June 07, 2005
The monthly ‘Tourist of the Month’ award is given by this site to tourists/travellers who, intentionally or not, manage to make a dick of themselves in one way or another and therefore do themselves a disservice. Obviously ‘making a dick of oneself’ covers a broad spectrum of behaviour, therefore the situation & location in which the behaviour is set are also contributing factors in the judges decision making.
Thankfully Thailand’s tourist authority shares my view that offering this award will serve to deter the unwashed masses from visiting the islands and, by virtue of having fewer ‘idiot visitors’, the mirage of Koh Chang as an ‘Oriental Eden of the East’ will become reality. Their email to me:
In response to your enquiry, we have no knowledge of any awards currently being given which acknowledge contributions made by tourists or visitors to the development of Koh Chang as a premium tourist destination therefore we would be very interested to receive any suggestions, support or assistance that your organisation could provide in initiating such a project.”
The winners of the virtual monthly award which is virtually endorsed by the tourist authority are . . .
A stoner who was wandering around the houses near where I live asking everyone he met where he could buy illegal substances.
I watched him walk around a few houses and them got to the house next to ours and mimed smoking a cigarette to the Thai guys who were sitting around playing cards. They offered him one, he refused and kept miming. They thought he was a bit of an odd chap and came round to ask for some help with the translation.
Me: “What do you want?”
Him: “Marijuana.” [Honestly, not ‘weed’ or ‘grass’ he said ‘marijuana’] Me: “No idea where you can buy it around here, try Lonely Beach. Also try to be a bit more discreet. How do you know none of the Thais you are asking are police?”
Him: “Dunno, but they don’t look like police.”
I’m sure that farangs on motorbikes will feature heavily so this month’s winners and their 110cc iron horses will be the first of many similar tales.
There’s nothing funny about someone falling of a motorbike, it’s dangerous and could end in tears. However when three strapping Dutch guys wipe themselves out for no apparent reason simultaneously then it’s a bit of a laugh if you happen to be watching events from a car following behind, as I was.
The guys had come out of Kai Bae’s 7-11, hopped on their new model Honda Dreams and were proceeding, single file in a southerly direction, it was drizzling slightly. All looked normal, just three guys tootling along at 30kilometres/hour. Then, for no apparent reason the lead rider rode off the road and into a roadside tree. The second rider managed to swerve to avoid him but overdid the steering and ended up in a ditch on the right of the road. The third guy seemed torn between swerving left or right and in the end yanked his handlebars in both directions causing him to go over the top of the bars and end up in a heap in the middle of the road.
I had stopped the car but by the time I had wiped the smirk of my face and was ready to get out it was clear that the three guys weren’t too badly injured as they were having a heated stand up argument in the middle of the road and it took repeated ‘honking’ by a truck driver to encourage them to take what had now developed into a bit of a brawl off the road and onto the grass verge.
I’m sure they made up later just as I’m sure the motorbike rental shop made a fortune out of the repair charges they will have levied.
One of my (many) pet hates are farangs who visit safe third world countries, or to be more politically correct ‘developing nations’, an attempt to be as one with the locals. This ‘as oneness’ is usually achieved by donning an item of ethnic clothing, wearing fisherman’s trousers and walking around barefoot. For Thais and farangs alike, there’s nothing wrong with slipping your shoes off at home, on the beach, inside a temple or even when entering a shop which has a ‘No shoes’ sign on the door.
However, one place where everyone, except for Thai hillbillies, know that it’s OK to enter with your shoes on is your local 7-eleven. If a Thai sees another Thai in the 7-eleven with no shoes on they’ll comment on how much of a country bumpkin they must be, so how does that make supposedly sophisticated farangs look?
Anyway, having got that off my chest, a pair of Tesco’s 17 baht flip-flops will be winging their way to the early 20s guy wearing khaki fisherman’s trousers, white t-shirt, ‘Ad Carabao’ headband and no bloody shoes in the Kai Bae 7-11 on 5 August . . . . if he identifies himself. (You know who you are, you were with a semi-pissed Thai guy who appeared to be the type of person that hangs around resorts in order to befriend inexperienced backpackers – a decision that is usually regretted later by the young traveller who now has a empty feeling in his wallet.)
No island would be complete without having a few overly optimistic farang bar owners who expect to earn a living wage by running a hole in the wall dive. I’ve had a couple of emails from guys wanting to set up bars like this and I’ve tried my hardest to put them off, having seen how lax business really is in places such as these. One guy wasn’t deterred, he’s our ‘Farang of the Month’ for September.
I met ‘Bob’ in Kai Bae, he was looking around a small, rundown shop unit that was home, last year to a bar whose customers were regularly outnumbered by the two tarty staff. He asked if I was thinking of renting the place too. Needless to say I wasn’t, but we went on to have a lengthy chat about rent, cost to do the place up, his plans etc.
Why can’t people understand that outside White Sand Beach & away from the beach you need something different / unique about a bar if you want to attract more than just a few mates to sit in it? Fair enough if you don’t need the money and just fancy pimping a couple of your g/f’s pals for the hell of it, but sadly Bob and those like outwardly, at least, appear to need the cash.
So for the past month Bob’s bar has been open, he’s been paying rent, paying the wages for three staff and hasn’t had more than a dozen paying customers, well a good landlord can’t let their ‘friends’ pay for their beers can they.
There’s a motto somewhere in this, something long the lines of ‘Look before you leap’.
Novice travellers, dontcha just love ’em. Got to do everything they can to be, what they perceive, a ‘real’ traveller is. And, having bought the clothes, got the braided hair, added a tattoo or two, the one thing left to do is lose the shoes. Barefoot, man. Get so close to nature you step in and on it. Fine if you’re on the beach, heck, even I never wear shoes at home but there is a line to be drawn.
As the young sunburnt, female traveller in Bailan found out, tarmac can get very hot in mid-afternoon and gravel tracks aren’t for sensitive soles. It was just prior to discovering this first hand that she should have opened her daypack, realised that there’s no face to be lost by wearing sandals, and popped them on. In reality, it took a good couple of minutes before she figured that out, having only covered or rather, staggered, 20 metres or so. Full marks for effort, zero marks for application and street cred.
A mass award this month as the rain has stopped, the sun has come out and beachwear fashion crimes are again being committed willy-nilly without regard for the sensitive eyes of onlookers.
Walking roadside in White Sand Beach the other day I began to feel as though I was in Pattaya or Patong. A major downside in the government’s plan to attract more well heeled visitors is that more often than not these visitors are in the forty plus age bracket and often big boned i.e. fat bastards – for non politically correct readers. Therefore I’m appealing to Koh Chang’s rulers to ban something that is truly offensive, not cars, not backpackers, not girlie bars. If Koh Chang is to be taken seriously as a millionaires playground then ban hefty middle aged couples from wearing thongs & bikinis away from the beach – unless they’re celebs. You don’t see sagging guts, cellulite and stretch marks in Malibu.
Living on the river means that we get a fair number of kayakers paddling past, exploring the estuary and taking a look at the mangroves. Our dog likes to watch and passers by usually consider him the main focus of attention when they pass the house. This wasn’t the case one day in early December though.
We were tidying the deck outside the house and Mam’s mum wanted to help so I got her sorted out carrying a few pieces of wood round to the back of the house. After half an hour or patented ‘slow-but-sure’ work, she got serious and wrapped a tea towel around her head, giving her a more labourer-like appearance. A backpacker couple in a canoe came by and slowed down to watch the 60-year old struggling with a 4 metre plank of wood, which she had no chance of shifting and I was about to tell her to leave alone. They said “Hi” but were transfixed by mother-in-law’s exertions.
Sensing the opportunity to see how gullible they were I mentioned that good Cambodian labour was hard to come by and she was all we could find at short notice, still she wasn’t bad for 50 baht a day. The couple seemed lost for words, said their farewells and paddled away obviously talking between themselves. So, if you’re reading this . . . I was just messing with your mind. Hope you didn’t tell too many people about the slaves of Koh Chang. I’ll have to check the Lonely Planet board.
A tale from last month which is keeping numerous locals amused due to its ‘crazy foreigners not having a clue about what to do’ theme is the story of a guy who went shopping outside the local temple.
A couple of stalls outside Wat Klong Prao temple sell bits and pieces for anyone wanting to make merit at the temple (i.e. take a few goodies for the monks in return for a blessing / forgiveness / a few words of wisdom or next week’s winning lottery numbers.) Offerings usually take the form of food or an orange bucket full of cleaning products . . . a ‘monk bucket’ as their known, to me at least.
One day a foreign guy walked up and asked how much the monk buckets were. The stall keeper gestured towards the temple and tried to explain that the buckets were meant for merit making rather than a way for you to buy a selection of cleaning products without the need for visiting a minimart (Which would be a much cheaper alternative.) The guy was insistent so the shopkeeper sold him an overpriced bucket under the belief that the visitor knew what he was buying and would cross the road into the temple. He didn’t.
He kept walking along the road, monk bucket in hand with the stallholder shouting after him to let him know that he was walking right past the temple . He just kept on walking, drawing the looks of the locals as he went. Who he was, what he wanted the monk bucket for and whether or not he’ll ever come back for another one all questions waiting to be answered.
A highlight for some but a lowlight of many visitors to Koh Chang, and the Klong Prao beach area in particular were the regular sightings of the ‘naked guy’ 50 metres offshore.
The guy was bought to my attention when I was on the beach with the dog, and a French girl who was staying at a nearby hotel and was playing with the dog commented “Ohh, ze man has forgotten ‘iz slip”.
A scrawny, middle aged backpacker seemed to like nothing better than parading his dangly bits for the world to see. To be fair he was semi discreet about this, as he always walked parallel to the beach in the almost waist deep sea. Thereby far enough away from onlookers so they didn’t get a full on in your face eyeful but near enough for folks to catch a glimpse. The distance also meant that he avoided any verbal and/or physical abuse that would surely have come his way had he been strolling down the beach in his birthday suit.
Tough choice this month but after all the Oscars were dished out to a movie that left you in tears as you walked out of the cinema I thought the March ‘Tourist of the Month’ should take a break from the ‘western idiot’ theme and go to someone who will leave you smiling.
Me and my missus were down on Lonely beach seeing how the unwashed masses live when we spotted one such person. Step forward, farang girl who sells dive courses, and, if I may be so bold, has a very well nourished rack indeed. It was my missus who spotted her (them) in the distance and the girl seemed to have no problem finding willing young males to listen to her sales spiel whilst making the most of her god-given tourist attractions.
We never found out exactly what her conversation starter was but from the reactions of those she was talking to it was along the lines of: “Can I interest you in a dive course or would you just like to stare at my tits while I rabbit on?”
A story relayed to me from a beach massage woman and basic beach safety rules for visitors.
Palm fringed beaches have their attractions, notably the tall coconut palms that provide shade form the sun. One day Mum, Dad, the small daughter and the baby in the push chair were taking a stroll along the beach.
They decided to pause and take a break in the shade of a coconut palm. However, there was quite a strong sea breeze blowing and the palm the family decided to rest under just happened to be one that had not had it’s coconuts harvested. The massage woman, sitting nearby shouted out to the family to look up. They did and saw a lovely big bunch of photogenic coconuts.
“Geez, what a nice lady.” She then beckoned them to come and sit near her – under a much less scenic but safer fir tree. They declined. A few seconds later a coconut fell from the tree and into the pushchair. Three or four kilos falling from over 10 metres does a lot of damage.
Fortunately, the baby had just been taken out of the pushchair. The family, visibly shaken, now realised what the massage woman had been trying to tell them.
It may sound a bit daft, but look up before you sit under a coconut palm. Most resorts will cut the coconuts before high season but the ones on the shore may not be so tourist friendly.
Another group award this month which goes out to people who manage to plan and organise travel to get them from their front door to an island in the gulf of Thailand and then suddenly something goes awry, an event or series of events which is on a par with those leading up to the elimination of the dinosaur in it’s inexplicability and the result is . . . .
Well dressed visitors pulling their wheely suitcases along beaches. The scene often resembles something from ‘Out of Africa’ only with family or group members substituting for the ‘luggage wallahs’.
Attempting to tow your Samsonite through a sand trap isn’t for the fainthearted, so why do it? Does it add to the holiday experience? Wouldn’t it be easier to walk along the road? Forced marches carrying heavy weights went out of fashion in Thailand following construction of the ‘Bridge of over the river Kwai’. What’s good for Sir Alec Guinness, may not be good for you.
Visitors to the Thai islands have the choice of many popular pastimes that are laid on for their amusement and enjoyment. Snorkelling, elephant trekking and scuba diving are but three you can easily find on Koh Chang. Another activity which is equally, if not more popular, but less publicised by the tourist authorities, is the holiday romance.
We’re friends with quite a few beach massage women, if you know one then you tend to end up knowing their extended family (‘family’ in the mafia sense). The most surprising thing is how many of them are on the look-out for husbands for their daughters. One woman, with nice enough 18 year old daughter, has no trouble in getting here introduced to guys on the beach.
The most recent boyfriend, a guy who has already started to send money for the obligatory sick buffalo, seems to be smitten. Despite them not being able to hold a conversation due to young ‘Nong’ only speaking a handful of foreign words – none of them in Klaus’s native language. From his last email, which I’ve been shown, he’s already planning to set up a business in Koh Chang and get hitched. So, if you’re reading this Klaus . . .just say No.