So An Englishman, A Scotsman and An American Don’t Walk Into A Bar…

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This blog entry about the events of Monday, November 22, 2004 was originally posted on November 26, 2004.

DAY 401:  “Sometimes I have to stop and think of what you’re saying,” Paul told me as we walked Ratchadamnoen Road, a main thoroughfare in Bangkok with elephant-shaped shrubs, archways that honored the king, and the United Nations building.  I had used the word “block” (as in “down the…” and “New Kids On The…”) and Paul had to think about what I was saying; he told me the British used “street” or “road” instead, and gave directions in a town or city not in “blocks” but in meters.

I took note of this and added it to my on-going list of British English jargon, a list which included holiday (instead of vacation), “fuck all”, colour, flavour, chips, crisps, “take away,” bullocks, and “to take the piss at.”  British English and American English really do have their differences and often times when I talk with a Brit I too have to stop and think of what he/she is saying.  (On a side note, Brit Sarah [Garden Route, South Africa] mentioned that in a BBC documentary she saw, they stated that American English is actually closer to original English than modern British English, which had gone off so many tangents over the centuries.)

Language isn’t the only thing that doesn’t exactly translate 100% between Americans and British; humor (which is American English for humour) also doesn’t transcend the two cultures completely.  I blame what is exported to the mainstream audience back and forth across The Pond (the Atlantic).  For example, many Americans find the humour of the BBC’s Emmy Award-winning show The Office too dry — they prefer the office humor of the movie Office Space — meanwhile, the Brits get Seinfeld, arguably “one of America’s funniest sitcoms of all time” and don’t quite get Jerry’s witty observational humor.  “This is shit,” Brit Lara once told me when we were watching it in the apartment we shared in Rio de Janiero.  (It was the episode when George, Jerry and Elaine volunteer to care for old folks.  Don’t ask me how I remember that.)

“I was traveling with an American guy who had that same sort of humor [of Jerry Seinfeld,]” Paul told me.

“Oh, like observational humor.”

“Yeah, and he wouldn’t stop, and he’d just go on and on.”  After a while Paul got pretty annoyed and quite bored with it.  “We’re a bit raunchier in Great Britain I think.  I don’t want subtle [observational humor], I want my humour served up on a big platter by big-breasted women.”

Obviously, he hadn’t heard of Howard Stern.


FOR ME IT WAS A DAY TO DO “FUCK ALL” (nothing).  I might have left Bangkok already but I was waiting around for my visas to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.  I vegged around, had some street pad thai, checked out the Chai Chanansongkram temple “down the block” (source of the monks waiting for cabs nearby), and took a nap in my dark closet-of-a-room with a fan but no windows.  I met up with Paul that evening and we strolled the area to get some street food, which included yummy savory Thai dishes with noodles and rice.  For dessert we sat in the air-conditioned comfort of Swensen’s, one of the many locations in Bangkok of the San Francisco-based ice cream franchise.  Suddenly a guy with in a blue t-shirt and cap stormed in the door.

“Hey, did I meet you before?” he asked the Englishman in a thick Scottish accent with a big grin.  He was happy to see a familiar face since he’d been wandering solo all afternoon after touching down at Bangkok International that morning.  Paul analyzed his face and was drawing a blank, mostly because the Scotsman’s hair had really grown out since the last time he might have seen him.

“I know I’ve met you before,” the Scotsman said.  “You got one of those faces.”  Paul kept on thinking, calling out places he’d been in the past several months.

“Were you in Byron Bay [Australia]?”

“Yeah,”

“What month?”

“April.”

“Oh…”  As many places as the Englishman and the Scotsman mentioned, nothing seemed to match.

“He’s really just a stranger,” I interjected.

The stranger’s name was Mark, but gradually he became a stranger no more; in the time the two tried to figure out where they knew each other from, we were getting along with wisecracks that transcended all three nationalities.

“Have you been to that bar on the corner?” Mark asked.  He was referring to Gulliver’s Travelers’ Tavern, the big backpackers bar on Khaosan Road.

“They wouldn’t let him in,” Paul informed Mark.

“Why not?”

I sighed.  “They think I’m Thai.”  The Thai bouncers there denied me admission a couple of nights before on the assumption that I was some lowly Thai guy off the street.

“Oh, forget it, I’m not going there then,” Mark announced.

NOTE TO GULLIVER’S TAVERN:  Hear that?!  You’re going down Gulliver, one Liliputian backpacker at a time!

“They have places out on the street,” Paul told the newbie.  We got up and strolled down Khaosan Road and ended up sitting around on plastic stools in front of an impromptu cocktail stand set up on the curb.  It was perfectly legal to drink out on the streets if you were of age — although the makeshift bar we were at proudly boasted a sign that read, “WE DO NOT CHECK FOR I.D.”  We bought a round each of what another sign called “VERY STRONG COCKTAILS” and sat around being merry.  Mark and Paul still hadn’t agreed on where they might have met in the past, but it didn’t matter at that point. 

“[The English and Scots aren’t supposed to like each other,]” Mark told me, “but keep meeting them and every time I just keep on gettin’ along with ‘em.”

We sat and toasted another round amidst the wandering crowds of Khaosan Road, also drinking and being merry despite the big parade that came through sponsored by some non-profit Thai organization against smoking and drinking.  Many guys put down their cigarettes and drinks and picked up their cameras when a squad of supple Thai cheerleaders danced on through with their short skirts (picture above) — but just went back to smoking and drinking when the girls left the area.

We wandered some more — passing and ignoring Gulliver’s Tavern — and moved onto other impromptu outdoor bars, this time at a makeshift lounge of lawn furniture and hammock chairs placed by TheBackpackersJoint.com in a promotional event of free shots of disgusting cheap spirits. 

“Should we have another round?” Paul asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“I keep wondering when it’s going to end,” Mark said, but with no qualms to oblige another round.

Three more drinks made it to our hands, and we continued the conversation.  Mark still couldn’t get over how rude Gulliver’s Tavern was to me, although that wasn’t his main concern.  In crude Scottish true-life humour, he told us that during the entire flight he had an erection in his pants and intended to land in Bangkok and immediately go out for a handjob.  But once he landed a wave of morality hit him since he only flew to Bangkok to meet up with his girlfriend that he hadn’t seen in a long time — “That’s not my style,” he said — and just walked into the fancy Sheraton and whacked off in the men’s room.

“PAM’s great, isn’t it?” Paul joked. 

“Sure is,” I said, adding PAM (a British colloquialism for masturbation) to my mental British English jargon list.


SO AN ENGLISHMAN, A SCOTSMAN AND AN AMERICAN DIDN’T WALK INTO A BAR that night, and with all the nightly outdoor activity in the streets of the backpacker district, one didn’t have to.  We continued the do-it-yourself party in Mark’s hotel room with small shots of Paul’s bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey — “Smooth as a baby’s bottom” — and before we knew it, Mark just passed out in his bed.  Paul and I were still pretty levelheaded as the Scotsman rested in peace after a long day.  “Take a picture,” Paul suggested.

I said nothing and just pushed the button.  We snickered back to the madness outside in the streets of Khaosan Road.


AS THE LYRICS OF THE 1980s POP SONG “One Night In Bangkok” state, “the bars are temples,” but sometimes the beauty of a temple is what’s on the outside, not in.






Next entry: Kicking Ass

Previous entry: Moderation




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Comments for “So An Englishman, A Scotsman and An American Don't Walk Into A Bar...”

  • Entries coming slowly but surely…

    Off to Thai cooking class now…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  01:29 AM


  • Gulliver{s Tavern has NO idea who they pissed off when they didn’t let you in, huh? Reminds me of that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts goes back into the store that wouldn’t help her after she shopped all day and said “You work on commission, right? Big mistake, BIG mistake! I have to shopping now… “

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  02:10 AM


  • Gulliver’s Tavern has NO idea who they pissed off when they didn’t let you in, huh? Reminds me of that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts goes back into the store that wouldn’t help her after she shopped all day and said “You work on commission, right? Big mistake, BIG mistake! I have to shopping now… “

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  02:10 AM


  • Gulliver’s Tavern has NO idea who they pissed off when they didn’t let you in, huh? Reminds me of that scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts goes back into the store that wouldn’t help her with an armfull of bags and said “You work on commission, right? Big mistake, BIG mistake! I have to shopping now… “

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  02:11 AM


  • oops, sorry.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  02:12 AM


  • ...but the pearls ain’t free…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  03:48 AM


  • I’m so behind! BOOO!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  06:13 AM


  • i snickered every time lara called the elevator a “lift” in rio….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  01:21 PM


  • Hey E! I’m still lurking around, just wanted to say Hey! OMG I can’t believe you talk about boobs, erections and masturbation all in the same entry…now that is talent! How much longer are you on the road? How are the party plans coming?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  03:04 PM


  • There were 2 Britons on my trek in Chang Mai. We were playing cards and one of the exclaimed “This is just a tank of wank” after looking at the hand he was dealt. That’s my favourite “Britism.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/28  at  01:25 PM


  • i like british humor. monty python is awesome. so is faulty towers. just as long as it is witty humor, it is all good. personally, i am sick of all those cheap “comedies” that come out of hollywood now, written with the same sexual formula and jokes that are done to death. give me an old billy murray, dan aykroyd, john candy film any day.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/28  at  03:32 PM


  • oh, how you make me miss thailand! and traveling in general.. unfortunately my own rtw trip only lasted just shy of 6 months, so reading your blog makes me insanely jealous.. of the places i wasn’t able to squeeze into my travels, and the places i have fond memories of..

    its strange to read of someone else’s experiences in a place half way across the world, and remember being there and seeing so much of the same things.. for at least a month after my return to san francisco i kept using the british english slang that i had picked up on my trip, without even realizing it.. and of course there was the australian thrown in there as well.. reading your experiences with learning it all reminds me so much of my own!

    anyways, just thought i’d let you know i enjoy reading, and i have linked your blog from my own site as well… best of luck on the rest of your journey..

    Posted by tina  on  11/30  at  04:50 AM


  • TINA:  Thanks for the plug!  Glad you enjoy!  Now spread the word! 

    I suppose you know all about my inevitable “re-entry syndrome?”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  08:23 AM


  • The Scot is Hot. Tee Hee. Its about time we saw some man-flesh.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  10:45 PM


  • hhmmm re-entry syndrome…

    it helped that one of the people i met in australia, and ran into in new zealand, ended up visiting san francisco 2 days after i got home…

    it also helped to take off to burningman for 11 days within a few weeks…

    and i think the main thing getting me through is knowing that i have plans to leave the country again in about 5 months…

    life is just not the same after being able to live the life of an independent traveler for any extended period of time… not necessarily bad, just never the same… smile

    Posted by tina  on  12/05  at  04:46 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Kicking Ass

Previous entry:
Moderation




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

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The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




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