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Old Donuts - Getting Lost - Party

Updated: Jan 16

I have a good enough relationship with my mother that I thought it would be a good idea but a healthy enough relationship that it wasn't.

Old Donuts

We began our trip with a 12 hour bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai because I forgot to book the sleeper train in advance. Mum told me to never do anything that terrible to her again, she saw no reason why an adventure need be uncomfortable. I knew we were fucked as 12 hours of shit travel is nothing where we were heading. We made a lot of friends who were sharing our route. This guy Ben sold his business in Scotland to come travel. Most people had a natural gap at the start of their twenties to backpack South East Asia. Ben and I were both 30, we had disrupted our actual lives. He was a couple days ahead of us in Laos and so I asked him about the minibus he caught through the mountains. "We were fucking rag-dolled around this van for 6 hours". I thought 'Mum ain't gonna like that'. "Is it Mum proof?" "Nae chance.. It's not we proof." We needed a miracle and Mum found one. China had completed construction of a bullet train in 2021 which ran the length of the Laos. I told Ben about Mum's discovery, that for the price of a pint he could have sat with his feet up for an hour instead. He just laughed staring at his minibus receipt "cunts".


There was a lot of that. You get sold something only a tourist gets sold but you just take it on the chin. Without the reliable ignorance of people like us their economy would collapse. And I selflessly made sure ignorance was a commodity they were never deprived of. I was effectively Mum's tour guide so it wasn't long before my ambitious levels of naivety proved a problem. Unfortunately, our budgets and expected standards of living did not align. At 61, dorm rooms and 8 pence noodles were areas in which she was determined to remain ignorant herself. Everyone you meet is on their gap year. Geriatric And Proud ours stood for. People would say "Oh, you're travelling with your mum?" Unintentionally asking a question. Their eyes asking a different question altogether "What's his deal?" "You must be close" they might add, trying to suss me out. "Nah, not really. I thought it might be good for material." I'd say, not explaining what on Earth that meant. I was constantly meeting people who were eager to tell me they were a travel blogger. 'Eeew!' I'd shudder. For whatever reason I just couldn't relate to them. My site is far more high-brow than a common travel blog I would think to myself as I polished off another poo story.


Mum was fed up with me being fed up with her being fed up. We looked around for things to do. Perhaps the biggest thing we had in common was our shared lack of interest. I had as much interest in spending all day at the blue lagoon as Mum did in finding out what "many safe" meant on a quad bike excursion. She was too aware of how happily I'd remain unhappy, so she decided to take drastic action. Mum decided to come Tipsy Tubing. Tipsy Tubing is where 100 recently former children get rat-arsed along a river in inflatable tubes. I told mum it had actually gained a reputation for being safe. This is 100% true but I omitted the fact this was only comparatively as in 2011 there were 27 deaths. The Laotian Government stepped in and tore most of the bars down and arrested the owners for selling drugs. Now, there are only three bars allowed open each day and 400 less people. But because its Laos, these three bars have turned into a three-stop river rave.


Mum was the oldest donut, I was possibly the second. Mum wasn't a fan of the stops but to be fair they were no longer permitted to sell drugs. Though, this may not have been her problem with it. She was in good spirits but wasn't drinking. I was. Plus I was hitting my weed pipe between stops and managed to lose her a couple hours in. And so there I was: high, drunk & alone in a donut. Shouting at floaters by if anyone had seen my mummy. Initially people would assume I was joking but after an hour I must have had 50 Dutch, Irish and Germans shouting "Jake's Mum!" She had drifted a mile ahead with a Canadian contingent who all escaped the inexpiable Country-EDM playing at the final bar. We were in the middle of the dry season. The current was slow, low and we were scraping our arses over the rocks. It was close to dark by the time we all got to the finish. There was a large fire and some music waiting for us. I thought that was a nice touch but in reality it was probably to stop us floating all the way down to Cambodia.


Mum was somewhat traumatised from Tipsy Tubing. She did ask me how long it would take and I said that you could knock it out in an hour. It wasn't a lie exactly, I had no idea how long it would take. Though, I was working under the assumption this estimate was ambitious. I could have said 3 hours but then she would have said no. The fact it took us 7 did not go down well. You're stuck on that river until a Laotian dude in a pick-up truck flags you down. Mum needed to lie down for 2 days after that but the rest of us cracked on and hit the bars in town. The Bar had two menus: one for drinks and one for drugs. Between bars I was chatting to some guy smoking a joint. He passed it over. I held it in my lips. I reached into my back pocket for a lighter but something was off. I took the joint out and gave him a quizzical look. "What's in this mate?" His eyes pre-empted his words. "Oooh yeah, it's opium." I handed it back. "Fucking hell geezer, you can't be handing out opium willy-nilly. It's fucking heroin ya cunt!" He just laughed in this alien way which suggested it was good opium. At least I knew the drugs menu was legit.


The drinks menu was definitely not legit. They had knock offs of booze you've never even heard of. Imagine an Aldi whiskey aisle in a Turkish Bazaar and you're not off. This stuff wouldn't kill you and it wouldn't make you blind, but it gave it a good go. Hangovers on methanol are not to be trifled with. Eight years back I fought in a bar in Koh Phi Phi. There's a Muay Thai ring and idiots who are drunk enough to forget they're drunk can have a go. All challengers receive a free cocktail bucket. I was only two beers in when we witnessed a Thai bloke kick the shit out of some backpacker. Then two drunk stocky white guys volunteered, they were windmilling the shit out of each other. I could tell all their training came from watching UFC highlights on their phone. They stood square on to each other. Instead of throwing faints with their hands, it was all shoulders and lips. As if the word "Oooosh" meant 'Watch Out!' My Watford sparring partners might (always) jokingly shout "wallop" but this was sincere. I turned to my mate Keef and said these two are pony, I can take 'em. I was about 50 pounds lighter than the two cowboys we just watched but for some reason I felt confident, I finished my beer and stepped up.


They change me into the smelly boxing gear and we begin the safety questions. "Do you know what you are doing?" I said yes. He said good and pushed me into the ring. The ref raised my arm and paraded me around the ring but there were no takers. This went on for the entirety of Bob Marley's Get Up Stand Up, an eternity when your nips are out. Nobody offered so the ref persuaded the Thai guy who spanked the first backpacker to come and fight me by gesturing to my anorexic frame. He vacated the seat next to his missus and stepped up. Shit.


As the bell went I sent a push kick that sent him flying. Every time he threw a kick I would just catch it and sweep his standing leg. I'm a bit of a reverse dwarf as I'm all limbs and no torso, so keeping him in my range but beyond his was easy. When he finally caught one of my kicks in the last round I collapsed my leg and threw an over-hand right down across his jaw doing my best not to shout Wallop. The ref jumped in and called time early, signalling for a draw. The crowd got a bit hissy but it was a mark of respect for a man who agreed to a second fight. We bow to each other, then together to the ref & to the four sides on the ring. It wasn't a real fight but you respect the tradition. I was a bit petulant following the result and when he asked where in Thailand I trained I said "Hollywell Estate mate, Team Wallop." Conscious everybody was watching, I gave away my bucket and medal, then bowled out the venue with the subtle arm swings of Kevin & Perry doing an Oasis impersonation.


People were buying me shots all night. At one point I actually told somebody "Shots is my middle name!" Which, full disclosure, isn't. I fucking do not know how I did not go blind. I boshed so much methanol I could have set fire to my piss like a can of Lynx. I held on to an involuntary grimace for the two days straight after I woke up. Everything was blurred and I struggled to stand. A problem when you're on an island without vehicles and you have a morning ferry to catch. Keef said "Pull yourself together man, where's your dignity from last night?" But it was gone. I learned a valuable lesson and from then on I stuck to bottled beer. You can never be too careful and I can safely say in Laos with mum I drank more Beerlao than water.


For our notoriously boring two day slow boat down the Mekong River, Mum brought bags of baguettes and I brought bags full of ice and beer. Ben, not to be outdone, must have bribed a shopkeeper as he somehow got hold of a 24 pack. It doesn't sound impressive and maybe I just have a problem but I almost gave him a standing ovation. We were determined to have fun against the odds. Thanks to our hard work everybody managed to suffer from a fun overload on day 1 so day 2 we didn't start drinking until late morning. Two days on wooden benches is a lot of nothing so I set a productive goal for myself. No, not write 5,000 words but to climb onto the roof. There was a good chance I would get caught doing this but I figured the worst they could do is chuck me off and we couldn't have been far from our destination. I made my way through the long boat and into the engine room. There were a couple backpackers splayed on the floor looking like cell mates. "Guys, I'm gonna climb onto the roof. I'm telling you just in case I fall in." Before they could react I swung myself out the window and jumped up. The layers of dirt prevented the tin roof from getting too hot. It was exhilarating. I stood up straight and took in the breeze, listening for any commotion but I had gotten away with it. I strutted my way to the front of the boat like Mick Jagger, clicking my fingers and pointing at the local children playing on the banks.


I wasn't just full of piss and vinegar, I was dancing on it. Right up until I noticed the top of the bridge had an opening and the Captain was looking straight at me. Bollocks! I duck down, wait a beat, then peak another look. The image of him stood there goes through my head 15 times a day. He was facing the other way except he was wearing his shirt and captain hat backwards. Was he like that before I ducked? Surely not but who wears their uniform back to front? His uniform was standing guard like a scarecrow strapped to his back while he steered us along. The fact I'll never know if he did this just to fuck with me keeps me still keeps me up at night. Still, if he actually turned around I was buggered. I scuttled my way to the back like Quasimodo, then laid flat on my back. The Sun was intense, I used my shirt as a pillow and pulled my cap over my face. Eyes fixed at the yellow shining through the pinholes in the cotton. I felt closer to the Sun than I knew was possible. "Yeah Bro!" I'm brought back to Earth by this prick from Belgium, he's poking his head up from the side. Then I hear another variable of "Yeah Bro" from the other side. Time to climb down back the way I came but I'd lost track. There's no real way to check if the coast is clear. I figured I would just swing through gracefully and quietly walk off.


I landed with a drunken thump at the feet of the tuck shop lady who lives right on the boat. There were a lot more backpackers in the engine room this time. Luckily, we were on good terms. I was easily her best customer . I even spent a couple hours the previous day babysitting her son, albeit, against my will (much to her amusement). The backpackers watching on weren't aware of this and there was a perceived tension in the air. Tension we wordlessly agreed to exploit. I stand up in her personal space and audaciously ask "One Beerlao please." She holds on to her response to play to the crowd. "Oh big surprise! Don't forget coffee for mama." A couple hours later as we were leaving the boat she told my mum that I was a naughty boy. "Don't listen to her Mum, she's crazy."


We flew to Vietnam and caught sleeper trains wherever possible. But after three weeks, we had run out of track and had a thousand miles to cover before our month visas expired. I told mum we had to catch a 16 hour bus south to Delat. "I ain't bloody doing that!" What about Cambodia?" "Sod it. Google reckons it's pissing it down. Dave's flying out to Koh Samui in a couple of weeks, I can just fly there now." All I heard was one word: I. I was free! On our last day we hopped on my moped to an amusement park/ faux French village located on top of a mountain, where I learned two things. 1. Ba Na Hills cable cart is the longest cable cart in the world. 2. Mum is terrified of heights. The next morning Mum caught a flight straight to Koh Samui where it rained non-stop for five days straight. I stayed in Hoi An as a free man, I barely recognised it.


Getting Lost

I dossed about for a week or so and left the country on the day my Visa expired, as is tradition. After much vacillation I landed in Surat Thani, South Thailand. This wasn't thanks to hours of studious research, I had seen this giant national park on google maps and the flights were cheap. The plan was to get lost and have an adventure. I rented the largest motorcycle I could find for a week. You can hire a proper bike instead of a moped but you still can't get hold of a proper crash hat. Mine felt as tough it was made from recycled Xmas tree baubles. I hit the tarmac, excited, making a mental note not to crash. I stumbled across a town in the middle of Khao Sok national park on my first night. To my horror, the place was heaving with fellow backpackers. There was an immediate combative mix of emotions. The feeling of indignation, that I would ride a full day on a motorcycle, to forest in the middle of a mountain range, only to arrive where everyone else got to by bus. But there was also no denying that this is exactly what I deserve for repeatedly refusing to read Mum's Lonely Planet guide book. Or for shouting "Lonely planets are for fannys."


I explore the area for a couple of days. Busy finding bike trails and not finding bike trails. Before giving up and joining my fellow tourists on a two day guided tour of the lake. We all sleep the night on floating huts on the water. It was pretty fucking alright but it wasn't a fucking adventure now was it? So I book a guest house on the west coast and hop on the bike shouting "Adventure is my middle name!" Speeding off as fast as I can be arsed to ride, which is not that fast because I don't know the way. A road sign with a picture of some beautiful landscape catches my eye. The only part not written in squiggles reads 'Viewpoint 22km <--'. I check my itinerary. Perfect, I have a 3 hour adventure window.


After an hour I pulled up to somebody's driveway. He wasn't giving me "Ohh not another one" vibes. He looked confused enough for me to assume this doesn't always happen. Heading back I saw a wooden archway and a dirt track leading up to a forest. This had to be it. The roads were carved out of sand, mud or clay and not built for road bikes with heavy backpacks. I figured I was going the right way to a viewpoint as the roads kept climbing up and up. One hour passed and I thought in for a penny and just kept going. The roads gradually grew in difficulty so not to alarm me. After a couple more hours of this I pulled up to a barrier with two security guards. There was a national park fee. I thought who the fucking hell is coming here, honestly. It was 50 baht for Thais and 400 baht for cunts. I got my emergency money out of my shoe. You might pay an entry fee if you know where you're going but it just feels like a fine when you don't. I knew I wasn't being scammed because they genuinely looked concerned for my health. I'm not sure how much English they spoke but they did not understand "Where the fuck am I?"


After another fucking 20 minutes of steep incline and I finally made it to a clearing. There were four Thai families there all with impressive camping equipment. Luckily it was a Saturday, otherwise it may have been empty. I walk up to the view point and instead of appreciating the breathtaking views I panic as I notice the low Sun. I could either leave immediately and make it most of the way down before dark. Or I could stay the night and hope for the best. After some serious fart-arsing about I was still resolutely irresolute on whether I should stick or twist. I procrastinated at world record time considering how little I had. As I watched the Sun set over the mountains I came to the decision I had left it too late.


One thing I decided on early doors though was that I should at least make my "bed" before it got too dark. But due to being mentally brassic by this point, I was only reminded of this as I watched the Sun disappear. After making my camp it became clear why the two security guys had looked so concerned. What it lacked in basically everything it made up for in authenticity. My camping gear consisted of half a bottle of water, my weed pipe, and a teddy bear by the name of Bunny Chang. Laying out in nature I thought "I hope these Thai families don't think I'm too weird." Signal being poor, all I had for entertainment was a couple episodes of the Blindboy Podcast downloaded on my phone. I watched the stars come into focus as I listened to him tell a story about playing Super Mario with his balls out when he was a small boy - he kept me safe. I had listened to the episode before while on the road but so high up with no distractions, he was telling the story directly to me.


Things got dark and wet whenever a cloud passed through me and I ended up sleeping inside my backpack, using all my clothes as a blanket, dirty pants promoted to a pillow. There's no birdsong this high, the only sound to let you know the sun is rising is the dulling of the insects. I fucking stank. On my way to the viewpoint for Sunrise this elderly lady called me over for some breakfast. I could make a point to watch the sunrise first but with the language barrier there was no polite way to refuse. I needed food and water. She fed me flavoured rice and eggs. Then handed me a coffee to go as I finished. She waved off my thank yous then shooed me away like she might a monkey.


The cold morning air gave the landscape a different feel to the evening. The Thai families were there taking photos and all checked to see if I had eaten something. One woman said "Hey, I look for you! We had a spare tent. Where you go?" The clearing we all slept in was the area smaller than a football pitch and I slept next to my motorbike. I immediately thought of when I was 13. Mum called me up from work one summer morning and asked me to hoover the stairs. I shit you not I spent hours looking for that hoover. When she came home yelled "For fuck's sake Jake! You lazy bastard." The hoover was parked in our doorway to the room under the stairs. You actually needed to move it out the way to check in there - something I did at least 15 times that day without registering. It was the truth but I had to accept that mum would never believe it. Needless to say I did not believe this woman.


PARTY

I caught up with Mum and her boyfriend Dave in Koh Phangan. They stayed in a resort, I stayed in a hostel. I took them both out on the back of my moped to a night market on the far side of the island. Three people on one bike felt dangerous until a family of five overtook us down hill. I offered them a lift home but they decided their lives were worth more than the 3 quid taxi fare. I had travelled to Koh Phangan to reconnect with Mum & Dave before I moved to New Zealand. I thought I might be able to open up to Mum a little easier with Dave in tow. The fact I heard a rumour there was a techno club only accessible boat had nothing to do with it. Or at least, that is what I told Mum.


There's a boat taxi parked up on the beach. It's early evening, I ask what time do they leave. The ticket lady says when the boat is full. Perfect, it just so happens a mysterious amount of time was exactly how long is needed to buy drugs. I get my boat ticket and head to a small hut decorated with florescent mushrooms two minutes from the beach. This guy was definitely selling more than weed. "Sawadee Kraap geezer. You got any mushrooms?" "Sawadee kaaaaap. We have chocolate bar mushroom and mushroom mushroom." I looked at the price difference and told him I would have the shrooms straight up. All I had on me was a 1000 baht note. He disappeared while he sourced some change from 7-Elleven. Leaving me waiting in a chair he insisted I occupy in the middle of the walking street. Sat opposite a drugs kiosk for so long you begin to question your life choices. I was expecting the police to show up after 10 minutes came and went but if I was prioritising common sense then I would still be employed. To my surprise he returned, apologised for taking so long and handed me my change. The customer service was incredible. He even gave me an aloe yogurt to wash it down with.


The fucking mushroom was not far off purple. I sighed as I began eating it, I think it was my caveman instincts giving up and leaving my body. Choosing to eat something that looks so obviously poisonous feels offensive to mother nature. We were waiting for more boat passengers for a while and I got chatting to a girl from Brum who was dressed like Barney Rubble. By the time the boat taxi was full I was in the swing of the shrooms first unsettling rush. The long boats fit 12 people and have a loud propeller engine the driver lifts in and out of the water using a counter lever. The current was so choppy we were thrown from our seats each time a wave crashed against us. It was pitch black, loud and wet. The engine was lit with a red LED for fuck knows what reason. It was a sensory onslaught. Somebody yelled over the crashing waves and two stroke engine "Can you imagine being high right now?" The people I had already made friends with started to nervously laugh and patted me on the back.


It was supposed to take 15 minutes but from my corrupt memory it took about four days. We pull up near the beach but not all the way. We have to jump out into the water. I was at the back and had to go first. The boat was still jumping the waves instead of cutting through them. With no clue how deep the water is I give everybody on the boat a courageous nod like it's the last thing I'll ever do. It was about three feet deep. We were all already soaked, so fuck it. The taxi speeds off as soon as the final reveller touches the water. The beach is totally empty. None of us know where we're going. I said I saw the taxi driver point to the far corner of the beach and laugh. Not the most convincing of leads from a guy tripping on shrooms but it was all we had so I led the way. I was still feeling the to-&-fro of the waves hitting the boat as though I had left my arse on the seat. I was certainly walking as though I had left my arse on the seat. There were some wooding stairs built into the cliffs which disappear around the bay. The further you walk round, the more precarious the walkway became. There is a sheer drop to the rocks and waves below our feet. And as we make it past the final bend there are two Thai guys hammering some slats where we are walking. Where one can only assume somebody fell through. They tell us its safe but their laughter undermines their words. We squeeze past them and the aptly named Eden nightclub reveals itself.


Built into the rock face like a Bond villain lair. A sign reads 'No Phones, No Shoes.' There are a pile of flip-flops by the entrance. All surfaces are wood or exposed rock. There are multiple levels with seating around fire pits or trees that grow up from beneath the floorboards. The main dance floor is an open terrace which looks out to the ocean. There is a dog on the dance floor. He wasn't lost, he had the look of a regular. And knew to leave as the space began to fill. The psychedelic music has people dancing barefoot and sufficiently strange. This isn't London. There's no techno uniform or correct way to dance.


One raver looks uncannily like a yoga Patrick Stewart. Swirling his tanned slap-head in large circles, eyes closed, slowly windmilling his arms in opposite directions. Alice (Barney Rubble) and I were laughing at how perfectly diverse the crowd was. We all looked like we had shown up to different events, even dancing to different beats. I said "Patrick Stewart's off his meds." She looked over her shoulder to see what on Earth I was on about and burst out laughing, this went on for about 45 minutes because every time we looked, he was doing something more bizarre. She felt guilty and went over to chat to him. Alice was a little more than excited to reveal the wonders of Patrick to me. "His names Terry!!" "Terry? Fuck off!" "Terry from Wolverhampton!" I'd sooner believe this man's name is The Spirit of El Dorado or Star Light.


We take in the view. The bioluminescent plankton omit a blue light as the waves crash against the rocks. I say "Amazing ain't it". Alice says "That's nothing, you seen the spinny guy?" A young white dude with dreads who is dressed not unlike Jesus, controls the middle of the dance floor spinning anti-clockwise as fast as he can. He must be meditating as he holds the spin for three songs. It's strange enough that in a room full of strange strangers he has everybody's attention. I'll be honest, I was impressed. Slowly though, people let him be and focus on their own moves. If you were stood in the corner simply bobbing your loaf, hands in your pockets, you would have looked silly. The only way not to look silly is to get serious about acting silly.


The bay of toilet cubicles are up the rock past some baby chicks. So I knew I wasn't hallucinating when I swing open a cubicle door marked vacant and see the stall occupied by a chicken. I apologise and use the trap next door. It's fair to say all trips to the toilet on shrooms are an adventure. You have digested a hallucinogenic poison, so be prepared to shoot rainbows out your two pence. And it's usually the first time you're alone or sitting down so the drugs like to remind you of their presence. Luckily though, I was distracted by the fucking chicken legs in the cubicle next door. They were so close I thought perhaps this chicken was attempting to do the limbo into my stall. I get the feeling that she's up to no good and so I blast her feet with the bum-gun. If you've never been to Asia, the bum-gun or to use it's official name 'Batty-Splatty' is a hose used in place of toilet paper. People tend not to admit this but I'm sure it's the thing every backpacker misses the most about Thailand. That and curry for breakfast. I could have curry for breakfast here but without the gum-gun it just seems untenable.


Still, these toilets did not make me think of the idyllic garden of Eden. The were in grim contrast to the rest of Eden. Born anew I hit the dance floor with the energy of a man showing no humility after defeating a chicken. The dance floor empties a little for sunrise, then refills again. Alice see's me slacking and says "Cmon Jake, I thought Party was your middle name?" I have no memory of telling her this but I'm going to assume that I did. There's a man making bubbles the size of Labradors standing out on the rocks. Sun rising behind him, waves dancing for him. I say goodbye to the dance floor, then make my way down to the beach to find a boat taxi. There's no waiting around this time and the conversation and waves are less intense. I sleep in late and meet mum and Dave for dinner. They ask me how the party was. "Yeah," I tell them "It was alright."






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