# Me Too Please !!!

Paul would like to say he had never been touched up by a female pensioner before but that wasn’t the case! It was, however, the first time it had been by a lady of Thai persuasion, and a Muslim to boot. It was also a novel experience to have it happen on public transport during the day’s first call to prayer. It was almost as painful as the flat imam who shrieked to his flock quite tunelessly and far to regularly.

He and Andrew had been squeezed onto the truck as if they were being transported to Smithfield meat market.

Twenty people had miraculously squashed onto the tiny Song-thaw and that was before Madame Weinstein had rolled up. Using Paul’s inner thigh as a hand rail she dragged herself up into the vehicle and collapsed heavily onto his lunchbox. By lunchtime itself she had already greedily partaken of his sausage roll and had had a bloody good go at his scotch eggs. Paul was shocked. He’d always thought pork was off limits to those of the Islamic faith. Madam Weinstein was obviously an exception.

When they arrived at an unpronounceable little town rather too near to southern Thailand’s Islamic insurgency, Paul clambered from the vehicle with the leg that stilled worked, happy to escape the Muslim fundamentalism that had been happening onboard. He bade the woman a smile as he left, he didn’t want to appear ungrateful. It was a characteristic he was ashamed of, but he could do nothing about it.

He was a natural tart.

He and Andrew then struggled across an unsafe road bridge with their lumpy rucksacks to get to the bus station on the opposite side of the highway. They were greeted with broad smiles by the locals and, as per usual, much hilarity. There seemed to them to be no hostility here towards unbelievers, not on the surface at least. Everyone from pancake pedlars to paternal pedallers, cycling their kids to school, were utterly charming. And, all seemed incredibly happy.

After an obligatory stop at the local ‘Seven Eleven’  in order to furnish Andrew with enough cigarettes to kill a laboratory Beagle, The Boys doggedly trudged towards the pick up point for their bus south.

The small building was not so much of a bus shelter, more a shelter for the homeless. A few elderly looking vagrants peopled the place with their roguish charm. One of the old boys was most insistent that Paul take his plastic chair. Paul was unable to refuse, even though he was very concerned the tiny piece of furniture might buckle accidentally beneath his occidental weight!

He sat for a while with the gentleman, smoking cigarillos and chewing the fat as Andrew looked on most amused. The main reason for Andrew’s delight was the fact that his husband was now being felt up once again. Only this time by one of the old geezers who was dressed as a 1970s pimp!

 

There was more than a whiff of ‘Huggie Bear’ about the cheeky chappie. Paul was well aware that if he didn’t move swiftly away his lunchbox could be on the menu again. He’d have to join the growing throng of performers using the hashtag ‘Me Too’ soon.

 

He posed for a quick photo, the retouching only occurring during the sitting! He assumed it must be down to the Penhaligons ‘Oud De Nil’ he’d sprayed on far too liberally that morning and absolutely nothing to do with his far too liberal appearance.

He did wonder sometimes if he’d had slut tattooed onto his forehead without his knowledge. He made a mental note to check when he next came before a looking-glass.

After a mercifully short while Andrew and Paul found themselves in a surprisingly comfortable air-conditioned mini-van heading towards the Malaysian border. Paul did a deal with Leh, their driver, to take them on to the actual border post and to wait for them as he and Andrew did a visa run in and out of the country.

After driving through mountainous jungle they reached the imaginary line between the two nations. Machine gun wielding soldiers smiled at them as they alighted, their fingers resting disarmingly on the triggers. Paul and Andrew smiled back wanting to stay on the good side of the seriously armed soldiers. There was obviously sometimes a touch of  trouble at this particular post thought Paul, hence the armies posting. He wasn’t sure whether the heavy armoury mad him feel safer, but he knew he would be most pleased when the whole diplomatic affair was over.

It actually went very smoothly.

The Boys stamped out of Thailand, walked across the strange no-mans land that always fascinated Paul when they crossed an international land border, and stamped into Malaysia. Whilst in that marvellous country Andrew had a fag and Paul visited a public lavatory, then they then they hit the duty free shop.

There was a splendid array of cheap branded alcohol which surprised them both, especially as they had found it difficult to even get a beer on their visit to the country a few years back. They then stamped out of Malaysia and back into Thailand and were given a further thirty days on their visa.

Completely gratis.

There were a few times when being a UK citizen had it’s benefits. This being one of them.

They then found Leh and motored on to the small town of Satun, which nestled steamily in a jungle valley deep in south-west Thailand. They had not expected the place to be so charming. Yet it was like travelling back in time. As the boys headed into one of the rural suburbs they were transported to a riverine oasis of laughing children and their equally contented parents.

Hens clucked as mother hens mucked out. Dads  mended fishing nets. One man was washing his cock! One of the feathered varieties of course. All going about their daily life in a timeless and effortless fashion. It was as if time did not exist in the pretty dwelling. Other than the odd mobile phone, which now seemed to Paul, disappointingly ubiquitous across the entire globe.

As the heat of the day peaked at an astronomical high and the fecund grey clouds threatened to discharge their abundant moisture, the boys headed back to their guesthouse to avoid a good soaking. They partook of a brilliant yellow curry,  which was as good as the one made by their great friend Stella. She was always the benchmark when it came to Thai cuisine, having once managed an extraordinarily successful Thai restaurant in London. Her ears must have burned as hotly as the dishes they sampled on their travels,as each time they would gauge a curry’s  appeal.

‘Not as good as Stella’s’ one of them would often remark. On this, their latest excursion, their friend’s ears had probably not burned quite as often, as the food had come up trumps. Paul had even learnt to replicate a couple of the stranger dishes in order to cook them for her on the their return. If he could get hold of the inordinate variety of aubergine that existed in Thailand. He thought he may have to sneak some into his rucksack on the flight home. Surely BA couldn’t be sniffy about a touch of excess eggplant! Then again…

But it was not quite home time yet. Andrew and Paul were to make their merry way from the roasting town of Satun the next morning, and head out to another lesser known Island the latter had discovered.

The next morning the call to prayer blasted zealously into their furnace of a room at a rude 5am. There was really no need to set an alarm in Thailand’s Deep South. The mosque very thoughtfully did it for you.

Thankfully, thought Paul, this fella was in tune. He really didn’t mind the exotic alarm call at all, but wholly disapproved if the holy man was religiously missing his top ‘B’ flats!

After an intensely bitter coffee (Apparently! A local brew!) they waited for the bus which was to take them to meet their Song-thaw, which would then head off for the small port of Pakbara. Paul took his cologne from his bag and went to spray himself. He stopped suddenly, changing his mind. Perhaps he’d give the Penhaligon’s a miss today. After all, one never knew who their travelling companions would be, and Madame Weinstein and her equally fruity brother, Harvey, who he’d met at the bus-top the previous day, were fresh in his mind. Too fresh!

When the bus arrived the boys climbed awkwardly between the pots and packages looking for a free seat. Paul spotted two towards the rear, he also locked eyes with a hulking German Adonis with eyes like cerulean pools. He flashed a blindingly flirtatious smile towards Paul, who did a little giggle worthy of that of an embarrassed schoolgirl. ‘Shit’ he thought mischievously, ‘Why didn’t I apply my ‘Oud De Nil ?’ But his ego had been well and truly touched up by the naughty moment.

He collapsed into his seat next to his soporific partner and then caught sight of a stunning young fraulein who was boarding the bus just behind him. She smiled longingly at the godlike creature to his rear. He realised immediately it had surely been her who had elicited the smile from the handsome Teutonic passenger, and not him. He knew he’d smelt a rat. He was losing his touch!

‘Now’, he thought, ‘where’s that bloody perfume?’

He turned and gave a cheeky smile to the young lovers behind him.

She was certainly a very lucky girl.

‘# Me Too Please’ he thought, sinfully, to himself.

The imam would most certainly not have approved!

Far From The Madding Flock!

The sultry Thai breeze lifted Paul’s curls as he gazed out at the tropical islands to the west bringing with it a cool clarity. He had been reading Virginia Woolf on the beach and it had put him in pensive mood, some would say a pretentious bent, but Paul had stopped listening to life’s small minded critics, whose mission,it seemed, was to chip away steadily at the confidence of others in order to prove their own small self-worth. They seemed meaningless to him now as the burgeoning sun began her swift descent towards her crimson pillow. If he wanted to be pretentious that was up to him.

He gazed at the four erratically shaped islands which lay on the dreamy horizon and imagined the comings and goings on their peculiar shores. He knew three of them to be ‘Bird’s Nest Concession’ Islands. A phrase he had not come across until a few days earlier when he and Andrew had met a charming Swedish couple on their arrival at their ever so laid back resort. In fact, for days, it had just been the four of them sharing the windswept beige sands which looked across to the national marine park of Koh Phetra and her rocky companions, so he had learnt a fair deal from them concerning what went on amid the mysterious limestone outcrops.

Although the islands were part of a conservation project and therefore had no population, there were a few temporary residents. Some fisherman who made use of a paradisiacal bay, which far outstripped the beauty of Leo Dicaprio’s beach in the well-known film, along with a band of intrepid climbers, whose job it was to scale the shard like cliffs in order to reach the sky caves of the island’s only permanent inhabitants, the multitude of Sea Swiftlets. These oceanic mountaineers were not keen ornithologists hoping to catch sight of a rare bird, but rather keen businessmen with a sharp eye for the nests the darting creatures created.

‘Bird’s Nest Soup’ was apparently a thriving business in southern Thailand. The homes of the tiny birds were collected and sold to make the famous oriental delicacy.

The market in China alone brought in over a hundred million pounds a year, Paul understood why the lithe sun-burnished athletes risked life and limb hauling themselves up ropes hundreds of feet in the air.

The rewards were sky- high.

The nests themselves were formed from the dried saliva of the Swiftlets and he couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for the poor avian creatures who must have flown back to their roosts too often to discover themselves homeless. Made destitute, just so some fat businessman in Shanghai could salivate over a dish of hideous soup.

Paul, who had swallowed many an odd concoction in his time, could not think of anything worse than eating a bowl of bird spit. But it seemed he was in a minority in the east. The fashion was so profitable that he and Andrew had been warned not to visit the Islands for fear of being shot at. Heavily armed guards were another of the islands itinerant residents.

Paul looked again towards the western seascape, the islands now silkily silhouetted against a pink backdrop. Their beauty seemed to him less romantic now, with the plight of a million vagrant birds hatching in his mind. He had initially wanted to row the five kilometres to the nearer Koh Laoliang, but he knew that after the drama of he and Andrew’s previous nautical escapade, he would have trouble convincing his husband to take up oars. The thought of being picked off with a long-range rifle, like a clay pigeon, also held limited appeal. Therefore the enigmatic islands would for now, have to remain just that.

An enigma.

Besides the island on which the boys were now residing was quite gorgeous enough. Home to a small Muslim population, who made their way growing rice, rubber and luscious watermelon. The place was incredibly friendly. The few tourists who endeavoured to find the beautiful isle were treated more as close friends than ‘farang’.

Paul had discovered the island on an esoteric website specialising in the lesser known nesting sites Thailand still had to offer. He and Andrew had made their way south from the stunning Koh Mook on a local form of transport known as a ‘songthaw’. This was basically an open truck with two rows, (the literal meaning of songthaw), made up of a duo of uncomfortable wooden benches. They reminded Paul of the forms on which pupils had been made to sit at junior school. Of course with senior buttocks, they were far less accommodating.

As they made their way through rural lanes and stopped briefly at remote farms to collect passengers on route, the vehicle became somewhat crowded. A young girl on wooden crutches; an old girl with wooden teeth; an entire family with what appeared to be their entire worldly belongings filled the truck making Paul and Andrew decry their long greedy western limbs. They shamelessly fought for space alongside greedy toddlers and smiling pensioners, eventually succumbing to the cramped conditions and moulding into one like hot sardines in a can. They were practically family by the time they arrived at the tiny pier to take the small boat across the Andaman Sea. The passengers had shared everything. Their lunch, their conversation, their scent. The sheer humanity onboard the wagon had been tangible and it touched Paul. He thought how different it had been to the starchy underground journeys one takes in London. The passengers had become one, not like the separate sullenness exhibited on the miserable tube. It is true it had been rather cramped, but the human spirit had not. That had soared way overground.

On their first full day on the island Paul and Andrew hired decrepit bicycles and pushed on towards a village near it’s centre. They made a sweaty pit stop and hoped for a beer at a bijoux local establishment. The old lady, who had a look of a toothless Mother Theresa welcomed them warmly. She brought her snivelling grandson from the back room to meet them – he was not at all amused. The boys had to settle for water, it being a Muslim enclave, but they were sated. The liquid bringing life back to their liquidated limbs. The amiable old lady even made them some banana fritters, on the house, she wouldn’t hear of taking payment. It was more than refreshing. Both Andrew and Paul thought it might have been the friendliest part of Thailand they had yet visited. And they’d certainly been around.

Later on in the sweltering day they looked towards the island of Koh Libong as they climbed an unmarked hill on route back to their lodgings. This was where the mystical Dugong made their home. Strange aquatic creatures related to the sea cow. They nested in the rare sea grass that covered the ocean floor nearby. Paul thought he spotted a large shape gliding slowly beneath the sapphire surface, but Andrew informed him it was nothing, just a shadow. He was quite obviously delirious from the stifling heat and the outmoded set of wheels with which he was struggling. As they hit the crest of the hill relief flooded them both and they careered  downwards towards the rubber plantation below. It was not the most opportune of moments for Paul to discover that the stopping mechanism on his bike was non-existent.

‘Ding, ding!!! ‘ He screamed at Andrew as he flew past his lover as swift as the swiftest Swiflet, taking the bend faster than Lewis Hamilton and just managing to avoid a stray water buffalo meandering gently through the trees at the bottom. Both the buffalo and Andrew made their displeasure known. In no uncertain terms! Neither seemed to approve of the drama which had just unfolded as Paul had almost taken flight.

‘Why is everything a bloody performance with you?’ Andrew chastised.

‘It’s not my fault if I’ve got no buggery brakes!’ Paul shouted back.

He considered it most unfair for Andrew to fly off the handle when he had almost gone headfirst over his.

They cycled on through the shimmering green and eventually came to another idyllic spot. A charming  resort of wooden cabins directly on a perfectly deserted stretch of beach. They were joined only by two ice cold beers. It was pure perfection.

As Paul gazed across the Emerald Andaman Sea towards the other islands in the Trang Archipelago, and the geography beyond which imperceptibly became Malaysia, he felt very lucky that he and Andrew had decided to make their temporary nest where they had. It was an unspoilt heavenly place.

Even if the bikes were crap.

Arriving back at their own nesting ground he sat on the tawny beach alone. His thighs smarting from the unintended work out which they had been given. Andrew was already unconscious inside their roost.

A warm wind unlocked Paul’s locks and he once again picked up ‘Mrs Dalloway’ to continue his literary discovery. He certainly wasn’t afraid of Virginia Woolf. But he was a little fearful of revealing the dazzling island he and Andrew had discovered. Thinking, egotistically, that doing so in his leanly read musings would lead to it’s discovery. The package cuckoos would arrive and fling them from their secret hideaway.

Would he let his small flock of readers in on the destination? And Pigs might fly, he thought. He had, after all, already given them more than enough clues!

He lay back, solitary on the deserted beach, just him, a lone eagle swooping the sky, and the high flying literature of Woolf to keep him company. Pretentious he knew. But who cared? There was no one to judge him. Not until the other snow birds came flocking.

And that could take a while.

The Old Man And The Sea!

Author’s note.

The author apologises for a complete lack of photography in this blog. The reader will realise for themselves why this is the case.

Paul had known in the pit of his stomach, that the idea of he and Andrew taking a sea kayak and paddling off for the famous ‘Emerald Cave’ on the edge of Thailand’s Andaman Sea could easily end in disaster. But as per usual he ignored the deep warning signs and instead set off onto the deep for a titanic moment on the high seas.

The boys set off from the beach at an ungodly hour, Paul only hoped that there was some seafaring deity who had also risen early and would therefore be looking down or up at them. The sky was a hot slate of muted greys and the sea matched her sullen mood. After a short watch, it was as crystal clear as the Indian ocean, that the Gods had obviously had a very late night! The Boys were on their own.

After the inaugural launch of the SS Lola, The Boys  initially paddled in manic circles attempting to work in tandem; their double act though far less successful offshore. They were sinking much faster than they ever did onstage. At least that took a good couple of hours Paul thought. He barked an order at Andrew to come to the right. Andrew misunderstood his nautical command and used the right oar frantically, steering them over to port.

‘The other way’ Paul screamed.

‘You said the right’ Andrew shouted back.

‘I meant go to the right – to starboard’.

Paul’s formative years at naval school were flooding back. Sadly his pretentious use of seaman’s terminology fell on Andrew’s deaf ears who responded with equally salty language,

‘Fuck off you bossy twat’.

‘We’re taking on water’ Paul said urgently.

‘Piss off’ said Andrew.

He had never been keen on Paul’s inner seaman!

Paul was in the back off the kayak and feeling stern, he could see the boat was filling gradually with seawater. He could also feel himself sinking further into the ocean. He was now wet up to his waist. The kayak was so low in the water he suspected the hull must be filling too. He was well aware that his experience of boats was actually leading him to panic. Andrew, whose boating credentials extended to having once sung show tunes on an American cruise ship on  some of the more ordinary Caribbean islands was certainly much calmer.

Sometimes ignorance was bliss thought Paul.

But The Lola Boys were definitely all at sea.

They managed to plough on through the deep ocean. As they rounded the cape of sheer vertical emerald jungle a large swell began to rock them now and then, each time causing a couple more gallons of seawater to sweep over the side of their craft. Paul stopped paddling occasionally and used his hands to scoop out as much water as he could.

Eventually, after a strenuous row and an even more energetic row, the boys spotted some dragon tail boats moored near to the base of the cliff. They paddled furiously to get to the rocks. When they arrived at the small bay there was nowhere to get ashore. The rocks were jagged and sharp, covered with millions of glass-like barnacles. They managed to navigate to the mouth of a small cave which had a couple of ledges on which they could perch as they attempted to empty their vessel.

‘Let’s leave it here’ said Andrew. Quite exasperated.

‘We can’t’ said Paul. ‘If the tide changes she might be gone when we come out’.

Paul spotted a rope hanging from seemingly nowhere at the mouth to the ‘Emerald Cave’,

‘Let’s tie her up over there’ Paul suggested.

‘You do it’ Andrew spat back.

The boat trip was not going well.

Paul paddled the boat over to the random line and attempted a ‘Sheepshank’. It had been a considerable while since he’d tied one, and what with all the stress of the ‘Lusitania’ moment he settled for a ‘Reef Knot’. He’d always considered that to be one of the most stylish of rope ties, and he knew if he didn’t get the boat secured quickly Andrew would be telling him to get knotted.

Though in less sober language!

Both of them were aware the excursion was not bobbing along nicely as one would wish, but Paul imagined they had independently decided to weather the storm that was brewing, and not let a little water cloud the moment.

Andrew, with a lamp strapped to his head, took the lead. He began his best doggy-paddle into the blackness of the cave. Paul thought he had the look of a drowning miner and smiled silently. He knew Andrew was not in the mood to be mocked. Not when there was drowning to be done. He followed confidently as Andrew lead them deeper into the earth. The cavern grew smaller, and darker with each stroke. They swam an abrupt corner and then there was nothing. An ink-black space and a mass of sea life swimming beneath them.

Paul turned to look for Andrew. There was no light at all and Andrew had been in charge of the torch. The entire rock felt like it was pressing heavily onto to him. It’s billions of tonnes of millions of years of limestone crushing the very breath out of him. He knew it had been stupid.

This excursion! Jesus!

Not only did Paul have a problem with being out of his depth – not just in water. He also loathed tunnels. Whilst driving at speed into the numerous underpasses that pepper Andalucia’s coast road, he had often had to suddenly decelerate, breathe deeply into a crisp bag, and think of a Barbra Streisand number so as to avoid passing out in the underpass.

So why had he considered a watery journey through a hell-like landscape to be fun? It was if he were swimming the Styx in Hades – the devil had the only torchlight. He could just about espy his partner in brine floating on his back about twenty feet behind him – the meagre light shining uselessly upwards into the cavernous cathedral of stone.

Paul then felt an all too familiar dread begin to course through him. His breath became shallow and his head started to spin. He knew he was starting to have a panic attack. It was not the first time.

Paul had always been highly confident in the water from a very young age. He’d been a leading member of ‘The Duckling Club’ at Putney Swimming Baths when he was a just able to walk. His ‘Ten Yard Certificate’ had proved a cinch! But his confidence had taken a huge knock years later when he found himself in hot water on the famous Ipanema Beach. He and two friends had almost come a cropper in the heavy surf there, whilst on singing gig on the QE2. It was only when the three of them managed to make it back to the beach that they had even noticed the entire lack of other swimmers and the flotilla of red flags dotted along the shoreline. He knew then, he’d been completely out of his depth. And he knew now, he’d try to make sure he never was again.

He also knew that having been a strong swimmer in Rio had saved him, but he’d allowed a plankton of doubt to drift across his subconscious. He was now of the knowledge that he was completely powerless if Neptune was not in the mood to play beach-ball.  And the realisation had entirely destroyed his once buoyant attitude to the water. A tsunami of doubt now plagued him like a school of malevolent Men ‘O War. He knew the sea to have an entirely different character if she so chose. Malevolent and unforgiving.

He also knew he was wet.

It was most frustrating.

‘I’m turning back’ he gasped pathetically at Andrew.

‘What?’ Andrew replied.

‘I don’t like it’ Paul choked, ‘I’m going back.’

Paul used the special waterproof bag, in which his unused camera was packed, as a float, and began to kick for the small opening of daylight he could just make out. He didn’t know if Andrew was following. He didn’t care.

‘For fuck’s sake’, he heard Andrew’s baritone echoing in the distant darkness, ‘never again!’

When Paul got to the mouth of the cave he clambered unceremoniously onto the kayak, much of the sea joining him. He fiddled ferociously with the knot he’d tied wishing he’d gone for something simpler. A granny knot would have done! But he’d just had to over do it!

After freeing the vessel he paddled towards the rocks where Andrew had now beached himself. He alighted the craft awkwardly and he and Andrew then attempted to empty the boat for a second time.

‘Shit’ Paul screeched, ‘my hand!’ He had just scraped his left hand painfully along the banarcled boulder he had been trying to cling to whilst performing their marine routine.

‘Bollocks’ he cursed, blood filling his palm.

‘Stop panicking’ Andrew shouted, ‘this is the last fucking time I do anything like this with you. It’s always a fucking drama!’

‘No it’s bloody not’ yelled Paul, slipping from the rock and lacerating his other palm on the razor-like geography which engulfed them.

‘Shit’ he said quietly, hoping Andrew hadn’t noticed.

‘Twat’ Andrew hissed.

They both hauled the boat onto her side and watched as gallons of water flooded out.

‘See’ said Paul. ‘I knew we were sinking!’

‘Jesus Paul!’ Andrew shrieked.

‘What?’ asked a panicked Paul.

‘You’re getting all that blood into the bloody boat!’

Paul looked down and saw the scarlet rivulets dancing along the orange fibre glass hull. It looked oddly pretty. He thought he might be getting a little delirious. He said nothing.

‘So what’ screamed Paul. He didn’t think an extra half litre of him would make any difference to their vessel’s buoyancy. That was just displacement.

He was definitely getting delirious!

‘I’m gonna call over to that bloke on the boat’ he said to Andrew in a manner of exaggerated calm.

‘No don’t’ Andrew yelled ‘that’s so embarassing’.

‘I don’t fucking care!’ Paul said shakily, ‘our boat is sinking. How the buggery bollocks do we get back?’

******************************************************************

Andrew realised their dilemma. Their craft was useless in her present state, and Paul certainly wasn’t helping with his constant panicking. In fact, he didn’t think Paul to be of any use at all. He knew his partner had gone to naval school but that had been over thirty years ago. His current nautical knowledge was now a half-remembered mess of knots and camp semaphore. With a touch dodgy morse code thrown in. Nothing practical that would help them out of this oceanic mess he had allowed himself to be talked into.

Paul always yearned for adventure, yet so often found disaster. Andrew often wondered if they had to come hand in hand. That just maybe his partner craved the exciting moment and the drama. He didn’t want to consider it.

Now was not the moment.

******************************************************************

The boatman made a sign to come over. Paul and Andrew used their boat as a float and made their way over to the larger vessel.

Paul clambered aboard and helped the friendly captain haul the boys’ kayak onboard. It was so heavy they had to ask for help from another of the boatmen nearby. After a few seconds it was obvious why. Seawater gushed for several minutes from a spout on the bow of the boys’ boat. It splashed at length noisily back into the sea, much to the amusement of several European tourists floating safely nearby.

Paul knew Andrew was looking at the package group and thinking that they should have made the same easy choice and come on a motorised vessel. With a guide! It had been Paul who had wanted to take the adventurous route. He knew sometimes Andrew suspected him of doing it on purpose, just to have something to write about. If Paul were being entirely honest he thought Andrew may have had a point. But he wasn’t really sure.

After all, it was a hell of a risk, and he was hardly a bestseller!

When the boys’ kayak was eventually disgorged, the helpful shipmates they’d just met launched the SS Lola back into the water. Paul boarded first, followed by his partner. They thanked the boatman for their services and set off out to sea to return to the beach.

As they paddled away from the relative safety of the rocks, Paul’s hand dripped blood steadily onto the oar. The myriad of cuts stinging sharply as the salt water cut into them mercilessly. The water was coming onboard even quicker than before. Paul had a terrible sinking feeling.

They obviously had a puncture!

He said nothing. Andrew had managed to get himself into a good mood after the earlier drama, and was now singing the tune to ‘Hawaii Five 0’ at great volume, quite unaware of the volume of water filling the Boys’ stern.

Paul knew it was more like ‘Hawaii Five No’!

He only hoped they would make it back.

He emptied their water bottle and began to fill it with seawater, furiously decanting the stuff to whence it had came. When the water had decreased to thigh level he stopped and began to paddle quicker than Hiawatha with a rocket under her pretty feathered arse!

A last the beach came into sight. Paul was fairly confident they could make it.

‘That’s the last fucking time I do anything like that with you’ Andrew began, his sea shanty again, now a familiar tone to Paul, who knew their double act was just treading water at the moment.

‘It’s not my fault’ Paul steamed in, ‘I didn’t ask the bloody boat to sink.’

‘But it always happens with you.’ It’s always a bloody drama!’

‘Maybe that’s when you’re along’ Paul sailed in, ‘I’m alright on my own.’

Paul threw the paddles weakly at his husband and started to make his way up the beach. He was going to have words with the guy who’d hired out the leaky death trap of a bloody shit tub nearly killing them both!

Andrew started to drag the canoe along the sand but soon found it too difficult. It was clear the entire hull had filled with water again. They had been so close to going down.

Paul complained to the kayakman who very kindly offered to only charge them half price for the pleasure of sinking – twice! He explained it was not his fault, he could only be certain of the state of his fleet on their return to port. He then gave a dull, wry look alluding to the tonnage the boys had displaced on the vessel.

‘Bloody dangerous’ Andrew snarled and stomped up towards the bar. It was ten thirty!

Paul was annoyed to say the least. He was glad they’d both survived. But he wasn’t so sure their relationship was entirely as shipshape.

He suspected a couple of tankards of grog may improve the tempestuous situation. But the waters were definitely rocky.

Later, Paul stood in the passive pink sea. Alone and blissfully thoughtless. He felt the sting from his lacerated hands and was immediately reminded of the rocky moment earlier in the day. He smiled.

He headed to join Andrew for a beer, happy to be a landlubber, the wind coming confidently back into his sails. The thought that he and Andrew may have run aground dissipating as fast as a warm sea mist. He knew that he and Andrew had navigated far rougher waters in the past.

Only never in a kayak.

And, thought Paul, never again!

Super Koh-Habiting!

Paul had discovered Koh Muk, a small island in the Trang archipelago deep in southern Thailand, quite by accident. It had been mentioned over dinner by a charming, yet incredibly intense computer scientist from Bavaria. The friendly Teutonic boffin had posessed the charming habit of repeating the word ‘super’ in almost every sentence he’d uttered.

The meal had been ‘super nice’, but unfortunately ‘super expensive’! Andrew was ‘super great’ and Paul, disappointingly, ‘super-funny’! And the island which the young man was recommending them to visit was, of course, ‘super beautiful’ and ‘super clean’.

On first coming ashore, after a less than super journey, Paul could not argue with the former description. Koh Muk  was clearly super beautiful. It’s taste of paradise more than bountiful.

.

The latter recommendation though was less obvious.

As Paul and Andrew walked out of their shabby chic guest house and stumbled through a fishing village of stilted shacks, they could not help but notice the flotsam and jetsam that had made the island it’s permanent mooring.

Koh Muk was a little mucky in places.

Paul learnt later that most of the detritus was washed over from the neighbouring mainland. Along with something a little murkier swimming  beneath the surface.

But the beach appeared stunning to him. A spit of diamond white sand which spat out into an equally jewel-like sea. It was most impressive. As was the incredibly expensive ‘Sivalai Resort’ which luxuriated over that particular  part of the island. Private bungalows fit for minor royalty studded the beautifully manicured grounds. The beach, however, was not private.

Paul had discovered that all beaches in Thailand were owned by the King, and therefore open to everyone. All soles, whether prince or pauper, were able to feel the democratic sand between their toes. Even if it was on the less clean side of the island, Paul thought it was quite right that anyone should be able to take a dip in the affluent effluence. That, he considered, was super fair.

The boys stayed at the fantastically funky ‘Moonview Resort’ for  just one night. The size of the hut and the size of the European tourists packaged together, along with their super loud kids, made a longer stay quite unmanageable. Paul had never understood why parents long-hauled their tiny sprogs halfway across the world to just plonk them on the tropical sand with a bucket and spade. Surely Benidorm would do. The medical facilities on the Trang Islands were basic to say the least. What if one of these irritating toddlers was bitten by an irritated cobra? The famous serpents were apparently rife across the jungle-clad island. One nip and the nipper would be a gonner. Why couldn’t the selfish parents allow their off-spring to discover paradise for themselves later on in life on that most ubiquitous of pursuits – ‘The gap year’.

Another of Paul’s travel bugbears.

He and Andrew had already come across gaggles of ‘gappers’ gawping garishly at the locals. Gregarious amongst themselves, yet taciturn and closed when it came to anyone outside of their group. Paul wished the gap between their obviously intelligent ears had been filled with a few more manners. And often thought if the gap between their legs had also been filled with a little experience, they wouldn’t look so shit scared.

The only island folk folk who weren’t super friendly on Koh Muk were them.

Paul was astonished that one could pass a member of this strange legion on a long jungle trek, no passers-by for hours, and be completely passed by. Without so much as a gap-toothed smile. They were astoundingly under-confident in his eyes. Or just plain rude. Whatever, he was confident that at least some of them would return to their homelands altered by their odyssey. But being somewhat supercilious, he wasn’t super confident.

Farang toddlers, on the other sand, had no place in the tropics. In Paul’s opinion they completely removed the adventure from the environment. Unless, of course, they were part of the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’!

Paul and Andrew decamped, (well almost!), and made for the beach on the island’s west coast, known as ‘Had Farang’ – or ‘Foreigners’ Beach’. Ironically, Paul noticed there seemed to be less of those swimming in the waters of beautifull crescent  bay. It was quiet, apart from a few day trippers coming ashore from ‘dragon tail boats’ to puncture the peace with their squawking snorkelling.

Day trippers were another tribe he could do without!

Some days he sat on the shore at their wonderfully tranquil ‘Long Beach Resort’ longing for a drowning. But he was careful what he wished for. There had been a couple of moments in the recent past when he thought his evil wish had been granted, only to realise it was his husband who was the centre of the life-guards attention. Andrew had been the day tripper in trouble on more than one occasion. Paul had blamed it on the ‘Chang’ but he knew truthfully that his partner’s stroke could do with a little improvement. After all, Andrew couldn’t always rely on his ‘doggie style’! It was most exhausting.

The boys settled into beach-life swimmingly. Koh-habitation came very naturally to them. A small ‘restaurant’ set in the jungle supplied perfect sustenance and the odd visit to the marvellous ‘High Bar’ set amid the tropical canopy, provided shady relief.

Life was, all at once, perfect.

Superb!

As Paul left Andrew for one of his manic meanderings around Koh Muk he knew for certain this perfection would not last forever. It wasn’t just the hideous ‘gappers’ who’d found a gap in the market.

The large tourist companies were beginning to exploit it too. Their characterless chalets being thrown up by the natives on any spare patch of beachfront. Paul knew, having seen how other islands in Thailand had been allowed to develop, that it would probably be a case of paradise lost.

But for now it was super nice.

He inwardly blessed the youthful German who had sent them to this little corner of heaven. It had been a superlative tip from a super smart ‘Gapper’.

He knew they couldn’t all be completely superfluous.

What a superman!

The Lola Boys Go To Pearl Island!

Paul had implored Andrew not to touch the oyster curry. It sounded to him both unappealing and dangerous.

It turned out to be both!

On the long train journey down from Prachuap Khiri Khan, heading for the jungle of Khao Sok, Andrew suddenly became violently ill in carriage 8, on seat 29.

The passenger in seat 30 was not amused.

Andrew suddenly developed the pallor of a stale Brussel sprout, and had already started to emit the putrid wind that is associated with that most unpopular of vegetables. After another of the countless food hawkers passed through the aisle offering fried something on a stick, Andrew decided to fill a plastic carrier bag with what was left of the crustacean curry. Paul had a rapid word in his partner’s shell-like and advised his husband very firmly to make for the nearest public convenience. Which happened to be inconveniently located at the other end of the railway car.

There was trouble brewing in seat 29.

As Andrew made for the lavatory with his ‘Seven Eleven’  bag still attached to his gob, Paul could only pray that he wouldn’t trip on the Buddhist monk who was lolling quite unmindfully near to the exit. He knew that oyster and saffron were considered quite appealing in the culinary world, but doubted the monk would agree were Andrew to shellfishly saturate his religious robes!

Thankfully his partner made no such contribution and managed to get to the ‘little boys room’ just in time to make a noise little boys generally didn’t usually make! The roar reverberated through the train like a Chinese dragon on steroids. The Thais, never a race to engage in unnecessary confrontation, acted as though nothing had occurred. Probably putting it down to the churlish nature of carriage number eight, which was nothing if not rickety.

There were a group of Europeans,however, who made it quite clear they did not approve of Andrew’s fishy Brexit, as they glanced disdainfully towards the temporary oyster shack Andrew had made his home. Paul returned their approbation with one of his very hard stares, a talent he’d learnt from reading Paddington Bear in his early youth.

After all, it wasn’t Andrew’s fault his seafood was resurfacing. Plus, had these Teutonic bullies stuffed themselves with something other than Snitzel and Sausage whilst in the charming Thai seaside town of Prachuap, they too may have suffered a little sea sickness!

Paul didn’t voice this opinion of course. He was more than aware that the British were very capable of the same blinkered choices when it came to eating and drinking abroad.

He knew people who had lived on the Costa Del Sol for twenty years, and only frequented English bars, ate bangers and mash, and couldn’t count to three in Spanish! But he wasn’t going to name and shame. What was the point?

Most of those types couldn’t read anyway!

After what seemed like a night’s fishing expedition Andrew returned to his seat. Quite exhausted and terribly clammy. Paul knew there was no way they were going to make it to their intended destination of the prehistoric forest of Khao Sok. If they persevered with their itinerary there could be an altogether different rumble in the jungle. So when they hit the very ordinary city of Surat Thani in southern Thailand, they alighted the train and made for the nearest hotel.

The establishment in which they found themselves was situated on a dark backstreet on the wrong side of the rail tracks. The over made up woman who welcomed them rather severely, wanted to see no passport, just payment up front.

She assured them it was a nice room. A fact, which after they climbed the multitude of concrete steps to the third floor, they concurred with. It was a pleasant room, were it on a wing at wormwood Scrubs!

Still it had beds, and strip lighting, so they could at least see as they stripped and fell onto the oyster grey bedsheets of what was quite obviously a knocking shop!

On waking from his sick-bed Andrew felt much better and had begun to come out of his shell once more. Paul persuaded him that to hang around in the gritty Surat Thani was not a good idea, perhaps they should head further south, to the Trang Islands.

There was a train leaving at awful ‘O’Clock, and they should be on it.

Andrew agreed, still appearing a trifle pistachio.

Paul was aware that his partner really didn’t have the muscle to argue. And he knew it was him who had warned against the mollusc Massaman. So now his partner was literally jellyfish in his hands.

 

The enigmatic Trang Islands,  deep down in the Andaman Sea, had enthralled Paul since he’d first read about them years ago.  They lay, like a strand of wild pearls, in the Indian Ocean, close to the border of Malaysia. They were home to the equally mystifying Chao Lair, The nomadic sea gypsies of Malay descent, who moved effortlessly with the tide. Making their home wherever the weather was set fairest – much like The Lola Boys!

 

Following another interminable journey on a local train, which just happened to follow the track of the famous ‘Orient Express’, minus the luxury and the murder, the boys arrived in Trang. A mainly Muslim town in the deep south of Thailand, but one that was not prey to the Islamic terrorism that Paul knew stalked the west.

The Lola Boys were not even that adventurous!

There had been some recent bombings around Yala, and the train that had chugged innocently along that line had been blown up a couple of times in the recent past killing many.

The Boys avoided this region and took a minibus due west from Trang, along with a surly French couple and a smiling Thai teenager. Soon they reached the pier, more than an hour away hidden amid the mangroves.

The young driver, who was high on natural energy and quaffing copious unnatural potions which had the same effect, crashed twice on route. Once into a petrol pump, and then again into a scooter that was obviously not so obvious to him. Paul caught his face in the rear view mirror. They both laughed. The tight-arsed couple in the front seats did not share their amusement.

They quite obviously feared for their lives!

Paul wondered how they would cope with the erratic Thai ferry network once they began travelling the islands. De-ipodded and deep in despair. Some of these so-called ‘gappers’ really shouldn’t travel, he thought.  At least not until they’ve had their gaps filled.

In every way!

Then perhaps they’d pack a little experience to bring along with them.

But he knew he was probably being bitter, having put a little too much of that into his own ruck sack for the journey.

Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said youth is wasted on the young? Paul knew, as he climbed clumsily aboard the boat to join the miserable duo, that the Irish genius was correct.  The greenness which came with the inexperienced so often kept them clammed up within their shells. Paul was fairly certain he had never been like that, but he couldn’t be quite sure.

When they arrived on the tiny island of Koh Muk, the nomenclature of which Paul had deemed most appropriate, he and Andrew were both knackered. The latter even more so as he had been vomiting Oyster for over twenty-four hours.

They hit the only resort which had a vacant bed in their price range and collapsed into the reception.

They were shown to their hut, which was just about big enough for a hobbit, and both realised independently, it was to be for one night only.

Or divorce could swiftly follow!

The expansive space outside, however, was more than enchanting. The rugged coast of Trang province, with it’s magical limestone karst scenery, cast it’s spell magnificently.

The boys had arrived in paradise.

Koh Muk wasn’t mucky at all. Not at first sight. What a gem!

Paul was aware that in Thai ‘Muk’ was translated as pearl.

Therefore, The Lola Boys had arrived on Pearl Island. An incredible place, home to Thailand’s famous Emerald Cave.

But as his partner still posessed a tinge of something very green he thought he’d better not mention it.

Andrew, after all, had quite clearly had enough oyster to last a lifetime.

A Flight Of Fancy!

When Paul gleaned from a terribly friendly gay couple back at the Mekong that one could take up lodgings on a military airbase in Thailand he knew it would take no persuasion to get Andrew onboard. ‘Wing 5’, a military base belonging to The Royal Thai Airforce, amazingly allowed tourists to stay at a hotel put in place for the airmen and their families.

As long as their was room of course.

Just over the runway and adjacent to the hotel was a gloriously unspoilt beach. Cleaned and swept by the cadets when they were not in the cockpit. In fact, as Paul had only spotted just one very small and very old banger of a plane in two days, he wondered if there was much real action at all.

Paul had always had a penchant for a snug uniform and a peak cap, perhaps due to his early years when being schooled at a naval ‘borstal’ in Waterloo. Most days it had felt much like ‘The Battle Of Waterloo’ He had loathed the violent establishment. But the hang-up for a touch of naval brass still clung to him like a tight flak suit.

Sadly, most of the airmen with whom they’d touched base seemed a little too young and too petite to trigger any flights of fancy.

They were more like fledglings. Aiming high, but quite obviously some had not yet left the ground. There was certainly no chance of shooting a bit of ‘Top Gun’ – but the recruits were very amiable none the less. Paul had been hoping for a touch of Val Kilmer. But on Wing 5 it was more a case of nice man rather than ‘Iceman’.

       He certainly wouldn’t cometh!

The boys had reached Prachuap Khiri Khan, a small Thai seaside town near the border with Myanmar, just a couple of days before they’d got their wings. They had taken a fantastic, if lethargic, sleeper train down to Bangkok. They’d spent a couple of hours at the almost majestic Huamphalong Station, before boarding another choo-choo to chug down the track to Prachuap. This journey had proved a little more turbulent.

Paul had secured he and his husband comfortable seats for the first part of the five-hour trip, the latter section, however, proved less ‘plane’ sailing.

The diminutive guard marched Paul swiftly along the platform of an unpronounceable station in the centre of the country at supersonic speed. He then made a sign for them to board the very front carriage of the train. He showed Paul to a nicely padded seat surrounded by a plethora of miserable Frenchmen.

‘One person here,’ he gestured, and then took Paul to the front of the engine and then disconcertingly pointed to the luggage compartment, into which a small seat, sans cushioning, had been squeezed.

‘You here’, he said.

‘Lovely’,  Paul replied smilingly, not meaning a word of it. It was, after all, just big enough for a small Buddhist monk who’d recently been on hunger strike. Not something Paul had done for a while. Starvation or monkdom, if he were to be totally candid!

When the time came the boys were instructed by the little ‘Hitleresque’ guard to take their luggage to their new compartment. They lumbered clumsily through the train, struggling with their rucksacks and oversized hand baggage, knocking out teeth and removing hairpieces as they went. On their arrival in cabin 1, they were greeted enthusiastically with sour faced contempt and no attempt by anyone to make a gangway through which they could walk. Paul spun sharply a couple of times, in feigned surprise, trying to bash a little bonhomie into the rude bastards – but rien!

All the French they had met this time in the east had, like a bad vin rouge, not travelled well. They were tannic and left a hideous aftertaste. Certainly not giving off the charming Gallic bouquet their French friends at home possessed. Paul assumed that they must have come from Paris! A city known for it’s lack of cordiality, even amongst it’s fellow countrymen.

There was certainly no ‘entente cordiale’ on this railway.

Andrew, (quelle surprise), was then shown to his roomy chair in club class, and Paul was led into the hold, forced to wedge himself between fourteen valises and a mop and bucket.

But he was more than content to be squashed in on his own rather than having to share the malodorous atmosphere of the main cabin.

When they eventually arrived at the little coastal town, frequented mostly by Thai tourists, they had failed to get any of the tuk-tuk drivers to understand them. This despite having the flight plan for their home-share written down in perfect Thai script. These guys were certainly not high flyers when it came to reading and writing.

Paul’s energetic semaphore didn’t help much either, and after ten minutes of polite, yet infuriating bemusement, the boys set out on foot to find their room for the night. They arrived, a couple of miles later and almost collapsed under the weight of their 23 kilo backpacks. Paul cursed himself inwardly for making sure they had both used all of their British Airways allowance. Andrew did the same, but in a less introverted fashion. Much like a bitchy, superannuated air stewardess.

Paul knew he’d overpacked!

A couple of mornings later, after having touched air base, Paul and Andrew made a pre-dawn trip to a Hill-top temple – minus baggage. They usually saw 4am from a vampiric perspective, yet in Thailand they rose as early as monks.

Or rather – monkeys. Because the particular shrine they were climbing towards had been taken over by two types of that primitive primate.

And they weren’t monkeying around.

Paul knew the pack had a fearsome reputation locally, often stealing visitor’s cameras and sunglasses, but he had no idea they were always so ill-tempered. Surely, he considered cheekily, these belligerent little bastards had also been shipped over from Paris!

Andrew managed to bypass the bothersome buggers, but after his third attempt, Paul aborted his climb. A huge, cantankerous git, had blocked his take-off each time, baring teeth and flying at him each time he took a step higher. The aggressive simian had taken an instant dislike to him, it was quite obvious. A clear case of air rage. As Paul attempted to front things out, the affronted ape took umbrage plus a large section of Paul’s curls, torn from his head in what was now an even clearer case of hair rage. Paul pushed the malevolent monkey from his shoulder, avoiding eye contact, which he knew was a no no. He shouted to Andrew for aid, but there was no response. He was obviously on another planet. The planet of the apes!

Only after another hard shove from Paul, and another paw-full of hair later did the monkey business cease.

Paul was slightly shaken. The creature had been in fight mode and he was unashamedly in flight mode. It was a little uncourageous he knew. Whatever, he wasn’t going to end up with a black arm after an unwelcome monkey bite, as he had once witnessed during one of he and Andrew’s previous oriental adventures.

And he wanted some hair left!

He made a sharp descent to ground level and waited on the tarmac for Andrew to do the same.

Once Andrew had made a safe landing, they then headed across the runway and to the stunning monkey-free beach called Ao Manao; Lime Bay in Thai. But there were no sour French faces on this stretch of track.

Just a couple of stunning gay porn stars from that wonderful country, restoring Paul’s faith in the place and providing a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the day.

The temperature as well as the libido was literally soaring now. The suffocating humidity practically saturating. Paul could feel what was left of his hair expanding exponentially on Wing 5.

It was following it’s very own flight path and would soon be in dangerous need of some hair traffic control.

But Paul knew there was nothing to be done folically  speaking down in the tropics. He knew he just had to fly with it. Even though he was well aware that his big, bouffant look did absolutely nothing for his husband’s landing gear.

He knew the best he could do was to fly solo.

Although the terribly charming couple of Parisian Red Devil’s made a tandem flight seem most appealing, their bodywork and precision of movement being deliciously aerobatic.

Vive La France !!!

Paul knew it was time to take off before he booked himself a very cute seat on Air France. And this time he would be in club.

Le Mile ‘Igh Club!!!

Wing 5 had certainly lived up to expectations. It was magnifique in every way.

But it was definitely time to take flight.

Paws For Thought!

The Year Of The Dog padded up to the boys without warning, briefly licked their faces, and then scampered noiselessly back to it’s kennel without so much as a yap. In fact the whole celebration for Chinese New Year had been little more than a whimper!

Paul had hoped the celebrations in Nong Khai, with it’s large immigrant Chinese population, would be barking mad as usual. But two firecrackers and a couple of lanterns do not a party make. It didn’t stop Paul and Andrew from having their own ‘do’ though.

They thought they ought to celebrate, especially as Andrew was a dog. And always had been! Having been born in 1970.

Apparently the Earth Dog was communicative, sensible and responsible in the workplace. Paul had always had the sneaking suspicion the Chinese were full of shit!

Still, he loved a ‘do’ and celebrated everything from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah. Despite the fact he wasn’t an American Jew. Any excuse for a knees up. He was most dogged in that respect.

Although ‘The Year Of The Dog’ proved to be a bit of a bitch, Nong Khai certainly didn’t. The city was an interesting mix of every breed. A real mongrel of a town. And, like the canine variety, having just as much character.

The boys had fallen in love with the place for a second time.

Andrew was already looking in local estate agents to enquire about the cost of being re-homed. It was definitely a city in which they could envisage themselves living. Exotically situated opposite Laos on the banks of the Mekong, and just scruffy enough to make them feel at home. They both concurred on this. But they knew it was time to pause for thought. Certainly not to jump in with both paws.

Not quite yet anyway.

But the moment for ‘walkies’ was fast approaching

The boys had also made friends in Nong Khai.

They had first met Prik a few years earlier when on a similar jaunt. He had worked as a ‘Man Friday’ in the guesthouse which they had terrorised with strident Barbra Streisand tunes. The handsome Prik informed Paul he now had Fridays off, as he had a bar of his own – a music bar called ‘Chillis’.

Prik is  the Thai word for chilli. So when he invited Paul and Andrew to come and sing that very same night they accepted.

After all, how could they turn down Prik?

They were condescendingly surprised to find a rather sophisticated set up at ‘Chillis’. The bar was fabulously funky with an enchantingly cool garden and a very hot sound system. Chilli was certainly the leader of the pack.

Top dog in Nong Khai when it came to entertainment.

He played guitar and sang with perfect intonation – something Paul and Andrew found rather unusual. The rest of Thailand seemed to be awash with a cat’s chorus of vocalists. Pitching up perfectly to howl into the moonlit night like werewolves clawing at their own privates.  Chilli, on the other paw, was the dog’s bollocks.

Of course, Paul managed to last only a couple of beers before he was put into the ring. He massacred a Nina Simone number and managed to put a few people off Diana Ross for life, before slipping onto the pool table.

Joe Public, however, didn’t spot a thing.

The audience of locals, along with a brilliant Spanish guitarist called Fernando, developed a case of endless love. Paul was thrilled to be thought of as best in show – for one night a least.

The following evening Andrew performed a few of his own tricks, culminating in a brilliant Latino version of Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’. His West End pedigree shone through. Paul knew the best dog had won. The rosette went to his husband, it usually did.

They’d not lived a dog’s life in Isaan, more the life of Riley, running with the in pack. They’d sniffed out a place in which they could see a new future. The scent of it was exhilarating.

Paul knew the year of the dog was gonna be great for this couple of woofters!

But first they had a beautiful pup of their own to consider. Their beautiful Pomeranian Lola had not even used her passport yet. They just hoped she was willing to follow their lead.

On their final day in the city Andrew and Paul sat discussing their future in a dodgy bar. A hair of the dog was most necessary. They both agreed they truly loved the place.

Nong Khai? Woof!

Or perhaps. Yap! Yap! Yap!

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