Saturday, February 26, 2011

A great British day out

Michael Legge saying funny things with his mouth

After spending 10 weeks in relatively tourism-unsullied Taiwan, Bangkok's reliance on the industry is all the more obvious - even if I don't have the benefit of having seen this cultural deterioration over time, like some of the more experienced travellers I've met.

In fact, even with the heat, the language barrier and the terrifying prostitutes of Thailand's capital, it's now possible to forget you're in a foreign country altogether - as I discovered today when I accidentally had a great British day out in Bangkok.

Bangkok, UK

'Rain 40 days, please fucking rain to wash these turds off my fucking life! Wash these human wastes of flesh and bone off this planet!'

- Bill Hicks

I've been a bit critical of my English countryfolk in the past, laying the blame squarely at their feet for spoiling the world and my travel experiences, but I've discovered that arrogant British tourists are nothing compared to cocky British expats.

Bangkok isn't overrun with them to the extent of somewhere like Ipsos (or Salford-on-Sea as I satirically call it - yeah, I can do granddad humour). But the ones that do live here are pretty well catered for, so they can avoid the hassles of cultural experiences and having to try out new things, while berating those who are visiting for shorter periods for not having had the same foresight to relocate permanently to this exotic oasis. Okay, they slightly have a point.

What is a 'British Easter?'
Is that even a thing?

Annoying as the British pubs are to my eyes (mine is just a different shade of arrogance, really), I was delighted to find out that comedian and ace blogger Michael Legge would be compering a stand-up gig in Bangkok during the week I'm here. I'd tried to see him at last year's Fringe doing a £5 show with Robin Ince, but I left it too late and it was sold out. Perhaps because it was £5.

This is one of the few actual events I've attended since leaving the UK, but unlike the Taiwanese death metal gig I went to last week, it was in no way bizarre or incongruous, as I'd been hoping. It was essentially like being transported back to The Stand or some other comedy venue in Edinburgh for a couple of hours. Except with fewer foreigners.

Travelling laughter salesmen

I haven't been in the English-speaking world for over five months, but there was no sense of nostalgia, belonging or homecoming in this British microcosm. I just found the drunks in the crowd irritating and embarrassing. Either it hasn't been long enough for these feelings to set in, or - more likely - I have no connection to these people, beyond happening to have popped out on the same bit of crust (as in Earth's crust, I wasn't really born in a Warburtons factory).

Even the 'Thai style' noodles I had at the place next door tasted suspiciously almost exactly the same as Pot Noodle, like the local chefs have learned to adapt to the expats' moribund tastes.

I also went to the British Embassy to try to extend my stay in this ace country without having to do any border-hopping, but it was closed for half-day holiday. On a Friday? Lazy, wrong-eye-shaped foreigners and their bloody Ramadan or whatever. This would never happen in the UK!

And let's not forget the omnipresence of Tesco. Native culture is doomed