Some of you may have read my earlier submission “Reflections of Phuket” in which I mention that I will be shortly moving to Samut Prakan, near Bangkok, as my girlfriend has started a teaching job there. I haven’t moved yet, but I’m currently spending a couple of weeks visiting Nok, and also seeing friends in Pattaya.
I drove up from Phuket (9 hours to get here, 1 more hour getting lost before finding her apartment!), partly because I want to be able to get around easily, partly because I’ve started the moving process, and had a fully laden car.
Some early thoughts:
1. SAMUT PRAKAN is still the non-descript, polluted and busy town that I found on my first visit. However, with time for a little more exploration, we discovered some small sois where relative peace and quiet reign (a bit like around Sukumvit). In fact we have found a decent condo for rent in one such soi, only 5 minutes from Nok’s school
2. REALITY CHECK. In SP, I am 56, a little overweight and balding! I am not “hansum man” nor seen as a potential ATM. The eye-candy here, and there is plenty, will smile politely, shyly, (and, I think, genuinely), but these are not girls who are actively searching for a farang. Never mind, I’m off to Pattaya soon to get my poorly bruised ego massaged!
3. FARANG. I met one this morning – whilst having a shave! Seriously I have yet to see another farang here, not in restaurants, bars or even during a 2 hour visit to Tesco. Nok claims to have spotted one or two during her 2 months here, but I reckon we are rarer than virgins in Pattaya.
4. PRICES. It’s cheap here. Went out for a Thai meal last night, nothing special and the bill was 240 Baht. The identical meal in Phuket at my local Kamala restaurant would have cost 390 Baht. And it was better.
Stick, I know you tend to only eat farang food these days (me, I still enjoy Thai food), so you might struggle a bit – not seen a lot of Western food places other than the likes of McDonalds in Tesco. <Hehe, I can live on Thai food if need be, but prefer Western food – Stick>
5. BEER Heineken, Singha and Leo – that’s it – and only in large bottles. Always served with a bucket of ice. I’m quite partial to Leo so for me it’s not a problem, and again it’s cheap – Heineken 80-90 Baht, Leo 60-70 Baht for large bottles.
6. TV SPORT I had planned not to subscribe to True Visions when I moved – like many I’m pissed off with their lack of coverage of sport other than football. However, I do enjoy football as well, and whilst I can watch it in the local bars, it is always shown with Thai commentary.
7. TRAFFIC This will be the thing, if anything, which could break me. It’s relentlessly busy, the drivers, especially motorbike riders, are mad and road signage is useless. I think I can learn to live with the traffic jams, and I’ve got used, over the years, to the antics of motorbike riders, but it is the utter frustration that comes from missing a U-turn or a poorly sign-posted junction, and then having to go miles out of my way that really gets to me!
8. THAI GIRLS’ NAVIGATION (NON) CAPABILITIES. I know Phuket. When making trips on the island I do not need assistance from passengers. In SP I have no idea where I’m going. Nok does, but because she knows, I’m sure she assumes I know too! Day 1, and a trip to Tesco Lotus is required. We set off along the dual carriageway near her apartment. After 2 minutes I hear ‘darling, why you not U-turn”…. Day 2 and a trip to her school is planned. Having concisely and calmly (ish!) explained that I need to have clear instructions, she tells me “no problem” and that I have to go past Tesco Lotus and then turn left. We set off; I manage the U-turn and sail past Lotus. Then she says “slowly, slowly..” and I reduce my speed to 25 km/h. Cars start queuing behind me and motorbikes are flying past left and right. This continues for approx. i km punctuated with instructions of “slowly, slowly..”. Then, suddenly I hear “ok darling, left here”! I have 1 nanosecond to indicate, check for motorbikes on my left, and execute the turn! The sooner I learn my way around here, the better.
9. THAI PEOPLE. Amazing! No-one is trying to rip me off! No one asking me to buy cheap souvenirs, no one trying to charge me too much for food and drinks. No “doctored” bar bills. The waiter in the “local” doesn’t even ask me what I want now, it just gets delivered! The locals appear a little suspicious of my presence at first, but after a couple of visits anywhere, they are the friendliest of people (I’m not sure how true this is, but when I talked this over with Nok, she told me that, initially, the Thais are “afraid’, not suspicious, due to their inability to communicate in English! Apparently, my smidgeon of Thai is sufficient to break the ice). After years in Phuket, experiencing the greed and hostility of those working in the farang tourism sector, this was one aspect of the move that I was looking forward to, and, so far, I have not been disappointed.
Monday morning, and my last day in SP. Tomorrow I will be heading back to Phuket (that’s a drive I’m REALLY looking forward to!), and will spend the next month or so sorting out the final move details. I had a few days in Pattaya last week, and Nok joined me there on Friday for her first ever visit. We had a long walk along the beach at Naklua (where the Russians appear to have taken over – 3 out of 4 signs at restaurants, bars, massage places etc. were written in Russian!), and spent an evening in Walking Street (Stick, as an aside, I recommend a visit to Peppermint – very busy, numerous very active and entertaining girls, and friendly helpful staff. We had a good time there).
Today we woke to a monsoon (where’s high season gone?) so I ended up taking Nok to work – 8 km round trip, 1 hour 10 minutes! Fortunately the new condo (and we signed a deal yesterday with a really nice Thai couple who I think will be great landlords) is a lot closer! I really am going to have to sort this travelling bit out!
So, in conclusion, whilst I still have concerns about the move, these have reduced, and I’m now looking forward to getting the move over with, and settled in to the new place.
I’ll check in again in a few months time…
Very nice report.
Samut Prakan is a populous province and in parts there are quite a few foreigners. A friend of mine who wanted to disappear for a while lived there for several months last year and he loved it. Money was very tight for him but he was able to live on 12,000 baht a month (not a misprint – TWELVE THOUSAND BAHT) – which included everything, including the odd trip to Soi Cowboy, on a bus in each direction!
You might wish to invest in a GPS. They're very useful in Thailand, especially in congested areas like those you speak of in Samut Prakan.