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Drug Smuggle

I've bought a one way ticket to Bangkok. And no, I am not going on my own. What sort of loser do you take me for? I'm going with my mum. She's going backpacking for the first time and through sheer desperation has asked me to be her guide. People who don't know me well enough find that adorable (mum included). Yet the people who do know me have expressed their concern for her welfare (myself included). Mum seems to think I'm going on this trip simply because she asked me to. Which is only true if you attribute my self-destructive tendencies to my upbringing.

The real reason I agreed to this trip is that I'm hoping it will create some content for the blog. Mum is fine with this, so long as she doesn't know about it. Such ignorant rhetoric only serves as evidence why I'll be a terrible guide. But both my brothers had already turned her down, so she's stuck with me until I abandon her in Laos. It's either that or I misplace her prescription glasses and swap lives with a ladyboy, hoping she won't notice I've manned up. To prove this is all really happening I've created an Instagram account. This feels like I've joined society at gunpoint but at least people can now not understand what I'm doing across two platforms:

The last time I flew to Bangers was seven years ago, I went with my friend Keif and his Mrs for 3 months. Mum was dating some dickhead who insisted people call him 'The Hammer'. A silly nickname but The Hammer believed irony was anything to do with West Ham, so I thought it rude not to listen. "People call me it" he wished, it was just unfortunate that The Hammer was most of those people. In a moment of perceived generosity The Hammer offered to lend me his tablet while we went backpacking around South East Asia. "Are you sure Billy Hammer (to use his legal title)? I'll probably have it stolen." I asked with naive racism. "Nah, you take it son. You'll get more use out it than me" he humblebragged, failing to add he won it for coming 2nd in a meat raffle.

For the next 9 weeks this bastard tablet would become the bane of my life. Growing up, my brother and I were held captive at my Nan's seaside cottage each summer. In the evenings, Nan would ask us to massage her bunions and our response to this would take less time than this fucking tablets touch response. Eventually, I got so wound up with it that I summoned my spirit animal - Happy Gilmore - and launched that fucker like a discuss, off a ferry and into the Gulf of Thailand. This tantrum played out in front of Keif, who lives for moments like this. His teary smile akin to a man who just discovered wanking cures cancer. Ten minutes later Keif asked if I wanted to watch a movie and I nodded, still sulking. He reached into his backpack and handed me some swimming trunks.

Keif's mum is a worrier. So each morning my rat bastard best friend would facetime her with updates. The day after my aquatic litter paroxysm, our respective mother's bumped into each other at the supermarket. Keif's mum said "Isn't it wonderful what they're doing. Did Jake tell you about the boat trip?" My mum almost speechless was forced to admit "Jake told me he wouldn't have any phone signal for three months".


On the off chance somebody is interested, I've turned the last trip into a way-too-long short story. Let me know what you think. Cheers. X


Cold & wet, Keif, Abbie and I were waiting at the bus stop in Sapa, a mountain village in North Vietnam. We had spent a few days staying with a family who owned a rice paddy, walking the trails and drinking ruou - homemade rice wine. We were due to catch the bus South together but it was late, leaving me too much time to think - the route to all my troubles. I thought "What sort of boring bastard catches the bus down Vietnam". And so I turned to the guys and said I wasn't going with them. I blamed this sudden abandonment on Aidan, this film student from Vermont who gave me the idea but in reality it was my ego. I rode motorcycles in the UK but buying one just for Vietnam seemed ridiculous. Yet this snot nose American - in Nam of all places - who had never even been on a bike - was about to have a greater adventure than the three of us. His 'plan' was to buy a bike in Hanoi, spend 3 weeks riding South to Saigon and sell it. We met Aidan a week earlier on an involuntary drug smuggle:

We had booked the same 22 hour sleeper bus from Laos to Hanoi but we soon learned of six gang members at the front of the bus (driver included) who had other plans. The bus got off to a bad start by driving 4 hours off course. We stopped at a garage a couple miles off the highway and were told to get some food from around the corner - nobody was allowed to stay on the bus. The food looked guaranteed to give all 30 of us explosive food poisoning. Imagine that - 60 ends shooting into 1 toilet for 24 hours - no thanks. So we all made the enlightened decision to avoid it. We peered back around the corner to see the gang remove all of the bus seats, load dozens of packages underneath, before screwing them back into place. Then - and this is where we all became a little suspicious - they spent 45 minutes wiping down the inside of the bus, even using an air compressor. We collectively wondered "What the fuck do we do now?" We were in the middle of nowhere and all our bags were still on the bus. So we walked back on and said nothing.

We eventually made our way towards the Vietnam border, just not one which suggested we were heading to Hanoi. We parked on the hard shoulder of a mountain road for the night, 5 miles from the border as it was "closed until morning". We thought it's unlikely that an international border closed at night. And a short 10 hours later it became clear that we had all been waiting for their friend's shift to start. When we finally did make it across, the gang (a little conspicuously) started celebrating like they just scored a last minute winner. We were then taken to a garage in the middle of a forest. We then dropped off our drugs, including a fucking airplane engine stored in the luggage hold. Finally, we were dropped off, 20 miles outside of the city. Just in case we reported them. The journey took 36 hours.

The thought of bussing it down Vietnam after that seemed more ridiculous than buying a motorbike. I asked the guys to come but Abbie said no, worried it was too dangerous. I deduced this after she asked "Do you not think there is a good chance that you might die?" I didn't. And on that note we jumped on separate buses, leaving Keif in the lurch. I got the bus straight to Hanoi to buy a bike off CraigsList. I bought one off an Irish girl with a broken arm for 4 million Dong. I climbed on and it was immediately obvious how she had broken it - the handlebars were held on with a cable tie. 4 million Dong did sound like a lot of money to carry around in my pocket. So when I went to view the bike I asked if I could give it a test ride over to the ATM. The girl with the broken arm asked if I'd like to sit on the back. Fuck no, was the answer to that, and she hopped on behind me. Each time I leaned on the handlebars they would twist a good foot up or down. Hanoi bike traffic is total chaos but all I could think was "At least I wasn't learning to ride in this mayhem". After Aidan viewed his bike, he had to ask the guy selling it to teach him how it works.

Two weeks in, Aidan and I got a phone call from Keif. England were playing Wales at the Euros and for reasons that still escape me, it was vitally important that we all watch it together. We had two days to catch up. He told us where he was and I said "No problem" not having a clue where we were. In theory the 4 of us should have been travelling down the country at the same speeds, just via different modes of transportation. In reality, Aidan and I stopped off at every shitbox stop that sold Bia Hoi - the cheapest beer in the world. Because of this we had two days to cover what would normally take us a week. We left first thing in the morning. Surviving eighteen hours on dirt bikes by keeping Bia Hoi stops to a minimum and using bin bags full of dirty laundry as seat cushions to avoid our arses falling out. When we finally did stop we were hours away from a hotel so decided to 'camp'.

We left our bikes just off the road and walked down this steep incline towards the river. Aidan made a fire and I drank our 'supplies'. We were repeatedly advised not to do this by people but I felt perfectly safe right until Aidan shook me awake around 3am. It was pitch black except for a search light in the distance, bobbing along the river. The light flashed past us and immediately cut out. What felt like 20 went by before we heard a boat pull up followed by a pair of footsteps. The light turned back on us once they were a couple feet from us, we shit ourselves. It was the local police, concerned that we abandoned our bikes miles from anywhere. Presumably, they were trying to scare us into paying a bribe until they smelt us and saw we had nothing but our dirty underwear for pillows. We made small talk for a minute and offered them a beer and they let us be. We left at first light.

There was only one way to make it in time for the game, fuck the road off and take some short cuts. About an hour into this bright idea of mine I looked back to see my day pack had been shaken off my bike. My day pack was where I stored everything I couldn't afford to lose. We searched back along the dirt track for over an hour before we were flagged down by a distressed looking woman. All we understood is that she wanted us to follow her, so we parked up our bikes and followed her through the trees and down a hill. At the bottom was a church under construction with 30 or so locals waiting for us. They were all celebrating our arrival and waving my day pack up in the air. Everybody was patting us on the backs for some reason, but when I looked inside the bag my passport was missing. My disappointment did not go unnoticed and we were ushered inside. I was shown to the pulpit, where in place of the Bible was my passport. Perhaps a subtle hint to make a donation which flew over my head as all I could think was "Have these people been worshipping me?" They fed us lunch and invited us to the church's grand opening the following day as their guests of honour. We thanked them but said we had a very important football match we had to watch on the tele and fucked off.

We made it for the start of the 2nd half but this involved a fair bit of dangerous night time riding. Dangerous because the roads were pitch black and my headlight had been smashed after I rode into the back of Aidan's bike because his brake light was smashed. I loved that bike despite its repeated attempts to kill me. About once a day the steering would lock for a few seconds. I had no idea my bike even had a steering lock so I did what any sensible 23 year old would do and ignored it until it blew up in my face. One week later, it blew up in my face. I was riding down a hill with a sharp bend at the bottom of it. I was leading a crew of 4 bogans when the steering locked. I slowed down for the bend, leaned over to my right and miraculously managed to take the corner perfectly. The issue being my bike carried on straight without me and flew into the bushes. Somehow I had stayed on my feet throughout this whole crash. In my mind it was Evil Knievel, but I'm told it was Bambi.

Oh shit, Aidan!

By the time we made it to Saigon there were seven of us and we were all sharing one dorm. Unlike the English contingency of our group, Aidan had actually done some research before travelling to a new continent. Each town we rode into, he would know where Anthony Bourdain ate or the local delicacy. He also called strangers sir or madam. Which is why it was such a shock when we woke up in our dorm one morning to find Aidan absolutely caked in blood. We had left him the night before dancing with a lovely lady in a nightclub. Ever the wordsmith, Keif asked from his top bunk if he got his willy wet last night. Aidan stood up to reveal his now red Good Morning Vietnam vest and said "No, I got punched in the face." Laughing, it was quite a while before we heard him continue. "...when I found the hostel the front doors were locked [these were double automatic glass sliding doors for your imagination]. I was banging on the door and yelling for somebody to come and let me in. When somebody finally did come they told me to fuck off. The guy kept yelling back at me 'You're not staying here' and I kept yelling back 'Fuck you, just let me in!'. I thought he finally understood when he unlocked the doors but as soon as they were far enough apart to fit his arm he punched me square in the nose. It was at this point I realised I was at the wrong place". We asked Aidan if he deserved it and he said "Definitely, I woke up his wife and baby".

We managed to sell our bikes the day our Vietnam Visas ran out and made our way to Cambodia. Sure, we visited Angkor Wat. And we played football with the locals outside of the King's Palace but most importantly, on our last night, we ordered 'happy pizza'. Aidan had a 10pm bus to catch but fortunately the rest of us had until morning. The catch with weed pizza is that it gives you the munchies. Which leads to more pizza - it's a vicious cycle. Aidan could barely walk when we shoved him onto his day-long mini bus. After we threw Aidan on, the six of us had 12 hours until our bus so no dramas like Aidan's should have taken place...

I was first up in the morning. The place was a real mess. People were passed out on the floors, clothes and pizza everywhere. I ambled my way downstairs to reception for some water. When the lady working there shouted out "Your bus leave in five minute! They waiting!" I turned around and legged it back up the stairs, falling over twice. I burst through the door and yelled out exactly what was shouted at me, too stoned to correct the ladies grammar. When you eat weed instead of smoke it, it stays in your system for much longer. We had the motor skills of 4 years olds. Everybody immediately fell over a body, a backpack or themselves at least once. Furniture was being damaged. Walls dented. Noises made that belonged in a farmyard. It was total chaos. Nobody's bag was packed. "Just grab a bag and fill it!" Keif's shirt was covered in so much pizza we legally couldn't risk bringing it back into Thailand. I waved everyone past the door like the parachute regiment commander who shouts jump. I noticed Keif had my flip flops on and when I looked down at mine I saw they didn't fit or match. The only thing we left in that room though was the evil pizza. We bundled down the stairs, past a concerned looking receptionist and fell into the bus. Somehow all in a worse state than Aidan was, quite the achievement.

At least another hour passed until it dawned on one of us that our American friends well-being was under threat. We wouldn't find out what happened to him for another 3 years but it was worth the wait. Keif and I met Aidan in a bar near Union station in Toronto. We asked him what happened and was like "Oh yeah! I was drifting in and out of consciousness for a few hours which was great except an evil smell kept waking me up. The minibus was packed with locals and I was in the middle seat away from the windows. The smell was so bad I couldn't understand how nobody was dealing with it. If I wasn't so high I definitely would have made the driver pull over but I just couldn't in my state. After a while I started to get uncomfortably itchy in my shorts and feared the worst but I'm a rational guy and knew it was probably pizza paranoia. The people on either side of me had their eyes closed so as quietly as possible I slid my hand down there. I then immediately realised that I had shit my pants. I had to carry on sitting in this mess for 5 hours. When we pulled over for a stop I ran straight to the toilet to start the formal investigation. It was nothing but sweat, fear and wet farts. I was so relieved that I almost cried but I will never forget the horror. The smell was definitely me."

What a champ. I'm posting this on our first night in Thailand. The only thing to change since that last trip is instead of an innocent young man I am now taking my mother. I'm grateful my mum is coming but I'm also grateful for Guinness. Or that my arsehole doesn't sit halfway up my back and how relevant is that? Very, according to some cynical people who say I only added that bit so I could finally include this masterpiece my brother drew for this blog over a year ago. Back soon. X

Please share people. If enough of you do it, I can achieve my lifelong dream of not working👍.


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