I’ve spent quit a few New Year’s Eves in Bangkok. And a number of them at the big count down party in front of Central World. It’s the town’s biggest bash, with the possible exception of a Red Shirt rally. But coups are more popular around the time of the Thai New Year in April, so Central World’s party has no real competition on December 31st. Half the town shows up. Or at least half of those under thirty do.
It’s a grand celebration with lots of music, local celebrities, and some pretty amazing fireworks. And it is a local crowd too, even if it does take place in the middle of the city’s major shopping district which is heavily geared toward visitors. Quiet it is not. If you are a fan of personal space this is not the venue for you either. It is, however, where most years you’ll find Noom, my bar boy friend and current love of my life, and me. But, ya know, good luck with that. Finding the proverbial needle in a haystack would be a less tasking endeavor.
I don’t know if it is more about teaching an old dog new tricks or learning from your mistakes, but the first year we attended Central World’s festivities was the last year we did it like the majority of locals do. The crowd packs into the street in front of the mall. Sardines in a can have more swimming room. They block off the far end of the street and install a ginormous stage, which crowd doing what crowds do – especially Thai crowds – everyone faces in that direction and then tries to get a front row spot. Even when there are 150,000 people already packed in in front of you.
Thais love barricades almost as much as they do being part of a crowd, so there’s plenty of those too. They line the street to keep the mob off of the sidewalks, out of the stores, hotels, and malls, and crammed into the area reserved for them: a normally wide boulevard that on New Year’s Eve shrinks to the size of a tiny rural soi. They also use barricades to form a lane for those who decide they need to get the hell out of Dodge. A nice idea, but in order to get into that lane you have to make your way to the front of the crowd where the entry area is. So maybe all those people pushing to get up front aren’t trying to get the best spot. Maybe they are just trying to get out. It doesn’t matter, regardless of the purpose, few are successful.
Not that we avoid the mob completely. Noom is big on tradition and New Year Eve tradition says we have to pass through the security check and head into the crowd so that we can then fight our way back out and – because it is a two part tradition – make our way over to the elevated walkway in front of Gaysorn Plaza to cross over Ratchadamri Road to – finally – get to where we were originally headed: the beer gardens in front of Central World. That’d only be an hour long diversion except that they block off that elevated walkway every year.
Then we have to re-enter the fray, push our way back past the security check point and out to where freedom awaits. Which is the exact spot we started from. Sometime in the distant past. I had a group of friends with us one year for our crowd participation tour. They were not fans of tradition. But Noom enjoyed leading the lost expedition and that’s all that really matters. As it is when it is just the two of us. I hate to ruin the boy’s fun, even when it quits being fun for either of us half way through the experience.
I suppose some fools drive into the area and spend their evening looking for a place to park. Which they probably manage to do around two in the morning. Everyone else takes taxis, tuk tuks, and the skytrain with the BTS being the favored mode of transportation. Chidlom is the closest station. But if you are on the Silom line instead, Ratchadamri Station is almost as close and quicker since you avoid having to go up to Siam and to switch trains. If you do take the train through to Siam, you get a nice view of the crowd that’s forming and a good indication that perhaps you may want to find some other spot to spend your New Year’s Eve.
The trains are, of course, all packed to help acclimate you to what the rest of your night will be like. Savvy BTS passengers on New Year’s Eve buy their return ticket before exiting the station. Even though that can take a good half hour to accomplish, it’s a quarter of the time you’d otherwise spend buying a ticket at the end of the evening. With friends in tow, we did that the year the gang was in Bangkok. And then took a tuk tuk out of the district at the end of the festivities instead. Whiners the lot of them, they asked what they were supposed to do with their now worthless tickets. My boy is all about the glass being half full so he helpfully replied, “Souvenir!”
From what I’ve heard, the rest of their year didn’t get any better.
If you get off at the Ratchadamri station, lines of temporary street vendor’s stalls lead up to the intersection and give you something to look at while plodding along behind the predominately Thai crowd. Things that light up to carry or wear are the big item, their neon colors attract the locals like John Travolta to a male masseur’s crotch. And the crowd moves slow enough that they can make their selection and purchases without ever losing their place in line. It’s the kind of crap Noom loves. Cheap, and something to decorate his body with. It’s also the kind of crap where he’ll economize on and not ask for no matter how badly his soul yearns to be lit up and the center of attention. But his eyes give it away. His head will jerk from one side to the other, honing in on whatever it is that he’s decided would be perfect for him as we slowly make our way down Ratchadamri Road.
Little glowing red devil horns were the popular item the first year we spent at Central World’s party. They have nothing to do with New Year’s. They have nothing to do with any of the several New Year’s Thais celebrate each year. But Noom has a small devil tattooed on the left cheek of his (gorgeous) ass. It’s a miniature of Hot Stuff, a popular cartoon character from when I was a kid. Not that he knows who Hot Stuff is. But since Noom’s ass is, it is a fitting piece of ink.
I offered to buy him a pair of those horns, but they were not what he really wanted so he debated internally for a few minutes, hating to pass up a purchase but hoping I’d make the right one later. No problemo. I just made an internal vow to spend some additional time enjoying his tat when we got back to our hotel room that night. What he did end up getting that year I couldn’t tell you. My enjoyment of Hot Stuff later that night is the memory that takes precedence.
The New Year’s Eve my friends were in town Noom ended up going shirtless for most of the night – which drew more attention than any day-glow doo-dad he’d worn in the past ever had – and Noom spent most of that night wearing their lips on his nipples. I couldn’t really blame them, I’m fond of him wearing my lips on his nipples too. Still, whether it’s a boyfriend, date, or a bar boy you offed, having your friends take turns sucking on his chest is not an everyday occurrence. Even in Bangkok. But it did help make up for the hour we’d spent pushing through that crowd that we didn’t really have to brave in the first place.
Noom puts his full faith in the belief that Thais do not do wrong to other Thais. Okay, so for Noom it’s not a glass half full but rather one that is overflowing and spilling all over the table. His is an upbeat, positive attitude that I generally adore. Except for when it collides with plain old stupidity. He has what in my estimation is a bad habit of keeping his wallet in his back pocket. That pocket is open and sags to the point that if he walked over a speed bump his wallet would fall out.
Since he ignored my suggestion that he not do that the first few times I mentioned it, I took to pickpocketing his wallet and then allowing him a moment of panic when he reached for it later only to find it gone. I thought that would teach him a lesson. It did. Now he doesn’t even bother to check to see if I’ve swiped his wallet. When he needs it he just holds his hand out and waits for me to return it to him. I probably should just quit trying. But then I’m kinda big on traditions myself.
Touri are known for throwing concern – and common sense – to the wind when on holiday. To Noom, everyday is a holiday. Packed into a crowd with everyone shuffling forward and constantly bumping into each other is a perfect place for a skilled pickpocket to make a year’s haul. Especially off of all the men with their wallets hanging out of their back pockets. That’s why I keep mine up front. A good pickpocket may still make off with it, but at least I’ll get a momentary thrill out of the loss. That’s also the perfect place for a beginner to practice their pickpocketing skills. Though you’d think they would stop and consider if they get caught the sardines-in-a-can crowd makes for a difficult escape. During our first year at Central World’s party when we were being one with the mob, I kept Noom in front of me and kept my eye on his wallet. Which wasn’t a difficult or unusual task ‘cuz when Noom is in front of me I usually keep an eye on his ass anyway.
Shuffling along and glad to know that if I passed out from the heat and humidity the crowd would hold me up, I felt a small pair of hands run up the right cheek of my ass. It took me a few seconds to realize that with Noom in front of me those could not be his hands. I turned to look behind me and caught the eye of a twenty-something Thai girl, the little culprit who’d just tried to lift my wallet. She shrugged. And then smiled. All I could do was laugh. Her smile widened, she let out with a tentative, “Happy New Year?” and then managed to disappear into the crowd.
Later when we managed to get back out to an open area of the street where breathing was once again possible, I told Noom what had happened. He got very serious, hit me in the shoulder, and then scolded me, “You not keep wallet in pocket!”
Right. Thanks for that.
And then I handed him his.
That was the year that we met. I had been visiting his bar and he decided I needed to off him. As usual, he was right. We’d spent several days, and nights, together already, and I was quickly becoming enthralled with not just his gorgeous body but with his Noom-ness. He had never been to the Central World Countdown, and was thrilled at the opportunity of doing so. When midnight struck and the new year began, the sky filled with fireworks. And as each pyrotechnic display colorfully burst in the air, Noom would let out a heavily accented cry of delight, “Bee You Teeeee Full!”
Noom, like most Thais, is not big on public displays of affection. Despite the sex industry workers you frequently see being mauled by a farang on the streets of Bangkok, it really isn’t an accepted practice, straight or gay, to the locals. So even though kissing at the strike of the clock on New Year’s Eve is a tradition, I didn’t expect to be locking lips with Noom. That was cool, I’d get mine later in private. Noom, however didn’t want to disappoint so when the crowd yelled Happy New Year in mass, he grabbed my head with both hands, planted a big wet one of my forehead, and then gave me a warm hug. That became our New Year Eve countdown tradition. As did the extended version back in our hotel room later.
The year the gang was in town we’d reserved a table in the corner of one of the beer gardens. It’s a better way to enjoy the festivities. You get to look down on the mob instead of being swallowed by it. By midnight, Noom was drunk. He rarely drinks alcohol. So the half of a beer he’d downed had really done him in. If it wasn’t for the photographic evidence, he probably wouldn’t even remember how well-used his nipples had been that night. When the clock struck midnight, I moved closer to him for our traditional New Year Eve hug. Instead, he melted into my arms, and gave me a long, warm, wet kiss, one that lasted well into the new year.
It was Bee You Teeeee Full.
And truly a happy new year.
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