Everyone should have a travel buddy like Don when they first visit a place like Pattaya. By the end of the third day in country I had coined a new nickname for him—“the fun-fun coordinator.” But he did a heck of a lot more than to just ensure that everyone in our little group of seven from the Philippines had a good time. He also arranged all our transportation and lodging and knew all the good places to eat, party and shop.
Having him around meant that we did not have to make any mistakes; over the years he had already made them all. Knowing what NOT to do, what NOT to say, where NOT to go, THAT is hugely important. An added plus as far as I’m concerned is that he is a bit of a control freak, and so quite willing he plays his part as “tour manager” very well and completely. Having him there to guide us, I must say, if we hadn’t had his “services” available to us during our Thailand visit I would have been more than happy to pay someone else to provide them.
By two a.m. we arrived at the hotel, the very same one that Don has stayed at for more than five years. I couldn’t believe the welcome waiting for us at such an ungodly hour. Several of the staff smilingly greeted us with the traditional Thai bow with fingers held in front of the face as if in prayer, after which our bags were quickly stacked onto a cart and trundled away, presumably to our rooms, or so I hoped.
Don made his hello’s and good-to-see-you’s, introducing us to the various hotel folks, who acted more like long time friends than hotel workers, but soon, one of them, an affable bellhop with a nonstop toothily white smile, took it upon himself to coax us all toward the elevators, knowing we must be getting pretty tired. In no time we were in the hallway in front of our rooms on the 9th floor—no forms to fill out, no credit card or cash required. Because of Don’s close relationship with the management, evidently it went without saying that we could settle terms and payment in the morning after the free breakfast. But first we all gave in to a nice long relaxing snooze in a room made icy cool by a very effective central air system.
None of us made it downstairs until just after 10 a.m., even so, there was still plenty of free breakfast buffet vittles on display on two long lines of tables. The variety and amounts of food and drinks available was fantastic, everything from fried Thai rice, fried potatoes, white rice, different pastas and sauces, French toast, breads of all sorts, pancakes, milk, tea, coffee, and juice to name a few. There was even a chef busily preparing made-to-order omelets. I grabbed a plate and headed for him.
But then I became overwhelmed by the presence of scores of white people milling around me. I mean these were REAL white people, with very pale skin and very blonde hair, and not just a few, but LOTS of them. For me, after years of seeing only a few of my kind together in one place at any one time, and even then usually old white guys like me, it was a shock to see all these young Caucasians going about their business in tiny shorts or bathing suits.
Doing my best not to stare at all the white skin and blonde hair I made my way over to the omelet chef. I stood there with my plate held out as he finished neatly rolling an omelet, fully expecting it to be mine. But no, one of the myriad beautiful blonde chicks, this one wearing a pair of shorts resembling panties, walked right up to the cook’s side and thrust her plate at him, abruptly saying something in Russian. That was the first I realized what country all these people were from. He paused for just a moment which caused her to insistently push her plate at him once again. At that he went ahead and plopped the omelet on it. I sensed he just wanted her to go away. As for me, her rudeness struck my funny bone and laughing out loud I remarked to the cook, who I realized by then didn’t understand much English, “I don’t blame you man. That wench is kinda scary in a hot sort of way, right? Huh? Huh?”
With no reaction to my quip, I don’t think he got the joke at all; instead he quietly finished rolling the next omelet and laid it carefully on my plate. I ate a lot of his omelets over the next 11 days, but that was the only time any of the Russian girls butted into line ahead of me for one. I still have no idea what that was all about. Maybe she was just really really hungry.
That little incident on my very first morning in country certainly made me wary of other Russians I happened to bump into during my Pattaya wanderings, but in fairness to them all, I will say I had other more pleasant encounters with other folks from that country. Although I have to say that I NEVER had a single good encounter with any of the young Russian female blondies. Every time any of us ever happened into an elevator with any of them they always acted haughty. It got so that my wife and I refused to even get into one if one of those arrogant chicks were already aboard.
In the light of day I could easily see why Don has always chosen to stay at that hotel. Aside from the personable staff, everything about it is beautiful and picture perfect, from the pool lined on two sides with gorgeous tropical trees and lush foliage, to the classy lobby, all kept impeccably clean and shiny. You can certainly find more expensive places in Pattaya, and I mean EXPENSIVE, as well as a lot cheaper if you’re of a mind, but considering that we spent less than $40 a night I can’t think of a single thing to complain about.
Sipping our coffee after a very filling breakfast while observing other hotel patrons from places like China, India, Iran, various Arab countries, and of course, Russia, we began to discuss our plans for the day. First things first, we needed transportation, and our primary means of getting around town would be by scooter. Once again, Don already had a handle on it. He has rented his bikes from the same guy for a long time, and so to this scooter guy would be where we would go first thing after settling our bills and putting our cash and credit cards into the hotel safety deposit boxes.
On foot, Cynthia and I followed Don out to Second Road, turned right, crossed the street, and continued down to Soi 7, which we followed all the way to the end to an outdoor bar on Beach Road. The scooter renting guy was not around, so while Don tracked him down, Cynthia and I ordered drinks and settled down to watch the action going on all around us. After all, it was the next to the last day of the Songkran Festival, Thailand’s super fun way of celebrating their new year by soaking everyone and each other down with water by just about any means you can think of, especially strangers, better yet, stranger tourists with dry clothes.
For some reason no one saw fit much to pay any mind to getting either of us wet, which was just fine by me probably because we didn't look like we were interested in "playing." For the time being the primary objects of their “attention” were people passing by on Beach Road to our front, those on foot, but primarily those sitting unprotected in Baht buses, and riders and passengers on scooters.
But I knew our time was coming to get wet, VERY wet. I knew it would certainly happen as soon as we took possession of those scooters and dared to ride them past these water wielding wackos. I shrugged. Oh well, I thought, it looked like fun, mostly.