I squeezed my way out of the crammed minivan, tripped over an old man’s foot that was sticking out at a ridiculous angle and tumbled onto the part- baked pavement beneath me. It was a good job I had my trusty old rucksack in tow to break the fall. Why Thai people insist on being packed like sardines into these toy-like vehicles is completely beyond me.
Hastily climbing to my feet, I studied the surrounding area and attempted to determine how many people were likely to have witnessed my clumsiness. Two men sat behind a small crooked table, sorting out tokens and counting out their daily earnings. Their smiles indicating they had almost definitely seen it. Other than them, the large outdoor bus station was thankfully empty. Rows of chairs stood firm but unoccupied. I sincerely hoped that I was in the right place; yet there was no way of knowing. None of the road signs were in English, and no matter how long I stared at the strange and beautiful patterns that stood proud everywhere I looked, they refused to magically transform into words for me. The last time my friends and I had attempted to find this place, we’d ended up being escorted in the back of a police car. I could only pray I’d have more luck alone.
“Bai Nai?” barked one of the men from his table. (Where are you going?)
“My rue!” I replied shrugging my shoulders. I honestly didn’t have a clue which direction to take.
“Farang anoo!” he stated, pointing to a row of white buildings across the street. (The foreigners are there)
I thanked him and headed across the road, hoping that his advice would prove true and that I’d understood him correctly. But upon reaching the buildings, I hit another barrier. There were no doors. Just shutters. Should I just knock on the shutters? And which ones would I knock on? I decided that a different approach might prove more effective.
“Becky!!” I yelled loudly.
Suddenly the shutters in the middle of the row flung wide open. Behind them stood my friend with a huge smile on her face.
“You made it! Come in!”
I ducked my way in, under the shutters and into the vast, empty space before me.
“So where’s your bedroom?”
“We’re in it!” she announced proudly, “Look at my cute bed!”
I followed her across the room, spying a few blankets and a remarkably thin pillow piled up in the space beneath the stairs.
“You live under the stairs?!” I cried in disbelief.
“Just for a few months until there’s a spare bedroom” she replied, still smiling.
“Oh my god…you’re like an actual Harry Potter!” I laughed. Until it hit me that I would have to spend the next few nights sharing that poor excuse of a pillow. Not so funny.
“At least Harry Potter had his own cupboard!” she remarked as she rooted through her suitcase in the hunt for a pair of sunglasses.
Soon we were joined by Francis, and headed up the road to treat ourselves to an authentic Thai dish of KFC. Upon bagging the bargain bucket we returned to the house and pigged out in front of the laptop. I could have almost believed I was back home in England…until later that evening I asked if I could have a shower.
“Sure” answered Becky cheerfully, “You can use the watering can round the back”
“WHAT?!” I shrieked.
“WHAT???!!” demanded a confused Francis.
Both puzzled and bewildered, we were lead into the back yard and confronted with this sight.
An actual watering can shower.
Becky assured me it was completely fine to just shower there naked as nobody would ever see.
“I do it all the time!” she insisted.
Although this idea didn’t really appeal to me…I didn’t have any other option. I had failed to bring my bikini as for some reason I’d banked on the shower being inside in a normal bathroom. Silly me.
And so it was that I came to be completely stark naked in my friend’s back yard, soaping myself up in Herbal Essences shampoo, stood under a watering can shower, whilst staring nervously at the hundreds of windows that I was quite clearly in full view of. Despite muttering to myself that nobody could see me, I didn’t believe it. Especially when I heard suspicious giggles. I was definitely giving the neighbours something to talk about.
Suddenly I heard a ‘PING!’ Followed by ‘PING’ and another ‘PING’. Then something smooth and round hit me on the arm. I looked over to inspect the object of assault and, to my horror, discovered that it was a baht coin. Somebody was throwing money at me! Shit…somebody could see me! Mortified, I flung on a towel and fled into the house dripping wet.
Francis was stood on the stairs at this point. Unable to keep a straight face.
“You bastard! It was you wasn’t it?”
He burst into laughter.
“You better not have bloody looked!” I shouted accusingly.
“I didn’t look!!!” he replied, looking rather offended that I would accuse him of such a thing.
Gently drifting off to sleep that evening, I was in for another rude awakening. The shutters of the house flung wide open and the whole floor began to vibrate. A huge rumbling echoed through the room and a bright yellow light shone into my eyes. Alarmed, I looked over at Becky who sat up calmly and appeared completed un-phased by these strange events. Was she still asleep? Sleep sitting? Could she not see and hear the same things I could?! The roaring became deafening: the light heading straight for the two girls huddled together under the stairs. Aliens? I thought in a panic. Oh my days…a UFO abduction! Who ever thought these things may actually happen?! And in an unremarkable lonely town in Thailand! Just before I let out the hugest scream imaginable, the deafening rumble came to a halt. The light disappeared. By the light of the moon I could just make out a shadowy figure heading for the shutters. My blood ran cold.
“Hey Becky” grunted the figure
“Hey Warren” she replied calmly.
As it turned out, Becky’s bedroom was also the garage for Warren’s moped. Clearly I should have known this. Just like I should have known I’d be showering under a watering can and sleeping under the stairs. Why wouldn’t it seem completely normal for a moped to almost run me over whilst I slept?