Kings of the Wild World Tour: Thailand

John Tyrrell is one half of nouveau breaksmiths Kings of the Wild Frontier. In November 1999 he set out on a world tour and this is his neo-Kerouac on the road diary, a kind of continuation of the Kings' "Trans Am" ep which journeyed across the U.S.A from East to West appropriating local musical styles as it went.

Below are the emissives he and travelling companion Jo have been beaming back to base.


Tuesday November 9th, 1999

Sawat Dii as the locals would say. Made it to Bangkok, Thai airways superb, sexy Thai air hostesses and great food. Airport pretty tranquil, easy bus ride into town. Staying at 'The New Joe' hotel, pretty apt considering my new blonde status (well my hair is only streaked). Bangkok isn't as scary as we thought it would be, everyone really friendly, everything really cheap. Today we strolled to a nearby temple complex, had tea with a monk who bestowed gifts upon us ( stone pendants with pictures of buddha on and also apparently an image of himself). We then took shelter from the monsoon rains inside the Thai school of massage. Pretty vigorous. A mixture of pleasure and pain. And this evening we took the advice of a local who suggested we go to Siam Square to see some local buddist celebrations, local folk offering gifts to a golden statue of a 3 faced 8 armed buddha. Cool. Watched Thai dancers and fed an elephant sugar cane. One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster. (Jo)

Been a ball so far. Walk in the park this travelling lark. 6 quid for a roof & a fan. 70p for a slap up feast of fragrant Thai cuisine. Oh my. Still trying to kick back properly - the Thai massage was a bit of an ordeal really - I'll leave that kind of business to the more supple folk among us (rumour has it Jo can still do the splits). Liked all the stuff today - mad old temples and monks. Off to bed now to sweat for 8 hours. Gonna pick up my forged international student ID tomorrow for cheap entry into Australian wildlife parks. (Why?). One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble. (John)

Wednesday December 8th, 1999

After we met up with Anna we decided to stay in Bangkok for a few more days as there was some good stuff going on for the King's birthday, which is a pretty big deal over here. We've seen everything from crazy sky diving ('human confetti' Anna poetically called it) to day glo glittery theatre troups, hypnotising traditional formation dancing, international Muay thai kick boxing, to the most cracking fireworks display we've ever seen, all in the company of thousands of King worshipping thais. Now we've gone back to nature and cut out of the big city by journeying to Chiang Mai... (Jo)

...which is a scenic gaff up in the hills stuffed with Wats (temples) and little orange monks everywhere. Seems like a bit of a bohemian spot. Our guest house is owned by a successful Thai artist who's shown all over Europe. He was telling us about a Thai Buddhist temple near Putney just like all the crazy exotic ones over here. Missed that one... Toying with the idea of going on a trek into the hills for a few days tomorrow before we make a bee-line for a beach next week. We're probably off to Ko Pha Ngan next for the full moon party on the 23rd. Ha ha. We've found a place in the guide book to go see amateur drag shows in town so we may swing along to that later. They break it up half way through with a bout of Muay Thai (boxing). Sounds like a ball.

Oh well, off to stuff myself senseless now with more delectable and unfeasibly cheap Thai fodder. I hear there's been snow in Yorkshire... (John)

Tune in next e mail to see if we were adventuresome enough to go rafting and elephant riding up in the hills. One jovial would be guide joked that there were crocodiles and pirhanas in the river and the rafts look pretty rickety. Yikes. (Jo)

Wednesday December 29th, 1999

Hello. We're here again. We've been bombing all over the shop and have finally come to rest in our favourite spot Ko Lanta for Xmas and New Year. Here's what we've been up to since Chiang Mai...

We all embarked on a 3 day trek into the hills guided by the softly spoken Wan (duly re-christened Obi-Wan of course). All the hill tribe women wear mad hats and try to flog you cheap tat to make up for the fact they can't do the opium thing anymore. Some fool taught the Akha women to say 'Akha - no money' which became a grating mantra chiming in our ears. (John)

The scariest thing about these women was there blood red teeth and gums. At first I couldn't look at them because I thought they had some kind of horrible disease, but then I found out their mouths were just red from sucking some wierd red nuts. Phew. It made for a pretty gruesome grimace when they smiled at you. (Jo)

Being awoken at four am by marauding chickens was a bumpy start to the 2nd day, but our tired trekking legs were saved by two hours on the back of Memon the elephant trundling through a fairytale valley. I lounged in the chair while Jo sat on her shoulders like a queen of the jungle guiding us through the undergrowth (sort of). (John)

We were also treated to some fine dancing and singing courtesy of the De ra ang hill tribe. The long line of dancing little girls was arranged so that the youngest were trailing at the end, very cute. It all went a bit bizarre when they started singing a thai version of 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' though. The last day of the trekk saw us rafting down the ping river. This activity was amusingly mispelt in the trekking brochure as 'fafting',which actually was a pretty good appropriation of what we did. (Jo)

One raft carrying a lumpy load of plummy brits sank about 4 times much to everyone's glee. The only person on our raft who got in trouble was the bloke doing the punting when he put his foot through the floor.

Back on the road we payed a visit to Sukhothai on the way back down south, which is a big park full of lovely knackered old wats and buddhas surrounded by grasslands and lotus ponds. We all got bikes and screamed around the place all Famous Five-like.

Then came our miserable visit to Ko Samui & Pa Ngan, the much lauded Gulf resort islands. Samui has that sort of tired feel about it even though the whole place is a constant building site. Chaweng beach town is just piles of bricks between sunglasses shops. We stayed at the 'secluded' north of the island which turned out to be desolate and seemingly devoid of people. The only action seemed to be at Chaweng and even that was lack-lustre. Plus the weather started to go a bit rotten, so with no love lost we headed for Pa Ngan hoping for a bit of fun and sunshine... (John)

Ko Phan Ngan turned out to be even worse. The north end of the island where we ended up staying got totally trashed by windy weather. We woke up one morning to find the coastal path had disappeared into the sea, along with a few palm trees. The island was totally overcrowded with full moon ravers. We hardly saw any local thai people (they were probably all hiding til the wierd foreign folk went away again). We stuck around to find out what all the 'full moon' fuss was about and suffered a strange night at the hands of some evil thai whisky. (Jo)

Yup, it got me in its evil grasp and I went a bit loopy. Similar effect to tequila appropriately enough. Despite my 'time away' in la la land the whole thing was quite funny and the sound systems weren't all throbbing techno. We were treated to a few hours of student union disco at the Drop In bar. We left at 5am to the strains of Hanson 'MmmBop'. Ha ha. Full moon my arse.

So the next day (23rd Dec) we legged it from Ko Pa Ngan, giving up any chance we had of meeting our pals Robbie et al. We headed back down to our favourite sun spot Ko Lanta for a bit of good ol' R&R. (John)

We'd out run the rotten weather and found ourselves some sun. Awoke on Christmas day to our first true 'blue Christmas', that's blue as in blue skies, scorching sun, sandy beaches. Sweet. Still dreaming of a proper Christmas dinner, although a top meal of exotic thai food went some way towards easing the yearning for turkey and trimmings. We amused ourselves by making silly Christmas hats, John made his out of a map of Koh Samui, Anna looked like Carmen Miranda in hers and I made mine out of magazine pictures of the King and Queen of Thailand (very regal, but probably frowned upon by their loyal subjects). John had also bought us a mini christmas tree so we could get into the festive spirit and we exchanged gifts of chocolate snacks and christmas games. I even made an angel out of sea shells. (Jo)

Since then all we've been doing is lying around, eating, drinking and sleeping. Good work. We're back in the fold of Sea Sun resort in the company of Billy, Matt & Moose, the Thai blokes who work there, and we feel all cosy & family-like. I don't think we'll do a lot else now til we leave these shores - looks like our millenium eve will be spent round a bonfire on the beach with a few fireworks and a bottle of strong liquor (not thai whisky - I have learned a number of hard lessons) and that's about all you need. I hope whatever you do (or have done by the time you read this) will be a ball. We'll be raising glasses to our friends and family from the fireside on Kantiang beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand. (John)

No doubt I'll be singing along to Robbie William's 'Millenium' and staring at the amazing night sky..."We got stars directing our fate" etc... (Jo)

Aaargh!!! Cheese alert!! First she's banging on about sucking weird red nuts, now it's all gone Disney...(John)

Now go to Bali

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