Off and running
Tuesday 17th September
I check out, and breakfast on tea, bread & marmalade. I load the motor and am ready for the off by 10.30. I find my way on to the expressway eventually, but only after another faulty right turn. I am pulled again, but this time the cop doesn´t speak any English, so I keep a blank expression on my face, and shrug at everthing he says. He soon gets fed up and lets me go. Phew! It saves me 500b though. Out of the city over the fantastic Rama 1X bridge, but then the expressway ends and I get lost again. I’m in the suburbs now and can´t find anyone who understands me. However I muddle through, with map and sign language, and get back on the road south.
I am writing this at a Shell station, past Petchaburi, in the company of a large Singha (Thai beer), sitting on a marble seat at a marble table surrounded by Thais eating strange looking scran. About 30ºc but a coolish breeze. Suddenly a truck pulling out of the gas station runs over a chicken – screaming and wailing ensues – I expect the murder squad to turn up at any moment! A hasty funeral is held, with short silence, the truck driver prostrate with grief. The temperature of the beer is rising rapidly, so must drink up and go. I need the loo, but am pointed at a hole without visible means of support or Andrex, so I decline.
I stop for lunch at Admiral´s Inn, in Hua Hin (famous for cricket V11´s, sponsored by British Rotary Club). I am served by Miss Thailand (must be). I contemplate pulling her but amdissuaded by another waitress telling me that she´s married to a Thai kick-boxing champion! Ce´st la vie! I eat a sandwich, drink an ice-cold beer, and use the gents. The toilet deserves a mention here – blue water, supersoft tissue, scented soap, monogrammed hand-towels, the lot! The best I´ve come across on any of my travels to date.
Off again, pushing south on A2, dual carriageway, good surface. I bypass Prachuap Khiri Khan and, after couple of hours start thinking about accomodation for the night. It starts to rain and for kilometre after kilometre there´s nothing but small villages. I pull in, about 90 Ks north of Chumpon, at a rest area which has an artificial waterfall, a bar and offers rooms at 350b. I check them out, but they turn out to be sheds with earwigs – I decline gracefully.
It is now getting dark, and still raining, horrible driving conditions, trucks with spray etc. but I perservere and, at 7.30, reach Chumpon, an eminently forgettable provincial town which looks as if anything over 0.1 on the Richter scale would reduce to rubble. At the local filling-station, amid much hilarity and gesticulating, I am directed to the Grand Hotel, an ageing, 21 storey monolith which has to have seen better days (I actually passed it on the way in but thought it was derelict). Fearing it might be full, I ask at reception and am given the choice of 287 rooms at varying prices! I opt for the best and after parting with 650b, am bellboyed up to 1806. Adequate but tired-looking, like me! The lifts are grudgingly efficient so all is O.K.
I take a well earned shower and go down. I ask for the bar and am given a blank look. I settle for a table in the cavernous dining room, and am immediately surrounded by grinning waiters who probably don´t see many Farangs (foreigners) in these parts. I point at the menu (all in Thai) and am served a finger bowl and hot towel. I try again and get enough fried rice, with chicken, ham & pineapple – piled up in a large tin frying pan – to feed all of Thailand and part of Laos! It is tasty though, and I make a hole in it, but go overboard with chopped chillies and am rendered speechless for half an hour. The food, at 35B, is half the price of a large bottle of Carlsberg I estimate the restaurant to be at least 50 metres wide, so, from my corner I order a beer and the waiter walks across to the serving station diagonally opposite, writes a ticket, and the drinks waiter walks 20 metres and disappears. He returns with the bottle and my waiter strolls back to me. Fortunately the air-conditioning is efficient, thus allaying any fear of dehydration setting in before the libation arrives.
I drink all evening, and am royally entertained, along with about a dozen other clients (all Thai) by lovely girls singing unintelligible songs, from a stage, with backing tape. Relaxing after a hard drive I am enjoying myself – I have only to raise a finger and 4 or 5 waiters descend on me and humbly beg to be of assistance. They throw me out at 1am, I fall into my sack, and drift off to sleep to the sound of the rain lashing against the window.