One night in Banglumpoo makes an old geezer humble (crumble?)
In January 1985 I arrived in Khao San Road, just an ordinary street with a few shophouses; mainly catering to locals, 2 restaurants for backpackers, the 5 or 6 dumpy guesthouses were all in back alleys and after 8 PM the place was dead.
Those were the days (*)…
Since then I’ve been there on and off over the years, seeing massive changes with nowadays even young Chinese joining the international crowd.
Last night I’d promised to take some of my friends to Adhere the 13th, my favorite blues bar, in order to introduce them to some decent music.
We met on Khao San which was rather quiet (low season!) and discussed the latest fad on sale: crocodile meat.
After some serious talk (’It’s just disguised chicken?’) we decided to cut the crap and give it a try despite me being a semi vegetarian…
After one bite I was massively underwhelmed, the stodgy meat had hardly any flavor at all, only a serious chili dip might have saved it!
It had started to drizzle, somehow the weather tuned in to the croc meat’s taste…
Finally we’d arrived at the Blues Bar, which wasn’t very crowded so we could easily collapse on 2 chairs and order some soda manao with a veggie tempura snack.
As usual the bar's cat occupied the place of honor...
The first act just walked in, a Thai female and male duo, and set up their gear: electric guitar and tambourine.
They started their set with old hoary Blues classics; Rock Me Baby, I’ve Got My Eyes On You, etc.
In the right hands it is still possible to turn those songs into something enjoyable, here unfortunately the opposite happened…
The guitar player was decent enough, but the vocalist with her unchangeable tambourine rhythm and scholarly introductions of each song just smothered them to death, I seldom have been so utterly bored by a live band before…
They tried their best though and some members of the audience seemed to like it, but not us…
To make it worse by now it was pissing with rain, escaping was not an easy option.
We suffered through a few more classics, all painstakingly delivered but without any soul.
In some way you could say that we were truly experiencing the blues!
At last we couldn’t stand it anymore, also finished our snack which reflected the musical performance, OK looking, but without much substance (**).
Once outside by sticking to the walls we managed to stay dry and headed straight for a nearby music bar, this one offering hard rock…
I like lots of music, but hard rock / heavy metal / death metal are not really my cup of tea and the band’s performance didn’t change my opinion.
At least the rain had turned into drizzle and my friends weren’t very impressed either, so after 1 drink we hit the road again, this time walking back toward Rambuttri Road, aiming for the Reggae Bar in a back alley.
This is a very colorful place - no plain walls - where I’d been before and enjoyed some decent live music.
We stayed for an hour or so, watching more customers arriving and patiently listening to some band members (?) endlessly practicing ‘Checking, 1, 2, 3’ before returning to screw around with their mobile phones, frustrating indeed.
In the end we gave up and left in disgust, going after Khao San our separate ways in the never ending drizzle.
To make it worse somewhere along the way I'd managed to lose my favorite red hat as well, this evening was obviously cursed.
Next time better luck I hope...
(*) Originally I wanted to post a photo of Khao San Road in ’85, but since I didn’t have a camera in those days, I depended on other people’s pics. The few photos from those days are slowly (but steadily) fading away in crumbling albums… Therefore I contacted a German lady whom I met then and have kept in touch with ever. Since Anne had a good camera and shot slides her pictures are still pretty good. Upon receiving my request she dug into her (much more organized) archive and sent me some high quality jpegs.
Great, except for the fact that all of them were shot around Khao San as the street itself was rather ‘boring’!
The only photo that gave some inkling of what Khao San was about to become she shot in 1993, note the 'Overseas Call - Fax - Telex' and the photo shops: AGFA, Fuji, Konica, Kodak!
(**) In hindsight the earlier mentioned chili dip might have improved both snack & vocalist!