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» The Isaan Drunk

A wild week in Isaan

Written by Khmen

Part 1. Khon Kaen.

Apologies in advance for lack of photos and lengthy text, camera was broke so didn't take any.

The wild week began in Phitsanulok.
I know, not Isaan but bear with me.
At the time, the beginning of December last year, I lived and worked in Cambodia and was on a well deserved holiday to Thailand.
I arrived in Phitsanulok on the train from Chiang Mai in the afternoon with the intention of visiting Sukhothai, as I'd never been there.
Walked out of the train station, checked into the cheap hotel directly opposite, had the three S's and started walking to the riverside to get some food.

After I had walked a minute or so, I saw a familiar figure walking towards Aussie mate Bryan from Phnom Penh, with his Khmer girlfriend in tow.
So obviously we then went for a beer or ten.
Asked what his plans were he said he was planning on going to Khon Kaen, then Surin and then back to Cambodia via Chong Jom before Christmas.
Funnily enough, my plans were the same, except I was going to Pattaya after Surin to meet some friends coming over from England.
Anyway, we decided to travel together.

Got thrown out of the riverside bar at the stroke of midnight due to the cops arriving to make sure they all closed then, arranged to meet the next day to visit Sukhothai, which I wont bore you by describing, and a couple of days later we arrived in Khon Kaen.

Khon Kaen is one of my favourite places in Isaan, I dont know why I just really like it there.
Maybe cos its quite lively for a city in the middle of Isaan and has good cheap local-style nightlife.
Whatever, first night we arrived we had a few quiet beers in Sevens corner bar and retired fairly early.
The next night my Aussie mate flaked out early again (under the thumb!) and left me talking to the new Thai owner of the bar, really nice bloke, and a couple of English expats who live in Khon Kaen.
So far so tame.

I'd had a fair few beers by now and got to asking the English blokes about the nightlife options, clubs etc.
They told me about the Tawan Daeng in Khon Kaen and as I'd been to the one in Surin before and had a good time I decided to go there.
They said they wanted to go too so one of them went and got his 4x4, his girlfriend, her friend and next thing we were at Tawan Daeng.

The place was jumping, with a good band on stage playing rowdy Isaan cowboy music and pissed up Isaan girls dancing on tables.
The floor was literally vibrating!
A bottle of Johnny Black was bought along with a load of beers and we all proceeded to get extremely pissed.
Took a wander round the place and was invited to drink whiskey by at least three tables of pissed Thais and attracted the attention of a group of nice looking young Thai girls, don't think they see many young Farang in there that often!

One attractive young lady came to my table and was trying to persuade me to allow her to accompany me to my hotel that night.
Unfortunately, despite her charms, I was far too intoxicated to even consider it and had to decline her kind offer!
So, a good night was had by all and we check binned and left.
Only problem was when we got back to the town I had completely forgot where my hotel was so I decided to jump out the car and have a wander round to look for it.

After walking around for about 10 minutes I realised I didn't have a clue where I was, saw a 7/11 and decided to buy a beer to walk about with.
Outside were a group of moto taxi drivers drinking Lao kao with water and playing Checkers with bottle tops.
As I didnt have anything better to do and was already extremely drunk, I bought a bottle of Lao Kao and sat down with them.
I was there for a fair bit having a banter in a mix of pidgin Thai and pidgin English and thought I had better try and find my hotel again.

I attempted to stand up and my legs turned to jelly beneath me, causing me to fall over.
Face first.
Without even putting my hands out to break the fall.
THATS how drunk I was.
The taxi boys picked me up off the floor and were saying I should go to the hospital, or back to my hotel and that they'd take me.
As I didnt know where the hotel was I said no and that I didn't need a hospital and off I stumbled into the Khon Kaen night.

Eventually, I found my hotel and went into a deep drunk sleep, fully clothed with my shoes still on, until the afternoon next day.
I awoke with a monstrous hangover and blinding headache, with my face stuck to the pillow with blood.
I went and looked in the mirror and in amongst the dried blood I had cuts and grazes on my forehead, eyebrow, cheek, nose, jaw and on each shoulder due to not putting my hands out.
They were still full of dirt and cleaning them out in that state was agony!

Bryan came to my room and started pissing himself at the state of me and his girl went and got me some food.
To say that day was a write off is an understatement!
Aside from a sneaky trip to Soi Haa-Roy (!)
the next day I pretty much stayed in the hotel until we got the bus to Surin the day after that.

Part 2 in Surin to come later, including more cops, blood, drinking and a bit of fighting thrown in too, if I haven't already bored you to death yet!

Part 2. Surin.

Ok, so we get the bus to Surin with me looking like I've been beaten up by a Muay Thai fighter and feeling self concious at all the funny looks and check in to a hotel.
After that it was straight to get some food from the market and then to the Farang Connection bar to ask about renting motorbikes for some sightseeing.

The bikes weren't going to be available until the day after next.
This meant we had an evening to do as we wished without any plans for the morning.
Usually this would mean a good few beers and a nice lie-in the next day, unfortunately it was one of those days in Thailand where there was no alcohol sales for political/King, I cant remember what.
Fortunately for us, however, the nice girls who work at the Norwegian bar allowed us some beer in mugs so we stayed there the night and had a great time joking around in a mix of Khmer, Thai and English.

The next day was pretty much spent ambling around, talking to various townsfolk in the markets etc.
I like Surin, not a great deal to see or do but the people are friendly, you get a lot of Hello's, Sabai dee's and I personally find it easier to communicate there than other bits of Thailand, given my limited level of Thai and decent conversational grasp of Khmer.
The people make the place and I really do feel a genuine warmth from them as opposed to people in more heavily touristed areas of Thailand.
Same goes for Buriram, Sisaket etc.

That night we decided to do a bit of a bar crawl, nothing too heavy, just a little excursion to sample the local nightlife, but the road to hell and all that.....
We started off in the Norwegian bar at beer o clock (sundown) and after a couple of hours made our way to a Thai bar-restaurant opposite the entrance to Soi Kola, a little girly bar strip catering mainly to locals.
Watching the comings and goings on the strip and flirting with a couple of pretty waitresses in the bar made me eager to go and check out the girly bars and see what they had to offer.

Bryan was keen too, for future reference maybe, but his girlfriend less so!
He persuaded her anyway and we ended up in a sort of coyote bar where a few seriously hot girls would appear on a stage in the center of the club for a song or two, then disappear again for a song or two.
I'm not sure if they were for take out or just to make the place look nice.

After a couple of drinks Bryan got nagged to go back to the hotel by the missus, I stayed for another drink and then left.
I got to the end of the strip and ended up going back into the bar we'd started in to flirt with the waitress a bit more.
I bought her a drink and she sat with me as the bar was empty. As we were chatting to each other a big fight broke out between some young lads outside Speed, two groups of four or five people.
There were Muay Thai kicks flying about and a few blows thrown but nothing too serious and it died down after a minute or two when their other friends broke it up.

The waitress mentioned she was finishing soon so I thought I'd ask her to come to the Surin Tawan Daeng.
She agreed but said she was too drunk to drive, so I drove us there (Not condoning drink driving BTW, I suppose it was pretty stupid.) on her fino.
It was a pretty mediocre show that night compared to the one in Khon Kaen and as we were chatting away I could see my companion becoming increasingly drunk and sure enough she soon had to visit the toilet to be sick.
That was the end of that night, as she then disappeared, leaving her bike out front.

The next day, me feeling slightly worse for wear, we got the bikes and went to Phanom Rung Angkor era temple, which is in quite good condition.
His girlfriend was pretty happy about visiting it.
Its a nice day out, not quite as impressive as the temples at Angkor itself but definitely worth a look, especially if you've never been to Angkor or if you're in the vicinity.
Funny thing about the road to Phanom Rung from Surin is that for the whole length of it there are all sorts of strange signs for factorys making odd things such as cowboy hats and other seemingly out of place objects.
There are also signs for agricultural projects so whether all these are a sort of scheme to create rural employment I dont know.

That night, after all the driving and hiking up hills to temples while hungover I needed a hair of the dog and as Bryan was leaving the next morning to cross the border we hit the bright lights of Surin again for the last time.
We went back to the bar I'd met the waitress in, she wasn't there as it was her day off and her friend said she'd walked out and got a tuk tuk to take her home, leaving the bike.
Oh well, you cant win em' all!

We went to another bar with a guy playing guitar and after a few more beers Bryan wanted to go back to the hotel yet again as he had to be up early the next day.
I didnt let him off the hook so easy this time and managed to get him to stay out while his girlfriend went back.
We decided to go to Speed and have a few.
We ended up at a table next to a friendly Dutch bloke there with his girlfriend and her friends.

He seemed an Ok guy, and was generous enough to give us some of his Whiskey so we got him a beer or two back.
Bryans girlfriend was phoning him to go back to the hotel so we said our goodbyes and he went back to save the headache.

Soon after, I was dancing with the Dutch blokes girlfriends friends and having a good time.
I was sort of dancing with his girlfriend also, but in a group and made no contact or suggestive moves to her.
Anyway, Dutch bloke didn't like this at all and said something quite angrily to her and stormed off.
I thought I should probably go as i didn't want to piss him off, he seemed a nice guy, as I've said.

I took my beer and went outside for a smoke while I finished it.
A minute later there was a big commotion in the doorway and next thing Dutchy is getting dragged out of the club by a bouncer with his shirt ripped and blood streaming from his nose.
He got thrown into the street where he ripped his shirt off and was shouting at his girl.
At this point he caught sight of me and started marching over to me shouting "WHAT WERE YOU DOING WITH MY GIRL!?", looking as if he wanted to fight.

I didnt have time to respond before he threw a punch, which just missed as he was so drunk and my automatic reaction was to just fight back.
I swung wildly and by chance it contacted his already bleeding nose and after a couple more ineffective puches each we ended up falling to the ground, me on top of him.
I jumped up prepared for him to get back up and just as he was doing so I felt an someone grab me from behind and put me in an arm-lock.
I turned to see a plain clothes police officer flashing his police ID at me.
Oh, shit. The arm lock wasn't applied with any force and the cop seemed quite amiable.
He did get on the radio however.

Another officer grabbed Dutchy and soon enough the Warrior truck came with sirens blaring and three uniformed policemen, one of whom was built massively, unlike me.
Im thinking I'm seriously in the shit here, and admit that when I was put in the back seat of the cab and him and his girlfriend were in the flatbed, I was scared.
I made them laugh a bit by speaking Khmer to the big cop and explaining how I was just defending myself.
They didn't seem too pissed off so I just tried to relax and hoped for the best outcome of a fine.

We pulled up at the police station and I got out the truck and Dutchy started throwing up, or pretending to, in a conveniently placed trash barrel.
The cops were talking to his girlfriend in Thai and sounded and looked notably pissed off, the next minute a car pulls up and a woman steps out.
I didnt know who she was.

The police and her start talking at a rapid-fire pace and pointing at me and him.
I thought she was saying I was in the wrong and couldn't remember if it was one of his girlfriends friends or not, so tried butting in to have my say.
The big cop told me she was actually saying Dutchy was in the wrong so I presume she worked at Speed and saw what happened and knew whatever he'd done to get kicked out.

After a while of this, to my amazement, the police told me to get back in the car and that they were going to take me back to my hotel.
I didn't complain and got in, amazed that they didnt at least make me pay a few thousand Baht for their trouble.
Police in a tourist area in Thailand would have, I'm sure. Amazing Thailand.

The next day I decided to leave and do the long journey to Pattaya.
Ironically, when I got there I didn't feel the need to go on a bender as planned and yet my planned quiet week in Isaan beforehand turned into an eventful one to say the least!