Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Pepsi to EST

And so for some reasons, Pepsi’s local partnership with Serm Suk bottling plant ended in the beginning of Nov 2012. No more Pepsi production in Thailand. Thais were even saying Kentucky Fried Chicken does not serve no Pepsi no more. That remains to be seen, I seem to be able to order Pepsi through their online menu. Anyway, EST had blanketed the Kingdom by storm. Why let the distribution channel got to waste Serm Suk would ask themselves. Instead of delivering no nothing to the retailers, they cooked out their own recipe and called it EST. No idea what that means. Retailers continued with whatever Serm Suk sent and sold what was received. In metro, yes we know what EST with their deceiving Pepsi matching colors is and so we went over to the Coke faction if there is a choice. At restaurants and food outlets, they would say “sorry no more Pepsi… we have EST”. But guess what when upcountry. A fellow mate of mine asked for Pepsi and was given EST. The outlets in the provinces had associated Pepsi with Serm Suk. They see the same delivery man. They pay to the same account. They order through the same channel and receive the bottles from the same truck with deceiving stickers in the same blue red white colors. To them Serm Suk water = Pepsi. I have heard of color blind, but this is either word or brand blind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Suan Phueng, Sheep Galore

Just Sheep!!!
The latest trend these years is Suan Phueng. It’s a province located not too far away from Bangkok, west to be exact near the mountain ranges bordering Burma. It’s a popular destination during the cooler winter months, but getting accommodation for weekend stay is a huge challenge by itself – all weekends fully booked in the months late October to January. As to why Thais swarm this countryside that once used to be ignored, one will have to visit and then to know. As one transverse the twisty roads, one would see countless resorts with large greenery dotted with the so many overfed sheep and witness the marauding sheep craze Thai folks posting in all imaginable fashion with them wooly creatures. Are sheep classified an extinction species or what in Thailand one would not know.

Temporary Bridge
In October the weather should have been cooler, the locals shared their account. This year, it was hot, humid and unexpected heavier than normal downpour had broke the tourism trade in the region. As I drove the scenic routes, there were many spots of recent landslides, a bridge that was washed away and innumerable road repairs going on. Not a pleasant drive but in all a nice experience as the extreme crowds in lined up roads were not present. The resorts, normally filled to the brim had cancellations the weekend I went. The arrivals were affected by recent news coverage of how badly the region had been affected by the passing tropical storm called Gaemi. She came from Vietnam waters and swept inland missing Bangkok which the authorities warned could undergo massive flooding. The media advised everyone to stay at home. And yes the Bangkokians did obey but only to see the glorious sunshine and wispy clouds in the clear blue skies over Bangkok. Critics slammed the authorities in public media over the next few days.

Morning Glory Resort
Damaged Roads
Morning Glory Resort suffered from the recent torrential downpour and lost part of her road leading into the compound to the meandering river running alongside. The simple resort, run by a young couple and features only about four villas, privacy I liked. The young attractive lady owner loves to bake and so there was a bakery in the making to add to the amenities. This is no place to satisfy the petting desire of sheep crazed Thais. The resort has a large sloping field filled with supposedly more than a hundred cute bouncy bunnies. Now bunnies are not only bouncy, but mischievous like a cat. They breach the parameters and stray all over the resort, just like stray cats do. So one could find them at one’s door step, below one’s car and scurrying all over the vicinity from shades to shades. The bunnies, they do not exhibit themselves as the sun grew fierce with the afternoon hours. So the only time I could frolic with them was either early in the cool morning or late as the sun was about to set. One would have to entice them to crowd around by rabbit feed which the resort happily hands out.

Rabbit in the Yard
What happened to the supposedly hundred strong battalion of rabbits? They perished. Not by eagles swooping down on bunny buffet nor by Burmese hunting them for food. But by disease sadly the truth is, communal living has its dangers and negligence resulted in lost stock. Some see the resort as a dumping ground for pet bunnies, irresponsible owners who could no longer take care of their pets drop them at Morning Glory Resort as a convenience. And so once there was a sick rabbit that the owners left there, and then the infection spread. I saw sad rabbits, I saw cloudy eyes, patches of empty skin with rashes so grueling and on the heads of the bunnies tattered ears. We had to disinfect ourselves and my camera just to make sure I do not bring the infection home to my own bunny I so love.

Hot Spring
Enough of sharing the dark side of bouncy bunnies and back to blogging about the geography. There are hot springs in the region, yes, hot springs where steam and water surface from the ground, probably fueled by deep volcanic rocks that will erupt with lava December 2012 as the Earth is prophesized to go bonkers. There are waterfalls somewhere here and there but that would require some trekking. And the place is now blooming with so many coffee this and coffee that shop one will be spoilt for choice. They all are there only for one reason, not to serve good aromatic coffee but only to serve as picturesque mini theme parks for one to take pictures. There’s a temple of the candles where every copyright on Angry Birds had been infringed. Good restaurants a few there are, but only the locals can tell you where and one that I find most interesting, was to lunch on the peak of a hill. A simple rustic setting of wooden tables, chairs and counter, they cooked out German sausages accompanied by mash and to wash down our meals, mini bottles of Fanta Strawberry soda. The middle aged owners comical and so extra friendly told tales of how they terrorize their customers using an iPhone app that adds random ghostly apparitions to pictures taken of them. We enjoyed their company as they enjoyed ours, secluded, the second table came as we left with full bellies of food and laughter.

Foggy Morning
Suan Phueng, not too far just a 2 hours drive, must go in winter to witness the sea of fog encroaching the undulating peaks of many. Unspoiled nature still abundance thanks to the environmental mindset of the country folks there. Avoid in scorching summer.

The view where German Sausages were Served
Coffee Shop by the Road
Pool fed by Hot Spring
Where the source of Hot Water is From
Bathroom in Morning Glory Resort
A cute Swiss Shop

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How do we solve problems here?

As I did ever blogged before, if any sections of roads suffers from extreme congestion due to cars queuing up for that u-turn, traffic police here simply blocks off that u-turn. Drivers go find a u-turn somewhere else. Same concept goes for toilet in the block I work in. To solve the problem of too many dirty toilets, simply just locked many of them up. If no one can use it, it won’t be dirty. And so I ran from floors to floor looking for that open toilet, shit leaking as I did. And in my dash seeking critically needed relief, I came across the cleaners sitting down at corners yakking away about which pa-la (fermented fish) from whatever province makes their som-tam (Thai Papaya Salad) better. Amazing Thailand.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A380 Introduced

The Thai Airways fleet recently had a new member. The famed giant of the skies - A380. The in-flight magazines are sprawled with pages on this plane. The media updated with images of this massive technology marvel in the skies. So proud, so glorious the carrier is now. Well guess what, they only have one. And it flies only the short routes between Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. Theses giants are suppose to be for long haul. What the heck are they thinking? And they are promoting wildly the airfares so cheap to be on the A380. And so the topic on us Thai frequent flyers here is that we are guinea pigs. We think they are doing a load test, stuff the A380 full and make it takeoff and land as many times as possible just to make sure a nut don’t fall out, a bolt don’t fracture, the wings don’t snap, the engine don’t independently fly off in different directions, the brake works, the toilet flushes, the aircrew gets familiar, the ground crew accustoms to maintenance, the pilot don’t push the wrong button that open doors in mid air… practice makes perfection before the long haul assignment.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Living in Clay Huts - Vana Varin

Just 17 units nestled on the hills of Hua Hin, away from the beaches, away from the noise. You do really need a car to get there. There are 12 basic units of idyllic straw roofed clay huts, each christen with one of the animals from the Chinese zodiac. There are 5 larger traditional Thai villas for the bigger families, one even featuring her own private pool. The room I was in was basic to her core, matching her very reasonable price. TV, air-conditioning, free DIY coffee, hot water from the supplied kettle. Nice and clean my room was, in fact so clean and well polished the wooden floors that I could so easily slip and slide around in the large rooms so spacious. Greenery was abundance, my room had her own private garden and there's even a doggie house seated nicely at a corner overlooking the Burma sunset across the distant border. I think this place is dog friendly.

They could however had place more attention to the limited selection buffet breakfast which was a wee bit disappointing. The number of seats was inadequate. The large Thai family who came dominated the only four tables by the pond where the buffet line was and turned breakfast into a fish market for us. From their grandsons to their living ancestors, the whole family tree was there. Kids played their iPads and iPhones refused to leave the table and sat on till 10. The adults chatted away loudly unashamed in full awareness that guest turning up had to look for tables elsewhere.

The large pool located next to the restaurant offered me a refreshing dip after a long hot day of cave trekking. There's a Jacuzzi corner built-in that gently massaged my so aching muscles as the ever blowing mild breeze accompanied my beer by the pool. Under the clear blue skies interrupted by sky rocketing trees, it was a gratifying time as evening approached. Coming here, no five stars treatment and don't expect five stars amenities. The resort was only opened in April of 2011 and I suspect like all other resorts in Thailand, as soon as it gets popular, the prices will definitely multiply. So do it now before the inflation. Privacy and just the basic all I needed, my experience there was in total agreement to the money I had paid.

The clay huts will do. They have larger villas for big families, but those are of wooden built and not as interesting as the clay ones.

Monday, November 05, 2012

We copy the Santorini

This April 2012, we wanted tranquility and so again Hua Hin we went. En-route to the destination in our jelly bean of a Honda jazz, we stumbled upon this newly opened imitation of Santorini. See, in Thailand, we copy everything. First it was bags and clothing apparels, now we copy the whole town. Newly opened, we were lucky to be among the first few hundreds to have walked her alleyway. All buildings in bleach white tastefully splashed with ledges of a dark baby blue. It is huge the compound and hot as the sun blazed down. Some tenants had not moved in yet but aplenty of them had already opened shop. As usual, the regular types of shops you would find in all touristy places. I could see this place fast becoming one of the “die-die-must-come-take-picture” here places. Thais have this weird concept that if you never come to certain places in certain provinces, you have not actually been to that province. My conclusion was verified when we stumbled into a crowd of photographers from some TV station I did not know shooting a sexily dressed see thru covered tall beautiful i-want-her type of Thai movie star whom I did not know. As the hours passed more people came and soon it was time we left on our way to Vana Varin, our destination.

Advise I would give is, if you would like to visit Santorini, and it is the weekend you are going, do it on the Saturday en-route to Hua Hin. Make an effort to u-turn as this place is located on the other side of the road in the direction back to Bangkok. See, if it’s a Saturday, all people will be heading to Hua Hin and all will plan to go Santorini on the return trip the next day. So the “return” day on Sunday, Santorini will be Sardine-rini. And go early, less people, less blazing sun. You know how hot Thailand can get.