On Sunday I braved a different kind of two wheeled adventure - taking the neighbour’s mountain bike out for what turned out to be a little more stressful than the planned gentle pedal under an overcast sky
. I foolishly relaxed when my consistent nemesis - the vicious black dog at the first property outside the gates of our compound - was nowhere to be seen. In fact it was all plain sailing to the pleasant lake surrounded by Buddhist temples which is an undulating, but generally gentle, 10 kilometre ride. Ironically given my surrounds - maybe I did something to offend Buddha - this is where my luck changed as warm rain drops suddenly began to fall from the sky, turning quickly (as it tends to here) into a full on downpour. The rain was actually refreshing and not entirely unwelcome so I merrily pedalled on towards home. It was now I took a fateful decision to explore an alternative, potential route back home. Within a few hundred yards of heading onto the single track, I was accosted by an enthusiastic dog. I clicked into top gear and gave it everything but could not shake off this tenacious mongrel, and did not really want to find out anything about his bite as his bark was already terrifying me to my very soul. Such was my speed that I think I would have been at the front of the Tour de France pelaton when I finally shook him off, only to find - to my horror - that I had reached a dead end in the road. There was no way on earth I was turning round to face the fiendish canine (“Man’s best friend“, my arse) again, so instead I climbed into a grassy field through which ran a worn, narrow dust track, taking the bike with me. I rode through several fields, petrified at every turn that I would be confronted by one or more wild dogs, before eventually discovering another road, albeit I had no clue where I was
. The mystery of my whereabouts was soon answered when I hit the dual/tri-carriageway of Sukhumvit Road, the busiest in Pattaya and not a place to be in any vehicle, especially not a pedal-powered one. After swerving between the pick ups and scooters seemingly determined to injure me (although still preferable to another dog encounter), I found the junction I needed and turned back towards home. The next 12 kilometres or so were happily uneventful (and the rain had stopped) until I reached the home of my arch enemy, black dog. As soon as I set a wheel on the track, he appeared with his usual menace and I turned round and fled to the safety of a nearby restaurant, where I considered my options over a Coke. The only option was to man up (of a fashion) so I grabbed the largest stick I could find, which I held across the handle bars, before heading back for another confrontation. As with the early incident, I suspect I have never hit such speed on a bike nor been as happy to get through the blue gate of the compound which I then slammed behind me, before collapsing in the house a tired, sweaty, relieved man…
Shortly after this the heavens opened, putting into jeopardy our evening plans, which involved heading out to one of the floating restaurants which are anchored a few hundred metres from Pattaya Beach - the main opponent to proceedings was Mrs Burton, but we persuaded her that she must attend on the basis that it was Mother’s Day, that most venerable of days
. So it was that we headed out on a speedboat from Pattaya pier to the Oriental Star “Floating Fish Market” (just a big, triple decker boat in fact). We were escorted up to the third tier, a partially open air affair which afforded great views of Pattaya City. Slightly unnervingly we were the only guests on board and we were all distinctly unnerved when we saw the prices - especially as Shelley and I had offered to pay. Worse news followed when we were informed that the Lady Boy show was cancelled, but things did improve when the first live act, a Philippino male/female singing duo, started performing. They were both excellent singers, and generally closely aped the voice and style of the stars’ whose songs they were covering. After a short break came the second act, a European dance troupe, and this coincided with us being finally joined by some additional guests - primarily a South East Asian touring party, but also a few falang/Thai couples. The dancers were clearly classically trained and all-in-all it was a hugely impressive mix of ballet and ballroom dancing, just a bit sad to reflect that with such talent they had ended up dancing for a handful of people on a boat in Thailand. It also turned out that the performance was interactive and, as one of only about 10 men in the audience and sat on the front table, I was first in the firing line when I was dragged up by a belly dancer. I put in a typically shy, awkward British display, although I was told that my chest shuffle was hugely impressive and could change the face of modern dance (in my dreams)
. With my stagnant bank account unable to support any more merriment, I suggested we leave the ship at the end of this and return to the neon and buzz of Walking Street.
We started at the Blues Factory - where the singing was again impressive - before wandering the full length of the madness that is Walking Street once the sun has gone down. It is a wonderful place for a narcissistic egoist to wander, as insincere praise is shouted at every man walking down the street by girls (some who look frighteningly young) paid commission to persuade gentlemen into their bars. It is not the real world but I shall miss it on some levels!
Our final destination was a bar a short distance from Walking Street. We all had the unsatisfied itch of not having seen the Lady Boy show on board and this was satisfied by the entertainment in the bar in which we settled on the front row. There were six lady boys in total, varying in age and build, who ran through a number of costume changes and mimed songs by a variety of world stars, including Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and more. The ever baffling species were as confusing as ever, and nobody will ever be able to satisfactorily be able to explain to me where their ‘outies’ were residing within their tiny, tight pants
. As with the previous lady boy show, despite the fact that the songs were bring mimed, it was surprisingly entertaining, and we were again required to participate, joining all of the lady boys on the dance floor for a freestyle dance to the Bee Gees. It was an unforgettable life experience to be surrounded by enchanting, exotic beauties who were once men. I guess it is human nature to want to be somebody else whoever you are (maybe I shall return to Blighty a broad, ugly girl or a black rapper)…
Our night ended at 2am so today has been a steady affair in incredible heat (towards 40 degrees), although I have just managed a bike ride - luckily I had a real man with me (our friendly neighbourhood gangster, who scares the hell out of me) who dealt with the dog threat manfully and made for an altogether more pleasant ride...
Saturday was a pleasant day (another scorcher), primarily spent exploring the surrounding area on the scooter (on which, at the risk of pre-empting a massive accident, I am becoming vaguely competent, although turning round still requires the same space as that of a battle ship). We also attempted to improve our Thai, at two separate eating establishments - at the first the lady looked blankly when we tried to order lunch in Thai and we were only saved by the intervention of a security guard who spoke a few words of English and at the second, the owner’s furrowed brow suggested we were doing no better at ordering dinner and he impatiently said “speak f**king English, I lived in New York for six years”. No problem sir, no need for the New York attitude in the Land of Smiles.