First of all, Thai Airways (abbreviated to TG) is wonderful! I had the choice of more than two dozen movies and TV programs at my personal screen. Also, I could set up a music playlist choosing from a pretty good variety of music. Yes, I could choose tracks from famous albums and have the machine play them back over the audio. Not bad. It's about time modern technology is used to help instead of making life harder!
The Thai girl seated next to me turned out to be very talkative. Is there something about air travel that makes people talk? Or do I have a sign on me that says tell me everything about yourself? Perhaps I am too receptive? Well, she turned out to be a lesbian (I still thought she was cute) and she was flying back to catch up with her girlfriend. This girlfriend was pretty like her. I thought "damn, I'm in the wrong country."
I got off the plane in the wee hours of the morning. After clearing customs, I was immediately assaulted by taxi drivers. I ended up going along with a private taxi. Now, this is something I wouldn't do again because unmarked taxis have been known to rob Westerners. I am not joking. My guidebook warned me against using them for this reason.
Fortunately, they understood that I was not going to mess around. I stood a head taller than all of the guys at their taxi depot and kindly demanded that I have the price up front before accepting their transport. Still, it was daunting. I was wide awake for the entire trip to Pattaya from Bangkok (2½ hours) just to make sure they didn't try to screw with me.
After a 16-hour flight this can be difficult. However, my driver turned out to be a decent sort who was just trying to make his way in the world. There was no malice or deceit. Actually he bought me coffee! It had far too much sugar (he knew I was American) but I still appreciated the kindness without complaint. Upon arrival at my hotel in north Pattaya, I tipped him well. The drive in an air-conditioned car for 2½ hours on the highway cost me $40. I tipped him $10 and he was pleased.
Initially, the girls at the counter of my hotel couldn't find my reservations. I made it online and this can cause troubles. They did find them so I was glad I didn't have to find another place to stay. That would have been a pain but I was happy to have arrived intact so I was ready to conquer the world. (Travellers know what I mean.)
The girls then started to show their surprise at my fair hair and complexion. Throughout my stay at this hotel I was a novelty to the desk staff. I don't know for sure if their interest was because I am obviously American, or obviously blond.
The lobby and the hotel was good. I have only one complaint. Their bottled water was not spring water. I discovered this the hard way and was sick with traveler's diarrhea for most of the time. I have never been sick from water so this was something new for me. You can see what the lobby looked like in the above photo.
The hotel had a pool. I never understood having a pool so close to the beach, but then again, I am not a swimmer so I must be missing something.
Near the pool was a bar, which I never did visit. I respected my ex-girlfriend's (Olga) belief that alcohol is unnecessary. Hey, I was very proud that I reduced my alcohol consumption to just about nothing. I didn't think I had it in me :)
Another curious part of this photo is the filter. Yes, that cart with the pipes into the pool is filtering the pool water. We are spoiled in America with in-ground filters.
The next day I accompanied Olga on a tour of Pattaya. I did not learn very much during this tour because I do not understand Russian! However, a free air-conditioned bus ride to the tourist attractions around Pattaya is not bad. Regardless, I did see the view from the highest hill in Pattaya. This affords the tourist a good view of Pattaya harbor. In the center of the photo is the New Pier, oddly easily translatable in English (hmm), Pattaya Bay, and the hotels of Pattaya.
Yes, that sign says "no gun shooting strictly." Don't laugh too hard. I restrained myself so you can see the photo! The truth is most people seeing this sign are foreigners. Proper English doesn't mean anything to them: the idea is what matters. In the Thais defense many of the tourists in Pattaya are Russian. They do not really care about English so the humor of this sign will go largely unappreciated.
This is as good of a time to describe my feelings about the Russians. I expected to find a proud people in the Russians. I expected a bit of arrogance because, after all, the Soviets struck a lot of fear into the hearts of Westerners. What I did not expect was an indomitable pride. Many Russians seem to think they are the greatest people on the planet. I'm sorry but there was this small, silent conflict called the Cold War, which the Soviets lost! If anything Americans should be arrogant because they won!
Fortunately, Olga is cosmopolitan and I was spared the direct onslaught of the Russian beliefs.
Also on this hill, which I call the Big Buddha Hill, is a large golden Buddha. He's protected by multi-headed serpents. The tourists seemed to ignore the significance of this unusual creature.
I don't know about you, but isn't obvious that this statue is meant to be feared, and respected? You may say it's just a statue, but there is a power. It may be lessened by all the tourists walking around it, however, you cannot mess with more than a millenium of history! After this time there is a certain power.
The Big Buddha.
Around the Big Buddha were small Buddhas for every day of the week. Olga told me that these statues were dedicated to people born on those particular days of the week. Interesting and kind of cool. Of course, to pay reverence one must know the day of the week one was born. This is something I don't really care to know...
You can see the knickknacks (in the right foreground) that were ubiquitous in any tourist setting.
We went the aquarium in Pattaya. The Underwater World Pattaya isn't bad for an aquarium. Click the thumbnails to see some of the fish.
Some people do not believe that I visit the places I list on my Site. As an attempt to prove myself, here I stand in Walking Street in Pattaya.
Olga and I hired a scooter for a day, which was ridiculously cheap, and rode to Walking Street. I applaud her patience and trust seeing that I have little practice on motorized two-wheelers, especially on the wrong side of the road.
We stopped for drinks at a bar on Walking Street. The English, Welsh, and American flags hanging side by side tells you what sort of folks frequent this go-go bar.
Though we were there before the action started, the Thai girls were already hanging around. Many people go to Pattaya just for sex. I am not joking. You can get just about anything. I do hear they are cutting down on under-age hookers. The bar reminded me of Air America, which is set in the "wild, wild East."
After walking along The Street we rode the scooter to the Royal Garden Plaza mall, which is home to Ripley's Believe It or Not. Yup, "believe it or not" that is a full-sized airplane crashed into the building. In the right foreground you can see a Western guy with a young Thai girl. Men can hire girls for days or a week.
Inside the mall there was a fountain with "dancing" water jets. Children enjoyed darting around trying to catch the water.
Pizza Hut. I will admit that seeing a piece of America was comforting.
This was the view from my room. The ocean was partially blocked by the Cosy Hotel.
The main mode of transport (when not crashing scooters) is what we called Took-tookis (a derivation of Tuk-tuk: the human powered taxi). The correct name is songthaew or baht bus. The Baht is the currency of the Thais. One dollar bought 30 Baht. Passengers ride in the back of a covered pick-up truck. It's not as uncomfortable as you expect.
This is what I expected to see when visiting Thailand. Unfortunately, such scenes were few and far between.
Dunkin' Donuts! Inside the Tesco Lotus shopping mall I was surprised to find a donut shop that is not available in LA.
There's also a California Grill for the West Coast folks.
Central Pattaya is a busy place and it is only not crowded in the morning. This is a shot from the beach. Normally it is full of people.
Scooters are the best transport in Pattaya. The newly affluent drive suvs and fancy pick-up trucks but are stuck in traffic similar to LA. Subway is my favorite sandwich chain. I did not visit this Subway, which is a bit out of character, because I visited a Subway in Soho (west London).
I had to wait for the banks to open to get some cash. However it did give me a chance to see the city as it rose. I sat down a short distance from this dog to avoid disrupting his sleep. Curiously, he woke up and moved closer to me (nearly underfoot) and went to sleep again.
The next day we took a boat to an island known for its white sands. This afforded me good views of the city. Here you can see a sign that, I believe, is supposed to remind us of the Hollywood sign.
I like ferries and this trip to the island was long. I saw speedboats but the unusual boat, pictured here, was the most interesting.
You can see my hotel peeking out from behind the two white towers of the Cosy Inn. Also, you can see the humidity hanging in the air. The single tower in the far center background is the Pattaya Park Tower. It is evidently a hotel with a restaurant near the top.
Is this where the ferry boat is going... or is it?
The boat went around that island and stopped at an isle on the other side. We were motored to the island by an unusual craft that only an engineer would be fascinated by...
On the island Olga enjoyed the water. I got to enjoy all the Russian girls' bodies.
Olga wanted to have one of those drinks in a pineapple so I ordered one. They're not bad actually. It was alcoholic but quite weak.
Some of the girls I photographed for the guys visiting this page.
The boat pictured above is the one that brought us to the island from the ferry. And yes, that is a Toyota engine connected to a long drive shaft with a propeller on the end. Olga was upset by this "outboard motor" (presumably because it could drip oil into the water) but I was impressed. I wasn't disappointed because the engine was mostly unmuffled and loud enough to prevent conversation whilst underway. One could only marvel in it.
Yes, that is a little taxi made of ceramic pots! I think it is even slower than the real ones! We took a van to Nong Nooch Village. After visiting the botanical gardens, which was interesting even to me, we waited around structures made of pots.
Also in the Village was a butterfly farm. Yes, that is a real butterfly on my hat. The size is surprising, isn't it?
What I really enjoyed about this place was the elephants. Above you can see one standing in a soccer net. Yes, he's playing goalie!
Two other elephants came out--showing off like real athletes (it was very funny)--and kicked balls at the net. At the end of the soccer match, after the goalie left, one elephant kicked a ball into the unprotected net, which caused the audience to roar with laughter. The elephant ate it all up, too!
They "shot hoops" with their trunks, too.
These elephants danced together like can-can girls. It was very funny to see them stand on the stools and act sexy!
Then, the handlers asked for volunteers from the audience. The elephants lifted one girl clean off the ground with his trunk. (I think this frightened the girl a bit.) Elephants are gentle and intelligent creatures as the above photograph shows. Here elephants walk up to a person lying on the ground and wiggles a foot above before stepping over. If I was lying underneath an elephant foot, I would be a little nervous. The elephants also "felt up" some of the more attractive individuals with their trunks. It was hilarious to watch!
The Village also had gardens of its own. They included this reproduction of Stonehenge.
A set from a cheap B movie?
The next day we went to Mini Siam. This is a park just off the main highway to Bangkok. Unfortunately, it rained for the first part. It was cool to see a small replica of the Arc de triomphe because I have seen the real thing and was critical of the level of detail.
You can see the detail they put into this scale model is very impressive. Click the thumbnails for a larger image.
All women seem to love the Eiffel Tower. Olga is no exception...
Bob took a similar photo of the real thing about nine months earlier.
This model of a Gothic church in Germany reminded me of the cathedral in Reims.
The replica of the Tower Bridge and it's raining to boot! But it looks like many of the cars are "fancy." Click here to see if I'm correct.
The leaning tower of Piza.
The Colosseum... So why do I need to visit Rome?
A shot showing the detail in The Colosseum model.
The models seemed to go on forever.
I managed to take this cool shot looking up the walkway of one of the Eastern temples. A high F-number exposure can be useful!
The houses in this model remind me of the houses we saw in Iceland because both are brightly-colored. Inka-blinka...
The Bridge over River Kwai.
A rail station... that is somewhere. I forget exactly where it is located!
The airplanes at the model of Bangkok airport have tracks so they must taxi around the runaways. The rain must have stopped their movement.
Another great model.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Ah, an inscription on a statue describing what it really means to be American.
A model of Vasily Blazhennogo's temple in Moscow.
The Sydney Opera House and Tower Bridge are so close. I don't understand people complaining about 30-hour flights
Mini Siam acknowledged the Vikings with a model of long boats and settlement. Yes, the Norsemen did settle instead of just raping and pillaging! You can see replicas of the long boats in the foreground.
This shot makes the model look almost real.
On the way back from Mini Siam we stopped the driver so we could walk Jomtien Beach and experience a little bit of Thai culture. This is the sort of traveling that I enjoy. There is nothing like seeing a native culture.
No English in sight, this is as close to the real Thailand that can be had near a resort.
I snapped this photo as we neared the "touristy" section of the city. You can see English on signs and all the storefronts are in use. I wonder if the abundance of late-model suvs is also a product of Western civilization. Finally, and certainly not least, Olga looks good as she walks towards civilization.
The golden glitter that is commonly associated with Thailand.
Back in Pattaya we found an old Chevy mounted to a wall, sideways. I like the Tube symbol. America and Britain are, once again, one and the same, at least according to the Thais!
Walking Street just before the car ban is implemented for the night.
Pattaya is synonymous with sex. A man (and probably a woman) can get just about anything. I walked streets (soi) that were dedicated to gays, in addition to streets with go-go (straight) bars.
The next day Olga wanted to go shopping so I took off looking for a pub to sample Guinness. The main highway is quite busy. I did manage to find signs directing to Jameson's Irish pub. I followed them with high hopes.
I passed up Burapa Beer Hall Country. Yeah, I know if this was in the States that would be the most redneck bar around, but in Thailand they could have had good beer. I placed all my hope in Jameson's. This place is the small storefront with the green sign in center of the photo.
Like Irish pubs, this place was understated but very hospitable. Inside it was dark and cool. Thank God! I was at the point of breaking. (Humidity kills and I was still ill.) I tried a Guinness, which was as good as in America, and then ate lunch and washed it down with a local international beer (Tiger).
The food was a bit expensive but I was happy to be in a heavily air-conditioned Irish pub, so I didn't mind. It was good. The service was good and I chatted with the barkeeper a bit. She seemed interested to speak with an American.
I watched rugby as a few Australian ex-pats debated politics. Strangely, I felt at home.
I headed back to the mall. On the way I snapped this photo. I didn't know if I was laughing at the mispelling "foot parth" or the fact that a guy was riding a motorized "big wheels" towing a shopping cart through it. Classic photo!
I missed Olga's departure so I walked around central Pattaya before returning to the hotel. They "roll up the [umbrellas] after dark" along the beach. Frankly, I was surprised. The nightlife is partitioned to Walking Street.
The next day we went to Ripley's Believe It or Not for a taste of American museums. I explained the exhibit pictured above to Olga. She is not an engineer or scientist so she didn't see the obvious trickery.
The museum presented the typical oddities and trickeries. I have visited other Ripley's museums so I saw nothing new. A two-headed snake and a three-legged horse do make one question.
After Ripley's and wandering through Pattaya, it began to rain. We took shelter in an Italian restaurant. It wasn't a restaurant like in the North End of Boston, but was fun. While sipping our chocolate 'shakes and waiting for our lasagna, I snapped a photo of Olga. At this point I felt that she had really opened up to me, and trusted me.
This is a soi in Pattaya. The roads are really alleyways. You can see a sign for a tailor.
This is memorable for me because one time I went to the bank to get some cash and after the transaction I was asked if I wanted to have a suit tailored to fit me. The typical part is that the tailor waited until after my cash advance was approved to confront me. He had to make sure my money was good!
The hotel had paintings on each floor. I saw all the paintings because I frequently hiked from the lobby to my room on the seventh floor.
The painting on this floor was my favorite. I like sailing ships. The simplicity and rawness of a sailing naval vessel is powerful to me. Left at the mercy of Mother Nature, these sailors had to be very hearty indeed.
It's become a custom to photograph junk food containers. So here we have Pringles that I bought from the local corner shop. The folks at the local shops began to recognize me. Alright, there aren't many blond guys in Pattaya but I like to think that my friendly nature was part of the reason why they recognized me!
The back of this Pringles cylinder, containing a flavor that is unavailable in the States, states "for sale in Asean only." They mean Asia, but I had a quiet snicker at this mistake. The Thais try so hard but don't quite make it!
The next day I took Olga to the Million Year Stone & Crocodile Park. We picked up a "tuk-tuki" outside our hotel. The driver turned out to be the Thai equivalent of Mario Andretti! Poor Olga clinged to me as the pick-up truck bounded over bumps, railroad crossing, pedestrians (?) as we sped to the outskirts of Pattaya. I felt terrible for subjugating her to this trip and just hoped to see our destination.
At the park we were rewarded with large sections of petrified trees. The park was legit and not a waste of time.
Whilst walking around this park my Italian flipflops came loose, so we visited the gift shop to look for a replacement set. Not only did Olga find the shoes that she saw once but could not justify buying, but I found (thankfully) new footwear. At this point I think Olga understood that my philosophy that if she didn't hurry life (and let life happen) all will end well. Before this giftshop she had frequently lamented the fact that she did not purchase that unusual pair of shoes.
Stones are cool but too inanimate for me. I felt like I was being tracked by The Stones of Blood except that I knew that the Key to Time wasn't in this park. (Only Doctor Who could truly make stones scary!!!)
After we saw the stones and the menagerie of birds and mammals, we stopped by a small cafe on a pond. This cafe was overpriced. Also, the fish in the pond expected food from anyone who overlooked the wooden railing of the restaraunt!
I took this photo as we left the pier cafe. Evidently the caretakers use that boat periodically.
Olga was quite fearless when it came to the crocodiles. She stood on fences and poked my camera's lens into their turf. Either she was not aware of the danger of crocodiles--something I find hard to believe--or she was just that fearless.
The building across the street went up quickly. Only ten days passed between these two photos. I'm impressed.
Pattaya is good place to retire if you can tolerate the humidity. I saw places within walking distance of the beach for only a hundred thousand dollars.
I took a metered taxi to Bangkok Airport. I arrived early so I walked around the terminal before clearing customs. A guy stopped me and asked 'if I needed a woman while I wait' (his words). I laughed before realizing he was serious. That is Thailand.