So a couple weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with some of my fellow teachers to Pattaya and Chonburi. At a mere 1500 Baht (about $50), I considered it a steal, but I had no idea what I signed up for.
Friday morning we all met at the school at 4 o’clock. This meant climbing over a fence at 3:30am and walking to school, because our landlord has still not managed to give us a key. We were then given a 4 hour grace period on the bus to rest and sleep before all of the teachers could no longer contain their excitement. They were running up and down the aisles, laughing, and waking up myself and the other foreigners to take a picture with us. They only laughed more when I looked confused at being woken up. Better yet, they then decided to grace us with their singing skills by plugging Thai karaoke into the bus sound system. This could have been amusing, if it hadn’t woken me up on an already rough morning. It could even have been fun, if there were a way to participate. I might have enjoyed watching, if it hadn’t gone on for at least SIX HOURS. I’ve gotta hand it to them, though, they did not lose steam or get bored with their karaoke, they just kept plowing through their songs with giant smiles, wondering why the foreigners were all trying to sleep or jamming headphones into their ears.
So after a very trying all-day bus ride, we made it to our fancy restaurant – the first tower restaurant in Pattaya that actually rotates! Though I found the concept pretty fun, it turned out to be a dizzying experience for many of my travel companions, who had to stay away from the windows in order to avoid the motion sickness that they’d been battling all day. This dinner proved to be yet another entertaining experience for the Thais. It was an all you can eat buffet, and they had real, Western-style bread!! This was an extremely satisfying dinner for me, and the Thai teachers got a kick out of watching myself and all of the other foreigners pile our plates high with bread time and time again. After dinner we all went to enjoy a cabaret show, starring the lady boys that Thailand is so famous for having. No stranger to lady boys by this point in the game, we all still end up giggling and pointing at the ‘ladies’ as they strut their stuff!
In Pattaya we became acutely aware of the Russian influence. There were Russians everywhere, and it was widely known that Pattaya is run by the Russian Mafia. When we walked around town before the show there were sketchy shops and huge ‘massage parlor’ buildings on every street. It was, for lack of a better term, creepy. I can honestly say that our evening in Pattaya was the first time in Thailand that I felt uncomfortable and worried about my general safety. It’s not a trip that I would make again, especially if I were alone.
The rest of the trip consisted of many more long and exhausting bus rides – which means more grueling hours of listening to the teachers sing karaoke and painfully trying to plaster a smile on my face whenever they looked at me. The highlight, oddly enough, was our stop at an interactive art museum. It’s actually a museum of murals, uniquely painted so that people standing by the wall look as though they are IN the painting. Not to promote Asian stereotypes, but it was honestly every Thai tourist’s dream come true! The whole purpose of the museum was to run around and take silly pictures – the Thai teachers (and I confess, I got sucked in too) were in photo heaven! Myself and the other foreigners finished taking pictures well before the Thai teachers, but it was still considered a win for the day.
So what did I learn about traveling in Thailand with Thai people? 1. REALLY long bus rides are expected – bring a blanket, pillow, book, basically anything and everything to occupy your time. 2. Expect loud and incredibly annoying Thai Karaoke to be playing for at least 3/4 of your time on the bus – Ear plugs are encouraged. 3. Lady boys are a source of entertainment for everyone – stare and enjoy, it’s okay. 4. Pattaya is creepy – Enough said. 5. If you don’t have your camera on you at all times, you’re a failure as a tourist.