Friday, July 28, 2006
posted by Amie Lee at 10:36 pm

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Yesterday evening was just another one of those ordinary Thursday evenings. Other than the fact that the following day was a Friday, something significant occurred to make the day an even better one for me. Due to the occurrence, I will remember that evening forever. It was one so touching that it brought tears to my eyes.

I was attending training in the office all day and when I finally got back to my place, I checked my email and saw an e-mail from mother. Quickly, I read it. Below is an excerpt of her e-mail:


-----Original Message-----
From: [E-mail Address]
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2006 3:33 PM
To: [E-mail Address]
Subject:

Amy dear,

On top of your table is a cheque for RMxxxx.xx.
It is my own contribution towards your house.
Hope you don’t mind the small amount I contributed.
________________


My mother actually withdrew some of her own savings to help me out with my house. I felt shocked, overjoyed, astonished, speechless, touched and overwhelmed. Mixed emotions washed over me and there are no words to describe how I really felt.

I never expected it from her because she is a housewife all her life hence I believe it took ages for her to save up the money she gave me. She gave me a rather significant amount and even if she gave me any lesser, I would still be as glad. The amount is insignificant as it was her thoughtfulness that reached out to me.

When I got back home yesterday, I walked to her and gave her a hug from the back as she was preparing dinner (she was so sticky and I was so smelly – fair enough). She laughed and asked me what it was for, and I said, “For being so sweet.”

Everyone that I told this to was extremely surprised. They said she is the greatest mother in the world and that I am lucky to have her. Also, they said that I should really "sayang" her more in the future. I guess my mother is what people would refer to as “Hard on the outside but soft on the inside”.

I also took the opportunity to clear the air about a certain misunderstanding between us the past week
and I hope that she understands where I am coming from now. My parents' support mean everything to me in anything that I do in life hence the misunderstanding(s) caused me a significant amount of pain.

Now that all is said and done, I can safely say that yesterday was one of the best days in my life (for more reasons than one)... I still cannot describe how I feel about this whole thing nor get over how sweet my mother is!

Thank you again, mummy. I love you!
 
Saturday, July 22, 2006
posted by Amie Lee at 2:32 am

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I wonder why is it that sometimes parents have the heart to utter hurting words to their children although they may love them very much.

In brief, I asked my father for some financial assistance in the down payment for the house Ivan and I will be purchasing soon. He has yet to respond to me regarding the matter but apparently, my mother had expressed her thoughts to a third party. Consequently, that third party reported the feedback to me.

My mother told me to “Stop dreaming,” and that I am “Wearing a hat that is too big for my head.” I cannot believe that such horrible words can come out of her mouth. Other than the word hurt, I do not know another word in the dictionary that feels worse than that and could describe the way I feel now.

If she feels that I do not deserve the financial assistance, she could just say so - I would accept that. She did not have to say the things she did. I do not know why those words even came out in the first place. Is she angry with me? Is she annoyed at me? Is she dissatisfied with me? And why? I wish she would tell me instead of saying such hurting things behind my back.

I have never asked anything significant from my parents. When I graduated from secondary school, I wanted to take up a professional course because the fees were much cheaper than for most universities. Eventually my father disagreed and insisted on sending me to one of the most expensive universities around.

He even agreed to send me overseas to further my studies and applied for a loan from the Government (not that he could not afford it, it was to ease his financial burden). I was always under the impression that he would pay for it later on but when the time came, I realised that that was not the case. Ever since I was young, I thought that my parents were responsible for my education hence that gesture really shocked me.

My friends and even Ivan (the peacemaker) have prompted me this question, “So since your sister gets her education all paid for, and an all paid for vehicle, what do you get?” I always smile and say, “All the love in the world,” when the answer that everyone expects is, “Nothing.” Some may say that I get my overseas exposure, my expensive education, etc. Now the question is, why punish me for something I did not opt for in the first place?

I wanted to take the professional course that my sister took but during my time, my father disagreed. Now she has the better qualification (due to the dysfunctional education system of my university’s country of origin) and as if that is not bad enough, I am being punished for being sent to the expensive university that my father insisted was best for me at that time. On top of all that, I was not and will never be given an all paid for vehicle either.

Never once have I complained that they were unfair or that they love my sister more than me, though I am beginning to see it clearer and clearer day by day – especially after today. I cannot accept the fact that my mother can say such things about me and I think that I do not deserve them. A simple “No,” right on my face or even the harshest form of rejection would have been a million times better and a billion times less hurting.

Put yourself in my shoes and you will probably feel the hurt that I do right now. I wonder what I have done wrong to deserve all these in my life…
 
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
posted by Amie Lee at 4:58 pm

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Breaking news of the day / month / year / decade / century / millennium: Ivan and I will be tying the knot very soon. Boy, am I a drama queen or what...

I am not sure how things will turn out eventually but the indicative date for our marriage registration will be some time early 2007. We are hoping to do away with the traditional Chinese wedding dinner because of the time and cost factors but chances are we will not.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of our plan(s) will most likely depend on the decisions and opinions of both sets of guardians in our lives. So it is true after all that a marriage does not only involve 2 people, but the whole community where they exist. Somebody please tell me this is a joke!

Ivan had already informed his parents about the registration and obtained their blessings but we have yet to approach my parents. Why? Simply because my parents always happen to be the ones that are harder and trickier to deal with… So, wish us luck. We really need it.

I really need it...
 
Thursday, July 06, 2006
posted by Amie Lee at 9:07 am

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I woke Ivan up at around 7.30am and after we were properly dressed, we headed to the hotel lobby for breakfast. Some of the rest were already eating so we joined them as we hurriedly gobbled down the fantastic breakfast at D’MA. As my bowels were too filled up, I did not have the appetite so I told Ivan I would meet him back in the room. I had to empty my bowels as I felt very uncomfortable going around without the healthy appetite that I always have. When I was done, Ivan and I took our suitcases down to the lobby for safe keeping as we had to check out of the hotel that morning itself.

After all the necessities were done with, Ivan and I took a cab to The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. If I am not mistaken, there are no other modes of public transport to that area as it is located in a rather distant district. Even if there are other modes of public transport there, I believe it is definitely more accessible by cab. The Grand Palace adjoins Wat Phra Kaew in a common compound, and is where you will end up after exiting Wat Phra Kaew. Despite the proximity of the two, there is a distinct contrast in style between the very Thai Wat Phra Kaew and the more European inspired designs of the Grand Palace - the roof being the exception.

As we were standing outside Wat Phra Kaew, a grumpy, elderly official at the main entrance glared at me disapprovingly. He then pointed at my pants and said, “Not long enough!”, and did the same to Ivan. We then stood rooted to the spot, confused at what to do next. He then told us to go on right in and rent appropriate apparel from the front desk. I rented a sarong while Ivan rented a pair of long pants – both of which looked equally hideous on us. Anyhow, we bought the admission tickets and entered the compounds of Wat Phra Kaew.

It is an enormous compound that consists of over 100 brightly coloured shrines, golden spires and glittering mosaics, all of which dates back to when Bangkok was founded. This is Thailand's most important and sacred temple, and it houses the tiny (approximately 70 centimetres) Emerald Buddha which is located high above the heads of the worshippers and tourists. Getting a good look at it is difficult because it is perched so high up inside a glass box and I did not bring my glasses. The greatest disappointment was that photography is forbidden inside the shrine.

We sat in the shrine for a while, saying a few prayers and just looking around. When we were done, we exited the shrine and took a few more photographs before heading towards the compound of The Grand Palace. On the whole, the palace is divided into three sections: The Outer Palace (Phra Ratchathan Chan Nok) on the north, The Middle Palace (Phra Ratchathan Chan Klang) at the east and The Inner Palace (Phra Ratchathan Chan Nai) to the west. We did not bother entering any of the sections as the crowd was too large.

After fully satisfying my photography thirst, we left the place once we had returned our rented apparel. I was almost devastated to part with my sarong because I lost a few pounds in it – due to the sauna effect it created. As we walked passed the main entrance, we heard someone calling so we turned to look. It was the grumpy, elderly official. He was smiling cheerfully, and we had a light conversation before he asked us where we were headed to next. We told him to MBK and then, he told us to hail a cab from across the road and ask the cab driver to charge us according to the meter. Talk about having mood swings man!

Anyway, we thanked him and followed his advice. We arrived at MBK in no time and did some last minute shopping there. Bulk of the goods that we bought was junk food – I bought so much for my family that I think they may just get a heart attack after consuming less than half of them. Next up on the itinerary was The Emporium, a shopping mall that we have yet to visit. We got there via the skytrain and just as we exited the BTS station, I caught a glimpse on something I have been hoping to find in Bangkok: Naraya.

It is a shop that sells silk bags, pouches and cases of all designs, colours, shapes and sizes at very reasonable prices. I went crazy in there and Ivan was terrified because I had a look on my face that implied I intend to buy everything in the shop. Now, I have good news and bad news. Good news is that I did not buy everything in the shop and bad news is that I had to aggressively narrow down my choices. I took my own sweet time with the selection because dear Ivan himself was very much engrossed in picking out things for himself (yes, he likes girls’ stuff) and his family. Boy was I glad!

Naraya could also be found in Malaysia but it is definitely pricier thus it can be said that the prices retailed in Bangkok are dirt cheap. When Ivan and I had filled our shopping basket, he dashed towards the counter before I could put anything else inside. I was already satisfied because his dilemma in deciding which colours to purchase (he is colour blind) gave me plenty of time to decide on my own purchases. With that, we headed towards The Emporium and found that it is another shopping mall like Siam Paragon.

We spent less than 5 minutes there and left for Central World Plaza [Central]. After arriving at the nearest BTS station, we had to walk a lengthy pedestrian bridge and sweat our brains out (while lugging the heavy bags that contained our purchases) during a 15 minute walk on the streets in the hot sun before arriving at Central. When we arrived, we discovered that it was under construction and the only thing that was opened was an extremely barren and quiet Isetan. After walking one round in Isetan, we concluded that it was more like a haunted house than a departmental store so we headed to Big C.

The good news is that Big C is just opposite Central hence the effort we put into walking all the way there had not gone to waste. We tried to look for a KFC in Big C (notice how it rhymes?) after we saw the gigantic billboard hanging outside the shopping mall but did not manage to locate it even after going through the whole place. Hence we walked around for a while and settled with a restaurant known as Steak Hunter. This restaurant serves Western cuisine, as its name suggests – somewhat like Swensens (but without the ice-creams), that is available in Malaysia.

I decided to stick to the conventional Fish and Chips, in fear of what something new would taste like and thus ending up with a miserable lunch. When I told the waitress my order, she said, “Fichipa?” I looked at her with the widest eyes ever and she repeated the same thing again. If I was certain that Fichipa meant Fish and Chips, I would certainly nod my head but I was not – but I nodded my head anyway. Ivan ordered grilled beef and the waitress pronounced it the way it should be pronounced so I was truly glad when the food arrived at our table without any mistakes.

After gorging on our lunch hungrily, we walked around Big C to see if there was anything interesting we could purchase. The place is very much like Endah Parade – with a hypermarket as its tenant and, retails shops and stalls completing the shopping mall. When we were satisfied with Big C, we started on the long and dreadful journey back to the BTS skytrain station. I felt like we had arrived in Italy the moment we stepped foot in the station – not because of the atmosphere but because of the distance we travelled.

Our next destination was MBK once again, as there was nowhere else to go and that seemed like the best shopping mall around to do some last minute browsing. Surprisingly, we bumped into the rest just as we were about to leave for the hotel. The girls were doing some lingerie shopping and I joined in since we had some extra Thai Baht remaining (that was just an excuse to shop). When we were all finished, we took the skytrain back to D’MA. We collected our suitcases from the lobby and waited for our transport to Bangkok International Airport.

All of us were asleep during the one hour journey to the airport as we were all exhausted to the bone. Upon arriving at the airport, we had a quick dinner at Burger King before checking in. I hardly ate because it was too early for dinner and I had a Strawberry Sundae from KFC just as we arrived at the airport. Anyhow, the supposedly quick dinner was not as quick as we anticipated as we reached the terminal just minutes before the plane was ready for boarding. That also means that I missed all the duty free shopping experience!

Once again, I did not feel a single bit airsick during the flight – for that I have full confidence in AirAsia and I would rather take their flights than Malaysia Airlines’. We were even lucky enough to be the first passengers on the plane because it is a new one, which had only previously flown to Manchester (do not ask me how it travelled the distance). The only downside during the flight was that I was practically dying from sleepiness because the seats could not be reclined. I felt really uncomfortable sleeping upright hence I took my backpack, placed it on Ivan’s lap and slept in that position throughout the flight.

My experience Bangkok and Pattaya was in a way, surreal, because of the bizarre things that I did. The trip sure marked a whole new horizon in my life and my experience in Coral Island added another dimension to my time in Thailand and gave me more to think about as I left “The Land of Smiles”. I love the shopping (especially in Chatuchak), the cleanliness (especially their washrooms) and the unique culture (the way you are greeted “Sawadika” or “Sawadikap” almost everywhere). If given the opportunity, I would definitely love to visit amazing Thailand once again.
 
posted by Amie Lee at 9:04 am

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There was one thing I really wanted to do when I woke up the next morning at 6.50am. I walked to the washroom to inspect the condition of my plaits. It looked alright but baby hairs were already beginning to detach from the plaits. I then woke Ivan up to prepare for the day and when we were ready, we headed downstairs to meet the rest for breakfast. Most of them were already there hence we joined them for the not so delicious breakfast. After our stomachs were filled, Ivan and I went back up to the room to do some last minute packing before checking out of the hotel.

Before we left the room, Ivan took a poo while I looked around the room to ensure that we did not leave anything behind. When Ivan was done bombing the washroom, we met the rest at the lobby and checked out of the hotel. Following that, we boarded the van that was already waiting for us at the hotel entrance and started on the journey back to Bangkok. We were all worn out hence not a single soul was awake except for the driver (very obviously) and maybe Ah Chen.

I totally lost track of time and somewhere along the journey, we made a stop at this enormous junk food warehouse (dried squid, prawn crackers, preserved fruits, etc.) and I was so tempted to buy everything but I managed to stop myself. The next stop was a gem factory – this is one of the mandatory stops arranged by the tour agency. It is an enormous structure within a compound so big that not only could you park a plane in there, you also had enough room to get it airborne. Its huge emblem at the entrance read (yes in English!) VSK United Gems Factory [VSK].

I discovered that it is of the biggest gem factories in the world and definitely the biggest one in Thailand. As we walked into VSK, we had no intention of spending a single cent there. We were offered a glass of beverage (plain water and soft drink) each and then brought into a mini theatre to observe a short video on their background and, something about their gems and jewellery. I was too absorbed in fixing one of my plaits to pay attention as it got really messy during my nap (due to the friction between my head and the van seat, no thanks to the bumpy roads). Failing to do so, I took a rubber band and held all my plaits together instead.

Following the short video, we were escorted into the biggest jewellery gallery I have ever seen in my life. There is a vast array of rings, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, ear rings and brooches from affordable to way beyond affordable. It turned out that all the guys bought their girlfriends a ring and as for the singles, Sherry and Alex bought themselves one while Renee walked out empty handed. We suspected it was because she was the only one who did not drink the (drugged) beverage that was offered to us when we entered the factory.

After purchasing the rings, we were ushered into a coffee house where we were offered drinks on the house. One can gauge the amount of money these VSK bloodsuckers make just by having a glimpse at the coffee house, which looked very much like a 7 star hotel restaurant (aside from the size of the factory and its land). When we were done with our drinks, we left the factory and resumed the journey to Bangkok once again. Just before arriving at Bangkok, we stopped at a D’Jit Pochana (at last, a restaurant with a name that I can read!) for buffet lunch.

The food was pretty good but the place was infested by China folks, causing my frustration and anger to mount. I swear that they are most ill mannered people in the world (aside from the not very courteous Malaysians that I encounter everyday). They would shove you around to get to their destinations and they certainly do not know how to queue. Hence the one thing I am positive about is that they do not have any sense of courteousness towards anyone or anything. In addition to that, they speak to each other as if they were a mile (or more) apart when in actual fact they are hardly 2 feet apart.

After lunch, we were driven to the infamous Chatuchak Weekend Market [Chatuchak] located opposite the old northern bus terminal along Phahonyothin. The scale of it is pretty unbelievable - it covers an area of 35 acres and contains more than 15,000 shops and stalls. There is an extensive range of products on sale, including apparel, household accessories, handicrafts, jewellery, religious artefacts, art, antiques, live animals (which are absolutely adorable but unfortunately are caged in cruel conditions), books, music, food, plants, flowers, etc.

Chatuchak has in theory been segregated into sections depending on the types of products and there are maps available for the market which details the various sections. However, my personal opinion is that it is better off to just do without the map and wander wherever takes fancy. Chatuchak is an extremely disorientated place of many narrow alleys and trying to follow a map around can prove to be very frustrating – this is especially so for impatient people like me.

I have been forewarned that Chatuchak always gets very hot and humid during the day but even after walking in there for an hour, I did not feel one bit of the heat. Reason being that it was raining (lightly but enough to cool the place), just as it had been everyday since we stepped foot in Thailand. Ivan and I enjoyed ourselves tremendously, shopping and walking around Chatuchak in the fine weather. When the rain was heavier, we walked in the covered alleys and when the rain was lighter, we walked at the outer sections.

One thing for sure is that Chatuchak is a paradise for shopaholics like me. Ivan and I bargained with the vendors most of the time, and many of the stalls lowered their prices significantly while some stalls did not as they use a fixed price system. We bought a variety of goods, from matching shirts to handicrafts to jewellery and heaps of other goods that caught our fancy – actually, mostly my fancy. Hence we left Chatuchak with bags and bags and bags of merchandise, just like everyone else.

When it was almost time to meet up with the rest, we stood at a corner while having some bottled green tea drink. It was then that the rubber band broke that held all my plaits together snapped. That put me in a trauma because without the rubber band, my messed up plaits made me look worst than I do on my most awful bad hair day. As I was shrieking to Ivan, an elderly lady holding a basket (of what seemed to contain tiny plushies) approached me and asked if I wanted to buy anything. I waved my hand gently as a gesture to indicate I was not interested.

She began to slowly walk away from me and it was then that I looked into her basket. My eyes opened wide at the sight of what was in her basket. There were so many packets of rubber bands in there that you could make a giant ball! I quickly stopped the elderly lady and picked one out from her basket while asking her the price. When she told me it was 10 Baht, Ivan took his wallet out and paid for it. Meanwhile, I quickly ripped the packet open to set hands on a rubber band to hold my very much unruly hair together.

After the great relief, we met up with the rest and our devoted driver together with Ah Chen drove us to dinner. Ronny had suggested that we went for our own dinner that night as we wanted to try something special, something other than restaurants that catered for tour groups. Besides, we have been eating almost similar dishes for the past 3 nights. I guess we were all pretty sick of the same old food hence we ended up at a restaurant known as Tawandang German Brewery, located in the heart of Bangkok on Rama 3 Road.

It is the first microbrewery themed restaurant and houses a spectacular looking golden (possibly gold plated) modern microbrewery – Johnnie Walker being its dominant label, I believe. The casual brewpub atmosphere and entertainment programmes performed on the enormous stage were awesome. In fact, the restaurant looked very much like a venue where a distinguished orchestra would play. Also, I found the round domed beer barrel shaped architectural design of the restaurant and its curve arched ceiling a simple but sophisticated and unique charm.

We had some pretty appetizing dishes there but the restaurant was so dark that I could hardly tell the shape and colour of the things I ate. That hardly mattered, as long as my taste buds had a good time because it was a rather expensive meal and we had to pay for it ourselves. Thereafter, we were driven back to the hotel to do some last minute packing as we were leaving the following morning. Before thanking and bidding goodbye to Ah Chen, we collectively gave him 270 Baht of tips as a token of appreciation (my foot) for bringing us around the past couple of days.

Upon reaching the hotel room, Ivan and I started to untie my plaits together. I nearly broke into tears after the whole process because I looked like a lion with the bushiest mane ever. If that was not bad enough, every single strand of my hair was destroyed - especially the ends. Ivan was thrilled at first, and took as many photographs he could of my newfound look but even he stopped after a while. I guess that was when he realised how serious the situation was and hence he told me to take a shower so I could shampoo and condition my hair.

I took the longest shower ever (yes, even longer than when I had to wash my plaited hair the day before) and once I was out, I was so relieved that my hair had returned to its usual flat, no volume state. It was then that I made a silent vow to myself to never again utter another word of complain about my straight and lifeless hair. Ivan smiled when he sighted my hair and told me that the rest was going to a decent pub in Patpong (the red light district of Bangkok) for a drink. He then asked if I wanted to join them and he was reluctant to at first but I managed to convince him to go, since it was only 10.30pm.

We arrived at Patpong in 2 cabs and were stopped right in front of the small 2 lane Patpong Night Market. Surrounding the 2 lanes were heaps of a-gogo bars, pubs and nightclubs. We walked all the way to the end of the road in search of the decent pub (I did not really get the name) that Alex had come all this way to find. The pub seemed to have never existed and we walked so far beyond the road where the night market was, we saw prostitutes, aquas and God-knows-whats standing all along the street waiting for customers.

When Renee became desperate, she opened her mouth to ask one of the pimps for directions to the pub. The pimp babbled some nonsense in some language that we did not understand and started to follow her. When we had finally managed to get the pimp out of our sights, Ronny gave her a significant piece of his mind. After walking for some time, we arrived back at the spot where the cab had stopped us earlier and it was then that we almost gave up searching for the pub. It was then that the persistent Alex decided to enter one of the boutiques to ask for directions.

While Alex was in the boutique, Ivan and I went into Watsons to buy some snacks. We found his Giant Rocky there and as anyone would have guessed, the overgrown child was overjoyed. Along with that, we bought a couple of bottled green tea drink (yes, again – I think I was beyond what one would call addicted to that stuff). When we got back to the rest, Alex had already managed to get directions and was so grateful that he wanted to purchase something from the boutique. The only downside was that every item in the boutique exceeded 5 digits so he decided to forego that thought as it was not feasible.

I was a bit tired by then so I asked Ivan if we could go back and he agreed (when doesn’t he, right?). He was rather paranoid about getting an honest looking cab driver that will not amputate us and ship us off to Vietnam to be beggars or something along that line. I played along with him and hence we spent some time assessing a few cab drivers along the main road. We approached one that we thought looked honest enough and he quoted us 200 Baht (maybe honesty comes with a price)! Fancy that! The irony behind that is we paid 60 Baht for the ride to Patpong, so what he quoted us was basically more than 3 times of extortion.

When Ivan and I refused to get into the cab, another cab driver came along to persuade us - I think they were friends or something like that. I told him what we paid to get to Patpong and he scornfully chuckled, and mumbled something about the ever increasing petrol prices. Ivan and I walked off and stopped the next cab that came our way. The cab driver quoted us 150 Baht and we immediately got in – it is still expensive but obviously better than paying 200 Baht. We drove past the 2 extorters and gave them the most cynical grins ever. Not that we were not being extorted by the cab driver, but they did not have to know that.

The cab ride was rather stressful as Ivan was highly suspicious that the cab driver had bad intentions. I had to always be on the lookout to ensure that he was on the correct road and not headed somewhere else. Considering the fact that I hardly knew my way around in Bangkok, that was an almost impossible thing to do. Whenever he slowed down, Ivan and I were 101% alert and ready to make a run. After a very stressful 20 minutes, we arrived safely back at the hotel. Ivan was so relieved that he hugged me tightly and kissed me – overdoing it a little, right?

Back in the room, Ivan munched on his beloved Giant Rocky (which I nicknamed Pocky – mainly because it rhymes with Rocky and Porky) and sipped on his cup of coffee while I packed everything into the suitcases. After all the hard work, Ivan tucked me into bed and I fell asleep almost immediately – just like the night before. I haven’t the slightest idea when he turned off the television and lights as I was already snoozing peacefully.
 
posted by Amie Lee at 9:03 am

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We woke up at around 6.50am to get ready and then headed downstairs for breakfast. It was a disappointment as the breakfast in Sunbeam was nowhere as good as the one in D’MA – especially so for Ivan who adored custom made omelettes. We ate away anyway, but with a few words of complaint every now and then. When we were finished, we followed Ah Chen, who led us towards the Pattaya beach. It was just down the road from Sunbeam and it is and awful, dirty, 12 foot (in breadth) beach with extremely rough sand.

Good thing it was not where we were going to hang out for the morning. We waited approximately 5 minutes for our speed boat to arrive and when it finally did, we had to wade in the water (that was halfway to my knees) to reach it. It was almost as unstable as the long tail boat we boarded the day before hence I was struggling, as expected. When we had all boarded the boat, the boat started moving and headed towards Coral Island. I loved the strong breeze and the feeling when the boat jerked every now and then, due to the rocky waves.

On the way to Coral Island, we stopped at a floating parasailing dock. I call it a floating dock because the whole dock actually floats on the sea. Thus it is affected by movement of the waves and it bobs (but only slightly) all the time. Getting down from the boat and onto the floating dock was one of the hardest things to do ever as both surfaces were rocking furiously. Whoever’s hand it was that I had grabbed (I did not even see whether it was male or female), that poor person’s hand had definitely developed a blister.

Those who wanted to go parasailing had to write their names on a name list. Ivan asked me a couple of times if I wanted to attempt it and I gave a firm no, though I was rather fickle about it. I had never experienced it and I would love to but I was terribly frightened – I am afraid of heights, the sea and I am a zero risk taker (double combo). So anyway, everyone signed up except Ivan, Yee Teng, Renee and I. Ivan said that he had done it before hence there was no point in doing it again while we 3 girls are just plain frightened.

When Yee Teng and Renee had decided that they were game for parasailing, I knew I had to do it at least this once or I will definitely regret. They were as frightened as me initially and if they could overcome their fear(s), I was pretty sure I could do the same. Hence I told Ivan, “Alright, I will do it!” He smiled and hurriedly wrote my name on the name list. Meanwhile, we 3 girls were sharing our last moments on Earth together before the parachute brought us to heaven.

Moments later, a couple of Thai guys strapped us up and put on some suit for us that probably weighed more than all of us combined – so much so that I had difficulty walking. Ivan kept telling me that I had to run just before the speed boat pulled me up, or there would be a tendency for me to plunge into the water. That scared me tremendously so I made solemn vow to run at the right moment. In the midst of everything, I suddenly found myself right in front of the queue and my heart felt like it was going to jump out any second.

This Thai guy held my hand and pulled me towards the departing platform where another 2 Thai guys were standing, prepared to hook me to the parachute. One of them greeted me, “Ni hau ma?”. In English, that would be, “How are you?” I replied, “Pu hau.” That translated would be, “No good.” When I said that, he laughed and continued to very hurriedly hook me to the parachute. Anyway, I found it rather impressive that Thais at tourist destinations actually learnt up Mandarin to communicate with the Chinese.

As I was lost in my own thoughts, I somehow heard but did not register it when one of the Thai guys told me to start running. When the words had finally registered in my mind, I started running only to find that my feet were already in the air. I was in shock and I kept praying that I would not plunge into the water because soaking in the middle of the sea was probably my worst fear for the time being. In the whole duration of my new adventure, I looked at the speed boat that pulled me more than I looked at the view that I was supposed to enjoy.

The speed boat kept slowing down because it had to keep a distance from the speed boat in front and the one in front had to do the same. Hence I was more than worried that with all the slowing down, I would suddenly plunge into the water. The whole time, I was grabbing onto the nylon handles (that were really rough, hard and thick thus it could hurt when grabbed too hard) that were parallel to my face. I held onto the handles as tight as possible and frequently lifted myself up like I was doing pull-ups in the gym – a natural impulse to stay in the air, I suppose.

Before I knew it, I was already nearing the platform and about to land. I almost overshot the platform so the 2 Thai guys from earlier each grabbed hold of one of my legs and placed me on the platform. It is unbelievable that I survived 3 of my greatest fears – I felt brand new! The experience and courage that took me to accomplish such an activity is truly unforgettable. After I was unhooked from the parachute, a Thai guy held my hand and pulled me away from the platform to the queuing area. A very proud and delighted Ivan was anticipating my arrival with the camera, all ready to photograph me.

After hanging around the floating dock for a while, our boat arrived and I climbed onto it with great difficulty once again. I could not find a place to sit hence I walked all the way to the front and held onto the ledge that was approximately levelled with my chin. When everyone was on board, the boat sped off and after a few minutes, I started to feel a little uncomfortable because the sea was really rocky. Not because I was seasick but because I was standing right in the front and every time the boat jerked, the impact that I felt was intense.

It got really rocky at one point and I held onto the ledge with all my might. I started to feel really uncomfortable and frightened. My fingers were hurting badly and slowly slipping off as the ledge was too big for me to get a good grip. My head was actually pretty close to the steel bar above me and I was afraid that if the boat jerked a little harder, I might hit the bar. My legs were really cramped as I had to minimise movement against all of that caused by the jerking boat so that I would not slip off the steps I was standing on. The experience was a lengthy and dreadful one.

Sherry and Renee who were seated just behind me kept asking if I had wanted to sit. I told them that it was alright and that I could not move anyway - it was almost impossible to move with all that momentum. After what seemed like the longest 10 minutes of my life, Renee reached out to grab my arm while Sherry stood up and slowly walked towards where I was standing. Slowly, Renee helped me to Sherry’s place and when I was finally seated, Renee patted my back and said, “It’s alright, don’t worry. You are safe now.” She pacified me like a baby in a trauma. Well, maybe my expression revealed that I was indeed a helpless figure in severe shock.

We arrived at Coral Island after 10 minutes and had to wade in the water once again to get to the beach. The water level there was slightly higher than earlier at the Pattaya beach, hence my pants got slightly damp – a common disadvantage of being short. Looking around, I noticed that half the beach consists of sunbathing benches with colourful patio umbrellas above them. Following these benches was a concrete pathway that separated the beach and non-beach areas. The non-beach area dwells a habitat of restaurants and souvenir shops.

What I can say about Coral Island? The sand, sea and sky are beautiful.

All of us rented individual lockers to store our valuable belongings while we had some good fun in the sun. After that, Ivan bought me a pair of bikini and, a pair of matching shorts and sleeveless top. He bought himself a pair of matching Hawaiian shorts and shirt (which would look really odd if worn anywhere other than on a beach holiday) too. I then changed into my newly purchased apparel and applied some sunblock lotion before heading out into the sun.

After we were done, Ivan and I realised that the rest had already wandered off hence we walked around the beach searching for them in vain. Hence we decided to go on our own and the first activity that I had in mind was jet skiing! We signed up for it and then put on our life jackets, which is a safety requirement (and for the sake of my sense of security). I tied mine as tight as it could get because I am still a zero risk taker. We then walked towards the jet ski, accompanied by this Thai guy. Apparently, he was our chaperon for the activity.

Ivan sat in front (that officially made him the jet ski driver) and I sat behind him, holding onto him by linking my hands at his chest. I made very certain that my hands were linked so tight that even The Great Hurricane of 1938 cannot separate them. Our chaperon (who was seated about half a feet behind me) held onto the back of the jet ski and annoyingly, a nylon cord attached to the back of my life jacket. There were times I really felt like magically producing a pair of scissors just to detach the cord so that he could not tug onto it.

At the outset, the Thai guy stood up and bent forward to manoeuvre the jet ski. I almost contracted a heart attack when he continuous swerves that caused the jet ski to tilt 45 degrees (do inform me if there is a term to describe that act). I screamed my heart out and held onto Ivan with all my strength. After 15 seconds, he stopped swerving and allowed Ivan to manoeuvre the jet ski. Ivan started off slowly but the jet ski still jerked every now and then due to the somewhat rocky sea. I was a little startled initially but slowly. I warmed up and learnt to enjoy jet skiing.

When I got bored of the steady motion, I told Ivan to speed up. That was when I started to scream and shout in joy while Ivan grinned away, happy that we were both enjoying ourselves. With that, we had a great 10 minutes of fun jet skiing in the middle of nowhere! Before returning the jet ski, the Thai guy stood up again to manoeuvre it and did that swerving trick again for another 15 seconds. There goes my third time of almost contracting a heart attack for the day. That was one hell of a day and I swear if there was a fourth round, I would be on the way to the hospital.

After we got off the jet ski, we tried to search for the others but failed once again. We tried to convince a Thai lady holding the name list (where we signed up for activities) to let us have a look so we could track the others but she refused. I thought she could converse in Mandarin because she spoke to me earlier when I signed up for parasailing and jet skiing. Apparently, she does not even know what “phen yo” means when a banana like me knows it means friends. I guess she only learnt up the basics, like numbers (to quote prices and number of people) and some other simple phrases (solely for business purposes).

I walked off feeling really cheesed off with the Thai lady. Seriously, I wonder what could be the harm in letting us have a look at the name list. It was not like we were going to take it away and burn it, which would result in her being unable to collect the money we owe. Sigh! The things that run through peoples’ heads these days can be really weird. Following that, Ivan and I had decided to give up looking for the rest so we headed towards the contained area of the sea for a relaxing soak. That was where we very ironically bumped into Ronny, Yee Teng and Jaffri.

They were just about done in the water hence they took our slippers to leave them together with their other belongings. Ronny indicated to Ivan where they were going to be (the sunbathing benches a little to the right of where we were standing) so we could look for them when we were done. Then Ivan and I transformed into fishes and played in the water. The weather was wonderful and it was not too sunny as the sun was hiding behind some thick white clouds. We did not swim though; we just hung around, allowing the gentle waves to move us about.

As I am a vertically challenged, I could not sit on the sand while sparing my head from entering the water. Now, I may be short but I sure am intelligent. I waddled towards Ivan with an ingenious idea boiling in my head. I sat on his outstretched legs, facing him while leaning my chin on his shoulders (and my head was still spared from the water – talk about being tall!), draped my arms around him and closed my eyes. That was when I officially declared him my “pelampung”, or rather, float. He seemed to take pleasure in the title so it was a win-win situation for us.

It was perfect, at least right until a not so gentle wave pushed us hard enough to be startling. Ivan almost tumbled over, causing my knee to hit the sand. Once we had recovered from the shock of sea water pouring all over us, I looked at my knee. A huge blue black (which actually grew three times the size later on) had already developed. Thank goodness that was the most serious injury of the day, followed by a few other cuts and minor bruises. Ivan got a nasty cut from the jet ski though, but good thing he is tough so he took it well.

We soaked in the water for another 2 hours before bidding goodbye to the sea. By then, my whole body was already badly burnt by the not so sunny sun. Imagine what it would be like if it was a scorching hot day – perhaps one of those roast chickens that are hung at chicken rice shops would be a good idiom. So anyway, we headed towards the shower area and found out that we had to pay 50 Baht each to utilise the bathroom (talk about blood suckers). Ivan told the Thai guy who asked for the fee that his wallet was in the locker and that he will pay him after the shower. The Thai guy said I could go in first and asked Ivan to fetch his wallet.

Ivan had no choice but to fetch his wallet so I accompanied him. After paying the Thai guy, Ivan asked me, “Do you think they will peep at you? All here are young guys and they do not look very honest.” I cannot blame him for thinking that way and also, the bathrooms do not have a roof. If one jumps or takes a chair and stand on it, one can see anything and everything that goes in the bathroom. Peeping or no peeping, I took my shower and rinsed my sand filled apparel. When I came out, Ivan was standing right in front of me grinning from ear to ear. Weird!

Then we headed towards the locker and took everything out. Ronny, Yee Teng, Jaffri, Jasmine and Alex were already at the lunch table – which was about 20 steps away from where we were standing. We sat down together with them, helped to lay the table and poured the soft drinks into cups for everyone. Moments later, lunch was served and I began to salivate. It was stated on the tour itinerary that our lunch that day was going to be a seafood lunch hence I was really looking forward to it. Little did I know that it was actually the worst meal I had in Thailand!

The miserable crab and tiger prawn that was given to each of us in a tiny basket had such a pungent fishy stench that I did not even dare to smell them, let alone sink my teeth into it. It was plainly steamed (not marinated with anything whatsoever) and by the time it was placed on our table, the miserable crab and tiger prawn were cold as ice. I did even bother to touch them or give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I had the other dishes on the table which tasted as unpleasant as they looked.

When I had finally managed to choked my lunch down, I asked Ivan if we could go get my hair plaited (the whole beach is infested with hair plaiting services and you can see at least one stall no matter which direction you turned). He agreed, so we went to look for Renee and Sherry who were in the process of getting their hair plaited. Apparently, I could get my hair plaited with a manicure and pedicure for only 200 Baht. Hence I sat down and allowed the stall operators to do their job. Not long after, Yee Teng and Jasmine came over to do the same.

The 3 operators at the stall could hardly cope with us girls, in addition to various other customers that stopped by for quick fix-ups. Therefore it took a pretty long time to get everything done. The first thing they did was to use nail polish remover in abundance to remove my existing nail polish. Following that, I was asked to select colours and designs that I would like for my finger and toe nails. I picked the same one for both – I like standardisation. My nails were then painted, decorated and coated with a protective later, while my hair was being concurrently.

It may sound simple but the whole transformation process took about 90 minutes. That was because there were too little operators and too many customers. When customers came for quick fix-ups, the operators had to attend to them first and leave people like me (which are extremely time consuming) alone for the moment. Ivan was looking more than bored by the time I was done but good thing the camera kept him entertained while I was occupied. He walked around the island, photographing anything that caught his eye and of course, his princess during the transformation process.

When we were finally finished, Ivan paid the lady for all 3 girls (Yee Teng, Jasmine and I) as the rest rushed off to grab their belongings because we were clearly behind schedule. There was a misunderstanding about the pricing as we thought that the 200 Baht included hair plaiting, finger and toe nail painting, and tattooing (Yee Teng and Jasmine did tattoos). The lady claimed that tattooing itself costs 40 Baht and was not included in the package. As the rest had already left, we had nothing to say so Ivan reluctantly paid her. He then held my hand, stormed off and shot a threatening look in the poor lady’s direction.

After checking with Renee later on, we realised that the lady was not trying to swindle us. I felt extremely guilty of the way we accused her and thought she was trying to earn a few bucks off us. The guilt soon wore off (I am a cold blooded creature) as we waded in the water to board an old, wooden boat. Then, we were driven about 500 meters away from the shore and told to look into the sea via the transparent floorboards. Ivan and I were busy pointing out to each other the different corals we identified and suddenly, he said, “SHIT! Sea rambutans!!!”

I looked in the direction he indicated and saw heaps of rambutan look-alikes, only that they were dark brown (instead of red), with much longer and sharper spikes. Ivan has a phobia of sea rambutans because he was stung by one aeons ago and suffered severe pain, hence the abrupt exclamation. While we were fussing over what I though is a harmless looking sea creature, the speed boat arrived. We then climbed onto it and this time, I made very sure I had a comfortable place to seat. The ride back to Pattaya beach was wonderful, as I could enjoy the breeze without the fear of contracting a heart attack.

Upon arriving at the Pattaya beach, we had to wade in the water once again to arrive at the dirty, 12 foot beach. Wading this time proved to be a chore as the sea level had risen hence it reached about 3 inches above my knee. The taller people (like beloved Ivan) did not have a problem but the more vertically challenged people (like beloved me) were swearing and cursing every fowl word you have ever heard. On the beach, a couple of Thai guys were selling individual and group photographs along with the negatives of all of us that were taken during the day.

The moment Ivan saw the 2 photographs of me taken during parasailing, he grabbed them and immediately took his wallet out to pay for them. I suppose he was really proud of me gathering the courage to participate in such a perilous activity – hence it is like one of the greatest achievements ever. Anyway, we also bought one photograph with the 2 of us on the jet ski just before setting out (without the Thai guy sitting behind me, of course). With that, we dragged our feet back to the hotel to get some rest.

Back in the room, I painstakingly washed my hair so as to not ruin the perfectly plaited mane. It was a tough job indeed and I spent close to an hour obsessing over it. When I was finally done, I got dressed and we headed out once again. We met Ronny, Yee Teng, Renee, Sherry and Alex in the lobby and walked out of the hotel with no particular direction in mind. As we walked along the main road, we passed by a scaled down version of a night market where we spent some time there browsing around.

Then we found a scaled down version of Sungei Wang, where I found heaps of beautiful dinner dresses and gowns. Ivan insisted that I tried them on and said he would buy me one but I was not interested. I was too lazy because trying on dresses take up a lot of energy hence I rather sit somewhere while waiting for the rest. Aside from that, I also needed to rub my bruise (everyone’s advice having sighted it with horrific looks on their faces) and my feet were also pleading for mercy. We found Ronny on a bench hence we joined him and I rubbed my bruise while he and Ivan held a conversation that I did not understand.

When the rest were done, we left the mini shopping mall and continued to walk further down the main road. As we walked, we found a scaled down version of Carrefour (seems like Pattaya is filled with scaled down replicas) and entered to grab some snacks. Ivan and I bought a giant Vitagen to drink and some pastries to munch. Walking along the main road once again, we stopped by a stall to buy some flavoured sausages that tasted more like an assortment of animal fats than anything else. With that, we walked back to the hotel and rested our tired feet for a moment before heading out for dinner.

Once again, dinner was at one of the many restaurants catered for tour groups that only had its name written in Thai. When we arrived, Ah Chen repeated his legendary, “Lai lai lai! Chek fan, chek fan, chek fan!” while clapping his hands act. For the past 2 nights, we ate in restaurants that only had tables for 10 as they all catered for tour groups and it was not any different that night. Even the range of food was similar; rice and a bowl of Tom Yam soup each, along with a variety of Chinese dishes. They might as well set up a single restaurant with the accumulated capacity of all restaurants available because I am pretty certain that that method is more economical.

After dinner, Ivan and I notified Ah Chen that we were not going for the free massage which was scheduled that night. I am not fond of massages because I was born to be extremely fragile and sensitive hence the fear of the masseur breaking or twisting parts of me. Ah Chen made a lot of noise, claiming that he had already reserved a place for us and somehow, that left Ivan feeling very dissatisfied with him. Renee then told me massages were relaxing and that I could ask them to be gentle so they would not hurt me. Well, no thank you.

After all the fuss, Ah Chen and the driver dropped us outside Mike Shopping Mall and we were told to meet up at the same place in 2 hours’ time. We walked one around in the shopping mall for a while and then decided to walk down the road, where Ah Chen confirmed that we could locate a night market. As we gathered outside, it began to rain once again – we were standing at the very same spot when it started raining the day before. Hence we had no choice but to wait for the rain to subside and once it did, we dashed out.

We walked past some shops along the way and stopped by a few that caught our interests before arriving at another shopping mall. It is a modern shopping mall and seemed like a scaled down version of something familiar, I just don’t know what (maybe Siam Center). Anyway, we went separate ways and agreed to meet at the main entrance an hour later. Ivan and I walked around the shopping mall but found nothing of interest thus we decided to have a seat (and put a plaster on his injured toe caused by the stiff slippers) on one of the benches.

We were talking and laughing like everyone else when suddenly, we heard a loud “THUD!!!” and all the lights went out. Following that were a few surprised and frightened screams here and there from patrons of the shopping mall. Apparently, the electricity supply in the shopping mall was cut off temporarily so I quickly pulled Ivan out of the place for safety reasons. Just as we were about to exit, the emergency lights came on hence we stood around the entrance in case the rest turned up. They did not but a few minutes later, the electricity supply returned to normal.

When the rest had turned up, we walked back towards Mike Shopping Mall together. After informing them that we were not going for the massage, we wished everyone goodnight and stopped by a 7-11 along the way. Ivan wanted to look for his precious Giant Rocky to munch for supper back in the hotel. Failing to locate it in 7-11, we went into a few other sundry shops along the way but failed to unearth any Rocky of any size. Hence, a very disappointed Ivan together with me, continued to walk down the road.

We stopped at one of the shops along the way where I had spotted a nice shirt. When I managed to bargain to a price of my expectation, Ivan handed me his wallet. I could not recall the exact scenario but I recall being rather confused between the Thai Baht and Malaysian Ringgit conversions. Hence I almost underpaid the Thai guy and he very obviously picked up my weakness and short-changed me notably. I almost left the shop without saying anything but good thing Ivan was sharp so we got back the correct amount of change. Just as we were leaving the shop, we heard the guy chuckling (@#$%) to himself. One star for Ivan.

With that, we headed back to Sunbeam and called it a day. After taking a shower, Ivan made a cup of coffee and sat on the bed to watch television. I slipped into the sheets right away and talked to Ivan for a while before closing my eyes. For all my life, I have always been a light sleeper and I never fall asleep easily. I have to be in an extremely dark and silent room to fall asleep, and the slightest sound (even the lightest footsteps) would wake me. There I was in a room with tungsten lights and a blaring television, gradually nodding off. It took me less than 5 minutes to fall asleep that night and I had no idea when Ivan turned off the lights or the television.
 
posted by Amie Lee at 9:01 am

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When I opened my eyes and checked the clock, it was 5.45am. My biological clock sure works no matter which part of the world I am in. I lay in bed for a while before getting up to wash my face and brush my teeth. When I have done the necessary, I woke Ivan up with great difficulty – waking him up is like trying to get a leash on a hippopotamus. Anyhow, we were ready by 6.30am hence we proceeded to the hotel lobby for breakfast.

The buffet breakfast was great (with a wide variety of food and Ivan’s favourite custom made omelette) and I ate like a pig although I promised myself not to overdo it because we would be going for the canal tour along Chao Phraya River and travelling to Pattaya right after. With the rocking river and winding roads, the contents in my stomach would be emptied in no time – through the wrong channel, that is.

Taking only our small suitcases with us, we boarded an 11-seater van (the 9 of us, beloved Ah Chen and the driver) and headed towards the pier. Upon arriving, I saw a white 3 storey building with Thai wordings on it hence I had no idea what it said but I am guessing it is something like “The Pier”. Ah Chen led us inside and I soon discovered that it was more like a shopping mall than a pier, just that it was dark as all the shops were closed as it was still early. We walked to the other end and discovered that there is a pier just outside the exit.

We stood around waiting for our long tail boat while taking photographs. Moments later, Ah Chen called out for us and told us to board one of the boats at the dock. The moment I stepped onto the platform that led to the boat, I felt dizzy. It was rocking like nobody’s business and boarding the boat was challenging as it was rocking more furiously than the platform. Good thing there was a man on the platform to help me up and a lady on the boat to guide me appropriately - I grabbed their hands so tight it is likely they developed blisters.

Once I was on the boat, I quickly looked for seat to sit to prevent unwanted circumstances. After everyone was settled and the boat began to move, Ah Chen took a microphone and started barking in Mandarin once again. Apparently, there were 2 tours on the boat hence there were 2 tour guides but Ah Chen did the narration. Ah Chen was matching names and stories to some of the places we passed by but I did not understand a word. Hence all I could do was to aim my camera towards everything he pointed at and snapped photographs of them.

Apart from the language barrier, the canal tour was lovely. I loved the wind on my face, sun in my eyes and breeze that messed up my hair. Along the Chao Phraya River were numerous temples of Buddha with their gild and glazed tile roofs, some blue and others green or yellow, and tall single spires sparkling in the sun. On each side of the river were floating habitations, resting on bamboo rafts. These houses are built of boards, generally teak-wood, of a neat oblong from twenty to thirty feet in length, and about half that space in breadth.

A few vendors (to be specific, 2) of the floating market approached us on little wooden boats, offering fruits for sale. The other tour guide bought a bunch of bananas and insisted that all of us have one. When I hesitated to accept his offer (I am not exactly a fan of bananas), he claimed that it is world class and I would regret not eating it. I gave mine to Ivan and he offered me a bite after peeling the skin off. Reluctantly, I took a bite and reached the conclusion that it is no different from the bananas in my kitchen back home.

While we were enjoying the tour, the lady whose hand I made a blister on (the one who helped me stabilise myself upon boarding the boat), put an orchid garland around each of us. It smelt lovely, of the jasmine that surrounded the beautiful purple orchids. Apparently it costs 20 Baht each so I asked Ivan if we could pay for it because I really liked it. Turned out that he liked it too hence he paid for both – he is getting really vain these days.

When the boat stopped at a particular spot, both the tour guides threw loaves of bread into the river. Within split seconds, schools of catfishes surfaced to attack the thick pieces of bread. That sight made my eyes open wide with fear as the hungry fishes looked brutal enough to jump up and make me their brunch. I was relieved when the boat began to move again, and this time we headed towards Wat Arun (also known as the Temple of Dawn).

The boat stopped at a pier right in front of the temple and we paid an entrance fee of 20 Baht per person to enter the prang compound. Wat Arun has one towering prang and 4 smaller siblings. The prangs are not only unique in its design, which is a blend of Khmer and Thai styles, but also in decoration. Over the brick core, a layer of plaster was applied and then decorated with bits of Chinese porcelain and glazed ceramic tiles.

If I am not mistaken, the towering prang consists of 3 or 4 levels and I could see that it is really beautiful from where I stood at ground level. Unfortunately, we could only climb up to the first level as the second level onwards is closed to tourists. This is probably because the stairways were so steep that many accidents had occurred. Climbing the stairways was not much of a problem; it was the descending bit that scared the living daylights out of my miniature frame.

Before we left, we stopped by the numerous souvenir stalls along the alleys. Ivan bought me pretty Orchid hairclips that can only be worn during special occasions - otherwise I would appear as an outcast in society. These occasions being beach holidays, beach holidays and beach holidays. We also bought some gold and silver miniature elephant key chains as souvenirs for friends and colleagues. With that, we walked back to the boat and headed back to the shopping mall cum pier.

Thank goodness the same man and lady who helped us up the boat earlier were there to help us down too. This time I did not grab their hands as tightly as before – I was more confident after some practice. Much to my surprise, the shopping mall we walked through earlier was just as dark as before although it was already 10.45am. I was pretty convinced then that it is a haunted or cursed place thus there are no visitors. As we exited the place, our van had already arrived hence we boarded it and started on the journey to Pattaya.

About 30 minutes later, we stopped at a bird nest and honey shop – one of the mandatory stops arranged by the tour agency. We made a pact to walk one round in the shop and leave as quickly as possible so no time would be wasted. In that one round, I noticed that products in the shop consist of too many digits to be calculated (let alone convert to MYR) with my naked eye. As expected, none of us found anything of interest and we were about to walk out but the sales people ushered us upstairs.

Apparently, they serve ready made products (bird’s nest soup, chicken congee, pork intestine soup, etc.) upstairs hence each of us ordered a little something. Most of us ordered bird’s nest soup served in a young coconut, which to my delight, was really sweet and thus extremely gratifying. After the nutritious treat, we left the shop and to our utmost surprise, it closed right after we stepped out (by close I mean closed for business!).

We were more than convinced that we got ripped off and the bird’s nest soup we paid for was really only jelly. Well, what’s done cannot be undone. We then boarded the van and all of us took a nap while we were driven to lunch. We stopped right in front of Eastin Hotel (“Eastin”) and Ah Chen went like, “Lai lai lai! Chek fan, chek fan, chek fan!” while clapping his hands. The translation word for word in English would be, “Come come come! Eat rice, eat rice, eat rice!” Suddenly, I felt like we were a herd of buffaloes sleeping in the van and being called for lunch.

Until today, I am still not sure if where we had the buffet lunch that day is actually a restaurant in Eastin. It is a restaurant below ground level with Thai wordings at the entrance hence I had no idea what it read. The reason I doubted the lunch venue was simply because the food that was served was not, well, Eastin material. Hence I did not have much to eat and instead, I loaded up on the “ice kacang” (a type of dessert served with shaved ice and an assortment of jellies, nuts, beans, etc. to choose from) – a must have for me at every buffet.

After the lunch, we headed to Pattaya on an uninterrupted journey. All 9 of us were sleeping throughout the 90 minute journey to make up for lost sleep. Ah Chen was probably sleeping on and off and the driver had better be wide awake. Good thing the windows were heavily tinted (as dark as judges’ cars in Malaysia) because the afternoon sun was scorching hot. Whoever tinted the windows did a good job because although I was seated by the window, I could hardly feel the sun’s rays on my skin.

Upon arriving at Pattaya, we visited the infamous Sriracha Tiger Zoo. The zoo consists of more than 200 Bengal tigers and 100,000 crocodiles, in addition to various kinds of animals (pigs, goats, llamas, etc.). There were also various activities and shows available but we only managed to catch a few. Also, tourists were allowed to experience natural touch and enjoy being in the company of certain tamed animals closely – not me, only the animal lovers.

The first show that we witnessed was the Crocodile Show. Believe me when I say that crocodiles are one of the ugliest and most disgusting animals ever! Their bumpy scales are really scary (especially the darker coloured ones) and their mouths are more than just frightening (all white on the inside). I have since learnt that crocodiles are extremely lazy animals; they sleep all the time and refuse to wake up or to be woken up. Also, once you can get their mouths to open wide, it can stay open for a very long time (even as they are asleep!).

Basically, the show involves 2 performers (a guy and a girl) fooling around with a couple of half-asleep or maybe even sound asleep crocodiles. As I have mentioned, their mouths can stay open for a very long time, hence the performers put their hands and even heads in between to excite the audience. The guy even reached his hand into one of the crocodile’s throat and smiled cheekily at the audience. That really gave me a heart attack and I must say it again that crocodiles really ugly, disgusting and lazy animals!

Following that was the Pig Race Show. The pig race was not very entertaining – just a herd of numbered piglets running from one end to the other. However, there was a performance by this 4 to 5 foot pig named Pangpont (it is the biggest pig I have ever seen in my life, be it on television or in person) that was pretty fascinating. There were 6 cardboards on the floor near Pangpont which were labelled 1 to 6 and the audience was, at random, asked to come up with mathematical equations that would equal to any of these numbers.

Pangpont would then, very confidently, pick the correct cardboard with the correct answers each time. It must be one smart pig. I am pretty sure that a pig is not able to solve mathematical equations (let alone understand language) hence I think it was probably given a signal to pick the correct cardboard. Either way, Pangpont is still a smart pig because it is not easy to train a pig to accomplish such a task – let alone obey orders.

After that, we entered the Scorpion Cave, where various types of scorpions were found. Just as I entered, I saw this lady in white (long sleeve top and long pants) with countless black scorpions clinging onto her clothes. She could even transfer the scorpions over to those who want to have their photographs taken, but for a fee, of course. We saw some glow in the dark scorpions in the cave too. Simply, the cave was heaving with China folks (you can never imagine how difficult they are until you meet them) so we did not spend much time there.

Just outside the cave was an open area where we could take photographs and play with various tamed animals (snakes, iguanas, deers, etc.). It was definitely not a place where I would enjoy myself as there was great fear and stressed involved. I was busy looking around in case any of the reptiles escaped from the hands of their guardians and decided to sneak up on me. Jasmine unconsciously walked a little too near to one of the snakes and its head was some 15 inches away from her. When she became aware of it, she jumped and quickly took off.

Looking at her, I walked ahead as my head tilted to the right. When I turned back to the front, I saw an iguana (that was sitting on its guardian’s shoulders) less than half a foot away staring at me while bobbing its throat!!! I screamed like I saw Emily Rose. The iguana did not look the least bit disturbed and its guardian looked at me with the calmest expression ever. I guess they are used to annoying screams like this. Anyhow, it took me quite some time for me to recover from that shocking incident – it was so close to me. If I had not turned on time, I would be walking straight into it!

We then took some photographs with tigers that were separated from us by glass (which cannot be seen in the photographs), hence creating the effect that we were standing just beside the tigers. Inside the area with the tigers were a number of Africans dressed in tiger costumes – I believe they are the trainers. Following that, we had some crocodile satay and visited the washroom before leaving the zoo. After a 30 minute ride in the van, we arrived at Sunbeam Hotel [Sunbeam], where we stayed for the next 2 nights.

When Ivan and I reached the room, we had a feeling that it was not cleaned yet. The door was wide opened and the comforter was messily stuffed into a compartment of the bed cabinet. Although the bed was nicely made, there was a patch of water (some kind of fluid, actually) right in the middle. All that looked intimidating enough for us to leave the room and walk back all the way to the lobby to get another room.

Once we got to a more decent room, we plopped onto the bed to get some rest. When we were finished with whatever we needed to do on the bed, we took a shower and quickly changed to set out for dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant, Ah Chen performed the customary, “Lai lai lai! Chek fan, chek fan, chek fan!” while clapping his hands. The restaurant (once again unidentified because it only had Thai wordings) served us each a plate of pineapple fried rice and Tom Yam soup, with a variety of Chinese dishes.

After dinner, we went for the Thai Model Show and Thai Man Show. The Thai Model Show basically entails girls stripping, unclothed or skimpily dressed, dancing sensually onstage along with some music. They would involve the male audience (the willing ones, of course) too – by calling them on stage to participate. It was hilarious when the girls promised the guys they would only remove their shorts but they actually meant to remove their boxers as well. The guys would then quickly pull their pants back up as the audience giggle away.

The Thai Man Show involves guys and well, what are known as aquas. For those who do not already know, aquas are actually males transformed into females. They definitely have breasts but concerning the land down under, that is something very subjective – there could be only one or even both. The show involves more than just sensual dances as there was foreplay and even sexual intercourse (between guy and aqua) involved. There were also guys who used their erected dicks to hit drums, competing with each other to be the loudest.

After all the excitement, Ah Chen and the driver picked us and brought us back to the area near Sunbeam. They dropped us at Hard Rock Café Pattaya and with that, off went Ah Chen and the driver (we have freed them for the day). As always, I began to photograph almost anything and everything in the surrounding area while the others ventured into the souvenir shop - some of them were fanatics of Hard Rock Café. Personally, I think their products are over priced and there is no way I could afford them.

When they were finished, we walked down the road in search of a night market (that Ah Chen claimed existed) to do some twilight shopping. Instead, we found a shopping mall called Mike Shopping Mall and out of curiosity, we went in to have a look. It is very much like MBK, only smaller and less crowded. All of us went separate ways and agreed to meet up at the entrance an hour later. Ivan and I went on a mission to look for a new pair of slippers so he could wear them to Coral Island the following day.

Other than Ivan’s slippers, I wanted to get a shirt for myself too. There was one that caught my eye and I tried to bargain to a price of my expectation but the vendor (a teenage boy) was pretty firm. Jaffri and Jasmine were bargaining with us as well because Jasmine wanted the same shirt. When the boy refused to reduce the price further, we walked off and politely told him we would think about it. He then said, “You cannot find anything cheaper. Go home and buy.” Now, now, now. Where are your manners, young man!

An hour passed faster than we thought hence Ivan and I headed towards the entrance to meet up with the rest. Ronny and Alex were already there, looking more uninterested than ever. I guessed that Yee Teng, Sherry and Renee went shopping together and left them to rot. As we waited, it started to rain a little so the 4 of us started to get worried. Moments later, the girls turned up but we still had to wait for Jaffri and Jasmine. When they finally turned up, the rain started to get even heavier – so heavy that there was no way we could make our way to the night market.

We waited and we waited and we were disappointed. It only got heavier every second so we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a day. Ronny and Yee Teng did not bring their umbrella along but thank goodness I did! One star for Amie. However, they were fortunate because when we had finally decided to make a move, the rain began to subside. As Sunbeam is located in the heart of Pattaya’s red light district, aquas (or maybe they are girls – anyhow I am not interested to know) were everywhere on the streets.

After reaching the hotel, I packed of the things we bought that day into the suitcase while Ivan had a snack attack on what’s left of his Giant Rocky. I took a bite or two and seriously, it tastes just like the Rocky we have in Malaysia. The only difference is that it is 2 times longer and about 6 times fatter hence I will never understand why he is so fond of it. Maybe it has something to do with guys and the size of cylindrical objects.

It was already pretty late by the time we were done with everything (bathing, packing, supper, etc.) hence I told Ivan to jump into the sack first as I still had to wait for my camera battery to finish charging. Just as I was telling him to do so, the light on the battery charger turned from red to green. I grinned, walked towards the charger and unplugged it. Then, Ivan and I kissed each other goodnight and went to dreamland together.
 
posted by Amie Lee at 8:56 am

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The anticipation for this date was (not to exaggerate) nearly unbearable. I got up as early as 6.10am to prepare for the long awaited trip. Ivan’s parents were to pick me up at 6.45am as they were giving us a ride to KL Sentral. We would then take a coach to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal [LCCT] located in Sepang. It is a newly set up airport merely for AirAsia flights, both inbound and outbound.

Upon arriving at my place, Ivan went up to my room to help me with our luggage – one big and one small suitcase. We had equally separated our belongings into both suitcases for risk management purposes (AirAsia is known for losing its patrons’ luggage). Hence the suitcases were hardly what AirAsia would classify as overweight – for a single suitcase, that is. Actually, I am pretty confident that a combination of both the suitcases is still nowhere near being overweight.

Upon arriving at LCCT (which looks more like a warehouse than anything), we rushed towards the washroom. Ivan waited for me while I went in as he had to guard our luggage. I spent almost 10 minutes in there, not doing what I should do, but queuing up. Sometimes I really don’t know what ladies do in there for such a long time - the longest I ever took was 2 minutes. When I was done, Ivan told me he had already went (he took the luggage along with him). One star for Ivan.

We then rushed to the check in counter as we were slightly past the 2 hour check in mark. As we were not familiar with procedures at the new airport, we had to ask an official. We then checked in our luggage and obtained our boarding passes as instructed. Following that, we proceeded to McDonalds so that the acid in my stomach could work on something else besides the walls of my stomach. We ordered a Big Breakfast with an additional hash brown and coffee. I did not want to eat much as I was afraid I would experience severe airsickness later on.

Right after breakfast, we proceeded into the departure hall. After going through all the necessary procedures, we sought to identify to our departure gate. There were 8 gates in the departure hall and each gate is labelled T1 to T8 respectively. Ours was T8, although I did note that there is no difference which gate you actually enter. All the gates were merely sliding glass doors (about 6 foot apart) that led to the runway, which is just outside the departure hall.

It was a free seating flight and knowing very well that Malaysians are a kiasu lot, I sat very close to the gate so I could queue up right in front when we were called to do so. You can call me kiasu if you wish to but I call it survival of the fittest. Plus, I had to get a good seat (window seat) as I am really prone to being airsick. Sitting by the window and looking outside would greatly soothe that queasiness. No, it is not merely a reason to be excused from being called kiasu.

Despite the fact that the flight was delayed for about 40 minutes, it was a surprisingly pleasant flight. I did not feel a single bit airsick as the take off was really smooth. With that, I am half convinced that AirAsia pilots are way better than those at Malaysia Airlines. It really took me by surprise and I spent the entire flight happily snapping pictures of the clouds outside my window. Yes I know the use of electronic items is prohibited so keep this secret for me, will you?

Upon arriving at Bangkok International Airport (Don Muang International Airport), we dashed to the washroom. After that, we rushed to collect our luggage as we were running late - which meant less shopping time for me. We waited and we waited and we were disappointed. I stared at the empty conveyor belt for such a long time that when I closed my eyes, I could see the empty conveyor belt. It took about an hour for our luggage to appear and by then, I was convinced that all the good bargains in Bangkok had already been taken by others.

The next headache was locating our pickup to D’MA Pavilion Hotel [D’MA]. We were told that there would be someone waiting for us at the exit, holding a cardboard with Ivan’s name on it. When we failed to locate that person, Ivan asked an airport official that was assigned to handle problems like these for assistance. After some squabbling and complications, we managed located the driver and together with a family of 5, Ivan and I were driven to D’MA.

When we arrived at D’MA, we checked in while the porter helped us with our luggage and brought it up to our room. Then, he slowly placed the suitcases on a stand and switched on the television for us. Ivan asked me (in Cantonese) if we should tip the porter and I said we had better. I then took out 50 Baht from my bag and passed it to Ivan, who then gave it to the porter. We wondered if that was considered little, just enough or too much for a tip.

After the happy (I hope) porter left the room, Ivan and I jumped on the bed and made love for the rest of the day. We are not as stupid as to go all the way there just to spend the day in bed. Not even if it involves something as pleasurable as… What we really did, or rather, what Ivan really did was he gave Jaffri a call to find out where the rest (Jasmine, Ronny, Yee Teng, Sherry, Renee and Alex) were. For the record, they arrived 2 hours earlier as they took an earlier flight.

They were at Mah Boon Khrong [MBK], a shopping mall very much like Sungei Wang. We were to locate the nearest BTS station and hop onto an adjoining skytrain at an interchange station. One of the hotel staffs gave us directions to the nearest BTS station but it was not as easy as it sounded. It started raining during our long walk so I used a Bangkok Map I obtained from the airport as an umbrella. Once we had finally arrived at the BTS station, we got to MBK without any difficulties thanks to my proactive approach of doing some research prior to our trip. One star for Amie.

We decided to have lunch before meeting up with the rest as we were quite sure they have already had theirs. There were a few choices available and we finally settled with a fast food joint on the ground floor known as Santa’s. I had American Fried Rice while Ivan had Snowy Pork Chop. We hungrily gobbled our meal down as the last time we ever had anything in our stomachs was at 9.30am (in McDonald’s) - it was 2.30pm when we arrived at MBK.

After we finished, Ivan called Jaffri and we found out that the rest were at McDonald’s (which was just opposite Santa’s). We found 3 fabulously bored to death faces seated on the benches beside the counter: Jaffri, Ronny and Alex. They said that the girls had gone shopping on their own and they urged us to do the same, so off we went. After making a few rounds, I came to the conclusion that MBK is a combination of Sungei Wang, Low Yat and BB Plaza.

We did not purchase anything but we did have a Strawberry Cheesecake Sundae from KFC’s Soft Serve (yes, Thailand’s KFC outlets serve desserts!), after which, we headed back to D’MA. The train ride was not a problem but the walk back proved to be a real setback – similar to the walk to the BTS station earlier. We could not seem to identify roads and after struggling for some 15 minutes in the drizzling rain, we finally managed to arrive at the hotel in one piece.

After resting in the room for a while, we proceeded to the lobby to meet our tour guide (whose real name I never knew but is known as Ah Chen) who was going to take us for dinner. The tour package that we selected included meals, accommodation and transportation to agreed upon destinations. Good thing we were all punctual people hence we did not have to wait for anybody – which could cause a lot of frustration and anger during what was supposedly a relaxing trip.

Dinner was white rice with a variety of Chinese dishes and a bowl of Tom Yam soup for everyone. The coffee shop is located just down the road from D’MA, a good 10 minutes’ walk. It was nothing to shout about but it was edible enough not to receive complains from anyone. Ah Chen said that it may be an empty coffee shop but the food sure is good. I think that tour guides should be lawyers or consultants because I am pretty sure they will make good ones.

By the way, Ah Chen speaks in Mandarin and very unfortunately, Amie only speaks and understands English. Therefore, I have no clue what he was barking about more than three quarters the time. The only times I ever understood his barking was when I pieced together words (that I am familiar with) from his extensive sentences or when Ivan translated them to me. Thus, I did not bother listening every time he barked because I knew I would never understand it anyway.

When we were almost done with dinner, it began to rain like there was no tomorrow and the clouds were taking the opportunity to go out with a flourish. We were devastated as we had plans to visit the famous night market in Suan Lum (for shopping!). Seeking Ah Chen’s advice on an alternative plan was a total waste of time. He insisted we go back to the hotel to get some sleep as we were departing for Pattaya as early as 7.00am the following day. Right after he said that, we checked the time: 7.50pm. He would only be a good lawyer if he has a good argument but in any case, he can still be a good consultant.

To go to bed at 7.50pm when one is on vacation has got to be the stupidest thing to do. After a while, he admitted that it took him 2 hours to reach home – hence the suggestion for us to retire early so he could get going on his long journey. After umbrella shopping at the nearby shops, we told Ah Chen he could leave as we could go around ourselves. With that, we went in 2 cabs to Siam Center and Siam Paragon (adjoining shopping malls). Upon arriving, we went separate ways and agreed to meet up later hence Ivan and I set off to explore the shopping malls.

Siam Center (where I found a G2000 outlet!) is a hip shopping mall with unique modern concept and contemporary furniture. The benches in the shopping mall are those round, colourful plastic beanbag look-alikes. Plasma televisions are available at almost every corner and the washrooms are just so distinctive that I cannot even begin to describe it. Instead of the ordinary gents and ladies symbols outside the washroom, there were figures of a boy and a girl (at each washroom respectively) standing with their knees closed together – which looked like they were trying hard to hold their bladders. Sweet!

Siam Paragon is very much like Star Hill, except that it is much larger and its architectural concept is more superior. One cannot enter any of the boutiques there unless they earn an approximate figure of say 3,000,000 Baht per annum. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Seriously, branded goods in Thailand are either similar or more expensive than those in Malaysia (for an identical item) hence it is not worth purchasing. I would think that imitation or unbranded products make better purchases in Thailand.

After browsing around at both the shopping malls, I felt pretty worn out. My legs felt like if I took another step, it would break into a million pieces (if there was that many to break into). Hence Ivan called Ronny and we walked miles looking for Ronny in an Adidas outlet that we could never seem to find. When we finally met the rest, we found that they purchased an umbrella from Watson’s, hence Ivan and I went to get one for ourselves too. They got a purple Pink Panther one while we got a pink Pink Panther one! Ivan also got a box of Giant Rocky (by Glico, just like the ones in Malaysia except that it is GIANT) for supper.

With that, we left for D’MA in 2 cabs once again. Back at the hotel, we (yes, Ivan actually helped me) did some extensive packing as we were only bringing the smaller suitcase to Pattaya. The bigger one will be left at D’MA as we would only be returning to Bangkok 2 days later. By the time we were done with all the folding and arranging, we were more than exhausted hence we turned in immediately.