I first arrived in the land of smiles in 1992. I was working overseas in Kuwait employed to extinquish the oil fires in which Saddam Hussien had left so no others were able to use them. At the time we had many different companies and vendors established in the country helping with putting the fires out. I became friendly with a German vendor who suggested where I should go on my vacation. How about Thailand the land of smiles.
Land of Smiles Thailand
Dear Readers. I am now living in Pattaya City and have for about 20 years. In this time I would like my readers to understand the difficulties, pleasures and unusual circumstances that I am faced with on a daily basis of living in a Buddhism country.
I arrived in the Land of Smiles on 12 April 1992 cleared customs jumped into a taxi and off to my destination of Pattaya on the eastern seaboard of Thailand. My vendor friend had informed that this time of the year I would enjoy as some particular events take place. However he didn't enlarge on what. I arrived at the Nice Hotel on soi 2nd road booked in by a very lovely lady. Of course not known where I am or where to go is the first thoughts I have. Therefore some expeditions were required to suss the place out.
Food was my first thought and sat down to my first ever thai food. Green curry with Jasmine rice. Not too spicy. The food was delicious. Next off to see the sights. Pattaya has a beautiful beach with many beer bars established around the beach area. Shopping everywhere and anything you may wish to buy is available. The weather at this time of year is very hot and humid and it won't take long before you get a sweat on and need to drink. I sat down at a beer bar and that is when my holiday started. I had previously been informed of where to go to see other english speaking people so this is where I was. The bar itself was packed with people mostly Austrailian. I introduced myself to the others. As time went on and various people were advising on the what to do and what not to do in the country it soon became clear I was with friends. Everyone was asking have you came for Songkran. I admitted I had no idea what Songkran was and would someone please tell me, no one would, only the words were you will find out tomorrow the 13th. So I shrugged my shoulders and decided within myself, I,ll find out tomorrow.
The talking and drinking continued until a suggestion was made by one of my fellow drinkers that since I am new to Thailand we all should do the Go Go bar run. Meaning all 15 of us start at the farest ago go bar away and and end up back to the nearest which was just across the road. A go go bar is a bar with dancers in the bar and you watch them dancing. In 1992 there were about 18 ago go bars in Pattaya.
The baht bus was ordered all 15 of us piled in (Open back pick up with safety rails to prevent people from falling out). Off we went and arrived at the first one which was located at the top of 2nd road on soi 2. Everyone piled in and the nights entertainment started which was mainly about drinking beer. This went on for some time until it was time to move on to the next ago go bar and in every ago go more and more beers. At the time I had no idea of just how many ago go bars their were in the town. After going in and out of go go bars we eventually ended up in a place called walking street which i was astonished to see the street was full of even more go go bars. By this time the travelling and the beer was catching up and I realised it was time for bed and returned back to my Hotel.
The following morning arose early and headed for breakfast. The town appeared normal same as the day before, what was this Songkran all about. Ate breakfast and then realised the intensity of the heat and humidity and decided to have an afternoon in my room and later go out when the temperature had dropped. Around 7 pm got dressed and headed for the local bar in which I had previouly attended.
On the way there a thai person suddenly threw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. I was shocked and not being able to speak the language i just stood in amasement thinking why has he done this. All my clothes were soaking wet and the thaiman just stood there laughing at me. Nothing I can do about this now i'll just continue to my destination and while going to the bar it happened again by another then again by another. OMG what is going on with these crazy people. I arrived at the bar, soaked to the skin and everyone was laughing at me and shouted happy Songkran. Bemused by what was going on I asked in a distraught manner please explain. Songkran is the Thai new year and its is blessed by the buddha by a water festival. Ah now I somewhat understand why this total stranger would throw a bucket of ice cold water all over me. I was soaked, my wallet and money all stuck together,I needed a drink.
Everyone had these plastic wallets around they necks to keep money and telephones to protect them from water. All wore flowery shirts and swimming trunks as no point in having trousers as I did or shorts due to ammount of water everyone would receive in due course. Its then I realised about my german vendor friend sent me here on 13th April as he knew what was going to happen. Somehow I would repay the complement when I returned back to work.
As the night went on and things became more apparent on this water festival, I asked how long does this go on for. As I was holidaying in Thailand for two weeks. I was informed it would continue until the 19th and end at sunset. WHAT, and it will get alot worse everyday until the 19th so be prepared for a good soaking everyday. Well here I am thinking I would have a lovely relaxing time in Thailand maybe go see the sights and do some travelling. Nothing to stop me from doing it, just that having to live out of a small plastic bag for the next 6 days was putting me off so I decided to cancel all plans.
For anyone who is similar to myself reading this, its an ardous task having to put up with someone throwing water and patting talcum powder on your face all day and night and having to smile when they do it. All plans cancelled, what do we do now. Do what everyone else is doing. Off again to another bar then another bar getting hot then cold water throwing all over you. Great this !! Honestly it got to the stage where i was so sick of it I stopped in my hotel room most days as the hotel restaurant was within the bounderies of the hotel which meant I didn,t have to go outside to buy anything.
Eventually the 19th arrived I was so happy it soon would all be over. I thought for the last day I would get involved and be prepared this time for a good soaking. I headed off to the local bar. On the way there the roads were all blocked with cars and pickups the passengers all throwing water. Water pistols came in various sizes from kids to 3 inch pipes with the blasting power of a fire engine. The roads were completely flooded with water, ice blocks were continually being loaded into 45 gallon drums of water ready to fill the water pistols. Everyone appeared drunk and some with bottles of whiskey drinking from the bottle.
The baht buses loaded with people were the ideal target for water throwing. Music was blasting from every vehicle and the bars. What on earth is going on here. The local people were all dressed for the ocassion dancing in the streets and to me it all appeared to be a complete mad house as I had never seen anything like this before. I arrived at the bar. The bar its self was completely flooded inside everyone was throwing water over each other and drinking beer at the same time. The seats were soaking wet the bar tables and everyone full of laughter. I just joined the party then around 6.30 pm it all stopped as if an alarm bell had sounded. A few people who were enjoying it continued for a while and then eventually they stopped. I could feel so much satisfaction within me that at last this madness was all over. Horray lets drink to that. It was then I promised to myself I will never ever come to Thailand at this time of the year ever ever again.
However for some they loved it, some were even saying see ya all next year. Happy Songkran. As I said its really depending on the person if you enjoy this type of thing or not. I don't. Its supposed to only last 7 days. However over the years it has growing to 10 or 11 days in some places of Pattaya, especially the beach area and some small soi,s. So beware, if you do come to Thailand this time of year. Expect a good soaking everyday.
Songkran starts in the North of Thailand Chiang mai and works its way down to Bangkok and onto Pattaya and its all suposed to be 2 to 3 days in Chiang mai then the rest in Bangkok and Pattaya. As Pattaya has became a bigger city in recent years. Naglua and Jontiem have became part of Pattaya city and now instead of 2 days in Naglua, 2 days in Jontiem 3 days in Pattaya its just became a full week and some additional days in other areas. For me this time of year, Im either out of the country, away from the tourist areas or stocked up and indoors for the complete period.
The Following day, I awoke and wondered how the city would be, now Songkran was over. As for the last seven days all I had seen was everyone throwing water at each other. I felt as if I was back to square one and had just arrived alough a week of my vacation was now over and I only had 7 days before going back to work. What can I do with the remaining 7 days. Travelling now will only shorten my holiday as more time will be spent on local transport. I decided to remain in Pattaya for the duration of my holiday. I returned back to the beer bar to see my fellow travellers and find out what would be going on now Songkran was over.
As I arrived at the beer bar everyone was loading their golf equipment onto a mini bus and about to head off to one of the many golf courses located within 45 minutes of Pattaya City. I thought what a great idea. I asked what the arrangements were and how I could get involved. Basically it was turn up at 9 am and join the group. The beer bar goes to many of the local golf courses everyday of the week and its stated on the notice board which golf course you will play on the day. I was then advised to join a charity organisation called Pattaya Sports Club as the membership card can give up to 40% discount at some of the courses and where to go to obtain the membership card. Great this is my program for today. Of course no golf equipment or foot ware. Plenty places to go and buy golf shoes and hire of sports equipment. Fantastic. It took most of the day to get sorted out and I returned back to the hotel.
The next day up bright and early and off to the beer bar to play some golf. The beer bar restaurant served full english breakfast and lovely american coffee. Everything loaded onto the mini bus and off we went to Siam Golf and Country Club which is located around 40 mins drive from Pattaya. On arrival we all jumped off the bus and went into the club house to pay the golf fees. At the same time all the lady caddies collected our golf clubs and awaited us at the first tee. We changed into our golf clothes and met them at the tee. I asked to go to the driving range as I was new to the equipment and needed some practice.The caddy master arranged the groups of golfers and we waited our turn to tee off. I was looking around the golf course and realising how beautiful the course condition was. With the flowers and blossoms on the trees. Everything was in perfect condition. No excuses to hit a bad shot. Eventually our tee time came and we all hit off and headed down the fairway. By the time I had reached my golf ball I was already sweating with the heat and humidity. The temperature was around 40 degrees C and the humidity about 70%. Fortunately at Siam golf club water holes for refreshments were located every three holes. So we all managed to drink plenty liquids as we went around the course. It took about 5 hours for our group to complete 18 holes. After a good cold shower I headed for the restaurant where we all sat and talked about each others highlights of the day. We were playing a stableford competition and prizes for the best stableford score and best scratch score. Unfortunately after all my efforts I wasn't even in for a shout of a prize. However I did enjoy the game. Everything loaded back into the mini bus and back to the beer bar for some more liquid refreshments and a good chin wag on the days event. Around 9 pm I could hardly keep my eyes open and headed back to the hotel where I slept until the following morning. For the remainder of my holiday I visited some of the following site seeing area's before i returned back to work.
Walking Street Pattaya
Walking Street Pattaya is located next to the sea front of Pattaya. On the seaside of the street you mainly find the top seafood restaurants with fantastic views of the ocean. On the other side is the beer bars, Ago go bars and tailor shops . The street is famous through-out the world for the Ago go bars. Its the place to be for night time activities and disco's.
Buddha Mountain is located about 35 mins drive from Pattaya. The mountain face is carved with the shape of the Buddha in gold plate. The mountain is a very popular site to see and many thai people visit the site on a daily basis. Adjacent to the mountain is Silver lake reservoir and wine making company.
Scuba diving companies are available on every sea shore resort in Thailand. From basic training to teaching levels. It should be understood its not possible to go Scuba diving without the necessary basic training.
Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens
Pattaya has various tour operating companies who can take you to any of the sightseeing venues. Really just a matter of walking into the office discuss where you want to go and go. Or arrange for another day which suits you. Nong Nooch Tropical gardens is located about 30 mins from Pattaya and is a must site seeing visit. The gardens cover aches of land (Rai in Thai) and most of the tropical plants in the world which are suited to these climate conditions are grown on Nong Nooch. They are also animal shows within the bounderies, restaurants and cafes.