Thursday, 1 March 2012

How not to lose someone in Bangkok

The night before, on Kaoh San Road
I lift an eyelid, then two. My eyes don’t seem to work well, and my throat is made of sand paper with a hint of dust. As my vision is attempting to come back to normal, it’s now my nose that is awaken by a strong mix of spices and sweat, and my ears are being attacked by non-stop honking on the streets and loud tacky dance music. I finally see clearly. I’m in my guesthouse room, in Kaoh San Road, Bangkok. The walls are yellow with patches of rotten moisture. It’s worthy of the start of The Beach. But I’m not alone. I turn my aching body to my left. I am alone. I should not be. 

Next to me should be emerging from the cover some bright ginger hair belonging to my best friend Liz Bell.

We have been on the road with me for over four months, across South-East Asia. To be fair I could not have done without her, she’s been making sure I don’t lose any of my belongings (or my mind for that matter), reminding me in her very articulate English accent that I started to copy “Ally Cat, have you forgotten something again?”. Yes, I probably did, I always do. But I had my role in this partnership as well, because with her perfect English rose look, the white pale skin, the golden red hair, there was never a day without a full tube of suncream to be applied.
Liz and I, last day in Sydney, months later.

And right now, she is not here. I try to put my thoughts together, I stand up, I look around. Her bag is not here. She is not here. At all. The hammer pounding on my brain is not helping. Think fast, faster. Get up, get dressed.  I run down the stairs on to the street. I catch a glimpse of someone’s watch, 9.30. It’s already hot and sticky, and the street is filling up with backpackers walking with their dead tourist eyes, woman with fake tribal hats and food stalls displaying spring rolls from the night before, fried bugs and cheap pad thais.
As I grab a bottle of water, I make a conscious effort of remembering the night before.


The bar across the road, our thai friend Nat, the gig, and she was with me. Then, it’s all a bit confused, I do know I went home and I can still hear her saying  “I’ll finish my drink and I’ll be over” Then from a distant voice “Don’t lock the door”. No phone, no clues, the panic is starting to settle in my mind.

Back at home, cheerleading competiton

“Just one more drink and we’ll go”, “Wait, 5 more minutes, you can go, I’ll meet you there”. That, I heard before. In 4 months, I lost Liz about 10 times. I should be used to it.
“I fell asleep on the beach”, “I felt like a long walk”. Whether it’s in Pak Bang , a lost village on the Mekong river, which has only two streets or riding an elephant around the same temple a dozen time at Angkor Wat, I kept losing her.
“How can you lose me? You are tanned and brunette like a local, “I” should be losing you, but, I’m the only ginger girl with flowers in my hair, looking a bloody hippy with an umbrella for the sun for miles around.”
It’s all down to having really different walking speed. Actually it’s down to different speed. Of the 4 months of traveling, I swear I spent 3 waiting for Liz.  I get ready in 10, she should be getting ready the night before. I wait and I wait and I wait. Wait for make up, hair, clothes, and that damn sun cream.

Right now,  I can’t wait. I run up and down Koah San road, the sweat rolling down my face. If only my face, my entire body is drenched and cover in street dirt. I look in every bar, restaurant, I go around the block for the 5th time, it’s now close to 12, and I don’t know what to do. I sit down on the sidewalk and get half blinded by the spicy steam coming up the kitchen of a little old lady.
“Ok Mei?”’ she asks (You ok?)
“Ok kah, ok kah” I replied (I’m ok, thanks)

I’m not ok. I’m freaking out. She is supposed to be the responsible clever one.
“I’m going to be up until the early hours on that crit, sorry darling, not going out tonight”. Often making me feel like my journalism and history of art, design and film course, although the longest name possible for a degree, is an advanced coloring class. She is the one training to be an architect, I am the friend that is merely writing about half-known bands that probably will never make it outside the underground caves they play at. Just like me.

And sat there, I wonder what I am really going to do. I light a cigarette.
Trekking in Chiang Mai
I look around and the mess of Bangkok makes me feel really calm again. Tuk tuks, fighting their way through the flocks of newly arrived tourists with maps in hands, other looking already experienced, and by experienced it really means tattooed with some buddhist prayer, while wearing a T-shirt from the full moon party.
I slowly walk back to the hotel, slightly hoping to find her packing the 24 kg of clothing she managed to accumulate on the road. However I’m the one with the key. No one is in the room.
I open the door to our balcony and soak up the afternoon sun. My eyes wonder onto the street below.

A pink umbrella attract my attention, soon followed by the said umbrella revealing some bright ginger hair. My stomach drops, I look up and finally expire the breath I seem to have been holding for hours.  I run downstairs.

“I’m so sorry, so, sorry,” she says.
Our Meerkat signature move in Newtown, Sydney
“I could not find the hotel last night, so I picked another one and got a room there. I just woke up.”
That simple. All my anger disappears in a flash. I don’t know what to say, so I hug her and don’t tell her anything about the past 7 hours I just spent in hell. There is no point getting angry, we have 6 more months to go on the road, it’s just another anecdote I’ll tell her about one day. So I grab a sip of my water, light a cigarette and say:
“Don’t worry, I just woke up as well.”

I would not have traveled with anyone else in the whole world, and I would do it with her anyday. Although a few things have been changed in the story (never leave the truth in the way of a good story said Mark Twain), I was so worried that day to have lost her. However we are part very far away from each other now. I miss her, and can't wait to see her again finally this year. And you? Who helped you while you were travelling?

1 comment:

  1. Aaah! I would also freak out if I lost my friend in a foreign city! Glad you two found each other.