After a few days in the central countryside I was informed that we were off on a road trip to Pattaya.
An overnight trip to the seaside is some sort of family tradition at this time of year. So in the early afternoon we piled three adults and four children into the pickup and set off. The children were kept amused by the DVD/VCD player. And the old American cartoons were even funnier in Thai than English. When we got sick of Daffy Duck and Loony Tunes there were other cheap options available at the convenience stores.
One of the delightfully unexpected features of the fuel stops (at least for men) was the outdoor urinals around the back of the toilet blocks. Very civilised, I thought.
Roadside signs in Thailand are intriguing and usually a great way to practice your reading. However, the sign below was in English. I was not sure whether to feel more or less safe after seeing it.
When we stopped for late afternoon noodles I was reminded how delightfully polite Thais are in such situations. One of the things that had surprised me on this trip was the way my friends talked within the family. Not rudely, but bluntly, without the little niceties you get taught are so essential when speaking Thai. So when we got to a restaurant and they switched to textbook Thai the contrast was dramatic.
A little further on rain threatened. This is one of the disadvantages of a pickup. Your bags are out in the open. There was a brief stop at the side of the expressway to bring the least waterproof items into he cab, but the rain never amounted to much.
We got into Pattaya in the early evening of the last Songkran public holiday and spent what felt like hours in a traffic jam observing (comfortably) the last vestiges of the Songkran waterfights. Pickups full of drenched revellers, people on the roadside with buckets of water, and some enthusiastic and extroverted dancing by people of indeterminate gender. Not quite up to the excitement of Richard’s video but interesting nevertheless. Unfortunately it was dark by this time so I have no photographs.
After losing our way a few times we finally found the hotel. After an hour or so at the pool we headed out to look for something to eat.
We were staying at Jontiem beach, which is south of Pattaya, and so relatively family friendly. However, I felt rather uncomfortable sitting at a table in a restaurant with two Thai adults and four children when a late-middle aged tourist wandered in wearing only shorts and parked himself opposite his Thai friend. To add insult to injury, the meal we had was by far the worst and most expensive I had in Thailand.
After total immersion with Thai people for almost a week the sight of foreigners, and the way they behaved, was a little disconcerting. They seemed so loud in comparison to the Thais that I had been mixing with. Not that the foreigners I saw were behaving badly, it was simply a large contrast with what I had become used to.
We were up early, on Jontiem beach by about 9am, and enjoyed breakfast and lunch on the beach. After the 35C heat in the central countryside it was nice to be a little cooler. The almond trees in the photo are discussed in another blog. Pattaya proper is beyond the headland in the distance.
As you can see in the picture beach wear for adult Thais tended to include a t-shirt. I didn’t really register this at the time, but no one seemed too bothered about me taking my shirt off to go in the water. However, I definitely had my shirt on at other times.
The beach was a very friendly family-oriented place. While I was minding the children out in the very mild surf a pair of twenty-something Thai women from Bangkok befriended them, and we became involved in an extended game of tag. I was pleased that I had enough Thai so that when they asked me if the children were mine I was able to explain that they were children of friends.
The public toilets and showers you see at western beaches don’t seem to exist here. However, across the road there were a number of places to take a shower, for a small fee.
After the beach we headed into Pattaya itself. It seemed odd to see so many signs in English and even more foreigners. The whole place had a slightly run-down feel about it.
Our main destination Pattaya was Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. It was reasonably interesting and moderately scary. The advantage of travelling with children is that you get to do things that you otherwise would not have an excuse to do.
After the fake horror we were off to see some real-world carnivores at the crocodile farm. Apart from the crocodiles the animals included camels, tigers, bears, and various birds. Feeding the crocodiles with meat on a line was popular with the visitors, but there were few takers for posing with a tiger or a crocodile. I considered it briefly but in the end passed on the idea.
We headed back in the direction of Ang Thong in the late afternoon, with several meal stops, and a shopping stop where we picked up various foods, including some durian, which made an excellent breakfast the next morning.
An interesting trip, but I was happy to be “home”.