Ruins and prostitutes
Trip Start Feb 11, 2009
14Trip End Mar 04, 2009
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Ship arrives at Laem Chabang on time and the captain surprises us by saying the ship was cleared at 7:55am and we could go ashore. We'd been told it would take an hour and a half to get our passports, but when Pete checks at 8am they hand them over and they've already been stamped (needed these to check into our hotel). We hadn't packed for our stay in Pattaya so we grabbed what we could think of and threw it all in to a couple of bags.
Our private tour operator Dennis arrived a few minutes after we were off the ship. He's a New Zealander and we'd had quite a number of emails back and forward discussing the tour and what we were wanting to do afterwards. We had a chat for about 10 minutes before leaving and he told us it took 4 hours to clear the ship one time. Two weeks ago Legend was docked at a container wharf, not at the cruise terminal wharf, and they couldn't get the buses down to it. Ah, Thai authority.
The car was a six seater wagon, all cream leather, roof mounted dvd. An Isuzu MU-7 platinum something. Our driver Tong drove very fast (up to 140k/h), but the roads are very good and he was a good driver. Great to be in Thailand where they actually drive in the lanes and on the left instead of the right (although they also drive down the verge and we saw one car that had gone off the edge and rolled).
We get to Ayutthaya in about two and a half hours. Our guide Ah is waiting - he speaks excellent English and is a really nice guy. We start the tour at a museum to get an overview and he gives us the history.
Ayutthaya is the ruins of what was once the capital of Siam but was destroyed twice by the Burmese. We go to a giant Buddha then wander several Wats (temples). The ruins remind us of Ostia Antica just out of Rome. There are small stone Buddhas everywhere, but almost all have their heads removed. We thought the signs were telling us not to take photos of the headless Buddhas, but the guide tells us it just means not to stand behind the statue to take photos with your head where it's missing. Gotta love the insensitivity of European backpackers. The most surprising thing about the temples is the size, we expected them to be much smaller.
After wandering several sites, we go for lunch at a small place nearby. We're going to tell Dennis that although the food was good, we'd paid a fortune for this tour and the restaurant wasn't up to the value of the tour. We continue our trip with a long boat ride around all of Ayutthaya. Three rivers meet and completely circle the old city. There used to be 1 million people living there. The long boat driver is a very nice lady.
We first head to the elephant rescue place and we're almost attacked by the hungry baby elephants trying to get the food - very funny and a really great time. There are volunteers washing the big elephants. Pete talks to an English lady for a while and she tells him all about what they do there. We continue our circumnavigation and stop to feed the huge catfish in the river. We really like the boat trip so we tip the boat lady and she's very excited even though it's only $4. The guide leaves us, we tip him as well as he's been terrific, and we head back.
The traffic is good so we make it all the way to Pattaya in two hours. The hotel is very modern and stylish (much better than the pictures). The porter is very friendly, but the guy on the desk shocks us by just saying "what" when we go to check in - weird because our experience with Thai people is that they are always so polite and gracious. We get given a welcome cocktail.
When we get to the room we are given a very detailed demo of how the safe works and the porter makes us practice setting it before he leaves - very funny. Al's not happy that the room only has two single beds, like in Shanghai, so goes back down to ask for a double. We're told we have to wait two hours before the room is available, so we go wandering the sleazy place that is Pattaya. We're both shocked because it's 10 times worse that we thought. The Walking Street isn't exactly only walking. There are motorbikes and large 4WDs negotiating between the tourists. Lots of Russians. Still don't get why there are so many of them here. Handed many menus that we just don't want to read. They all involve people and not food. Bar after sleazy bar with young (ish) girls sitting or standing around. The best bar name we saw was the Beaver Bar although I'm sure there were some with better names than that if we'd bothered to look.
All we really want is a nice meal, of Thai food, so we walk to the end and to a bridge that looks like it leads to a jetty where you can catch a boat to a couple of floating restaurants. One of the hotels we'd seen online (and was an absolute bargain) is at the end of the walking street. It looks absolutely beautiful, views right over the bay/beach, and has a fabulous outdoor restaurant and pool area. The food would be great but we're looking more 'street' than 'gourmet'.
We end up back on the central road at a funny outdoor place. The food is good but the service is weird and we're sure she's inflated the price by 25% when we get the bill (still only $16 for 2 large beers and both meals). Time to head back to the hotel and the woman who checks us in is much friendlier and greats us with "yes" ;). The porter escorts us to the room again and doesn't understand or remember us, so we have to do the safe demo (and practice) again before he'll leave (Pete thinks westerners all look the same to Asian people). Room is a floor higher and has a king size bed this time. Al loves it. As we're leaving the room we look out the window at the hall end and there's Mike's Shoppiing Mall, the drop off/hop on point for the ship's shuttle.
We head out to Boyztown...
Lets just say that it's an experience that will long live in our minds. The first thing we had to do was find a bar that we could sit outside in and not have some half naked teenager (could be 20+ but so many look so young) sitting on our lap whether we liked it or not. Find somewhere with weird rows of seats at the front that all face the road. Order some beers, 2.5x as much as the restaurant we ate in. Across the road is a go-go bar and the dancers are all sat around outside in tight white t-shirts and boxer briefs. AT leats they look, like men and not feminine waifs. Opposite that place, invitingly called Boyz Boyz Boyz, is a bar that's centre piece is large tank that guys swim around in. Neither of us can pluck up the courage to have a look in.
We're left alone for quite a while but eventually a guy (one of the 'waiters') starts talking to us. Within minutes his hand is on my leg and eventually his other on Al's as well and we are 'lovely guys'. I do the polite thing and ask his name and how old he is. 24 supposedly and maybe he is. Both of us are crawling out of our skins. Eventually I tell him that he doesn't need to do the leg thing, that we're actually uncomfortable with him doing it and that we'd just like to be left to have a drink. "Nobody wants him" he moans. We certainly don't - and he wanders off.
Two beers is enough, after our friend comes back for another try, and we're out of there. We're not ready for bed and had walked past a kombi that is a mobile cocktail bar. Not sure why we don't sit there but we head down an open mall. There's another mobile cocktail bar in its centre and a giant TV screen playing a Michael Jackson concert. How could we resist?
A little kid races over and asks us what we want but don't worry everyone, he's not really working, he's just hanging around with his mum, who comes over and takes our order. A bucket of Long Island Ice Tea for 200 baht, maybe $8. It was maybe 2 litres and gee was it strong. For some reason we order another. I suppose because we can. I don't remember walking back to the hotel.