Thursday, January 28, 2010

Watching the Opportunities Slip By

For many us here, money no enough have we, lucky not are we. So we watch and only watch. Opportunities, one after another, they slip by. Was at Hua Hin lately, dining next to a Farang table were we. Lucky E-San wife net in what look like an aged seventies elderly. Dutchman he is, spoke much he did not, but land he was buying.

A crooked faced man was with them, believe him I would not, but looked like the Farang did. The man I would not trust was a middle man looking for the land. He was calling all over, spoke aloud proudly he did. Priced 1.9 million, 39 rai of land for the Thai-Farang couple half a generation apart. The lady looked thirties, she was way beyond Coyote expiry. But still, she is half of seventy.

Farang and expired Coyote, lucky I consider them to be. Grab the opportunity both did I see. Land, land so big, damn these big plots are taken up like hot cakes now by the some who have the currency. 39 rai is 62,400 square meters, about 250m by 250m. 1.9 million is only 80k Singapore dollars. 39 rai of land is big enough to build a decent home, a small café or what not. They buy, kept buying and are still buying. Soon, all the goodies will be gone. Expired Coyote will inherit the land in 10 years to come. And when the elderly expires she will be free.

Curses, curses, why some us no money. Wait and wait we shall, but buy and buy the others does well. By the end of waiting, we are ready to buy the land in with our funds, what’s left will only be crumbs.

We dream sometimes, we want a plot of land that nobody wants – cheap. With our entrepreneurship and creativity, into a popular resort we could turn up one. But sigh, lets just for now watch the others does.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pai, How to Get Rich Guide

Pai, a little town up north in the middle of farmlands has been growing in popularity with both Farangs and Thais. I’ve been there and back. Most people there are mountain folks who had stayed on inherited or illegal lands for generations. Now how to get rich?

Coffee in Love, the coffee hole I will talk about, is situated along the main road with a lucky view overlooking the flat valley. So are many other small coffee joints set up to cash in on the 4 winter months where tourist arrives like packs of wild animals on a stampede. Coffee in Love is reputed as such, you never arrive in Pai unless you have visited and drank in this coffee joint. What’s so amazing about it? To me, nothing. Its all synthetic.

You have a land acquired or inherited, all you need to do is to put up some colorful tasty buildings painted in bright colors. Then buy some junk cars and refurbish them up in attractive colors with the name of the town painted all over. Put up a bunch of senseless signs that points to North Pole or far off places with their distance shown. Plant trees and flowers all over, put swings in place. Have larger then life signs erected, put some cheap tables and chairs with unique design not local to the province and scatter them all over, white seems to work. Get some stunned horses to roam around the grass, white ones seems to work too. And then sell coffee or cakes and they, the money will come.

It is just that simple, it does not take much of an investment if you already have a piece of land, oh yeah those lucky sons and daughters. But for the farmers many still, this is just a remote dream. For broken chairs and worn out tables, in wooden huts so broken they live. How to have more money to paint that pretty house or buy them fancy tables and chairs? Come, lets buy them off the land, lets turn the potential into kinetic money. Lets exploit them with our higher spending capability, so many of Bangkokians do now. The driver complained on as he drove us touring the idyllic landscapes of winter Pai.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Metropolitan Electricity Authority, Up their Ass

Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) of Thailand can go fuck themselves good. As always in Thailand, doing some of the most basic stuffs such as paying your bills can sometimes tear your balls into pieces. For no fuck reasons, they had disengaged Internet payment arrangement with the local bank I use. And calling them on their 1130 hotline for their English operator gave me a feeling that he or she died (was put on hold forever). Now I have to find their branch in front of some wet market to pay my bills, that’s if I can even find it. And until today, they still assumed Thai is the language that is understood throughout the nine planets of our solar system, still my bills are in Thai and I have no idea what the breakdown is. That goes for DTAC and TRUE MOVE as well whose customer care director can go fuck themselves good. In fact… all the three customer care directors or whatever of MEA, DTAC and TRUE could go well fucking each other regardless of gender in their own lousy threesome.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Koh Kood - Urban Transition gone Wild

Anywhere Thais discover the last potential paradise, the sea life will die. While the resort I stayed boasted of its abundant wild sea creatures that visit the jetty in the mornings, the next resort just a hundred meters right was spear fishing the life out of the blur sting ray that ventured to the wrong place at the wrong time. The Thai guy, crouched low on the jetty platform, long spear on hand. With a quick bolt, I witnessed him probed deep into the shallow sands. And then he pulled up a good sized ray. Proudly, he walked back to his resort and everyone came gathering making him even more proud.

Koh Kood is the last island south east of Thailand before Cambodia. It is reputed to be untouched. And so it is with only one main dirt road on the island. It is an island with only the occasional Farang spotted, it is an island full of Thai tourists. It is, their land, their playground and I could see they prefer to keep it that way. Though the island is truly backwards, there are hints that points to another making of Phuket, that which is the ever strong GSM signal on the island. Even when on snorkeling trips an hour on to the middle of nowhere, you will still get strong GMS reception of 5 bars. The island has got unorganized constructions of all sorts turning the coastal parts into great balls of yellow dust. Uncontrolled exploitation of nature, sad sight.

Why are there no great concrete luxury type resorts on the island I asked? All resorts are now built on land with only temporary permits paid for at high price. There is still no official ownership of land for the resorts' owners. So the resorts are built cheap. And when things are built cheap, nature will be neglected. The owners take the risk and assume they will get the land in time, but one never knows for sure what the future holds. I for one wish the grey permits will all be taken back, the shoddy resorts destroyed and the proper developers come on in to build some environmental friendly resorts. This will reduce the number of developments. This will make the island exclusive. Proper developers hopefully will preserve the island with more consideration at least and not taint what is supposed to be crystal clear coastal waters of Koh Kood. But, this is the land of the Thais and is one of the last few island paradises where it still remains un-Farangnized. This they want, shoddy but Thai.

Shoddy but Thai? Let me elaborate further. The waterfall, is now a bath tub. It is no longer trekking in scattered groups towards the middle of jungle to find you can have almost the whole place to yourself. It was wild and noisy when I was there. It looked like a temple ground fair. It was totally littered. The parking ground was a dustbowl, the visitors in streams. The waters polluted. The freshwater fishes were dying. The crowd control was nil.

Snorkeling trips to distant islands. Ever seen dead floating groups of ants in a cup of overnight cola? Well that’s what it looked like. Boats too many, excreted oil leaking from old engines aplenty. And a thousand Thai girls, women and aunties splashed about in full clothing. Detergent residue overwhelmed the waters. The coral life whatever decent was left, will not be able to take it. They will die the fishes will be gone. Another spot of nature will be exterminated. The tourists don’t spare a thought for nature. They love it and yet they are killing it.

The soldiers came about asking each boat the number of visitors. They can monitor, they can write down the numbers, but do nothing they can to control or limit the damage to nature. This is sad, the paradise will be gone. Already it has begun. The visibilities in these waters were only a good 2 meters or so as I floated aimlessly breathing through my snorkel.

This is an island for one to experience the beginning of another hot spot. With what seems to be uncontrolled number of exploitations going on there, soon, it may well be another Koh Samet before her transition into Phuket. Money talks it works like that in Thailand. All matters of nature will be overridden, goodbye to the fishies. Go there while you can now or forever gone her natural beauty will be.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Koh Kood - The Natural Beach Resort

What’s there to do on Koh Kood? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It is not all that bad, for nothing was what I was looking for. To rest my work worn mind, to be away from my job, to be away from civilization.

Now this resort is rather pricey, but hey how can I complain because it was Thai Father’s Day then. Be warned the prices will double for such occasions, but the friendly boss came about and tried to ease the pain in everyone’s wallet by being as friend as he could. An old Chinese, he spoke Teochew and Mandarin to me.

The bungalows are wooden and only in the night you get power to the air-conditioning. Unless like I stayed, paid more I did for the Beach Sea View Deluxe. I get them luxury including heated bath water for all day long. Just one complain, the flat screen in my room was too small.

Opened my doors and out the patio I sat. Sipped my coffee and inhaled the sea breeze accompanied by my cigarette smoke. My eyes were hit so hard with the bountiful deep colors. So clear what’s above, so hypnotizing blue the horizon, so much the colors between beyond and the shores, the bands of blue to green, the clear waters breaking the rocks and sand. The reward of staring into the Gulf of Thailand from Koh Kood. The tall coconut tress swayed gently, the dogs in their state of dreams on the fresh green grass.

Lunch and dinner served, every meal made they tried to match the experience of an exquisite banquet. For this small but well maintained resort of the beach, the food served was surprisingly excellent and not too pricey. This I could see the difference, compared to some other equivalent resorts I had been to.

Majority of the guests were Thais, only 2 units of Farangs on this trip I saw. They baked their bellies in the sun doing nothing most of the day, while the fully clothed Thais drank Black and chatted as they enjoyed the sea. Canoe some did, and swam I had. Disappointingly, the water while deceiving clear from above, was not that so when I was in it. I cannot complain I was told, The Gulf of Thailand can never compare to the Indian Ocean south west of Thailand, where Similan the islands I had been.

Island paradise, one would envision the experience of a Phuket like holiday. But no, not here. There is only one main road running down the middle of the island, many parts still just dirt tracks. There will not be the up-market massage spas, and in the night the girly bars. About the only other thing to do is to go for the waterfall trekking trip. After our pickup made numerous tight passes on the single lane roads, we arrived. Packs of people in pink, it was Thai Father’s day, that’s what Thai people wear to show their love for the King.

And in the night all there is to do is laze and gaze into the night sky, drinking as usual the Thais did. Finished the Black as they chatted into the morning hours. And for the first time for many on the island this trip, they experienced unexpected winter weather. Someone up there turned on the air-conditioning to blanket the whole island that night. It was strangely abnormal.

For snorkeling trips off shores, there is a bunch of islands north between Koh Kood and Koh Chang. That I went, but it was rather disappointing the clarity of water. Food served in Styrofoam boxes, mineral waters served from ice filled coolers. We lunched on an island, sat on sand. The dirty littered beach telling a tale of uncontrolled tourism. Paradise will soon be lost.

I would have loved to have stayed a day more, doing absolutely nothing but to take an afternoon nap on the deck chairs under the shady trees. But my trip was just a short 2 nights that time instead of my normal 3. It is an island, a little bit backwards, for that ultimate holiday of having your mind at peace with the sounds of gentle splashes. I was there, enjoyed the melody orchestrated by the rocky shores of the island.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Koh Kood – Getting There

It was three hours before the first beam of sun, that’s how early one would have to wake up in order to drive and catch the boat to Koh Kood scheduled between 8 to 9 am. While the hunters at pubs were at their last leg of attempt to net their easy intoxicated preys, I started the cold engine breaking the sound of lonely footsteps made by the security. And there in the stillness of night, one would venture into the darkness, amongst cars driving erratically after a night of heavy drinks. Drive south east one would go to the town of Trat. GPS was on hand lighting my cabin. They were ending their day, I was starting mine. My next island, Koh Kood.

Taking into account one would get lost, it takes about 4 to 5 hours to get to the pier. So be advice those of you who want to adventure, start early or miss the boat one shall. One would then be pleasantly greeted by the cold air in December during toilet stops en route to the sea. Fighting the ever increasing weight of one’s eyelids, down the coffee on these stops one will have to. As dawn broke, I drove my car fast at 140, the colors of orange and red reflecting off the white polished bonnet cutting into the cool winter air. I ramped my engine towards paradise. Exhilaration of speeding long distance, one could never in Singapore. In Thailand I still am, my adventure continues.

Resorts on Koh Kood, you don’t get to drive there. Park your car where the pier is, they will have caretakers to look after your precious on wheels during your absence of days. My trip, 3 days short, that I recommend being the minimum at least. Free coffee will be offered as one waits their turn to board the stream of speed boats leaving the pier. One by one the boats were lowered into the water, group by group we left.

Set to leave at 9, at 10 or 11 some will finally depart. For bastards there sure will be who arrive late on your scheduled boat. We waited a good 1 hour for a family group to arrive, the boat operators called them ever so often complaining on behalf of all passengers. So be early one should be, and don’t be the asshole of the day.

Our boat left, speeding from greenish brown shores. The wake we left in our journey, the flying fishes played. Silver strips of bullet shaped bodies, squint my eyes I did to catch a glimpse, the sun above the horizon so high then. The journey would take more then an hour, and in emerald glass water one would arrive. December is a good period, the waters will be clam, the sound of gentle splashes on the worn out beams.

Strange it was for me, the path to land was completely covered in water. Don’t wear shoes, just wear slippers for the journey, it may be wet, you have to walk in water. There I was, camera clicking in madness as I took all blue skies, green trees and clear seas in. Only one long word – woooooooooooow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What day is Today?

Today is aeroplane crash into power line day. Weather’s been strange these few days, getting cool and foggy. Global warming for sure…

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Egg Crab

Long long time ago, in a place far far away from where I am now (that means in Singapore lah), stories of old I was told, of the legendary egg crab so full of roe. A crab so heavily full that eating one will cause your cholesterol level to shoot up 10 notches. And so form then till now, I had searched the world for this golden treasure (actually only in Singapore and Malaysia lah).

Ever so often during the dinners when crabs were ordered, I overturned the red cooked shell to disappointingly discover only small amounts of golden roe. That which I had to scrap painstakingly with me dinner spoon off the crevices sides of the shell. And so until one day, in the seaside restaurant I was.

(Picture of egg crab shell, clam shells at sides to show sizing refernce.)

Holy mother of Buddha, the golden treasures so filled up to the brim, both crabs we ordered were so. There was no need for scraping, it was like scooping on ice-cream. Chinese, these roe very “potent” we believe, eating a whole shell of that we could shoot our you know what not only to the ceiling, but into our neighbors window. Can even target the moving dog and shoot it in the eye.

Next time in Thailand, you just have to specify “egg crab”. But not always it is that you will get what I had. You gotta be at the right place at the right time of the moon phase (I dunno when). I was at Chonburi, eating next to the oyster farms.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

And so New Year Came - 2010

And so it is that another year had whisked past fast. Bangkok is quiet you could drive fast and furious on the everyday roads you travel for work. Bangkokians travel this season, to their home towns and all. Through the small streets I drove, many houses opened wide I saw. Tables on floors, the stereo blazing music out the doors. The beer bottles scattered abouts, the friends and relatives talked aloud. In Thailand, New Year is like a time of Songkran minus the wet and wild. It is to be a time where families gather, for some, great distance they will have to travel. Many had taken that extra long leave for a holiday, mostly traveling locally to the northern region in order to enjoy the once a year cold season.

Cold season I say, this year has been erratic. Bangkok is way too hot, while last year was pleasantly cool. Global warming is it not? I concluded the reason to be it is. Just look at the island I just went (Koh Kood), the jetty was under water when we arrived. The frequent travelers whom arrived said “I’ve never seen this much water before”.

Same it is for all years, on the stoke of midnight the fireworks were lit, and all 360 I spun around I saw them skies lit up. The kaleidoscope of luminescence colors overrode the lone moonshine for a good quarter of an hour. The countdown festivities everywhere, the crowd I saw on next day’s papers overwhelming.

In the midst of festivities I spend my New Year days about this quiet town, and here forth began my sixth year in Bangkok. Travel I was unable to, the resort prices just so over inflated, the extortion of tourist as always for such great occasions. And all the good resorts fully booked, some even from a distant six months ago they were so.

Staying at home, watch me TV, clean my room and dust my rabbit (you be surprised how much dust a rabbit can accumulate). Spend good time with gig, not turning on my computer I did. But stayed away I could not for long, hence me typing here as blogged on the third day of a long weekend. Staffs are off from 31st to 3rd, 4 short days in total with extended periods many had opted for.

A new year has began, the old work carried over. Now I typed on my fingers polished keyboard, reports, business plans, contracts and all. Happy New Year all.