Thursday, 12 November 2009

Bike trip to Pattaya and Hua Hin. Dumped.

UpdateFour years ago I was at Newcastle University studying for a MSc in Renewable Energy Engineering. Three years ago I had just arrived in the Tibetan village of Litang, perched precariously on the Himalayan plateaux at a lofty 4800m (the same height as Mont Blanc - Western Europe's highest peak). I remember gasping for breath in the thin air. Two years ago I was in the Yangmengshan mountians near Taipei in Northern Taiwan. I remember enjoying a steak in a posh restaurant in Banciao on the way home (that my boss paid for:). One year ago I was on a drinking binge in the Khao San Road area of Bangkok. This year I am in Trang teaching maths, riding motorbikes and getting.................


Dumped


Well, it had to happen eventually given my track record with the opposite sex. Little Pat dumped me last week. Flashbacks of Taiwan and all my other ex-girlfriends come racing to my mind. 'C'est la vie' I think the French say. I've just moved into a new room on the other side of town. The above photo is Pat celebrating Loy Kratong - our final official outing as a couple!

Vegetarian Festival

On the 19th October Trang hosted a vegetarian festival. Above is a brief shot of a town center stage being built.

Many people dressed in white robes and performed self-flagellation - a bit like these lads above. Unluckily I missed this whole event as I went on an extraordinary motorbike ride. It looks similar to the Hindu festival I saw in Penang a few years ago. Indian men would pierce ludicrous metallic objects through their bodies - urrgghh.

Extraordinary motorbike ride

When I turned up for work on Monday 19th October, I was informed that we had a further two weeks holiday to endure - nightmare! How will I possibly cope with another two weeks holiday? We've now had almost 6 weeks free in September and October - excellent. I wasted no time in jumping on the motorbike and buggering off somewhere. I left the next day for Pattaya - an ambitious 1050km away, the equivalent of driving from Plymouth to Aberdeen. I left Trang at midday, passing Sung Tong and Surat Thani before arriving in Chumpon at 1800. I found a cheap room, ate, walked around and had an early night ready for my next slog the next day.

I woke the next day at 0700 and after a small Thai breakfast of a 'coffee and cigarette' I was ready for the push to Pattaya. Shortly after leaving Chumpon I spotted this pickup loaded with coconuts, a trolley, a man and half a dozen monkeys! I passed through Prachuap Kirikan and Petchaburi noticing how the land changes from Rubber farms to coconut plantations and rice fields:
I reached Bangkok and drove around lost with no map for 2 hours. I bought a map and asked the staff in 7-11 if they could point to where I was. They pointed to the wrong place - fecking idiots. It's safe to say Thai folk don't know their arses from their elbows when it comes to directions. I finally (and only because I speak Thai) discovered that motorbikes aren't allowed to cross any of the Chao Phraya River's main bridges. Only cars can use the big Bangkok highways. This meant I had to get a small boat from Phra Pradeng across the river to Samut Prakan.

Here I got both lucky and unlucky. I nice guy overheard me asking about how to get to Chonburi province. His house was on the way to the main road so he offered me the option of following him. I jumped at the chance. I never liked driving through Newcastle, and believe me, Bangkok is a million times more chaotic. So I was lucky to meet this guy and follow him on his crazy shortcut route. However, the downside was that we had to drive 2km through floods - the water was up to our knees. Finally we made it to the Pattaya bound road and after 4 hrs of Bangkok driving craziness I bought my new friend a coffee to say thanks and took a 10minute break. The remaining drive to Pattaya was straight forward except for the constant worry I might be on a road I'm not supposed to be on. I arrived in Pattaya exhausted at 2100, 13hrs after setting off from Chumpon. I was 1050km away from Trang having negotiated one of the World's major cities on a bike saddle. I had driven around the entire coastline of the Gulf of Thailand.

Pattaya - Disneyland for adults.

I met my good friend Armin at his regular digs in Pattaya. We headed out one day to the floating market:
It was very busy here with local tourists but the setting was beautiful.

Here we are wondering what time it is.

This guy was a Thai version of a Bob Marley violinist???????????????

As I have said before: Pattaya is crazy. It's a place of wonder. You get street-wise expats mixing with clueless fortnighters. Sex tourists rubbing shoulders with spiritual yoga types. The contrasts and contradictions are spectacular. To say Pattaya is authentic Thailand is like saying it's a bit nippy in the Arctic. It's an anomaly. A kaleidoscope of sex in the heart of an otherwise sexually conservative country.

I like this sign above. I've never seen a Happy Hour advertising for between 3am - 9am before! That's a 330ml beer for 65B. In Trang I can drink 640ml beers with my friend Richard for 33B.

Miss MENSA

I went to a temple on the top of a local hill with this lass. She claimed to sell shoes in Bangkok but I suspect she was in Pattaya to supplement her legitimate income with a bit of 'Nudge nudge wink wink' illicit income. We ate some som-tam and enjoyed these views before heading back into town where she advised me to drive the wrong way down a one way street. The conversation went something like this:

"Bai drong" Carry straight on
"Bai mai dai" We can't go straight
"Bai dai" We can
"Nae jai mai" Are you sure?
"Nae jai, bai dai, bai dai" I'm sure.
"OK then - you're the expert"

So, trusting her local instincts, I went straight on. I was immediately flagged down by a Policeman and handed over my license. He told me to report to the Police Station on Beach Road Soi 9. Meanwhile I asked this Thai female rocket scientist:

"Why did you tell me to go the wrong way down a one way road?"
"I don't know"
"Did you not see the Thai signs saying NO ENTRY?"
"Yes, but I thought we could still go"
"WTF????? WHY??????"
"I don't know, I've never driven a motorbike before"
"But surely NO ENTRY means NO ENTRY whether you've driven a motorbike or not"
"I don't know. I'm sorry"
"For f**ks sake man"

We headed to the police station with me pondering this woman's cognitive abilities. I was also questioning my own suspect powers of reasoning for listening to her stupid advice.

Pattaya Police Station

Absolutely clueless as to what was going on I entered the above Cop shop with my new 'part-time whore / part-time head-of-MENSA' friend. I collected a queue ticket and was delighted to discover I had about one hour to wait to be seen. Miss MENSA decided to leave me to it.

It was during this one hour wait that I realised some stark things. Of all the businesses in Pattaya, the Police is probably (no definitely) the most lucrative. While I was there I witnessed tens of thousands of baht going across the 'fine' counter. It took me 1hr of queuing to realise that the Pattaya police's business model is basically a form of legal scamming. The crimes ranged from 'no idea' to 'not wearing a helmet (along with 90% of the population)'. I handed over my fine of 600bt (extortion) with great disdain determined to never ride my bike in this town again.

Here's the queue of unfortunate souls who had fallen foul of the dreaded Pattaya Police. I think their particular traffic offense was 'Being on holiday in the vicinity of a motorbike'. They laughed at the ludicrous/blatant corruption as they handed over their 400baht so that they could resume their 'holiday'. What a way to spend an afternoon of your trip. Most folk had no idea why they were there. I would speculate that the Thai traffic police are the richest civil servants in Thailand. No other businesses were as successful as this!

Walking Street

There are many famous (or infamous) spots in Pattaya. Soi 6, Soi 7, Soi Honey and Soi Blowjob are just a few but the undisputed King of Sleaze has to be Walking Street. Here's Armin standing at the entrance to this 8th Wonder of the World.

Here's a shot of a random gogo bar. This is just one of thousands of sex-related establishments here in Pattaya.

Nok bar. I wouldn't mind 'Noking' those two lasses on the right. Working as a Teacher in Thailand always makes me feel relatively poor when I mix with 'rich foreigners' who have a boat load of holiday money to spend. The plus side is that I can stay here. I don't have to go back home to endure the worries, poorer quality of life and atrocious work/life balance that people in the West suffer for a fortnight in paradise.

People sell anything you can think of here. How about a 'Thairish coffee'? No? Me neither.

This is a bar complex just off Walking Street. This was early but I counted about 16 bars packed with hookers in here.

"Hellooooooo Weallcorme".
"Hellooooooo Hansum man, weallcorme, yuuu won maaasssaaaage?"

You will here stuff like this one million times every five minutes as you walk around Pattaya (unless you are Thai of course in which case nobody will bother you). In fact that's a weird thing here. You will never see Thai blokes in foreigner orientated bars. Somebody tried to tell me it's because they're not allowed to enter. I think that's bollicks. In Trang 90% of Thai blokes spend their free time in little Thai-only karaoke/knocking shops. I reckon 'our' kind of bars aren't their style. It's certainly not a money issue as I know many wealthy Thais. They just prefer shitty karaoke dumps.
Hua Hin


After an excellent full English breakfast, I left Pattaya at 1200 Monday 26th October. I re-traced my steps through Bangkok with less aggravation than my initial visit 5 days earlier. I re-crossed Chao Phraya River by boat and made it to Hua Hin by 2000. I noticed this bar sign above that bragged about "No loud music, Not a girlie bar". I laughed at that having just spent 5 nights in Sin City. I went for a few quiet beers as I wanted to head back to Trang the following day (my money was becoming tight). However, as per usual, a few quiet beers turned into an alcoholic nightmare. All because of this bloke:

This is Zippy. He's from somewhere in Newcastle and he's mental. I met him at about 0200 in a bar that was closing. We discovered we had similar roots and decided a few more beers were in order. We sat outside a 7/11 convenience store downing cheap beers until 1000 the next morning. I think he said he had been to prison although it's hard to remember. I know for sure why he's called Zippy and it's not because of George, Bungle and Rainbow. He has a tattoo of a huge zip from his spine to the top of his head! I would love to know his reasons for that! Reminds me of a Cockney bloke in Bali who had a tattoo of a cigarette behind his ear!

I woke up at 2000 that thinking there's no way I'm leaving for Trang tonight. I had a coffee while these two lasses dressed in Northern Thai attire started hassling me.

"Hello"
"Mai ow cap" I don't want anything thanks.
(Remain standing in your bodily space staring at you).
"Aak bai, mai mee tang cap" Please go away, I have no money.
"Falang gohoc" The white man is a liar.
"Mai gohoc" No I'm not.
"Falang gohoc" The white man is a liar.
Then they walk away.

This is very South East Asian. Since I work in this country I have endeavoured to learn the language. Even though I tell them in their own language that I'm skint (it was Tuesday and I got paid on Friday), they still won't believe you as they can't see past the white skin. It really pisses me off sometimes. They basically called me a liar because I wouldn't buy any of their useless shitty beads. My skin also elevates me to the status of millionaire despite the realities of my situation. Normally, when you speak Thai they'll leave you alone since you've accrued some credibility. However, this is not always the case as some people are simply irrational.

So I hung around some more bars and met this Irish bloke who likes to flirt with ladyboys.

Homeward bound

I left Hua Hin on Thursday morning with enough money to fill the motorbike. In fact a ladyboy loaned me 400bt so I could pay my room. Unluckily, someone had stolen my UK ATM card and I only had 1000bt in my Thai bank account.

Coincidentally, I lost my ATM card the same day Pat dumped me by phone. It never rains but it pours.

Riding the Harley South again I passed this big golden Bhudda monument. The camera doesn't quite catch the light that seemed to light the whole thing up. It looked beautiful.

I arrived home and had an early night as my body ached from the long haul down Thailand. I washed and waxed my filthy bike the next day. It took 2 hours after accumulating over 2000km of dirt. I met Kiwi Mike from Penang who was in Thailand for a visa run and took the time visit Trang and say Hello. It was nice to share a bowl of noodles with him and Anna. They are now back in Penang. On Monday 2nd November I noticed this full moon down our street. It was Loy Kratong!

Loy Kratong

Loy Kratong is the most romantic of the many Thai festivals. Held on the 12th full moon in November, it is Thailand’s original festival for lovers.
Loy Kratong is a ceremony that venerates the Lord Buddha by offering floating trays laden with flowers, candles and incense. Loy translates to “float” in Thai, while Kratong pertains to a tray made from banana leaves. The light from the candle honors Lord Buddha, while the act of floating symbolizes the release of anger, resentment or any tarnishing of one’s character. It is a way for a person to make amends and start afresh.
In addition to this, most Thais also float their kratong to honor the goddess of the rivers and waterways, Mae Nam, who they believe will bring good luck. This ties in with the romantic element of Loy Kratong which stems from a legend about Nang Nopamas, who was a royal consort to King Ramkhamhaeng.
According to legend, Nopamas made the original Loy Kratong to appeasen Mae Nam, and set it afloat in the palace canals so that it would pass by her lover, the King. The King was enchanted by this creation and by Nang Nopamas forever after, hence the belief that if two lovers set a kratong into a waterway and it stays afloat until it has left sight, their love will last forever.

It was kind of ironic that Pat had dumped me 4 days before this! Nevertheless, we were still sharing her house as I had yet to find my own room. She asked if we should go to a local temple together to celebrate. I grudgingly went and felt a stab of pain as she sent her ceremonial candle down the river. Obviously she had someone else on her mind.
I watched with interest as these lanterns were launched. They look amazing. I've seen them before in Taiwan and here in Thailand but never managed a shot before.

They can go fantastically high into the sky!

Pak Meng
I may have been dumped. I may live alone in my new shitty room. I may have a very sore jaw from clenching my teeth for too long on the motorbike. I may not have seen blue sky for the last four days. But.........I'm still happy. Paul and Tip invited me to Pak Meng near Trang for a weekend break. I downed some beers as Paul took photos with his incredible photographic equipment and Tip rested in her room. Paul snapped me as sunset approached.

Here I am doing some kind of 'just scored a goal' pose.

Last weekend I got drunk on Thursday night (missed work next day), Friday night and Saturday night. I drank in Sawandeng, little shops with Richard, Seabreeze with all the guys and Bang Bar among a whole host of others.

Tomorrow is my 36th birthday on the 19th November 2009. This is my 4th birthday on this trip. My 33rd was in Chengdu, China. My 34th was in Tainan, Taiwan. My 35th was in Pattaya, Thailand and my 36th will be in Trang, Thailand. Bizarrely, my school's 73rd birthday is on the same day! As you will probably appreciate by now, if you've been reading this blog, this will be a highly ceremonial occasion (the school's birthday - not mine). As a result we've had no classes today preparing stuff for tomorrow.

Som Nam Na - Serves you right.

1 comment:

Please be nice.