Readers' Submissions

Around The Traps In South-East Asia: Part 10

  • Written by Mega
  • March 8th, 2018
  • 13 min read
1

Life’s a beach, Phuket

 

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfPDee-fZ-w

Cause and Effect:

The longer one lives in the LOS – and I’m sure many other long-term expats will concur with me on this – the more one comes to understand a large percentage of the natives of this country have very little understanding of the concept of cause and effect. It’s a basic concept that we, in the western world, learn early on in life. The ability to join the dots together. If one does this, then the result we bill be that. One action leads to another. A positive action will normally have a positive outcome. Whereas a negative action, generally results in a poor outcome. Perhaps it’s the educational system of the country, which places a heavy emphasis on doing as one is told, rather than developing critical thinking and analysis skills? Whatever it is, my own theory is their inability to join the dots has a lot to do with a society which places little emphasis on personal accountability and a lot on a fatalistic outlook on life. Something occurs because it was meant to. “Oh, our son was killed in a road accident because it was his destiny.”

Most westerners would see this approach to life as abrogation of personal responsibility and, to put it bluntly, a load of bloody bollocks. Unfortunately, it’s just the way it is here. There’s no getting around it as the great masses of the unwashed – the low-end – live out their lives this way and it won’t change any time soon. It would be nice to be able to able to afford to live in Thong Lor where the more educated high-end of the country resides. Thais who are better educated, and who’ve travelled a bit, seem to have a grasp of the concept of cause and effect and as such, have a better understanding about the idea of personal responsibility for one’s actions. Unfortunately, I don’t have the finances to buy a 10 million baht condo in Thong Lor, so I’ll continue reside amongst the low end with their hunter, gatherer mentalities.

The most glaring example of the inability to grasp the cause and effect principle is played out on the roads of Thailand every day. I mentioned this in my last submission – Part 9 – and, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it’s really becoming a pet peeve of mine here in Phuket. One needs to be constantly vigilant always (eyes in the back of your head) to avoid being hit by a reckless local; particularly on a motorbike. Unfortunately, I don’t own a car so the stress of riding around daily on a motorbike is an ever-present constant. Switch off for just a second, and Somchai will suddenly be changing lanes without indicating, pulling out without looking, or running a red light. It’s quite amusing when you see two of them have an accident. There’s often a look of utter bewilderment as to how, or why, it occurred, and the instinct is to immediately blame the other party, no matter if one or both parties were to blame. The inability to join the dots just isn’t there. I guess that’s why the Thai Police are almost, always quickly on the scene with their spray cans and cameras. The accounts by either of the parties involved in the accident is never an admission of who was at fault. 

 

Bangkok:

In the last half of February, I needed to make a short trip up to Bangkok and Pattaya to take care of some personal stuff. These are two locations I have little affection for these days but with a couple of pressing matters on my plate I needed to spend two nights in Bangkok and a night or two in Sin City.

 

2

Lower Sukhumvit – pollution central with grey skies overhead

 

As my Bangkok Airways flight descended into the Big Mango the grey haze blocking out the view of everything below was a testament to why I moved to Phuket. The smog blanketing the city was as bad as I’d ever seen it and my immediate thought was how much of a long-term health hazard it posed to those choosing to live there. Those living there don’t notice it as they’re immersed in it continually. But when you’re a seldom visitor, as I am these days, the high levels of carbon monoxide are such that on your first few hours back on the streets of downtown Bangkok (lower Sukhumvit) the metallic tinge to the air is noticeable.

My normal place of occupancy, when in the Big Mango, is the Somerset Lake Point Hotel along Soi 16 but when the ex said I could use her Thong Lor condo free of charge for a couple of nights, it was an offer too good to pass up. To be honest I’m not exactly sure what her motivations are from being so generous but knowing how her scheming mind works, I maintain a healthy distance from her by being unavailable when she tells me she misses me. On the morning I left for Pattaya I dropped the swipe card and the room key in the mailbox.

 

Pattaya:

3

The view from the 25th floor of the Holiday Inn Pattaya

 

I hadn’t been in Sin City for near on 12 months and despite the poor reputation it seems to have these days, given the choice, I’d rather be there than Bangkok. The beaches may be crap compared with Phuket but at least it’s got clean ocean air. I was fortunate enough that I had enough points in my IHG account to be able to book into the Holiday Inn for a free night’s stay. After taking a 9:00 AM bus from Ekamai, I was happily looking out over Pattaya Bay from my 25th floor, ocean-view room by midday. I had an issue I had to sort out with my credit card and after grabbing a quick bite to eat at Central Festival, I made my way back along second road to the Siam Commercial Bank.

An hour later, having sorted out my credit card issues, I was on my way back to the hotel for a nap and just for a laugh made a detour down the infamous Soi 6. 15 years ago, I was a regular visitor to the short time bars along Soi 6 but these days, I’m just not interested. I guess when you’re new to the scene it may seem exciting but after 20 years in-country it just looks seedy, and the girls do not look attractive. Anyway, each to their own. I’m not jaded, I’ve just moved on from involvement in that hard-core scene.

Down towards the beach end of Soi 6 sits one of the more well-known girlie bars, the Red Point. And directly across the road is a watering hole I used to frequent regularly during my residency in Pattaya, the Jack Tar Bar. Back in the day the main two benefits of having a drink at the Jack Tar Bar were that you could ogle the dolly birds across the road (seated in front of the Red Point) and, if you were a rugby enthusiast, you could watch live games with the volume on. At that time the Manager Bruce, being a Kiwi, always made sure the rugby was shown with the volume on and it was probably the only bar in Pattaya which did. There used to be a whole bunch of regulars sat along the outer edge of the bar from opening to closing time every day, sipping their J.D. and Coke, or their G and T. Ten years later they were all gone, mostly dead, including Bruce apparently. I was surprised to find the bar had been completely refurbished and instead of a gaggle of hardcore regulars, the place was deserted, except for a lone drinker. Seeking to get some info on what happened to Bruce and perhaps some of the other regulars, I approached the lone drinker.

“Hi, did you happen to know the old manager here, Bruce?”

This led to a rather interesting conversation. The guy talking back to me was a Cockney, so you need to envisage his dialogue in that accent of the English language.

“Ah no mate, only been in town for a week. First time ‘ere, mind you. Changed my life forever it ‘as.”

“Oh yeah, how so,” I said picking up on a potentially interesting story.

“I’m drained mate, me sack’s empty after five nights of the best sex I’ve ever had in me life. I’m a changed man, I tell ya.”

“Wow, you’ve been going hard at it then?”

“Yeah, I said I’d never do it but, first night ‘ere, there she was, six feet two in stockings. A ladyboy, it’s changed me for life. I don’t know ‘ow I can go back to London.”

“Ah, okay. So, you didn’t know Bruce then?”

“Nah mate, never met ’em.”

“Right then, good luck with the rest of the holiday,” I said moving off towards Beach Road.

NOTE: During my two nights in Bangkok and night in Pattaya I did the rounds of the bar areas in the evenings and shot some video. Gotta say that Pattaya (Walking Street) in that regard is a whole lot more entertaining than Nana Plaza or Soi Cowboy. Kings Bar is still a great spot to grab a beer and watch the world go by from their street side tables.

VIDEO: THAILAND NIGHTLIFE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWam1zQ1d20

 

4

 

Hua Hin:

To resolve the issue with my credit card I needed to front up at the bank again in five working days. I decided to forego the expense of another round trip from Phuket, by hanging out in Hua Hin for a week. And with the new fast ferry service operating between Pattaya and Hua Hin, and vice versa, I’d be able to avoid an arduous five-hour bus trip back through Bangkok. The ferry service has been in operation for a few months now and is a very convenient way of getting across to Hua Hin and back.

Ferry travel info:

One-way fare: 1,250 THB

Travel time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Pattaya departure time: 10:00 (boarding time is 09:30 approx.)

Pattaya departure point: Bali Hai Pier. Tickets can be purchased at the office at the head of the pier.

Hua Hin departure time: 13.00 (boarding time is 12.30 approx.)

Hua Hin departure point: Khao Takiab Harbour (southern side of Khao Takiab Headland). Tickets can be purchased on the pier, prior to departure.

 

5

The new fast ferry service to, and from, Hua Hin.

 

The ferries are fast, comfortable, and there’s normally plenty of seating available. The only negative aspect of the trip is the dreaded, greedy songthaew operators at Khao Takiab harbour. This pier is on the southern side of Khao Takiab headland and approximately 5 km from downtown Hua Hin. The scamming schmuks were asking 300 THB for the ride into town. I told them 200 and, after a good deal of grumbling, they conceded.

A good option for accommodation, if you’re looking for a cheaper rate in the quieter side of town (western side of the tracks) is the Terminal Hua Hin, on Soi 88. It’s basically a condo building with nice size rooms, for 600 THB a night. There’s a good size pool on the grounds and a restaurant which serves a decent western breakfast for 140 THB.

The Terminal Hua Hin: http://www.megaworldasia.com/hotels-and-accomodation/thailand/terminal-hua-hin/

 

6

 

Aside from wanting see out the week before returning to Pattaya, I was in Hua Hin to catch up with an old buddy of mine, Cave Man Jim (mentioned in my travel blog’s “Off the Beaten Track in Hua Hin” series: http://www.megaworldasia.com/off-the-beaten-track-series/off-the-beaten-track-in-hua-hin-part-1/

I hadn’t seen Jim for nearly six years and was keen for a catch up to see how he was getting on after being back in Canada for almost 18 months. His return to Thailand had been delayed due to a long recovery, after being hit by an errant driver at a pedestrian crossing in his hometown of Vancouver. After several months of rehab, on a broken ankle, he was now back in the LOS for 3 months and I wanted to see if he was keen to revisit some of the caves he’d led me through, some six years previously. After a day of getting settled in at Hua Hin, Jim agreed to head out to the caves (along the road to Pala-U waterfall) on the proviso if his foot started playing up, he’d sit out the climb up the long flights of stairs. To ensure I was able to get some good stills and video he invited his buddy Kevin, another Canadian, along for the ride as well. A full trip report can be seen on my travel blog: http://www.megaworldasia.com/thailand/hua-hin-off-the-beaten-track/

VIDEO: HUA HIN CAVES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcBqaz8ftrY

 

7

The large entry chamber of Tham Kai Lon (Falling Chicken Cave)

 

Having done several trips to Hua Hin, and the Prachuap Province, over the past 6 years I would confidently say it’s one of the best areas in Thailand for sightseeing. Hua Hin, of course, is becoming a popular beach resort area and now the fast ferry service is in place from Pattaya, it will continue to attract greater number of visitors. Dare I say it, the dreaded Chinese tour groups. The thing is though most of the great sightseeing attractions are beyond the boundaries of the city limits and involve a drive in a car or ride on a motorbike. A local who is doing his best to promote the attractions further out from Hua Hin’s urban area is Jim, an American Thai, who leads weekly motorbike runs to provincial areas north, south, and west of the city. After spending 43 years in the USA, Jim returned to his native Thailand and took up residency in Hua Hin. He owns a bar on Hua Hin Soi 80 (Jim’s Gulf of Thailand Bar) and to help promote the region, and give the local expat population something to do, he leads a Saturday bike run to a chosen location every week. For anyone who is interested, the meeting place is his bar on Soi 80 and the departure time is 8:30 AM each Saturday. It’s an easy run on small motorbikes, with a couple of drinks breaks and sightseeing stops along the way. After having lunch at the chosen location, it’s a sedate run back to Hua Hin, arriving back by around 13:00. While there I was able to join in for the planned outing to Khao Kalok Headland, approx. 35 km south of Hua Hin.

 

8

Jim and the team at the parking area at Khao Kalok headland

 

9

On a guided tour through a cave at Khao Kalok Headland

 

KHAO KALOK HEADLAND: http://www.megaworldasia.com/latest-trip-report/khao-kalok-headland-thailand/

Other great sightseeing attractions in the Hua Hin area:

KHAO SAM ROI YOT NATIONAL PARK: http://www.megaworldasia.com/thailand/khao-sam-roi-yot-national-park/

KUI BURI NATIONAL PARK: http://www.megaworldasia.com/thailand/kui-buri-national-park/

In mid-March I’m heading off to Da Nang, Vietnam and then coming back overland through LAOS and into Ubon Rachathani. I’ll have reports of those locations within the next couple of months.

And finally, a bit of light hearted entertainment from the gang at the view-point at Monkey Hill in Phuket Town.

 

10

VIDEO: MONKEY BUSINESS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cb0GX6tMRdo

 

Safe travels.

Your S.E. Asian commentator,

MEGA

 

Stick‘s thoughts:

It sounds like we see Thailand in very much the same light.  I have to admit some envy about your upcoming trip to Danang.  Never did make it there and exploring Vietnam further appeals much more than visiting Thailand which these days feels more and more like watching a re-run of your old favourite TV programme.

The author can be contacted at : [email protected]