Six Days in Siam



Day 3 每 The Road to Pattaya


Typically a Chinese Group tour includes ample opportunities for shopping, usually at very expensive outlets where the guides are offered a commission on your purchases. This is an accepted thing in China, but badly compromised in Hong Kong where some tour guides are only paid on the commission they make. Yesterday had been an excellent day as regards sightseeing, therefore I was half expecting the sales pitches to begin soon and posh factory shops to be included in our itinerary at some point. I just did not expect to be forced to endure a whole day of it!


Our day began well enough with both of us awake before we received a courtesy alarm call from reception at 6.30am. I had managed to recharge both our mobile phones and promptly switch mine off so it doesn*t start doing things by its own volition, again! Breakfast was as missable as yesterday; me settling for cold fried eggs, cold chips and cold frankfurter sausages with hot coffee, again. Siu Ying had rice with added water and fruit salad soup, again. We will both be pleased to not have to endure another breakfast in this poxy hotel.


We make our way down to the front door smoking area and are all ready well before scheduled departure time of 8am. I have no knowledge of what to expect today, and neither does anyone else, apart that is from the obvious fact that at some point we will be in a new hotel in Pattaya tonight.


Our first port of call is a very expensive looking establishment selling very expensive jewellery. Siu Ying had been hoping to buy a ring or gold necklace for her mother as a thank you, but as we wandered around the prices seemed to be in millions of Baht, not the few hundred we were looking for. For something special we would have paid several thousand actually, but apart from one men*s signet ring coming in at just under 900, 000 Baht, there really wasn*t anything here we liked much. Their Jade work was very good however, and Siu Ying almost bought a jade bracelet or Chinese marriage band, but we could not get the right colours in her small size.


The gold and jewels were simply twice as expensive as in Guangzhou, something a couple from Panyu City agreed with us on. They appeared to be a Mother and Daughter combination and were very nice people. At first the Mother was a little timid, but she came out of her shell as her confidence grew and she made new friends within our group. I must admit the daughter was very attractive and I was gobsmacked when she later revealed she had a 14 year old son and 8 year old daughter. I would have placed her at mid to late 20*s, but that obviously was not correct. One reason I found her attractive was because of her high and prominent cheek bones, a facial style that I am aware is probably from one of the ethnic minority groups. I did want to broach the subject with her, but unfortunately I never found a good opportunity, and these things can be quite offensive if not enquired about in the correct manner.


We also had other reasons for not purchasing here. Foremost you may or may not be aware that for some years I was a Director of a jewellery company based in Hong Kong, with registered sales office in Shenzhen. A very grand title for what was actually a lowly position. I was simply the &Foreign Face* with which the company gained credibility. My perks extended as far as free transport to our meeting, posh meals, and a few small gifts or trade prices. It was for example, during this period that I learnt the sales mark-up on cut diamonds is a minimum of 1, 000 per cent, and far higher for rarer or quality stones. Anything below one carat, that is a weight in case you didn*t know, is not worth very much. The trick is to sell diamonds that are 0.995 carat as being one carat. They will come with a grand certificate, but are basically worthless as they are not one carat. This is a very important watershed in the Diamond world. A typical trade buying price for these of minimally less than one full carat would be around $10 USD 每 that is both cut, polished and set.


Secondly, I still have two good friends within the jewellery world. One is called Ah-Ying and she works in Shenzhen. She will make jewellery to my personal specifications, such as Siu Ying*s wedding ring 每 a three band diamond set that cost me Y3K, but has been valued since by leading sales outlets as being worth well over Y10K. The other is my ex Siamese girlfriend who lives in Bangkok and runs her own jewellery and design business. We hope to catch up with her on Wednesday evening for dinner when we return to BKK, but nothing is decided as yet. Therefore you will easily realise why we are not really interested in paying inflated prices for ordinary jewellery 每 genuine though it may be.


Meanwhile Siu Ying has taken to spending a lot of time preparing her face and clothing for each day, only to complete this by wearing my thick striped shirt which completely drowns her. I eventually work out where to escape this complex and join the boys outside in a seated area set aside for smoking. Other groups and people wander out, and it is at this point I realise that there must be about 15 different tour groups here with us doing the same things at slightly staggered times of day. They are all Chinese, to the point where I am the only person present who is not Chinese!


Half an hour later we are all assembled together again and we head of for Pattaya once more#


Whoa there bronco! First we must endure the pleasantries of what turns out to be a crocodile hide factory outlet. It is just as posh as the last place and we get a free video in Chinese extolling the virtues of this must-visit establishment. Hmmm. You would be correct to assume it sells everything and everything to do with crocodiles: bags, purses, belts, skins etc. The cheapest wallet I can find is around $40 USD, and my only reason for looking was the fact that whilst I really like my current Chinese one 每 it only has pockets for cards the same size as a card = a couple of millimetres too small to actually put a card inside. Sometimes reverse engineering hits a snag or two with issues of practicality. Siu Ying finds a bag she really likes, and I could go for it excepting they are asking god knows how many Thai Baht for it 每 tens of thousands definitely.


Siu Ying is now examining crocodile belts with so much interest that my presence goes totally unnoticed. She is in company with the two girls from Panyu again and they are into this 每 whatever it is. I am totally board and hang around the escape hatch for 5-minutes before giving up and heading outside to join the equally bored boys for a fag. I reason that if she wants to buy something then the girls will sub her and I pay them back later. Half way down my draft of nicotine Charlie Chan rushes up to me in a panic and says I must go back inside immediately! We head up the exit route to save time, and I am allowed back in without having a trendy identity pendant hung around my head. This is simply a tracking device employed so they know which group we belong to, and which guide deserves the commission. Obviously my wife*s one will do, as she is bound to be making a purchase. The gold place was exactly the same by the way, sorry for failing to mention this earlier.


Siu Ying is now alone and has the total interest of the sales girl behind the counter. She asks me which belt I like best? I say &none of them*, to which she replies that I don*t understand anything and this is a gift for a guy in Toisan. Should this information worry me I wonder? Ahha! It turns out to be a gift for the guy who has fixed my computer on a couple of occasions recently 每 the English teacher that now instructs school classes in computer (About 6th form in comparison). Last time he did not charge me for repairs although we both offered him money. However, it seems he did want a belt, which is why Siu Ying is here right now. Now I understand. The belt comes in at around 500 Baht, and is ok. I take pot luck in choosing and SY thinks my choice is very good. That*s settled then. I ensure she leaves with me, as I really don*t want her spending any more money here.


Back outside again I manage another half cigarette before we are hurriedly ushered onto the coach for another &must-see* experience. I can*t wait#


I notice we are now headed back up the main road we just travelled, and wonder if I should be worried about this fact?


20 minutes later we pull up outside a Tiger sanctuary. The main show appears to concern performing tigers, which I think we rushed passed as we were hurried into a hall with stage complete with crocodile tank. Siu Ying thinks they are not real, but I tell her they are. I forget the technical distinction that separates a crocodile from an alligator, so please forgive me if I renew the old joke that these are definitely very real and live &long-nosed, short-legged, long-tailed terriers*.


We wait and eventually are subjected to a second rate show concerning a guy and a girl throwing crocodiles around and doing tricks like putting their heads inside the crocodile mouths 每 for real. I find it all quite missable really, and SY is not up for paying 100Baht to have her photo taken astride one of these beasts either. That done we must immediately leave to catch something else. Durrrh what! This place is actually quite good. There is a bit of a revolt going on as we and several others go into the tiger milking compound. Charlie Chan is long gone and Mrs. Guangzhou guide is trying most unsuccessfully to lead us back to the coach. These tiggers range from a few weeks to several months old I guess. They really are cute and we can buy a bottle of tiger milk to feed them with for 50 Baht. I*m starting to get a bit fed-up with always having to cough-up some dosh to do # well, virtually anything really in Thailand. We really enjoy this episode, which was not on our guides* radar at all. Mrs. Guangzhou now gets a bit up-front and insists we all have to leave immediately. It is a matter of life or death apparently. Larry Goodluck (One of the 4 likely lads), myself and Siu Ying ignore her and take a peak at the show 每 which has a very interesting display of performing tigers, and one people concerned about circus and animal welfare would not hesitate to enjoy. It was excellent, but unfortunately we really must leave # now!


Wherever and whatever this is, I could easily spend a lot of time here, although the crocodile show is terminably missable the rest is pukka. The great hurry turns out to be because we need to spend 15 minutes at some gaudy trinket and fresh fruit stalls that may have been erected as temporary shelter after a typhoon. Today is commission sales day all right, and I see no release from the kick-backs I am sure.


Smoker*s corner reforms and we puff away as everybody ignores the stalls selling whatever they are trying to scam us with. However, I would dearly love to come back to this place and see it properly over the course of a few hours. It is unique, different and interesting in general.


Two cigarettes later we are herded back on the charabanc and this time I am sure we must be en route to Pattaya?


Well maybe in a little while. First we have to stop for lunch at around 1.30. The meal is badly Cantonese and totally missable to the point where I have great difficulty even recalling it. It was concocted in what would appear to be a Chinese 1/8th star hotel. The one redeeming feature of the meal was that the waitress was very pretty and spoke good Thai, English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Thai people are similar to Latin types (think Spain here), as they know all about languages and how this skill and a nice smile engenders sales.


Smoking corner beckons as we make our devious escape plans as a group, and soon we are outside in the lovely and clear sunshine once more. Too soon Charlie Chan reappears and hustles us back on the bus. Now don*t get me wrong, because I actually admire and respect this guy a lot 每 but I also now note his bag is from the crocodile factory and must have cost 10*s of thousands of Thai Baht. His pendant is from the jewellery place, and was probably even more expensive. His bag contains a lot of money, and in fact he is dripping with riches. I reckon he is getting kick-backs on his kick-backs and has a nice scene going. Obviously our group are turning out to be cheap-skates who want to actually experience a bit of Thai culture; which does not appear to be on today*s agenda. Remember, this is an observation, not a criticism, as he is doing a great job for us, just benefiting from it for sure. I should actually back that statement up by adding that he is honest, trustworthy, and offering what many Chinese people expect from a Chinese Group tour.


We hit the road again and most of us nap a while. Charlie Chan then decides to give everyone a new schedule, from which I glean we can choose tomorrows itinerary. There are a dozen general options, and then 3 other ones at the bottom of the page lettered: A, B, or C. Option &C* contains everything and costs about Y3K. Option &B* has most of &C* without a couple of things and costs us Y1.6k. Option &A* is the basic package and costs a mere Y1K 每 and that is Chinese Renminbe, not Thai Baht.


Now I am very used to European holidays where you can opt for excursions extra to your basic program 每 I think we have all met this scenario. What many of us were not expecting was the fact that we would have to pay over and above our Chinese all-inclusive holiday*, and have to endure one of these options. I am a bit riled 每 which happens very infrequently! It appears I am not the only one either!


It turns out we all want the &Boat Trip*, the &Fun at the Seaside*, and &The Royal Massage*. Most of the rest is quite forgettable to experienced holidaymakers 每 of which I am the only one. Ho-Hum!


Questions such as &Do you want to spend an hour at some fruit farm for Y800* come to haunt my day. How many times do I need to tell you ※No§!


Many of us also want to experience the night on the showboat and free beers and spirits, all accompanied by scantily clad dancing ladies and a great time ensured for all. This isn*t in options A, B, or C; but is a unanimous vote. Charlie Chan then expounds upon the promised sale by telling us in great detail what the show will entail, and what we will be able to drink for free. He*s made his sales of course, which I sort of followed in his version of Cantonese to the point of presuming I understood what he was on about. Ahem!


Meanwhile Siu Ying is actually following my lead and later she decides we will do the Boat thing, the Beach thing, and the Royal Massage. I am left to understand all this will happen tomorrow#



Even though you have just been informed of an itinerary, never presume this will happen as you understand it to be. These things all involve volumes of Chinese &Face*, and the other bits and schedules you were not informed about. This is probably why I like China so much # sorry, today is Tuesday so it must be Pattaya#


We arrive somewhere a few hours later, which appears to be another animal park, this time with elephants offering rides. It has the feel of Alton Towers or for American readers, Disney 每 but perhaps 50 years earlier. We wander off the coach into a compound filled with fish- tanks and cages. I am admiring some very old turtle type things when Mrs. Guangzhou grabs me and says I must hurry to see the monkey. So I watch what is not quite a Gibbon picking coconuts from a tree and throwing them down into a net his handler is keeping. 30 seconds later this show is all over, and that is probably 30 seconds too late. The turtles were very interesting.


We emerge to the centre of things, complete with stalls selling whatever at vastly exaggerated prices. Jesus! They even have a stall flogging Chinese buns with fillings of pork meat, fruit, or nuts. I point this out to Siu Ying as I know she likes these, but she is disinterested. The signs are in Thai and English, so I did translate for her. I follow the stall around the corner and espy some tasty looking kebab sticks. I really fancy trying one of these, but the menu here is only in Thai and has three features only. There is only one type of kebab on offer, so I presume you can either buy them singly, as a group of said undefined number, or with perhaps a special dressing? I order one and the girl speaks to me in Thai, and then Filipino. She offers me one in a plastic bag, and as the prices range from 10 to 20 Baht, offer her a 10 Baht coin. This is incorrect so I assume they must be 20Baht each then. I get out my wallet for the said note when the other serving bitch comes over and opens a pot at the rear-left counter, and intimates that this is what I get for 10 Baht. I have no idea what it is, but it looks a little bit like fresh squid bodies without the tentacles thingymagig. As I pull out the note from my wallet to pay the first serving girl, so the second says something in Filipino I instantly recognise as a serious insult. I reply with a full ※Fuck you too§, which is exactly what she said by the way. I put my money back in my pocket and walk away, still wondering what the meat tasted like. Stupid cow!


This is where cross-cultural differences, intolerance or understanding come into play. She was very unfortunate that of the possible ten words or so of Filipino I know, she just happened to speak three of them in a very dismissive and insulting manner. My problem was that I had absolutely no idea what the meat was, nor how much it cost 每 it was only advertised in Thai script. Let*s move on, as that was a very stupid encounter at the counter#


Siu Ying is meanwhile across the pavement (Sidewalk in American) and determined to buy a tray of Lao Lin at very inflated prices. Lao Lin is the weird sort of prickly thing the size of a rugby ball that smells like shit and tastes even worse in a very soap-like way. Chinese love it! To her credit she will not buy a pre-pack, but waits for a fresh one to be prepared personally. We then sit with the likely lads and wait. We have been given tickets to the &Thai Cultural Show*, but none of us has any idea what it is about, or when it is due to begin?


Getting bored a vaguely search around amongst the heaps of seedy stalls hoping to find another one selling those delicious looking kebabs. I will not ever return to the first one, simply because the Filipino insult was very big and quite unnecessary. Typically there are multiple stalls of everything, except kebab stalls. I wander back and extract Siu Ying from our common company. We wander into the shopping mall and I try to persuade her to buy something, which she is not into. Lucky my wallet then!


The mall is pretty small actually, and soon we climb some steps and realise the show we have been waiting to see is about to start. We eventually get seats on the steps leading from the base of the stage and are about the last people in before the performance starts. That was lucky then.


I*d by now gotten into Charlie Chan*s drawl and did understand he was considering sending us to the hotel tonight on elephants. He did not mention anything about the times of the performance, only that we meet back at the coach (Or said elephant?) at 6.30pm. I*m also pretty sure that was a joke and I missed a little something somewhere#


The show is short and very good. We are far too close and Siu Ying clings to me as Elephants bow and curtsey to us a yard or so away. I could literally touch them simply by extending my arms. The stage has a show with boys into fighting and elephants, and very pretty girls doing hints of alluring things that girls really do very well in Thailand. We watch some sort of reconstructed battle on the backs of elephants, and it rates about school play level, but is culturally quite impressive. I miss the best shots waiting for my extremely stupid camera/mobile to wake from indolence, but eventually manage to snap a few shots before the 10-minute performance is over too soon.


We are then herded into the area next door, which turns out to be Olympics for Elephants*.  This 30 or so minutes is surreal and whilst not on my personal agenda for this week, is actually quite entertaining - albeit in a child*s* sort of way. We begin with a parade of elephants, the youngest leading the way for ten or so family members. They progress to playing internationally famous sports such as: Elephant football, elephant darts, elephant basketball, etc. It was long enough to be interesting and short enough not to become boring = nice call and well judged. Next we are treated to the finer arts of Elephant painting, and this is quite good also. We are informed we can later buy the pictures or painted tee-shirts from the foyer. I could vaguely go for this if I had any promise the elephants actually produced these sales items, and not scammers pretending to paint the way elephants do. Meanwhile ragamuffins of questionably young age passed amongst us offering to sell us bunches of bananas for 100 Baht a go. Many bought and fed the elephants between their personal gigs. We did not as Siu Ying is slightly afraid of elephants it seems. The show wound up with members of the audience participating in various frolics, and all in all it was a good show.


By now the time is around 6pm and we begin to loiter as a group around the bus park nearby. Charlie Cha rocks up and hurry*s us into the adjacent restaurant for our evening meal. Unusually this is Cantonese cuisine for a change, not!


The meal turns out to be a sort of bunfight, with serveries scattered around the room all offering different Chinese culinary delights. Again the Thai tables can only accommodate 6 people, which I find a bit weird. Billy Bostin ends up with us again, so I pre-empt him and get the beers in first. The beer counter is a refrigerator staffed by a very pretty Thai girl who understands both my English and Cantonese 每 and I am sorry, but I am having a terrible time trying to remember which of the two languages I should be speaking, and when.


About the meal itself: well, the salad was pretty good and they actually had white onions which are not sold anywhere in China. The mayonnaise had a tad too much sugar in it but was quite edible. I was surprised to find a large compository of noodles at the opposite end from the rice and I filled my boots 每 only to find they were actually the cooked and cold roots of something totally inedible. I filled up a side plate with prawn crackers, something only used as decoration in mainland China. My wife thinks I am very crazy to enjoy them so much, but I really do!


Yet again there is not even the merest hint of Thai cuisine anywhere in sight, and I begin to worry that this group of travellers will leave Siam without ever experiencing something so fundamental as lemongrass. I personally think that language is an expression of a &people*. So are their cultural traditions, beliefs; and all this is echoed in the food they choose to eat. I will return to this point tomorrow, but for now let*s enjoy a bad Cantonese meal in Thailand. The beers are flowing again, and help me a lot.


We*re just getting into this meal when Charlie Chan calls a halt as we must reach Pattaya and out hotel very soon. Back on the charabanc we resume our customary seats and a little time passes before we are driven up the main street of Pattaya. This appears to consist of bars adorned with ladies out to drink you dry for free, or perhaps boys dressed as ladies who will also drink you dry for free 每 but may also offer you something quite unexpected once back in your hotel room. I pass, as my wife is undoubtedly the sexiest person hereabouts.


Perhaps you should be aware that my best holiday ever was two weeks spent in Ibiza circa 1996 每 or the peak of Ibiza culture and dance. I did see Jose Padilla live at his bar, although he only mixed for a short gig. We did the full foam party; awake all hours, breakfast at 8am 每 on the way back from a night out, etc. No one ever left Ibiza a virgin, and I was no exception 每 ah! Sex in the sea#


By comparison, I think Pattaya is very obvious and very much behind the times. Ibiza is long gone in any true sense, yet the music lives on, as do the people and philanthropists. I guess the same happened here eons ago?


We finally turn off this main thoroughfare, which I am sure we will never be allowed to experience for real; and pull into a hotel car park. It is not the hotel named on our Chinese only itinerary, but it looks mighty fine all the same. We then hang around outside for 10 minutes or so as Charlie Chan confirms arrangements. Should I point out that we are not actually at the main hotel entrance here, but rather at the way in to a very Thai massage parlor?


We smoke and time passes. A sudden burst of activity means we are in for a group massage therapy. Interestingly we are segregated by sex; the girls going into one large room whist us boys occupy another. Most immediately strip off their garments and don the clothing provided. I hang back a little as I am here Commando style, and not feeling particularly &large* at the moment. A girl comes to me and immediately recognises my predicament 每 she giggles and draws the curtains 每 where did they come from? I get into the slacks provided, but don*t bother with the top.


A different girl opens the curtains briefly as am exposed, then immediately closes them again in personal respect. Once finished I call her back and she appears to be a native Thai who has been doing this for many years. Most of the others are in fact Chinese, bourn out by the Mandarin and Cantonese spoken within easy earshot. I doubt one of them is younger than 30, and probably 40 when all said and done. They are very experienced, which after being subjected to years of pretty Chinese girls who know absolutely nothing about massage therapy - is in itself very rewarding.


I appear to have one of the most senior women tending me in this establishment. I make a point of informing her I have a problem with my lower back 每 not my old one, but one appearing just higher up. This is entirely due to the atrociously designed seats for &small people* that Chinese coaches and airlines think suitable for people of Gorilla proportions. Let me say that as far as Chinese seat ergonomics go, then if a seat fits a Cantonese person, then their headrest is probably resting on my shoulder blades. However, it is the very pronounced and totally unnecessary lumbar supports that have given me this problem in the first place.


We spend a couple of hours here being pampered and stretched, and my girl totally avoids the part of my back that concerns me most. I raise this with her and she ushers me to accept her trust and skills. In particular she pays great attention to my right foot (My problem is my left lumbar region, kidney area). I do know from experiences that the nerves cross over when leaving the back, so her focusing on my other side makes sense. She works on my toes and ankles, whilst I watch as other guys are treated to back stretches on ladies knees, and being walked upon 每something a good masseuse does extremely well. I have nothing, but leave knowing I am a lot better than when I went in, and it is a case of cause and effect. Thai masseuses do not treat the problem, they treat the cause of the problem, and this is true.


Mellowed we redress and assemble at our temporary meeting point 每 the place where smoking is taking place. My body feels very much easier than I expected, and I give due thanks to the experience this girl bestowed upon my body. She was truly excellent, albeit in a way I could not understand at the time.


Chirpy Charlie Chan rocks back up after a personal jolly and gets us sheep back on the bus. We head back down the main street and at the corner gaze at pole dancers strutting their stuff in an upstairs window. We plod on a mile and are released to enjoy the delights of Pattaya 每 but the witching hour is 30-minutes hence, so we must be quick about it.


Siu Ying and I amble around and end up outside an open air music bar playing rock, pop and blues. It is pretty cool and somewhere we would go if we had a little more time. I think we would have stayed anyways, were it for the fact that we had not yet reached our hotel for tonight. Ambling by we encounter a stall selling &Western Sausages*. I go for one, only to find they are slightly sweet Thai sausages with extra garlic, and something that would never be sold in the west proper. Ho-Hum!


Next door is a stand flogging kosher kebabs, but I wonder about the lack of customers, and things like salad and chilli sauce. I pass by whilst telling Siu Ying these things are mega in Blighty # but she remains unimpressed. Instead she heads into a posh and newly built mall that has a cashpoint near the entrance. I inform her we need funds for tomorrow, which she ignores completely. She goes into Watson*s, a typical Boots type store common in China, except not &arf as good. There she replaces her confiscated makeup equipment and purchases some mascara. I then learn this is her first time and the sales assistant is very helpful and speaks excellent Cantonese.


Our time is about up so we head back towards the main doors and I again remind her we need money for tomorrow. She says we better find a bank, to which I reply that there is a cashpoint here. She looks amazed and then tells me I better use it. Well, that exchange went far more to plan than my first attempt!


We pass a few tawdry bars on the way back up the side street to the meeting point. The girls buy some Thai pancakes from a street vendor, and then we hear a crash from one of the worse looking establishments nearby. Shortly after the Tourist Police arrive and heard a couple of drunken revelers into the back of their personnel truck.


The coach is about 20 minutes late but does eventually arrive. There appears to be a new plan, because instead of heading direct to the hotel, we board and are dropped of along the main waterfront. This area is a bit odd in that the shops and bars form an unorderly mix of modern, trendy, old and chaotic. Posh hotels arise between shops selling tourist tat, whilst the many bars are expensive looking with signs offering cheap drinks during happy hour. Unfortunately they don*t mention when happy hour is, and the food is mainly imitation of typical western fodder such as pizza and chips.


Getting off the bus the herd rush into an innocuous looking mall to sample the delights of some fruit or other Siu Ying dislikes and knows I will hate. It is reminiscent of a stampede and soon we are alone standing outside. Across the road is a lovely looking waterfront with palm trees lining the spacious and well laid out promenade. We cross and behind find a lovely sandy beach that stretches for miles.  The water is down a slight sandy bank which has not seen water for a long time. Further in the distance the sea is gently lapping and forming small sea-horse crests as it comes to shore. The whole area is well lit with streetlights and highlights the lifeguard lookouts which are straight out of California. I would not be surprised to see David Hasslehof or Pamela Anderson wander by in their red swimwear.


This is a lovely place, so peaceful and quite away from the nearby teaming nightlife. We are the only people on the beach, which is probably only the second time in her life Siu Ying has ventured to the seaside. She slips off her flip-flops and is soon cavorting around in the water. I roll up my jeans and lose my footwear and soon join her. We splash about for a while and enjoy genuine and simple fun. The tide is actually coming in quite quickly, indicative of a wide and shallow beach, perfect for family holidays. It is soon time to move on and I stop my wife from donning her footwear with wet and sandy feet. Instead we carry our shoes along the beach a ways before heading for the promenade. I am surprised to find a conveniently placed tap, so we quickly wash the sand from our feet and don our footwear.


I guess this took 30 minutes or so and we head back to the place we last saw the rest of the group. There is no sign of anyone so we wander along the road to our parked coach, but there are no signs of life to be found inside either. With nothing better to do we drift another few hundred yards to a main intersection and decide mutually without speaking to go no further. I am seriously up for a pint by now, and tinker with the idea of stopping at one of the many bars within easy sight of the coach. However, I remain sure the rest cannot be far from finishing whatever it is they are doing, so resist the temptation. We wander back to the coach and this time we notice the driver in his seat, but no other signs of life from within the darkened coach. Crossing the main road we again choose to walk along the lovely promenade and wait opposite the coach for another 20 minutes. This is rather stupid and so we decide to wander towards the departure point again, which we can see quite easily 70 yards away. Having ambled half the distance we spy the group forming on the pavement and quicken our pace. Then Mrs. Guangzhou sees us and starts waving frantically. We wave back which only seems to encourage her. Back amongst the crowd we get told off for keeping them waiting for ages. You what! We did just see you emerge from the mall 每 but this is immediately dismissed as being totally irrelevant. As far as Charlie Chan is concerned we are responsible for them all being late back to the coach for an important departure time. I have to laugh and Siu Ying shares the joke; as we may as well be back in China hahaha!


Back on the coach it seems the driver gets told off as well for not capturing us last time we meandered past. It feels as if we are traveling for 30 minutes as the town is left behind for open countryside, and civilization is replaced by shanty towns clinging to the shore road with sea opposite. Wee then encounter a speed bump and enter a more modern sort of town thingymagig. There is a restaurant on the corner of a sideroad with tables set on the seaside strand opposite. We turn up this road and are soon at the hotel.


Again Charlie Chan does his tour of room inspections, and our room has no power whatsoever. One of the staff comes by to check and bashed the key-holder hoping to inspire it into life. When this doesn*t work we are immediately offered another room in a different past of the same hallway. Everything works and it is a large room with a single bed and a truly massive King Size one alongside. Charlie Chan tells me we are only allowed here for one night only, and must go to a normal double room tomorrow.


For me holidays are also about chilling and having fun. Nights are important and getting out to see the bars and locals is all part of the experience. The corner street bar looked fine from the coach and is a mere 400 yards away from the hotel down a quiet street with a nice array of local type shops. I know it will be a mistake to spend any time in the room, so we immediately dump our bags and after Siu Ying has a very quick change of clothing, we head out. I bump into the likely lads in the hallway and we all agree to head out for a beer.


Being ready first we go to the foyer where I find Charlie Chan hovering with intent. I slap him on the back and ask if he is up for a beer, to which he politely refusing mentioning some medical condition. He then heads off outside and we sort of follow. The hotel gates are staffed by relaxed looking security who say hello in various languages. We reply in kind and soon check out the nearest shops. The first and fourth are flogging beachwear, accessories, and assorted trinkets. The second shop holds great interest for Siu Ying and is chock full of packets of vacuum packed fresh fruit. There are two mounds of the dreaded Loa Lin or smelly fruit which Siu Ying finds especially fascinating.


As she rattles on to the owner his wife who runs the adjoining clothes shop joins us. It transpires he not only speaks Cantonese but has family in our neighbouring Hoipeng city (Kai Ping in Mandarin). I feel the pull of sampling some real Thai beers very appealing and begin to move away. Nearby is a stunning red and very original Ford Mustang of classic 60*s lineage. I go to admire this pristine beast and remark to one of the people standing nearby that this is a real beauty. He turns out to be the owner of this car and the posh wine bar opposite. We chat briefly about nothing before Siu Ying joins me and we move off down the road.


The street is an odd mix of closed shops, cheap shops, and posh restaurants and wine bars. We are looking for something more real and down to earth, so head without dawdling to an empty table that is beckoning on the seafront. Quite by chance we discover the table next to our is playing host to Charlie Chan and Mrs. Guangzhou. They are in company but we exchange pleasantries and toasts as the evening progresses. The staff are a little lax and slow to note our arrival. I hail one of the nearby girls to looks to have more about her and order a couple of bottles of local beer in Cantonese. She understands my Cantonese order immediately, and it later turns out she is originally from Guangzhou. Siu Ying adds food to the order and we relax properly for the first time in many days.


This is a lovely spot, the lights of the small town and restaurant over the street to our right, whilst the sea and small beach set amongst rocks immediately to our left echoes to the gentle lapping of the incoming tide. The beers are like those in China, served from ice-cold 630ml bottles, and taste quite malty. I have chosen Singha brand, which is a local brew and suitably matches our mood for chilling in the balmy midnight air.


The peace does not endure long, as soon the likely lads arrive and our peace is replaced by raucous laughter and the fun of sharing a beer or three with new friends.  The table next door soon lives as a couple of other tour guides join the ensconced party. They are younger and up for a laugh. I am sure one of them is gay, and he is the one who gets lost in a mass of toasting with several of the lads. Our food arrives and it is straight out of the side streets of Foshan 每 a large plate of freshly barbequed chicken legs and wings, a dish of chueng choi, and a plate of barnacles or similar in a spicy pepper sauce.


Our food is open to all and the lads are soon tucking into the chicken especially. They compliment by ordering dishes of very nicely cooked squid, beef kebabs, prawns, a fish of some description, and a load more beers. Accepting the fact that this establishment only offers typical Cantonese street fare, it is excellent and a top night is enjoyed by all.


We enjoy ourselves so much it is approaching 4 am before we finally have had our fill and thoughts turn to tomorrow and perhaps we ought to try and get some sleep?


Returning to the hotel I notice the shops and bars are still open, but do wonder where their trade is coming from at this late hour. For that matter the Family Mart on the other corner from our restaurant was still open and quite busy. I noted it also had an ATM machine, and was likely to open 24/7.


Back in the hotel room Siu Ying insists upon having a shower, whilst I turn on the TV, A/C, and haul my unwashed and relaxed body between the sheets. I am shortly joined by Siu Ying and we are both fast asleep in moments.


Tomorrow we will pick this up again with a new and entertaining day, which again proves to be quite different from those that have preceded it.