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More Random Stuff

Started writing this last night but didn't finish it. Here's the rest...

Sat in an internet cafe just of Patong beach at the moment. Have 20 minutes to wait for the bus home so here's more random stuff...

1. Journeys...
Took the Sprinter train from Hualompong station last night. I only booked the ticket on Sunday (spent the last week trying to work out how much I was likely to argue with my parents, before deciding whether to join them in Phuket or not...)

My seat was in a carriage heading to Yala. It must have been the crappiest sprinter train carriage that I've ever been in (I've taken them to or from Chiang Mai, Ubon, Chumporn and Surat before and they've usually been OK.) The seat wouldn't go back (though the lovely farang in front of me decided that he was going to push his as far back as it would go), the foot rest was broken, and the little stringey thing that you normally put your bottle of water and book in had 3 giant holes in it. Though, I have to admit, I was glad about the holes.I spent 7 hours with my knees wedged, at an awkward angle against the seat in front. Thanks to the holes I only had a small cross weave pattern enbedded into my skin when the train pulled into Chumporn 7 hours later. If the seat-back pocket had been normal, my legs would have looked like they'd had a scottish kilt tattooed onto them.

There were more complaints. The metal toilet was also broken (I'm not sure how it could be broken - there aren't that many bits to break - the 'flush', a moveable flap that sends your business straight onto the track below can't have that many moving parts) and the sink leaked water all over the toilet floor.

I was one of the last people to board the train, so I had to walk though the Surat bound carriages to get to my seat. They looked OK. Well they looked like they reclined OK, and the toilet didn't smell as if it already had a journey's worth of excrement piled in it.

There's been trouble with southern bound trains this year. There have been derailments and the line occasioanally gets bombed. At one time the state railway temporarily cancelled the train services to the 'deep' south. I couldn't help wondering whether, knowing this, the company that manages the service has decided to send all the carriages too crappy to put on normal routes down there, so, if should one get bombed or de-railed, they won't lose so much.

One more complaint about the journey, the last one, I promise... When you get on the train, you get asked where you are going. 'Surat Thanee' I told them. OK, the guy said and (presumably) wrote it on his list. There were a coupl of rows of farangs in front of me. From what they were saying, it sounded liked they were heading out to the islands, Ko Tao and Ko Pgan, Ngan.

I think I dozed off quite quickly. I remember Bang Sue station, then someone shouting 'farang, farang. I came to. It was still dark. We'd stopped somewhere. I turned around and looked at the hostess. 'You' she said. 'Off now. Friends.'She pointed out of the window.
I was very confused, and barely awake enough to think of something in English, let along in Thai. These people weren't my firends. Sure, I'd smiled at them but I smile at everyone. White faces were the only thing we had in common. I was going to Surat. We couldn't be there already.. could we ? Last time I'd caught this train I'd gotten off in Chaiya. It was around 7.30 in the morning. Chaiya was before Surat. There was no way that it was that late. It was still pitch black outside. 'Tee Nee Surat Chai Mai ?' I stuttered (We're in Surat - Right ???)
'Chumporn' she said back. 'you go Chumporn'
'My chy ka - ja long tee surat" "No, I'm going to Surat" I told her.
'Chumporn' She said again, almost willing me to get up and leave the rain.'Friends'
'my chai ka' (No) I told her 'my ruu jaak gun leoi' (I don't know them at all) Can you tell me when we get to Surat please, I asked, in Thai.

I wasn't too happy at being woken up at 5am by someone who was supposed to have a clue where I was going. But I'm foreign. She probably thought she was doing me a favour, and that she was stopping me from missing my stop. Most foreigners heading south are usually going to Chumporn or to Buterworth in Malaysia. If she'd been English I'd have expected a very grovelling apology. But in Thailand no way!!! She's lost face enough by trying to wake me up. No way is she going to make it worse by apologising. I waited for her to say something. She just looked at me. I repeated my request - that she wake me up when we get to Surat. Maybe she hadn't heard, or had misunderstood. Another pause.
'Dy Ka' (sure) came the reply.
'Thanks' I said and closed my eyes before either of us did any more damage.

2. Phuket Paradise Island?

Arrived in Phuket in the middle of a 3pm rainstorm. The bus station's pretty much the same as any provincial bus station here. You get off the bus, only to be surrounded by touts trying to sell you a ticket back to Bangkok, the very place from which you've just arrived.

So far I'm not impressed. It's supposed to be a 'tropical island.' It's tropical all right. Heavy monsoon rain's as much a symbol of the tropics as coconut palm fringed beaches and searing tempratures. But, its much, much more built up than I thought it would be.

I ate lunch, booked my ticket back home on Friday night and met my parents. We took a minibus to the resort. It was still raining. I'd half hoped to catch a glimpse of the beach on the way there. According to my map there were a few little bays dotted between Phuket town and Panwa Cape. The only thing I saw, in between the raindrops were building sites, and soaking Burmese and Lao workers trudging up the hillside after a hard, and wet day's work. I guess those bays won't be illusive for that much longer.

Dad:- "You know, people at home think Thailand's a tropical paradise."
My parents came here on a friend's recommendation. Their friend's thought the hotel was excellent. It must have been. They rarely left it during their week long stay. Their only trip out being a 1 day tour of James Bond island. I'm hoping my parents don't decide to do the same thing. It would drive me crazy if I have to spent the rest of the week holed up in there.

Don't get me wrong. I do like the hotel. My bed's excellent. It's probably the comfiest bed that I've stayed in in months. The service is great too, and this morning's buffet breakfast was also pretty good. So good in fact, that it's gone 4pm and I'm still feeling full. The swimming pool looks fairly inviting too. If it hadn't rained when we arrived last night , I would definitely have taken a dip.

And, as for the beach... The hotel's at the top of a hill. The beach at the bottom has white sand, clear blue water and looks like it should be fairly quiet and peaceful. I could just about make out the hazy outlines of nearby islands. On a clear day, they'd look stunning. Yesterday they looked a murkey grey colour but, under a blue sky, they'd be bright green.

The hotel even has its own private tramway for anyone too lazy to stroll down there. It's the picture perfect beach. The kind you see in holiday brochures back home, enticing you to pick something a bit more exotic than the usual places in Greece, Spain or Majorca. I can see why my dad's friends were hooked. I can also see why people, with boring jobs at home, would spend lots of money, and months and months looking forward to being on that one beach. Just walking along it, even with a stormy black sky overhead, would make it worth the 15 hour flight alone. It's beautiful.

But, having been here for almost 3 years now, I can't help thinking that there're more to Thailand than 1 resort and 1 beach. It seems a shame to fly almost 8,000 miles to a place and do nothing except sit in 1 resort, and on 1 beach for a week, then go home again. (almost as much of a shame as spending 2 1/2 hours in an internet cafe this afternoon - but that's another story...) Thailand's a big place. A beach resort in Phuket, with Burmese staff and English, German and Scandanavian clientele is hardly a fair representation of what its like to be here.

Mum, dad and I took the shuttle bus down to Patong beach last night. It's crazy. It's like Patpong and Khao San fused together and multiplied by 10. The market alone took around 2 hours to walk through. The streets were heaving, mostly with white faced foreigners. We were offered everything from new suits, tattoos (not sure my dad has room for another one), muay Thai tickets, cheap DVD's, tours to outlying islands and ping pong ball shows.

A couple of prozzies sidled up to my dad too, asking him if he was interested in the girly bars. My mum was a bit shocked that my dad was approached, especially as he was with his wife and daughter. They're always like that, I told her. They were like that with Dave (my ex) when we were in Samui. They always came up to him.

We walked past one of the girly bar strips. Each bar had its fair share of girls and a few older white faced men chatting one of them up. My mum didn't seem to like it much.
Mum:- "It's a bit seedy. Bangkok's not like this at all."
Dad:- "That's only 'cos our Kerrie's not took us to them bits"
Its true, I haven't took them to Patpong. My mum would probably like the market, and the chance to see a 'real' ladyboy, but I'd feel really embarrassed suggesting that my family should go there, especially as we'd probably get hassled to a sex show. It's OK taking friends to see this sort of thing, but my mum and dad ???? methinks not...

As we walked down the strip, we got hassled by taxi touts too. Some on motorbikes (have already made a mental note:- do not take motorbike taxi whilst parents are here... will freak my mum out ), some in Tuk-Tuks. 'Where you go? Robinsons, Central, Lotus ?' I can't think of a wierder place to want to spend a night of your holiday.

So far, the resort beach aside, I've yet to seen something that makes Phuket look like the tropical paradise people back home percieve it to be... Or maybe, their idea of a tropical paradise is different from mine... I guess people back home expect their tropical desert island pardises to have large resorts, other foreigners, cheap beer, girly bars, markets, souvenier stalls and shopping malls too.

3. Khao Sok
I made a bit of a mistake in Surat. Instead of patiently waiting for the 200 baht backpacker minibus to Phuket, I jumped on the half empty 2nd class government bus that pulled into the train station 1/2 an hour earlier. I say it was a mistake because the 4 hour journey took almost 6. The driver crept along the road as slowly as he could, desperate for every extra fare. I didn't mind the journey though. I like long bus jounrneys. They give me a chance to read books, stare at the scenery or try and listened to whatever dodgy Thai dubbed movie or karaoke CD the hostess wants to inflict on us all.

It was a nice journey. We went through rubber plantations, small villages, then about 1/2 an hour out of Surat, huge green mountains, then limestone cliffs, swirly in mist appeared from nowhere. It had just been raining. The coach window was covered in raindrops, so I couldn't take photos but they were awesomely beautiful. They reminded me of Vang Vieng in Laos and of the cliffs in Krabi, a couple of hundred kilometres down the coast. For around 1/2 an hour I did nothing but stare out of the window. That slow crawl through the mountains made the journey. I looked on the internet earlier. They're in Khao Sok national park apparently. Definitely a place I want to try and come back to when I go back packing in a couple of months time.



Create Date : 02 ตุลาคม 2550
Last Update : 3 ตุลาคม 2550 16:43:27 น. 0 comments
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