Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keeping Bangkok's Lumphini Park Green

It takes a lot of water (and labor) to keep Lumphini Park the lush, green expanse it's been for so many years, but what a worthwhile use of time and effort it is; a joy for both residents and visitors alike.

Much of the water is pumped from the lake in the park itself, but evaporation must play a part in the overall consumption of water for over 140 acres (57.6-hectare or 360 Thai rai). I couldn't find figures or estimates on how much water is used to keep the place up annually, sorry to say.  I know what my own water bills run to keep ponds maintained and yard(s) watered, so I'm guessing it's a huge quantity.

Catching a nap by the lake in Lumphini Park

The history and details of this magnificent park are available in the post "Lumphini Park: Bangkok's Emerald Oasis" from May of last year, so there's no need to go through that again - but a couple of months ago I took a couple of walks and covered most of the mile and a half (2.5Km) of paved walkways. It was still relatively cool at 09:00, and the sprinklers and hand-watering were going on in earnest.

A bit of the extensive sprinkler system in action

Although it was an informal count I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 people working on the grounds one morning walk, most all of them watering before the temperature rose by early afternoon.

Another portion of the sprinkler system at work

If the overhead electrical and phone wiring visible throughout the city is any indication, the sprinkler system must be a massive ball of snakes. Over the years the additions, replacements and re-workings have undoubtedly become a mess.  Here in the USA I'd tend to call that "the curse of the lowest bidder," but there it probably had more to do with - oh, let's just say favoritism, to avoid any unsavory allegations.

Landscaper for hire: have hose, will water

Although I know it's not likely it seemed as though there was a foot of heavy-gauged commercial grade hose for every foot of pathway; all being dragged along by someone invariably protected from the sun by a long-sleeved work uniform and broad-brimmed hat.

The areas that had less delicate plant specimens and were closer to the paved walkways were taken care of by water trucks. Moving slowly along, they'd pause as a worker would open the valve, sending a wide, vertical fan of water spraying out from one side of the vehicle or the other.

Although they were looking to see if there were pedestrians where they intended to douse an area they do miss, sometimes. At one point, as the spray blasted from the truck into a line of hedges I heard a surprised shout from the hidden side. A young man came running into view, his clothes now soaked and clinging to him.

Luckily he was wearing a tee shirt and running shorts. After a brief but seemingly civil exchange between the driver and the young man the guy shook himself rather like a dog would do after a bath and they laughed.

That same morning I thought I was going to see another person get soaked, but this one would have to have been something more than accidental.  You remember the man sleeping in the photo earlier in the post today?  This is what was happening nearby:

He didn't move at all as the gardener splashed around him, so either he was really a sound sleeper or a very trusting soul.

It's forecast to be near 90F/32C where I am today, so I suppose I ought to go check the smaller container plants and make sure there's no watering I need to do myself this morning.

Given the choice, I'd rather be snoozing on that lake bank in Lumphini Park, but so it goes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trip Report 10: Dinner At Sea Zone, Walking Street

The dining area at Sea Zone - Walking Street, Pattaya
[This is part 10 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

On our second night in Pattaya we'd headed to Walking Street for dinner, figuring we'd try a spot a friend of mine had recommended before doing some people-watching. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the name of the place and had left the paper behind the name was written on, so we were on our own.

In front of some of the restaurants along Walking Street are iced examples of the seafood available for ordering inside.  These lobster tails were approaching the size of your forearm; caught while small and then farm-raised. The man told us they're intended to serve three to five people.  It still looked like one heck of a lot of lobster to me.

For those with no cholesterol worries, here's dinner

Walking out toward the uncovered dining area at Sea Zone

My friend's stomach still wasn't right after his visit to Bangkok Nursing Hospital a couple of days before. I'd previously been to Sea Zone and had a more than acceptable meal, so we went in there. To be truly honest, while the food was fine it was more the view I wanted to share with my relatively new-to-Thailand friend. If you're seated out towards the end of their open air patio area you can have very close to a 180 degree view, making the lights beautiful and bright to the North and South.

Opinions about a restaurant are always subjective; you don't know my tastes or expectations when dining out any better than I know yours. Something as simple as stuffy sinuses can color an opinion about a dish because our sense of smell (and taste) are effected and as for what's "too spicy" vs "not spicy enough", especially in Thailand? Let's not even go there.  Ambiance can have a lot to do with the experience, too, I feel.

We both had an entree of large prawns to ourselves; his in a creamed sauce and mine done with garlic over a BBQ. I figured what the hell - I wasn't going to be close enough for anyone to know I'd eaten that much garlic tonight anyway, and it was delicious. My friend (who was still supposed to be on a lighter diet because of his stomach issues) paid the price a while later for his indulgence, but said that up to that point he'd liked the meal just fine.

Shelling them was a somewhat messy proposition, but we took our time and enjoyed every bit we could scavenge. I'm not one to just eat them whole as some of my Thai friends do.  A bit too edgy and sharp for my liking.

Our servers for dinner (the girl was in training)

 [As a point of reference, I know that shrimp and prawns aren't the same crustacean, really, but I grew up calling anything less than 15 to a pound shrimp and larger specimens prawns. To complicate things further the terms are used differently in different countries, also.]

The Sea Zone sign is visible just past the Lobster Pot from this direction. 
If you're looking for dinner out along the water, my guess is you may well enjoy Sea Zone. Comments and suggestions on other places are encouraged, and when I get back and try the place my friend recommended (it was on the other side of Walking Street) I'll share about it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Accomodation, Part 19: Sunshine Vista Serviced Apartments, Pattaya

A Superior room, with the "ocean view"

Front entrance on Soi 3... 
on the quiet side.
I hope those of you who had a long weekend enjoyed yourselves - I know I did. I scanned a few hundred old family photos; always somewhat of a mixed bag of emotions since most of the people in them are no longer with us, but the process also often triggers happy memories, too. Ah, well - several hundred more down, several thousand more to go.

This isn't Part 10 of the current trip report, but since I stayed here during that visit and did mention trying to do  Accommodation posts along the way, here's one about the Sunshine Vista Serviced Apartments on Soi Three, between Beach Road and Second Road in Pattaya. It's one of six properties owned by the Sunshine group, and although some of the fine details around the place are starting to become somewhat careworn it's still a place I feel comfortable and recommend to my friends.

The SVSA is the yellow dot on the enhanced Google maps image above, about mid-point between the large Big C mall and the deep blue sea, so to speak.  

There any number of places to stay in Pattaya that make for a convenient home base with easy access to simple shopping, the beach, the large malls, Walking Street and nightlife of various stripes.

One of my favorites has been the Sunshine Vista Serviced Apartments, towards the North end of Beach Road, on Soi 3. Actually a bit closer to Second Road, right where the Big C shopping mall is. It's one of those that blurs the line between a hotel and a serviced apartment, and I tend to think of it as a hotel, but they call them serviced apartments.

In the past I've usually stayed in an ocean-side room, but not this last couple of times.  One reason I stopped asking for an ocean view room is that there really isn't much of one, as I'd mentioned in Part 8 of the trip report. To simplify things I'm repeating that image below:

The ocean is visible beneath the violet Vs

The other reason is the long, low set of roofs in the lower right of the picture; the six or eight beer and pool-playing bars that enjoy trying to out-do their neighbors with their sound systems.  Since they're open-fronted clubs, the jumble of music graces the entire area until closing time.  Up on a higher floor it's not as bad, but still...  Now I ask for a room on the other (front) side, and I sleep better. Their rooms are all quite similar, but the room in the panorama up top - up over the lobby - was much quieter.

Part of the lobby area. The dining room is past the elevators and to the left.

The room safe is of a generous size, the air conditioning worked well and adjusted easily, the TV was larger than in a lot of places and the refrigerator actually stayed cold enough to hold ice cream without melting.

The bathrooms at the Superior level have a stall shower and a tub with a shower, and that's something my friends appreciate; tub baths being somewhat of a treat rather than a shower. Sorry, I know I've mentioned this before, but some of us travelers enjoy a soak, too, if the tub's been properly kept clean.

About a quarter of the dining area for the cafe. Outside seating is available, also.

The cafe's buffet breakfast food has been good each time I've stayed at Sunshine Vista; much the same as you'd expect at a buffet primarily for Westerners, but I'd say at least one third of the items available were Asian, and Thai friends have repeatedly said the food was fine. There's a good selection of salad items, and they make a good omelet. I've only had lunch there one time, and never had dinner there, although it's open until 9:00/21:00, I believe.

The Big C shopping center - less than a block away - has movies, stores, restaurants, banks, money changers and most anything else you're likely to need. For more basic sundries there's a 7-Eleven and a pharmacy between the Big C and Sunshine Vista, on Soi 3.

The staff is most pleasant; some of them have been there for years. There's almost always a uniformed guy out front for vehicular traffic, arrivals and departures, and at night there's a guy sitting in the little booth visible to the right in the lobby photo above. They're interested in keeping the place safe much more than they are what time you're coming back or who you're with, I'm told, although they're supposed to be asking for a visitor's identification.

One of the bellboys who are often at the bell desk and enjoy a chat if you're there waiting for a ride or something.

It's an easy stroll to the shore if you enjoy a beach walk in the morning for the setting up or for sunset - or both, if you're lucky.  Other than somewhat limited amenities in the hong nam (such as a single small bar of soap and basic shampoo) I really have nothing to pick on the place for.

If you're arriving by taxi or limo you'll probably want to let your driver know that Soi 3 is a one way street away from the ocean, but if they're coming down Second Road and discover that themselves they can always make a left on Soi 2 - a one way towards the beach - and circle the block.  The Sunshine Vista sign is visible from either end of the soi.

The Sunshine Vista properties are one of those occasions where you may well be better off booking directly through their own web site and not through a service, such as Agoda.  There are often specials where you get a free night (or two) depending on how long you're staying.  From my experience, their own reservation service is simple and reliable.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

A cemetery in Bangkok, where there are undoubtedly some who've given service worthy of remembering today.

I know that Memorial Day as it's observed in the US isn't a world-wide holiday at the end of May.  There are, however, days to remember the fallen in most every country that's participated in war, so I'm combining those thoughts today and giving a deep bow or respect to all who've made the greatest sacrifice possible by giving their lives for causes their leaders felt were worthwhile at the time.

Out of those sacrifices have come a great many freedoms in my homeland, and I am grateful for each one of them.

May those killed, crippled and the otherwise hobbled by war be at peace today, in their own way, in this world or the next... and thank you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

School Begins... But Not For Everyone

Schoolboys having a laugh at the ting tong farang

In May - right about this time - school bells ring throughout Thailand to announce the first of two annual school year terms. I think most of you reading this would agree that not only is education the key to most anything worthwhile in life, and that everyone ought to have the opportunity to earn that knowledge.

School kids in Udonthani
The Thai agree, and although since Sukhothai times (1238–1378) there has been an educational system (of sorts) in place, there was much more of an emphasis placed on it over a wider range during the reign of King Rama V, including the first schools built in 1871. Their efforts have vastly grown since then.

Although the Thai put more into education than many other countries do - nearly 22% of their national budget, compared to, say, Great Britain and France, at 11% - there are often costs that must be paid by the families of the students themselves. Uniforms, shoes, miscellaneous fees, transportation, lunches, snacks and some supplies are still the responsibility of the student's family. 

Many lower-income families simply don't have it.

Not to go all "Sophie's Choice" on you, but if the choice had to be made between food for your three children or schooling for the seven-year-old, what would you choose?

A basic day laborer, a grandparent raising a child because one parent disappeared and the other died can't afford school fees, even if it means being in violation of the national directive to send your kids to school, and there are countless other stories. Most of you know what medical bills can do to finances, especially anything above the common cold. Yes, there is public health care in Thailand, but it is very basic coverage.

Now, I may be about to lose some of you today, but as this is something I truly believe in - and I haven't brought it up like this for two years, since the first post about it in April of 2010 - I'm asking that you stay with me today and read through this and give it some thought, will you?

A child at the daycare in the Kho Pai slums of Pattaya

The kid in the photo above has an opportunity most living in abject poverty do not.  They spend their day with close to 70 others at a clean, supervised daycare center adjoining the Kho Pai slum area of Pattaya.  Their stories are all somewhat the same, and none of them have a hopeful future.

The uniform they're wearing was sewn by a volunteer for the charity that runs the place with donations from people like you and I (although I do far more for the PSKSP directly).  Their mother and father do basic labor or scavenge in the dump for items that can be recycled or otherwise sold. There is no money to send them to school for a decent education, which means that they will continue the legacy of a humble life of menial labor and be vulnerable to all of the pitfalls so many in poverty fall prey to: alcoholism, abuse, addiction, and worse.

Schoolgirls sharing a laugh after seeing their picture

The girls giggling in the picture above have the opportunity to break the cycle of unhappiness so many from poorer families do not have.  There are precious few guarantees in life, but there are some things that give some more of a fighting chance than others. More importantly, if they have a chance to earn what we'd call a decent living, their children will probably have funds to get an education, and that most likely means their grandchildren will, too.  It's rather like tossing a pebble into a pond and watching the ripples spread out.

Lunchtime at a school in Pattaya
Can you tell which of the boys above lives in a home you wouldn't house your pets in?  Neither can anyone else, and in a world of peer pressures and the likes that helps level the playing field. All most of us need is a chance, and that's why I'm posting about this today.

Another daycare child
Some have told me "there are children starving here where I live, too - why should I send money to Thailand?"  My response to that is this:  we can't save the world, but we can save little pieces of it. If you wish to do that via a shelter in the city you live in, that's great; I applaud your efforts. If you want to hand out food to people on the street, that's fine, too.

Some years back I read about a UK-based charity called the Pattaya Street Kids Support Project.  Their website link is at the end of the post today.  They're certainly not the only charity out there that keeps administrative costs down next to nothing, but I can't name many others. Their organization is completely transparent, and financial reports are shared freely with sponsors.

Monies I donate to support the handful of kids I've been privileged to watch growing into responsible young men and women goes directly to where it ought to go, without a percentage shaved off here or there.  I've met the man who founded the charity many times, and was pleased to learn early on that he's the real deal.

Funding varies, depending on the age of the child sponsored and the schooling they're receiving, but figure it costs about $120 per year.  Many of us weedle away more than that on needless junk in a single month, with nothing of any substance to show for it.

The Pattaya Street Kids Support Project is not part of any religious or other group. On their website it clearly states: "We are a secular charity and do not support or promote any religious organisation. We are always prepared to consider working with any organisation in bringing help to children in need on the strict understanding that any such help is given unconditionally and does not involve the preaching, promoting or acceptance of any religion."

Give it some thought, will you?  Take a look through the site - especially the Kids Needing Sponsors page, and see if there isn't enough charity in your heart to make a lasting difference for one small piece of the world. The time to act on this is now - school is starting, and many will miss out.

If this doesn't look like the charity for you, no penalty accrued - do some research and find another wherever you like - and I'll try not to bug you about my favored group for another year.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Trip Report 9: Dinner at Sugar Hut Resort

An available light panorama of some of the resort buildings, taken from the far side of the pool area

[This is part 9 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

Although I haven't written about Cabbages and Condoms - a resort in Pattaya with a superb restaurant - I will soon; but since I ended up again at the Sugar Hut resort and restaurant this last trip let me tell you a little about that.  

While Cabbages and Condoms does have the more lavish layout overall, there's a charm to Sugar Hut that feels related.  That's not at all surprising, due to the fact that the places are owned by brothers, and neither of them skimp on the atmosphere - right down to the rabbits, peacocks and other wildlife that roam the grounds.

Sugar Hut is, as the Hawaiians would say, on the mauka side of Thap Phraya Road; meaning the side away from the ocean.  It's indicated by the green dot on the map below. Cabbages and Condoms is on the other side, with a violet dot.

One of the servers in February
The last time I had dinner there was in June of 2008, and the skies that had been deeply clouded most of the afternoon decided to open up and unleash a torrent of rain on us, just as my friend was parking his car in the lot.  We had nothing to put over our heads, so we just moved along quickly along the path from the parking area to the restaurant, but we arrived more than a little wet.

In keeping with Murphy's Law (paraphrased here as "if anything can go askew, it will") I'd brought an umbrella with me that trip, but figured since it hadn't rained through a few days of heavy clouds that I wouldn't need it.  Naturally, I did.

I didn't see all that much of the grounds that night, but the sound of the heavy tropical downpour was magnificent; made all the more dramatic by the large shutters being kept open wherever possible. From our tables we could see the trees and shrubbery bending with the whim of the wind and water pouring from the sky, and hear the large drops hammering the wooden decking.

Don't let the rain keep you from dining here, but take an umbrella if it's looks likely to rain.

Rain through the window by my table - June 2008

Both times I've been there for dinner there has been someone making their first visit to Thailand who was unsure as to how adventurous they wanted to be with Thai dishes.  I always encourage my Thai friends (who, being good hosts, often want to "take care" of their guests and order) to include a dish or two that they themselves enjoy, and not fall back on the same old touristy dishes we're liable to find even more bland versions of back home, thinking that's what we want.

My friend at our table for 4. The large open shutters show here.

My physician friend is very good about that, and remembers to tell us "next time you can order it more pet (spicy hot) if you want," and that's kind of him, I think.  Once I took the offered sample of the dish he was chowing down on with great relish, and I don't think I could taste anything for a day and a half afterwards.  I mean it was HOT.  Did thoroughly clear my sinuses, though.

We did have the pineapple friend rice in the hollowed-out pineapple (cliched, I know, but I still enjoy it), topped with dried shredded pork and "festooned," if that applies, with bits of chicken sausage.  We also had a crab omelet over rice, something you can easily find at a street cart, but my friend wanted to try it away from the street.  We also had a curry and the shrimp satay below, and a whole fish in a basil lime stock that was really, really good.

A glorified street omelet, a curry and the fried rice dish

Shrimp satay with a peanut dipping sauce.

Of the two places I suppose I preferred Cabbages and Condoms over Sugar Hut, but it was more for the ambiance, views, beach you can stroll and whimsical nature of the place overall.  The food at Sugar Hut was more than fine, and both places - while not a cheap meal - were worth the money. I'd put it in the 200 - 500 baht ($6.50 to $16) per dish range, but take that as a general range. Bear in mind you're eating at a resort restaurant... and you are treating yourself while on holiday.

Another slightly different night shot of the place

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No, I Said Nomophobia, Not Homophobia

At the beach, and on the phone

At a streetside food stall I regularly passed one trip there was a johk (rice porridge) cart run by a man around my age and his younger helper.  The older man conducted business the entire time while on his cell phone, regardless of how busy things got.  I mean continually.

One morning as he was ladling johk into a take-away bag, cell phone squeezed between his shoulder and double chin, he impulsively turned his head to speak to a customer and lost his hold on it. It fell into the pot of porridge.

There was a collective gasp from those around him who saw what had just happened, and the man froze, looking down into the pot. He then began wailing.  Not in anger or surprise, but as though he was in great emotional agony; as though he'd just been told his children had all been hit by a bus.

Grabbing the ladle from his partner he quickly fished the phone out of the pot of viscous liquid, but it was, naturally, too late.  A thick layer of porridge covered the device, dripping off of one of the lower corners as he held it up, mournfully.  One woman looked at it and then to the pot of porridge and walked away, evidently not wanting her lunch enhanced by the added ingredients the device probably added to the soup.

Using a cell phone while driving has been outlawed here in the US, also, but you still see it happening multiple times a day.  Even "hands free" speaker and ear bud accessories are a danger, I think, although I do use the ear piece myself sometimes; just a quick confession so as not to sound too hypocritical about it.  If they were deemed illegal I'd be inconvenienced, but I'd stop using one.

A news article ran online the other day about how dependent we've become regarding cell phones and other communication devices, and I agree 100%.  The new term being added to the language here is "nomophobia" - the fear of being without your cell phone, without credits, being out of coverage range, etc. There's been such an intense media push to be connected 24 hours a day that we're apparently losing the ability to simply hush up, and I personally think that's to our great loss.

Repeating an image, but there are some perks of ownership

A study in Great Britain reports that 85% of people were in fear of being without their cell phones, for whatever reason.  That number was a good 20 clicks lower just a few years ago.  There's something out of whack here, folks. Should memory serve the term from the Native American Hopi "Koyaanisqatsi", meaning "life out of balance" applies here. It's also the first part of a cerebral film trilogy, but that's way off topic.

Texting, tweeting, voice mail, email, social media forum (read: Facebook) and streaming media all have their place, but they ought to be on our own schedule and terms, and let's face it: nobody's day is really enhanced by knowing that someone they know just took a bite of bagel at Noah's at First and Townsend Streets, complete with a mini-map and GPS coordinates.  "My car just broke down in a dangerous area and I need help" qualifies, but that's what the cell phone was designed for, wasn't it?  I've actually seen someone that I'm "Facebook friends" with post a similar message on Facebook instead of calling someone.  That's sad.

A sponsored student's new phone in March

This last trip I had the choice of providing cell phones to a few of the students I sponsor there.  While this may completely blow my argument against the tech phenomena I confess: I purchased them for four of the kids.  Now nearing the end of my time helping them with school (the program officially takes them off the rolls when they reach 18) they'd all shown themselves to be responsible budding adults, so I replaced two broken ones and purchased two a couple for those who didn't have them. 

Granted, these are extreme luxuries for those living in what most of us would consider poverty conditions, but many there had them.  That's social and cultural pressure at it's most insidious, I'd say. They won't always have the money for "top up" credits, but they were most pleased to have them, period.

The refreshing part is that they didn't immediately rip them from their packaging and isolate themselves from the rest of us, thumbs flying over the tiny keyboards. They were all extremely pleased with them, but they put then into pockets and purses and we continued with the rest of the day we had planned.  Ever had lunch with someone who couldn't hold a conversation without saying "hold on a second" every other sentence so they could interact with their cell?  It's disturbing enough that I always mention it, and if it continues I've been known to excuse myself, offer to meet up again when they can do it with their phone off and re-join the real world.

One exception this trip was with a boy who'd transferred his SIM chip from his old phone with the badly cracked display into his new phone, only to have his mother call 15 minutes later to check up on him and remind him he still had homework to do, even if he was out with his sponsor and chaperon for the afternoon.  That was proper usage; something most seem to have forgotten as they've been swept away by the flood of electronic flotsam and jetsam.  

OK. Rant over.  Enjoy your day, and try to look up as often as possible from whatever screen it is you're in currently in front of to do so!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trip Report 8: Arriving in Pattaya

Making a food and hong nam stop on the way to Pattaya

[This is part 8 of a series that may or may not ever find its way to a proper conclusion. It has to do with my latest trip to Thailand, and the people, places and things I encountered along the way. You can find the rest of the series by clicking here on Trip Reports.]

We made a rest stop along the way between Bangkok and Pattaya but still got there in good time. Since we'd come into town closer to my friend's hotel than mine I rode along as the driver took us first to the Ambiance Hotel on Pattayaland Soi 3.

A night shot of the Ambiance Hotel in what's known as Boyztown - at Christmas time a few years back

The Ambiance is right in the middle of some of the longest established and most - let's say organized - commercial gay nightlife in Pattaya. The colorful history of the place is easily found on the web so there's no need to go into it here, but for those who appreciate stories worthy of the worlds finest tabloids it's worth looking up.

A small boat sails along
beneath the seemingly huge
orb of the setting sun on
Pattaya Beach
As mentioned before my friend and I were on very different missions this trip, so I was staying farther North in town, at the Sunshine Vista Serviced Apartments on Soi 3. I'd stayed there before and had been looking forward to staying there again. I'll probably do an Accommodations piece about it within this series.

We were in town for a few reasons. The more important for me were to attend a convention, check in with the students I sponsor there and visit with a few friends. I was also looking forward to a side trip to see some new territory and a couple of days to just rest on the beach.

My friend, already smitten with the activities available both day and night, was there for the convention and as many encounters as possible with the contacts he'd made via an online dating-type site. Well, that's not entirely true; he'd made friends on two previous visits in the Phuket area and was looking forward to seeing them again, too.

The last time I'd attended this convention was a couple of years before, and that time there were two other complete newbies along in addition to the friend with me this time, so I was run somewhat ragged doing some of the standard rounds in Bangkok and Pattaya. There's something about seeing familiar sights with a newcomer that makes them fun again, but it's not something I'd choose to do every trip.

I had a nice room waiting for me at Sunshine Vista, overlooking the front area of the hotel this time instead of what passes for an "Ocean View".  Those are nice for sunsets if the clouds and sky are right, but otherwise there's precious little of the ocean to view - as you can see below:

The ocean is visible beneath the violet Vs

Settling in at our hotels only took a short while. I walked the short distance to Beach Road and caught a baht bus down to Soi 13/4 where I cut up to his hotel and we made our way to Walking Street for dinner.  Neither of us could remember the name of the place my Thai friend had suggested as an alternative to the old standby, so we ended up at the Sea Fare.

Yes, it's a dragon - but still a
part of the siren's chorus
We wandered around and watched the divers selection of humanity that make up the crowd along Walking Street on any given night.  Dodging the suit shop touts along with the ones trying to get us into one club or another we made our way along back towards the bend where Beach Road curves to soon become South Pattaya Road.

I would have been willing to visit a club or two to keep my friend company but he said his stomach wasn't yet back on track, so we agreed to make it an early evening. I dropped him back at his hotel by 9:00pm.

After taking some pictures I took the baht bus back to my hotel, transferred photos from my camera to the laptop and went to bed, trying to be in some sort of decent shape for the convention that was to begin tomorrow.

My friend was evidently caught again by the siren's song and went back out into the neon of the night, going to bed somewhere around 03:00. Such determination!