|Date: December 24th - December 25th
Location: Pattaya, Thailand
Christmas Eve was spent in three different locations of Thailand. The early part of the morning was in Chiang Mai, as we struggled to get up and to the airport. Once safely in Bangkok we were forced into deciding where we wanted to spend Christmas. Knowing that Adam (to be referred to from now on as Sly), John (aka Magoo), and Andrew (Listy) would be arriving in Bangkok that night we wanted to stay fairly local so we could easily meet up with them on Boxing day and plan our next move from then. It had been mentioned to us, by a guy on our Chiang Mai day trip, that the southern part of Thailand was still stuck in rainy season and the more northeastern beach of Pattaya was actually a better option. Pattaya is located only 2 hours drive southeast of Bangkok so we figured it would be close enough to go to for a couple of days and then head back up to meet the boys.
Now, after being in the country for a week now, and having been to Bangkok for all of two days, I figured myself somewhat of a money saving traveller always able to get a good deal and avoid the obvious tourist traps many people find themselves in. Armed with my LP, I quickly read that the cheapest and underused option to get into Bangkok city was actually the train. The station, it said, was just outside over the road from the airport and provided many rapid trains to the city centre. It failed to mention which terminal it was "across the road from", but after walking for about a km with backpacks on (hell no am I putting my pack on a trolley...it's the whole point of a pack with straps... I'm hardcore) we found ourselves standing on a more hillbilly platform than our local one in Takeo, Japan. There was one other western couple waiting for a train, "This is strange" we thought, but sat down to wait anyway. After a little while I decided to check what time the next train was coming, just for interests sakes of course, we cant have blown out cause we followed LP's advice. "We're smart hardcore travellers... look around the other westerners don't even know about this! That's how good we are..." I trotted confidently across the tracks to the ticket booth.
"How long till the next train to Bangkok Central City, please?"
Ticket man has a look at a schedule. "4 hours".
"Excuse me?!!! .... 4 hours?!!!!"
"Yes, 4 hours, at 13:30."
I made my way back across the tracks tail between my legs to tell Karen. Fifteen minutes later we were in a taxi on our way. However, we were not heading to the bus station for the cheapest option to Pattaya, but directly there via taxi. 2 hours in a taxi because....well, because it was easiest... and it's what all the other tourists do! It was actually super cheap, just $25 for the two of us, so we didn't blow out too much in the end.
After two hours of what felt like super speeds along the highways, unable to see how fast we were going as the speedo was disconnected and, thus, stuck on zero, we found ourselves in the tourist haven of Pattaya. I think there may possibly have been more English people on holiday there than you would find at Brighton on a sunny Sunday. After finding ourselves accommodation, in a very kinky decorated room, we marched straight to the beach to feel the sand between our toes! Was so good laying back into a deck chair with the ocean breaking on the beach just 10 meters in front of us. Easily one of the things I miss most about home is the easy access there is to the beach and being able to see the sea everyday. There's just something about it that adds calm to people I think (look at the middle of the states... they're crazy...reason, simple, no salt water!). Pattaya beach was nice and all but we just weren't 'feeling it', as every minute we had someone walk past trying to sell us something. No such thing as being left alone to relax that's for sure! As a result, our next move was, to book ourselves on a boat tour to an island for Christmas day.
That night we went "Christmas Shopping" for 45 minutes. Because we didn't have any presents with us I made the call that we each split up and have 45 minutes and a limit of what we could spend to buy something for each other. The markets and mall I explored were loads of fun, and offered me a chance to see just how cheap stuff really is in Thailand. Once we had met up again we went for a stroll around the streets. For the first time we saw the sex industry of Thailand at work. It was heinous. Every single bar you went past was littered in Thai girls dotted around just waiting for foreigners to come in so they could try and sell themselves. Very out of it thing to see happening so openly and everywhere. It was gross to see the number of older English geezers with some young Thai girl on their arm as they walked up the steps to a hotel. Sad to see how many girls have to resort to selling themselves as a means of getting by, and how many guys are so up for going there and support the industry.
Christmas day arrived and, due to what has been built into me with Christmas stockings at home, I couldn't sleep from 06:30 onwards. At 08:00 I could no longer contain my excitement so finally woke Karen for present time. After we had exchanged gifts we found we had to rush our assess off to make the pick up time for our boat trip. I wanted to have my first shave of the trip (since I wanted to look presentable for the days events that were going to unfold). However, my shave turned into the worst of my life. The convenience store had no shaving cream so I had to settle for a disposable shaver only and try to use some soap in stead. The razor was crap, the water was cold, the soap useless. It felt like I was having a dry shave! Consequentially, I was left with a patchy, semi-rashed face on the day I was supposed to look my best!
Before too long and we found ourselves powering out to see on our big boat with the sun streaming down on us. It seemed like we had lucked out and the sun was turning on a show for us. "We don't need (didn't actually have) sunscreen cause we're from NZ and have a hard out sun there... none of this 'no hole in the ozone' crap. We'll be sweet," we thought. Oh how we would rue that decision the next day!!
The boat made one stop on rout to Coral Island. It stopped for those who wanted to do some paragliding. Karen and I jumped at the chance, both having never done it before. Although the ride was pretty short it was still a great experience being suspended in the sky like that while a speed boat powered about in the sea below me....pulling as best it could on my massive 70kg frame...
Once we rounded the last point and caught sight of the beach we were to spend Christmas on we knew we had made a smart move. It was beautiful and there were no pesky sales people dotted around to annoy us. The water we soon found out was very warm and of a beautiful green/blue colour. We spent a long time mixing it up from swimming in the sea, to reading on a deck chair, to just soaking in the sun, to having some food. It was very nice.
Comical relief came in the form of some crazy Russian dude. Not sure if he was just drunk, or in fact has some issues on top of his drunkenness, but he was... lets just say... different. About an hour since arrival and lying on the deck chairs I looked out to sea and noticed the crazy Rusky had managed to rent a jet ski! "Quick Karen, look, they have rented that crazy dude a jet ski. What were they thinking?!" It took less than two minutes to prove me right. He was being a lunatic out at sea, and thinking he was the man, decided to bring it closer to shore. He went full throttle straight towards us. While I had no worries of getting hit since we were a good 15 meters up the sand from the sea, I was still curious as to what he was planning. At the last minute he decided not to take the sand head on but instead fancied himself with the rocks! He turned sharply to the right and straight into the rocks that marked the end of the beach! He and the jet ski went smashing straight onto the rocks and "beached" themselves there. He was ringing the throttle trying to make it go somewhere, but being too drunk to realise he was actually well out of the water now, just forced the thing to sound loudly to the Thai owner down the beach! He then dragged the jet ski back over the rocks and into the sea and attempted to get going again. Obviously by this time the owner had caught up with him and wasn't having a bar of it eventually getting the key off him. Was all highly entertaining for Karen and I on the beach as the drama was unfolding right in front of us. Up shot of it all is the guy wouldn't pay anything for damages to the jet ski and consequentially had the Thai police waiting to solve the dispute when we returned to Pattaya later that afternoon. Blow out.
After lying round for a bit in the afternoon I managed to convince Karen to go for a walk away from the beach and people. We hadn't gone too far when to our left we found some steps leading up a hill to what would clearly be a lookout. Again I had to use my persuasive skills to convince her that it would be a nice walk up the many steps in the afternoon heat. The view from the top was nice to look out over the sea and beach below. Finally the moment had come, I managed to catch Karen totally off guard by slipping onto my knees in front of her, grabbing both her hands and proposing! Although she had to clarify that I was in fact 'serious' (not the best thing to hear at such a time...) my fear quickly turned to relief when she said, "yes, of course I will". The thought of it all then dawned on us flooding us with wonderful emotion. We were now ENGAGED! We spent a good while at the lookout, never being interrupted once, which was really nice. I carved into the wooded floorboards the history that had just been made there and after taking some photos we proceeded to make our way back to the beach for one last swim. We were, undoubtedly, full of smiles all trip back and all that night as we went out for our first dinner as and engaged couple! I'm clearly crap at picking good restaurant and romantic places (though an empty lookout on a tropical Thai island isn't too bad a place to propose), but I stand by Hard Rock Café as a great choice for a very un-Christmassy first dinner with my fiancée! I personally don't need candles and champagne anyway, just Karen with me is perfect.