Saturday, June 21, 2014

Koh Lipe 2 Years After

The last time I was here 2 years ago, I did not see a Seven Eleven. Neither did I see natives clad in purple vest which were labeled with big numbers like a soccer jersey. Those were the inhabitants who provided official taxi services on the island. It cost only 50 baht per person for getting from anywhere to anywhere. The walk from Seven Eleven to our resort took a good half an hour. Not wanting my fingers to break away from the strangle of heavy plastic bags loaded with a huge assortment of sodas, we hopped on one of those Taxis. A sidecar made of welded rods attached to a smoky putting motorcycle that went breathless ascending the slightest slopes, that what it was.

Taxis in front of of Seven Eleven
The rider, a tiny and tanned elderly man. His complexion told the story of the island's salty wind and her blazing sun. He was a native and told us that the men in purple came about only recently. It was established to ward off the rampant Burmese operated taxis who stole the business of the community. Well at least now, we can be sure whatever we spent on the island goes to the islanders genuinely to help, in the long run, create a better paradise for us city dwellers to indulge. Seated on a thin layer of PVC wrapped foam they called a cushion, we throttled over rocky gravel and speed reducing humps made from harbor ropes laid across the island roads. It took us less than 10 minutes to arrive at the beach where our resort was. We alighted, bid farewell, and he gave us his number so we could call him anytime should we need his service.

Fresh Road
There were times of inconvenience on some days as we tried to walk from Sunrise to Pattaya beach. The pathway was blocked. It just so happened that during our stay on island paradise, they were going through a revamp of the island's connecting roads. New fresh concrete was poured and laid to dry, entire stretches of roads were closed off. We were patient and we stepped gingerly alongside. It sure was an obstacle course stepping over clusters of rocks and moving pass the reeking dustbins. Dogs did not bother and went ahead to walk on the still soft concrete. They left cute paw prints. Some in-considered visitors thought themselves were dogs too, they saw what the dogs did and did what the dogs did. Their sandal prints were large and unimpressive. We listened to the taxi drivers complained some days, they said the roads were built too narrow for two way traffic. Taxis sometimes had a game of fencing with their handles on some of the tighter sections. And on other days, they complained that the roads were encroaching into their homes, the land areas declared by deed.

Waves of Low Season
Was it the season in particular or was it pest population boom? Cockroaches, they invaded our room. I never did had a pest problem last time I was there at Idyllic Resort. One morning, I found an unfortunate bloke who drowned in the leftover instant cup noodle out the balcony, the other day one died next to my shoe for unknown reasons. And one fine scary night, one was terrorizing us by flying all over our room and we in panic called for DDT to be sent from the reception. Only it never came in time to ease our fear of the winged devil smacking into our faces. We conveniently engaged a cat which was always out front of our corridor. Without his consent of any meow, we seized him in the middle of his balls licking routine and let him loose where the roach landed. Cat turned attention from balls to roach in an instant as roach scurried on the tiled floor. Cat 1, roach 0.

Sewage Storage
The island this season, much to the dismay of us tourist, many of the resorts underwent major renovations at the same time. New buildings were being erected creating rather an eyesore, large heavy logs were suspiciously pulled out of the sea after dark. Much of nature remained the same, it was the roads and taxi services that had changed. Water was still suctioned from underground for our use, and electricity still pumped from generators central of the island. We were still able to get strong GSM signal which allowed us to upload statuses during our boat trip all the way from Pak Bara to Koh Lipe. The dogs still woke early to greet the sunrise with me during morning shoots. Contrary to what many websites had portrayed, there were ATMs on the island and they do dispense cash. Let's see how more Koh Lipe will change over the next few years, hopefully not too much. It is her rustic nature that is the magic.

The cove on Sunset Beach
Building Materials
Where Natives Dwells
Morning Walk
The Dog and The Sea
Chillout Chairs
Under the Shade
Boats they Rocked
Helpful Child
An Idyllic Afternoon

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Koh Lipe during the Low Season

Sipping Cocktails at Castaway Resort
Taking on the advice of someone I met on Koh Lipe 2 years ago, I tried Koh Lipe during the low season where everything is just that quieter. Bad idea. June, in the middle of the raining season, visiting any islands in Thailand will be pure gamble. Yes, the rain does not pour 24x7, but unfortunately the wind and waves does. The southerly blew for a continued 3 days while I was there, spoiling my chance of snorkeling near Koh Lipe's eastern shores where Idyllic Resort is located. Only on my final day of return, did the wind recourse to blow from the southwest leaving the eastern shores in good calm. Nevertheless, on the 4 nights I was there, I protested by going into the water because I just need to be. It was a tumble of stretched arms and legs, ass in the air sometimes. I quickly retreated back to the hotel pool obediently and watch the sea instead, eliminating the risk of kissing sea urchins with my face.

An the Boats Were Here
Sunrise beach was not as crowded as in October of 2012 while I was there. Most visitors still preferred to stay on the sunset side where Pattaya Beach is. It was filled with mostly China and Malaysian tourist. This meant noise level up several notches. The sea over there was way too violent compared to the already rolling waves of the eastern shores. There were no boats moored at Pattaya, they had all moved over to Sunrise beach. As the wind in low season will blow mostly from southwest, Pattaya took the full force of her battling.

By the Infinity Pool
The sky did break sometimes, opening to allow the sun to turn Koh Lipe into postcard perfect paradise painted in varied hues of green and blue, the white shores burning in the foreground. At times like these, I chilled out sprawled across the hotel's infinity pool just listening to waves. Other times, I sipped cocktail at Castaway Resort watching the horizon to the tune of the best lounge music on the island. Castaway was mostly filled with westerners sunbathing and occasionally challenging the waves tumbling. Many were seated in the shades working on their notebooks, or reading their books. Tranquility enveloped us all, it was a state of blissfulness.

Walking Street on a Weekday
Low season on a weekday's night, walking street connecting the beaches was like a ghost town. It was deserted and windless. A large tour group did interrupt the stillness of her humid air, they crowded a restaurant somewhat in the middle of this street. Most shops were closed, an untidy bundle of stacked up tables and chairs, the dust evidence of isolation. On Pattaya beach however, was a bustle of activities. Plastic tables decked out the shore, the after light of sunset casted everything blue. Spots of candle lit orange illuminated diners, the tray of glistening fresh seafood laid on cold ice reflected the iridescence of the tungsten bulbs.

The days on Sunrise beach was generally quieter then on Pattaya. As the gust came most of the time from southwest, waves were somewhat gentle but it still stirred up sand reducing the water visibility much. Close to shore, it was like snorkeling in white sandstorm. Further out, risking currents that could swept me to far far away, visibility was much better. Restaurants along this beach were not operating at full force. At Zanom, there was no sandwiches for that afternoon indulgence, there was no fresh seafood laid on trays. They had also closed the BBQ pits so further limiting what we could order. Everything was cocooned in an off peak mood which included the savory of Koh Lipe. It was disappointing compared to the last time I was there. The fried rice I ordered was mushy. Best meal I had on Sunrise Beach came from Idyllic Concept Resort, I would never eat at hotels but I was left with limited choices. Surprisingly, this resort upheld her standards, the food was great, the live lobster that went for 1800 Baht per kg was grilled to perfection and the Cream of Mushroom was tasty on the palate and thick to my liking.

Storm Coming
This year is the first time Koh Adang was made off limits to tourist during the low season. This in an effort to preserve the marine life and to give them a chance to recuperate from the abuse of trashing snorkelers. The tour of long tail boats still operated but with destinations on the island hopping list limited. The wave direction changed from day to day, and so did the spot for visitors boarding the vessels for trips and the return journey. It will either be Sunrise Beach, the far and hidden cove of Sunset Beach or the northern shores where Mountain Resort is. Koh Lipe certainly had progressed compared to 2012 when I was there. Travelling to this island during the low season was also a totally different experience. These 2 which I will blog about in my next few posts.

Pattaya Beach
Sunset Beach
Rolling Waves on Sunrise Beach
When the Sky Breaks, Its Perfect Almost
Sapce Rocks
Long Tail Boats awaiting Sunrise
Calm Before The Storm
Securing Boats Before The Storm
Battling the Waves

Monday, June 09, 2014

Selling your Car to the Tent in Thailand

Bye Bye Volvo
The most painful transition moving on to a new car is when you need to sell your old. If you have the luxury of time, put an advert up on car web sites. You will have made good progress if you manage to register yourself in the first place. Normally when I try to register myself with online Thai forums, I usually end up signing up unknowing for some ladyboy porn websites. The thing is websites here are foreigner unfriendly, totally no English. Since my Thai reading competency is as good as that of a young Thai sperm, I had no choice but to sell my car to the "tent". These are the second hand dealers. I had tried trading in my car at the showroom over the purchase of a new car but it was daylight robbery the price they offered. Then I realized eventually this happens at the tents too.

How much you can get selling to the tent depends on what brand of cars it is. Honda and Toyota are easily accepted by the dealers, they fetch the most resale value in the market. Ford and Mazda will get lower returns because they are not well sought after. These cars are reputed in Thailand for their good undercarriage but bad after sales service with regards to maintenance. I have no idea about why Suzuki Swift seems to be doing ok on the resale, maybe because people who cannot afford Minis will buy Suzuki and dressed them up like Mini. I have seen funny stickers on Swifts that mentioned "When I grow up, I will be a Mini". Hyundai is not well accepted, generally Thais don't trust the Korean cars and they are overpriced. As for Protons, you drive them into Chao Phraya River when its time to sell them.

Continentals, they are a sad story. Continentals are actually very good cars packed with technologies but because they are so difficult to maintain, some makes are even turned away by the dealers. For a 5 year old Volvo, her price will depreciate to less than 35% her original first day value. And if sold to the tent, they will slash it by a further 50% breaking your balls even more (mine did). They will offer low because they need to repair whatever that needed to be fixed so that your car "appears" immaculate. In addition to providing a 3 months warranty to the new owner which likely will be exercised as continentals are prone to failures, they take risk of further depreciation in case your car is not sold. BMW and Benz, being more prestigious in Thailand, depreciates somewhat lesser. If you own a Citroen or Peugeot, cut them up into little pieces and use them as paper weight when you are done with them. They also make good coral reefs if you are staying near the Andaman.

Now, why only Hondas and Toyotas I asked the Thais. Easy to find parts, easy to repair. This because there are just so many around. And these particular two brands of Japanese cars are very durable. With so many of these Japanese makes around, mechanics generally acquire the skills easily to repair them cars because there is a flood of knowledge out there. Therefore maintenance cost is lower unlike the continental cars. More importantly, cheap to maintain equals more people like. Thailand is not English proficient, particularly for mechanics who normally are lowly educated. Goggling for repair procedures and reading that manual from Haynes is out of the question. It's not like in other countries where mechanics can supplement their knowledge just by reading. Anyway, I was told Thais who read are a protected species, they are hard to find.

As a result tricky mechanical problems on continentals are usually never successfully resolved. Thai mechanics repair blind that's how it is. They tear your engine apart and replace everything inside when the actually problem is engine running too rich because of a hole in a exhaust. Systematic fault isolation in logical order is not a practice here. There is no divide and conquered concept, there is only fixed the problem in a blanket fashion and pray the problem is gone. It's like I drive my car into my living room, destroying my wall in the process, just to crush that cockroach. So, when in Thailand, stick to Honda's and Toyotas. They are sissy cars yes with unimpressive power ratings, but a sensible choices that are easy our pockets.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Thais just have to make it Bigger - Giant Pork Balls

Well, this goes on to add to the list of interesting unseen Thailand oddities. While at work in Suphan Buri, my customer brought me for lunch, meatballs he said. It never crossed my mind that he meant giant meat balls the size of our heads. This, in the market of Sam Chuk. They have 4 sizes, small, medium, large and then the mother of all balls. Gosh.. . normally meatballs are of testicular size but these are of ridiculous large boobies size. I brought 2 large meatballs home for a mere 150 Baht.

Its bigger then me Hands
The Shop Front
Big Pork Balls Noodles
The Eatery
100 Baht Large Balls