Monday, 29 June 2009

Pattalung monks. Bangkok for a visa. Phuket on the way home.

Booze

I met Tom on Friday night after rushing to finish the last post. I then got inebriated. I even got on stage and tried to sing a Thai song as part of Joe's band. Joe was playing the guitar behind his head - he's quite a skilled musician old Joe considering the amount of Hong Thong running through his veins.

Monks in Hat Yai

On Saturday I finally rose at 1500hrs with a head like Birkenhead and decided enough was enough. I needed a break. I decided to tag along with Pat to her friend's party in Mae Krii near Hat Yai. Noi was going to be ordained as a monk the following morning so I figured I wouldn't be in much danger. Here's Noi, Pat and Yaa at the party deep in Thailand's 'Ban Nok' countryside.

On the way there we ran out of petrol again because of the broken fuel gauge. We also noticed the rear light wasn't working which adds an unnecessary degree of danger to driving at night on Thailand's notorious roads. Driving standards are already lax here (you wouldn't believe some of the crazy things you see) but compounding this is the fact that a good portion of people are driving pissed.

I recently read that around 70 people die everyday on the roads here. It's probably better to be conspicuous so we rode with the indicator blinking for the whole trip (2hrs). We repaired these defects today. It's nice knowing how much fuel we have in the tank. Additionally, it's comforting to know that people can see you from behind.


As we got within 20km of Noi's house we could feel the ground shaking. As we reached the 10km marker our ears started to bleed. As we arrived at his house we thought we were in the twilight zone. The Thais, like the Chinese, feel naked without noise. They can't have a party without a truck load of speakers producing more noise than a A380.

My fragile head was no match for this tsunami of propagational waves. Whenever there was a lull in music the void was filled by some old Thai bloke rabbiting on for 10 minutes. He could be heard in Bangkok! Needless to say we didn't hang around long. Some other friends of Pat invited us to stay in their spare room in Phattalung. We followed their jeep 40km North to their house.

Phattalung

I reckon 70% of Thai people like LFC. Here's Vishian and his wife Noot posing with me and two of their daughters at Lam Bam beach. They took us around all the sites of Phattalung on Sunday. They were 'jaidee' people and I loved our day out with them. Do I look Thai posing next to these Menola statues?

I can now read signs like this: "Had Sen Sook Lam Bam" which means 'Lam Bam Happy Beach'. My brain really is overflowing with useless bollicks!






We headed to a nearby temple where the family could contemplate nirvana, karma and all things Buddhist!

This is the only temple I have been too that overhangs water. You can put 5baht into the little box on the left and it will say a blessing for you. Pat taking a break by Songkla Lake, an inland freshwater lake in Phattalung province.

Although it looks like the sea these fresh water lotus flowers take advantage of the warm mangrove water.










This is a common site throughout Asia - sun dried small fish at the side of the road.

Same same for rice.






You could by some intricate leather-based art work here.

Feeling fished out yet? There's a lot of it around these parts.





We stopped to eat at this restaurant overhanging a small lake. We had Yam Sam Gor, Tom Yam Koong and Dom Gatee which was all washed down with a Leo beer - AROY!

We then went canoeing.



Phattalung is famous for this mountain. Can you see the hole? I thought it was man-made, but no, it's entirely nature's work.

A pic of the King. A very important person in these parts. His image is everywhere.



We stopped at a market on the way back to Trang. The dark fish on the right squirmed around in the heat.

We stopped for a sunset coffee in the mountains that separate Trang from Phattalung - a gorgeous setting and a perfect end to another amazing day in amazing Thailand.

Treasure Hunt

Another fortnight and another string of adventures. Last weekend I took part in a treasure hunt. Kids from all over Trang Province walked around the town's Hotels, bakeries etc ordering stuff in English - affording them a chance to use English in 'real world' settings. It was great fun although I got a little bored hearing 'Can I have a room for 2 nights?' hundreds of times in broken English! I got paid 1400baht - bonus! I met a Dutch backpacker who helped me a little during the day. It gave him the chance to see Thailand from a different perspective. I think he enjoyed himself as we downed a few beers in Russel's later that night.

Bangkok

Last week I had Thursday and Friday off work in order to secure a Non-Immigrant-B visa and a temporary teaching licence. Chasing paper in Thailand is a bit of a chicken and egg affair. Nobody really knows what's required in what order. I needed one final piece of paper to go along with my 36 photographs and I was all set. However, everything here reminds me of www.lastminute.com. Planning is not a strong point. I received the final signature about 2 hours before the train left for Bangkok!


Train

So, Wednesday night I boarded a Bangkok bound sleeper train. It left at 1720 and arrived the next morning at 0900. I alighted the train and headed for the immigration office. I had to do this immediately since I was required to have 21 days remaining on my tourist visa in order to be permitted to change it into a non-immigrant one. This is just one example of the bewildering, confusing, bamboozling, perplexing bureaucratic nonsense one has to deal with here.


Bureaucracy

I was sent to the wrong room where I waited an hour before someone pointed me in the right direction (3 floors above all the tourist mayhem). Nevermind, the lass in the right office went beyond the call of duty and I had my passport back in record time (about 15mins). I then headed to the Ministry of Education to acquire a 'temporary teaching licence' valid for 2 years? I think this is a pre-requisite for obtaining a 'work permit' - like everyone else here I'm not too sure. This is my next bureaucratic mission. For some reason passport sized photos aren't good enough for the Labour Dept, so I need three huge 5cm x 6cm photos! Why three? I have no idea. Why so big? I have no idea.


What all this means (I think) is that I will finally be legal after almost 4 months of paper chasing mayhem. Russel owes me a pint because he reckoned I was destined to fail in my paper chasing quest. He couldn't believe I did it so quickly!


The visa and licence were all sorted bt 1330 so I took some local buses to the Southern bus station where I bought a ticket to meet Armin in Phuket for the weekend.


Phuket

I had a haircut and ate while waiting for the 1630 Phuket bus. I spent 12hrs bored on the long slog from Bangkok to Phuket. I arrived at 0430 Friday morning pleased that I was in Phuket when all my colleagues were hard at work. Phuket is expensive by Thai standards and the motorbikes and tuktuks are no exception. They wanted 300baht from Phuket Town to Patong beach - 12km. I waited on a 25baht Songtiew instead.


Patong


I met Armin on the excellently named 'Rat U Tit' road. He helped me find digs for Friday and Saturday at 300 baht/night.

Patong beach. 




Drinking with some Thai lads on Friday night.

There was a flotilla of Septics here resulting in a mob of Uncle Sam's finest talking in ridiculously loud voices. Here's one of 'em knocking nails into a tree trunk. Every bar has stupid things like this in Patong - I was amazed they weren't charging per nail.



Michael Jackson may have gone but these boys were maintaining the USA's choreographic prowess.

This Doodle Dandy is showing his class with a NUFC top. Thankfully it's the home one and not the new away one!!






This Filipino band invited me up to sing Rhinestone Cowboy. I got a rousing round of applause when it finished. Or maybe it was because South Africa scored a try on the screen behind me??







I boarded the 5 hr bus from Phuket to Trang with a blinding hangover. I went to work today where I gave these little fellas a Maths test. You wouldn't believe some of the things I could tell you about teaching here but I'll save them for another time.

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