Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Unseen Thailand

Sometimes I teleport into an alternate universe that is just so surreal that I can't actually believe it's reality and is in fact, my life. Yesterday was one such day. This entire week is one such week. I am in a vortex of alienosity. Follow me down the rabbit hole Alice while I tell you my tale...

At 2.30 AM I was abruptly awakened by loud chirping cricket noises and a vibrating pillow... I'd changed the mobile ring tone of my alarm from a rooster crowing to a tone less prone to give heart failure at obscene hours of the morn. At 2.50 am, J and I are on the motor bike hooning up to aunty's house where about 50 people had already congregated out the front. What the hell are we doing milling around in the middle of the night you may wonder? The village Housewives Club (I kid you not!) goes on a day trip somewhere a couple of times a year, and this year we jumped on board (being the housewife that I am!). Destination - Khao Lak. Oh lovely, nice area one might think. On closer inspection this involves crossing 4 provinces, 500 km and a 6 hour drive. This is a **DAY** trip people! No overnight stay involved....hence the early start. Well, at 4 am we're all still standing around grumbling about the fact we could have slept for another hour because our bus driver (from a more southern province) had obviously slept through his cock crowing and didn't rock up til 4.30...one and one half hour late grrrr-gr.

As the bus pulls up I nearly get trampled to death by the fearful mob trying to board the bus as fast as possible cos no one wants to be standing the duration of THIS trip. Although the bus pulled up directly in front of me, I was the 3rd last person on board and got the last remaining seat! Thais are slippery lil suckers and have killer elbows! I'm thinking "great, I can get a bit of shut eye before the sun comes up" but alas, I had forgotten that This Is Thailand and I was on a DISCO KARAOKE bus (from hell). On goes the video, on goes the blaring music and on goes my highly audible groaning that I forgot my AK-47 and could possibly do some damage in order to get a little more sleep and some silence (haha silence in Thailand?..haha guffaw guffaw). Thank the lord that someone ESP'd the driver and the karaoke only lasted 10 minutes and everyone fell into crinked necked sleep. My knees were jammed against the seat in front and they didn't recline. Thais are generally a small people but I'm not tall damn it...it was a close fit.

First pit stop 7am...loo and refreshment break where a cop gets on the bus, grabs the karaoke microphone and gives us a 10 minute talk about the delights of Krabi and all the tourist destinations we could visit, had we only the time! Thanks buddy, gotta go... still got 300 kms to go til our destination. Since everyone is obviously awake now it's the PERFECT time for more music. This ain't your standard karaoke music clips with 10 backup dancers wearing taffeta tutus and long white gloves. This was 4 women wearing lace, g-string underwear (with little stars covering their nips!) dancing as you can imagine in a bedroom while the lyrics display on the screen and the old ladies just kept on singing bless their aged hearts. The secret of why karaoke enjoys such fervor has been revealed! Anyhoo, trip uneventful for a few hours, just watching Thai women in their underwear dancing on beaches with beefcake men...my idea of a good time for sure.

As we crossed the Phang-nga Provincial border my little heart was aflutter... I had lived in Khao Lak for 4 very intense months of my life after the tsunami so it felt amazing to be 'coming home'. I can well and truly say that on the surface it looks as if no disaster ever hit the place. Massive resorts and beach front restaurants rule the entire strip of beach where 3 years ago was flat and rubble. It was odd because the last time I was there, only a few buildings remained standing and only coconut trees stood in the wake of the tsunami. Now the resorts look as if they're amidst tropical gardens and luxury with thousands of tourists wandering the streets.

By this time it was almost 11.30 (7 hours to reach our destination!) and the people were apparently starving because we pulled up at the beach, got out for about 4 minutes to survey the area for a place to sit and eat pre-packed lunches and go to the loo but only found sand, water and lots of restaurants...no seats, no public toilets. Back on the bus, out to the main road, back the way we came and stopped at the Khao Lak National Park where you would think would have picnic tables or some such. The poor park woman didn't know what happened when 60 people rushed her at the gate and she's telling people to stop "it's 10 baht entry"...good luck love going against a hungry mob of Thais! No one paid. Toilets were found. No seats, no tables. People set up camp on the ground outside the restaurant to have lunch. Only about 10 went into the restaurant to actually pay for lunch (myself included). As J explained to me, villagers rarely leave the village to go to tourist areas and they just don't know how to do. Lunch was very reasonably priced as it was the national park, not a resort, with a gorgeous view.

So, that was Khao Lak. 7 hours. Touched the sand for 10 milliseconds to snap off 2 pictures. One drive through of town. No walking. No shopping. No stops except for a one and a half hour break for lunch at the National Park at the top of the hill. I laugh in hindsight that I had packed my swimming stuff...how little I know of Thai day trips!

Back on the bus we head back to Krabi where someone has decided to stop off at the Shell Cemetery. Of all the lovely things to see in Krabi we go to the SHELL CEMETERY. Hmm. It's about 4 pm so I'm just happy we can get off the godforsaken bus as my butt and knees are seriously numb from sitting almost continuously for 9 hours. This pic shows the millions of year old fossils in what looks like a layer of concrete. Seriously a thrill a minute. Highly advise going to this incredible place...NOT. About 20 stalls all selling exactly the same thing - shell windchimes, shell curtains, anything shell. Depressing sight actually to see millions of shells end up this way instead of laying on a beach somewhere... a couple of people bought a puffer fish light...

Last stop was Ao Nang and Noparatthara Beaches in Krabi where we stopped purely for a photo op (I was at the beck and call of 60 people wanting their photos taken ALL day!). This poor German lady was innocently sitting on a bench waiting for her friends to finish swimming when our entire bus load of people enveloped her and wanted group photos and individual photos with her lily white self. It's almost the most hilarious thing I've ever seen here. It was her first time in Thailand. Friendly people, Thais! Funnily enough on this trip I found myself looking at all the foreigners as I imagine Thais do... with a sense of wonder at how strange they are! The clothes, the attitude, the whiteness! So, if you see Thais looking at you, don't get a complex...it's all about fascination! In our countries most of us are so used to seeing all different types of people with all different skin and hair colours but the vast majority of Thais live in their own little worlds of Thai only communities so it's understandable they like to look when the opportunity arises!

So after half an hour and 80 photos later we're back on the bus heading home and this is where the party started. I swear some people do these trips only for the karaoke party on board. The volume was cranked. I had so much toilet paper shoved down my ear canals I swear I could feel it tickling my brain. It was so loud my ears were still vibrating through the paper in my ears. This is photographic evidence that this shiz actually goes on in the world. Disco ball - check. Stobe lights - check. Microphone - check. Sexy film clips with lyrics - check. Obscenely loud speaker system - check. This is the trippy disco bus..these women were seriously shaking their butts in the aisle. Was absolutely hysterical and really gave me the best laugh making the insanity of the day all worth it!

We got home at 10 pm with 175 photos to get developed.

Things I've learned: Thais are insane. Thais are so much fun!

3 commentaramas:

Rachel said...

I did a similar trip to Korat from Ubon - 6/7 hours each way on a karaoke bus with all the Annuban teachers. We left at 5am, although I was up at 3am as the teacher driving me to school for the bus had to go to the hairdressers on the way so she looked beautiful for all the piccies! Most exhausting day of my life but I learnt so much more about the wonderful Thai people I work with.

Carol and Chris said...

OMG Mel - this post had me absolutely roaring with laughter!!! I've been on a karaoke mini bus with Thai's but that was nothing compared to your outing!!

(I particularly enjoyed the attack on the German tourist - having been said tourist I know exactly how weird it feels!!)

C x

Mel said...

Rach - it's pretty hilarious hey?! When everyone came to pick up their photos I didn't recognise half of them cos on the day trip they were in their Sunday best with makeup but when they came here they were in sarongs or rubber cutting clothes with gumboots on! J couldn't believe I didn't know the difference between people until I asked him if there were 200 photos of 60 blond farang would YOU be able to tell the difference?!! Haha that shut him up ;-p

Carol - I imagine you could see the funny side of being the white goddess in a crowd of excited Thais! It's very amusing to behold! My beauty queen stature has worn off cos I've been in the ville too long hehe!! I was cracking up at this poor woman though!