My lack of love for dogs is well documented. My very effective rule of barking back at or generally threatening the dogs had proved ineffective in the face of more than a couple of dogs. My tendency to wander got me into a dangerous situation with dogs recently in Bangkok.
I was an hour’s ride away from Bangkok at a place where I would expect no one to speak English. I had been watching a few muay thai (Thai boxing) bouts at the Siam Stadium. I saw a wiry boy, younger than fifteen years, knock down another of the same age after three punishing rounds. Another fight ended with a cocky kid with attitude being slowly outmanoeuvred by a cooler one who won on points after allowing his opponent to wear himself out. I had arrived late, so I missed most of the main fights between the grown-ups. At the end, I seemed to be the only foreigner remaining in the area.
I managed to find a guy who spoke English and asked him for directions for a bus back to the city. He drew me a map, asking me to go across the highway to the bus station. I found an overbridge that took me across the highway. There was a bus stop nearby with no bus numbers indicated on it. I found, to much displeasure, that the GPS on my phone was not working. The map confused me a bit, so I kept walking away from the boxing stadium and spotted a temple-like structure with no one around. I ventured to take a look.
I walked toward the structure that was in a large compound. Its gate was open and inviting. The road that I was on made a T in front of the gate. As I approached the gate a number of dogs that were lying in the compound started barking. I was clearly not welcome. I turned left at the gate thinking of looking for the bus station there. This is when things turned worse.
The dogs exited the gate and stood guard at the small intersection, blocking off the way I had come. Another bunch of dogs, alerted by all the barking from behind me, had shown up in front. They blocked my way up ahead. There were about ten dogs fifteen metres behind me and another five dogs seventy metres ahead. I really did not like the look of this. I surveyed the scene. To my right was the huge wall of the compound that I had been looking at. To my left was a wide sewer filled with black waste. I considered the sewer for a few seconds. “No, not yet,” I thought. The dogs had stopped moving forward and were watching and waiting.
“Help!” I shouted. “HELP ME!” An apartment with many windows stood beyond the sewer. Perhaps someone would rescue me. I shouted a few more times. The dogs added a few barks for every shout. A cyclist came out of the compound with the temple structure. I waved my arms above my head and shouted again. He looked at me and rode on.
My knight in shining armour rode on a black scooter along the road that I was standing on. This was my chance. I waved my hands and stood in the middle of the road. He stopped. “Can you take me to the main road? I’m afraid of the dogs.” I said. He seemed to understand and took me through the dogs and into safety. I thanked him. “Do you know where the bus station is?” He pointed to the bus stop that I had looked at and walked past. A bus arrived as I was walking toward the bus stop. It had the bus number that the English-speaking man had given me. Too bad that his English was not good enough for him to know that this was a bus stop and not a bus station.
As I sat in the bus I wondered what had caused the dogs to get aggressive. They were quite passive when the locals went by. I was wearing a big hat and that may have tipped them off to something not being right. It had been a similar situation in Mandalay when I had worn a headlamp. The dogs had calmed down quite a bit when I took it off and looked more like one of the local blokes.
The bus took me from the dangerous frontlines of Thailand to the slightly more familiar city of Bangkok where the locals spoke some English, the skytrain was impossible to get lost in and the dogs were pets on leashes.
See also: The dogs of Mandalay