Six Days in Siam


Day 4 – Pattaya Playground


In spite of our late and slightly drunken evening the night before, I awaken naturally at 7.30 and immediately rouse Siu Ying as we have an 8.30 start today. We both feel pretty good actually considering our late night adventures, so I put our mobiles on charge whilst Siu Ying sees to ablutions and dresses. As she is preoccupied I pack our cases ready for leaving – to another room. Returning from the bathroom she then has a go at me for being so stupid, insisting that we will be in this same room tonight. If so, then Charlie Chan had ample opportunity to tell me late last night, and he most certainly did not. This brief misunderstanding seems to set the tone for the day, so we hurry down for breakfast.


The hotel is around about Chinese 4 star, but you would not really know this from the breakfast selection. There is the usual array of precooked mush left out to cool nicely in one alcove and the adjoining wall. The choice here is possibly a little larger than the previous hotel, but to all intents and purposes is equally bad. Ok, so this time I get the added choice off cold cooked spam, but this is offset by the eggs being precooked in large trays, which only ever appear to have two cold misfits left – one still very runny and the other ‘over hard’. As with hotel one, there is no heat to any of the servers. This time the cutlery is all placed in the same spot, with chopsticks, dessert spoons and forks. Again there are no knives or teaspoons. I am very surprised to find a toaster, although it is of the rotary kind that requires two cycles to turn pieces from crispy white to charred black. There is no butter of course, but then there are no knives with which to spread it. Nearby are some pots of jam, one of which is labelled ‘Marmalade Jam’, whatever that may be? I decide it better not to ponder the connotations.


I eventually find the coffee dispenser lurking on the other wall of the mess, and this has the added attraction of not even providing cups. Instead we have a choice from a tray of distinctly old and battered quarter pint straight glasses. I immediately suss this is going to require timing and a little luck, so add the powdered creamer and sugar first. Then it becomes a steal from ‘Endurance’, as I fill both as quickly as possible and try to navigate between the tables before my fingers burn. I make it all the way to the table next to ours before I have to put them down, and then with a little cunning manage to ease them onto our table, and then across to our positions. You would think that providing either cups or a tray would have been reasonable, but apparently this is not a luxury we are afforded.


Finally sitting down to eat, I find the frankfurter sausages are very sweet, so leave them. I then use chopsticks to pile the spam on the toast and add an egg to each round. I am pondering just how I am going to eat this when a lad rocks up with a knife. Nice one!


The breakfast is filling if totally unappealing. Again we are seated with Jackie and Jennifer, and later the girls from Panyu join us. I depart early for our room so as to retrieve our mobile phones and collect our suitcase. The time now is dead on 8am, and I find the room open and a cleaner halfway through her work. Seeing me enter I show her my card to let her know this is my room. She smiles and carries on with her work. This I was not expecting. I get the mobiles which are not even half charged yet, and stow the charging leads with our belongings. Meanwhile the girl finishes making the beds and proceeds outside. Fantastic, as obviously she will now leave me alone for a few minutes to do my stuff.


I light a cigarette and wander over to where the ashtray used to be. It is missing, but the girl rushes back in with a clean and very wet one. Thanks m’dear!  I check the bathroom, which has not been cleaned yet, and all our belongings have been removed already. Returning to the window I perch on a chair and consider what to do with our case. Now: do I take the case and run the wrath of my wife … or do I leave the case and hope we are either in the same room tonight, or the hotel staff will move it to our new room? I take a large hit of nicotine as the girl reappears with a wet mop and proceeds to clean the floor. Bizarre as China can be sometimes, they would definitely not do this, and I remember Jim again with fondness as he explained to me how Thailand was just as crazy as China – except in different ways. This must be one of them I guess.


Then Siu Ying appears and says we must leave. We meet at the foot of the beds, where the cleaner also wants to be right now. The three of us seem to become involved in our earlier discussion about the suitcase, so for the sake of peace and quiet I lock it and leave it behind. Siu Ying is convinced I am crazy and marches off as I follow still none the wiser. The leaving I remove the room card and wander towards the lift, closing the room door behind me. It appeared the girl had finished, when she rushes up to me and points at the room and the key card in my hand. What? Feeling in my wallet pocket I find my own room key, so this must be hers then. I am obviously going to be in the wrong today, so hand over said card with a big smile and an apology. Things can only improve from here I think to myself…


A Day at the Beach


Rushing down to the foyer we are the first to arrive, and so I go and wait interminably outside the main doors. I sit on the steps near the ashtray canister and find myself in company with some Japanese tourists. Well that makes a change. Binning my butt I head back inside but only a couple of people from our group have arrived. The time is now passed 8.30am and Siu Ying is not to be found either. With nothing else to do I head back outside and light-up again – well we’re on holiday so what the hell. Our coach stands motionless across the car park, and I chill in the warm morning sunshine.


I watch coaches come and go as the time drifts passed. The likely lads come outside to join me at smoker’s corner, but are soon captures by Mrs Guangzhou who herds them back inside before they have time to light-up. She ushers me also, but whilst I stand up, I go no further than the outer doors. Inside the group gather and then head off for the far hotel doors. I could be missing something important here, or they could be taking the long route to the coach? I wait to see what happens, and sure enough they are actually headed for the coach via quite a large detour. I guess there must be some sort of one-way system in operation within the hotel foyer then?


Returning to my outdoor vantage point I watch as the group exit the other foyer doors and head towards the coach opposite me. I finish my cigarette and am not the last to arrive at the coach door. The subsequent journey is quick and within ten minutes we are again on the seafront from last evening, just a couple of hundred yards further up towards the place where some boats are waiting.


There is no chosen boarding point nor ladder, never mind a quay. However the beach does shelve steeply here allowing the boats to come within a few inches or feet of the shore – depending upon whether the tidal wash is either in or out. People clamber aboard and rolling up my jeans (Today I am in some ghastly army type sandals Siu Ying likes), we are soon seated in some large type of speedboat with twin Yamaha 200’s at the rear. As with our earlier waterborne experience, the idea seems to be for the pilot to go as fast as possible with total disregard for passengers, belongings, or other water users. Going against the tide in choppy waters this turns out to be not the most pleasant of experiences for anyone on board, excepting the pilot in his lovely, comfy, and forward facing seat.


Crashing through the waves in an overcrowded and sideways facing seat is not my idea of total fun, but it was ok I guess. Soon we arrive at a sort of platform and disembark. I am not quite sure how this relates to a day at the beach until I notice the purpose of this seaward pontoon is to act as a base for paragliding. We are all happy in tee-shirts, but the wind is gusting and making life quite hazardous for some of the more inexperienced pilots and their respective punters left dangling mid-air from strings attached to the rear of their boats.


It would be very easy to criticise the whole operation, were it not for the ease with which experienced pilots handle these tricky conditions with complete composure; or for the highly alert and experienced pontoon crew, who never get it wrong! They are highly efficient in running an operation that would be banned by Health and Safety in the west. I fancy a go as it is only 300 Bhat, but am more concerned Siu Ying should try it. She for her part is having none of it, so we sit and watch as the masses come and go until all our party has had their fill.


Back in the oversized speedboats we then head off out to sea. If anything conditions have worsened and Siu Ying is the second to be sea-sick by a few seconds. I am fine, but they soon get told off for not spewing-up over the side of the boat. The sides are actually very high and very difficult to reach on dry land, never mind when you are being subjected to a roller-coaster ride. Perhaps providing some plastic bags like coaches do would have been a good idea? Nevertheless, what is done is done, and 20 minutes later we crash into calmer waters and as a large island appears in front of us. I am pretty sure it is called Ko Lan, Ko meaning island.


I think everybody was pleased to reach shore, and this time there are ladders provided for us to actually reach the beach without getting our feet wet. However this island seems to think it can attract tourists by charging for everything. Our moth-eaten shanty building offers deck chairs for rental under the shade for 10 Bhat per hour. It does not offer anything in the ways of service, such as food nor drinks, and basically consists of poles lodged into the sand which support a rusty corrugated metal roof. There are two padlocked concrete buildings nearby purporting to be toilets. The key costs another 10 Bhat, and it appears they have not been used since the last ice-age. This also infers that the small effluent pipe running conveniently into the nearby ocean also hasn’t seen much service either thankfully. Meanwhile Siu Ying continues to feel nauseous and tries to vomit unsuccessfully again near the sea in a sheltered place away from the crowd. Several others join us with similar intent, and whilst I remain fine, I wonder?


We then hang around for 30 minutes waiting for whatever to be inflicted on us. The actual place is fine, given either redevelopment or some brains regarding international tourists. Suddenly Charlie Chan pops up as if from out of the sand, and everything is suddenly a rush again. We have to get on some weird long boat, and we have to do it now! It’s vaguely like and very reminiscent of a very large canoe gone wrong. We get wet boarding and then clamber between the rafters that support the bottom of the boat. Fortunately there is a central walkway composed of stout planks to ease our passage.


Once at sea we immediately head for the shore, and then the order comes to remove the walking planks and stow them where our feet have been resting. This is a team effort, but does reveal some mouldy old glass stuck to the bottom of the boat with loads of silicon sealer. I note that the glass is affixed to the inside of the boat, where any logic would have this set rebated into the underside of this curious contraption. There are quite a few of these things I note, so deduce that Heath Robinson must have a Pattaya Island franchise.


I peer down at the murky green coastal waters whilst others amongst us say they may have seen something. This is highly unlikely outside of their imaginations as the green goo attached to the glass is obfuscating virtually everything we might have been able to see. We are obviously here to watch fish through the design of this unusual glass-bottomed boat. I am rewarded in the knowledge that I didn’t actually have to pay any money for this earth-shattering experience.


Nearby a couple of young idiots running a jet ski hire business are ensuring no fish will come within miles of this landfall, as the beach reveals long inflated plastic tubes that nobody is given time to pay money to ride upon. As our craft cannot actually make its preferred landing point, we are simply turfed off in knee-deep water and left to struggle ashore as best we can. The stragglers are still making for shore when Charlie Chan reappears and after issuing short instructions to those within earshot, heads abruptly off along a coastal path.


I am very relieved to be moving on, as whilst this spot may have fared well as a hidden retreat found by independent travellers in the lost reaches of Wales or Cornwall; it was not what I was expecting to pay a large amount of money for. I reproach myself that I am perhaps being a tad unfair, and that the glass-bottomed boat could actually have been a lot of fun … had it not been for the Jet Ski’s scarring all the fish away; and for the large deposits of algae and grime coating the bottom of the glass. To Chinese and Thai people this is probably a great treat, whilst I am left to reflect just how badly the real purpose of this exercise was compromised due to basic ineptitude.


The coastal path is just like any other I have traversed, except for the butterflies and Mimosa growing wild like weeds; which it probably is in these parts. Stands of unripe gourds and berries also mark our path, which inclines steeply near the end of its quarter mile distance. We immediately herd into a queue for the island taxis. These are based upon the American ‘pick-up’ theory, and quite like the rear of 50’s Landover’s in most respects as regards passenger comfort and personal wellbeing.  Like the speedboats they are driven by maniacs in comfortable and secure forward facing seat, whilst we in the rear feel much like chickens bound for market.


The island road is newly made concrete or pockmarked dirt trails, and just wide enough for one vehicle. The pilot remains determined to break the island speed record for any motorised carriage, which is hampered by his constant emergency braking to avoid other taxis coming in the opposite direction. We arrive somewhere else 15 minutes later, shaken but not stirred, and are shown to the new beach.


A seafront with excellent beach beckons, and is separated from the interminably endless line of stalls and bars by a pedestrian walkway full of wondrous tourists wandering and wondering what they are supposed to do hereabouts? Charlie Chan sets off at a cracking pace leaving us to perhaps try and keep up with him. He has seen all this many times before of course, whilst we find interest in some local shops that are not quite selling tat, but occasionally some good stuff – be that clothes, unusual and quality trinkets, or local hand made products. In between are some quite interesting eateries with nice and unusual things on display for cooking and sale. The pavement is about wide enough for four people to pass with observation, so the stalling of the misguided and pedestrian idiots doesn’t go well for me personally. Fortunately the itinerant street-hawkers of fake crocodile skin bags leave us alone, and remind me of the unworthy types trying to make a buck flogging ‘genuine’ Rolex watches in Spain’s tourist hot-spots at slash/down prices.


The cove is protected on two sides by high cliffs, with open sea to the front and beyond the lovely beach. The walkway runs for about a mile in between the cliffs and is idyllic in many respects. The shops are only on the seafront; whilst behind a small village can sometimes be glimpsed rising a few properties deep up the steep hillside. There is a general air about the place that inspires the recognition that nobody actually knows what they are doing; and I am specifically referring to the islanders themselves.


Meanwhile Charlie Chan has resignedly given up on trying frogmarching us direct to the eatery we will be subjected to, which lies at the furthermost tip of habitation. We are heralded to a couple of tables at the back of some large working class venue that is covered, but surrounded by interior stalls, and smoking is allowed within. Gathering the group at last he explains in Cantonese that we have 2 hours to have fun, then we meet here to go upstairs to eat. I follow all this and prod Siu Ying in the direction of some stalls. She is not interested in shopping (My lucky day) so we head outside to where a long line of large, open-sided tent-like affairs have been erected on the beach. Knowing Latin climbs well I am waiting for the hawker to appear demanding ‘X Bhat’, and there are none. At the beach side there are some modern western recliners, and still no one in attendance. It seems they are for free – and they are. Now that’s very cool.


This small beach is totally excellent and well worthy of a longer stay of perhaps hours, days; or even weeks. We make a camp in the soft sand as the sun beats down and acclimatise. Some of us head out for a swim in the clear waters, whilst most including my wife scamper about in the surf along the shore. Most of the beach is roped off for bathing, but evidence of speedboats and large plastic rides are in evidence near the cliffs. I do like the idea of keeping boats away from amateur swimmers for safety reasons, especially knowing how most pilots manoeuvre their boats around here. After 90 minutes or so we have done enough and seek other entertainment. The tent things have large refrigerators near the walkway and I inspect several in search of beer. The girl eventually appears and asks me for 150 Bhat. That’s a bit pricey so we decide to leave it a while.


Returning to the main restaurant I shower and change in the toilets, which sort of double up for purpose in a basic way that is about adequate. We are about 20 minutes early reaching our table, which is already occupied by a group of three lads who are staring at empty beer bottles. This is quite unlike them until I enquire and find they refuse to pay the inflated prices. I ask Siu Ying if she want a drink but she is fine, so I go and get myself a cold beer, which costs 120 Bhat in here. I sip this as others wander in to join us and by 2pm we are all assembled, that is except for Charlie Chan. To pass the time we wander over to a nearby clothes shop but Siu Ying is still not interested in buying anything. I really fancy a colourful blue and white Hawaiian style top with shorts for 200 Bhat, but unfortunately they do not have anything large enough for me. Back at the table I drain my beer and we chat about nothing.


Charlie Chan arrives in a panic 10 minutes later and says we are running late and must hurry to the table upstairs for our lunch. I am mindful we were all on time and it was only he that was late, but there is no point in pursuing the matter, so I laugh at the absurdity instead.


This meal is set around two circular tables and we divide mainly into boys and girls. I am seated next to Siu Ying, but on the other table. The meal is actually a cracker and composed mainly of fish and shellfish of many kinds. I forgo the rice but have some vermicelli style noodles and try a little of the nearby vegetables as a crew of waiters hurry round bringing dish upon dish to both tables. I spy a lovely looking bowl of fresh prawns and am about to sample one when Siu Ying leans over and states that the crabs are excellent. The Lazy Susan on our table then swings round and the prawns disappear from view, but the freshly cooked crabs are within easy reach. I take one and really enjoy it. I take a second whilst I can – there are ample to go round. Then my star dish arrives, curried crab. They have been roughly chopped into quarters and are pleasantly spicy without being overpowering in any sense. That stated, neither are they bland. Of the ten or so of us at this table, only one other tries the curried crab and leaves half of it. I fill my boots as these things are totally delicious! I have only ever tasted these done better once in my life, and that was at the Artists restaurant in Foshan, a must visit for anyone in that lovely city.


My wife is also looking for more crabs, and I give her several as our table is more interested in eating bowls of non-descript boiled rice without salt. Ahem. Perhaps I should rephrase that? My side plate is completely buried under a pile of shells and half-chewed legs when a lovely girl comes round to clear the mess and give me a clean plate. Eventually we are all replete and then I remember I haven’t even tried the lovely and large prawns yet. Whilst not Tiger Prawns, they are about 4 inches long and sea prawns. I take one and whish I had room left to eat half a dozen. Again they are excellent. As we are all about finished Charlie Chan pops up and says its time to rush off – no doubt we are late yet again?  As we head down the stairs I chuckle to the unlikely thought of “Lightning Larry and The Left-over’s”.


We amble back up the pedestrian walkway which is now not as crowded as before, and far more interesting. I really would like to spend a lot more time here, and easily an overnight stay. At the other end of the street we gather into our group again and hang around for 10 minutes waiting for our booked rides to appear.


On the bumpy ride back to port I spot a group of foreigners who obviously either live here in one of the modern and custom chalets with garden, or have decided to stay a while. I look out at them and they look back at me. We smile and I wonder which of us has the better deal?


After having our meal well shaken we arrive back at the staging point and retrace our steps back down the coastal path. Several people want to use the padlocked and disused toilets, but there is nobody around except for us. Charlie Chan waves to a parked speed boat and he roars to within reach of the shore. This time there are no ladders so we clamber aboard as best we can and don the compulsory life jackets once more. The tide is just turned by now and the passage back is slightly more comfortable. I still think some of us may be sick, but most heads go down as if to shut out the horrible transfer back to the mainland. This is a different boat of similar design, but does not go quite as quickly as the first. This is evidenced by us being overhauled by two other boats. This is obviously a race between captains and I pity those poor souls enduring the fastest boat.


It takes a good 20 minutes to reach Pattaya, by which time many aboard are turning pretty shades of green. However, no one is sick on this leg, although all are very please when the engine slows as we come close to shore. Siu Ying spent the entire crossing with her head buried in my arms as if willing it to all be over soon. I am very fine as are a few of the others. However I did miss the banter of inane nautical phrases that would normally accompany such as crossing: ‘Avast ye landlubbers’ and ‘Splice the mainbrace Mr Benjamin’, ‘Aye aye Cap’n’, etc. Being with Cantonese people I guess ‘Hoist the Jorry Logel’ would have been a good one! Anyway: being at the back we are some of the first off and I just about manage to roll my jeans up in time. All our group are soon ashore and we head across the nearby main road to wait a couple of minutes only for our coach. Once on board I quickly loose my stupid sandals and don my socks and trainers, albeit after depositing a fair amount of sand in the footwell opposite our seats. Ahem.


The charabanc rattles off as Charlie Chan rattles on about something or other using the very loud pa unit. Most of us are completely ignoring him and trying to take a nap. A mere 10 minutes later we pull up outside a building with large car  and coach parks, a one-way system all of its own, and concierges rushing around speaking into walkie-talkies with great importance. The sign reads ‘Grand Jewellery Import & Export Company, Pattaya’. We exit the coach in front of the main doors and are all given a numbered badge to wear on a pendant chain. Everybody dashes inside, whilst I turn around, hand my badge back, and go and sit in the smoker’s corner opposite the main doors.


Lighting a cigarette I am troubled by a nagging doubt – is this the same company my Siamese ex girlfriend Yupa used to work for? I let it pass for the same reasons stated earlier. No sooner have I sat down that Billy Bostin joins me. He is now limping badly and shows me what appears to be a badly sprained right ankle. He was fine on the beach, so it must have happened afterwards somewhere. Over the next hour various members of our group reappear from the jewellery extravaganza, and I am quite at peace and happy with my decision not to waste time here. Siu Ying lasts quite well and returns just before the hour is up. She is again in company with the girls from Panyu and they stick together deep in female talk about whatever females talk about? I find that quite nice and it shows how mature our relationship has become. I am also pleased they are all making friends, and for me – well we boys are getting along fine also. By about 4.30 Mrs Guangzhou starts shepherding us all into one large group, and there are 4 people missing = both couples. She is not a happy bunny, and neither is Charlie Chan when he rocks up 10 minutes later. After chuntering between themselves for another five minutes, Charlie heads back into the building on a mission to find the strays and bring them back to heel. Both couples reappear just after he departs and join the rest of us. We wait for another 10 minutes for Charlie to show up in a not happy mood – and then he starts having a go (in the nicest possible way of course) at anybody within earshot. The important people in nice uniforms and personal communication devices then summon our coach and we are soon on our way to the next thrilling event.


At 5.30 we arrive outside Pattaya Floating Market. This has the look and feel of a novelty campus and is new and totally man-made … well there is certainly no river hereabouts. Again ‘hurry’ is the order of the day, so we pile off the coach and into the reception area. The grand design is that we are all to have a boat ride. So far so good. There are nineteen of us in total, so Charlie and 8 others get in the first boat, and Mrs Guangzhou and 7 others get in the second boat. Siu Ying and I board the third boat, and after some disbelief by the oarsman, we three set off in hot pursuit. We easily catch up with the second boat, and an exchange between the oarsmen takes place – and I am sure you do not need to understand any language at all to imagine what they were saying to each other in a local Thai dialect.


The place is far larger than I expected, and also very interesting. The waterway criss-crosses and meanders about, but my sense of direction is not affected. There are a few moored boats selling food cooked to order on board, and others selling fruits. These are similar in size and stability to canoes, but with an open top. However, this place is man made and basically revolves around the amazing array of shops and entertainments on offer. The style is completely wooden, with small houses (Shops etc) open to the waterfront across a boardwalk a couple of paces wide. There is a large hall affair set aside for Tea Ceremonies, and in between are Thai altars, wooden bridges, and lanes disappearing in all directions.


We enter a less developed stretch near the far end, which must be the first steps of a new development, and eventually rejoin the throng of bustle at the furthest most reaches. Everybody goes looking for the toilets, except me. How odd! I stand and watch because the signs for the WC’s point to the old building set aside for this purpose, which is currently being renovated. Across what would be a village green, and behind a grand display of parakeets lie a line of mixed sex, temporary public conveniences. These are not signposted, and if you didn’t happen to see somebody coming out of one, then you would not actually be aware that they were not some kind of official and off-limits construction shacks. I hand around and look for either smoking or no smoking signs, but there are none of either, which doesn’t help me greatly. I am still pondering of possibilities when Siu Ying reappears by my side. She is happy and relaxed. I take pictures for a very nice couple we have got to know quite well, but I have not mentioned much in this series of missives. They are very much in love and whilst enjoying our company from time to time, tend to always be a separate group of only two people – which is exactly as it should be!


Having completed my David Bailey impression (Fortunately or unfortunately, I chose not to give them the full Austin Powers – “Cummon baby give me lurve, gimme lurve; yeah baby, yeah!”), we turn around to not see the others – anywhere. Could this be a small problem I wonder?


To me it is pretty obvious that we have been boated all this way in order to allow us to walk back through the complex and buy things – and no doubt Charlie Chan is in for a kick-back somewhere along the line. This is later confirmed when I pretend to buy something, only to be asked for my numbered ticket. Clever stuff eh!


However, we then spy the other vegetarian couple who appear to be equally lost. The six of us head out to the nearby shops, and find a large and empty car park. Mr Vegetarian insists this is where the coach will arrive to pick us all up. Right! And by saying ‘us’ that would be … 6 perhaps? I know this is wrong, but Mrs. Vegetarian and the other couple side with him, so I tell Siu Ying we are headed in precisely the opposite direction. They slowly begin to follow us and we find a shop selling cowboy gear. Next door is another shop that must be owned by the same people, and is selling Red Indian paraphernalia. This I was not expecting and perhaps now you see how very entertaining this whole place really is. I take a peak at eagle headdresses, wikkiups, and knives; whilst Siu Ying entertains the thoughts of squaw leather skirts. Now that idea I could go for! We emerge to find the other four headed back to the empty car park in order to see if the coach has arrived yet. I don’t believe this idiocy – but I could very slightly, possibly be wrong?


We trudge back to get them, as it seems Charlie Chan left immediately after landing for the other end of the complex, only telling those within earshot what the plan was. Obviously these four were left outside of the grand design, whilst everybody else buggered off. Finding the toilets also compromised good intentions of course. My Father always says ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’, and I am sure he is not always wrong in this assertation.


Our present and true road leads south, back through this maze towards the setting sun. After yet another discussion we convince them to follow us, which they do for quite a while. Did I mention that orienteering is probably not an inherently native Chinese skill? No, well I was soon to discover it was not when we came to the first fork in our path. This involved choosing to go left or right. To our left 20 paces lay a line of shops and headed to our destination directly. The alternative route would eventually also lead to the other end of the complex, except that this was the new bit that had not been finished yet. It consisted of a boardwalk over to the end of nowhere. Participants can then only turn left and must master a tower that has to be climbed via ladders up and down. It then continues and will meet our path … eventually. The two other couples head immediately in this direction, presumably because they recognise the structure from our journey by boat. I wave goodbye to them and taking Siu Ying by the hand lead her with me. We pass shops of interest and stop to watch a girl cook dinner for guests aboard one of the small boats. I look up to see the nice couple leaving the other two and negotiating a path back towards us. Obviously someone has sussed out what is actually involved by taking that particular route.


Siu Ying is trusting in me, at least until we come to a crossroads where the path would appear to go left. I know this cannot be correct, because to our right is a small wooden bridge we passed underneath earlier. I therefore head right and slightly back on ourselves in order to cross the bridge. Unsure she follows, until we round a corner and are presented with a straight bridge back to the reception. That was very easy for me, but then I grew up on Cannock Chase and I never get lost.


It seems we came in tenth and eleventh places, as several others are not yet back either. We are closely followed by the nice couple, the guy nodding to me and we smile in comprehension. The others rock up as they will, until the only ones left are the Vegetarians. This is not anything to do with diet, but they made their choices and will be here soon I am sure. Charlie Chan heads off to get them as they are now making us all late. He meets them on the bridge and I am sure words are exchanged. He later apologizes and accepts he did not ensure that everybody knew what the plan was. Fortunately for us as a couple, I am not always stupid - all of the time. But then again, things can change so easily and quickly…


Now I know this is a theme park of sorts, and is a modern and purpose built copy, but I really like this place. The shops appear to be selling quality items of all kinds at sensible prices for tourists. There are cultural things to do, many opportunities to taste traditional Thai cuisine, plus modern fast food of local persuasion sold from floating boats, and the whole place has a special ambience all of its own. I would highly recommend anyone to spend at least half a day here, as it is very unusual and entertaining. My only regret is that we were forced to endure the jewellery sales pitch instead of heading directly here to enjoy the place for a couple more hours. Perhaps I should also state for the record that I have no problem with our guide – it was patently obvious to me what the plan was, but just a shame he forgot to tell all of us about it, perhaps.


We head outside and towards the main highway. There is one stall selling hand-crafted wooden goods, and another offering baked dried squid for take-away. These are also fine in their own way, and far better than most I have witnessed so far. The charabanc arrives shortly and once aboard it takes us just 2 minutes to reach our hotel via a back road. Its like: go out of the hotel and turn left. Walk straight for a mile and cross the dual carriageway, and here it is. Simple! I file this information ‘Justin Case’ I may need it another time? American readers may like to know that ‘just in case’, and his half-brother ‘Justin Time’ are common British alliterations of no consequence, except perhaps for raising a smile.


I guess now is the time for me to own up to being very stupid…


All day I have laboured under the impression that tonight we will dine somewhere, and then head off for the Royal Massage. I have absolutely no information to the contrary. I am also determined to sample at least one meal of genuine Thai food, which after having experienced Yupa’s cooking, is fantastic. So far we have not experienced any culinary delight that could not have been made better in Canton, although today’s crabs came very close. Therefore with this in mind I have absolutely no intentions of suffering a hotel meal. Getting off the coach outside reception I make it clear we are going to find a local restaurant and eat Thai tonight. Siu Ying comes with me, but will only tell me that we will do the Royal Massage later. Well, as far as I know there is nothing else planned for tonight, so I will have a large meal washed down with a few local beers. In turn this will send me automatically into the sleep zone = ideal for Thai massage therapy fit for a King.


We wander down the local road intending to visit the restaurant at the very end again. I am also on the look-out for anything vaguely Thai; when we are hailed by the owner of a restaurant we are passing by. He says ‘Hello’ in very good English, although slightly European. His name is Gerard and his partners name is Kwan. We chat and consider staying as I order a well deserved beer to be getting on with. The menu is excellent for international travellers, but not quite the authentic Siamese I was looking for tonight. However, the menu does have pizza, chips (Fries), burgers, salads, dogs, lasagne – in fact anything and everything of interest to westerners, including a real looking ‘all-day breakfast’. This place is a dream on any other night.


His partner is a lovely Thai girl and promises that she can cook me an authentic Thai meal, one of many indicated on the back pages of the menu – or something else of my choosing. I am in for either red or green curry, of which Gerard recommends the green as being one of his personal favourites. That’ll do fine for me. I drain my beer and seek a refill, as our attention turns to Siu Ying, who is not very keen on western cuisine, chips excepted. Happenstance a lad from last night’s eatery wanders in with a meal for another patron. Kwan then takes my wife’s order in Cantonese and gives it directly to the boy as he is departing. Gerard confirms there is no problem with them serving meals from other restaurants – something common in Canton also.


We actually get chatting and I find him to be a very interesting and entertaining host. He has been living in Thailand for many, many years, and knows the island we visited today very well – as he used to live there. That was until Phuket became an international airport of the young, rich and single; whereas Bangkok new airport was built to service businessmen and families. Since then it appears that Pattaya in general, and the Ko Lan island in particular have suffered from lack of international trade, but he goes on to explain that this area is destined to be a new playground – given a couple of years. I really do wish him very well. We exchange complimentary business cards and I come to know him as Gerard and Kwan Beekers of Miracle restaurant, Pattaya. Their phone number is (Thailand) 081 797 9668.


I had been toying a while with his accent (From arrival really), and eventually have to ask where he originally hails from. My guess is either Holland or Belgium, but he is too happy a demeanour to be the latter. My guess proves correct, as I fail to recall what hello is in Dutch. In Thai is seems to be ‘sa waddy kup’ for men, and ‘sa wally kaahr’ for women, but don’t quote me.


My food arrives and it is excellent, but I could have done with a hotter version. This is not a complaint, as I am sure not many of their patrons are used to full-heat Thai chilli peppers. I can taste for the first time in Thailand the lemongrass and coconut milk that is somewhat central to their cuisine. Thank you Kwan, and I will come back next time for sure. I would also come back tomorrow morning for a real breakfast, were it not for my doubts that we will be long-gone on the coach before they begin their very long day at 8am. If we have a late start tomorrow then I promise to return for British Bangers and/or real Bratwurst + Blighty accompaniments.


I often judge a restaurant by its fries, and these are made from real potatoes, freshly cooked to order, and light as a feather. I feel as if I have reached the other side of culinary paradise, which is echoed by several take-away orders and a guy who comes to collect his evening meal in person – another Brit of long-term Expat  and local status.


Siu Ying meantime is tucking into something similar to what we would cook at home in Toisan. I order her a bowl of rice to go with the vegetables and meat, and she appears happy. However, she is itching to be gone and starts querying the time. I say no problem as it is not even 8 o’clock yet, and all we are doing tonight is going for a massage. She replies with some abuse, and all I understand is that the massage will be ‘later’. Having finished eating she immediately gets up and tells me to be back at the hotel before 8.30. I make the mistake of jesting that the coach could pick me up here on its way out – to which I am greeted with an icy stare, before she pretends to be upset and flounces out. That was not what I expected then - I guess I must be missing something?


Gerard is actually trying to chat with his kids on Skype, so our conversation ebbs and flows a little. It is fine, as I know how important family can be. He returns and tells me a little more about his extraordinary life, and I fancy staying here for the night. However, twenty minutes have passed since my wife’s departure, and alluring as Gerard’s company is, I know I better get the next bit right or I may be ‘in for it’! We swap cards and promise the impossible – but maybe you or I may be back that way sometime, and I do recommend his mighty fine establishment to all.


I rock up at the hotel with 8 minutes to spare, which is time enough for a cigarette. First I check the foyer and nod to a couple of lads from our group, but nothing is happening yet.


Miracle Mirage Reastaurant and Hotel near Jomtien Beach, Pattaya. Gerard and Kwan Beekers offer you a warm welcome - Click for Website

Click for website in English


I go outside again to the main doors smoking area and light up. I wait. Time passes, and I wait some more. I sit down and light another cigarette. I wait. Time passes…


Suddenly the gates of Hell open behind me and I am confronted with a very pretty and pissed-off wife demanding to know where I have been all this time? What sort of stupid question is that? I was at the restaurant as you well know, and then I am here waiting for everybody else to arrive – what’s the problem?


It seems that I am not waiting in the foyer as planned, to which I mistakenly retort that if the hotel had a smoking area then I would be inside, but as always in Thailand - smoking indoors is illegal, so I am outside where you know to always find me. I bin my butt and go inside to find Charlie Chan at reception calling rooms to get the missing members of our party down in reception.


Now girls – this is where boys get confused.


Well I don’t; I tap Mrs. Guangzhou on the shoulder, and go outside again and light-up again, just for the hell of it. I am ready to doze now, and lean against a convenient pillar. I am really looking forward to the massage, beit royal or not. Charlie Chan rushes out and points at me, then disappears inside again. He is concerned and counting numbers (Quite rightly actually). Neither am I at all surprised when a couple of minutes later the herd are chaperoned from the foyer and ignoring the detour, head-off directly for our coach. I tag along and coming to rest in my customary seat beside my wife, and soon dozing in blissful ignorance.


Within the blink of my eye we arrive somewhere else. I am then informed that we are going to drink free beers and spirits, and there will be a show. I meanwhile am out on my feet, and free beers or not, I very seriously want to sleep. No such luck unfortunately, and I am reminded of times in Ibiza when you had to be up for party. I try to get my head in gear – if only somebody had told me about this beforehand?


We get on a harbour cruiser where we can smoke, except I am fagged out. Once it is full we head off into the sea at night, and home-in on a drifting splurge of bright lights anchored in the bay. It is one of many, and whilst I am definitely not drunk, I am still having severe problems not sleeping.


We arrive at whatever it is and board. I am greeted immediately with a no smoking sign, which implies and actually means a total ban on smoking onboard. Fine, can this get any worse I wonder?


We are led into a large hall upstairs with local stages along the centre. Our tables are to one end and Charlie Chan appears with the free drinks. Bottles of beer and the spirit of choice appears’ to be Courvoisier. The boys are at the front table egging me to join them. I am bloated and seriously into massage. I take a glass of beer hoping this will help me get going again = not a chance! Whilst the brew is Chang, the drink I like; this is actually Chang Light, something that tastes a little similar to German fruit beers, but with a lot more added sugar. I have drunk beers all over the world, and this is the very first one I have ever experienced that I find totally and utterly undrinkable!


Knowing I have a face to keep for foreigners, and even myself, I latch onto the Cognac, which is taken with coke. Not something I like to endure, but fitting as I am also in need the caffeine and non-alcoholic liquid the coke will also provide my badly abused body. The table becomes adorned with eatables, mostly made from compacted sugar that can resemble savoury bites. The loads of sweet and juicy fruit arrive, before a special cake with sparklers is delivered.


Oh My Life!


I stagger to my feet, not because of drink, but because I am totally full from our earlier meal, sleepy - and must either do or die for my Country!


I hit the Courvoisier, taking a straight hit before anyone can commit the sacrilege of adding any coke to it. From experience I know this will take 7 minutes to affect me, thus I proffer my empty glass for a refill, this time taking 1/3rd Cognac, and 2/3rds coke. Joining the lads out front I find Siu Ying already on-floor and swaying to the Thai dance music. It’s not bad actually, as one old Ibizan said to the other.


Welcome the dancing girls (Possibly some are boys?) who strut their stuff and aren’t really wearing … very much at all! They are very good and very professional, and have the crowd behind them in no-time. Past the glittering crowns and golden capes, weird hairdos and headdresses - their costumes actually consist of little more than G-strings and nipple tassels … and that’s about all really.


However, they are also very proactive, and after the pole dancing, gather up simple mortals to abuse on said poles to their distain and the crowds delight. After abusing the game boys mercilessly, but it was great fun; they then do another set to some very nice dance music. The next thing I know is my wife is on the stage and giving it all for no tomorrow – Get-up there girl! From then on the night deteriorates into an hour of inferred debauchery, although nothing actually happens at all. We all drink too much and have a great time. I resist from dancing, much as I want to; and especially as I know the moves better than most of the girls onstage – but tonight is for the young and I have no place here when my stomach is full to overflowing.  Then one of my favourite dance tracks comes on and I am up for it, except the Brandy is done for. I look up to see my wife in the embrace of one of the female dancers … and didn’t she just feel herbreasts-up? Whoa Girl! I’m on the point of getting seriously interested, when the lights come on and it is time to leave.




Having spent the last 90 minutes forcefully waking myself up, you cannot be serious in telling me it is already over. Meanwhile I need to re-consider those tits and my wife’s hands, this could prove to be very interesting?


We herd back onto a boat for leaving, and I head upstairs immediately to get some fresh air. The city is actually quite nice and I know I could get very used to this place. If you know or plan to visit Pattaya, then this area is right beneath the gigantic red neon sign with ‘Pattaya’ plastered across the cliff face. Docking some time later we paddle down the main aisle and come to the entrance thoroughfare. Some guy with a seriously cool 1, 000 cc tricycle is acting as a taxi service within the pedestrianised area. He is not good at avoiding pedestrians, but then again, he is making a garbage of money for free.


Billy Bostin has had it, and is accompanied back to the hotel by his mates and Charlie Chan. Well, to a taxi anyways. Meanwhile we hit ‘Main Street’; which is a pedestrianised walk of more than one mile in length. The Tourist Police have a presence here, as do bar security staff, shopkeepers; and many scantily clad young ladies of various repute. I guess you could drink yourself and any partner here silly, eat whatever you fancied, and wake up fulfilled; and with an empty wallet.


I’ve seem similar before and partaken on occasions. There is nothing new here, but old and reliable is also ok for some. However I cannot quite shake off the idea that I am comparing Pattaya to Southend Pier; when a short plane ride away lies Ibiza. I’m going to have to tell you all my version of Phuket and the Krabi Islands on our next excursion to Siam


Almost at the very end of the street we meet Charlie Chan and Mrs. Guangzhou. They are riding shotgun to ensure none of us escape. We linger and loiter as other waft up, and still we are incomplete. Siu Ying espies a Nike shop nearby and is off to enjoy. Both C and G are determined she will not be let out of their sight, but common sense prevails when we promise to come right back and not abscond.


My wife is seriously not impressed with Nike Pattaya, or it could as equally as well have been Addidas or something similar? To me it was the same as China: inflated prices for copy goods; and nothing in-store that would ever fit me anyways = so why bother?


We get back to the group within a minute, where had this been genuine, they should have been pulling us out of the shop. Charlie Chan is flustered about schedules and rushes off to try and find the strays again. Give me a break here! He rolls back with no-one in tow, but a happy smile and a look askance. From this I infer that whilst the rest are not quite with us yet; they will be very shortly. Correct!


Once again assembled we head to the nearby main road and pass by the Tourist Police ‘Walking-street’ presence, a table from which they hold standard operations. Turning right at the main road that has vehicular traffic allowed, we soon come to a pukker kebab stand, complete with vertical rotisseries + chicken and doner meat. I note pitta bread on the shelf and salad, mayo and chilli. This is the bee’s knees! I linger to have one, stuffed as I am, but the group is long-gone and Siu Ying is attached to my arm and pulling me away. Leaving my eyes cast upon the menu that also includes: Fish, chips, curry sauce, and mushy peas. This could be paradise, but instead I am physically extracted so we can go to the distant corner and wonder were everyone else is instead?


They are not here for sure – and neither are they across the street, nor left or right of us. We find ourselves in company with the same couple from Pattaya fake water market, and a couple of other lost souls. The Vegetarians are also just behind us examining sculpted glass pictures. Our consensus is to stay put and they will find us when they look for us. Deal! I am still hankering after a Doner Kebab, but let the urges pass with great difficulty.


And maybe this is the real point about these group trips to Thailand and China in general: You always seem to be rushing past what you enjoy, but let it pass to keep up with the group; who then wait for the next thing to happen. Given time-management, I had ample time to have stopped for a kebab, and still end-up with the remains of the group before we were eventually collected.


So; too much time in the wrong places, too little time in the right places. How is your life?


Siu Ying nudges me from my reverie as Charlie Chan emerges from his hidden position across the street and says we must hurry to catch the bus – well that’s a new one then! I turn and wave goodbye to the delights of the doner kebab I could have enjoyed whist waiting for this rabble to get any idea, and we get on the damned charabanc again. Hopefully we are only going to the hotel this time? By that I mean I am seeking the freedom to do my own thing within my own times-space frame. Siu Ying cuddles up to me and says we are going for a massage. Top Hole!


We do head directly for the hotel and don’t linger at all. Heading straight out we soon reach the street and Siu Ying stops to ask the fruit guy which is the best massage parlour in this street. I don’t think he really knows, but says the place next door is ok. Signs stuck to the glass in both English and Thai list a dozen different types of massage, with prices ranging from 100 to 300 Bhat for one hour. That’s fine by me. We are greeted by the owner who enquires in Cantonese as to our persuasion? Siu Ying chats a little before deciding upon the oil massage – a very nice choice too. I agree immediately, and then we are asked to remove our shoes and socks on the tiled outer step. Being led inside we are soon seated and offered a glass of water.


A couple of minutes pass and then a girl arrives and we are escorted upstairs where they have a series of rooms, and we are shown to one that has two mattresses on the floor. The curtains are drawn and we wait a moment. Two girls appear shortly and offer us flimsy pants to wear, and then leave us for a minute to change. Returning quickly I get the Chinese one this time who doesn’t speak Cantonese, whilst my wife has a Thai girl. Again both are probably in their 40’s, and very experienced. I motion to my lower back and she nods in understanding.


I won’t dwell too long on the massage, except to focus on the important things; and say it was exceptionally good! We remove our tops as this is an oil massage, and receive therapy to our entire bodies, excluding the small area used for reproduction. The massage is quite well structured as first one leg and then the other is oiled and massaged. Then it is the turn of our arms and back. I am expecting the area of my left kidney to be given extra treatment, but like before this area is hardly touched at all. Instead she spends a great deal of time working on my knees, ankles and feet. I note this is different from Siu Ying, who is having a more general therapy.


In particular the masseuse pays great attention to the tarsals of my big and second toes, and then really sets about flattening my knee joints so they are flat to the mattress. Turning over she then proceeds to do the same to my ankles, ensuing that eventually my leg and foot lie flat on the bed. She also works on my Achilles tendons, whilst intermittently prodding muscles. I come close to objecting, as my legs don’t work this way, but her attention to specific details makes me refrain, and soon she has accomplished her task and I am actually feeling quite relaxed.


I have laboured this point specifically, because some of you may also have back problems, and mine had also been associated with leg cramps for some months. Back problems can be caused by joints in the back of course; but my kidney area complaint had been slightly worrying for other reasons I care not to dwell upon. What I will state for the record, is that I walked out of there with no back pain whatsoever, and have not suffered the slightest twinge since. Neither has the night-cramp returned. Therefore I am left to conclude that whilst back problems can manifest as pain to the legs, so the reverse is also true. You may wish to mention this to your personal western therapist?


My point made, I will wrap up quickly by mentioning that my abdomen and chest were lightly oiled and massages, followed by my head and face. The whole thing was probably worth double on reflection, and we did tip the girls well for their efforts. I am also sure that our ‘hour’ lasted around 90 minutes, although I did not time it at all. Siu Ying found her massage to be equally enjoyable and stands as one of the highlights of her trip to Thailand. I have just confirmed this with her, and she corrected me by saying that one is called a ‘spa’ in English. You live and learn!


Departing we are soon re-shod outside and my wife heads straight for the guy next door flogging freshly preserved fruit in vacuum packed bags. I linger and look around for 20 minutes before giving up and the wife next door offers me a chair. Thankyou! Siu Ying is in for the long-haul and is still talking about Lao Lin or smelly fruit as the half-hour passes. Apparently his produce comes from two different manufacturers, and Siu Ying will only buy the very best. Then she extracts a bag of Lao Lin sweets we purchased in Thailand from her bag, and the general discussion takes a new twist – which is soon aided and abetted by the wife next door. Meanwhile yours truly is quite happy. I am very full and relaxed. I don’t need beer, smoking is good, sleep sometime soon would be great; but as I look to my wife she is still in the thick of whatever devious plot she is concocting.


Out of nowhere she then comes to me and asks me which bags of Lao Lin she should buy? I had been following some of this conversation in my limited Cantonese, and immediately pointed to the pile in silver and yellow packets. She smiled knowingly and returned to her trading. Looks like I got that call right then!


We are coming up on the hour mark before she decides to buy four of the silver and yellow packets, plus a load of other stuff. She then adds two more Lao Lin to her pile and asks me to pay the man. I knew I was enduring this torture for a very good reason : -)


We leave with a large sack and a much lighter wallet. Back at the hotel we return to our same room from the night before and are soon asleep.


Tomorrow we will travel back to Bangkok, and possibly meet up with Yupa – and you can read all about that in the next chapter of this odyssey ‘Bangkok or Bust!’