Lairy life in Laem Son
Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
Show trip route
Deciding to miss Koh Samui out this time round was an easy decision. In the ever so tiny terms and conditions section of each fast-food promotional ad I read, it stated that none of the amazing meal deals or associated pricing could be guaranteed in Phuket or Samui. This made some loose sense for Phuket but to link Samui into the equation got me thinking, especially as I'd already heard from many others on the road that Samui was a bit of an over-priced over-westernised shit-hole, sorry - 'package-tourist paradise'. Needless to say my decision to leave it and stay longer here in simple sunny solitudeville was a no brainer.
As for why on earth I was reading the terms and conditions on special offers for junk food? Well when you're sat for more than four hours in a Thai police station without a clue as to what's going on or how long you'll be kept there, it's not long before you take solace in whatever reading material you can get your hands on. In this case it was a handful of Makro pamphlets boasting this weeks amazing offers with additional supplements of fast food deals for added excitement.
As for what I was doing in the police station? I was making a statement. Last night in Laem Son was a lively one to say the least.
We've been spending a lot of time hanging out in the Arrow restaurant, owned by Dutch guy JJ and his Thai wife - great couple, good banter. He also gives us free WiFi access whenever we want and she rustles up a mean Pad Kra Pow so there's every reason to go there. Last night was just a classic wrong place wrong time scenario.
We were all happily sat round the table - me plugging away at a few emails and the rest of the guys in full flow solving the world's problems - when in bounds a guy with a purpose. Full of beans and with an energy that wasn't in line with our relaxed atmosphere he sat himself down and started a conversation. With me.
In seconds I could smell his intent. He wanted a conversation with me as much as I wanted a McDonald's happy meal in place of my Tom Yum soup. No. He wanted trouble. And so we went through the small talk. He was English, I'd put him somewhere in his forties. He asked me if I was on holiday. I told him I was just passing through. He asked from where and to where. I told him a little of the bigger picture. His arrogance grew. I don't think he liked the fact that he couldn't pigeon-hole me and so he started getting a bit loud and personal. It was only a matter of time. But this was more than just dealing with a tool, this guy was actually serious and wanted a result.
When I announced that the conversation was over and asked him to take himself out of my face he got aggro. So I told him again in a slightly different way, the short way. JJ was already on his feet telling him to stop coming in and harassing his customers, clearly something he'd said before. Turns out the guy was trying to open a bar next door and had been making a right royal pain in the arse of himself. He had no real beef with me, just wanted to cause trouble for JJ - for whatever reason. Trouble is he was fully wired and totally off his head on something. That much was clear.
Anyway we got him outside and he started getting uncontrollable. This is when it turned nasty. JJ's wife came out of nowhere and got stuck in to him while somehow he got hold of a snooker cue, broke it over his knee and started swinging like his life depended on it. I'm talking all out rage here. Whatever he was on had turned him into an absolute raving lunatic. The belting he gave JJ around the body resonated like a cracked whip and split his arm in a line all the way down to his hand. The whole thing was ugly. Real ugly.
The rest of the night was spent in the police station and at the hospital. Today we returned to the police station. Fruit loop was already in there wailing on about charging JJ for attempted murder(!) and demonstrating quite graphically how I suddenly stood up and belted him in the mouth for starting an innocent conversation! What planet?
I just hope for JJ it ends there. Anyway..
In the throes of all the excitement, hammock-swinging and general relaxation, we'd forgotten about the time stamps that were ticking away in our passports. With just two days to go until we became illegal a quick-fix was needed. Cambodia was out of the question. Malaysia meant backtracking. Our only chance was Burma and so it was time to call on the legend that is Mrs Dah. One short phone call is all that's needed.
Mrs Dah: 'Ok see you in the morning.'
Woz: 'What time?'
Mrs Dah: 'No matter I be there.'
Mrs Dah: 'No matter I be there.'
In the meantime we took a nightboat, a slowboat, and had one of the most comfortable eight hours of transit I think we've had yet. The boat itself was like that old creaky wooden thing they used in Enter the Dragon, where Bruce kindly offered to tear that tool a new arse. Quite a novel experience. It consisted simply of a large deck with two very long beds and a hundred or so pillows. It's outrageously comfy, you just pick your place and.. well.. sleep. Blissfully.
Mrs Dah delivered. Everything was taken care of, including a crisp $10USD note (of the new kind) that would grant us a temporary visa into Burma. We were over the border (by longboat across a ferociously choppy brown ocean, military everywhere waving automatic weapons) and back on the island of Pha Ngan inside 24 hours. This would have been earlier if it hadn't have been for the twat of a German who suddenly decided as we were leaving Burma to disappear for a 'quick look around' - which delayed all of us sufficiently to miss the ferry.
Burma. Really wasn't there long enough to get an opinion, but while the little we did see oozed poverty it also oozed something very raw and real. Can't wait to return.
The Lairy Hungarian Chef
The rest of the time has been lairy. This week saw the arrival of our old mate Bera ('hello my name is Bera') - a banterful Hungarian we found larging it in Malaysia. He heard we were larging it here in Pha Ngan and so came down from Bangkok for a jolly. And jolly it has been, though his passion for food has dragged me right off the rails. While Dave's been off building his nightly coma with Chang and Sangsom, we've been plying ourselves with some delectable local cuisine, where I should note that 'black eggs' with holy basil and chilli is one of the best dishes I've ever had, as is khai yad sai. When two food nerds get together things get out of hand. In just a few days I've already added another layer of blubber to my rubber ring and tonight were off for another all-you-can-eat-but-cook-it-yourself-and-make-a-meal-of-it barbecue down in Thong Sala - another must-do dining experience if you're over this way.
In terms of the lairy scale though, one of the best moments came the other night when Bera asked me to test-ride his bike. He was convinced it was unsafe and wanted another opinion. So I tried it. The steering was loose and definitely, definitely unsafe. Job done. But it was while I was trying his bike that opened the window for one of life's great moments of comedy. Bera, hell bent on keeping up, took a corner far too wide and drifted predictably into the rough. Now this very easily could have been the end as at the edge of the rough lay the void - a healthy drop to the rocks below.
Luckily for Bera he regained control (just) and continued along the rough beaming with relief. Foolishly, he thought the panic was over and had already started to revel in the notion that he was in the clear. What he didn't know - and what I didn't know - was that just a few metres ahead of him lay a deep pit that fell away sharply at the side of the road. They got acquainted about a second later. Fortunately for me I witnessed it all. In just a split-second he went from being an upright figure on a two-wheeled vehicle to a sudden blur of violent head-first somersault action (bike and all) into the pit of doom. Fortunately, he didn't get so much as a bruise on him. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my camera out in time. The video would have won awards.
Aside from the obvious, all this brought about a very valuable lesson: if/when you trash a bike go and get as much repaired as possible yourself, as soon as you can. Even if you think it's minor and won't matter, pay to get it done anyway cos' it will matter. When you take it back to the hirer you'll find that the big guns come out and they'll play a little game of their own. The game consists of a doctored sheet of 'charges' for all kinds of replacement parts and repairs. The first thing they do is bollock you for not returning the bike to them. Of course they do. That's because their 'price list' is three times the price of what it would cost you at any local repairer. I know this because we compared the parts on the list against the price we'd already paid. Triple everytime.
Don't get me wrong this is all understandable. This is where the money is, the whole point of the enterprise. Accident = revenue. Hire charges are just incidental. Some hirers even write it into your contract so they can fine you if you have it repaired elsewhere (somewhere that charges fairly.) Do it anyway. You'll still save.
As much as Bera's earlier trauma in the pit was harrowing, shelling out a further 5000 baht on top of the 3000 baht he'd already shelled out just added insult to injury. They basically called a crash 'specialist' out (brother, cousin perhaps?) who found all sorts of problems 'inside' the bike, none of which can be proved either way, so it's just a licence to throw the price list at you. The highly inflated price list. Argue all you want, it's your passport they have tucked away safely. You waan? You pay. Beautiful.
Needless to say we chugged down a few coldies afterwards to soften the blow. Bera's right on the level and well up there on the genuine fella scale. We'll be seeing plenty more of him over the next few weeks.
Next stop: Bangkok..
(If you're interested in an effortless visa-run to Burma message me, I'll pass on the number for Mrs Dah..)