The sun is slowly disappearing over the horizon and the humid evening starts to cool slightly. You sit on a beach relaxing on a wicker chair that has seen better days and take a deep draw on the brightly coloured plastic straw. The straw is sticking out of a small plastic child's beach bucket full of ice and wonder.
The cool liquid hits your mouth and instantly refreshes you.
But after a bucket or two all sorts of madness can happen!
I am of course talking about the wonders of South East Asian buckets. Beach bars from Koh Phangang through Laos into Cambodia and onto the Ho Chi Minh trail all offer this amazing drink to wet your thirst and get you blitzed out of your mind.
Inside the buckets are whatever you want that is on offer. If you need a little pick me up have a Thai Ssangsomg whiskey and red bull bucket. Their red bull is stronger and rather like some sort of adrenaline shot straigth into the heart.
Also their whiskey is reputedly hinted with traces of amphetamines. This I do not know if it is a true story or just one of those long told and elaborated back packer tales.
Probably as true as the story about Chang beer in Thailand being anything between 4% to 13% ABV depending on what day it was brewed. All most likely backpacker yarns told countless times in hostels and on beaches while staring drunkenly at the stars.
Getting back to the wonderful buckets now. If you do not want to go for the red bull fuelled frenzy how about a bucket of a more refined drink. Say Gin and tonic. This too will get you sizzled and when you move onto a second bucket you are probably slurring.
While travelling I dread to think of the abuse I put my liver through. Back at home I am fitness obsessed. Rugby, cycling, running, gym and more all the time. But when I go away I seem to go mad. Almost as if I let myself off the lead and I booze incessantly.
I do not booze like the stereotypical Brit abroad however. More like the backpacking social drinking that leads to ridiculously drunken nights of fun, debauchery and brilliant campfire and dinner party stories.
Buckets have been responsible for me getting into scrapes, meeting amazing people, making important decisions and having a brilliant time.
They truly are a staple of the backpacker trail in South East Asia.
Bangkok's Khoa San Road is lined with bars offering a bucket for 100 Baht. Here you can sample all the wonderfully odd drinks on offer while watching what seems like an endless stream of backpackers, dreadlocks, transsexual prostitutes and drunk Israeli's just out of the army and going mad with freedom all wander past.
In Cambodia there is one utterly brilliant bar that offers buckets. The original and in my opinion best bar in the city of Siem Reap is the 'Angkor What!' bar. Opened almost 20 years ago and since that day it has been home to many faces from all over the world. It truly is a magnetic place for backpackers and has firmly planted itself in the travellers must dos when in the city and the temples are closed for the night.
Here you get a free t shirt if you drink two buckets. Of course it’s not free as you have paid for the buckets but once there I polished off two buckets of gin and tonic on a swelteringly hot evening and then at 4am ended up in a bar full of Russians watching a cock fight!
Of course you can share a bucket and this I have done many times. People bond over them and chat and giggle and swap war wounds from hired moped crashes and travel tales.
Moving down from Bangkok most backpackers will end up on one of the islands, if not most of them from time to time. Hopping on ferries and all eventually descending onto the beach at Koh Phangan for the fabled full moon parties. If you miss that there is also the half moon, new moon and black moon parties. If you are ridiculously unlucky and miss all of them head to the smaller more idyllic (for now) island of Koh Tao and try and jump on the bandwagon of the castle parties.
Koh Phangan is famous for the Full Moon parties which are help in Haard Rin on the beach. Boast pull up from other islands and thousands of people descend onto the beach to basically go mad.
I have heard stories of people falling off Mushroom Mountain at the far end after drinking magic mushroom cocktails and trying to get back down the cliff and people drowning in the sea.
I never saw any one injured I just saw people in an utter mess. Vomiting and shitting themselves and running into the sea to use it as a communal toilet.
This is the bad side of the full moon party.
The beached is lined with literally hundreds of shacks selling every buckets imaginable. All have silly names like 'Happy shop', 'Mr. Toms', 'Bucket God' and so on.
The sun sets soon after you arrive at the full moon party and the music blares. I don’t remember the sun coming up but suddenly I was aware of it being braid day light. I had danced all night and looked around to see that the beach was littered with passed out bodies all curled up in the foetal position.
One day at a quieter bar I brought back to the hostel I was staying in the empty bucket and to this day have kept it at home and use it to keep pens and stuff in. It is bright pink and when I look a it my mind floods full of drinking memories.
Good memories, bad memories, hazy memories but most important of all travel memories.
Buckets are an essential part of travelling what is sometimes called the Banana pancake trail' to many they are a foe to many a friend.
To me they were a naughty little mistress that you have a fling with when you know you shouldn’t.
A dirty little secret that comes out in the open for only a short time.
Before you know it you have moved on and the buckets are a thing of the past and you wish that you had taken one with you as a memento.
It doesn’t matter who you are; in the end I am sure you will succumb to a bucket or two!
Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia you certainly have a lot to answer for.