Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Van, Boat, Bike and Foot

Tranquil beaches await in Cha Am

The morning of our departure for Cha Am, Teddy was holding a sign that said “Primo” when the Monkey Man exited Wendy House looking for our ride. It took him a minute to realize that “Primo” really meant “Monkey Man.”

Modest wear for the whole family
The van was parked around the corner. 36/2 Soi Kasemsan 1, Rama 1 Road, Palumwan, was much too narrow for traffic to go around the behemoth vehicle. We made our quick hellos to Teddy and all loaded in for the ride to Cha Am. Teddy had been in Bangkok for business the night before, so it was perfect that he could pick us up. Right off the bat, he described his long-standing friendship to the board of the Cambodia Academy and especially Hans, it’s founder who died about a year ago. He knew that Monkey Man was new on the board and he radiated a concern of a parent that he personally needed to meet anyone who was associated to his old friend Hans.
Hans Eide

We left Bangkok via its Port by taking Big Road 4, toward Singapore. Cha Am lies within the State of Phetchaburi, not to be confused with the city of Phetchaburi. The city is our half-way point and a stop where you have Amazon coffee, fill up with natural gas and pee. Teddy’s van runs on natural gas, as do many, many of the large vehicles Thailand. The ride had been smooth sailing and Teddy was able to make good time in spite of the flooding. Teddy also forgot to tell us about the flooding when we began this morning.
Downtown Phetchaburi - Jeep contains Safety Officers
Thailand had been hit by the remnants of Typhoon Damrey, early in November. In response to the high-water table at the The Kaeng Krachan Dam in Phetchaburi, those in charge opened the flood gates-so to speak. Big Road 4: 6 lanes winding thru the city of Phetchaburi thru the lowest lying sections of town. This road is the main artery from Indonesia to Thailand and beyond. There was a swift current of water running over 4 like a babbling brook. Homes and businesses where mostly underwater, though we saw a few that were sandbagged. Teddy estimated that depth of the water to be between 3-4 feet. Teddy wasn’t as concerned as we, as he indicated that this happened every time they open the floodgates and that usually happened a couple of times a year.

Our arrival at PJ Park – the subdivision where Prima and Primo reside- brought out all the neighbors to see who had arrived. The park is a bright, inviting Soi, 2 blocks from the beach. Each condo is identical, yet all are painted in a riot of color. It’s an old enough of a community, where throughout the years, owners have placed their own unique flairs to personal property. Each has a carport and upstairs balcony porch (where lots of laundry is done). The condo is 2BR/2BA. Ours has air. Yay!
All 4 bikes on the carport at PJ Park
First order of business: Lunchy!  Then onward to the beach to rent bikes for Monkey Man and myself. Primo and Prima have no car/motorcycle – it’s beach bikes everywhere. For the next 3 days’, we will bike all over town, like a native. The rental process was not cut and dry as each bike had to be tested and retested before a decision was to be made. Is it better to have brakes or tread on the tires? Somewhere in a perfect world, there should be both, but this is Thailand.
All types of bikes for rent at Cha Am Beach

Cha Am Part 1- Getting There

Porn is a legit name in Thailand
Have I mentioned that to fly anywhere in SE Asia, you had to go thru Bangkok?

Did I happen to mention that there were no good massages in Laos?
Wat Arun at dusk from the Chayo Pria River

Given that information, is it any wonder that Monkey Man and I planned for a 2 -layover in Bangkok, for the express purpose of having more massages after we left Luang Prabang? We even stayed at the notorious Wendy Hotel again; with its windowless rooms and steep staircase, due to its location across the Soi from the most excellent Spa we were familiar with.

I want to eat here always!
Arriving late, we needed to nourish ourselves before having an 8pm, one-hour long, foot/leg massage. Not more than 2 blocks away from the Wendy, is a large shopping center - MBK, with a copious amount food-vendor stalls underneath. It’s just like street food, but with brighter lights and louder music. Almost all the shopping centers have 3 food courts: a fancy one, a reasonable one and the “street vendor” one. We had a choice of any kind of seafood, meat, veg and fruit there, Hallal stalls too! Shrimp Pad Thai with a shared beer; all for less than $6 bucks for the both of us.

Our plan for the next day, which we planned during the massage, was a visit to Chinatown. The flower market is located there and though we visited our last time around, it was obvious that there was more to explore of this corner of town in the labyrinths of alleyways and sidewalks.

The Chinese need gates.
Monkey Man had heard tale of a “hardware” section of Chinatown and I was game. We studied the street maps and choose a route, which ended at the Golden Mount Temple running parallel to a Klong (canal), where we could catch a water bus at the Saphan Phanfa Pier, which then would stop at the Jim Thompson House on the Soi next to ours.

There goes the 3pm bus
Given that the morning work traffic was over, we hired a taxi to take us to Chinatown and proceeded to wander. If it seemed we should go right, we definitely took a left. It was that kind of stroll. The smaller the alleyway, the more attractive it was to us. We never specifically found the “hardware” section, but we found the machinist area, the motorcycle repair/parts area and the woodworking area – all were fascinating and a delight!

Add a motor to anything with wheels - tractors, jeeps and tuktuks
Bar aluminum
 As you know, we were not on a normal tourist route; thus we were a novelty to the workers in the area. Several helpful citizens tried to set us straight and direct us, in their broken English, to the locations of “purses” and “Budda’s”. Obviously, we were lost to anyone with a lick of sense and exactly where we wanted to be.

Ticket Taker on the Klong
With the exception of a couple of checks with Google Maps, we found our way organically and randomly to the Water Bus. Unforeseeable as things were going so well, we got off the water bus one stop too early. In this manner, our adventure continued and the only plan is there is no plan.
In spite of the early stop, we made it for our 2 o’clock massages (90 minutes each!).
Probably my next FB profile picture
Tomorrow, we take a Taxi 2 hours south to Cha Am, to meet back up with Primo and Prima. But not just any Taxi, oh no! Famous Teddy will pick us up and drive us personally in his large van, equipped with massage seats. Teddy is the go-to guy in Thailand to get you a distance taxi ride and always "knows a guy" to drive you, no matter how far reaching your location or how absurd a time. Legend has it that Primo once took a picture of his location in Bangkok (he and Prima were at the "mall" watching a movie, then wanted to go directly back to Cha Am - they forgot the name of the mall also) and one of Teddy's guys, picked them up on the street, 10 minutes after the movie ended. 

I can't wait.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Random Musings

Namaste Gator
Did you know the King of Thailand died last year? King Bhumibol Adulyajeh has ruled his country for 60+ years. There is a whole generation who knows nothing except for him and his rule. He brought Thailand into the 21st century and made it prosper. He was much beloved and if you didn’t love him, you were probably in jail. For an entire year the country has been in morning. All citizens wore black or white. For several months, one couldn’t find any clothes to buy that were black or white.
We arrived the first day of his official cremation and internment.  95% of the country had 5 days off for the funeral. It was mandatory.
Everyone can now wear colors!

Temple Cat

Bangkok is a busy city. A hive of activity. It was eerie driving thru to get to Don Meaung Airport,  roads empty and an airport empty, except for the minimum of staffing. For the next 5 days, nothing else was shown on any of Thailand's TV channels except for the funeral.  Welcome to Thailand.

The Funeral was also all over the Cambodian and Indian channels.

If it is 11am in Thailand it is 1130 in Myanmar. I don’t know why, I guess they just have to be different. Primo and Prima says India is the same way. Is this what is meant by “time has no meaning?’

Who needs Costco?

The nozzle behind the toilet is to wash off. The paper is to dry off. Paper never goes in to the toilet.

Myanmar drives on the let side of the road. All their cars have the drivers side on the right. No one knows why, but it makes turning left exciting.

There is no bacon or cheese in SE Asia, to speak of.

Yet, another Temple

“Fried” means cooked in a wok.

TukTuk’s cost more to take than a airconditioned cab in downtown Bangkok.

Buddha gets to sleep 2 hours a day. That’s why the reclining Buddha is so important.

Delicious, unidentifiable lunch
Diabetes is a big problem in SE Asia and Asia in a whole. Too much rice, fruit in the diet plus sugar in the food when spice is added. Spice is always added.

This little stupa went to market.....

Coffee grown in Myanmar is considered “White Coffee.”  Every one drinks instant coffee at home.
It is not unusual to not have a kitchen in your house.

For the most part, education is free. Parents have to pay for uniforms, books, transportation, lunches, etc. Many people cannot send their kids to school because of these “extra’s”. In Myanmar the hotel Manager said it is about $300.00 a year to send his son to school. Parents tend to pick the smartest child. The others stay home and work.

Vegetable monster

Our driver in Siem Reap, Sout, was the oldest child and his parents picked him to go to school. He let his younger brother go instead, “because I knew he was much smarter than I.”

Many workers live onsite at their jobs. They send money home and have to pay their employer “rent.”

More bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (by the USA) than any other country in history. The locals melt down the bombs and make tourist items for sale in markets.

Making Palm Sugar
Cats tails are broken or chopped of when they are kitties, for good luck.