Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A skint Bangkok Xmas. New Year Sungai Golok.

I am in Bangkok calculating how I can get to Malaysia. I arrived from Pattaya yesterday after quitting my shitty guesthouse. I was the only Falang there and my next door neighbour was selling Yabba (a crazy Thai drug). People were knocking on his door all night and shouting in the dirty corridors. I had no sleep. I escaped with only my cellphone missing and jumped a bus to East Bangkok. I then caught the SkyTrain to Nana where I walked up Sukhumvit Soi 3 to the Nana Nua canal boat jetty on the Sen Seb canal. I caught the amazingly fast boat for 12 baht to Phanfa stop near Khao San Road. The journey along the canal is thrilling as the water is very choppy and you get splashed with filthy smelly canal water. Also the typical Thai homes that hug the banks give you an insight into regular Bangkok folk's lives.

Today, I have just walked from Banglamphu to Hualamphong train station and back only to discover all the sleeper trains are fully booked until the new year. Third class tickets are available but I don't fancy a 24hr train trip on a hard wooden bench. So, I will take a bus half way down Thailand to somewhere like Chumpon, spend a few days there before going to Hat Yai and Sungei Kolok. Then onto Malaysia to do the jungle train.

Like last year, Xmas is a very strange beast in this part of the World. Thailand is hot and the locals dont give two hoots about it.

I have just called my Dad for the first time in months to wish him and my family a happy xmas and new year. My family are still lamenting the loss of my Mother and my heart goes out to them all.

I then checked my bank and was dismayed to discover that I have pennies to last me until Monday 29th (thurs - xmas, fri - boxign day, then saturday and sunday) because of all the bank holidays! I initiated a bank transfer on Mon 23rd but it is going to take a week! So it is a Scrooge Xmas weekend for me. Bugger! I was looking forward to a pint tonight.

I've just had a 'Tat Pom' (haircut for 50bt or 1gbp). I suppose that could be my Xmas present this year.

Well my hour is up so I best go and stroll around Bangkok tonight before retiring with my book.

Seasons greetings.

I left Bangkok on Boxing Day. I took a local bus from the Khao San area to the Southern bus terminal and considered a plethora of possible destinations. I decided a short hop to Hua Hin would be just the ticket (literally). This two hour journey ended up taking four hours since it was a local bus that decided to pick up and drop off school kids at 50m intervals. I asked the ticket woman if it was a direct bus and she said it was. The amount of lies and bs here is sometimes staggering. That's another thing that drives me nuts out here. You wait at a bus station for a bus and when it finally leaves it will invariably stop 20secs later to pick someone else up. Now, why can't that lazy bastard walk1 minute to the bus station instead of inducing a pointless, time consuming, unecessary stop? Some things are beyond me. It's the same with the school kids. Why can't they stand together in a group and get on the bus en-masse? Instead, they string themselves out along the road at equal distances for miles thus requiring many infuriating stops!

That's the thing though: The drivers don't give a shit how long things take so long as they generate maximum income from the trip. I reckon operating transport in Thailand is pretty lucrative.

I got to Hua Hin and looked forward to a night in the MOD guest house where Fen and I stayed almost 2 years ago. However, since Hua Hin is a Falang over-priced hell-hole they had raised their prices from 150bt/night to 350bt/night. I declined and found somewhere more fitting a man of my means. Hua Hin is stupid. I wanted a cup of coffee one morning and asked at a skanking plastic chair place "Cafe Lon Gee Baht krahp?" (Hot coffee how much?). The woman replied "Hok sip baht" (60bt). Now that my friends is 1.20gbb! That is more than a fucking jar of coffee in the UK is it not? I laughed and moved on. The thing is, some stupid falangs will pay this! A cup of coffee in Thailand should never really cost you more than 10bt. While I'm on, the internet is 60bt/hr here, where elsewhere in Thailand it is 10bt/hr (what I am paying now). They really are starting to fleece falangs a little too much in my opinion and I can only see it ending in tears for the Thais.

I went to the train station to get a ticket to Chumpon/Surat Thani. However, everything was booked solid. I managed to buy a 2nd class ticket to Surat Thani the following day. So after 2 nights in Hua Hin on my stupid limited budget because of all the bank holidays I caught the (invariably late) train 5 hrs to Surat Thani. I alighted the train and caught a local bus 13km into the main town. I got off the bus and was comfronted by the scum of the earth - yes, the moto taxi wankers! The conversation went something like this:

"Where you go?"

"Ban Don Hotel, Thanon Namnuang. Khun ru t nigh?" (Hotel, Namnuang St. Do you know where it is?)

"OK we go"

"No, where is it?"

"OK we go"

"Gee baht krahp?" (How much?)

"Si sip baht" (40bt)

"Fuck off, no way"

"OK, ee sip baht" (20bt)

"It better be far away"

After maybe 1 minute riding pillion.

"OK sir, we here"

"This is not the Bandon hotel"

"Mai kao jai" (I not understand)

"Yes you fucking do.........NEE MAI BANDON HOTEL" (This is not the Bandon hotel)

He gives his stupid smile and holds his hand out for 20bt. I give him 10bt and walk off away from the hotel wanting to really give this cheating arsehole a thump (and it's not often I feel like that). What he basically did was drive me about 200m to his mate's hotel where he would have received a small commission on top of the ludicrous 20bt fare he wanted. I could have walked there in 1 minute myself. He told me not to worry and that it is a cheap hotel but I told him to piss off and I walked to the Bandon hotel myself which wasn't so far.

That's another thing here. I asked a shopkeeper for directions and he gave a whistle as if I was setting off on a polar expedition! He shook his head and said maybe 1.5km like it was a Himalayan trek! I replied 'Mai mee ban haa, pum deun' (no problema I'll walk) and he looked at me like I was mad. I started walking and I was there maybe 10mins later. I figure it was about 500m at the most. Man, no wonder these folk won't walk anywhere.

I found my room and ended up watching Vietnam v Thailand (South East Asia Cup Final second leg) in the hostel. It was quite a game. Thailand (managed by Monkeys Heed, no, I mean Peter Ried) surprisingly lost the first leg 1-2 in Bangkok so needed an away win to secure the cup. However, Veitnam, who have never lifted the trophy before had other ideas. Thailand settled their nerves with an early goal to level the tie (or is that Thai?)  at 2-2. The commentary was in Thai so I am not sure if away goals counted or not. Anyway, Thailand conceded a sloppy last minute freekick and Vietnam capitalised with a last minute equaliser which gave them the edge 3-2 on aggregate. The Vietnamese scorer is now a national hero! The Thai lads weren't too happy like! Great game though - very exciting! Though I don't think England should fear these teams at South Africa 2010.

It was a really nice hotel and I nearly stayed an extra night but I like to be organised and decided I need to be closer to the border since I only have 4 nights left. I walked to the bus station and found a bus to Hat Yai. This took 6hrs. I was going to stay in Hat Yai for 1 night but, at the bus station, I saw a bus leaving shortly for Sungei Kolok on the Thai border. I thought it was better to have one day of travel hell and just do it rather than postpone another day. I took the 4hr bus to SK and arrived at 2200. I found a smelly room for 120bt/night with a drunk whore in the foyer! She was demanding I should buy her a bottle of Leo since I am a falang even though she had more cash on her than me. That is how these people think man! They think falangs are fucking stupid. I told her to piss off and retired to my stinking bed.

Having just checked my bank balance I was releievd to see my funds are, finally, now available (hooray!) . I have just had my teeth cleaned, de-scaled and de-stained for 500bt (10gbp). A touch pricey but it had to be done. My teeth looked like that bloke from The Pogues (is it Shaun Mcguire or something like that?).

I'm off for a beer in a minute after 8 days of financially-forced abstinence - hooray. I like Sungei Kolok. It is a refreshingly normal Thai town after the likes of Pattaya and Hua Hin.

Sungai Kolok's one main difference from other Thai towns is that you feel like what the Northern Irish must have felt like during the troubles. There are so many armed squaddies wandering the streets that you become bizzarely used to it. I was a little perturbed at first but you soon get familiar with the sight of dozens of army guys with machine guns staring at you! Mmmmmmm. Could be an interesting New Years Eve tomorrow night.

Muh Fon - Dentist

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