Monday, 24 November 2008

Bangkok Kratongs, Pattaya 35th birthday and Cambodian chicken farms.

I left Thong Sala in Ko Pha Ngan at 1400 on Friday 7th Nov after an impressive 35 days there. Remember, I originally only went there for a day! I caught the ferry to diminutive Ko Tao and then onto Chumpon on the mainland where we were treated to a delicious sun setting behind the feirce rocks that jut out of the sea here. It felt good to be on the mainland again. I ate some Yam salad in Chumpon before jumping a Bangkok bound bus at about 2030. We arrived in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok at about 0400 Saturday morning. I headed to my favourite 'Clinic' hostel and waited 2hrs for the staff to wake up.

I couldn't believe how warmly I was greeted and was amazed they could all remember me after so long. The last time I was here was July 2007! I've been here five days now and have ingratiated myself with the current stock of crazy Falang residents. It would take too long to describe them all in their true complexity. I've had a night of crazy drinking which is in keeping within the mentality here. We have also renamed it Hotel California since you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.

I've just applied for a job as a computer teacher in Northern Bangkok. I've no idea how that will pan out. I'm also going to Pattaya on Saturday or Sunday to see my Austrian friend Armin. As I've said before Pattaya is a sex-tourist nightmare place but I really want to see Armin. We'll travel to Cambodia when our visas expire on the 21st Nov.

I still can't find any affordable flights home. I'm going to check out a couple of Arab airlines suggested by Sheeda, my crazy Irish mate I met in the Philippines. If I find something I could be in England instead of Cambodia! That's freaky man!

Torasap - telephone

I attended the Krathong festival on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Here you buy a small decorative basket of flowers and banana leaves and let it off into the water. It symbolises the release of all bad karmic things - I think. I understand that it means you can start afresh in your life from a blank canvas. The place was packed. There were also hundreds of white lanterns released into the Krungtep (Bangkok) night skies. Quite a beautiful sight - something the tourist people would stick on a 'Visit Thailand' TV commercial with the obligatory sexy people smiling.

After a further five nights in Bangkok I got off my arse and went to Pattaya on Monday 17th November. I took the #2 shite bus from Khao San Road to Ekemai bus station in the east of the city. I noticed that nobody seemed to be paying the fare so I asked, in Thai, what was going on. Not only did the person not understand my amateurish Thai, I had no idea what she said back to me. So as we arrived at Emekai (a fact established by me shouting 'Teenee Ekemai chai mai?') I asked the conductor lady "Geebaht?". To my astonishment she said it was free! Dumbfounded I thanked her and left the bus scratching my head.

After idle procrastination (it really is the thief of time) with Armin, we concluded it was because of the anniversary of the Princess of Thailands death. Could be wrong though. We aren't 100%. It does show that some things are free in Thailand! A thing no Falang thought possible. An 8baht saving - cool eh?

I then caught the 2hr bus to Pattaya, ate some noodle soup and walked about 1hr to Armin's digs. I found his room and gave him a knock. It was great to see him again after last seeing him on the Perhentian Islands three months previously. He helped me find cheap digs and we met up later for another tour of Pattaya's craziness. I have now seen most of what is on offer in the World's sex capital.

On my 35th birthday (19th Nov) we sat in my Soi Honey hostel boozing all afternoon before heading down to the beach in the evening. We drank beer among the freelance sex workers (is that the right PC term these days?) and I danced with a crazy Armenian performer. He had long hair and was playing a tamborine and chanting some shite, dressed in a nappy! Laughing I joined in. Smiling, he handed me a second tamborine and we became a double-act! The audience was laughing too. We both jumped around like daft twats chanting and shaking tamborines while his tips increased. Diasappointedly, once our performance had climaxed, he was reluctant to share his tips with me. He did say "Happy birthday" though so I suppose that is a bonus!

I saw Soi 6, 7 and 8 beer bars and the Walking Street gogo bars again. Awesome! Can't really say much more about my second visit to Pattaya except little had changed since my last visit. I wouldn't recommend Westerners to come here looking for love/wives. Why? Well, for example, I saw one naked beautiful woman wrapped around a chrome dance pole with a gorgeous tattoo just above her delightful arse. What did it say? Well in that ye olde English kind of script it said, rather elegantly, 'FUCK AND FORGET'. Class or what? Armin and I think this should be Pattaya's slogan!

After four nights and coming to terms with being a scary 35yrs old we had to leave Thailand for visa reasons. Where to go? Well, Cambodia is the closest foreign country so we went there. We woke at 0500 Friday morning and caught a 5hr bus southeast to Trat. We then jumped a 1hr minivan to Hat Lek, the last Thai town on the Cambodian frontier. We exited Thailand and walked to Cambodia. Here the pests hassle you endlessly. A regular guy asked for my passport and I though 'Who the hell are you like'? I gave him it and he started completing my immigration card. I bumped him out of the way and finished it myself since he would have wanted a tip for that - remember nothing is free in Asia (except some weird buses - sometimes). The same jokers then tried to con us for the 10km journey into Ko Kong, the closest Cambodian town. We didn't get stung here since Armin's excellent Khmer language skills prevailed. This is my second foray into Cambodia, the last been Mar '07.

I also used up the last remaining blank page of my passport. I'm still OK for a while provided I don't go to countries that use a whole page for visas. That leaves me with Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines until their stamps fill the remaining available space. Then I'll be forced to buy a new passport - bollicks. Probably cost £200 these days knowing the UK govt.

Armin's quite a guy. I call him 'Mr South East Asia' since he can speak most of the lingo in most of the countries. His Thai is virtually fluent and he makes an excellent laid-back, great-laugh travel companion. I have thoroughly enjoyed my week with him. He likes to stay in nicer digs than me so we found separate accom and then ate and relaxed in Ko Kong.

As night came we decided we would visit a Ko Kong institution - The Chicken Farm. About 1-2km out of town is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. We arrived by moto to a group of humble shacks in pitch black. The driver stopped, indicating we were there. Where? What the hell is this place? We walked around and were quickly set upon by crazy prostitutes. I was naively expecting some kind of farm but I think that name is a euphemism for whorehouses. We had a beer with the non-English speaking beauties then headed home. The rooms available for copulation would be graded minus-5-star in the hotel comparison charts. The girls flicked on the only light we could see and we were besieged by plagues of insects. Quite an interesting experience the old chicken farm. However, my description does not even come close to giving the place justice. It's better to see with your own eyes. I wish I'd had a camera.

The next morning we purchased tickets for the 0730 Ko Kong - Sihanoukville bus. We made good progress across the newly built road and four bridges (I wonder which foreign government payed for it?). However, as we arrived at a junction about 140km west of Phnom Penh and about 90km north east Sihanoukville, we turned left (east) towards Phnom Penh. Armin and I were wondering if they had forgotten we were going to SNV but they hadn't. About 1hr or 40km later the bus stopped and told us we had to change buses. We told them to bollicks since we were now closer to PP (100km) than SNV(130km). This would require a pointless 1hr (40km) double-back journey! Crazy! We queried why they couldn't do the bus exchange at the actual junction but they looked at us like we were mad! Asians in developing countries can be fantastically thick! If we'd gone to SNV our journey would have been 80km and 2hrs longer then it would have needed to be?????????????????????

Anyway, we stayed on the bus and that's how I currently find myself sitting in an internet cafe in Phnom Penh. Last night I watched the sunset over Boeng Kak lake, the place I stayed the last time. I then went to a bar and watched NUFC scrape a draw against league leaders Chelsea. Not bad but the gap in quality is evident. We are a long way from top four quality!

I have checked out my bank and some news today and was amazed to see the UK base interest rate at 3%. It was 6.5% a couple of months ago. WTF is going on? Also 1gbp = 1.5usd! This was 1gbp=2usd a couple of months ago. Since I rely on savings, I prefer higher interest rates. I am buggered since this is not the case. My income has halved in 3 months! Compounding this is the gbp slide against every currency in the world. 1gbp = 1.18euro?????? WTF?

Ket Loi = How much

Or Gun = Thank you

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