Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Royal Thai Navy. Bat Temple. Bangkok to Phuket bike trip. Dumped.

Work

I had a laugh with the kids the other day when I asked whether I should show them my balls or not? Are you sure you want to see my balls? You REALLY want me to show you my balls? Fifteen year old kids love this sort of stuff.


We then went on to do a sports day where some of our superstars did a Gangnam Style dance. Our sports day was in Bangkok's National Stadium. I guess this is like Ashington High School having their sports day at Wembley. I then had to ride 20km through Bangkok to do my 90 day report at Immigration in order to avoid jail. What is it like to live in a country without visa/passport worries? I have forgotten over the last 7 years.




Navy Museum


I set off one Saturday for Samut Prakan and enjoyed an interesting hour at the Naval Museum. I spent 10 years in the UK's Royal Navy so it was with great curiosity that I browsed the artifacts. In the garden there were old planes and submarines. There were old ship bells from HMS Radiant which the Royal Navy sold to Thailand in 1920 just after WWI. Much of the old machinery on display was built in England. Seems like the rest of the world has caught up these days.
I never thought I'd get this close to torpedoes again although the Spearfish I used to handle were slightly more advanced at £2M a pop.
I've finally become an Officer. I can now behave as if the 60's never happened. I can exist as a throw-back to England's ludicrous Victorian class system. My posh accent will affirm my status in the social hierarchy although it will give no indication of my (lack of) intelligence. Oh, how I miss the RN.
I enjoyed talking to this lad. He's lucky as he is drafted to this museum and his home is only 3km away. I was never so lucky with my drafts in the RN. Since Thailand has no submarines he was interested to hear my dits although it was hard to express myself in Thai given the technical nature of the discussion. We did manage to get an OK for a school visit in the future. Like the US Navy he has many medals. In the RN you have to go to an actual war to get a medal. I got one for being off Bosnia in 1994 as a 20 year old apprentice. Like the Yanks, he got his for swimming two lengths of a paddling pool.







Bat Temple


After the Museum (museum in Thai sounds good: PEE PIT A PAN) I went to Chacherngsao to visit Pho Bang Kla Temple. These places are not in Lonely Planet by the way. 
First there were hundreds of turtles milling around. Two things struck me here. Firstly, turtles walk faster than Thai people. Secondly, the expression 'Turtle's head' is a highly accurate way to represent the need to drop the kids off at the pool.
Next it was on to the Fruit Bats. They are massive. This little fellow is one week old.
It was amazing to see hundreds of them hanging upside down. Many were also flying around with 1m wingspans. It was an amazing spectacle although I could never seem to snap them flying. Some Thai Temples are very cool places to chill.








Fitness


My quest for a Brad Pitt body continues. I visited this nearby gym and was instantly turned off by the neon-lit factory feel. Hundreds of bikes in a room made me feel like I was on a production line. The price is £500/year and that was another turn off. The sales lady said you get free water though! It didn't even have a pool. 25,000bt/year is a lot of money here in Thailand. I left with mental images of thousands of hamsters on wheels in some kind of Orwellian nightmare.

So here I am at the school's free gym. I finally managed to run the 2.4km in 10m56s. I was absolutely delighted. I also haven't had a beer or tab in 75 days therefore I'm feeling very proud of myself at the moment. The 23 years of smoking has taken some toll though as I still cough when I breathe in deeply.
Dentist

I have a mysterious tooth that nobody can cure. Even Xrays fail to reveal the source of the pain. I went to a posh dentist where they said I needed a £300 crown. I then went to my University's dental faculty where some trainee undergrads fixed the whole thing for £20. That included an Xray, an exploratory excavation, a massive filling and some teeth reshaping. The young lass that did it was fit too!! I have to go back tomorrow night (it's open from 4-7pm) for two more fillings

Holiday

On 15th February 2013 our school had a mid-term break so I embarked on a 2302km motorbike trip around the South of Thailand. The intention was two-fold: Firstly to catch up with some old friends after avoiding the south for one whole year. Secondly to give the new bike a work out on some stunning rural roads.

Typically, the first 10km to my (now ex) girlfriend's house took 1hr. However, once I'd escaped this urban jungle the riding was fantastic. The first day was the longest in terms of distance as I squeezed out around 520km from Bangkok to Kraburi in Ranong Province. This ride was pretty dull as I'd done it before and it's mainly monotonous highway. However, turning west after Chumpon things started to improve and the riding from Chumpon to Kraburi was great despite dusk approaching.


A band of Hell's Angels riding past a pineapple. You don't see that everyday. These folk didn't even acknowledge me on my cheap-ass small bike. Another couple of Malay guys on 1200cc BMWs also looked down their noses at me as I said Hello. I am starting to notice occasional pockets of snobbery within the biking community. I stress the word occasional because most enthusiasts are great crack.
My 300bt room in Kraburi - the 'skinniest' part of the Malay peninsular at 50km from the Indian Ocean to the Gulf of Thailand. There was talk of a canal through here but it has yet to manifest itself and I don't think Singapore would be too happy about it.  
Burma is 100m away on t'other side of river. 
A map showing the Kra Isthmus. Isthmus means a skinny bit of land. Interestingly, the thinnest part of Thailand is just north of here where it is around 11km from Burma to the Gulf of Thailand in Prachuapkirikan Province.
The other bank is Burma. I can almost sense the Junta. 
All of this cost 95bt (£1.90) in an Isaan restaurant. No English menus here - loving it. Papaya salad, stick rice, crusty pork, fried egg and veg on rice. 
The young lass serving took a photo of me afterwards as I was about to leave. I love these places off the beaten track. So friendly. 
The next day I was heading for Phuket Island. The contrast from rural Ranong couldn't be greater.  Here's a random waterfall revealing itself through the dense jungle foliage.










885km from Soi Cowboy and I've made it to my old local in Phuket Town where I stayed in a dorm for two nights.
What a welcome! I wasn't surprised to see three people crashed out on the sofa at 2pm on a Sunday. I slept on this sofa many many times when I lived here in 2010 and 2011. It is fascinating to look in on drinkers' lives as a tea-totaler. I don't miss the hangovers that's for sure.

Here's myself and Macclesfield Steve the owner. One of Steve's fingers was mashed up after a drunken accident with a glass. It was good to see him again but he needs to watch himself on the booze (as did I when I lived here). He's lost so much weight that he reminds me of Gollum from The Hobbit.


Revisiting my old stomping grounds was great. Here's Mackem Guy and I outside his new bar. I went to his wedding do in July 2011 and was dismayed to hear it had all ended in July 2012. Guy has lost a lot of weight which is good to see. Here, we are sealing a bet to see who (NUFC or SAFC) will finish highest in the EPL.

What a shock! This is what used to be Soi Shit in Chalong. A neon-lit haven of sleaze. I never realised my presence in Phuket was vital for the economic survival of a whole street of bars and whores. Jeez, did I have some laughs down there! Apparently, the developers are moving in with some HISO ideas. I hate it when this happens.
Even Polish-American Nick has gone upmarket. He was dumbfounded to hear I'd been dry for two months!
Back to Phuket Town where there was a huge Chinese celebration sealing off the roads. These lads are painting letters near a smelly stream. Too many flashbacks to Taiwan.
The On On Hotel. I lived here for my first two weeks in Phuket in April 2010. It's also famous as the flophouse in the movie The Beach. It is currently undergoing a long awaited refurbishment. The front looks grand with a lick of paint. 
I walked to Patra Mansion for a dip in the pool. I lived here for 16 months and it was very strange to be back. I miss this pool and I got sunburned in it this particular day. I talked with staff, had a look in my old room and generally chilled with some old friends.
Myself, Phil and Barry. Barry is my Financial Advisor despite his questionable support of QPR. I hope his financial judgments are less dubious. Phil teaches English in a Phuket University and is hoping to move to Trang soon after 6 years in Phuket.
  
Out for a spin on some of the more picturesque roads on the island. Quality hairpin bend where I once ran out of petrol on my Phantom.
Ya Nui beach. 
A parascender getting dangerously close.
And with the tweak of a string he was off. It was great watching these guys. You can't help but admire their adventurous spirit as they explain what they're doing before floating off.
My old school. I still have nightmares when I think about this place. The most overworked and stressed I've ever been. I saw three of my old students in Chalong and it was a surprise to hear them shout my name!
I spent my last night in Michael's Bar where I got talking to Ed who originally hails from London but has spent most of his life in the Middle East and Florida. What an interesting bloke! He worked on Rally cars before becoming a luxury yacht Captain. I really enjoyed my time with Ed as you can see. You might have noticed I've been wearing the same top for most of the time. That's because I travel extremely light. The material is easy to wash and quick to dry. 
I was relieved to be leaving Phuket and wondered how I'd managed to spend two whole years there?? It was great to see some old faces but I'm in no rush to go back. These tourist traps just ain't my cup of tea.

After crossing Sarasin Bridge I had the opportunity to check out a new route. The old no.4 road from Phang Nga to Krabi. Beautiful and barely any traffic because of a new shortcut. Further on I managed to squeeze 161km/h out of her which is exactly 100mph. However, conditions need to be favourable to do this. On another occasion I couldn't get her past 150km/h so I would put the top speed at 150km/h or about 94mph. This is fast enough on a bike, especially in Thailand. The most fun is had on getting to these top speeds as the accelerating forces provide a massive thrill as you blast away from any cars!

One Swedish guy started talking about fitting an upgraded Engine Control Unit but I am happy with the bike as it is. I like things doing what they're designed to do. If I want a bigger/better/faster bike - I'll buy one.


Once at Ao Nang, I parked the bike underneath a posh hotel and jumped on a boat to Ton Sai beach on the spectacularly beautiful Railay peninsular. These beaches are a magnet for dreadlocked alternative freaks and muscular rock climbers.
I went here to meet my good friend Tom from Trang. Here he is hiding behind a cup in his jungle bungalow. I felt like  H. M. Stanley when he said "DrLivingstone, I presume?" It was great to see him and his girlfriend Krate after a year.
Being a tourist trap things are pricey as this £16 bottle of suncream testifies.   
And this 180bt/hr (£3.60) internet.
Conversely, my room here was very cheap (free). I slept in a hammock in a ubiquitous Reggae Bar. This sounds good but I had a bunch of young American Sideshow Bobs playing guitars all night. Tom and I call the plethora of dreadlocked/fisherman pants wearing/tattooed/pierced young folk Sideshow Bob after the character from The Simpsons. It was nice listening to the waves and observing the stars when in between bouts of dreadlocked dope smoking.
Here's a sneaky shot of a few of them. It felt like Tom and I were the 'individuals' here as no one was like us. How ironic. The closest lass had a tattooed face, piercings in her forehead and a branding on her hand. Oh, and a totally blue left arm. Her bloke had a stinking bird's nest on his head.
This is Tom's girlfriend's brother Toffee. Toffee likes to smoke massive reefers which can easily cloud his judgement (hence the Liverpool top). I tried to explain how it might be better to support a team still in Europe (like Newcastle) but he just smiled and started singing Bob Marley songs while trying to pass me the joint. I replied that I don't just like cricket.......I love it.
I was bored at the restaurant when I fed these big red ants some sugar. I am impressed by the quality of this photo despite my phone being set to the lowest resolution (for quicker upload).
Tom and I wearing Beach Cleaning Tshirts. I think I went on to wear mine for the next three days as a change from the Toon top. How out of place do we look for Ton Sai beach man? Enjoyed a great couple of days with the fella but I had to bail after only one night as I couldn't handle anymore reggae or 'cool' people. I caught a 5pm boat back to Ao Nang and rode to Krabi Town where I found a 150bt room, ate at the night market and slept solidly for 10hrs after kipping rough with the Sideshow Bobs the night before.


I woke refreshed and drove the back roads from Krabi Town to Don Sak. I turned up at old Russel's pad and was pleased to see he's had the roof put on his blue contraption. 
Here's Russel and Kiwi Don discussing opening new bars in paradise before jumping on our bikes for a ride out to the many deserted beaches here.
An Aussie called Shane drove down there and into the back of a docked Samui ferry at 3am one night when he was pissed. It's a miracle he's still alive to tell the tale.
I think the bandannas were optional but here we are in Khanom enjoying a beer after a short journey. Shane is the lad on the right. He is one funny dude and he now drives around on a massive chopper after his boat mishap. Kiwi Don and I discussed the intricacies of making round-to-square adapters for industrial ducting 
I had to be in the posh Regent Resort in Cha Am for midday on Saturday 23rd Feb. I left Don Sak and made it to Ta Sae in Chumpon Province before finding a room for the night. I then woke up and belted up to Cha Am and made it just in time to sit through this lecture. We spent two nights in this resort and I went to bed early both nights while the rest of the lads went partying. I had to share with Rajan who snores like a pneumatic drill. We spent time in the gym doing some body building poses which was hilarious.

During a meal one night we'd been discussing all manner of intellectual topics such as the philosophical robustness of land ownership among others when  the conversation somehow turned to popstars and gloves. A younger teacher mentioned Michael Jackson had a glove and I shouted:

"Aye, that he used to shove up his chimp's arse!"

Alas, this was the only comment our boss heard from our table all night. Typical.

Data



Km
Each leg
Litres
Cost (bt)
Km/l
Cost/km
Accom

70

12
450


Kraburi
300
330
260
9.64
370
27
1.42
Phuket
200
586
256
8.95
345
28.6
1.35
Phuket
200
905
319
10.4
400
30.6
1.25
Ton Sai
Free
1209
304
10.4
400
29.2
1.32
Krabi
150
1463
254
7.82
300
32.5
1.18
Don Sak
Free
1764
301
11.44
440
26.3
1.46
Chumpon
300
2065
301
10.44
400
28.83
1.33
Cha Am
Free
2302
237




Cha Am
Free








Total

81.09
3105
28.4
1.34bt
9 nights
1150

This table shows that I spent around 4300bt on petrol/accommodation on my adventurous 1 week holiday. Eating and other stuff adds on another 4000bt. This shows that if you don't drink alcohol and eat regular food you can have an action-packed one week holiday adventure for around 8000bt (£160). This is one of the massive advantages of living here.

Dumped

So Yui dumped me after 3 months. I'm not sure why and I don't really care. Thai women are almost impossible for me to understand. I don't intend to even bother looking anymore. Maybe she lost face, or I lost face. Or she gained face. There are so many 'face' permutations that I quickly get confused. I feel like I have lost face. Perhaps I'll gain some face if I visit the Doctor's again.

Lingo

Pee pit a pan - museum.

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