We were not in any rush. Mansion Sarasinee has a 12noon checkout. We headed for our coffee lady then to the khao mun ghai in Soi Padiphat 25. We were indecisive what to do next. We could take the car back to Suvarnabhumi or we could go to Buriram which was on our list and while spooning chicken flavour clear soup into my mouth my mobile rang.
An old mate from the UK was with his wife and kids in Sri Ratcha, which the locals pronounce as SeaLaCha-ah, and I don't know why the don't just spell it in English like that seeing as no one pronounces it the way it is spelled in Thai. He added that they were in Laem Chabang which doesn't exactly narrow it down. And then added come down to the hospital and we'll meet you there but you have to come because this resort is top notch. So off we set toward Laem Chabang hospital.
The drive down to Chonburi is a boring one. There is "nothing to see here" with the only break being the mountians that tell you you will shortly be in Pattaya. This short stretch of motorway known as the Chonburi Expressway is trundled hourly by tourist buses and taxi meters doing the run from Suvarnabhumi airport to Pattaya, fondly known as Patters. In truth Patters is 'Car Crash' night-clubbing. The majority of people living in the brightside, which is the part of town that is lit up like Blackpool on steroids, are English and Irish. The majority of the tourists are Russians with very pretty Russian girlfriends who spend sod all and the rest are Chinese and Arabs who have succeeded in sky-rocketting the price of everything. There used to be a saying that 'In Pattaya everything is for sale' but now in Patters everything is too expensive. There are lots of things that make Patters worth visiting but if you are looking to get off the beaten track and on a budget forget Pattaya.
But on the plus side Pattaya is the focal point, it is Chonburi's 'eye of the storm'. You visit anywhere either side of Patters and you will likely be 'Off the beaten track'. The only problem is that Thailand is considerably bigger and spread out than you expect so you need to know where places worth seeing are. As for me I always ask Thai people in whatever digs I happen to be in 'where do Thai people around here go?'. What I do not do is ask farangs or Lonely Planet.
Laem Chabang isn't a tourist destination, it is a dockyard, it is an oil town. So apart from my mates Thai family live in Sri Ratcha and ferries to Ko Si Chang island we had no reason to go there. Ko Si Chang is definitely off the beaten track and best spots are the Northern tip of the main island or to one of the other islands, Ko Kham Yai to the East, or Ko Kang Khao to the South which has secluded beaches and absolutely nothing else. Si Chang was a favourite getaway for King Rama V and the Royal Palace is open to the public and the island hasn't changed much in the last 150 years.
My mate was staying, despite having somewhere to live in Laem Chabang, at the Thai Orchid Village <-not an advert, I promised Louis I'd mention his place, and if you Google it you cannot find anyone who didn't like the resort or its' owners. An American couple who were left a plot in an industrial area thought they'd try building a resort where no one would want to go. I still cannot get my head round why or why it is so popular when it is so far 'Off the beaten track'.
Louis has managed to secure a contract with a oil company and every expert who needs a room gets collected by Louis, settled into their room, and fed. And you meet some genuine characters called oilmen from all around the globe who will talk about stuff completely off topic. I met one from Dallas (well where else would an oilman come from) who talked about his childhood fathers obsession with a British car the Humber Sceptre. I'm not sure what staggered me more, that I'm having a discussion with an oilman from Dallas, or that you could buy a Humber Sceptre in America.
The swimming pool was great and local Thai kids come here to learn to swim. Locals also come here to eat Louis' cooking which is hard to believe but my missus and daughter both agreed the food was really good. If you go here you really must try Louis' stone baked pizza.
We checked into the Lili House for 800 Baht and thought the room was great. It has all you'd expect from a better resort, TV, Aircon, outside toilet, yep the toilet really is outside where it belongs... Then my mate convinced me to have a swim to cool down followed by a few beers and something to eat.
Next morning I woke up pretty early and thought I'd try breakfast. I don't like ham n' eggs (traditional American breakfast) but the way Thai Orchid do it is really good. I usually stick to Thai food when I'm in Thailand but Dallas oilman's breakfast looked so good I thought I'd try it and the result is ham n' eggs up there with Louis' pizza. I concluded if I stay here too long I'm gonna put even more weight on.
Waan asked Nudi where some place was that I had never heard of. I don't know how the conversation came about but I have learned to just follow her lead because during her lifetime she has heard of places or seen them on TV and now she can travel she plucks them out and takes me there to satisfy her own desires. I don't mind because she finds places that I would never think of. Needless to say Nudi knew the place as did my mates wife Tum and they agreed we should go there today. Now. Especially as I had a car to take us.
We stopped half way as we headed South on Sukhumvit Road at Pattaya outside the floating market. We wanted refreshements and a comfort break and motorway services have their uses even when they are full of tourists but honestly, avoid this place if you can. The toilets were inside the market and you have to pay to get in. I never heard of any market in Thailand where you have to pay to get in. I said to the cashier the stalls want to sell their shit, how they going to do that if no one pays to get in. His genuine reply was 'The tour buses bring the tourists in'.
Sadly Thailand is commercialising a great deal of its tourist spots like this without realising this isn't what the tourists want. The market is man-made. There are no rivers, canals, nor lakes around this district. Some business folk thought it'd be a good idea to dig a trench and fill it with water and I have no idea why. The place is hideous with pretend boat tours, an unneccessary zoo that sells exotic birds, and chains elephants by the ankle to tree trunks outside the market as they wait for potential customers to ask for a ride on one.
Elephants are remarkable animals. Get close up to one and try talking to it and watch the reaction. I swear the two tied up here were begging to be set free. They way they are treated in city centres is barbaric and shouldn't be encouraged but there is something you can do that may seem like you are encouraging it but you really are not. Take plenty of buns, sugar lumps, bananas, or even sugar cane, and feed the elephants on the street. The mahout or owner will shout at you but ignore them and feed the beast as much as you can. Why? Because the elephant wont do any work if he/she has been fed and the mahout will have to return the animal to its pen. And if you want to see elephants in Pattaya go to the Elephant Village.
We continued on our way after going to the nearby 7/11 and clearing their shelves of all soft cakes, custard buns, and apples and putting what I'm sure was a smile on a baby elephants face while wondering where its mum is. These are family creatures, imagine taking a three year old away from its mum and tying it to a tree, it is dispicable and illegal in Thailand. But still it goes on.
After an hour and half we finally arrived in Bang Sa-Re and had to start asking where the Public Park is. On the Sukhumvit Road is a sign that says Wat Samakkee Banpot unfortunately it is in Thai - วัดสามัคคีบรรพต - but it does have a symbol of Buddha and a temple so it is noticable. If you do manage to spot it the next right turn is to Bang Sa-re. I can't find places like this without a sat nav (hint hint) get yourself one no matter what your mode of transport. You can identify where you are by the lack of English signs and on your right you should pass a sizeable temple with a monk school at the back and then on your left a rather surreal village that looks more like Cuba than Thailand.
The roads get persistently narrower and eventually you have to turn right. Keep going along this narrow alleyway and suddenly it opens up to reveal a beautiful park and open sandy beaches with palm trees and tables and chairs. You get directed to park your vehicle facing the sea and behind you is a waitress service and you eat on the beach. The beach is very popular with Thais and when we went there were Russians who had the same idea and who could blame them. This place is beautiful and a tourist spot and largely ignored by foreigners but the Thais come here for the food. All Thai food is good but this is off the scale and everything is a fresh catch this morning.
Bang Sa-Re has plenty to offer as well. Nong Nooch is mind-blowing and leaves you wondering why it is here. Khao Chai Chan Buddha has a similar effect on you though it is just a lump of sticky up rock. And if you have kids try Nong Nooch Resort - google สวนนงนุช รีสอร์ท
Bang Sa-Re, definitley 'Off the beaten track', definitely worth a visit.