Welcome back. Time for more travel stories and miscellaneous twitterings…
Yesterday I had to run some errands in Nakhon Si Tammarat, just generally known around here as Nakhon. For me, that’s a minimum two hour round-trip, and I hate to do that just for a few errands. So I checked to see what is beyond the city, and planned a mini-exploration session for the same trip.
I figured if I cleared the errands first, I’d probably be too lazy to do any touring, so I decided it best to go see something while the weather was good. And I have to admit, it was a spectacular morning.
Heading southeast from Nakhon, you arrive in about forty minutes in the Pak Phanang District. It’s an area dominated by water. Rivers. Lakes. Swamps. Bridges. And of course the sea. Stretching north from there is a long cape, with, as far as I could figure, just one road. The end of the cape is actually further north than Nakhon.
I headed first into Pak Phanang town which is a few kilometers inland and like so many places around here, has grown on both sides of a river. I wouldn’t call it “quaint” but it has character, with lots of tiny streets and markets, and pleasant views across the river.
My intention was to find Wat Nantharam which, I had read, houses an ancient and unusual red sandstone Buddha. Well, Ms. Chuckles, my GPS software lady, proudly announced “You have arrived at your destination” and sure enough, there was a wat directly across from the river. So, I grabbed the camera and went to investigate.
Something didn’t seem right. The wat grounds were large, housing many buildings including a school. All the kids wandering around the gardens had to shout “Hello” and wave at the farang, which was nice, but I couldn’t find any building which seemed important enough to house an ancient artifact.
But then I glanced at my watch. It was about 12:30. So I figured he must have gone to lunch. Or it being Monday, perhaps it was his day off! I assume Buddhas are not required to work 24/7. Anyhoo, I never did find him, and I suspect I was in the wrong wat. The problem is, there’s so many, it’s hard to know which wat is which. Oh well, next time I’ll print some Google maps rather than listening to Chuckles.
From the town I headed just a few kilometers east to a village so small the only thing noted on Google maps is the Ko Aud Seafood Restaurent (sic). It has a jetty, some fishing boats and not much else. I probably should have had lunch but I figured it was going to be a long day, so I persuaded my stomach to wait a while longer.
I don’t know why, but I figured I had to see the end of the cape. I suppose because it’s there. The road runs along the east coast of the cape for about 25kms, but unfortunately, for the most part, it’s about fifty meters inland, and separated from the sea by almost non-stop shrimp farms. It’s big business around here. Most shrimps, I’m told, are exported to Japan. Or prawns if you prefer.
The further north I drove the narrower and rougher the road became until eventually it kind of ran out. Well, as you can see here, there were two tracks through the grass, but that didn’t look like Honda Shitty country, so I backed up.
Even Chuckles agreed there was no more road.
About a hundred meters back there was a track to the beach, and the views I found there were simply stunning…
Even the sky looked more spectacular than usual…
Then I reluctantly headed back into Nakhon for a late lunch and some errands. Oh yes, that’s why I left home in the first place. Almost forgot.
And as I reached the car to head home, thinking well, that was a pleasant and productive day, I found this…
Why me? I thought. I’m on the end of a line of parked cars, and they don’t have clamps. And of course, the sticker on the side window explained in minute detail what I had to do next – at least, I assume it did – but it was of no use to me.
Just as I was thinking it’s time to “phone a friend” a man with orange jacket appeared. He seemed to know what had happened. Well, the clamp would have given him a clue. And he seemed to want to help. But his non-stop jabbering, and hand signals that seemed to be telling me which way I had to walk, were of no help. I really did have to phone a friend.
She kindly spoke with the orange man – who I later noticed had a number on his back, and then she explained to me he was an “authorized motorbike taxi driver” (a what?!?) who was offering to take me to/from the police station to pay the fine. I might have figured this if he’d actually had a motorbike, but he’d cunningly hidden it around the corner. Another confuse-a-farang day.
Anyways, a fee was agreed. The motorbike was produced. He gave me a helmet which seemed to be made of some plastic material. I jumped on the back and we set off into the traffic. I don’t mean with the traffic, but on the wrong side of the road directly into the traffic. After heading straight at about five vehicles, with me thinking each time my end had come, and with the vehicles screeching to a halt at the very last moment, it occurred to me I shouldn’t worry as he’s probably done this every day for the past forty years and he’s still alive.
But then I remembered my theory that the Thais have some way of cheating death that the rest of us don’t know about, and imagined the headline in tommorow’s Nakhon Daily Natterings “Farang wearing plastic bucket splattered against number 97 bus.”
To be serious, when I was over in Krabi, I saw the immediate aftermath of an horrendous motorbike accident, which I haven’t spoken of since, and hope never to recall again, but I have to admit, I was moderately scared by this experience. By the time we reached the police station my legs had turned to Jello and I almost fell off the back.
But it all ended well. The policemen were jovial English-speaking persons. The fine was only THB500, about US$15. They politely advised me I had parked in a bus stop, although in reality I had parked next to a bus stop.
And then of course, I had to get back onto the “taxi.” I pleaded with the “driver” to go slower, which I think he did, although it was still quite scary, and by the time we arrived back at the car, the clamp had magically disappeared. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn the policeman and the bike riding “taxi driver” hide around the corner all the time, and make a living from idiots like me who park next to the bus stop. For sure, the guys at the police station were very chummy with my pilot.
Anyhoo, I’m still alive, and in the space of thirty minutes learned a lot of useful things…
- I learned that you don’t park where the curb is painted in yellow and white stripes.
- I learned where to find the Nakhon Police Station
- I learned that a man with an orange jacket that has a number on the back is a “taxi driver” of sorts
- I learned that there really are such things as licensed motorbike taxis, and
- I learned that I never want to ride on one again