I missed out Pattaya entirely, and will have to backtrack though that.
We stayed in Pattaya in a resort far out from the central hub, but close to the beach. In the end, that didn’t help, as Pattaya is almost entirely concentrated in the central hub, and so most days we took taxies into the centre.
Pattaya is a textbook example of western cultual tourism. It started as a small fishing village when a US Airbase opened nearby, and quickly became a R&R destination for that. Throw a rock and you’ll hit a bar, mostly owned by a westerner who has sold up and moved here for the cheap cost of living. Even the places we ended up in for my brother’s stag party – of which more when my autobiography comes out or one of those involved needs a reminder – charged no more than 100 Baht for a gin and tonic (around two pounds at a decent exchange rate). The entire city is a fount of energy that doesn’t appear to have any soul at all, from the open-front bars named after the owner (sometimes with a sequel number) up to the sucking heart of the place, the largest beachfront mall in Asia, Central Festival. A massive monolith to high fashion culture, the shops inside – Armarni, Benneton, MissSixty etc. – could have been in any city from New York to Oxford Street, London. It was quite depressing.
A few lights in the darkness. Some decent resturants, and places like Hoph, a traditional pub with its own on-site brewed wheat beer on tap, and a house band with a trained italian opera singer on drums (who floated though a generic italian love ballard of the “Girl from Iponima” type, before belting the last lines out with enough style to shake the house and enough power to light it up. It was glorious).
We were there for five nights, before moving on to a 8 hour taxi ride up north to the site of the actual wedding.
As we travelled north the humidity dropped noticably, though that may have just been the weather, and the tendancy for streets and shops to be labeled in both Thai and English slowly faded out. The sight of such obviously non-thai people is apparently cause for concern and careful observation.
We got to Ben’s Fiancee – Pear’s – house early evening after checking in at a hotel, where we had some wonderful home cooked thai food – first non-resturant thai food ever – and beer while watching the hired flower arrangers entirely fail to plan putting up a gantry to hang them on, then setting it up in the wrong place, then cutting the wrong bit of twine and all the arrangement falling to the floor. Somewhat cruelly funny. They bought a pig for tomorrow, which was executed and butchered – I didn’t go with the people who went to watch that and, from their recounting, am glad I didn’t. All the bits were brought back in a series of huge buckets for preparation and cooking for tomorrow.
Ben picked out a cow for the same purpose a few months ago, but the family – who were looking after it until it was ready to be slaughered – got too attached to it to think of such an act. Thus the pig.
We’re staying in a hotel a short way out. Actually, we’re staying in a “short stay” hotel a little way out. Separate hotel cottages of no more than a bedroom and bathroom each, curtains around the car-port so you can’t see the number-plate of the vehicle inside. The combination of the single-purpose hotel room and the bright, cheerful, kids cartoon decoration is a little distressing.
The wedding gets underway at 8am and is expected to last until the early hours of the following morning so, since it’s coming up to tomorrow, I should attempt to get some sleep to be ready for the 6:30 start that will get us there on time.