Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pattaya: an unexpected delight

We did not plan to come to Pattaya from Bangkok. Instead, we had planned to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia last Monday. But we were having trouble organizing flights and the itinerary for the balance of South East Asia, so we phoned our old friends Tony Lloyd and Isabel Kelly who we knew lived somewhere outside of Bangkok. Tony was once a social development officer with CMHC, a professor at UBC, and a non-profit housing developer in Victoria. 10 years ago, we traveled together through Indonesia, so he knew what kind of scotch I liked. Isabel was once a Deputy Minister in various Provincial Ministries. She has spent the past 20 years with the Canadian Government, UN and other organizations doing good work in South East Asia. They both know their way around this part of the world.

A few weeks earlier, they had invited us to visit their beach resort south of Pattaya, and we wanted to see if the offer was still on the table! It was difficult for them to say no; especially since they were passing through Bangkok airport the next day from Phnom Penh. We offered to meet them at the arrival gate, not realizing of course, that there are numerous arrival gates. They weren’t there, but we managed to track them down in their car as they were leaving the airport. (Tony had given us directions in case we didn’t connect). We then set out on a 2 hour drive towards Pattaya, through flooded roads and some very ugly landscapes. Eventually, we arrived at the village of Baan Amphur and their resort complex- Baan Somprasong. We quickly settled into a spacious suite overlooking the pool, gardens and beach.

For the past 5 days we have had an idyllic time swimming in the vast pool, drinking, eating, site-seeing, golfing and drinking. The rest of the time has been spent drinking. No, the rest of the time has been spent trying to arrange for plane tickets, visas, hotels, and guides in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. That part hasn't been quite so much fun. (I knew things weren’t going well when an email arrived instructing me to give $1250 in US cash to their agent in Hanoi if I wanted to get the plane tickets!) But we hope that we now have everything finalized and we're planning to leave on the 14th. I just didn’t want to fly on Friday 13th!

Yesterday we received a long email from Doria Moodie sharing news from back home and asking some good questions. "So what's it really like being on the road for so long?" Do you get homesick? What's been happening that you don't put on the blog, and so on.

Of course Sally would prefer that I not tell you what really goes on.

In some respects, this trip reminds me of the old joke about the man who comes home to tell his wife that his doctor says he only has 12 hours to live. His wife says that’s terrible and they immediately jump into bed. After a couple of hours, the husband taps her on the shoulder and says “Honey, could we do that again?” “Of course she says” and they make passionate love. A couple of hours later, it’s the same thing. At 4 am, he taps her on the shoulder again. “Honey, how about it one more time?” At this point she turns over and looks him in the eye. “Look, I’ve got to get up in the morning and go to work. You don’t!”

Fortunately neither of us has to get up in the morning for work, like many of the people we know. But there seem to be so many things to get done. This blog is a wonderful way to stay in touch, but it takes a bit of time. I’m also writing bi-weekly articles for the Vancouver Sun. Each day starts with the ritual of checking email, and occasionally planning where we should go next. Sally has now set up Skype (if you haven’t done so, you should!) which makes it easier to phone people around the world. She is also constantly learning fascinating things to do with her IPod. These are things we don’t get to do at home. We try to go to the gym, if there is one, or to the pool. Then it’s time for breakfast, and planning the day’s events. As you might imagine, a lot of time is taken up eating and drinking. We are also doing a bit of cooking whenever we can. Tonight we are going to try and do something with some large grotesque prawns with antennae that I purchased at the market.

When we were leaving Canada, someone asked me “When was the last time you spent 8 months with your wife in a hotel room?” Well, it’s often more than a room, but the fact remains we do spend a lot of time together. We only get into spats over access to the computer. We were lucky to find Harley and Joanie who are looking after the house, so we don’t have any concerns about that. (Even though, as a retired lawyer, I’m sure Harley could orchestrate a title transfer while we are away!)

Do we get homesick? Not at all. Sally misses the girls, but they will meet up with us in Greece, all being well. I miss my golfing buddies a bit, although I am told they do not miss me. So all in all, we would have to say this is working out quite well. As we set off for some more unusual and truly foreign destinations, we are anxious to see what they hold in store.

We’re glad we can get up every morning, and not have to go to work. We recommend that you consider it for a while!

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