Stab Magazine | A Man In His Mid-Life Crisis Books A 30-Day Trip To Bangkok

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A Man In His Mid-Life Crisis Books A 30-Day Trip To Bangkok

Sometimes you need a break from surfing.

news // Sep 24, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ideas come to me under the influence of various intoxicants.

Bad ideas, usually. The sort of things that, upon sober reflection, are either poorly considered, outright dangerous, or totally nonsensical. 

I’m fairly effective at ignoring the urges brought on by intentionally misfiring neurons. I’ll write the better ones down for consideration upon waking. Most are allowed to die while my mind resets and my body struggles to process whatever I’ve chosen to pump into it.

But, every once in awhile, the stars and poisons align and manifest themselves in a gem worth considering. It’s not often. Almost never, really. But it’s happened before. 

On my 39th birthday, I drunkenly pitched the idea of pre-booking my mid-life crisis. My forties are right around the corner. What better time to go all-in on dangerous whims and hope it all works out?

A bit over a month in Thailand would be the ticket. Bangkok is calling.

It’s an amazing city, one the Thai expat crowd loves to shit on but what do they know anyway? Bunch of pedophiles and yellow fever crazed medical tourists. I couldn’t give two fucks what the expat crowd thinks. I love the hustle and bustle, the grime, the food, the Thai people, the fact that a person can put themselves in as much danger or luxury as they can imagine with minimal effort.

It’s probably not much different than most big cities. But I live on a secluded island that goes to sleep at 8PM. Bangkok is close. It’s cheap. I’m comfortable there.

I can’t speak a lick of Thai, beyond ‘hello’ and ‘thank you.’ But it doesn’t matter. The Thai people have never seemed very interested in me. Pay up, go home. Be a good tourist. 

If you click across the internet, dive into some Bangkok facts, you’ll quickly come across people decrying Khao San Rd. Expat websites offer advice for finding budget rate bangs but draw the line at drinking with backpackers in noisy bars on a filthy street. Flexing your economic muscle to pull partners who wouldn’t look twice at you back home is fine and dandy. Twenty-year-old British girls puking their guts out in the gutter while a friend holds back her hair and wipes away her tears is the work of the devil.

Everyone hates Khao San. Except not really. It fills with human flesh once the sun goes down.

According to those in the know, the only true way to experience Thailand is by touring temples, gazing upon Buddhas, taking pictures with abused elephants or sitting on a tropical beach bored out of your mind while skin cancer takes one step closer.

I eavesdropped on a man in the Honolulu airport as he played old hand to a neophyte. Early sixties, rumpled aloha shirt, five-day beard, left hand wrapped in bandages. He offered, unasked, that said bandages were the result of a street fight somewhere on Oahu. Announced to everyone within earshot that he owned houses in Newport Beach, Haleiwa, and Phuket. His wife is staying home while he makes a post injury sojourn to Siam. He drops a sly nudge nudge wink wink about a young Thai girlfriend who spends six months of each year waiting on his return.

If she exists, and she may. But I doubt it.

When he hears that the young man who caught his attention has already reserved an apartment for three weeks in the city, he launches into a diatribe recommending a change of plans. Place names are dropped rapid fire with an attempt at Thai accent. It all comes down to chasing pussy for which you’re planning on paying. A gaping hole appears in his expertise when he reveals his ignorance of the existence of Sky Train.

“What’s that?” he asks.

It’s both a form of mass transit in Bangkok and an indication that he’s utterly full of shit.

“Oh, well… I avoid Bangkok anyway. Haven’t been there in years!” Delivered with a lofty air and dismissive wave of the hand he returns to lambasting the poor kid’s dream trip.

I only interrupt because I’m sick of hearing him speak.

“Dude, you’re gonna have a blast in Bangkok. Everyone who thinks they’re an old Thai hand likes to shit talk on the place. But it’s a giant international city with ten million things to do.”

“Where are you staying?” Expert asks.

“I booked thirty days on Khao San Road.”


“A whole lot of fucking fun.”

I can get beaches at home. I can relax every day. I want excitement. I want cockfighting. I want drunk tourists with daddy issues, vampire hours, bad behavior, crippling shame, on a budget I can afford. I want to joke with my wife about bringing home the clap and know she’s rightly worried that it’s not a joke at all.

It’s a short hop to Honolulu from Lihue. Ten hours to Taiwan. Five hours on to BKK.

On the interisland segment, I simmer as the little girl behind me slams her tray table up and down for fifteen minutes straight. She’s why I don’t drink and fly. I spent most of yesterday navigating my way home from Portland on an insane route my wife booked. PDX to SEA to LAX to LIH. Home for ten hours, then back in the air.

I understand why people crack. How benzos will mix with booze and weaken inhibitions until you turn around, poke your head around the back of your seat, and snap, “Cut that shit out, you little n-word.”

She’s a blonde-haired, blue eyed, little pile of obnoxious Aryan dream. It wouldn’t even be racist. But good luck explaining that to the outraged aircrew.

“You can’t be racist against whites! Obama said so.”

IMG 20190913 104605824 HDR

A necessary change of scenery from the typical Kauai existence

Climb the cart, tumble into the aisle. 

“I’ll kill you all. Don’t you know who I am? This is why Trump won!”

I know what I’m signing up for. I’ve traveled enough, took a jaunt around the globe back in 2008. There’s always the weird old solo traveler. Kinda lonely. Kinda off-putting. What are you doing here, old man? Don’t you have a job? Don’t you have a family? What went wrong? What confluence of bad decisions and isolation pushed you into the sick pit of depravity best enjoyed by children?

I’ve become what I once mocked. I’m comfortable with that. This isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Checked into my hotel by three AM. Drunk by five. Head to bed with the dawn.

The dozen-strong Chinese family across the hall wakes me up two hours later as the adults shout from room to room and their children running shrieking through the corridor. The first request for quiet is polite. The second is screamed at them.

They don’t speak English. But I think they get the point.


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