My apologies for the break in service mid-week, but as you will see, I have been more than a little occupied since last weekend.
When I visited the UK last August, some of you may recall that I went to a weekend reunion up in Northumberland, near Newcastle, where I met up with a number of friends that I hadn’t seen for years, many not since I was a teenager.
Well one of these guys, the son of an older, very dear friend of mine,(long deceased), was there, and, as with all the others who attended, I made blanket invitation to him to drop by Pattaya and look me up, at any time they were passing my neck of the woods.
You’ve guessed it – this particular gentleman sent me an email a couple of months back and asked if he and his lady could drop by for 6 days on their way back from a trip to Oz.
Well I couldn’t refuse, even if I wanted to, and it was with a little trepidation that Noo and I took off of the airport to pick them up last Monday night, the plane arriving from Sidney at the unspeakable time of half past midnight.
I needn’t have worried. Noo and I have had the most wonderful time showing them around, and I confess that I have had one of the most enjoyable weeks in Thailand than I have had in a very long time.
Usually, when friends and family come to visit, I have generally found it more of a chore than a pleasure to drive them around and take care of them, and I have always been seriously out of pocket – as everyone seems to come to Thailand with the idea of having a nice cheap holiday at my expense and leave poor old Mobi to pick up most of the tabs.
But not so, ‘Carnie’, (Joss Carnes, known by one and all as ‘Carnie’), and his lovely lady, Sally.
Carnie is just a few years younger than me and is a giant of a man, around 6 feet four, probably around 18 stone (250 pounds) with a rugby player-like physique and a full blown beard and long flowing hair to match.
He is one of the world’s gentle giants. A lovely man, as is Sally, his lady of about three years, and we had a hilarious and great time together; and the couple more than paid their way – the first time ever for this Thailand host..
Carnie has spent most of his adult life in Cornwall and owns a substantial garage and motor repair shop down there and seems to have done OK in his life; so the loving couple have decided it is time to travel the world before they get too old to enjoy it, hence their unexpected arrival on my doorstep.
So my apologies for those who have been awaiting my next selection of scantily clad females, as in this blog I am going to bore you all with a selection of photos that I took during the week’s travels, in and around Pattaya, and even further afield, as you will see below.
You’ve all seen pics of Pattaya, so I will start off with a few pics of the new-ish Floating Market, about 10 kilometres south of Pattaya which seems to get bigger and better, every time I visit it.
Then we drove further south, to the area of the Wat Yansangwararam complex which has some beautiful and unusual temple buildings, all of which I have taken many photos of through the years.
However, one particular building, set at the back of the main area, has always been closed off and I have been unable to get close to take a proper photograph. This time, I was pleasantly surprised to find it open and was able to drive in and at long last take a few pics to add to my ‘Wat Yansangwararam‘ collection.
We then drove the few kilometres to Pattaya ‘Buddha Mountain’ where, so it is claimed, they have the largest Buddha Image in the world. It is 130 meters tall and 70 meters wide. The carving is inlaid with gold and has been carved into the rock by laser technology in 1990 and was officially opened in 1993 by His Majesty King Bhumibol.
Close to the ‘Buddha Mountain’ is the extensive grounds of Silver Lake Vineyards, and genuine wine producing vineyard ,which looks as though it is also slowly being turned into a theme park.
I have taken many photos of the Buddha Mountain and the vineyards on previous visits so did not bother to add to my collection on this occasion.
Finally to much photographed Bang Sarae, where I was dismayed to discover that my favourite all time sea food restaurant was closed for the day! Not to worry, we drove along to one of the main fishing boat piers and found another large restaurant which was completely devoid of customers. I usually avoid such establishments, but we decided to take the plunge, and weren’t disappointed.
I guess it was just an ‘off day’ after the mad rush of the Xmas and New Year period, and the food was, fresh, well-cooked and, most importantly, very cheap. I reckon the same meal in one of the down-town Pattaya establishment would have been treble or even quadruple the price.
The ambience wasn’t as good as my usual restaurant, but it wasn’t that bad and we enjoyed a great meal, and had the place all to ourselves as a special bonus.
The next day we set off early for a trip to two places that I thought might interest Carnie and Sally; namely Pang Pa-In and Ayutthaya.
I have been to Ayutthaya on a number of occasions abut only once to Bang Pa-In, which I remembered was a lovely, peaceful place, and on my previous visit I had taken many photos but had subsequently lost the camera memory card, (drunks tend to do things like this), and wanted to fill my photo collection gap.
It was just over two hours to drive to Bang Pa-in from Pattaya, arriving at the Palace grounds with little incident, but for some unaccountable reason we, (i.e.Mobi), couldn’t to locate the Palace entrance. We drove round and round the outside of the high Palace walls in ever decreasing circles, until eventually Noo had to ask a passing noodle seller, who pointed to the Palace gate, barely 10 meters from where we had stopped!
Then we, (i.e. Mobi), tried to drive right through the Palace gate, only to be accosted by the Palace guards, who at one point looked as though they may open fire upon me, but in the end they contented themselves with ushering me furiously into a nearby car park located outside the main gate from where we made our way on foot to the elusive Palace entrance.
No doubt my mad cow’s disease is coming along apace….
If any of my Thai based readers haven’t been to Bang Pa-In, I urge you to go. It is a beautiful place which is steeped in peace, calm and tranquillity. I could actually spend a whole day there, just wandering slowly around the beautiful gardens, admiring the architecture, the gardens and lakes and contemplating life.
Hopefully, the photos below give you a taste of what you can expect.
Ayutthaya is only few kilometres down the road from Bang Pa-In, but the city is very large, and as you can imagine, we had a right royal time finding our way to the centre where many of the ancient monuments are located. My guests were quite amused at my lack of planning or lacking any kind of a detailed map for the trip, but it added to, rather than detracted from our enjoyment of the day.
As we motored around the province we saw much evidence of the devastating floods, which in some places had risen as much as three meters in height and had created such disruption, loss of homes and livelihoods to the good citizens of Ayutthaya.
But as ever, we finally followed our noses and found our way to two of the major historical sites. The first site was so damaged by the floods that it had been completely cordoned off go prevent visitors from getting too close and damaging the already flood damaged monuments even further.
The second site we visited was the main site for visitors and most of this was open for view and closer inspection.
You may note that I have included many trees in my photo collections, as I have a deep love and reverence for trees and find so many of them – frankly -awe-inspiring. Sometimes trees come close to convincing me that there must be a divine being out there somewhere….
Look at the first photo below. You can see clearly the white ‘rings’, high up on the branches, which show the level of the floods – quite amazing.
By way of a diversion, I managed to capture a Thai squirrel running down a tree to have his supper, in a nearby car park.
Late in the afternoon we went looking for an elephant encampment, but were too late and the site was almost deserted, except for a few elephants in the far distance, left out to graze overnight. There was also an interesting Chedi which had somehow survived all alone in what was now a bit of a bleak wilderness.
How about those ‘fan’ palm trees on the horizon?
Note the dried up elephant footprints caused by wading through the flooded earth.
Can you believe I hadn’t been anywhere near Walking Street for over two years, so on Friday night I broke the habit of a lifetime and took my two visitors to savour some of the delights of that infamous area.
Before we took the plunge, we stopped by Hard Rock Café, a kilometre or so down the road from Walking Street, to enjoy their huge burgers and to be entertained by a very loud, but a very good Philippine hard rock band.
On my previous visits to Hard Rock Café through the years, the bands had always played a mixture of mainly pop and not much rock so it was with some pleasure and surprised that we sat through nearly two sets in which every single song was a genuine rock number – both old and modern. Then, at around 1 am, to my utter astonishment, they suddenly broke into ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba. We hastily paid our bill and departed before they decided to follow up with the Birdie song or Aga doo….
Walking Street hadn’t changed much, although there seemed to be a distinct lack of Lady Boys littering the side-walks who had been so ubiquitous during previous visits. I can only assume that the BIB has discouraged their presence, presumably due to their increasingly dubious reputation of beating up, robbing and drugging tourists.
My guests expressed an interest in viewing a go-go bar, so I took them to one of the seediest that I could remember from my former life. In this particular den of ill repute, as well as the usual batch of bikini clad lovelies trotting their stuff out on the bar, there was as area where stark naked ladies busied themselves getting soaped up before slithering and sliding around the wet stage in ever more suggestive and erotic poses.
Beyond this platform was yet another stage where more naked women were beating each other with black rubber hoses and punters were queuing up to be also beaten by the naked ladies.
My guests were somewhat taken aback by this outrageous, in your face erotica and we didn’t stay too long, although afterwards they told me that they had enjoyed the experience – most enlightening…
We walked the gauntlet of ‘Walking’, weaving our way in and out of the detritus of Walking Street society and finally, at Noo’s entreaties, we ended up in one of the main disco clubs of Pattaya.
I haven’t been in a Disco, (‘club’ to the rest of the world), for literally years and years. Even when I stayed with my last wife we never entered one together. She always went alone, (with friends that is…), and on the odd rare occasion when she tried to persuade me to go in with her, I would politely decline, whereupon I would immediately become embroiled in major domestic incident.
I hate these clubs. They are huge, extremely loud, very crowded, smoky, and full of drunken tourists and Thai whores. Worst of all, they play the most asinine noise that they have the affront to call music that I have ever experienced in my life. I honestly can’t imagine for all the world what it is the younger generation get from these appalling places.
Discos in my days were great places to go. They had tuneful songs, decent decoration and furbishing, and you could actually communicate with each other over the noise of the music.
Now they are just huge great barn type buildings and all you can hear is this horrible BOOM – BOOM – BOOM which goes right through to your very soul and there is absolutely no discernible melody. A club song, (I use the word ‘song’ loosely), can go on for ten minutes or more, and when it changes the next ‘song’ sounds exactly the same as the previous one.
The club we were in – aptly named ‘Insomnia’ was a massive, first floor establishment, almost devoid of seating and no decoration – it looked like an aircraft carrier. The management completely ignored the Thai smoking regulations and you could hardly breathe through the choking cigarette smoke which was potentially a fire hazard. There seemed to be only one small exit and if anything happened I am sure there could be a terrible tragedy.
Carnie and I let Noo and Sally bump and grind their bodies through an hour of this torture, before I called it a day and we made our way back to my car and home.
No more clubs or discos for at least ten years….
Despite the late night, we rose a little early for my guests’ final day in the ‘Land of Smiles’. Our first stop was Naklua fresh fish Market, where Noo bought a load of sea food to cook at home at a little ‘farewell barbeque.
Below are some pics of Naklua beach area and the huge Naklua seafood market.
After loading up our seafood in cold chests stored in the car boot, (trunk), we stopped by a nearby tailor shop where I had arranged for Carnie to have two waistcoats made. I have known this particular tailor shop for a while now, (he made my wedding suit last year), and is one of the best tailors that I have come across in Thailand.
Here’s a pic of Carnie and his girlfriend, with Mr Paul, the tailor at his establishment, the somewhat ridiculously named ‘Prima Mode‘…
Our final stop was the Pattaya crocodile farm, which is located on the way to my home from Naklua.
The Crocodile Farm is an interesting but also a very disturbing place to visit. The gardens, together with the petrified stones and other massive rocks are breath-taking and very artistically displayed. Through the years I have taken many photos of these lovely gardens.
But the treatment of the animals there leaves much to be desired and can be quite upsetting. They stage an hourly crocodile show and it is obvious that cruelty must have been used in the training of these magnificently terrifying creatures which, uniquely, have survived millions of years of civilization and climate change.
Apart from the crocks, they have tigers, including white Siberian tigers, bears and even elephants that are chained up and the tigers are obviously drugged to keep them docile.
Some of the baby tigers had been de-clawed so that visitors could pay to feed them from giant milk bottles.. It is not a pretty sight and I can only hope that one day, something may be done about this.
But I had promised my guests a tour of Pattaya, warts and all, and that is what they got and they had no complaints. In fact, while deploring some of the things they had seen they also had a very sensible attitude to it all and understood that it is easy for us, in the west to complain about such things, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were doing a the same, if not worse things in our own country.
Victim of cruelty? – but probably by another crock…
This is probably the only animal in the park who is free from cruelty
Below, some magnificent beasts – sadly chained and drugged…
Farang tour guides – Is it legal???
Back home, Noo cooked up a storm on the barbecue and we all stuffed ourselves silly before loading up the car and driving back to the airport to say our final farewells.
I had really enjoyed their brief stay and will miss them. They were nice folk.
On Tuesday, Noo and I are going to Cha Am and Hua Hin for 2 – 3 nights, so I will do my best to get out some sort of a blog on Wednesday or Thursday, and maybe even a few saucy pics for those who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms from Mobi’s bi-weekly, sexy snaps…