Captain Jack’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 3
The Mighty Wizard’s Thailand Trip – 2004 Edition Part 3
By The Mighty Wizard
The Mighty Wizard’s Thailand Trip – the 2004 edition
That evening, Somkid took me out to meet the rest of her and Chuck’s siblings who lived in Bangkok. Chuck had told me that his family was from the South and had indicated that he wanted me to go visit his family’s village, at
Dom Sak near Surat Thani, but most of his family had made it to Bangkok. I had promised him that I would visit his village down south, as I was genuinely interested in seeing new parts of the country. Somkid had called Chuck’s nephew, named
Jin, who had been one of his nephews who had worked at his auto shop in Houston.
As for Chuck and Somkid’s siblings who lived in Bangkok, they were a varied bunch. One owned a sporting goods store, another was a nurse who taught nursing students. Most of
Chuck’s family, however, was in the automobile
business. We drove out to a dealership and finance lot on the east side of the city. Along the way, I caught a glimpse of the new airport that was being built. Talk ensued about rumored construction errors which might have been committed. When
we got there, I looked around at some of the vehicles on offer. There was a used Toyota pickup on offer for 360,000 baht that caught my eye. I have thought of retiring to Thailand and this stuff is good to know.
That evening, it was decided that we should meet Chuck’s second oldest brother (out of 9 children), whose name was Suwat. This was a special honor, since Suwat was considered the hero of the family. We continued back towards town and
I found myself walking into an indoor motorcycle dealership. Considering how many motorcycle packs I had seen racing around Bangkok, it probably wasn’t too bad of a business to get into.
I met Suwat, who happened to be closing up shop for the evening. We all sat around, drinking water and chit chatting in a combination of English and Thai. I learned that Suwat was 56 years old, having gotten his start in business by doing
repair work on vehicles near U.S. air force bases in northern Thailand during the Vietnam war. He now owned 4 Honda dealerships around Bangkok and was having family members help him. His kids were all going to school in America.
At one point during the conversation, I handed out one of Chuck’s business cards, which I happened to have in my wallet. His brothers and sisters had a good laugh when they saw that he had taken the English name of “Chuck”.
They also laughed at the name he had given his business. They also wondered at the fact that I had been to Thailand 5 times in 14 years, while Chuck had only been back one time in 25 years. I did point out to them that people have different tastes
and preferences as to how they want to live and what they do with their money. It was true that I love to travel and that Chuck was rather tightfisted with his money. Nonetheless, this makes a big difference as to how people’s lives (and
their children’s lives) turn out. Chuck told me that he would be ready to retire in another 3 – 5 years.
We went out to dinner again that night. This time, Suwat took everyone out to a streetside seafood restaurant that was well thought of. We sat at outside tables, where dishes were brought and were shared. The food, especially the Som Tam
salad, was great. Suwat asked me about how it was that I had come to Thailand, so I told him about my time where I had worked in China. Several teenaged and 20 – something members of the Chuck and Suwat’s extended family had come
along, eager to listen to an American speak in English. Suwat and I talked about the Vietnam war and America’s worry that Thailand would fall under the influence of communism. Once again, I found myself being the only farang at this place.
The people who worked there didn’t speak English and I found myself washing my hands in a mixture of water, lemons, and limes after dinner to get rid of the seafood smell. I forgot to ask Somkid what the name of this restaurant was, as
I would have loved to remember where this place was.
I had decided by this time to leave Bangkok to go visit southern Thailand. I planned on taking Lek with me for the week when I went down south, so that night I went to the bar and asked if she wanted to go. She said yes, so I barfined her
for the week. After spending the night at my hotel, we went to her apartment, far down Sukumvit. She lived by herself in a cramped single room in a 6 – 7 story apartment building, with a toilet / shower. The apartment had a small balcony.
The room was perhaps 12 feet (3.75 meters) square. She had a 21 inch TV set (with photos of old boyfriends and punters sitting on top of it), a small refrigerator, as well as a large closet for all of her clothes. There was no booze in the fridge.
A small statue to Buddha stood on a small bedside table. She told me that rent was 5,000 baht per month.
Rather than fly, in recent years I have started trying to take buses to get around when I go visit other countries. Somkid told me that to go south, I would have to go pick up tickets at the Southern Bus Terminal if I were to take a Thai
person along. I had tried to get an air conditioned VIP bus, but found that Thais were not allowed on VIP buses. The travel agent at the hotel told me that this was because other bus companies would complain from increased competition, but Somkid
told me that the reason was because there had apparently been a rash of stolen personal belongings from farangs on buses, so Thais were kicked off the buses. That left Lek and I with having to go to the (rather hot, humid, and stuffy) bus station
and buy tickets there. Lek purchased some octopus to eat as a snack, which tasted very rubbery and very spicy.
The bus left Bangkok’s southern bus terminal at 6:00pm. We were scheduled to reach Surat Thani at about 3:30am the following morning, where Chuck’s nephew Jin would meet us. Lek had her cell phone, so she would call when we
approached the station and he would drive from his village to get us.
As we left Bangkok, I watched outside in the gathering darkness to see what the roads looked like. I immediately noticed the roads were 2 lanes in both directions, with perhaps a 10 meter wide median in between them. A single line of trees
were set within the medians. There appeared to be no visible marker or divider for road lanes. There also was no road barriers on the sides of the freeways. Traffic was initially heavy out of Bangkok, but slowly thinned out as we left The Big
Smoke. I had started reading Gibbon again, but I slowly drifted into a nap.
We arrived in Hua Hin at 9:20pm, taking a 20 minute break. Lek bought some chicken, pork, and apricots, while I picked up some chocolate cookies and Coca Cola to mix my Jack Daniels with. I stopped by the men’s toilet for a call of
nature. Fortunately, I didn’t have to sit down because the bus stop only had squatter toilets and I didn’t have any toilet paper. It didn’t cease to amaze me on how prevalent squatter toilets are in Thailand, even in big cities.
I had thought only China had them.
We did arrive in Surat Thani at 3:30am, just as scheduled. Many people had gotten off at the town of Chumphon, while others were getting off at either Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla, or Hat Yai, where the bus route terminated. I had thought the bus trip
to be about 400 miles (650 kilometres). The bus terminal at Surat Thani was an open place, dimly lit by a single line of light fixtures hanging from the ceiling of the outdoor terminal. 3 or 4 tuk tuk drivers sat on benches, napping their way
through the night. A couple of them awoke when we showed up, but I waved them off and Lek told them in Thai that we were waiting for someone to pick us up. I saw that there was no vehicular traffic in the town at this time of night.
And so there I sat with Lek, waiting for Jin to come, in the middle of a warm night in Southern Thailand, in a lonely bus terminal far, far away from home. Jin arrived in a Toyota pickup truck at about 4:15am. He was a rather good looking
fellow, about 25 years of age. His English was halting, but that was because when he was in America he had mostly worked on cars in Chuck’s garage and had not dealt with customers.
It took us about 40 minutes to get from Surat Thani, drive through the town of Kanchanadit, then through to the coastal village of Dom Sak. He drove us along a narrow road, through a gated compound through which it was still hard to see in
the darkness. He let Lek and I sleep in his room while he slept on a couch in the family’s open area. I found it hard to sleep because I could hear the sound of boats going up and down a nearby river.
After about three hours of lying in bed, I arose to find that I was in a fairly substantial house that had a large open area in front of it made entirely of concrete. The gate to the compound was about 40 yards (meters) from the entry to
the house. Jin introduced me to his family: His father was Chuck’s oldest brother, Chavilit, who was even older than Suwat. While Suwat had gone on to make a small fortune, his elder brother had stayed behind and had taken over a family
shrimp boat business that their family had run for generations. I then met his younger brother Min, and his sister Ying. I also found out that the girl I had met when I was with Somkid when we went to Koh Kret was also Jin’s sister. The
family also employed a family of house servants who were from Burma. That family consisted of a man, his wife, and two children, but I only met the woman during the course of my stay there.
That morning while Lek slept, I had bananas and fruit for breakfast. Jin invited me to take part in an underground Lottery. I picked three numbers and paid 60 baht. Jin told me that the numbers would be drawn later that day. Meanwhile, I
walked to the back of the house as that was where I had heard the sound of boats coming from. Much to my surprise, the family had their house right along the water! I was instantly confronted by the sight of a shrimp boat motoring by. Other boats
sat there, idle in the water. Chuck had told me that he had really wanted me to see where he had grown up and here I was. I had imagined somehow that it might be like this, but even for someone like myself who had travelled quite a bit in my life,
it was still a bit of a shock to think that a young man from this part of the world had come to where I was from and then had made his fortune in the world.
Jin told us that he wanted to take us to Koh Samui later that day. I had told Lek that we would be going to Dom Sak, Koh Samui, and then on to Phuket. That morning, while Lek continued to sleep, Jin took me on a three wheeled motorbike ride
through the village of Dom Sak. He showed me a farm where the farmer trained his roosters for cock fighting, Joss Houses, and local markets where bananas could be had for 8 baht a bunch. We walked along a bamboo pier that went through a marsh
area. Eventually, I found myself staring at house boats that were floating in the Ban Don Gulf, leading to the Gulf of Thailand. Later, we went to the town of Kanchanadit. Kanchanadit is mostly a fishing town, where claims, shrimp, and crabs are
the main catch. He took me to a pier where shrimp boats were already returning from the morning’s catch. I saw tons of seafood catch in nets and giant ice crushing machines at work, grinding blocks of ice maybe 5 meters high into the ice
in which the seafood would be stored in until it was eaten. Oysters could be had for 5 baht each. We hopped on a motorboat and rode around in the water, looking at local houses along the water.
Jin and I returned to Dom Sak at about 1:00pm. Lek had awoken by then. I teased her about sleeping late, while she got ready. Lek walked around the house. By that time, the Burmese house servant was spreading out the shrimp catch for the
day out onto the concrete open area in front of the house. Lek watched at the shrimp started to dry out. She picked up some of the shrimp and started putting it into bags which would be sold as snack food. I could tell from the look on Lek’s
face that she was clearly having her mind opened up. I never told her, but that was a big part of the reason why I took her out of the bar for the week.
We were set to leave for Koh Samui by 2:30pm. I couldn’t wait to see Koh Samui, since I had never been there in any of my previous trips to Thailand. As I awaited Jin and Lek to get ready, I watched a Thai soap opera. One of the characters,
a dark haired American rock and roll biker type, reminded me of a member of a rock band that used to play here in Houston years ago. At one point in the show, he picked up a Nation newspaper issue whose headlines read, “PM’s monk
At 3:30pm that day, we landed at the Nathon Pier on Koh Samui. We were taking Jin’s truck, so he had paid the 410 baht fee to have it stowed away on the boat while we made the crossing across to Koh Samui. We then drove along Koh Samui
in a easterly direction for about 20 – 30 kilometres, stopping at a place called the Lamai Inn which was located (appropriately enough) along Lamai Beach. I would have never found the place, since the Lamai area can be accessed only by
going down some dirt roads off of the main road which circles Koh Samui island.
Lamai Inn lies right off of the beach. The beach sand was very rough, with plenty of small rocks and sea shells. The Lamai area did have a bit of that rough, haphazardly underdeveloped feel that Patong Beach used to have when I first visited
Thailand in 1991. We had dinner, but didn’t go out that night. Lek and I shared our room, while Jin slept separately. Lek told me that the night that she had told her best friend at the bar about when she had sung those song with the Thai
hand gestures to me. She told me that they both laughed about the matter, thinking that it was all so sweet. It seemed that the jungle telegraph was at work. The old yarn about Bangkok being the smallest town in the world for gossip was true.
Word does get around about those farang punters!
I fell asleep fairly early that night, but awoke early the next morning. Lek and I watched Stephen Seagall’s Belly of the Beast, while it rained that morning. It was the first rain I had encountered on this vacation. That morning,
Lek called a friend of hers who lived in Phuket, named Nong, and told her to expect us either late that night or early tomorrow. We checked out of the hotel and Jin took us out to see the famed Hin Ta and Hin Yai (the Grandmother’s Stone
and Grandfather’s Stone). We circled around the island, but in all I had to admit that I wasn’t all that impressed with Koh Samui.
Jin took us to the bus station at Surat Thani that afternoon, the same one which he had picked us up at 2 days before. We said goodbye and I got his email. I beheld Surat Thani in the daylight. It is mainly a working class town, rather nondescript.
The roads in the area were nice, but I was of the opinion that Surat Thani was a place where people who lived there tended to have lived there all of their lives.
End of Part III
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