Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Cheapest of Phuket

Cheap has never been a word related to Phuket and so many will think. Was on a short trip recently for some errands down the paradise island. With rental cars going at an average of THB1,200 a day, I asked a local car rental “is there anything cheaper? Old old also never mind.”

The rattling Suzuki 2 seater 4WD arrived in the morning on the grand lobby of the hotel. THB800 per day. I signed the papers and drove happily from naught to a hundred in like 120 seconds. The gear shift was rough during attempted F1 accelerations, the engine screaming out “oh my god what are you doing to me???!!”

Driving through scattered downpours, pity the tourist who came during this wrong September season. I breathed the sea air, I looked into the horizon, my life is great and my gig sharing the experience. The gale was the onslaught of the next coming rain, on the edge of the quiet mountain I stood against the greens. This is the homeland in my heart, Singapore is just a small dot far away.

To Rawai which I have never forgotten, down the slopes at exhilarating speeds we drove. And there still waiting for me, the wet market in the hidden corner only exposed to explorers such as I. Four pieces of monster Tiger Prawns, for THB200 (SGD8) I got them for. Over opposite to the sea dwellers selling their catch, the bag of the sea catch I handed over to an eatery. For THB50 (SGD2), the sizzling prawns arrived on my table within ten minutes, I gouged the sweety meat out and down them with cold beer. My lunch, my cheap lunch, in Bangkok it would have cost THB800 or so. We enjoyed the simplicity, the farang raising his beer for a cheer as I snapped away at the locality.

On a mountain top the next day we were, our final drive to the airport my errands were done. North Eastern food in south of Thailand, opposites of worlds but yet they compliment the scenery. This place famous for friend chicken and fried minced prawns, so ordered we did and lunched high on the rocks where it met the sea. The blue the green and the extensive horizon accompanying.

I can come here now anytime, a short flight from Bangkok and a small dent in the wallet. Such is life I will mention again, Singapore is just a small dot far away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Brown Water Rafting

The long distance drives, an ever enjoyable part of the occasional holiday, the perks of living and working in Thailand. So many places and will one ever be done with all of Thailand? A couple of months back, gig and band of giggling squeaky friends decided to go white water rafting. Meaning many more squeaks and screams that pierce the tranquility of nature.

The business all started when some bored farangs long ago decided to engage in adrenaline pack activities within the peaceful life of the river dwelling folks. Then the local Thais, some ever so bursting with the spirit of entrepreneurship (aka…. desperate, must squeeze money from every possible idea), these white water rafting operations catering to the mundane lives of Thais popped up wherever the rivers looks dangerous. Phitsanulok is voted as one of the best places to engage in these lets-try-to-terminate-our-lives activities. The river is so much wilder compared to the others, I was told by the folks. With the arrival of rainy season starting after May, the brown water churns the excitement notch up depending on rainfall. The operator, a mid fifties aunty who happen to own a plot of land with a beaten hut along the river, advised always to call them a day before to check on conditions for sometimes there will be no rain, the river will be flat. And sometimes with too much rain, no one will dare to bring a bunch of inexperienced screamers down the river. Especially so if one knows the shoddy natures of such operators, anyone who had been on the river can be qualified as a guide, no certification, no proper safety or rescue training.

The kid who took me to all the spots where I snapped away as the dingy splashed and spun about arrived, he told me on occasions he too lead groups down the winding waterway. How it all started I asked. He said he learned from relatives after a few trips himself with them. The journey began …. anywhere I guess. It was a shady spot picked beside a bridge, the century old tree tall and filtering the sunlight. One will be given a short 10 minutes course on safety, what to do when you fall off the raft and how to row and such. But they never did tell you what if you fall off, got your one foot stuck in rocks and the powerful water push onto your body and snaps your shinbone like a twig (ok…. I have riverphobia….). A short training and it was expected everyone could row in synchronism. Imagine a panic crab with all legs attempting to move in all different directions within the same space-time.

The adventure began and so I drove all over with my kid guide to all accessible spots he could find. Slippery rocks, I jumped, skidded and skipped, gravel roads, my Volvo attempted to be 4WD. And so I asked about the raft, it was imported I was told. And what about repairs and such as tears will be inevitable with years of usage? Is there an authorized branch abouts there run by farangs or so to carry out the repairs? And he said “No, we use the glue……” .

It was near to two hours, the raft floated down the last peaceful leg of the river at six in the evening. Arrived on shore, the aunty brought us ice cold coffee. She was a kind person, Thai Chinese, and even prepared us a moo-ka-tak (BBQ pork) dinner waiting complementary. It was only during later when we ate did we discover the pork was green. That ain’t no complementary dinner, that was leftover probably they could not finished the day before. Stingy Chinese…..

The raft was left to dry in the shed, we had our sleep in the so hard beds. It was morning, it was time to return to Bangkok. Along the bends the rubber was left to sun bake. The folks supplement their income as rubber tappers. Lunched on the floating eatery as we gazed onto the brown river. It was an experience, yet another first. Into the raft I did not however, I did not want to fall over and go crouch first onto protruding rocks hidden in the white waters. Star rating for the resort? If only there are meteor ratings that I would give.