Today my daughter had her school’s Aquathon. It’s quite tough. Eight laps in an Olympic pool followed by running round a sports field the size of Kentucky. Five times.
Understandably she wasn’t that keen to go to school.
I watched a rather wretched looking daughter bracing herself for the school bus and said, “I hate these things but if you are brave and can make it, I’ll go down to Thong Lo and buy you a prize.”
She bravely mounted the bus and off she was gone. Thus began my own Aquathon. I grabbed an umbrella that wouldn’t open then exploded in my face while I was fiddling with it in the minibus.
Thais are used to white men behaving strangely and the grim battle with the umbrella was politely ignored. A German chap, who had caught the wrong bus and who was a bit new to Bangkok kept, politely, asking “Are we there yet? Where are we?”
The driver dropped me off in a seething river that should have been a street.
I was knee deep from moment one and the umbrella was still up and umbrella-ing so I thought yes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ll wade ahead! If my daughter can make eight laps in an Olympic pool I can handle a bit of raw sewage and reach Sukhumvit!
This part of town has a large Japanese community and they all had really good golf umbrellas. Big ones. And they worked! The bastards!
Mine was from England and you would think an English umbrella might make an effort! It’s had plenty of practice!
I waded along and was delighted to see that lots of other people didn’t have any umbrellas at all.
I managed to reach a shop, bought something to justify the expedition, but the prospect of buying an Aquathon prize for my daughter from the Emporium looked suicidal. I hailed a taxi. Hailed a few more. Nobody was stopping and I couldn’t blame them. There were shrieks. A Thai girl had just fallen down a pothole. Purses were bobbing past.
The Robin Hood Pub’s lights glowed invitingly across the torrent . So near. And yet so far.
Then, joy, salvation! A taxi driver swamped me in muck and sank to a halt. I swam in and my Aquathon began properly.
The driver was built like a bullet and was a persistent fellow. Left, right, straight ahead -everywhere I looked motorbikes were going down. Sliding past. Being hauled out of grey whirlpools. Cars were giving up the ghost. The streets were jammed. My chap cursed and his car thumped and he changed lots of gears and at one point his cab floated. A bit later it was knocked about by waves. I felt as if I was in a boat. My feet flooded. Along with his car.
But he was a man who wanted to finish his mission and although it took two hours, he did.
My Aquathon was over! His was only beginning. He’d have to get his car back to high ground.
Thai taxi drivers! Those who are about to drown we salute you!
Cheers! Hugh in Bangkok!
PS I gave him one helluva, rather soggy, tip! I’m hoping he used it to buy a berth in a multi-storey car park (6th floor) and some steaming hot noodles. And my daughter came last in the swimming but second in the terrestrial marathon. She’s got the right idea. Stay out of the water! And run like hell!