During a June 2005 visit it turned out that one of my Thai hosts unexpectedly had his military duty schedule changed on him. Since he couldn’t be around for about 36 hours to take me around as he’d planned he’d been kind enough to book a beach bungalow for me to rest at while he was making his hospital rounds. He knew me well enough to know I’d enjoy some “down” time to catch up on writing and people watching along the beach – and he was right. It had been an overbooked and somewhat hectic trip so far, so even though it was a plunge into the unknown for me and made me a little uneasy, I thanked him for taking such good care of me and hoped for the best.
So, late one afternoon we headed South out of Pattaya past Sattahip, stopping briefly for water and fruit to snack on. Once off of Highway 3 we went along another few minutes until my friend finally announced with a grin “We’re here!” “Here” was Hat Nang Ram (หาดนางรำ), a small locals beach area, popular on weekends but nearly deserted during the week. Making one last turn we went a bit further before ending up at a beautiful, flat, white sand beach, with gorgeous tropical blue water gently lapping at the shore. There were less than a half dozen people sprinkled along the crescent of white against blue.
There was a line of shops facing the ocean, set back about 100 yards from the water, all sharing the same roof; several eateries and shops selling fruit, drinks and simple handicrafts. This being a weekday there were more vendors than customers, and they were being kept company by a few dogs that sniffed around and raised dust in the parking lot as they chased tails between naps in the shade. My friend went into an office of some sort to get my room key, and I walked out to the nearby sand.
A pier extended far out over the water to my right and there was a rocky outcropping at the end to my left where there’s a small shrine to Kromluang Chumphonkhetudomsak, cited as being the Father of the Royal Thai Navy.
Amid the line of pine trees along the sand, maybe 300 feet away from the water’s edge stood a few small freestanding bungalows; really no more than cinder block studio rooms with a small bathroom en suite. Mine was approximately where the blue “X” is on the photo below. When my friend returned with my key I grabbed my bags from his car and followed him to the door, standing back as it exhaled the hot air from inside. He then went directly to the aircon to switch it on as I looked around.
It was very basic: tiled floor, a small desk, a double bed with a fairly firm mattress, a small wardrobe-type cabinet and a refrigerator. The bathroom was a tiled room measuring maybe eight feet square, with a sink, toilet and shower hose attachment on the wall with a single faucet handle – but no water heater. I knew I’d be taking a shorter shower than usual.
“Did you book me a double room?” I called to my friend, who peeked around the doorway at me, looking puzzled. “No, why?” he asked, and then shouted in surprise at the huge creature I pointed to on the ceiling above him. After I took a couple of photos of it, we had a few spirited minutes getting him shooed down from his perch and then around the room before he finally made it out the front door.
My friend brought in some drinks and other snacks he’d packed, and after he stocked the refrigerator he said his goodbyes for the day, saying he’d be back after his hospital rounds seeing patients the next morning some time. I hung a couple of shirts up, grabbed some water and went out to explore the beach.
There were about seven guys on the beach playing football by the time I got out there, and they stayed for at least an hour while I made my way around the beach area, taking a few pictures. I finally settled in to watch them laugh and play for a while from a spot in the shade, until I was ready to go inside and take a little nap.
I had a basic meal from one of the small restaurants on the “strip mall” when I woke up, and then after another walk just because the ocean breeze felt so good I retired to shower and read a little before falling sound asleep until morning, the sound of the nearby surf carrying me away to dreamland.
The next morning I looked out the window and was immediately struck with panic: the water was gone! The beautiful azure waters had pulled out away from the sandy beach, at least a hundred yards, maybe two! How could this be? Could there possibly be a tsunami in a gulf? Could one possibly happen again just six months after the tragedy that struck the Phuket area? Could I possibly manage to haul my out-of-shape self up the steep hillside behind my bungalow if I had to? I had no way to contact my friend, and boy was I nervous.
There were a few women and children far from the dry sand, poking around at things now exposed, and I figured them to be goners as I hurried to dress and go quickly to the first open stand, next to where I’d had dinner the evening before. The woman sweeping up with her broom looked up without any of the concern she must have seen on my face, and when I pointed to the shore and said “there’s no water!” she called to her son, who came out from the back, rubbing his eyes. “Is there danger?” I asked him, still somewhat agitated. He laughed… and laughed… and laughed. I was about to turn and head to pack and run, thinking “everyone here is nuts,” when he said “Every day, every day. Water out, water in!”
And finally, I got it. Low tide. VERY low tide on a VERY flat beach. He explained it to his mother, and we all laughed; me with relief, them at my silliness. As I thanked them and sheepishly headed back to my bungalow I could hear the laughter as the story of the crazy farang made its way along from shop to shop.