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Week 8(b): Crew member for a professional children’s show

So in my last post I wrote that my sister offered me a one-off opportunity to work on a professional children’s show in Bangkok for a week. If you read that post you would have heard all about my Bangkok adventures – the good, the bad, and the eye-watering. This week I bring you the second instalment of my week in Bangkok– working backstage on a professional children’s show.

A quick recap: One day in the not so distant past my big sister called and asked me whether I would like to work on one of her shows in Bangkok for a week. My response was swift – “Hell yes” – even before she told me what would be involved. To be fair she could have told me anything and I would have agreed to do it, especially after she told me that my flight, accommodation, food and local travel would all be paid for by the company. Not only that, I would get paid for my work on the show (insert happy dance here!).

So what was the job? I can reveal that the job was…drum roll please… ta dahhhhhh – Wardrobe and Props Assistant (WaPA for short) for a show called ‘The Little Big Club’. And what does a WaPA do? Well I am so glad you asked! The clue is hidden cunningly in the name – I would be assisting with the wardrobe and props for the show.

This job was an interesting choice for me as I have never been ‘at one’ with a needle and thread (I generally use a stapler or sticky tape to fix any hems on my clothes or I pay someone to make alterations for me). But hey, I knew how to thread a needle and I could put things together so I felt sure that I could assist (and I emphasise the word assist here) with all manner of prop and costume requirements. I certainly wasn’t going to miss out on this one-off opportunity to do something new and exciting!

Day 1 work schedule: unload props; ‘build’ change-rooms; set up Dino pit; unpack, check and hang up costumes.

On my first day on the job in Bangkok the crew were greeted at the hotel by one of the promoters in a very plush vehicle. Door to door luxury service for the crew’s first day – no hassle, no fuss. I liked this gig already. Entering the venue via the service lift (which had the most god awful rubbish smell – hello Bangkok) I was astounded to see it was a vast cavernous room; no seating, no stage. “Riiiiight then. How in the hell does this work?!” I thought to myself. I soon learned that a local crew would be building the auditorium from scratch – seating, stage, light rigs, the works. And all in less than two days. Impressive.

Buzzing with excitement I entered what was to be the backstage area where I was greeted with a mass of very large packing crates. “Our first jobs will be to set up the wardrobe areas and the Dino pit” I was advised by the Wardrobe and Props manger. Um, ok then. A Dino pit. Sure, no worries; I can do that, if only I knew what a Dino pit actually was. I guessed I would find out soon enough.

Setting up the wardrobe areas meant sectioning the ludicrously large room with movable room dividers to enable separate dressing rooms. One room for the guys, one room for the girls, and a third room for eight of the costume characters. Oh yes, the costume characters. For in this show there were some very large characters indeed. You see, this show was built around several well-known children’s characters including Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam, and Angelina Ballerina. Rather than explain how big the costumes were I thought a picture would be more helpful – you know, a picture is worth a thousand words and all that jazz – so here you go…

Hanging with the boys

After setting up the dressing areas it was time to set up the Dino pit. There were four extremely large packing crates which we arranged into a diamond shape with plenty of room around the crates to allow for four people to get dressed, along with enough room to enable the crates to be opened fully. We then began opening the crates one by one. And that’s when the full meaning of Dino pit became clear, because inside the crates were – yep you guessed it – dinosaur costumes. But not just any old dinosaur costumes. Barney the friendly dinosaur and his friends Riff, BJ and Baby Bop. (Don’t know who they are? That’s ok, neither did I! For the uninitiated they are the characters from an American children’s TV show who perform fun educational songs and dances – kind of like the Wiggles if the Wiggles were dinosaurs. Don’t know who the Wiggles are? I suggest a Google search then!). These costumes were big. Big and heavy. Big and heavy and with all sorts of separate pieces which would eventually fit together to form full costumes.

The rest of the day was spent sorting out the costumes and props. Apart from the fact I still had no idea what I was doing and was feeling totally out of my depth I enjoyed my first day on the job.

Day 2 work schedule: build props; groom costumes.

On Day 2 we headed back to the venue to continue where we left off the day before – grooming the costumes to ensure they were in pristine condition after being in packing crates (including steaming every costume and scrubbing all of the shoes), and re-building the props (props are taken apart after the end of a run of shows in order to be transported in packing crates to the next show destination).

Somehow the hours flew by and before I knew it it was time to head back to the hotel and the evenings’ festivities.

Day 3 work schedule: set the stage for the first on-stage run-through; costume fittings; ad hoc prop and wardrobe requirements.

Day 3 saw the crew heading back to the venue for more setting up and organising, along with the first run-through on the newly-built stage, and costume fittings for the cast. My big moment #1 had arrived – working out how the costumes were to be put on each performer.

You would think that dressing characters would be a relatively easy task right? Oh how wrong you are! The dressing process is quite a task given that each costume involves many layers (including undergarments and over garments along with the costume itself), comes in parts (aforementioned layers plus head, body, shoes and accessories are all separate), has an internal fan to keep the performers coolish while performing, and must be fitted correctly in order that:

(a) no skin is showing (i.e. nothing that resembles a human in any shape or form can be seen peeking out of the costume);
(b) the performers can see, walk and dance without falling over;
(c) the performers can move the mouths of the costumes easily to simulate talking;
(d) the performers don’t overheat and pass out; and
(e) the costumes are in pristine condition (i.e. no random fluff / thread etc is attached to the outside of the costume).

I was soon to learn that most of the performers had more than one character costume throughout the course of a show and would therefore require at least one change in costume during a performance. I further learnt that when changing costumes, one cannot just leave the costume lying anywhere. No; once off the costume must be hung back up in order to protect it and to help dry it out before its next wear. The dinosaur crates even had their own in-built fans to help with the drying process (oh yes, those costumes get awfully sweaty inside). Still further I was told that the costumes could not be worn for extended periods of time due to the heat factor and the weight of the costumes (the Barney costume alone weighs upwards of 25kgs). So when not on stage (or undertaking a costume check) a performer needs to be helped out of their costume immediately. Hence the need for wardrobe support!

During the initial fitting process the cast kept asking me questions that I was not equipped to answer and I was feeling quite out of my depth. Bless them though; they were so lovely and friendly and luckily had worked with the show enough times to muddle through the initial costume dressing with me. Every single person in the cast was truly a delight to work with.

Soon enough big moment #2 rolled around; a moment that I was hoping would never transpire. Oh yes, I was required to do some sewing – dear god in heaven above; me, sewing! But it was my job and I was determined to do it well, so I picked up the sewing kit, threaded the needle, and set about fixing the costumes like my life depended on it. And you know what? I did a pretty good job. Seems given the right incentive anything is possible!

And then it was time for me to finally see the show in action and work out how my role would fit into the running of the show. At this point I was assigned the characters that I would be responsible for dressing for each show and advised of the props that I would also be responsible for. I had my running sheet that listed everything that needed to be done and I carried it around like it was the most precious jewel in the world.

During the first run-through I realised that I would be running around a lot backstage during the show, and that there were some serious time pressures with regard to the costume changes; but there would also be times during the show when I could stand at the side of the stage and dance and sing along – excellent!

We ended up spending many hours in the theatre that day. At times I felt quite overwhelmed, but most of the time I just loved being a part of it all.

Day 4 work schedule: technical run-through; dress rehearsal x 2 (Thai and English)

Day 4 was all about the rehearsals (the cast had already been in rehearsals, but the crew had yet to rehearse). First up was a technical rehearsal to iron out the running of all things technical in the show. Then came two dress rehearsals – one in Thai, and one in English. Oh yes, there was going to be both English and Thai shows. The Thai shows were going to be tricky for both the crew and the cast as all of the dialogue was to be in Thai and none of the cast or immediate crew spoke Thai. “Ok then,” I can hear you thinking (why yes I have a very powerful psychic ability don’t you know) “so if the performers don’t speak Thai, how does the show work?” Ah, good question. For the Thai shows the performers would lip-sync to a pre-recorded track with Thai speakers (think Britney Spears), and the crew would have to concentrate harder to ensure that they didn’t miss an important cue. Hence the need for extended rehearsal time.

Walking around backstage with all of the costume characters was very surreal. And the conversations…!

“Can someone please pass me Fireman Sam’s head? It’s in the bucket over there.”
“Hello there Bob. Can you just jump up and down a bit so I can make sure your tool belt is secure?”
“Excuse me Barney it’s time to attach your teeth”
“Hey Norman, do you have your Firecracker?”
“Pingu, it’s time to put on your head.”
“We are missing a tail. Has anyone seen Angelina’s tail?”

Unfortunately I am not allowed to divulge any more detailed information about working backstage with the characters; so no stories about the weird and wonderful things I saw, heard or had to do. Nor am I allowed to share any photos of undressed characters. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in which a costume was not on a person, or where a person was not fully dressed in a costume. There are many rules and regulations which dictate the whys and wherefores with regard to the costumes (all written and enforced by my big sister with her casts and crews all over the world), and any flouting of these rules can see the distributors lose their license to put on the show. There are a lot of good reasons for this and I do understand why the rules are in place. It’s just such a shame I can’t share the stories with you – there are some hilarious ones. But at least it will save your bum from getting numb reading this post as if I was to share all of the stories you would be reading this post all day!

Days 5 & 6 work schedule: shows and bump-out

The next two days were long and tiring with the show finally going live. There were six shows in two days, and each show was close to two hours long (including interval). Before and after each show, props needed to be set in position, costumes needed to be checked and re-checked (and fixed as required), and performers needed to be dressed and undressed. And there were also ‘meet and greets’ with some very lucky children that needed to be scheduled in. There certainly was a lot to do. But despite the long hours and the work, I loved nearly every minute of it. Watching the show come together was a wonderful experience. There is nothing in the world quite like a live stage performance.

The first day of shows did see a bit of a minor disaster – it had been discovered prior to the first show that the Bob the Builder costume had a large stain on its posterior (i.e. Bob had a noticeable dirty bum). His costume would need to be sent for dry-cleaning overnight. During the show run, clothes are sent for laundering overnight; however it was rare to have to send out one of the full character costumes. To add some spice to the drama, Bob’s costume had a tool belt firmly sewed on and this needed to be unattached before it could be sent off to be laundered. This job fell to me. Taking the belt off was not so hard – scissors and an unpicker and it was good to go. What I was worried about was having to re-attach it prior to the first show the next morning…

Arriving at the theatre early the next morning we were met with a bit of a crisis – the costumes had been returned from laundering but were not dry. Okey dokey, so with less than 70 minutes before show time we had wet costumes, a tool belt that needed re-attaching, and some props to fix. Best get to it then. Whoever thought this job would be glamorous has never sat on a chair with a hair-dryer trying to dry trousers whilst people are running around setting up fans to dry underwear and bodysuits, and socks are drying on lighting rigs!

As the Wardrobe and Props manager was caught up in some other costume drama it fell to me to reattach Bob the Builder’s tool belt. “Just to let you know if the tool belt falls off while Bob is on stage the show licence could be revoked” I was told. “You also need to keep the sewing as neat as possible so that it doesn’t ruin the look of the costume”. Ok, no pressure then. With just 30 minutes until Bob was due to be on stage off I trotted to fix the belt armed with a little sewing kit and with the words “can you fix it? Yes I can!” going around and around in my head.

Operation re-attach Bob’s tool belt started well – I worked out the correct way to position the tool belt on the almost-dry costume and had successfully threaded the needle. I quickly realised that there was a lot of sewing to be done, and with little time left to achieve it I was feeling pressured. But I continued to sew like my life (or at least the license) depended on it. During the sewing I managed to prick my finger which then bleed on the costume – argh! Luckily the stain was removed easily enough and a plaster was applied to stop any more spillages. The incident, however, had slowed down the sewing. With just 10 minutes before Bob was due on stage (which meant he needed to get dressed ASAP) I quickly finished off the sewing and helped him get dressed. Once dressed I then made him jump and run around to ascertain whether my stitching would hold up. It seemed ok, and with no time left he made it onto the stage where, I am pleased to say, the belt did not fall off. Phew!

During my breaks in work throughout the shows I had a lot of fun dancing and singing on the side of the stage (c’mon, who doesn’t feel the urge to dance along to children’s songs every now and then?). I think the cast enjoyed the fact that I was loving the show and dancing like a crazy person – they either ended up joining in backstage or encouraging me subtly from onstage.

After the final show it was time to bump-out (or in layman’s terms, take down the entire stage and pack the props and costumes into packing crates to be sent to their next destination). Sounds easy right? Wrong again! My first job was to take a travel-sized hair dryer and dry the inside of each of the dinosaur costumes. To do this I had to position myself in such as way as to reach the hair dryer inside the costumes which was very awkward – lucky I am flexible is all I can say! And I had to be very careful not to burn the lining of the costumes. Glamorous job? I think not!

An hour of drying later I was then tasked with packing away the other character costumes in their designated packing crates, another tricky task. Thankfully my big sister came in to help me which made all the difference to the speed and precision of the process. Finally all 12 costumes were dry and packed and we were able to leave the venue for the very last time. It was a long and tiring day but the crew still managed to get together back at the hotel to toast a job well done. Challenge week complete!

Some of the characters in the show

Introspection time-out

So what did I learn from all of my firsts this week? Gosh where to start!

I learnt how hard a back stage crew works before, during and after a show. Having only been an amateur onstage performer until this time I really didn’t have any concept of the hard work that crew members put in to make sure a show runs smoothly. Thank you to all of the crew members of every show I have ever done, and to all crew members of any show I have ever seen and am yet to see. You guys are amazing and deserve much more credit for the work that you do.

I learnt that when I am faced with a situation in which I am forced to do something that I have not done before, I am generally able to complete the task with a minimum of fuss and bother. I guess sometimes we all just need a bit of pressure to help us get off our butts and give something a go.

I have learnt that I can sew a tool belt onto a pair of XXXXXXXXL sized overalls. I am sure that skill will come in handy one day.

I learnt how hard it is to wear a costume character suit. I genuinely don’t know how they are able to walk in those things, let alone sing and dance. For those who think that this would be an easy gig – think again. It is difficult to see out of these costumes and they are hot and heavy. I have much respect for the performers who wear these costumes now that I have tried one on for myself and have helped others with theirs.

I have learnt that I seem to have verbal diahorrea when it comes to talking about fun and exciting experiences.

And finally, I have learnt about what my big sister does as an Executive Producer, and how fantastic she is at her job. I had a vague idea of her job before working with her on the show, but now I can see why she is so respected in her field and why she is clearly feared and loved in equal measure by cast and crew alike. Not a lot of people get an opportunity to work with their family members to see what it is that they do for a living, and I feel lucky that I have had this opportunity and can now have an informed conversation with her about her job. Big sister: thank you for providing me with the opportunity to work on this show and trusting in my ability to get the job done.

Until next time

“Life is like a piano. What you get depends on how you play it.” ~ unknown


Week 8(a): One night in Bangkok

Or eight nights to be precise. Oh yes. Travel. And not just any travel. Free travel. And not just free travel. Travel that I was being paid to undertake. This was going to be a fantastic week – bring on the firsts!

When I moved to the UK in 2006 I made it my mission to travel as much as I could in the time that I was there. And travel I did. In my first three years I visited upwards of 23 countries and by the time I moved back to Australia I had visited 35 in total. Working as a contractor I was lucky enough to be able to take as much time off as money and contracts would allow and I made the most of it. Around two to three months a year of those first few years was spent hot-footing it around the UK, Europe, Africa and the US.  I had discovered a passion for travel that quickly turned into an addiction. I was barely back from one trip when I began planning the next. Living in London meant travelling was easy, cheap and fast. Needless to say I was desperately missing the travel opportunities since returning to Australia. And then I got a call from my big sister.

“How would you like to come and work on one of my shows in Bangkok for a week?” she asked (I hasten to point out that the shows in question were professional children’s shows – not the other variety that Bangkok is well-known for!). “Oh my god yes” I cried without a moment’s hesitation. “Take some time to think about it after I tell you what is involved” she said. “Nope, don’t care what is involved, count me in” I replied. I had never been to Thailand so I was excited that this trip would also count as a new experience.

So what was I going to be doing on the show? Well that will be the subject of my next blog post. For brevity I have broken up my Bangkok escapades and my Bangkok working adventures. Otherwise you would be reading the world’s longest blog post!

I was lucky enough to have almost 3 full days of my schedule available for sightseeing and I intended to make the most of it. My first day in Bangkok dawned shiny and hot, and after a session in the gym (the joys of jet lag #1: waking up early means you can fit more into your morning) and a very different breakfast (noodles, broccoli and cupcakes do not make for a mouth-watering feast – thank goodness for ‘western-style’ options), my sister and I hit the pavement to experience the sensory overload that is Bangkok – intense humidity, traffic, and copious assaults on the olfactory glands – I was in seventh heaven!

Navigating our way easily through the train and water transport networks (the joys of being  seasoned travellers) we Reclining Buddhamade our way to our first destination: Wat Pho, a Thai temple famed for its 46m long reclining Buddha and the host of one of the earliest traditional Thai massage schools. At 9am the heat and humidity was already oppressive, but that wasn’t going to stop us from taking a good look around (well my sister wasn’t quite in agreement with me on that point, but she was a good sport about it!). Arriving at the entrance of the reclining Buddha I was requested to put on what would best be described as a lurid green synthetic dressing gown. Despite doing my best to dress appropriately for the temple (trousers over the knee and shirt with mini sleeves as opposed to entirely sleeveless) I still was not covered up enough to enter. Fair enough. I donned the sexy little gown and spent a good 15 minutes wandering around the very impressive statue.

We then meandered around the extensive temple grounds looking at all of the beautiful architecture and numerous sculptures (I had returned the green dressing gown by this stage just in case you were wondering). During our wanderings we stumbled across the massage school. It was air-conditioned and ridiculously cheap ($10 for a 30 minute traditional Thai massage) so in we ventured to be stretched and prodded. I do love a good Thai massage but I think the lady next to me was expecting a more traditional massage – the look on her face after her massage was over was priceless! Thai massage really should come with a warning for those who have never experienced it before; it can be quite disconcerting to have someone sitting on you and stretching your body into a series of poses fit for a contortionist when you are expecting something quite different!

In case you have never experienced Thai massage, it is not the massage oil and kneading kind of massage that one usually thinks of when one thinks of massage. In Thai massage practitioners apply firm pressure with their thumbs, palms, forearms, elbows, feet, knees and shins to rhythmically press and stretch your body. The intent is to release tension, increase vitality and create a wholeness of mind, body and spirit. Sometimes that intent can be befuddled when you find yourself stretched on a mat with a person sitting on you and stretching your legs and arms when you were expecting a more genteel approach!

Ever since my first foray into Thai massage (which weirdly was in Slovenia) I have been a fan. I admit the first time I was wondering what the hell the woman was going to do to me next, and did start to giggle to myself when she climbed on the table and sat on me. But the feeling of euphoria I experienced afterwards was one I wanted to repeat.

After our massages my sister and I decided to swan around the temple grounds a bit longer, and then head off for some lunch. I was so looking forward to my first real Thai meal in Thailand. I love Thai food and couldn’t wait to see how Thai food made in Thailand tasted. We passed many tourists eating at the more touristy cafes (why would you come to Thailand and eat burgers and chips for goodness sake) and opted for a hole in the wall Thai cafe. Nothing to look at, but there were locals there so we were up for it. I played it safe for my first meal and ordered Pad Thai. OMG taste bud explosion! It was divine, and it only cost $3 (Australian). Happy, happy days.

Yum yum Pad Thai

Our next stop was to be MBK – a famous shopping mall standing 8 stories high with more than 2000 shops – heaven on a stick! On the way we passed by a little store and, our curiosity piqued, we ventured in to be met by the cutest and friendliest little Thai man who regaled us with stories of his family and showed us all of his pictures taken with the King of Thailand. He was just divine. He gave us some little treats as a gift, and asked us to send him something from Australia when we returned home, as many others had done before us. He showed us some of the gifts he had already received from all over the world – what a fantastic thing to do. It really was a lovely and unexpected experience; and it is these kinds of encounters that I truly love about travelling.

When we arrived at MBK I almost wet myself with excitement seeing all of tMBK aka shopping heavenhe stores stretching in front and above me. I am a shopaholic. I love to shop. I can shop anywhere, anytime. I am a shopping machine. Wind me up and watch me go. And go I did. I powered around the different levels looking at dodgy DVDs, fake brand-name handbags, electrical equipment, paintings, clothes, manchester, and all manner of souvenir items. Although things were not as cheap as I imagined they would be, they were still awfully cheap. I managed to purchase quite a few items, although my sister was able to talk me out of the 12 or so handbags I wanted to buy (I did have more time in the week to shop, she said, which was a good point, well made). We then headed back to the hotel, a mere 2 train stops away, to dump our goods and meet a new arrival – the lady who would be my wardrobe and props manager for the show later in the week.

We then headed out to Pat Pong – the area notorious for the “downstairs lady part” bars where ladies do things with their downstairs areas that have to be seen to be believed. There are also some fantastic markets in the area which was the actual reason we were going! We avoided all of the “speciality” bars in favour of the markets and another yummy hole in the wall dinner. All in all it was a great introduction to Bangkok and I was looking forward to more exploits during the week.

The next day I had to work for several hours, but at 1130am I was set loose with the wardrobe manager to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day. Off we went to China town to scope out some wardrobey stuff and generally mill around. It was a lot of fun scouring all of the lanes and alleyways of China town, although those who are not used to crowds, big cities and ungodly smells may not have found as much enjoyment as we did!

To get back to the hotel we opted for a Tuk Tuk ride – something I had been dying to try. My god it was a blast. They don’t get their reputation of craziness for no reason. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride is all I can say if you ever try one. I loved it. We met up with the rest of the crew at the hotel and went out for another street dinner which again was a fun and decidedly tasty affair.

Tuk Tuk

 The next few days I spent working on the show, but I did have the nights free to enjoy the nightlife. And enjoy it I certainly did! Having missed out on the “downstairs lady part” bars on the first night, I was looking forward to finding a partner in crime to go with me. I found such a partner in a 6 foot 5 Aussie crew member who had never had the pleasure of the nightlife in Bangkok and was just as keen as I was to head out. For good measure we took along another crew member who had had much experience with Bangkok nightlife (he is also one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I swear my stomach muscles hurt the next day from all of the laughs he gave us on our tour). After yet another exquisite local dinner we settled in for a few games of pool and $2 beers. Once my partner in crime and I had been defeated 5 times in a row we decided it was time to venture forth on our Bangkok nightlife mission. First stop – ladyboy street. Wowsers those boys were pretty! And boy did they have a lot of takers heading into the rows and rows of bars. It was fun to banter with the very fabulous ladyboys, but we were ready for the main attraction of the evening, so heading out of ladyboy street we flagged a cab to take us to Pat Pong. Funniest. Cab-ride. Ever. Our “tour guide” kept us in stitches for the entire journey.

Entering the vicinity of the “speciality” bars we were assaulted with menu after menu of what was on offer. Oh yeah, there are menus. The most eye opening, eye watering menus imaginable. Want to see a lady open a bottle with her downstairs area – you can. What about blow a horn? Play ping pong? Write your name? Blow out a candle? Blow up a balloon? Or one of the other 25 things on the list? Who knew there was so much one can do with their nether regions.

We were lured into a bar with the “fantastic deal” of a free show for the price of one beer each (costing about $5 per person). Bargain. It was a dingy little dive inside, and I was quite appalled by what I saw. Sad looking women who clearly wanted to be anywhere but where they were. I was saddened by the fact I was perpetuating their misery, and my partner in crime was also far from impressed, so we started to leave via the cashier. That is when things took a nose dive. Rather than the “fantastic deal” we were quoted prior to entering, our bill was now almost 10 times over the quoted price. When we refused to pay it, the scary manager lady stepped in to tell us that the sales guy did not quote us the right price, and that on top of the drinks we had to pay for the “show” we had seen. We had been royally scammed. Enter our “tour guide” who had seen all of this before. He started right in on the manager with a massive tirade, with the manager giving it right back. We were soon joined by another heavy from the bar. Uh oh. There were threats made to call the police on us if we did not pay the full bill, but despite the drama we just could not stop laughing at our “tour guide”. He was pure gold to watch in action. After around 10 minutes of fighting we managed to walk out of the bar having paid just the original quoted price, and with no police in sight. Phew.  

Not deterred, we decided to go to a more “reputable” bar. The drinks at this bar were the same price as the previous bar, and there was a menu from which you could choose and pay additional money to see a “show”. We chose ping pong, with much thanks to Priscilla Queen of the Dessert for the inspiration. But even better than the movie, you could take a bat and actually hit the ball back, almost like a normal game of ping pong albeit it minus the net and with an opponent who used a more unique way of serving the ball.

The women in this bar seemed a lot livelier and I did not feel like I was exploiting them as I had felt in the other bar. I do realise thatPing pong bar was indeed what I was doing, and being a staunch feminist I did have some twinges of guilt, but overall the atmosphere inside was one of fun and frivolity rather than sadness and despair. I chatted to a few of the ladies and also scored myself a massage by two women who were, well, not entirely dressed. That was a pure accident (I was trying to save my partner in crime from being utterly devoured by all of the women), but they were good masseuses, I was fully clothed, I was sitting at my table in the bar with my companions, and it was very much in keeping with the theme of the evening (plus I remunerated them for their services). We saw a few other acts before we called it a night and hailed a Tuk Tuk to take us back to the hotel. Another hilarious ride later we arrived at the hotel none-the-worse for wear despite the hairy ride, our escapades, and the early hour of the morning. A fantastic night all in all, and surprisingly cheap. Note to self: getting home at 3am when you have an 830am work start time is probably not ideal; but hey, you only live once right?!

For the next few days I was utterly consumed by work, from 9am to 8pm’ish. The crew still managed to have some jolly dinners and swims in the stunning pool area every night though.

My last day in Bangkok was entirely free – our flight wasn’t until midnight and we had finished our shows, so my bar-hopping partner in crime, the stage manager from the show, and I decided to take in some sights. First stop, Wat Phra Kaew, another of Bangkok’s exquisite temples. We arrived to find masses of people queueing to get inside the temple. After a quick discussion we decided that we indeed did not want to wait hours in the line to go inside, and instead wandered around the outskirts, gazing in wonder at the beautiful architecture. We then meandered along the streets until we reached the river were we boarded a boat for some lovely views from the water. The contrasts on the river front were severe – on one side: pure poverty was clearly visible. On the other side, extreme wealth was on show. It was an interesting insight into the world of Bangkok.

Wat Phra Kaew

I then escorted our little group to MBK for some more shopping. We shopped and lunched together before breaking off to do our own thing. I bought more loot on this adventure. I then decided to walk back to the hotel via two massive shopping centres where I wandered shops that I hadn’t seen since leaving the UK (Boots, H&M, Zara, Jimmy Choo, Prada and many more) – it was pure heaven. I managed to escape with only a few choice purchases of clothing and the most divine heels. All in all I shopped for 7 straight hours and loved it.

Then sadly it was time to return to the land of Oz. I loved every single second of my time in Bangkok. I met great people, had some fantastic experiences, bought a lot of fabulous things…stick a fork in me, I was done!      

Introspection time out

So what did I learn from my myriad of firsts this week?

I learnt how much joy I get from travelling, and how much it soothes my soul. I returned from my trip renewed and ready to take on the world once again. My mum even remarked when I disembarked the plane that I looked just like my old self again.

I learnt that some women have some very interesting talents.

I learnt that Thai people are some of the most beautiful, helpful and gentle people one could ever hope to meet. The disaster in Pat Pong and cab drivers aside, the people of Bangkok were only too happy to lend a helping hand, point us in the right direction, or just have a laugh with us. It is such a beautiful culture and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience it first-hand.

I learnt that I am definitely a traveller not a tourist. What is the difference? I think this quote just about sums it up: “The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.” –G.K. Chesterton

I learnt that when I am truly passionate about something I write extraordinarily long blog posts.

And thus endeth another week. Until next time… 

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen

Some of my favourite signs that I came across during my explorations: 

P1040138                                                  P1040130

Bangkok signage

            P1040537   Bangkok signage  

What not to wearP1040332