Sunday, December 8, 2013

35 not out

This weekend, to use some cricketing parlance, I strode to the the batting crease of life and guided a cheeky single down leg-side, off the bowling of the grim reaper, to bring up my 35th year.

For those of you who didn't understand a single word of that last was my birthday on Friday night.

My celebrations were a welcome distraction from the political unrest that has afflicted the country in the last couple of weeks. The atmosphere in Thailand had been extremely poisonous but there appeared to be an easing of the tension as the nation came together, on the 5th of December, to mark the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol. This carried on into the weekend where my wife and I hosted a house party.

We were very lucky that my mum and dad were able to be with us and we were joined by a host of friends and acquaintances. Our guests enjoyed a plethora of barbecued food, enough beer and whiskey to sink a battleship....although I'm not sure our neighbours would have been too impressed with the karaoke blaring out until the wee small hours!!!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Loy Krathong 2013

Loy Krathong this year was held a week later than normal, due to the death of Supreme Patriarch Nyanasamvara Suvaddhanaects and celebrations in some places were slightly scaled back.

However, here in Pattaya there were plenty of events to mark the occasion. Om and I decided to attend the festivities at Mabprachan Lake.

There was a Miss Noppamas competition, a display of traditional Krathongs, fairground rides, dancing and a plethora of stalls selling food and drink. 

Although we arrived there quite early in the evening, it was still extremely busy and parking spaces were at a premium. The event organisers must have made an absolute fortune as they were charging an entry fee of 20 baht per vehicle. 

Such was the popularity of this festival that when we started our journey home, at around 8.30 pm, there was a queue of waiting traffic stretching several kilometres.  

Overall it was a lovely evening and as you can see from the photos we enjoyed ourselves immensely...... 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Manhandled at Pattaya Floating Market

The floating market is a well-known and popular attraction, located along the Sukhumvit road, here in Sin City.

Almost every time you drive past, the car parks are full and there are busloads of Chinese, Indian, Russian and Korean tourists being herded inside.

It has been in operation since late 2008 and I have been there on 5 previous occasions with my wife, parents and family friends. For visitors who were new to Pattaya, it was pleasant experience and in the early days there was no entrance fee and it was nowhere near as busy as it is now. This meant you could walk around and browse in the shops in relative peace and enjoy an ice cold beverage or a relaxing massage, without having to cough-up any cash or navigate your way past hordes of sweaty Indians or pissed-up Russians.

But, my opinion of the place has changed drastically since the last time I visited.

I was recently invited by a friend to join a tour of Pattaya, taking in several local attractions including Silverlake Vineyard and Khao Chi Chan, with the last stop being the floating market.

On my previous visits entry had been free, but upon arriving the admissions clerk demanded that we pay 200 baht each. We told him that our entry fee had already been paid as we were part of an organised tour. The gentleman's English language skills were non-existent and when I refused to pay, he became quite animated and his demeanour was aggressive. He only let us in after my friend's Thai speaking colleague intervened and explained the situation.    

I have also heard stories of people being asked for 800 baht in admission fees!!!! If that's true then it's tantamount to racketeering.

Anyway, after spending about one and a half hours looking around, the group were due to return home. I had already decided that as the market was the last stop on our itinerary, I would stay behind and wait for a lift from my wife. So, I set about shopping for a few small gifts and followed that with a couple drinks at one of the cafes.

But, what happened next left me gob-smacked........

Having paid the bill at the cafe, I started walking towards the exit, when an employee from the market asked to see my ticket. I informed him that as I was a member of an organised tour, I didn't have a ticket, only the numbered sticker that I was issued with at the entrance. The guy became angry and said "you no pay" and despite showing him the sticker, he grabbed my t-shirt with both hands and prevented me from walking any further. At which point I shoved him in the chest and he stumbled backwards. I also said it wouldn't be advisable for him to manhandled me agan. He was startled and looked at me in surprise for a few seconds before speaking to a colleague on his walkie-talkie. It was then I beat a hasty retreat and left before the situation escalated.      

Be warned, this place has nothing to do with Thai culture or heritage and is solely designed to empty tourists' pockets. You also risk the threat of intimidation or physical violence if they don't like the look of you or you question their policies. The shops all sell generic, over-priced souvenirs and other tack, that can be found for a fraction of the price in the local market. Another complaint I had was the amount of rubbish floating in the water. Litter is a huge problem here in Thailand and the workers at the floating market fail to understand that it's an eyesore. If they spent more time tidying up, than ripping-off and physically assaulting the patrons, then it would make for a much better experience.

A drinking buddy of mine has described it as a "filthy swamp where you pay 200 baht for the privilege of getting bitten by mosquitoes".

Overall, they've turned  a nice tourist attraction into an extortion racket and suffice to say I will never be stepping foot inside there again. I would also advise my readers not to waste their time and money by visiting.

Here is a link to their website.....which I hasten to add, fails to advise you about the 200 baht entrance fee!!!!

Welcome to the Land of Smiles........Land of Charlatans more like.

For some unbiased and objective reporting, I recommend going to the Trip Advisor website, where there are more than 400 reviews by visitors from around the world.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A new arrival

Allow me to introduce the newest member of the family........
My sister-in-law gave birth to Panpurid "Nammon" Porntanasit at 8.20am on 31st October and he weighed in at a healthy 6lbs despite arriving a few weeks earlier than anticipated.

Although you can't see it in the photos, he has a rather large nose and would give a proboscis monkey a run for it's money!!!! But despite the snout he's an adorable little chap.

All the Thai neighbours were swift to point out that he was born at Halloween and that it was a portent of doom which would result in our street being over-run wih ghouls and goblins.

This is because they're an extremely superstitious bunch and also of very limited intelligence!!

As you can imagine it's been all hands to the pumps in the last week or so trying to help wih the baby and keep the businesses running smoothly!!

I'll bring updates on the wee fella, along with any other important developments, in due course.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Seafood at Ban Amphur

I absolutely love going to Ban Amphur, it has a very nice beach and in my opinion some of the best seafood restaurants in the local area. It is easy to reach along the Sukhumvit road and the drive from Pattaya is around 20 minutes.

Whenever friends or family come to visit I always take them to eat fresh seafood at the restaurants overlooking the ocean.

My favourite establishment is called Sri Nuan and I have dined there on numerous occasions. The food is always locally sourced, good quality and well cooked.
Upon entering the restaurant there are a number of large tanks full of live fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other delights. You can choose which of these unsuspecting critters that you would like to eat and how you would like them cooked, or alternatively, you can choose something from their extensive menu.

The restaurant is extremely popular and often welcomes large tour groups, so in the evenings it can be very busy and take quite a long time to get served. I prefer to go in the late afternoon around 4 or 5 pm and as you can see from the photos, it's fairly quiet and the waiting staff aren't rushed off their feet.

The last time we frequented the establishment was to enjoy a family meal after a day of sightseeing. We ordered 7 dishes including a spicy salad with fish roe, squid cooked with onion and salty egg, fried fish with sour chilli and lime dipping sauce, garlic scallops, raw oysters with tamarind leaves, crispy shallots, garlic and chilli sauce, grilled prawns, and one of my all-time favourites, barbecued rock lobster. 

Our meal, which included rice, a large bottle of water, 4 large bottles of Leo beer and 2 buckets of ice cost 2,700 baht for 4 people (approximately £54 or £13.50 a head). By Thai standards that's a lot of money but when compared to the UK, where a similar meal would set you back at least £150 (7,500 baht), then it's an absolute bargain!!!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sai Kaew Beach

Had Sai Kaew is probably one of my favourite beaches within the local area although Bang Saray comes a close second.

Sai Kaew is around a 25-35 minute drive from Pattaya, along the Sukhumvit road past Nong Nooch Gardens and the Bang Saray junction. It is located inside the Chumpol Sattahip Naval Ratings College and is cared for and maintained by the recruits.

It is the sort of place that would probably not feature in any of the guidebooks and you are most likely to hear about through local people among whom it's incredibly popular.

However, it's charms are starting to be discovered by foreign holiday-makers, particularly the Russians and it's not unusual to see minibuses full of tourists these days.

It can get quite busy at weekends, so if your considering a trip, I would recommend going during the week.

Upon entering the Naval base, you are required to stop and exchange one form of ID, for example, a National ID card or driving licence for a permit which gives you permission to drive around the base.

You then simply follow the signs to the ticket booth where you must stop and pay the entrance fee. It's currently 80 baht.

From Monday to Friday you can drive to the car park next to the beach itself. But, at the weekend you have to stop at the car park by the ticket booth and take a song taew (a pick-up truck converted into a small bus) which will drop you off at the beach. The cost of the song taew is included in the 80 baht entrance fee.

The beach is about one kilometre long and there are plenty of trees along its length offering a shady spot to sit. There are no umbrellas, like you find on the beaches at Pattaya or Jomtien. You can rent deck chairs, but many people choose to bring a mat or blanket instead. Deck chairs cost 30 baht each for the whole day but if you bring your chair back when you have finished with it you will be refunded 10 baht.

The Northern end of the beach is a bit rocky but is generally a bit quieter than the Southern end of the beach. Thanks to being located on a naval base, development has been kept to a minimum, which is a huge plus point. There are, however, toilet and shower facilities, several small restaurants, a bar, massage shop and a few small bungalows available for rent, if you fancy staying the night.

Another positive is the fact that the sea is very clean and there are no jetskis. People do travel to the beach by motorboat but the day we were there I counted only 4 boats in 6 hours and there was only 1 banana boat offering rides. There are no dangerous currents and a gently sloping shelf, so the conditions are ideal for children and those who are not strong swimmers.

There are also a large number of wild monkeys which often venture close to the beach, as there are a lot of tamarind trees in the area. They also try and purloin tasty tit-bits from the visitors. I'm sure the monkeys natural diet would never include spring rolls, fried sausages and ice cream!!!!!  

The prices of food and drinks are slightly more expensive than you would find elsewhere but they are not exorbitant. I normally take a large cool-box full of beer, water, soft drinks and other essentials and just buy my food there.

All in all we had a tremendous day out, as you can see from the photos.........

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A trip to Pattaya sheep farm

My wife's nephew, who she hadn't seen in more than 5 years, recently spent a week with us. As it was his first visit to Pattaya, we thought it would be nice to take him sightseeing and introduce him to the delights of the city.

We decided to visit the Pattaya sheep farm, a relatively new attraction, which opened in June this year.

The first plus point was the absence of any double pricing. All visitors whether they're Thai or foreign are charged a nominal 50 baht entrance fee.

Visitors are able to feed and pet the sheep, donkeys, cows and deer and I was even able to pick up one of the lambs.

The farm also has a steak house, but on this occasion we didn't dine there. I'm sure many of you are also wondering whether the little fella in the picture above will end up as a set of chops. That I can't tell you, but on the day we visited there was lamb on the menu!!!!

There are plenty of photo opportunities and also the chance to enjoy a cup of coffee or shop for a few souvenirs. The second plus point was that the number of kiosks/stalls has also been kept to minimum. You aren't being constantly harassed to buy something and you don't have to face the prospect of aggressive traders around every corner which is the case at a lot of attractions in Thailand.


The Pattaya sheep farm must also be the only sheep farm in the world with a resident monkey!!!!

Overall the farm is very nice and I would highly recommend it. For those of you with kids, it's the perfect place to while away a couple of hours and I'm sure the kids will enjoy hand-feeding the animals.

The only complaint I had was the building work that was still going on. Whilst it was confined to small area, there was still the risk of an accident occurring, The area where the work was taking place was right next to the main pathway and was not cordoned-off. There was unsecured scaffolding and builders working with angle-grinders and welding equipment just above the heads of passing guests. For anyone who visits in the next few weeks please take care and keep your eyes open for any potential danger.

Here is a link to their facebook page..........