It is New Year’s Day and the Chalk team are contemplating our resolutions in Bang Na, a suburb of steamy Bangkok, full of enormous shopping malls and inhabited mainly by Thais. Our host, Bobby, producer of one of Thailand’s most popular TV shows, English Breakfast, is resolving, in the long term, to do more interactive language games for the Facebook generation [with help from Chalk] and, in the short term, to have an early night; Jo is making a firm commitment to start her dissertation on adjectival ordering and drink more water; Paul is planning to cook a full English roast followed by apple crumble and custard – perfect in 34 degrees c.; one of our party can only aspire to keeping down fluids and renouncing alcohol; my own New Year’s resolution, aside from the usual get fit, get slim, is never to spend another New Year’s Eve in central London.
I am thinking loud, jam-packed pubs in which boisterous, inebriated strangers, who reek of Lynx, attempt to grope you with cries of “Gis us a kiss for New Yearssh, darlin’,” and municipal firework displays which involve ten minutes “oohing and aahing”, whilst sustaining life-threatening crush injuries in a vaguely hostile, drunken crowd, followed by a three hour return journey on several vomit-scented night buses.   I  also vow never again to spend NYE anywhere in the world in a big, faceless, multi-national hotel ‘enjoying’ an overpriced, overdressed gala cabaret buffet, a recipe for mind-numbing boredom, watching the ice swans melt into the  salmon-shaped, salmonella-inducing prawn parfait.
Our Thai New Year was perfect: we drank good champagne, fortified ourselves with delicious Japanese curry then, eschewing one of ‘the seven dangerous days’, as Thais call the homicidal-tuk-tuks-suicidal-pedestrians-drunken-motorbikers-speeding-jeeps-traffic-chaos which epitomises the holidays in their major cities, we walked 20 metres to our local, the Blueberry Bar.  We are joined by twenty other unadventurous expats, Thais, and Chinese to welcome in 2012 with more food, more drink, kissing and hugging. We demonstrated how to do Auld Lang Syne, photographed each other, sent paper lanterns, lit inside by candles, into the night, our hopes and wishes  floating off into Bangkok’s dramatic sky-scrapered skyline.  We had another drink and began a UK, Jamaica, Thai race with our lanterns which, predictably, Jamaica won with a Usain Bolt style sprint into the darkness.  It was an unusual, eclectic New Year with some nice strangers and good friends; I’ll remember it along with other Happy New Years watching fire-eaters on a Gambian beach, wearing fundamentalist fancy-dress in Tooting, dancing on a rooftop in Jamaica, and eating sticky pastries with an extended Greek family in Neasden.  Different, special, personal – a very Chalk the Sun experience.  Happy 2012 or, in the Thai calendar, 2555 – Song Ha Ha Ha – year of the brave and generous dragon!