Soi Sauce

With Dan’s usual sidekick out of town “with his mother”, Stuart is this month filled in for by – horrors – Dan’s supposed boss, Cameron.  Since both are half dead from some seasonal virus, the pair opt to stay within the orbit of the Untamed office, in Samsen Soi 2 – one of Bangkok’s great up and coming neighbourhoods – only to find on this particular night that it was on its bum and barely breathing hard.

9:20pm, Café Havana, Samsen Soi 2
Surprisingly this bar is run by a Korean gentleman rather than a Cuban, as the name may suggest.  Although Café Havana is only two doors down from Untamed Travel Global Headquarters, we hadn’t yet had a proper session there.  The bar is painted in warm colours and decked out with nick-knacks to give a lounge-room feel, a perfect place for saying “one more and then I’ll go” five or six times.  Patrons are further encouraged to stick around by the free Internet terminals and wi-fi access.  Reflecting that Internet access plus alcohol equals humiliation, we moved on.

Cam: After Dan selfishly made me sit with my back to the street over dinner, thoroughly offending my cowboy instincts, I grabbed the outward facing seat on the mini-veranda of Café Havana, realising too late that facing the other way was actually more interesting, including the waitresses, décor and loafing travellers.  Another foot was put wrong when we were told they were out of San Miguel – some excuse about the van breaking down, but opted instead for a German Dark named Ear-diggler or something like that.  Life began to improve, and I was pleased to discover that the bar’s owner, Mr Koh, has actually spent some time in Havana, lending the bar that extra smidgen of authenticity.

9:50pm, Banana Life, Samsen Road
Until recently named the Banana Leaf, (and like the Farang-Untamed shift, people refuse for months to get with the program), this place is great when it’s teeming, which it wasn’t when we arrived, most likely because a film crew, complete with lights, wigs and a surprisingly heterosexual makeup man filming what I hope was an English language instruction video, because if it is actually supposed to be a real movie, the dialogue is really, really bad. (“How do you do?” “I am fine, please use a good tonic on my bum.”)  The staff were so star struck, they couldn’t assemble the long island iced tea the bar is famous for, so we left, perhaps granting them a second chance later on.

Dan: Seeing the movie lights and camera took me back to the days when I was a fresh young backpacker in Hong Kong, trying to find fame and fortune working as a film extra.  Back in the day I was well known in that metropolis as ‘man in the airport carrying suitcase’, ‘boardroom businessman #4’ and most famously, ‘newsreader on the TV in a bar’.  Sick of lurking in the background, I hung up my abs, became an embittered journalist and never looked back.  Beware, eager young actor, the movie business will chew you up and spit you out.

10:25pm, Soul Shine Café, Samsen Road
Working purely on instinct and a hunch, we managed to sniff out a bar that had never enjoyed our patronage before.  Inside, Soul Shine is outrageously fancy, a departure from the usual ‘coconuts and fishtrap’ décor so popular in backpacker areas.  The bar scores points for playing PJ Harvey and the glammed-up owner but loses them again for being empty.

Cam: Trust Imtrav Andy to be one of the only customers in here.  An unassuming looking chap, bearded, soft spoken with a heavy accent that’s hard to place, Andy has a knack for frequenting the coolest places before they become fashionable – like the Adhere Bar and Café Corner.  Whether that’s because he has a good nose or brings good luck, nobody knows, but if you own a bar and Andy comes in, treat him well.  Andy, who knows these sorts of things assured us that this bar is heaving during the weekdays and politely pointed out that we were idiots for seeking thrills in this neighbourhood on a Friday. “It’s a weeknight area you know,” he sagely advised.

11:00pm, Adhere the 13th, Samsen Road
Admittedly one of my favourite places in town.  Not only have they been very patient with a four year old tab, I know half of the people in there on any given night, the blues music is great (the audience and band are as tightly interwoven as hair and chewing gum), and perhaps most charitably, they let me sing no matter how drunk I am.  We were fortunate that it was Vaughan’s birthday – a sterling fellow who somewhat resembles a Filipino Hobbit – and he was buying, so no further damage to the old tab.  Got a wee bit carried away with the free whiskey, but as this was the first place of the night rammed with people and seething with life, I reckon I’d earned it.  Now where had Dan gone?

Dan: It was pretty obvious why everywhere else was empty while struggling to the bar.  Adhere the 13th was thronged with friends, colleagues and ex-girlfriends.  Due to the political situation the bar had boycotted both Heineken and Tiger beers so I was forced to swill Kloster.  Not my favourite, but a superior drop to Singha or Chang, in my opinion.  Being something of the Untamed Travel local, I’ve left many a stain on these tiles and worn out my welcome more times than I can count.  Still, they’re a friendly crew and there’s no better place to be on your birthday.

12:50am, Back to Banana Life
With the night officially expired, we headed back to the roller-door special, Banana Life, with the Adhere crew in the vanguard.  The previously quiet place was now heaving with drunken bodies, and the birthday boy was necking Leo with the assistance of a hose and funnel made out of a mannequin’s foot.  Having earned my spurs and soiled my shoes at that particular sport back in university, I declined invitations, and then mild threats, to participate.

Cam: I finally got my long island iced tea, then another, proceeding through a friendly phase of staying rooted to the spot and starting a conversation with whomever drifted in range of my tractor beam.  Funny thing about long islands – the inventor should get a knighthood or something for mixing several repulsive liquors that shouldn’t go together, adding a dash of coke and creating a stealthy and vicious skirt-lifter than tastes like Dr Pepper.  By the third, friendliness was no longer an option, at least not without drooling embarrassment.  The conversations in the room suddenly seemed loud and overwhelming and I began plotting a stagger-free route to the gate.  I’d lost Dan again – he’d mumbled something about having to shoot this month’s front cover, but it mattered little when I knew my wife was curled up at home waiting to be disgusted by my state of being, and I weaved into the night, alone again for now.

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