners, or ‘falangs’ as Thais know them, were leaning across his upper body to remove their bags from the overhead storage. Overloud Thais, front and rear, left and right, all jabbering, possibly relating something so earth-shattering like the next-door neighbour’s dog peeing on the washing, or maybe telling their life history to fellow travellers they had just met in true Thai style. Thai people love a good yarn. Whatever they were saying, Kev did not understand.
“Christ, the Westerners stink to make it all worse.”
The security man had released his grip on the pistol. The lady seemed more relaxed.
He knew all too well that the surrounding foreigners were sadly in need of some scented soap and water. They were all grateful they could disembark and sample another of the country’s many delights, be it edible, visual, or beddable.
“Whatever, get away from me!”
That thought crashed around inside his head. Left unspoken, he wandered on, leaving the two at the desk looking at each other wondering if all ‘falangs’ were like that.
Kev had travelled to the airport from Hua Hin, the sleepy seaside town which was now Kevʼs, and soon to be Nickʼs new home. Kev was happy soon to be seeing his oldest mate but worried that Nick would not fit in, in more ways than one. Nick would not be comfortable in the flight’s ‘economy’ section for a start. Twelve hours squeezed into a seat built for a person half of Nick’s size. Would he cope with the heat? Could he keep his temper in check?
Earlier that day Kev had travelled by bus, aiming north, to the country of Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, the City of Angels. Now after a lengthy wait at Don Mueang Airport’s arrivals area, he still had not seen Nick, let alone an Angel. The arrivals sign had promised the plane had arrived and on time.
Thailand’s population was slightly under that of Britain, just over fifty million people. Both countries are proud to boast a working democracy. In Thailand, nearly all the people loved and adored their King. Thailand’s King is treated by most of his people as a demigod. In every country some people would change their system of government, Thailand is no different. It does not take many firebrands to cause a country serious problems.
What could have happened to Nick? The man was not built to enjoy thirty degrees Celsius. They do not build household weighing machines for people of his girth. One leg on the equipment and the little arrow already nudged twenty stone. Nick was a lad who enjoyed his food, usually not the healthy choice, although he would take it if there was nothing else. Chips and pies, Chinese or an Indian with crisps and a large slice of sweet cake to follow would be his pick. All of that to accompany a few pints of lager. Unlike Nick, Kev could go for hours without sustenance.
Small jerky movements of his neck, eager eyes flicking left and right. Panic was welling up, churning inside, battering his empty stomach.
“How long since I last ate? Come on Kev, get a grip,” he said, almost kicking himself.
“What would you do if you had lost something or somebody at Heathrow?”
So he went in search of a police officer. There were men in uniform everywhere. He chose the alert looking one, busy chewing gum.
“Oh, a big man, yes?” He answered in schoolboy English.
Another officer with an overworked uniform had no information. What do they feed these guys? In a country full of slim people, why do all the overweight people have jobs with a uniform?
Kev found a sensible-looking woman in a uniform that fitted well. She smiled at him, asked if he was looking for a big guy.
“Yes!” came Kev’s eager reply. But still no useful facts concerning Nick’s whereabouts.
“Yes, you are correct, that’s the person! Where is he?” Kev pressed her further.
He was getting so desperate he was running to the next person in uniform, anyone in uniform. He quizzed an airport cleaner who he mistook for a flight Captain. Nice uniform for a cleaner. Kev had read in a guidebook that in Thailand you should always smile. Even in tricky situations, this tested that theory. One last try–a man with a clipboard.
A big smile spread across the man’s chubby chops. Kev did not like him, or what he was about to hear. Which turned out to be nothing helpful.
“Well? I am waiting.”
Kev’s forced smile was slipping.
“Ooh, a big man,” said the uniform.
Kev’s smile slipped further.
This would be a long and frustrating wait. Another hour passed. He then failed in his latest inquiry, trying to discover if Nick had been on the plane.
“I cannot tell you security rules.”
The airport emptied further, there were few people left in sight, still no Nick.
Then laughter boomed all around, echoing from the glass and concrete walls. Airport staff appeared from each doorway, all sneaking a glimpse at Kev, and they were all smiling. Thais, unlike Kev, found fun in every situation. They are great at grinning.
Don Mueang airport had opened in 1914 as the Royal Thai Air Force base, and in 1924 it took commercial flights, making it one of the world’s oldest airports. None of that information made Kevʼs wait any easier.
The grand entrance of Nick followed the spontaneous outburst of clapping and cheering. It was as if he had just finished conducting an opera. Bowing his head combined with his newfound skill of performing the wai. Placing your hands together in the Thai gesture as if in prayer, the wai can mean hello, goodbye, and thank you, amongst other things. Someone in uniform must have passed on the art to Nick. He had been enjoying himself. Kev was thinking of a new use for the wai.
Nick had made friends with the immigration police, the airport security, even the well-dressed cleaners. They must have offered him food, they had. Not any food. He sampled som tam, a Thai favourite, a very spicy salad featuring fermented fish which could turn the strongest stomach and assault the unwary nostril.
A rumpled Kev could not hold back his moan.
“I have been here for hours, what the hell happened to you?”
“First, they looked me up and down, they then enjoyed touching my beard. Do Thai men have beards? It was as if they had never seen one before.”
Nick was warming to his first time in Asia, having enjoyed this new experience.
“Then my size impressed them. Are there no large people here? They wanted to know how much I weighed, I do not know, as you remember I break normal bathroom scales, so they got me on the airport weighing machine! That was interesting. Someone summoned airport staff and quite a crowd gathered. They all enjoyed that, particularly when a man ran a book on the announced weight!”
Nick was wobbling with mirth. Kev was not.
“Then, they wanted to know what was in my bags, nothing illegal but, when the Marmite jar was pulled out, well, they could not believe someone would eat it, they all wanted a taste. Which I happily offered. They had shared some of their food with me. They were laughing so much that the entire department joined us and even more people appeared from somewhere. Then I had to prove I could eat and enjoy it. Sorry mate, I know it was for you, and you’ve been missing your favourite breakfast spread, but I ate the whole jar. Again, money changed hands. A female cleaner seemed very pleased with both results.”
Nick stopped wobbling. He looked at his mate.
“Anything the matter? You don’t look happy.”
The airport staff looked like they had enjoyed their shift, cheery waves all around as they left for home.
At that, Nick hitched his waistband, untucked the part of his shirt that was not already untucked.
He was almost skipping along the terminal corridor. A thought crossed Kev’s mind.
“So who is it that would not fit in?”
There was the sound of clicking and speeding heels behind them. People usually rushed towards departure gates, not the arrival gates. A tourist hurried past, pulling his suitcase along the floor. A father was pushing his children ahead of him. Peering backwards as he shoved his youngest forward.
Kev took no notice of the fear in the eyes of new arrivals. He was busy admiring a beautiful air hostess, adjusting a tight jacket and skirt. The reason for the rearrangement of her clothing soon became clear. She started sprinting, a feat is difficult to accomplish in a pencil skirt.
Kev had turned to say something to his friend about lovely legs when he spotted the unusual flight path of a plane in the window behind them.
“Christ, look out,” shouted Kev.
The sounds of terror grew. People could see that the craft was coming directly at the terminal building. Shrieks and screams were growing in volume as people turned to see a cargo plane’s wings dipping one then the other as it hurtled toward the unprotected building. The pretty hostess hitched her tight skirt even higher and ran faster.
The white propeller-powered plane filled the windows, it appeared to be coming straight through. Thankfully, it fell short of the building as it suddenly dipped and crashed into a fuel tanker parked outside. Some empty cars parked alongside the building were thrown into the air as the explosion shattered glass for a hundred yards all around.
A fireball suddenly burst from the destroyed fuel vehicle, black acrid smoke choked the life from any birds unfortunate enough to be flying past. People in the airport were running as fast as the slippery floor would allow. They could hear glass crashing to the floor as the shattered panes came loose from their frames.
Welcome to Bangkok!
Nightlife In The Big City
A LOCAL TV CREW, excited for the latest update, spotted Nick and tried to interview him, not a chance, the big man nipped behind a group of Arabs, whose flowing robes distracted the reporter. The newsman looked left and right, mentally picking his next victim to be quizzed on camera, the reporter being in two minds gave Nick the chance to escape. Instead, the news team nabbed an American serviceman, a much easier and doubtless a more talkative target.
After recovering their composure outside the airport terminal, they, like the rest of the travellers got into buses or taxis to escape the throngs of police, military and newspaper reporters all going towards the action.
“An accident, it could have happened anywhere.” That was Nick’s educated comment as sweat ran down his face.
After more than an hour stuck in the traffic which was jammed going to or away from the smoke, they checked into the Miami Hotel. Cracked tiles and in need of a splash of paint, this was not the best, or anywhere near the premium accommodation Bangkok had to offer, but it was comfortably affordable. There are plenty of high-class hotels in Bangkok, in fact, there are far better hotels here, far swisher than Kev and Nick had ever stayed in, anywhere. The Miami was the place where you don’t worry about what to wear for cocktails. It is positioned just off the Sukhumvit Road, a busy area of the city for business and also for tourism. But not a great place to be stuck in a car, and not a place built for walking around, the choice was slim, Kev recommended they stay put until the taxi pulled right up to the hotel’s doors. Outside and away from the car’s air-con it is sweaty hot, and the pavements are often broken or uneven, cluttered in the afternoons with stalls selling fake designer clothing and the latest rip off cassette tapes.
For quick trips around town, a motorbike taxi is usually the best choice, that is, if you are not worried about safety.
Eventually, after dumping their bags and taking overdue showers, they headed for a very welcome drink. Perching themselves on the worn material of the bar stools, as the first cold beer was gulped and drained in seconds, it was pointed out by the very relaxed barman you could bring in girls or boys, or whatever you fancied, to be your guest. Nick scratched his beard.
“What does he mean?”
Kev knew he’d lived in the Kingdom for a whole month already, he knew the score. Nick would soon learn.
Before long it became clear even to Nick. You did not need to bring nighttime companions in here, available girls were already waiting for your signal to join them.
Two young ladies, well, not that young, in fact, probably a bit older than the hotel, joined them at the bar, touching the boy’s thighs as they ordered a soft drink each, they added the cost of which to Nick’s bill. “I think she meant to touch me?” As Kev raised his eyebrows and gave his friend a quick nod.
As the Singhas, Thailand’s most popular beer for the boys, and Pepsis for the girls went down steadily, the drama at the airport was, if not forgotten, it was lodged in the brain’s filing system for later.
The lads, urged by their new friends, decided that they should explore the city more. They jumped into a Tuk Tuk, a three-wheeled taxi named after the sound they make. Not the safest mode of transport, but fun, and after all, that’s what they were looking for. They enjoyed the frenetic dazzling neons, the sights of people with somewhere or nowhere to go or maybe, just appearing as if they might have something important to do. The ride felt fast, lively, bumpy and fun, even if they were crammed into a jerky, weaving open-sided box on three unstable wheels.
The girls and Kev got out, leaving Nick to squeeze himself free and pay the fare. They went to the girl’s usual place of work, the Grace Hotel’s Coffee Shop.
It was loud, four jukeboxes all playing different hit songs, one from each corner. Around sixty girls, all sitting demurely at tables waiting and hoping to be noticed. With only about twenty drinkers scattered amongst the hopeful hostesses making it look like another night on their own for most.
It should be said Nick had had little luck when it came to the fairer sex, so he was staggered that his companion was so interested in him. Every girl in the place seemed interested in him. Kev, on the other hand, was feeling the effects of the alcohol in the strong Thai beer, naturally he said it was not the beer, he was just tired after a long day.
They moved on, to see if they could discover a quieter place. After visiting a few more bars, which were pretty much all the same.
“Hello, handsome man.”
“Come inside please,” shouted at any male walking past, and after a few more freezing Singhas they wandered into a ‘sing a songʼ bar, hidden in a small Soi, now this was a drinking place which was different. A big slap on Nick’s belly.
“This is the place for us!” As Kev led them in.
“Yeah, looks like we’ll enjoy ourselves in here.”
It catered for Thais mainly and occasionally ex-pats, and usually not tourists. They centred a low stage in a garden area with tables positioned around the dance floor. Customers were served by casually dressed waitresses at their tables. The idea is that you hire a garland of flowers from one of the staff who walked amongst the drinkers, you then place the flowers over the head and around the neck of the girl of your choice, then you dance with her. The girls were lined up waiting to be chosen by a customer, often a regular Thai punter who had escaped his wife for the evening, because foreigners rarely ventured very far away from the falang bars. This type of establishment has been popular in the Far East for hundreds of years, but very new to both Kev and Nick.
It seemed simple, but Kev and Nick had partners with them already. No way a Thai man would dream of taking his wife or girlfriend into a place like this. It really was not the done thing to dance with someone else when you already have a companion with you, but not having seen a ‘sing a songʼ establishment before not knowing the ‘rules’, they were easily led.
“Kev, that girl fancies me. Look she is smiling at me. Just look at her she is beautiful.”
The dancing girls were, after all, winking at them! The hotel ladies went to the ‘ladiesʼ. The boys went to attempt the ‘ram wongʼ, a Thai classical dance. No touching your partner, and performed properly it was a graceful dance, their attempt was far from graceful. Kev did well to stay on his feet after a serious wobble while Nick was not built for grace!
As the dance ended, Kev was just about finished, and Nick was struggling from his flight plus all the excitement. The magic ‘girl magnetʼ power of the flowers, which they felt they possessed just a few minutes before, had deserted them. Not only had the dancing girls deserted them too, but the girls from the hotel had not returned from the toilet.
Judging that the only answer was to have one last beer before bed, they then discovered their wallets had gone too!
A none too polite inquiry to the tough-looking guy at the bar led to being gently but firmly bounced onto the road. Nick was not about to take this laying down, but he found his legs failed him, Kev was already fast asleep curled up next to the waste bins.
Sometime later, as the first dawn light disturbed their less than beautifying sleep, the pair realised that they did not know where they were; they didn’t have enough money for transport, and their mouths tasted like the contents of the bins they slept next to.
“What is that stuck to my back.”
“I don’t know, but I’m not touching it.”
Last night’s entertainment centre which seemed so welcoming and lively, now appeared drab and tacky, also it was locked up and there was nobody to be seen. The ‘fragrant’ pair decided the only thing to do was to walk. But where? The old saying: “Follow your nose” comes to mind.
Sweat, Nick’s pet hate, showed itself, first damping his armpits, then appearing as droplets on his forehead. When rivulets of sweat rolled down his spine into the crack of his rear end, he was very unhappy.
“It is only 6.30 am, how could it be so humid?”
“This my friend is Thailand” was Kevʼs surprisingly jocular reply.
They, by more luck than judgement, found their way to what looked like the main road, the pavement, which was crammed last night was deserted except for street cleaners and a few people sleeping in shop doorways. Dogs were fighting over scraps of food discarded hours before. Kev and Nick skirted the hungry scabby creatures. The four-legged ones, not the ones asleep in doorways.
Eventually, they came across a lady was in the process of opening her newspaper kiosk, she could only muster a few words of English, but she had a well-used map of the city. She cheerfully pointed out where they stood, and where the British Embassy was situated. It seemed it was well within walking distance.
Kev bought a Bangkok Post, by far the most popular English language newspaper in Thailand, from the helpful kiosk owner, really as a ‘thank you’ for showing them where to head. He had just spent the last money remaining in his pocket. It was only when they looked at the paper’s front page that yesterday’s events cleared the Singha fog. Pictures of the damage at the airport showing how close they came to being incinerated, but little in the way of information in the report.
Police Captain Wattana said it was an unfortunate accident, luckily and incredibly no one was injured. Damage to buildings and vehicles was huge. Reports of sightings of a parachutist leaving the plane were unfounded as nobody had come forward.
It was only later in the day that Kev wondered why was there no mention of a pilot? Surely the report would tell you if he was dead or alive?
After trying out their ‘wais’ once more, they set off more in hope than expectation of finding a helpful soul at the Embassy at that time of day.
It was far too early for anyone to be working, but it was not too early for rain. It was the beginning of the monsoon season, and when it rains in Thailand, you will not be playing any cricket that day! The rain was a pain to Kev, but to Nick, it was like all his happiest memories appearing at once. The rain cleaned him of dust, but more importantly, it cooled him!
There was no shelter outside the Embassy, so they got wet, really wet. Eventually, they were shown into the beautiful grounds by a Gurkha guarding the place, alas not into a building, but the meeting with an official at the Embassy at least was undercover but out in the fresh air, as they were soaked and they smelled far too badly to be allowed to go inside the grand interior!
After reading and signing some papers they were presented with five crisp 100 Baht notes. Nick explained that back at the hotel he had traveller’s cheques, they told him, “That’s fine, he could either pay back the Embassy himself or the Embassy would claim the money back from his parents in England.”
Either way, they could afford transport to the Miami, and a very welcome breakfast.