View From the Room
Unfortunetaly, we had to wake up to this on a daily basis.
Well, as my time in Laos came to a close the younglings and I returned back to the booming and bustling country of Thailand where roads are paved, gas is purchased at stations (not out of jars) and cars exist that were manufactured this century. Arriving in the Northeast metropolis of Ubon we quickly determined that life up here was a lot different then the other places in Thailand we've visited on and off over the last few months. For starters it should be mentioned that Ubon is not at all touristy. It's a pleasant (though large) middle class city where dreams seem to become a reality. The local folk are the friendliest I've seen in Thailand and are downright shocked to see foreigners in their little world (though it's actually very large). We burst right into the bus station and bought a local bus ticket ( V.I.P.) for the following day and found a tuk-tuk driver to deliver our dusty corpses to a local hotel. The pleasure I received from not dealing with anyone in, on or around Kho San Road is impossible to express. After our brief 17 hours or so in Ubon we boarded our travelling asian palace
It was incredibly awkward standing this close to the opposite team.
southward. While the bus in no way even compares to the primera class available in Argentina (easily the best bus ride of my trip) it felt like a limousine after all the pickup trucks in Laos.
The world came crashing back to reality somewhere south of where we started as our bus quickly struck an immovable wall of cars that slowly pressed deeper into the urban nightmare of traffic and people called Bangkok. The bus company we used however, I'd reccomend to anyone, and as soon as we got off we were aided into a meter taxi and taken to the even scarier place that every southeast asia traveller inevitably visits: Kho San Road. We checked into our regular guesthouse for my fifth time (and as usual didn't even consider a possible change of venue) noting the absense of a few staff members and the existince of further renovations we've watched progress over nearly the last half a year. A mere 5 hours later, as we waited in the lobby of an unknown fancy hotel drinking beer, brother and I watched as Aunt and Uncle (Judy and Larry) entered with big smiles apparently unaffected from their 20 hour flight
Over the pool, and behind it the Gulf of Thailand. March 5th 2007.
from Vancouver (they flew business class which I thought was a mere myth). Since it was already 20 past Chang, we did the only thing we knew how to do and stocked their minibar fridge full of Chang beer and had a good time. While Larry's pathetic attempt at introducing "Tiger Time" was quickly struck down, we all managed to block it from our memory and stick with what's good and true and mightier than Budha himself: Chang O'clock.
Since the relatives arrived bagless due to an unfortunate error someplace in China, I took everyone out to Kho San Road to buy the basics: sandals, t-shirts and a box of Chang beer before we quickly fled the heat and crowds and returned to the luxirious "suite" some 7 odd stories above the commoners drivel of broke backpackers below. The evening ended at the bottom of a Sam Sung bottle where we found a Ping Pong show and auntie passed out in her room from delayed jet lag. After the regular sights were seen in Bangkok we took our limousine van south to the beach area of Hua Hin and entered what I determined at the time was only a
Local Beach Spot
This is where the locals congregated some 40m north of the resort.
figment of my imagination: a resort. What I saw there within it's heavily guarded walls would shock anyone whose lived out of a dusty and torn backpack for over 17 months: a tennis court, a putting green, a pool, a waterslide, a gym with actual free weights, a beach, a volleyball court, a dart court, a lavish buffet, an ice cream counter and a condo style hotel room that rivaled my parents cabin for square footage. The industrial strength air conditioning unit was a real treat as we quickly dropped the temperature so low that opening the door for any period of time (which Judy did quite frequently to warm their wing) would quickly coat all interior surfaces with a thick condensation making it hazardous to traverse the hardwood floors anytime after three or more cocktails.
Since we decided quite quickly there was no need to do absolutely anything at all besides drink Chang, get massaged and smoke fine cigars in the housecoats provided in our closets, my description of events at Springfield will seem rather lacking. However, a few things worth mentioning were 1) the tennis match between the Swedish sisters (one of which is ranked top 10
Myself & Aunt Judy
We won't speculate what might have caused all (if any) family resemblances between us, but it's great to see her after almost a year and a half.
in Sweden) 2) the copious amounts of Europeans in their nonexistant bathing costumes and 3) the regretable horse ride on the beach. The first aforementioned event was more an experience for my rather competetive brother as I'd never seen him so excited about anything in quite awhile, and the second event brings pain just thinking about it -enough said. However the horse ride was quite an experience: James and I went down to the beach after arranging the expedition at the front desk only to find two mules. The curious beasts barely came up to my waist and seeing this phenomenom the Thai animal handlers quickly ran away down the beach without any further instructions to their clients. Sometime later two different beasthandlers (whom I can only assume were more fit for this task) came up with one mule and one big mule. I kindly gave James the larger since he weighs more and off we went. Not even a half kilometer later we turned around to see the animalkeepers had vanished and decided to see what the sturdy but miniature animals could do. At this point I didn't expect much since mine wasn't even the size of a large
Barely enough room for all five of us at once.
dog (a dog whose ribs you can count at that). So, after a modest canter which nearly took all four of us into the ocean over our heads we walked up off the beach to a dirt road. After smacking James' mule on the back and racing off together I quickly realized my stirups were nowhere near the length they should be (though at their maximum) and sure enough, out my feet came seconds before the rest of me and I decided my time had come and ol Jas was a sure goner. As most people likely suspected, falling off a horse is not fun. In hindsight I think my saving grace was the fact my horse was only about 8 hands tall. So, while my back no longer bent properly and my left side (mainly elbow area) looked like it was covered in spaghetti sauce I spent quite awhile gathering my breath and bearings (while James gathered the mules). I then looked Joey in the eye (my mule) and we both reached a mutual understanding there would be no more attempts at galloping. I put away my smacking stick and we reached a temporary alliance. Since breathing hurt it
Kho San Road
Cocktails and tales: James, T-Bone, myself and Uncle Larry. Randy, please note I still proudly wear the shirt you gave me.
was only appropriate Joey at least carry me back to the hotel even though in hindsight I think we actually weighed about the same and it would be just as easy for me to carry him. James' mule Karma (oh the irony) returned him with her proud and strong posture while Joey decided to discharge his bowels into the riptide. At our starting point and when I finally dismounted (willingly this time) Joey did nothing but grow an enormous errection and wander off towards the ocean. I hope he drowns.
Because of the Thai holiday weekend, we were unable to secure a reservation at one hotel for our entire stay in Hua Hin. So, after a few days at our first stop we moved south to another place that offered us Bungalows. Though not as luxurious as our first stop, the porch offered to us in front was perfect for our happy hours. The intention of visiting Hua Hin, was actually for the golf. Hua Hin is a very popular golf destination and so after Judy & Larry went out the first time, they were very kind in their offer to treat all of us to a round. The
first day Judy, Larry, James and T-Bone went (I opted out because of injuries sustained in the horseback incident) and declared the day a success.
The second day it was James, me, Judy and Larry as James had defended his spot on the roster by defeating T-Bone. Sometime during the celebration period after the first golf day and a couple cocktails, a challenge was made where the firstborns (Larry and I) would faceoff against the thirdborns (Judy & James). Unsure where this would lead, we headed to the golf course. Coming out of my estimated 3 year temporary golfing retirement it wasn't until between the first and second hole that I found my game again (there was no warmup because our driver got lost finding the course) which lasted about 5 holes before my swing was lost again due to my old friend: beer.
While the thirdborns were victorious, suspicion was everywhere as a mysterious ball drop out of the woods by James' caddy could only be explained by what our team assumed to be a payoff. By the 18th hole when Larry and I went out of bounds right beside the markers we concluded that money must
have exchanged hands and foul play was declared.
In the end, I must say that golfing with caddies is quite excellent indeed. Assuming caddies were a thing of the past, before my time and never to be experienced by yours truly I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal assistant that day on the links. Every ball was perfectly cleaned, placed, marked and discussed. Every club was handed to me and every beer was held by the caddy and not the ground while I was shooting. While I did not hede the caddies advice on many of my shots I quickly learned that was a bad choice because the caddies do actually know what they're talking about. As if there was any doubt.
While the violent bunker dogs and their packs of digging teams tore appart most of the course, what was even more interesting about golfing in Thailand was the great and ancient monkey civilizations that would sweep down onto the fairway like rogues and steal golf balls. Assuming they were just monkeying around we went to see what actually happened before we realized the whole thing was a planned ambush and a very well calculated ploy. As soon as we left the safety of our caddies they surrounded us and attempted to rob us blind of all posessions left inside the cart. Because of this, the next day it was decided to bring bananas and pay what we felt was a fair tribute to their dastardly monkey leader. So, as Judy nervously approached him we all saw he would have nothing to do with us as he was far too busy fornicating in the bushes with one of his mates. We quickly made headway and continued about our game.
Finally, for my statistic and golf loving Grandfather in Gibsons the following details are obviously mandatory: Final Score: 210-220. Total yards: (Front 9: 3332), (Back 9: 3346), Longest hole: (#1 @ 569 yards), Shortest hole: (#5 @ 131 yards). I shot a terrible 62 on the front 9 but managed to knock a few strokes of that on the back 9 ending with a 121. Judy and James were 5 strokes ahead of us after 9, but things fell appart horribly sometime after the monkey hole (14th) and before the deceiving out of bounds markers on the 18th.
Tonight we plan to visit downtown Hua Hin and with a few more planned activities tomorrow before we head back to Bangkok on March 9th.
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