We were in a traffic jam somewhere north of Bangkok; a four hour delay on a journey of less than 30 Kilometres (20 miles). Worse, we were running dangerously low on booze. The bottles of scotch, gin and vodka were gone. Those Bacardi Breezes at the bottom of the cooler were beginning to look tempting….
It started out innocently enough – a last minute plan to surprise my sister who lives in Bangkok, and my mother, who was visiting her. British Airways came up with free tickets and old school friends from Colombo decided to join the fun. Someone dredged up tickets to a Queen concert – I didn’t realize they still played together after Freddy Mercury died. A 1980s themed weekend in Bangkok seemed like just the thing to celebrate the end of summer.
Taxi drivers in Bangkok believe that every journey should detour via a ping pong show run by the driver’s brother/sister or cousin. The ping pong show in question requires considerable physical dexterity but shares little else other than the ball with the Olympic sport of table tennis. We had to pay our van driver extra to avoid the detour, but were now stuck in one of Bangkok’s infamous traffic jams. Fortunately we were old friends who have known each other since childhood so there was a lot of catching up to do. When women meet old friends they catch up on each other’s lives. When men connect with boyhood friends they tell fart jokes.
We made it to the venue before we ran out of fart jokes. Queen with a stand in for Freddy Mercury is a bit like listening to a tribute band. Adam Lambert is a slightly annoying, overweening gay man in a leather skirt. He does have an amazing voice. It was easy to enjoy the familiar songs, the guitar artistry of Brian May and Roger Taylor’s drumming and vocals. With Lambert (who has his own following outside of Queen) and Taylor’s son joining the band you have an extension to the franchise providing relevance to a new audience. There were touching tributes to Freddy and even the odd tear. It was a good night.
Afterwards we kicked back at the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. This is one of the oldest hotels in Bangkok and still the grandest. The bar has an old colonial vibe, with polished rattan, smoked mirrors and slow moving ceiling fans complementing some seriously good cocktails and smoky live jazz. There’s even an adjacent cigar bar to relax with a stogie in air conditioned comfort. My premixed and frozen dirty martini was sublime and very cold. It really isn’t necessary to pour liquid nitrogen into a martini glass to chill it, but it is quite a spectacle. They also have a decent selection of barrel aged cocktails. My Negroni had that delicious smoothness that comes when the wood in the barrel caused the gin, vermouth and Campari to oxidize. My bar bill was the most expensive part of the weekend!
Bangkok is a long way to go for a weekend. I was genuinely relieved when British Airways flight BA10 touched down at Heathrow. My reverie was interrupted by eight very large armed policemen who stormed the cabin. I was convinced that I was being busted for making my martinis too dry. Instead they escorted away a frail looking middle aged white couple and a young South Asian couple. Lesson learned. Someone pass me the vermouth!