The next stop on our adventure is Ao Nang, a bustling resort and hub of tourist operations for the Krabi area.
If ever one wanted to see the picture postcard Thailand made famous firstly by being the lair of Bond’s three-nippled nemesis Scaramanga in “The Man with the Golden Gun” then later forming the backdrop for the naff Di Caprio movie, “The Beach”, then this stretch of coastline and the Islands between here and Phuket on the far side of the bay are where you need to be.
The region is characterised by soaring karst limestone peaks that fall sharply to the sea as great walls of vertical rock. Out on the waves, these peaks then reveal themselves as small islands and stacks, some populated, some inaccessible unless you happen to be a master climber.
The mainland town of Ao Nang is really nothing more than Costa del Thailand, offering up as it does innumerable opportunities to have a massage, get a tailored suit fitted, eat pasta and pizza, or even scoff down a Whopper or a Big Mac.
For us as a family, it was to act as a staging post for a visit to the less developed headland of Rai Leh which is only accessible via a longtail boat from the main town, but for me specifically, it was where I was going to watch the mighty Swans grace the big screens of Thai TV as they returned to Anfield for the first time since an 8-0 drubbing some 20 years ago.
Now if you have been paying attention, you will have noted that The Swans frequently feature as a side topic in my blog.
Our return to the big league was celebrated not by me sitting with my former travelling companions from The South-East and London Swans (SEALS) in for The City of Manchester Stadium, overly inebriated because we had cracked open the first Stella’s at an unreasonably early juncture on the 0907 out of Euston, but was marked by me not being able to discover the score until over 24 hours after the final whistle had blown as I paced about WIFI-less and TV-less on the remote tropical island of Pulau Tioman.
It does strike me as ironic that after visiting non-entities such as Rushden, Mansfield, Cheltenham, Lincoln, Barnet, Crewe and Exeter (to name but a few) and having even drunkenly lost £500 of camera kit on a return trip from Scunthorpe some years back, that when we finally get to play at global theatres such as Anfield, it is my sister and not me that ends up with the match ticket and a snap shot of our players on her smartphone.
Ah well, such are the choices in life, and to be fair, the resort of Ao Nang has no shortage of bars showing live football so it was surely a given that somewhere in the resort I would find a bar not only showing the game, but importantly, one with the sound turned up.
Having undertaken proper SEALS-esque preparation in the form of downing the best part of a small, nerve settling bottle of Sang Som rum, I made the 30 min trek into the town in the company of a large can of Singha beer.
My hunt for sound and vision then began in earnest.
My challenge started badly with the first handful of bars declaring themselves to be Man United.
“Not a problem” I encouraged myself, there were at least another 20 solid opportunities ahead and Thailand is, or so I thought, a Liverpool FC stronghold with a substantial scouse-loving fan base.
Clearly, it was me who hadn’t been paying enough attention.
Since my last couple of trips to Thailand and Malaysia, there had been a distinct increase in not only the number of Chelsea, Barca and Madrid shirts, but over the past few weeks, the previously unseen sky-blue of Man City had been making a creeping appearance onto the chests of locals.
This should have been a clear sign of a sea-change taking place.
Talking with South-East Asians football fans, it is blindingly obviuos that they fail to grasp the bond between supporter and club that exists in a European context.
The South-East Asian fan does not have a club that they are born into. They do not equate it with something that passes from father to son (what little “The Boy” knows yet…) and by its design, often claims us as a prisoner of geography.
An association that for us becomes a life-long affiliation and sometimes a lifetime’s affliction, for them is often no more than a disposable and temporary allegiance that can be changed on a whim.
When I explain that I follow Swansea City, they struggle to understand.
“Why you like losing, lah?” one teenage Malaysian rebuked me.
For those who are alien to our sporting and social culture, being a football fan is all about following a successful club much in the way that one wants to be associated as a winner when at junior school.
If this is the case, then the dearth of trophies in the cabinets of Anfield and The Emirates should be ringing loud alarm bells.
For the Asian masses, a 6th place finish, a good cup run and a slot in next seasons Europa League is just not going to fit the bill.
If that kind of attainment plateaus out as a clubs level of ambition, then you might as well be Swansea (or for that matter, Scunthorpe, Swindon or Southend).
Only winners count out East.
The bursting trophy cabinet of Old Trafford most certainly bears testament to how consistent success has an immediate and obvious effect upon levels of foreign support.
Every bar I visited was featuring the Man United game. The town was, if not a sea of red, then certainly a puddle of red from the wrong end of the ship canal.
With fifteen minutes to kick-off and a trickling tropical sweat developing from my so far futile efforts, I was getting just a wee bit panicky.
Passers by must have thought I’d just had a scary encounter with the contents of a ladyboy’s lingerie the way I was panting and pacing aimlessly around the back alleys and bars.
It was useless though. Nowhere was showing the game.
T-Minus 7 minutes, and I had one option left.
I had earlier spotted an Irish bar on a small Soi off the main drag which I had avoided on the basis that it was, well to be frank, an Irish bar.
Nothing against the Irish, I just don;t like their bars outside of Ireland.
I write this on the basis that these bars are universally formulaic not only in their marking up of beer prices, but also in the décor which surely keeps some antiquated Dublin signwriter in employment whilst insisting on pointlessly informing me of the distance to Tipperary (Yeah, yeah pal, we all know it’s a long way to Tipperary but we don’t need the specifics).
Anyway, there was little choice.
Discarding my fears, I walked into the bar and there on the upper level he stood, gloriously radiant in brilliant white.
A young man.
Impatiently waiting to be served.
Waiting to be served as he proudly wore a football top emblazoned with the eye-wateringly beautiful logo “32 Red”.
Praise the Lord, Allah, Buddha, and Shiva.
I did not recognise the guy even if I had perhaps seen him before, but if my suspicions were correct, he was in this bar for one reason.
I scampered up to the top bar and jocularly jabbing him in the ribs whilst the sweat flew of my brow like a prize-fighter in Vegas, I exclaimed the ironic in-joke of “You Jack B*stard!”.
“Scoot” as he turned out to be nicknamed was at the beginning of a backpacking trip with two fellow Jacks, and yes, the game was being shown on the big LCD, with sound.
So, half-cut on arrival, I settled in with another four pints of 6.5% beer Chang and watched the boys carve out a well earned 0-0 draw whilst the brew slipped down my gullet.
It was great to have some company for the game and even better to have the company of some knowledgeable Swans fans who, like me, also remember the darker days.
It’s absolutely awesome knowing that half-way through November our well-run little club who (once again) were nailed on for relegation, are sitting proudly in the top-half of the biggest, fattest, most indebted league in the world.
So far, so much better than good that it even crossed my mind that if we can keep up our trajectory of improvement (and given the perilous state of football finances), then who knows, in five years time perhaps not just the patrons of this Irish bar in Ao Nang, but half of Thailand will be wearing Swansea City shirts.
As the Guinness ad once told us:
“Good things come to those who wait”….