Hi and hello. I hear rumors that you have missed me. There have been phone calls, emails, texts, where’s Tim? Has he been kidnapped? Is he alright? Sick? Where is he? Short answer, Samet, in the Gulf of Thailand. It is a mere speck of an island only five Kms from top to bottom and about point five across. It is thankfully underdeveloped probably due to the roads, if you could call them roads, potholed tracks might be a better description. No high rises, no ghastly ‘resorts’, no hustlers, few beach sellers. There is a party scene but some way away from where I am. I like it.
My visa was up in China so I looked around for cheap flights out of Shanghai and found a red eye to Bangkok. The price seemed right and no visa forms are required in advance so I went for it. Then I found I could get the MagLev to the airport. Hold me back. Short for Magnetic Levitation it is the world’s fastest train, 200 MPH. A very smooth ride out of town to Shanghai’s big, new modern airport, no hassle through emigration, though my checked bag had to be opened and inspected. I was carrying too much money in it, Uzbek Som notes, which you may remember are practically worthless. Anyway, the lady was very friendly and I moved them from the checked bag to my carry on and she seemed satisfied….go figure. Then a huge plane, I was in row 72 and away for the four hours to Bangkok.
I was met, praise be, and quickly transferred to my hotel, where I was greeted at reception at 3am by hand clasping and smiling Thais. I will accentuate smiling, at 3am. Oh joy. Smiles at last. The first for many weeks. I had two beers from the mini bar and sighing with relief fell asleep. Up early later I ventured out into the streets of the city and found that maybe I was in the wrong place. Was I in Torremolinos, Cancun? Vodka shots at 10.30am? Lots of vodka shots. Conga lines, Karaoke, group sing-along’s. This is not going to last long I say to myself. I put myself in an awkward situation as I have an old friend who lives and works here, at The British Club in fact. I called and spoke to him, gave him my local phone number and the name of my hotel and he said he would call and we would do lunch. He didn’t call. I extended my stay. He didn’t call. I left town.
I caught a bus, a small bus, down the Gulf coast east of Bangkok, to a small port where I could catch a ferry to the small island of Samet babout a half hour off the coast. The boat seemed reluctant to leave so all of us from the bus got to chatting, a German couple from Munich, Luca, a med’ student, his wife Julia, a Montessori teacher (!), Amalie aged two and Paulina at eight months. There were also Tim from the New Forest in Hampshire (UK) and his fiancée, Danielle from Hull, Yorkshire. We had a grand time, the others all booked themselves into the same hotel and the one I had pre-booked on the Internet is only a five minute walk away so we get together most days and pass the time.
That really is the problem, we just pass the time, eat meals, play with the children, and pass the time. There is nothing much really to write about. The guy selling brooms from a pole slung over his back passes by every morning, which is a major event in my day. The lady with a portable BBQ cooking chicken and fish slung over her shoulder makes an appearance and then disappears. The monsoon makes the occasional rain shower, and everyone heads for shelter. It soon passes. Chinese tourists, mostly young women, appear in speed boats, disembark, take selfies, take group selfies, giggle, screech at each other and then vanish. Where do they come from, where do they go? The hotel staff take breakfast out to the Buddha shrine in the grounds every morning and leave it there as an offering. Wonderfully charming. The beach I am staying on is quiet, very quiet, I count four others on it right now, but a short walk North or South reveals busy beaches and restaurants. Lots and lots of restaurants so as well as taking a rest from the last few weeks I can eat, and eat. The menus are all in English, the food when it arrives is recognizable as food and so I have been catching up after the foodless weeks. The food is delicious, curries for me mostly, rice of course, green vegetables, fruit and I think I may be losing that rather gaunt, starving look. I certainly feel better and have stopped sneezing finally. That has been going on since the yurt in Kyrgyzstan.
I took advisement before even considering posting this as I didn’t want to annoy everyone with the dull, same old, same old stories of Thailand. I have heard enough to last a lifetime. But there is my contribution. I only got a short stay visa so will be moving on again soon. I hope to return to Cambodia and see some of the things I missed last time, The Plain of Jars, the Tonle Sap river flowing in the opposite direction, maybe take in more of the temples at Angkor, return to Kep, see more of the Mighty Mekong. Be assured that if something notable occurs you will know about it soonest, but I doubt that it will. The tide goes out. The tide comes in. And everyone smiles.