A Day On A Motor Scooter
My good friend rents a real bike in Pattaya when he’s in town…I just rent a scooter, but when I ride down the side roads in Pattaya , I feel like Steve McQueen.
On previous trips, I had eyed the scooters with combined emotions of the urge for high adventure and the prospect of serious injury or death. I have read enough reports on Stickman to know that people die on these things. Traffic is crazy on Beach Road 1 and 2.
On my last trip, I finally got up the courage to rent a scooter. The scooter stand was around Soi 13-2 or so. The cost was just 200 baht for the day. The cost seemed suspiciously low. I kept thinking what the angles were. I fully expected to be charged for previous nicks and scratches on the bike when I returned. I made a small production of pointing out the various scratches before I took off.
The gas tank was almost empty when I got the bike, so I cruised down Beach Road 2 heading north/west until I got to a gas station. A female attendant saw that I had no clue how to get to the gas tank, so with a big smile she lifted the seat up and filled it up. Dumb farang gets nice smile. I truly do love the LOS. I tipped her for her services and off I go.
Getting back to the main highway on the busy road going past the bus stop takes forever. I truly acknowledge the fact I might get grievously injured. The one fear I had was that someone from a side road, getting ready to pull in front of me, is going to make me overreact and pull into the adjacent lane and get hit by a car coming from behind me.
I finally get to the main highway and go zipping along down the access road. I decide to go exploring for the “real Thailand” and head off for the side roads on the opposite side of the main highway from the beachfront area.
I felt safe on the side roads and I truly started to enjoy the experience. Dirt roads, gravel roads, I was truly in explorer mode. Have you ever got that feeling where you just want to keep on going and never stop? That’s how I was feeling. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. This was different…this was shaking up the routine…beat the hell out of sitting in my office from 9:00 to 5:00.
Stopped at a little food stall down a gravel road and I stopped to say hello. The proprietor told me in halting English: My sister marry American. America good. I bought a Coke, practiced the few Thai words I know, guzzled it down and then bid farewell to the small group hanging out at the food stand.
Just by chance I ran into the Alligator Farm so I stopped for a visit. Interesting third-world entertainment. I felt sad for the bears out in the oppressive heat. That was just wrong. I had fun watching the tourists feed the alligators, dangling the fish at the end of poles with long strings attached to them. The evil little kids kept pulling the fish away from the alligators as they snapped their jaws and jumped up in anticipation. Oh, sure it was fun the first ten to twenty times teasing the reptiles, but after a while, I was hoping the evil little kids would just fall in the lake.
Walking through the rock garden, a gardener whose face was entirely covered by a bandana approached me gesturing as if he wanted to take my picture. I waved him off with a “mae ow krap,” but he was persistent. In the interchange, I thought perhaps his hand brushed up against my “thing,” but I thought nothing of it. As I walked away, he shouted out in desperation, “I love you!!” I cracked up laughing and kept on walking. Hmm, now that I think about it, was that Michael Jackson hiding behind that veil???
I hopped back on my bike and rode around until I got to the entrance of the elephant village, but I didn’t go in.
On my journey to find the “real Thailand,” I made an interesting discovery – Pattaya is developing a respectable little suburbia. I passed a number of small walled enclaves of middle class housing that seemed to cater to farang clientele. Looked quite appealing, actually.
I also stumbled into another tourist activity I didn’t realize existed – a reasonably-sized manmade lake that had cables set up where you could be pulled around the lake on your skis. Looked like lots of fun…just might have to try that one day.
I then made my way over to Jomtien Beach, which was basically the first time I had been there. Got off my bike to laze around the ocean for a bit and take in the tourists and locals. I had one of those epiphany moments that don’t come along too often. Perfect sun, perfect weather, beautiful palm trees, vibrant vacation atmosphere. I just felt very much alive.
Back on my bike, I rode to the top of Buddha Hill and then straight back to the scooter rental place. I didn’t want to press my luck. I am very much in touch with my mortality. I had survived my adventure. I got my deposit back with no issues, and I was so pleased I tipped the vendor a few extra baht.
My friend just got back from an extended two-month stay in Pattaya and is a bit burned out on the whole experience. I wonder if I will ever get the opportunity to feel the same way. One can only hope. I already have my next two flights booked.
Exploring the countryside is always a nice way to spend time in Thailand.