As I mentioned in my previous article, this week I’ll be busy getting my residence visa sorted. For a variety of reasons, especially the fact I didn’t want to trust my passport to a courier service, I decided to do this in person. So my first day involved heading a long ways north, then around the Bay of Bangkok to a place called Chonburi.
And so here I am, after a very long drive.
I was very much taken by surprise when I realized, from reading distances on road signs, that what I thought was about half the journey completed was in fact only one third. I instantly cut out a side trip to Prachuap Khiri Khan town and beaches. In any case the weather was very cloudy with rain threatening. Although it never did rain the roads were wet in places
This was not a trip to be done for fun. The road is mostly straight, four, six, eight even ten lanes in places. The main North-South road is not a real expressway. There were many towns, junctions, traffic lights, etc. To make life more difficult everyone travels in whatever lane they feel like, and passes in any lane they feel like, so it’s necessary to be really alert. Which is okay since I’ve always wanted to be a lert!
The scenery didn’t change much. Mostly flat verdant land, with some rolling hills around the Hua Hin/Cha Am area … which reminded me of Umbria … one of my favorite parts of the world. And any place the road ran close to the coast the typical limestone mounds were visible, or “limestone titties” as I call them!
The website I had previously consulted for time and distance was wrong on both counts. Based on its prediction of 580kms, I’d estimated maybe seven hours. But it turned out to be 840kms which took me about ten and a half hours. Perhaps it’s 580kms as the crow flies but my name’s not Warren (Only Montréal Expos fans will understand.)
I suppose it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I polished off the first 500kms non-stop before taking a short break for lunch, and only needed a brief fill-up of the tank after that.
It could have been lot less in terms of time, but the closer I got to Bangkok the heavier the traffic became. I’d been averaging almost 100kph up to that point, but was soon reduced to a crawl. I guess Sunday afternoon everyone is returning to the city or is out shopping. And in concentrating on the stop-start-stop nature of the traffic, I missed an exit somewhere.
Having decided yesterday I could hold the route in my head – there were only about four places I needed to change roads – I was disappointed to have to fire up the GPS software on the iPad. But the lady who shouts directions at me, and who I swear at in about equal measures, decided it would be a barrel of laughs to take me through the center of Bangkok, a place I wanted to avoid at all costs.
And then, just as I’d decided I was within a stone’s throw of my hotel in Chonburi, the nice GPS lady decided I should take the Chonburi bypass. “I’m not falling for any more of your little jokes” I decided, but for sure she had the last laugh. My hotel was at the far end of the traffic choked town, and a bypass would have been ideal. It seemed like anyone from Bangkok who wasn’t headed home must have been in Chonburi. At one point I didn’t move for 20 minutes. Not what you need after ten hours of driving. But at least the skies cleared and it started to look like a nice evening.
And then my hotel seemed to have been deliberately hidden down the smallest soi imaginable, off a tiny road with what seemed like 100 side lanes. Eventually I found it, and sure enough it is almost on the beach, and my “seaview” room has a spectacular view … of the trees separating me from the hotel next door. It’s okay, and it’s cheap, but not something I would recommend. Why it’s called a “boutique resort” is beyond me. It’s neither. Just a plain old two star hotel, with the emphasis on old, and plain.
It does though have a good sea-facing restaurant, with waitresses in short shorts and who have legs up to their … well never mind. Right now I’m sitting wondering just how much more of this sea bass in black pepper sauce I can eat, but not giving a moment’s thought to how many more Chang beers I can drink, when – in seconds – it seems like the wind is trying to dump the sea on the restaurant.
A quick change of tables later and I’m drying out, while the people with the long legs are scurrying to bring down the blinds, one of which, blinds that is, has just broken loose, shattering a lamp and showering the restaurant in a hail of glass and sparks. Hmm, and now, the restaurant manager is standing atop a small wooden stool which is perched precariously on a wooden table, and having smashed away the remains of the bulb with a broom is trying, with bare hands, to poke a very live and very wet wire into a roof beam. And now he’s back on terra firma leaving me wondering if the Thais know something about cheating death that the rest of us don’t.
And so the remains of the evening of a very long day see me sitting on my hotel balcony, post shower, wearing nothing more – since it is still 34 degrees – than some clean underwear, invisible to the world thanks to the aforementioned trees and the fact that it’s pitch dark. And I’m polishing off a couple more beers. To be honest, no one would have any idea if I was naked, except for a swarm of mosquitos who I swear are shouting “Where’s Willy?”
And that’s probably far too many words to type about a day in which, frankly, not much happened.