It is interesting how when not under pressure to any timetable, most of your day is dictated by the light and the dark and of course here in Thailand there is about 12 hours of each. Unaware which day of the week it is also. I am reminded of the demonstration of logic. When asked which you would rather have, a clock that had stopped or one that gained 30 minutes every twenty four hours. The logical answer is the one that had stopped because it was right at least twice a day. In much the same way if you listen to any radio in Thailand you will know when it is 8.00 am and 18.00 hours because the National Anthem is played throughout the Kingdom. In some public places like stations and bus terminals people stop and stand in respect. The Thais are very proud of their country and their Royal Family. Even at public events, cinemas and theatres the National Anthem is played and everyone stands in respect. The dynasty and heritage that exists is deep rooted and very honored. As a foreigner or farang as the Thais call us, understanding all this is sometimes quite difficult and not easy to find out either. Perhaps the Buddhism is a core of this but of course the four main regions all have their own identity and encompass other beliefs too. Without doubt The King and The Queen are the key to unification throughout the Kingdom.
I realize that it has been a few weeks since my last scribe and have had some difficulty pondering on what to write about that would perhaps capture your imagination. Living here is quite relaxed and far removed from the hustle and bustle of the UK. The other thing is that when you haven’t got a car sitting and waiting on your every whim, journeys or excursions need to be planned and thought out quite well. Mind not having the car does mean walking and also saves on the pocket as one is less likely to indulge on whimsical purchases for the sake of. Mind shopping is tempting as things are relatively cheaper than the UK. Polo shirts collected for about 250 Baht that’s about 5.00 pounds and cotton shirts the same. Though a great word or caution. Thai sizes are based on the slender thin Thai and not the ‘Farang’ stature. I have learnt that to carry a tape measure is essential as Small Medium and Large are not as in the west. Extra Large and beyond are open to huge variances. Despondently I find myself moving from a western style XXL to 5XXL or even 6XXL Thai Style. The favourite size is F – Free style and one size fits all – not in my case !! In some instances I gave resorted to having things made for comfort and ease. Actually in reality you may find something that suits and have it copied as many times as you like a much better option.
So how are the days filling themselves? Remarkably very well. The day starts as usual about 5.30 – 6.00 am with some Tea, a read, maybe a swim or walk and then off for adventure. I have also been learning to develop my new website and been populating that too. Monday 11th saw me venturing once more to Bangkok for a day. Luncheon with a friend, at the Mandarin Oriental’s Sala Rim Naam for Thai Buffet Luncheon. I don’t know if you have clicked but the Oriental is a favourite if for no other reason than my first day in Thailand some 24 years ago started there.
Buffet Luncheon comes at about 18.00 per person plus drinks and is fit for a King. A vast collation of Thai specialties displayed on never ending tables and decorated and arranged like a work of art complimented with carved fruits, flowers and draperies. Staff dancing in attendance to help serve you – explain any queries you may have and also cooking some items fresh to order. Each time you leave your table to collect more you return with you previous plate removed – the napkin neatly folded and cutlery appropriately re-charged. Water is topped up without a whim or whisper and if drinking your wine or Tea in my case was poured regularly from the Tea pot on the side table. Whilst all this goes on in almost unnoticeable elegance one continues to chatter with ones guest undisturbed. Perchance a little boredom or stammer in conversation there is always the chance to glance at the ‘super highway’ – well that’s my description of the Chao Phraya River just outside the huge floor to ceiling picture windows that also serve to protect you from the noise, hustle and bustle of the traffic on the river. The hustle and bustle being made up of Ferry’s, Pleasure Boats, Long Tail speed boats, River Taxis, River Buses and then endless lines of Lighters filled to the gunnels just about bobbing above the water line and pulled by what seem like Dinky Tugs heaving their huge cargos. Alternatively of course they are high in the water empty, looking like a apartment block of cast steel. The River known as the River of Kings is the heart blood of Bangkok and Thailand rising in the north and flowing south to the Gulf of Thailand. A river trip is a must. Either guided which also includes the Klongs (canals) and the obligatory Snake Farm and Thai Royal Barges. You could be adventurous and just take the River Bus and go up as far as it will take you and then come back – which is equally as rewarding a vista and very much cheaper. The River Taxi being about 20p for a ticket where ever you get off.
The Thai Royal Barges are spectacular and steeped in a very long history. They may be seen filmed on U Tube. The Royal procession, of some 200 craft make our Diamond Jubilee River Pageant rather tame. The Barges only come out on special occasions and are quite a sight to see. I noted recently yet another little Thai secret here in Pattaya. A museum showing the Thai Royal Barges in miniature with old sepia film footage of previous processions. It is interesting though I fear a little expensive and certainly does not go on my list of recommendations for a must visit. However if you haven’t seen the real thing then it could be an appetite wetter to make the effort.
My luncheon lasted till 3.00pm and after we had parted I took to wandering the gardens of the Oriental and observed a young barman in the garden juggling bottles Tom Cruise Cocktail style being filmed and entertaining quite a crowd. The Oriental has recently added a rather hip bar area and they were preparing to host an evening reception. Bangkok hostelries are truly a sight to experience and observe. Many compete for an international clientele and both architecture and innovation far outshine anything that can be experienced in the UK and though expensive by Thai standards is relatively cheap here. Sky top cocktail bars – water features that take your breath away and lights dancing almost better than watching fireworks. I say you have never stayed in a five star hotel until you have tried one in the East.
My later afternoon was spent having tea in a famous coffee shop in Sala Daeng District – Silom and then a supper at Molly Mallone’s Irish Pub – how sublime is that and followed by drinks at another Jazz Style Bar called Sphinx before being encouraged to take a taxi home to Pattaya instead of taking the bus. Oooops now what is the comparison here. The distance about 160 km – a bus ride 134 Baht ( about 2.50 GBP) with the getting to and from the relevant bus stations either end or a 1300 Baht Taxi ( 25.00 GBP) Door to door – why spoil a nice day I asked myself and opted for the latter and arrived home at 23.45 hours. Job Done !
Pottering around Jomtien and Pattaya is done mostly walking or taking the familiar Baht Bus (songthaew) a truck type vehicle with seats in the back and a standing stage at the back if full. They have set routes and the obligatory fare is about 10 Baht everywhere more or less. Mostly I hover around Jomtien taking tea meeting friends and sharing a luncheon sometimes. Some of the establishments I visit I have helped with translations of dishes from Thai to English. They tell me what it is in English and I write it correctly in English instead of the phonetic way it is often written which can cause great hilarity. My Blackberry Playbook and new Samsung Galaxy S3 help me keep in touch with the world outside using the Internet for emails, Whatsapp, Facebook, LinedIn and other communication methods now readily available via the Internet. Connecting with friends from many corners of the world is a true amazement and chatting away as if they are in a room next door. Embracing this new and ever evolving technology is truly a task of diligence though not so as observed for the young who seem to embrace it all as if it has always been there. Oh if they only knew what we do, or if they were interested. Information at the touch of a screen and everything at their finger tips. Never ending conversations on mobiles – texting messages and then to avoid boredom creeping in, there are games and no end of Music downloads and Films and the list goes on.
So with fairly full days suppertime arrives at about 19.00 hours and the choice is eat at home or go out. As previously advised there is no end of places to choose, though home can often prove a comfort and the choice of home cooked food very welcome. Slumbers about 22.30 and so heading towards another day.
Last weekend 16th saw me off down the coast to Mae Phim just east of Rayong to visit a hotel and inspect. A new acquisition and a quiet couple of days watching. A pleasant and somewhat solitary area where relaxation is the only choice as diversions are few. The sea, beach and gardens providing a welcome repast to the goings on in Jomtien and Pattaya. No traffic to mention and hardly any wifi connection. So almost like a car driving in fifth gear and then flung into reverse – whow !. Thailand does offer that recluse option of countryside beauty, whether on the coast by the sea on in the depths of the countryside – stunning fauna and wildlife too to watch and be amused by. Of course too the regular blue skies and sunshine just occasionally spoilt by a rather welcome downpour of rain to clear the air and settle the dust if not only to abate the wonderful smells that percolate in the heat – some are indescribable and have to be experienced to believe the possibilities.
My return to the UK has been delayed a little and I now will return on 12th March instead of 2nd March. My 60 day visa expired 14th February and that too was renewed last week allowing me another 30 days to stay in the Kingdom. Thinking of what I shall do on my return is starting to filter my mind as some remuneration will be needed to pay the ever accumulating bills. Meantime I think I shall bring this scribe to an end for fear of babbling on too long and losing your interest in my waffles. I hope you have enjoyed.
Hugs to you