Archive for February, 2012
Did I want to go on a photo trip, enquired my neighbour Nik. Is the pope Catholic? Do I mind being at the car park at 0430 this morning? Is the pope Jewish?
Of course I minded, but I dragged myself out of bed and away we went. Our destination was Khao Khitchakut and a large rock that has become a shrine for Thais to visit. This is because nobody can work out how a big rock came to be standing on the edge of a cliff; and that’s because nobody involved has the slightest bloody idea about basic geology, and chooses to ignore the many other big rocks littered around the landscape, (and you can make a load of money from shrines).
She who must obeyed informs me that “in the old days”, they could pass a piece of string right under the rock, because the rock, somehow magically, didn’t touch the ground. “No, they couldn’t”, was the only rational reply.
We were in the car park at the base of the mountain at around 0700 and then had to take two truck rides to the top. The trip starts out on a gradual slope…
…but soon becomes a winding, steep climb up a muddy track where only a four wheel drive can survive. Naturally our driver drove flat out, and we whizzed up the hill at high speed, narrowly avoiding similar trucks rocketing down the hill. Rather fun actually, although there must be the occasional dramatic accident. Half way up you disembark and buy another ticket for the next leg. This is a chance for them to relieve you of 50 baht twice; but I rather suspect that the transmission and brakes of the trucks would not survive a run over the full distance.
Alighting from the second truck I looked for the rock, but Nik then informed me we had a half-hour walk up the mountain ahead of us. Not what I wanted to hear given my brain was still dozing in bed.
But we set off up the mountain and it was encouraging that some walkers looked even older than me.
There was another option for getting up the hill, one which I would have gladly taken if it were not for my pride:
To amuse you while you climbed, there were endless bells, tolling for my imminent cardiac arrest, or so it felt.
And murdered flowers. For some reason it was deemed appropriate to buy flowers at the base of the hill and then shred them as you climbed.
Added to the mess were porcupines made of incense sticks, never to be lit; just more detritus to be cleaned up by the army of cleaners that swept away the offerings discarded by climbers,
These were stuck on a boulder, why?
Slowly we climbed. Or rather, slowly I climbed. Nik ascends our condo fire exit steps four times a day, the equivalent of the height of the Empire State Building. I take the lift to my floor. The difference in our fitness levels was evident, with me stopping to check my camera settings more often than was strictly necessary.
Finally, we were at the rock. Then we went beyond the rock and further up the hill to get this view:
Nice rock, but it’s just a bloody rock. Not according to the masses accumulated at its base.
I love you rock:
Apart from the commerce taking place around the rock, there were enterprises designed to take your money, stuffed into every spare space all the way up, and on top of, the mountain. This guy blocked the path, apart from a tiny space on the right. Staple some money to his construction as you pass and you will surely be lucky; although not as lucky as he will be this evening when he spends all those notes.
I have become immune to the small scale extortion that exists around temples in Thailand, feeding shamelessly on the gullible in search of bettering their lot courtesy of luck. But this place was at another level. More than a kilometre of tawdry nonsense, complete with Buddha images and monks, trying to hide the fact that all we had here was a fucking big boulder. Possibly fuelled by my weariness, I found the place rather sad and depressing. Fun to photograph though, here are a few more photos:
All shots taken with the Panasonic GX1, never was its light weight more appreciated.
Had a conversation with she who must be obeyed regarding our relationship. The topic under discussion was how comfortable we felt with each other and how we could be ourselves when we were together.
All positive stuff; but I could tell she really wanted to make a statement to confirm just how at ease she felt in our marriage. Finally, she found the words she wanted to say:
If I did a heart-shaped poo, I would invite you into the toilet to look at it.
Never has any woman shown such commitment to a man. But two things worried me. First, if it were a giraffe shaped poo, would I still get a look? And second, what the hell goes on in that head of hers?
Rather busy the last couple of days, shooting ladies on horses.
The ladies tournament features teams with three ladies and one man. The male is limited as to what he is allowed to do, but it does include interfering with the opposition:
Excellent weekend, with hard, fast polo and much screaming; I believe I even heard the word “bitch!” at some point.
Good party last night too, with polo ladies looking pretty. Took a load of photos and no, you can’t see them.
More again this afternoon (polo, not party). This is such a tough job.
I like living in Thailand. It is not perfect by any means, but on balance there is nowhere else I would rather be, especially as she who must be obeyed would collapse into a spice-free mess if I took her away from a regular supply of the food she loves.
Living here as a retiree requires an annual visit to the immigration department and I have nothing but praise for the people who work there. Just stand by the doorway for a few minutes and experience the influx of foul smelling, badly dressed, ill-informed, grumpy selection of humanity than arrives expecting service. And that’s just the French. And in response there is politeness and smiles from the Thai staff. Personally I would be going Basil Fawlty on their Gallic arses in a matter of minutes; but I am not designed to service the public.
It’s pretty efficient too. The place is meant to start work at 0830; but when I went to queue at 0800 this morning they had already opened the doors, turned on the aircon and were handing out queue tickets. I was number three in line and was out of the door, with my passport duly stamped, a shade after nine o’clock; and I got a big beaming smile from the nice lady who served me.
My only complaint with the process lies with Her Britannic Majesty’s government, Thailand branch. In order to obtain a retirement visa, you either need a shitload of cash in the bank or a letter confirming income. I never have a shitload of cash in the bank, mainly because any money I do have goes on cameras and other toys, so I need the letter and the British Embassy sees this as an opportunity to make a financial killing.
I presented myself at the local Consul office last Friday and offered them a document that showed the paltry pension I receive. They then call up a standard letter, insert my name, my address and the amount; less than 5 minutes work. And for that they charge 1,800 baht!! Or at least they did last year; this year the cost had risen to a completely ludicrous 2,250 baht. Now you know how they pay for all the lavish cocktail parties.
Still, for such a massive sum, you get instant service; “instant” in UK government speak meaning tomorrow, and forget about weekends. So I battled my way back to the Consul office on Monday morning but the letter was not ready. Plus the official who had to sign it was off for the day having a cocktail party with the ambassador (or so I assumed), so it was late afternoon before I finally received my expensive piece of paper. But the office girls were very apologetic and tried to be helpful; so I just focused my rage on the thieving bastards in the embassy that set the rates.
Next year I’m going for the shitload of cash in bank option.
The history of the Ocean 1 project, reported here many times, has been a rollercoaster ride; mainly in the downward direction.
After years of inactivity, I recall the frisson of excitement that rippled through the Pattaya community when Siam Royal Best Enterprises, the developers, announced the arrival of a concrete batching plant which would be used to create the foundations. Exciting times, and the news was displayed on the Ocean 1 website.
Sadly, this was to be the last ever news update. Even more sadly, for those who had “invested” in this magnificent enterprise, the concrete plant was soon churning out concrete, but none of it was being used for foundations. Instead, the concrete was being transported to other projects that were actually being constructed.
This sad charade continued for a couple years, until one of my loyal readers who will remain nameless (thank you Egglebert), sent me some shots showing that the batching plant was being dismantled without ever having fulfilled its proclaimed purpose:
Took a trip down to the site the other day and the it looks pretty much as it did when the project was first launched five (six? seven?) years ago:
On the left of the second photo is View Talay Residence 3, another development by Bruno Pingel’s Siam Best Enterprises. Siam Best continued to manage the building after construction and had failed to comply with the Condominium Act by not providing annual accounts and not holding annual general meetings. An emergency AGM was held last month where Mr. Pingel’s representative showed his excellent knowledge of the law by replying to the question “why have you never held an AGM?” with “nobody asked us to hold one.”
The owners felt this was not an acceptable answer and joined the owners of Residence 1 and Residence 2 in dismissing Siam Best as managers and employing another company.
But what about the future of Ocean 1? Personally, I remain cautiously pessimistic.