Leaving Thailand, heading home

It's almost all over for another year. Waiting at Doha airport where the food options are poor and expensive, and don't make up for the disappointing meals on the first of my 2 flights.

As per usual it's a long journey home. I got up early and watched the sun rise in Prachuap, a cycle along the seafront. Already getting very hot. Then hanging around, my mind having already left the building. I don't want to leave. This was a place that felt very homely and was populated by similar souls wanting to be off the beaten track.

The four hour mini bus ride is actually 6, mainly due to the unbelievably congested sprawl of bkk. It doesn't leave me much time to do my planned shopping in mbk, and getting to suvarmabhumi is a rush.

The weather in brighton is 7 degrees. Looking forward to just one thing: my bed and not having no reason to stir from it!

Prachuap day 3, Christmas Day

Happy Christmas to anyone reading this.

It’s been a slow and pleasant day, waking to the lulling sound of the tide coming in and daylight breaking. In the kitchen I bump into Rita, the old German lady staying downstairs. She’s just come back from the market and inspires me to pop out at 7.45 to get a pineapple. I also buy some bags of curry paste. Much of the morning involves eating fruit and Chinese pastries on my balcony alternating with chatting to various guests from om’s and next door. Several of them are cyclists and I’m felling inspired to maybe do an extended cycle trip one day in Thailand. JJ turns up on her bike with some delicious home made pumpkin soup. I’m full, but manage to eat it then have a nap.

When I stir myself at 1.30 the overcast warm breezy weather has changed to blue sky, hot sun and blue sea. Once again I cycle South across the airbase and to the empty beach behind it. After a blissful float in the sea and some intensive reading, I’m roused by 2 military bods who move me in. Apparently this is a restricted area. Instead I go down to ao manou where the beach is now partially in shade. The sea is shallow and a bit choppy. Ok for wading but not so floating friendly. I read and dry out, then once more, like yesterday bump into Petra the German on the mountain bike I had coveted. We cycle and chat back to town. I feel ennervated by the sea and the sun. The light is beautiful and the temperature wonderful. I would like a few more days like this. Too bad that tomorrow I have to leave.

My Christmas dinner is a huge plate of rice and assorted stir fried dishes (a lot of spinach and Chinese mushrooms) which I bought as a takeaway from the vege restaurant yesterday. Stuffed and content!

Prachuap day 2 continued.

Om's house seems to be a social hub, and I spend a clue of hours there after visiting monkey temple, city shrine, and the vege restaurant. I meet Petra, a German physiotherapist who is into cycling. Our paths cross several times later when I cycle out to wat ao noi. The conversations are backgrounded by the incessant on-repeat Christmas tunes from next door. Wat ao noi is out beyond the fishing villages and amid the extensive fish breeding pools. The cave temple with the two reclining Buddhas is nothing special, but the climb up through bourgainvillia and cacti is beautiful. The adjacent main temple building is also noteworthy, being made of dark wood and having a surrounding terrace encircled by spectacular entwined naga.

The evening takes shape when JJ invited peter and me to her friend's itaLiam restaurant. It's our Christmas party, replete with snowman deely boppers, and gifts for James, her son, and her friend's daughter. Funny how asian kids are so much more endearing than British ones. The ravioli and tiramisu aren't bad, but vastly overpriced. The conversation is animated and joyful.

Back in the seafront the tide has gone out, revealing a beach. We stop in the tuk-tuk to chat to some friends. And there I teach James some vocab. When I set off home alone along the promenade he runs after me and onto the beach, where I go for a last gasp if air. We high five several times before I go off to bed for a long looked forward to sleep.

Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan

It’s the middle of the night of course. There are people asleep on benches at the pretty station. I wander outside and a motorcycle taxi rider accosts me, and offers to take me to a hotel. After looking at 3 vastly over-priced dives, and seeing the preponderance of bars and spying drunk farangs staggering home to bed, I decide that this is probably not the place for me. I ask the driver to drop me at an Internet cafe and let me sort myself out. The cafe is sordid, stinky, squalid. Battered plastic seats, rows of large screens, litter all around and about 5 or 6 teens either asleep or falling asleep playing soothing or driving games.

A quick bit of research leads me to decide to head down the coast to Prachuap Khiri Khan. Waiting for the minibus at the clock tower I hear the sound of a voice drilling orders. Across the road is a school yard and a peek at yellow shirted students performing aerobic exercises en masse, led by someone on a stage. The mini bus fills with locals on the way to work, and drops me in Prachuap at around 7.45.

 

Nakhon si Thammarat day 3

Ning and co come and pick me up at 7.45 to take me to the class at the uni. It's raining.

They tell me the students will be so surprised, and excited. The uni is about 8 miles out of the city, at the foot of a mountain (which freshers climb, believing conquering it will enable them to graduate). At the far end of the entrance driveway is a massive seated Buddha.

This is the university of communication studies. I meet the vice dean, who is a northerner and an ex-well-known radio dj. She also shows gratitude for my coming and wishes her students to swell the size of the group to over 50.

We have to remove shoes, both teachers and students. The classroom is quite formal in layout and has a raised wooden stage and a framed portrait of the king at the teacher's end. Students are in uniform, though rather scruffily, of white shirt and black trousers/skirt. They are a rag-tag bunch. Pretty little girls, some with powdered white faces and finely plucked eyebrows. Callow boys with moustaches and open top buttons. Some Muslim girls with head scarves, a rather ballsy loud girl with a top knot, brimming with personality and playing to the teachers and crowd. The teacher uses a microphone, which seems somehow to create a distance between her and the class. She greets them in English and is replied by a clumsy chorus. It's difficult and slow to manage the class into small groups, and I don't think they, or the teacher are used to this more dynamic and interactive pattern. The vision was that the students would ask me questions… I get involved in setting up how this could work. Smaller groups. Time to prepare….

Their English is mostly quite poor. They have trouble constructing questions. In the end most manage to ask me my name. The girls want to know if I'm married. The boys get energised when we talk about football. Their are some odd questions: ” do you think x is a hermaphrodite?” !!! ” what is your motto?” (I have to think, but end up with some cliche that they might understand : life is short, so enjoy it..). Anyway I have a lot of fun chatting to them,but I'm not convinced they learnt very much. At. The end there was a surprise. One of the girls stood up and made a speech she had written, expressing the class's appreciation for my coming. Then 3 girls, one with a ukulele, sandy a song in English..something like ” we hope you enjoyed the show”. This was followed by 3 more girls (never the boys) singing and doing a little dance in thai, led by the flamboyant girl. Later I Learn that in her interview for the uni, she stated that her ambition was to be a star!

After lunch we visit the teacher' s house. Very impressive. Just build, airy, spacious. Contains a shrine. Ning says I should drive her car to trang, rather than her. Well, my first time driving a car in Thailand, first time diving an automatic…not a big deal, but the weather is dreadful. Heavy rain, pools of water on the road. By the time we get to tang the rain is easing, but I'm still unsure of what to do. Go to libong, another island, stay in tang City, go elsewhere….amazingly, although I've only been ther once, I'm able to easily navigate us to the centre and the place where I can get some concert info about the weather and the availability of accommodation and of transfers to the islands. I make up my mind to go back to ko muk. We get some fruit and set off, then down comes the rain. I sense Ning thinks this is a bad idea, though she won't actually say so. She mentions getting a train somewhere. I pull over and check my train timetable. There's a train going north in an hour. I have to make a decision, now or never. We go back to the station and I get a sleeper to hua hin, basically because anywhere else would mean arriving in the middle of the night, or be too close to bkk.

I get an Indian meal to eat on the train, and Ning and I finally say goodbye. She drives back to hat Yai,and I settle into a peaceful ride and a sleep, I hope. However the guy in the next seat strikes up a conversation. He is a flabby, stinky American called mike. Turns out he is a psychology professor at a bkk uni. He. Smells of booze, and eventually he lets on that the clear liquid in his bottle is whisky, and it smells quite surgical. He offers me a nip. It's strong, and I can see now he is a bit pissed. Later he tells me he enjoyed talking with me, thinks I'm a smart guy. It's funny how so many people seem to latch onto me and want to tell me their life story, which he does. It's full of conspiracy, hardship, fighting court cases, being branded a terrorist by his family for expunging anti- American views. He feels in-American, despises the place and the people,and has lived in Cambodia and now thai land for 20 years or so. Something he tells me is quite creepy. It's about the murde of the. British tourists. He says he knows who e killer was, and that this person is high up and connected to the royals. This person is a student at his uni,. Nothing will be proven against him. Conspiracy, cover-up, scapegoating of the burmese workers. Hearsay….

I sleep until 3.30. Get off at hua hin at 4.20.

 

Prachuap Khiri Khan day 2

I get up reasonably early to a cool breeze.

 

I feel invigorated and spend a relaxing and enjoyable few hours climbing then hanging out on the mountain on the northern side, khao chong Krajok. There is another temple here, a scruffy group of buildings, a gold stupa, colourful bushes and a lot of monkeys. The steps and trees are full of them, and I feel like I'm invading their territory. Some are scabby and mangy. Their principle past-time seems to be picking fleas off each other. They are not exactly aggressive but a bit intimidating. I see a young boy with a bag of corn, bought from an old man with no teeth. Suddenly he is shrieking as scores of the beasts are at his feet, jumping up, all around him.

 
 
 
 

 

I have found a great and chilled out vegetarian restaurant, which also does a wonderful chocolate smoothie. Everywhere else sells seafood, so this place has already become my regular haunt.

Back at om's peter is having tea. I join him and JJ brings me some sticky rice which is cooked by steaming it inside bamboo cane. The Austrian next door seems to have lost it..or has decided to piss everyone off today. He is playing a cd of Christmas songs done in a kitschy oomp pah Austrian style. Frosty the bloody snowman in a tropical climate. It's beyond irritating….

 

Prachuap Khiri Khan day 1

It's a breezy morning, I find the seafront quickly. Waves are blowing up against the beach wall and splashing the occasional dog walker and cyclist.

I'm really lucky with finding a room at om's house. Right on the seafront, second floor, balcony overlooking the curved bay, bookended on each side with steep pointed karst mountains. After a sleep I set off on a languid bike ride South of the town heading for ao manao beach. It's a strange landscape as the road passes through a military airbase called wing 5, and I actually have to cycle across the runway to get to the next little bay. Ao manao isn't much to shout about. A scraggly beach next to the road shaded by palms and taken up mostly by empty deck chairs. On the other side of the road are various activities, such as horse riding in a coral, archery ( this is the only one open). It's all very low key and local. Further on is a fishing port, klongwan. Trawlers are out in the bay, it's not exactly an idyllic fisher village, so I turn around and go back past the marine science centre, which has an amazing array of topiary creations in its garden. This must be a fashion here, as the splendi temple opposite also has some well maintained sculpted bushes.

 

 

Back though ao manao, there is a road that veers right, and goes around a golf course and through the military camp. Historically this is an important piece of land, as there was a battle then armistice signed between the Thais and japs in 1941. Amid the barracks, between the beaches, and next to the moored fishing boats is a little memorial to the armistice.

 

At the end of this strip of land is a very steep and pretty high limestone peak, khao lommuak. At the base are black faced monkeys, very unafraid, and non-aggressive. One of them leaps onto my back as I'm crouching to take photos.

Not really knowing what it would entail I set up the steps to climb this mountain. Wearing my less suitable shoes. The first third of the climb is steep tiring steps, but the rest is much tougher. No steps, just sharp, jagged walls of rock and helpfully laid ropes connected to strategic trees of metal posts driven into the ground. The sear needed in order to pull yourself up. It's hard work and quite far. Some Thais are coming down, some in flip flops. Everyone suffering. The view from. The top is amazing, stretching in all directions, high above the town. I wonder how on earth the materials were transported to the top to build the little shrine there. And why…!

 
 
 

 

The evening is low key. I met several people who are repeat visitors, not only to Prachuap, but also to om's. I'm glad I wasn't staying next door. The owner there is a gruff Austrian who was steaming drunk at 10 in the morning.apparently he is bad news, and JJ, the lady running om's has had some disagreements with him. JJ is a strong hard- working single mum, with a cute 5 year old sun, who looks rather likea vampire with his missing front teeth, and pointed canines, devilish grin and red waistcoat. JJ dotes on him and they are very close. She shows me lots of photos of him, and extols his prowess in swimming, independence, and helpfulness. He appears to bear wally smart kid. She tells me to treat om's as my home, and she really does mean this. I can see why people often come back here.