Trip to Koh Chang
The past week was dominated by our little mini-break to Koh Chang, as you can see from the photos.
In days past when I owned a saloon car (sedan to you Americans), any time I went away somewhere with my wife and/or family for more than one night, it would always be a battle to cram all our things in the boot,(trunk).
In spite of our best efforts, we always ended up with a load of excess stuff that just wouldn’t fit in the boot and the poor back-seat passengers had to nurse it all the way to our destination.
But it seems that there is a rule that the amount of luggage and junk you take with you on a journey up-country will be directly proportional to the space available.
So we set off last Tuesday, at 8 a.m. with so much stuff in the back of our pick-up that anyone would have thought we were going on a three month safari. Or maybe we were going to a Thai car boot….
It is a nice, easy, 3 hour journey from Pattaya, down the 36 highway to Rayong and then join the ubiquitous Sukhumvit Road, (apparently the longest road in the world) , designated route 3, down through Chanthaburi to Trat province where the car ferry awaits visitors to Koh Chang.
I drive quite a bit slower these days, partly because I am getting older and understand the need to be more careful, partly because I no longer drive a BMW , (although the Triton has a surprising turn of speed, if I so wish to put my foot down), but mainly because I have a ‘back seat driver’ sitting next to me who continually scolds me whenever I drive too fast.
Despite all my, (and Noo’s efforts), to keep my driving within legal limits, I still managed to attract the attention of a lone cop standing in the middle of the road, somewhere near Chanthaburi, who unilaterally decided that I was speeding.
How he determined this I have no idea as there was no evidence of speed cameras or radars and he didn’t even have an accomplice situated back down the road to warn him of my coming.
It transpired that the main plank of his evidence rested on the fact that I was driving in the outside lane and that anyone in the outside lane, must, by default, be speeding.
Anyway, he was friendly young soul, who asked me if I spoke Thai. When I replied in the affirmative he proceeded to demonstrate his impressive knowledge of English with such words as ‘going too fast’ and ‘must pay money’ tending to dominate his conversation.
As luck would have it, he was from the same part of Nong Khai as Noo, and within seconds they were exchanging childhood reminiscences of such wondrous landmarks as Tha Bo food Market.
He asked Noo for 200 Baht, but Noo pleaded poverty and asked if he would accept 100. He pointed to the gold on Noo’s wrist, desperately trying to contradict her assertion of impoverishment, whereupon the gallant Mobi chimed in to remind him that gold had just taken a massive tumble in price.
This argument seemed to win the day, and he happily accepted 100 Baht and even shook my hand as I tried to wai….
We seem to have beaten most of the morning crowd to the ferry harbour but were immediately sent to the back of the line, (not easy in a pick-up truck), for trying to board the ferry without paying – well how was I to know that I was supposed to stop at a large kiosk marked ‘FERRY TICKETS’ in English and Thai.
No matter, we succeeded in securing the last slot on b0ard and parked up for the 30 odd minute journey across the Gulf of Thailand to Thailand’s second largest island, (after Phuket).
It was one of those roll-on roll-off ferries , similar to the ones they use across the English Channel to France, except about a 100 times smaller, and watching from the bow, I could see how easy it would be for a slightly swelly sea to wash over the open ends and upturn the ancient, rusty craft.
But it was a calm day and the seas was a flat as a mill pond – so no worries and we arrived at the banks of Koh Chang unscathed.
We were heading for Penny’s resort, a lower end hotel-resort, about half way around the island. I had previously experienced a lot of trouble finding this place on my Garmin sat nav and after endless searching, I eventually found it, quite by luck under the most bizarre spelling of ‘Phennies’ resort! I mean, I ask you….
Anyway, the trusty Garmin directed us to Penny’s doors – well almost. After turning off the main highway and following the signs that Penny had thoughtfully placed at strategic intervals along the road, we came to a sign that said Penny’s resort with a narrow pointing sharp left – straight at a building covered with washing lines and laundry.
Surely not! I know I booked a cheap place, but not that cheap.
Determined that this couldn’t possibly be our destination, despite the sign, we drove on a few more meters towards the coast and came to a T-junction. Noo jumped out and asked a woman sitting in a nearby restaurant and returned to inform me that Penny’s was just along on the left and that the woman had been very abrupt and rude in her reply.
Thankfully we finally found the real ‘Penny’s’. I wasn’t surprised that the woman had been a bit rude. I wonder how many travellers had been confused by the sign and had stopped to ask her the way. But then again… maybe it was just me…
Phennie’s – sorry I mean Penny’s – was nice and our room was quite exceptional. Very clean, modern, a good size, with fridge, TV, functioning aircon and loads of tables, hooks and electric outlets – all the things I look for in a room for all my junk. Noo’s son was provided with a separate mattress and there was still loads of room for the three of us to swing our cats.
Noo had brought a whole load of stuff so that we could cook our own breakfasts as I had quite forgotten to tell her that the room rate included free breakfast! Ah well, I still enjoyed the early morning coffees.
The resort had a quaint bar and restaurant and a small swimming pool which was just in front of a scenic, but rocky coast line.
All in all, very pleasant.
After stuffing ourselves silly with sea food at a nearby restaurant we drove to the nearest sandy beach which had public access and Noo and Dom took a brief little dip.
There followed a slow drive southwards around the island, stopping whenever we found access to a beach or a sea view. We drove almost as far south as possible and then retraced our steps to Penny’s, where we collapsed, semi-exhausted on our beds.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the temperatures on Koh Chang were several degrees below those in Pattaya and as such, a lot more tolerable, which made our afternoon treks even more pleasurable.
Leaving Dom in the room to watch a load of cartoon-type rubbish on TV, Noo and I went out in search of a steak dinner. Driving northwards, we soon came across a brightly lit strip of bars and restaurants. After a brief stroll we settled on a place which was unusually named ‘Monkeys Bar and Restaurant’.
It was an elegant establishment and boasted and extensive international menu, including a steak section – the most expensive items on the menu. Never mind, we rarely spoil ourselves on such luxuries, so we both opted for the rib eye steaks with usual trimmings.
The steaks were quite possibly the worst steaks I have ever had the misfortune to eat anywhere in Thailand, and believe me I have had some ‘turkeys’ through the years. The steaks were almost inedible – full of fat and gristle and even the meat that did exist was barely chewable. They were absolutely atrocious.
Now I know that in years gone by, we may have been chancing our arm a little by ordering steak in a Thai restaurant, but in more recent times in Pattaya, we have had steaks in local restaurants on numerous occasions, and the meat has always been there or there about – quite palatable and often very good.
So I had no reason to suspect that as the steaks held pride of place in the menu, that I was about to be served one of the worst meals of my life.
The thing I just don’t get, is why would a supposedly decent looking restaurant, run by two Brits with their Thai wives, obviously catering to foreign tourists, not try to do their best to provide the punters with acceptable fayre?
Why would they dare to serve up such terrible food?
Ignorance? Nah! There is no way that the proprietors weren’t aware that they were serving up sub-standard meat.
Do they not care what their customers think? OK, it’s a passing trade so maybe they don’t care. If they really cared about their reputation, and if they couldn’t get hold of decent meat at a decent price, then why didn’t they just remove the items from the menu?
It never ceases to amaze me how many hundreds upon hundreds of farangs who have had no previous experience of running a business, much less a restaurant or a bar, come to Thailand and think they are God’s gift to the food and beverage business.
Ah well, after spending more time trying to dig the gristle out of our teeth with tooth picks than we spent trying to eat it, we made a hasty retreat and stopped by a nearby 7/11 to pick up some food for Noo’s son.
I must say I was jealous of his distinctly unhealthy feast and even five days later, I am still suffering from sore teeth!
Day two dawned to greet another sun-filled sky and we enjoyed our hotel buffet breakfast before setting out to drive and then walk to Khlong Phlu Waterfall.
The waterfall was a good half a kilometre trek from the parking area, and I initially thought would this would be no problem for an ageing but hopefully semi-fit Mobi.
Boy was I wrong!
It might have only been 500 metres, but the route was ever upwards, through dense jungle terrain , up rocky, narrow paths, over rickety bridges and undergrowth, climbing higher and higher to the base of the waterfall.
The humidity must have been close to 100% and before I had walked a 100 meters I was totally exhausted and dripping with sweat.
About 11 years ago, I went on a mini-break to Khao Yai National Park with my then-wife, Dang and spent two days traversing similar paths to hidden, distant waterfalls. On that occasion, I took it all in my stride. In fact, I well recall Dang telling me how pleased she was that I was ‘up to’ all the strenuous exercise – she was most impressed.
How the mighty Mobis have have fallen. I am clearly a mere shadow of my former self and have a long, long way to go before I can consider myself even halfway fit.
But I refused to be defeated and slowly but surely I struggled along the ever climbing path and eventually made it to the view point – totally spent, but still in one piece.
Frankly it was an eye opener, as I had dared to think I was much fitter. I have been taking a walk every evening for quite a while now, and including the time I also spend walking the dogs, I’m probably exercising almost an hour a day.
But I now realise that it has probably been a bit too easy, and I’m not really pushing myself at all. It has just been a gentle daily stroll along more or less flat countryside. As for the rest of my day – well I hardly move from my computer desk at all, which is clearly no good for me.
So I am resolved to change my fitness regime. I have some hard days a-coming – and I need to be much fitter if I am to take on the challenges of trying to make a living in my old age.
After we, (well Mobi anyway), had recovered from our waterfall adventure, we decided to drive northwards to the far tip of the island and then take a long drive down the eastern side, past the ferry harbour, to the south eastern end.
It was much further than I had thought and about three quarters of the way there, we became ridiculously hungry. As luck would have it, we came across a very picturesque Thai/Vietnamese restaurant, nestled alongside the coast, with a beautiful view of the ocean beyond. Lovely food and great service.
Koh Chang cuisine had redeemed itself after the horrific monkey steaks of the night before.
Back at Penny’s room, I was all in, and Noo and Dom took off to buy some junk food for me to eat later. No more Monkey Steaks.
On Thursday we woke in time to enjoy our free breakfast and then set off for the long journey home.
It wouldn’t have been that long except that we had to wait over an hour at the ferry crossing and once having successfully navigated the Gulf of Thailand yet again, we had to drive extra slowly for quite a while as Noo sussed out the best place to stop and purchase a small stock of durians – which are very much in season right now.
Noo is totally obsessed with durians, those wonderful, spiky, tasty fruits, (or so I am told!), with a smell so bad they are banned from all the top Thai hotels…
(She was allowed to buy three of these sweet tasting, foul smelling ‘objects’ with strict instructions that they must be consumed outdoors.)
Once the offending fruits were duly purchased, treble-wrapped and stacked in the rear of the pick-up, we made up for lost time and were back indoors by 3.30 p.m.
Our four dogs gave us a tumultuous welcome and behaved as though we had been away for a year.
Hey Hansum man! – Where you go?
Any visitors to the bar scene in Thailand will be very familiar with the timeless phrase that has been shouted out by bar girls to punters who stroll past their places of employment, since the dawn of time – well since the beginning of bars anyway.
It matters little whether the man being inveigled is indeed a genuine masculine hunk of ‘Adam-like’ proportions, or some dirty, ancient, pot-bellied, tattooed, bald freak of a specimen.
They are all ‘hansum men’ in the eyes of the hookers and provided they have the price of a drink in their pockets, they are all worthy of their undivided attention.
It struck me the other day that the Saudi Arabian government might like to utilise the services of these Thai ‘experts’ on the male form to hunt out those young Arab men with such overwhelming aesthetic qualities that they present a clear and present danger to all womanhood.
Yes… maybe, but clearly there is a serious problem in this most conservative of republics.
Three men were recently forcibly removed from an annual culture festival in Saudi Arabia and subsequently sent back to the UAE after it was deemed that women would find them irresistible.
The delegates from the United Arab Emirates were in attendance at a heritage & culture festival in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, when religious police officers stormed the stand and evicted the men because they were too handsome.
The three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they were too handsome and that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices feared female visitors might fall in love with them.
You think I’m joking?
Afraid not, it’s 100% true.
However, I do have some doubts as to official the reason as to why these exceptionally ‘handsome men’ were deported.
After all, even if the Saudi women were attracted to them, it is inconceivable in a country where the women are only allowed out in the company of their husbands, and then in a totally subjugated role, that anyone would have the opportunity, let alone the sheer balls, (excuse the expression), to become acquainted with temporary male visitors to their country.
I’d say nigh on impossible.
So what was the real reason?
Well, having spent the best part of three years in Emirates many years ago, it did not escape my attention that a vast percentage of the local population were in fact homosexuals.
Women were kept at home to procreate, and the young men hung around with their boyfriends in coffee shops and restaurants and it was a common sight to see them all kissing and holding hands with each other almost anywhere.
I also saw it when I lived at a camp out in the desert, where it seemed that the entire male Indian and Arab population of the entire area were having it off with each other. It was all accepted as the norm.
So I wouldn’t mind a small wager that the real reason these hansum young men were deported had a lot more to do with their homosexual tendencies and their effects on the local male population than anything to do with corrupting the shackled and burqua’d female population.
Why else would the UAE release an official statement indicating that the religious police were anxious over the unexpected presence of an unnamed female artist in the pavilion. Apparently, her visit to the UAE stand was a coincidence as it was not included in the programme which had been provided to the festival’s management.
Sounds like load of old balls to me…..
Drunk, but legally in charge…
Strange but true.
A plan has been approved by councillors in Kerry, South western Ireland which will empower police to issue permits to allow the holders to override the legal alcohol limit, when driving home from pubs after an evening’s tipple.
The motion was passed by five votes to three, with seven abstentions – though 12 councillors were absent for the vote which took place towards the end of a long meeting.
Rumours have it that the missing councillors had adjourned to a nearby pub.
A number of the councillors who approved the measure are reportedly themselves pub owners – but the councillor who proposed the motion denied that this had influenced the vote….
He maintained that people could apply for the permits who lived in isolated rural areas where there’s no public transport of any kind, and they ended up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they can’t risk losing their licence.
He agreed that there was merit in having a stricter rule of law when there’s a massive volume of traffic and busy roads with high speed. But on the rural roads he was talking about, you couldn’t do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour and it’s not a big deal.
The current drink-driving rules were forcing an older generation to stay at home. All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music and the singing, that’s all being lost to the younger generation.
These older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem because the younger generation don’t see them at all any more.
He might have a point….
Or, how about the local pubs forking out for a ‘door to pub’ bus service?
My God! Aluminium existed 7500 years ago?
Not only did aluminium exist in the stone age, but apparently it came in fully extendible ladders.
Well it did according to the BBC, and if it was on the BBC , then it must be so.
The other night I was BBC World News when they had an item on Stone Henge, informing us that archaeologists have now established that there were settlement in the a region of Stone Henge some 7,500 years ago – 5,000 years earlier than previously thought.
On top of this, the folks at Stone Henge are now seeking to hire a General Manager for a salary of £65,000, whose duties will include ‘liaising with druid leaders and overseeing arrangements for summer and winter solstices.’
English Heritage’s spokesman said it was “important to ensure we keep the dignity of the stones”.
Sounds easy, I reckon I could do that. Shall I apply?
However, the real bombshell arrived near the end of the news segment when BBC showed us volunteers building stone age dwellings by hand, using only local materials that were available 7,500 years ago. We were reliably informed that the dwellings were being built in exactly the same way as they would have been constructed all those thousands of years ago.
So imagine my shock when the camera panned over to the roof of a half -finished house and zoomed in on a worker climbing an aluminium ladder that had been placed against it. Sure enough, there was a gallant volunteer, doing his thatching from atop the ladder.
I wonder what other present-day accoutrements that we previously thought belonged to the 20th/21st Century, were actually around in primordial history?
Bahrain– again… and again… and again…
That veritable pearl in the Arabian gulf, home to prestigious Grand Prixs and home to the American fifth Fleet, just can’t stay out of the news.
So what’s happened now?
Nothing much, really…
On the day of the race, protesters blocked several roads and police fired tear gas at a school in Bahrain.
Scores of police cars and a couple of armoured vehicles stood along the highway from the capital Manama to the race circuit. The number of security in some areas was more than the number of protesters, according to a spokesman for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Immediately after the infamous race, during which dozens more protesters were arrested, permission was denied for the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, to visit the country.
The previously planned trip, (previous to the 2013 Grand Prix), has been postponed indefinitely by the Bahraini government and Mendez stated that it was effectively a cancellation.
“Let me be clear,” he said, “this was a unilateral decision by the authorities. Unfortunately, it is not the first time the Government has tried to avoid responsibility for the postponement of my visit, which was originally supposed to take place over a year ago.”
The special rapporteur called on the Bahraini government to “honour its commitments” and spoke of his “compassion with the people of Bahrain who were expecting my visit, and in particular, victims of torture and ill-treatment and their families”.
And just what did that self-appointed, human rights champion, the billionaire spokesman Bernie ‘knucklehead’ Eccleston have to say about his precious Bharain Grand Prix
“The government here are stupid to put this race on. It is a platform for people to use protesting,” he said.
“MPs are good, we see them once a year, we never see them otherwise. They suddenly pop up, which is good because no-one knows who they are and suddenly get their name in the paper so it does good for everybody.
“At least the groups who are there are talking with each other and trying to sort things out. I’m speaking to the leader of the opposition after qualifying.”
I mean how disingenuous can you get? Doesn’t it make you want to vomit?
There’s only one thing this power hungry megalomaniac is interested in, and that is to make more and more filthy lucre from his obscenely expensive Grand Prixs.
Nothing else matters, and he will say anything to anybody to try and justify the continuation of races, regardless of the death, suffering, torture and blatant human rights abuses in the host country.
While we are on the subject of states who imprison their citizens without trial, who routinely commit unspeakable acts of torture, and are guilty of widespread abuse human rights – AND ARE ALSO CLOSE MATES WITH THE AMERICANS – let’s take a quick look at the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.
This enlightened country locks up opposition activists without trial for years, it’s prison authorities routinely beat prisoners and use electric shocks, asphyxiation and sexual humiliation to extract information and confessions.
Participants in unregistered religious services are beaten, fined, threatened and intimidated, and religious literature which is not state-approved, including the Bible, is often confiscated and destroyed.
The authorities routinely carry out forced abortions on their women before brutally sterilizing them – locally known as the government ‘reproductive health’ program.
Uzbekistan is a lightly populated country of some 21 million where the only recognised religions are orthodox Christianity and Judaism, but where the majority of the population are of the Muslim faith.
These barbaric sterilization measures are nothing short of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and everyone knows it.
Certainly the freedom loving, human rights promoting Americans do. Even they ain’t that stupid.
Uzbekistan is included in Freedom House’s list of “The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies”
Yet apart from making some muted noises of protest, (as they also do in the case of Bahrain), the Yanks let nothing disturb from their main purpose.
Following the cock-up with Pakistan, when an American attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, and Pakistan cut off NATO’s access to the border with Afghanistan, some 75% of America’s supply traffic to Afghanistan now passes through the sleepy, dusty streets of Termez in Uzbekistan and over the Friendship Bridge to the Afgan border.
Apart from giving the barbarous Uzbekistan over $12 million dollars in annual aid, our allies across the pond have largely turned their backs on the wanton human rights violations, torture and killing that goes on in the country.
Why? Because it is in the best interests of America to keep on the right side of the criminal Karimov who has despotically ruled Uzbekistan since the Soviet era, back in the early 90’s.
Click here for this week’s collection of Mobi-Pics