All good things must come to an end, and Koh Chang had been a very good thing indeed. I’ve loved my week there and I’m sad to leave it behind me, but leave it behind I must.
My Thai isn’t great, but from what I can make out, we’re waiting for two more people to join us. It’s a Japanese Mini-Bus, designed for 14 and there are 12 already aboard. Two more shouldn’t be a problem, and if nobody had any luggage then they wouldn’t be. But we all have luggage, and it is a problem. Tempers are beginning to flare, we’ve already missed the intended ferry back to the mainland, the air conditioning isn’t working and next time folks, please advise me to do ’Rich Circulation’. I’ve saved a couple of quid by booking the cheapest means of getting from Koh Chang to Sattahip, but this is going to knock years off my life. What a month I chose to stop bloody smoking, and I’ve just used my last nicotine patch …. mai pen rai.
I must have fallen asleep and I’ve woken up in the town of Jontiem, just South of Pattaya. I fall out of the bus and grab my luggage from the bottom of the pile. The rest of the good folks are heading for Pattaya and I’m left at the side of the road with a smile, a telephone number and the slim hope that when people tell you to ’Call’ if you’re ever in town, that they actually mean it.
An hour later, Aeg arrives in his Mitsubishi along with his wife and a welcoming smile. I can’t stay at his apartment on the Naval Base, but he’s found me an apparently suitable hotel called the ‘Paradise Ocean View‘. Suitable for what I wonder? For those of you who might remember Roman and Slava from Volgograd back in 2008, well it’s time to meet the outwardly friendlier Thai version. Aeg and his extended network of Family, Friends and Business Associates. It’s a long story and one day I will write a book, or another book, but I’m in Sattahip for the memorial service of a recently departed Rear Admiral who’s name escapes me. Why am I invited? Well, that reason escapes me too. But I’m here and I’ll go with the flow ….. mai pen rai
I’ve settled into the ‘Paradise Ocean View Hotel’, which ironically seems to be one of the few buildings in Sattahip that lacks any kind of Ocean View, and I’ve been taken on a whistle-stop tour of the City. For reasons of security, at least 50% of the tour I can not tell you about. It’s not that I’ll get shot for revealing Thai Naval secrets, it’s just that going ’In’ and ’Out’ of each Naval Base, I was locked in the boot of the vehicle. I’m sure that this wasn’t strictly necessary, but at least the guy’s up front had something to laugh about and I’ve got something to write about.
I’ve met the family of the Rear-Admiral and they do seem to be directly related to Aeg and his family. We went to the fish market somewhere on the coastal road and bought what in Blighty would have cost a small fortune. Oysters that the girl opened in front of us, 5Kg for 150 THB, £3.00. A mountain of fresh whole Crab (which in Thai is unfortunately called ’Poo’ ) at £1 per 2 Kg’s. Squid, Hawaii Lobster, Giant Prawns and a cold box full of Chang Beer and Spy Pink. These are great people that I‘ve found. The things that we are buying are by my standards amazingly cheap, but I’m only expected to pay my share, nothing more, everybody contributes equally.
Back at a house belonging to somebody who isn’t in the car with us, an oil barrel BBQ is lit and the cooking commences. A small team of builders are laying concrete at the side of the house and I sit wondering why they don’t move the wheelbarrow closer to the spot where they’re hand mixing the concrete. The wet mix is shovelled into buckets which are then carried twenty feet before being emptied into the wheelbarrow and pushed to the building site. I should bite my tongue, but I don’t. I move the wheelbarrow and for ten beautiful minutes, an energy sapping element of their already arduous routine has been avoided. It’s thumbs up all around and fifteen minutes later, they’re back to carrying buckets of wet concrete to the wheelbarrow again ….. mai pen rai
I’ve been given a 'Suzuki Swing II' to use during my stay here in Sattahip. It’s clearly an improvement on the older 'Suzuki Swing I' that I never rode, but the only thing that I really notice is that it actually has gears. The buggered toe on my left foot isn’t as happy as the rest of me, but oh how I’ve missed using gears over the past two weeks. It takes some getting used to. Four gears going downwards, nothing on the uplift and seemingly no neutral to worry about. I keep using my heel and toe at exactly the wrong times, but alternatively locking and then smoking the 1 Inch wide tyres is an absolute blast. This thing is a 2-Stroke and I guess around 110cc, but it weighs little more than an oily rag and could probably even put a smile on Jack Dee’s face.
Tomorrow it’s the memorial service and I really don’t know what to expect. I’m sure that it’ll be an experience and afterwards, I’ve been offered a free lift in a pick-up truck some 500 Km to Korat in Central Thailand. I’ve never been to Korat before but Aeg’s family are from that area and his parents have offered to let me stay at their home on an Army Base there. Last night I’d been a little too drunk to ride the Suzuki back to the Paradise Ocean View Hotel and so I’d been given a lift there by a stranger. This morning when I arrived down in reception, the pick-up truck was waiting to collect me. When we arrived at our destination, four kids and three bags of cement had mysteriously appeared in the back. I love this place for it’s unpredictability, and for exactly the same reason, I hate it. However, the best thing about not having a plan, is not having a plan. I can basically say ’Yes’ or ’No’ to anything on a daily basis, and if the mood takes me, I can later change my mind. This morning, the newly laid concrete path was being lifted again. They’d concreted over the drains ….. mai pen rai