Pattaya Memoires 9
10. Emerald Tour (2)
I got up at 7 in the morning, packed my stuff and had breakfast in the Bangkok Center Hotel after which I ordered a taxi. The taxi took me to the Bangkok Palace Hotel where I was about to meet my fellow travel companions from Holland. I arrived in Bangkok 2 days before them and I wondered why the Dutch travel agency did not suggest to me to stay in the Bangkok Palace Hotel right away, instead of in the Bangkok Center Hotel. Whatever. After all it wasn't that important and most important was that I got there in time and we could kick off. When I arrived at the Bangkok Palace Hotel I immediately noticed that this was a more upmarket place. The lobby was really nice and security was everywhere. I asked one of the clerks if the Dutch people had arrived already. He told me the tour guide called the hotel to say that the group would be half an hour late. No problem, the clerk showed me a chair where I could wait.
After an hour or so the Dutchies were finally there, the clerk came over and told me I was waiting for the bunch that now entered the Hotel. A bold man with a moustache, about 45 years old, talked to a girl behind the reception desk and I saw them both looking my way. The man came over to me followed by the group of 19 people. He shook my hand and introduced himself as Ruud. He would be our tour guide for the next 3 weeks. I introduced myself as well. I also met our Thai tour guide. I don't remember his name, but he said that everybody called him "Joe". The other people in the group however did not care about me and did not bother at all to say hello nor even look at me. They just walked beside me like I wasn't even there. The last man in the row however stopped, shook my hand, smiled and said : "Nice to meet you, I am Frank from The Hague in Holland. You must be the Belgian guy we were supposed to catch up with here in Bangkok?". He was a very big man, I estimated more than 2 meters high and he was 33 years old. I liked this guy from the start. He was the only one who cared to greet me, was very sympathetic and I had a strange feeling I would get along quite well with this person. We followed the tour guide to some kind of small auditorium where we were briefed about where we were going and what we were about to do over the coming weeks. This allowed me to take a look at my fellow travellers who were all single as this was a trip uniquely for single people. As far as the women were concerned, it was a true disaster! Most of them were fat and / or ugly. There were even 2 single women of about 80 years old! There was no age limit for the Emerald Tour, the organization just stated you should be healthy and "in shape", yeah right… Of course these were single women as their husbands and kids probably died a few centuries ago. There were also 2 not too bad looking blondes who apparently knew each other already. Later I would learn that they were a lesbian couple from Rotterdam. They also worked together : they both were police officers! Dutch traffic police. A few women looked and sounded like they came straight out of the movie "The sound of Music", indeed, they resembled nuns in every way, they looked like nuns, sounded like nuns, dressed like nuns and behaved like nuns!! The single men were not much better. A couple of old guys and some guys you know you will never ever have fun with : guys who never drink any alcohol, do not care about women, go to bed early, do everything the guide says etc. You know the type : boring, boring, boring. If you saw them you would not wonder for more than 1 second why these guys are single. I thanked the Lord Buddha that Frank was also on this trip. I told Frank not to care too much about the quality of the Dutch women on the trip, as the local women were a lot prettier and many of them fancy Westerners. Frank had never before to Thailand but he seemed to know a lot about the country. He works as chief accountant for a company in the Netherlands that imports shoes. On of the bigger suppliers of this company was based in Thailand, so some colleagues of Frank had already been to Bangkok and apparently told him fantastic stories about the city, the customs and of course, the women, or should we say the bargirls, because Frank told me his colleagues were welcomed in a "very personal way", but that is their story, not mine. After the briefing it was lunch time and we went to the restaurant up the Baiyoke tower. The view was fantastic and the food great. The food is served in buffet style. There is Thai and Western food, all you can eat for, I believe, 400 baht or so. After lunch we went outside to the spinning platform on top of the tower to take some pictures.
I would recommend a visit to the Baiyoke tower to everybody visiting the city. It is also a great location to impress your Thai girl.
The next couple of days we visited the usual stuff in Bangkok : Wat Arun, Wat Po, the Royal Palace, Chinatown, the Chao Praya, some ladyboy show, all the typical tourist stuff, you name it. We had a couple of free nights so I took some of the male travel companions to the Biergarten in Soi 7, which is actually not that far from the Bangkok Palace Hotel. Frank loved the place, but of course that was no surprise to me. The others were shocked and one of them almost crapped his pants when a girl came to talk to him, he literally ran away! Needless to say, none of these guys took a lady to his room. Frank and I couldn't resist the call of the sirens and we both stranded with one of those lovely creatures in bed. Unfortunately, the bastards at the Bangkok Palace Hotel made us pay a 500 baht joiner's fee. In the morning we took our fresh tilacs to the breakfast table. The girls were very uncomfortable because the others of the group continually watched them as if they came from fucking Mars. Of course everybody knew we were in the company of a couple of prostitutes, but Frank and I really didn't give shit what the others thought. We couldn't care less. Some female members of the group did not want to talk to us anymore. Quite a start for our tour of Thailand, huh. We were day 3 and already everybody knew who we were and what we did and as a result some people did not want to have anything to do with us anymore. Great! Ruud, the tour guide, didn't mind at all. He was used to stuff like that. He said he thinks it is normal that men who come to LOS for the first time can get overwhelmed by the Thai bar scene. Nothing wrong with that. Ruud said we should make the best of our holiday and if someone had a problem with that : screw them very much! Ruud lived in Chiang Mai, was married to a Thai lady and spoke Thai very well. But before all that, so he told us, he was a frequent visitor of the Bangkok and Pattaya beer and gogo bars. For the following night he even recommended us Baccarra bar in Soi Cowboy. "Don't forget to look up and thank the Lord", he explained Later I would understand why.
After doing the tourist thing in Bangkok our bus took us to the floating market just outside the city. This place is, IMHO, overrated. The market is much smaller than I thought it would be and they sell the same crap they sell to tourists everywhere in Thailand. Nothing extraordinary here. After that it went to Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi. We stayed only for a very short time in Ayutthaya, we visited the main temple complex and took lunch in a fancy restaurant, but that was about it.
In Kanchanaburi we started with a visit to a cemetery where Dutch soldiers were buried who died in WW II and after that we went to the famous "bridge over the river Kwai". Hundreds of people were there and I found this a bit ridiculous because it was just a stupid iron bridge they were looking at and taking pictures. A kind of bridge you would probably find thousands of around the globe. Ah well … Remarkable was that the bridge was packed with young Japanese tourists. They were taking pictures and laughing and having fun. Frank jokingly said they better stop laughing and start showing some respect because, maybe they'd forgot but Frank sure hadn't, their grandfathers were responsible for the murder of thousands of Frank's countrymen including a family member of his.
We spent the night in a jungle raft hotel on the river Kwai. We were taken to the raft in a long tail boat. The raft hotel was very nice and run by Burmese people. Primitive, but nice and beautiful. Flowers were everywhere and each cabin had a bed and a hammock. There was clean water to take a shower, but no drain. The waste water just dripped through the cracks in the floor into the river Kwai. It was designed that way.
In the evening we had dinner on the raft. A simple meal of chicken with rice and curry was prepared and it was really good. As there was no air con on the raft, Frank and I and a couple of other guys thought it would not be a bad idea to have some beers to assure a good night's rest. One of the older guys had an argument with the two lesbian police officers on speed limits and fines in the Netherlands. The man had a problem with the high fines even for less serious violations and also with the arrogant attitude of the Dutch police when they stop somebody. It was quite an entertaining evening I must say and in the end everybody was against the police, may they be blonde dykes or not! After about ten – fifteen beers I guess, we were tired and pissed and everybody remaining (Frank, 2 other guys Dirk and Ronald, and myself) hit the sack.
In the middle of the night I heard shouting and somebody came knocking on my door. "Barry! Wake up! Help! Hurry". I recognized Frank's voice.
I opened the door : "What the hell is going on, how late is it?" I asked, still under the influence of the alcohol I had consumed a couple of hours earlier.
"Hurry up Barry, come with me, Ronald fell off the raft and is in the water, he's drowning!"
It was like I fell in the water myself, I was awake and clear in the head immediately. A couple of meters away I heard somebody screaming for help. Frank's cabin was closer to Ronald's so when he heard him screaming he got me to help. Looking down I saw Ronald hanging in the strong current of the river holding on tight to one of the poles underneath the raft.
"Hold on man, we're getting you out of there!" I shouted while we cut loose the hammock of Ronald's cabin. We then let the hammock down. Ronald grabbed it and we pulled him up. Ronald was in a bit of a shock, the least to say. He was dripping wet, looked very pale and scared. He was shivering and said nothing when Ruud, who was also there by then, put him under the shower and back in bed.
In the morning, at the breakfast table, Ronald was still looking very pale and was silent. His plate was empty, he just hadg some coffee.
"Thanks for helping me guys", he said softly, "I am a sleepwalker and I must have fallen in the water while sleepwalking".
"Yeah right" Frank anticipated, "coincidently after 15 beers, hahaha." He looked at Ronald as if he didn't believe a word of the sleepwalking excuse. Rather Ronald wanted to hide from the "travelling nuns" the fact that he was drunk like hell and fell in the water.
"I want to see a doctor" said Ronald. "This is the jungle, the dirty river Kwai with snakes, scorpions and whatever, tropical diseases … and I drank at least a bucket of that filthy brown water! I feel sick even thinking about that…"
The bunch could not help bursting out in laughter when he said that. He saw a doctor a couple of days later. Everything was ok with him. As of that point he could smile again, even when later we joked about his "late night swim" and his passion for Thai delicatessen such as fresh river Kwai water.
From there our trip went on to the mountains, the Hellfire pass and the Erawan waterfalls.
To be continued…
Another nice report. Falling into the river Kwai at night would be bloody scary.
I wonder what floating market you were taken to. Perhaps it was Taling Chan which is not that far out. I personally find the famous one, Damnoen Saduak at Rachaburi, very impressive.