It’s that time of year, the moment where the world stands still for the birthday that is far more than just another circle on a calendar, it’s a global celebration. We’re not talking about the birthday of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luthor King, Ghandi, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln or Buddha himself; far more importantly its the day that Charlie came into the world. In truth it’s a month festival nowadays and the day itself has passed by on the calendar but who’s counting. Just like a celebration of Jesus we have it when it suits us, not when it actually happened; although we’re not shifting the dates to squash a peskily persistent pagan festival, restaurant bookings are the determinant nowadays. We all know what a special birthday 42 is.
After a warm up celebration, which translates to food, in Chiang Mai for the festival opening ceremony the real celebration is today; no expense spared, on this trip of a lifetime there’s no physical presents making dinner the big show. The peak of the festival doesn’t however start off with a bang, Charlie is feeling every one of his 36 years after battling a stomach bug for a few days, ironically ever since the festival kicked off in Chiang Mai. He insists it’s something bad he ate but I’m not sure; I still have suspicions that he’s purging to look good for the festival closing party with Google searches for ‘Kate Moss diet plan’ on his iPad. But it’s not a time to judge as the festival of the year threatens not to hot the heights it absolutely must.Rested up, the sloth of this day is swept aside in a burst of motivation for a game of rugby, the lethargy from this punishingly low calorie diet plan can’t stop the show that like a broadway musical, must go on. What an exercise in expectation management; the show does indeed go on but the stage lights are well and truly turned off. Ex-pat bars can be sad seedy places at the best of times but the Down-Under sports Bar in Bangkok really plumbs some depths as I set the bar of hopes as low as possible for the 30th of the century. Our footsteps already grace the bitumen at the full time whistle past the ladies dressed like page-3 girls offering massages that we don’t want on our way out just as we didn’t want them on the way in. It’s only up from here.
At 8pm the heat still hits us in the face as we exit the hotel room into another stiflingly humid Bangkok evening. It’s less than 1km to the restaurant but still it’s a punishing walk, even for the ever young. Finally after all the anticipation we arrive at Banyan Tree hotel and it’s 59th floor for the most posh restaurant in Bangkok; nothing but the best for the birthday of the year. Crowning the metropolitan skyline of this huge city in borrowed pants that don’t fit on account of a dress code that is far more strict than the website indicated we’re in a million dollar location feeling like about six-bucks-fifty. Joined by Sparky again we are determined not to be dragged into the gutter like last night, we’re far too classy for that even if being in Bangkok does scream out to cut loose and have a wild night.Through feeling unwell, a seedy dive of a sports bar, a fashion faux-pas and a good old fashioned night time sweat this day rises to finally hit some heights; figuratively and literally. Looking about there are a scant three or four buildings matching this one for height as Bangkok sprawls in all directions over a glowing sea of orange lights that carry on further than our eyes can see. On top of the world we are perched surrounded by formally dressed wait staff, gleaming oversized wine glasses and demure festivity befitting this place of prestigious celebration; a rooftop of personal milestones, hallmark days and romantic gestures to shares our royal view. Now free from the threat of a potential failure of a day we nestle so appropriately in a sea of special occasions, one does not turn 25 every day now does one?
Our huge bulbous glasses cradle an elegant serving of Spanish Tempranillo ready to touch in cheers over three grand silver cloches. Clink, eyes locked before two waiters simultaneously lift the three shining orbs in great theatre to reveal our plated art. Hokkaido scallops crowned with caviar sit aside wicked foie-gras to make our tongues dance for joy. Mains of braised pork cheek we cut with a spoon and shellfish elaborately overspilling the plate pairs up with a Californian Zinfandel to take the tastes on our palates nearly to the heights of the romantic setting. Coincidentally a friend from home walks past by chance; ‘Ken’ goes up the cry from Charlie. I think of ways I can pass this off as a planned surprise but having a second friend from home takes this day further away from it’s slow start than I could have hoped for. The Down Under Sports Bar seems an eternity ago, the name should have given it away I tell myself.A small disaster threatens the picture perfect run of this celebration, they’ve forgotten the cake! After secretly planning this whole dinner and arranging a cake with ’38’ on it I feign a trip to the bathroom and manage to get a word to our waiter to scramble a last minute save. It’s possibly lucky that they forgot, setting an age on a cake far older than the birthday boy is surely rude? I’ll call it good luck, a delicious little cake comes out as the waiters gather to sing happy birthday in arguably Bangkok’s premiere dining location, a location anywhere in the world would struggle to top. All good things come to an end, except for the festival of course which will continue indefinitely, but this evening unfortunately has come to a close. Signing off a bill that can only be described as abusive we make our way back down to the lights we’ve so fondly been overlooking while the cost fades to irrelevance by each number of rapidly descended floors; after all, a 21st is quite a hallmark day.