Published on May 7, 2019 at 8:00 AM
In this blog there is no cycling, this blog contains lazing, drinking, snorkeling, cross-riding, partying and ping-pong. In this blog the children from the Netherlands come to visit us in Thailand: 10 months not seen, 10 days to catch up. You are warned.
Is it over-enthusiastic or just bad timing? Anyway, we are three hours early at Suvarnabhumi airport. If we turn on the flight radar on the smartphone, the plane with the children just leaves the Indian subcontinent. As at any major airport, a melting pot of cultures can be seen with the extremes of a heavily bearded Arab, with at least ten figures following in all-concealing nikabs, and two highly bleached Russian ladies with fake tits, buttocks and lips in non-concealing ‘clothing’. After hours of browsing the plane lands safely and we wait at the exit of the arrival hall. There is no Thai version of tv-program “Hello Goodbye” to interview us. No distraction, and from the fact that it takes a long time after their aircraft has landed we are starting to worry a bit. Would there be any problems? They “smuggle” quite a package of goods into the country: pills for Harry, gearbox oil, pedals, tax forms, contact lenses, to name just a few items. Thailand is not really well known when it comes to punishment. Did they have to fill in such a form on the plane and tick “nothing to declare” and did they not dare? Or is it the medication? The tension increases and the discharge is therefore all the greater if a broad smile breaks through in the distance on three worn-out Dutch. Yes, they are here! Harjan, the big and equally sweet son with his beautiful girlfriend Sacha and Evi, the little blond angel of a daughter with bright orange nails and a brand new suitcase with watermelon print.
It is nine o’clock in the evening when we arrive by bus in the area around Khao San Road. Villa Cha Cha is our temporary home base. Checking in takes a lot of paperwork, a big deposit and a lot of time in our opinion. We finally get the keys and the all grown-up children can wriggle out of their too warm clothes. They were warned: it’s hot in Bangkok. All three of them have not been able to sleep on the flights to here and despite the tiredness, the bustle, chaos and festival feeling of this area brings them the energy to walk the streets and explore. We immerse them directly by ordering Thai street food and walk past the pushing sellers of buckets, tuktuk rides and ping pong shows and then plunge down on the stools of the popup cafe opposite our hotel. Could it have to do with the genes that Harry, Harjan and Evi share? Curiosity wins and all three of them try a balloon of laughing gas and all three do not understand what the fun about it is. Well if you breathe in and out a few times the oxygen level decreases and you feel some light in your head, but isn’t that also happening when you breathe in and out of a sandwich bag? In the meantime, it also becomes clear that Evi did not exaggerate when she said that she is getting pretty panic about bugs. And not only from that one fat cockroach that runs over the sidewalk and Roelie’s foot, but also from mosquitoes, ants and from the edible black-baked spiders and scorpions that the street vendors put under our noses. Evi appears to have been strongly warned by the authorities: do not touch stray dogs and cats, they all carry diseases, do not eat sliced fruit, they contain bacteria, do not eat washed fruit, they have been rinsed with insufficiently purified water, no ice cubes in your drinks, which are not from mineral water and their water here can not appreciate our western stomachs and intestines.
The next day we take a taxi to MBK Center, a building that houses around 2,000 shops, most with fake brands that are absolutely indistinguishable from real ones. So it’s a shopping mecca and a few shirts, sunglasses, slippers, bags, sarongs and trinkets to be purchased for the home front. The taxis in Bangkok normally have a taximeter, only in the Khao San Road area, with all those foreign tourists, the meter is in the glove box or under a cloth with a Bhudda: “meter? No have! ” There is nothing left but to negotiate a fare. The asking price of the driver after negotiation is still 100 Bath above the price that Harry wants to pay for it. The driver finally offers to toss a coin and Harry agrees on the condition that he tosses the coin. Harry luckily wins and we get into a taxi for the double price of a taxi with meter …
Has the authorities also warned Evi about traffic here? Maybe; it is a much bigger threat than the aforementioned things. The taxi driver seeks his way between the rows. The Thai are also very polite in traffic and there is little honking and never scolding or making angry gestures. People usually give each other the space, but our taxi driver overdoes. Apparently a minibus did not want to give our taxi enough space. Probably encouraged by the already existing damage to his van, he drills his front bumper into the side of our taxi. What follows is resignation, no scolding or hassle, some pictures are taken, until a police officer on a motorcycle orders us to drive on and deal with the damage elsewhere. A better place is quickly found, whereby we first assume that it is at the MBK Center. The driver is paid and he receives a pat on his shoulder to alleviate the suffering. What we do not yet know is that it is still 2.5 km to the shopping mall, as GoogleMaps shows us a bit later. Let’s be brief about this part: walking a distance of 2.5 kilometers is really no fun in the sweltering heat of Bangkok. The moto of Harry in these kind of situations – walking (or cycling) as quickly as possible, to get out of it as quickly as possible – is not shared by the children, partly due to the immediately emerging blisters due to the summer flip flops.
In the MBK we are almost go knockout by the roaring air conditioning that ensure that our overheated and soaking wet bodies immediately cool down by more than 20 degrees. Sweat disappears and goosebumps appear. But when we leave the chic part of the shopping center, the smaller stalls become more interesting, the temperature becomes more pleasant and different items of clothing are fitted. Harry gives the children a crash course on bargaining (try to reach half of the first asking price) which in the beginning turns out to be quite difficult: Sacha cannot bargain with “sweet ladies”, Evi finds it tiring and Harjan thinks the asking price often is just reasonable. Yet a few hours later, we get back in a taxi with a few full bags. This time we know how to reach the hotel without accidents.
In the afternoon we enjoy cooling off at the swimming pool of Villa Cha Cha. Here and there is a book but it is not read. We chat a lot, take pictures, play a few word games and regularly jump into the water. We like this. We like this so much that we stick to the pool the next day until it’s time to leave.
We are going south with a night bus. It would be great if the children could sleep comfortably on the bus due to the lack of sleep and jet lag, but unfortunately no. Roelie’s neighbor behind her cries out when she wants to push her chair back. The girl has knee injuries. There is still seating available in the back and soon Evi comes to hang out and take a nap. Sacha doesn’t sleep at all and when we get out at 4 o’clock in the morning her frustration about not sleeping slowly fades away.
The fast speed catamaran takes us to the island paradise of Koh Pha Ngan. The bungalow between the palm trees on the beach where Harjan and Sacha move in has an idyllic view and a wonderful veranda. The beach is deserted and the sea is empty. A short exploration shows that the sea is very shallow here, full of pebbles and shells and the temperature of the water is far from cooling. The solution is quickly found: two full days we race on rental bikes on Koh Pha Ngan through the hills and jungle from beach to beach. We see elephants used for trips around the island and we see a large family of cheeky monkeys on the side of the road. On the hilltops we enjoy beautiful views. Along the way we buy a bag with various kinds of native tropical fruit. On a beach we finally taste the smelly durian, “the king of fruits”. A French family is lying next to us and their son Leo is tasting everything with us, but his nose is up for the durian. Aha, so he already knows and it turns out to be a nasty taste to it. Rambutans, on the other hand, the red-green long-haired balls that are called ngoh here, quickly become our favorite until Leo’s mother conjures up a bag of mangostone (mangkut): an eggplant-colored apple with white sweet flesh inside melting on your tongue. We like it even better.
While the men are hanging on the beach with a beer, the ladies sit and talk in the sea for a long time. It feels like being on Survivor only without the need to get into conspiracies. On the contrary, frank conversations lay the foundations for a deep friendship. It is incredibly valuable to spend this time together and get to know each other even better.
The last beach on our two-day scooter ride on Koh Pha Ngan leads us to the popular Haad Rin beach. The full moon party takes place here, at least at full moon. It runs towards the end of the afternoon, the sky is overcast and the wind has increased. To the great pleasure of Harjan, jet skis are rented out and a the price can be bargained down quite a bit. He braves the wind and waves for half an hour and enjoys the high speed to the fullest while his dear darling Sacha stays behind worrying and eagerly looks forward to his safe return. Bursting with adrenaline, he returns unscathed.
Next Koh Tao which turns out to be the icing on the cake. The small island north of Koh Pha Ngan is known for diving holidays and padi courses but also for the relaxed atmosphere (although according to the internet it is not only known as a diving paradise but also as a murder island). Harry and Roelie have been to Koh Tao twice before and are still alive and kicking when they find their way back to the Lotus Bar on the beach in the evening. The fire show has already started and we watch the dancing artists for hours. The beach in front of the Lotus Bar gets packed and the show is becoming more exuberant and more hilarious. Harjan and Evi get involved in the show with varying feelings. Sacha is not doing any better, and has to take part in a women’s balloon flight. The show ends with limbo dancing under a burning beam and then the DJ turns the volume up and we dance on the soft white sand into the night under the starry sky.
The next day was marked in advance as a beach and snorkeling day. The short night’s rest and the “buckets” at the end of the party confirm the choice. We flatter ourselves on the elongated beach that is remarkably quiet. It is clear that the high season is over. On the north side of the beach there is a good snorkeling spot along the rocks and around the corner. We rent snorkels in the village and go to see the fish and the coral. First of all, Roelie and Evi go. After an hour they come back enthusiastically: beautiful !!! A point of attention: the water is very low and the coral is dangerously sharp. Roelie shows the cuts at her toe. It’s Harjan and Harry’s turn, but they start their snorkeling adventure a bit scared; the water is now even lower. After half an hour they already return. Harry didn’t feel like it anymore. Roelie is eager to go again and first guides Sacha and then Harjan through the shallow water to the deeper coral and large schools of nice colored fish.
After dinner at a street restaurant, Roelie and Harry are tired. It is clear that they are no longer used to going to bed after midnight. Harjan is also tired, but Evi and Sacha are still full of energy and want to go to the Lotus Bar again. Harjan follows the young ladies, while the old go to bed. The young ones celebrate another beautiful evening with fire and beats.
It feels like a day early for us all, but we have to go back to Bangkok. The bus eventually drives us through the decorated streets in Bangkok past the royal palace. The king will be crowned in the coming days. Everywhere there are fresh plants and flowers, lighting decorates the trees and the people on the streets wear yellow t-shirts, the color of the king. Everything has been cleaned and swept. Bangkok has never been so beautiful. There is not much to see about the coronation around Khao San Road (yet). As usual, the streets are filled with tourists. The connected bars and restaurants drown each other out in music and street vendors scream for attention: tuk tuk, taxi, buckets, beer or ping pong show. To Evi the switch from relaxed to chaos is difficult and she is the first to seek the peace of Villa Cha Cha. With Harjan and Sacha we blend one last time in the bustling heart of Khao San Road.
Saying goodbye in itself is not too bad, but the emptiness that they leave behind is hard. “Where are they?” we ask each other when we are having breakfast with only the two of us after our departure, jump into the pool, poke the pieces of springrolls further down the street. We miss them enormously. We love them so much! Fortunately their return trip goes well and after the landing we receive messages about how cold it is in the Netherlands and how much they are already missing us too…
We would like to get back on the bike again and leave Bangkok but there are two reasons to postpone the departure. Now that we are there, we want to experience the festivities around the coronation. In addition, we expect a package from the UK with Quad Locks, the covers for our phones with which we can attach to the handlebar and then navigate. Indispensable, without navigation, we will not be able to get out of this metropolis safely.
So first the coronation on May 4, 5 and 6. The actual coronation takes place on the first day and behind closed doors. It can be followed on TV and is surrounded by religious rituals and traditions. On the second day the parade of soldiers and the king on a sedan chair follows. The route runs close to Villa Cha Cha. We spent a few nights in a cheaper guesthouse a little further away where many soldiers were staying and again found a cheap offer for Villa Cha Cha. Upon return we first have to go through a security tunnel and passport control. It will take hours before the parade will pass, but there are already many Thai people in the same tunnel to get a good spot along the route. It will be a very special experience. Of course, good spots are no longer there when we walk out of the street hours later to the yellow crowd. Everyone must sit and remain seated. Also apparently nobody is allowed on the many balconies or behind the window on higher floors. No one is allowed to tower higher than the king. We see that people who squat or get down on their knees are invariably addressed to sit down again. The asphalt sears the buttocks and sticks to your pants. Many around us are on foil or cardboard. To our great satisfaction we find a curb to sit on but are then addressed on our black t-shirts. Black is the color of mourning and that is not good. Whether we still want to change. Once back in a white and purple shirt we get appreciation from the people who asked us to change, but the spot on the curb is unfortunately occupied and we can only sit down on the burning asphalt again. From our place there is really nothing to see. The hundreds of Thai people around us can’t see anything, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. Harry gives up (“what nonsense”) and returns to the casa. Shortly thereafter, Roelie is approached for her sitting position. She sits with her feet forward and that is rude. She knows that, but the hot asphalt does not invite you to sit in a different decent position. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long because the buzz is announcing that the king will come soon. From the military parade, only the exceptionally high hats can be seen that protrude above the hedge behind which we are hundreds and … yes, the king on the throne, which sticks out above the hedge. The Thai whisper modestly a “long life the king”. People are still seated and the feet are swung back. They wave their flags, but there is no clapping, yelling, waving or whistling and the king looks stoically in front of him.
On the third and final day, we let the public balcony scene pass by at the end of the afternoon. The Thai have been waiting in line from early on to get a spot in front of the balcony and the streets are turning yellow all around. We see a rather static balcony scene on TV until the relatives join in and a king’s daughter starts filming with her phone and smiling faces are seen. A little later we walk to the palace and come across the large yellow crowd that is leaving. The end of the festivities is a light show of drones on a large field next to the palace. We lie in the grass and see the show in which the drones form, among other things, the Thai flag, an elephant head and a flower and chuckle that a few dissident drones are constantly trying to get away.
And then the waiting for the package with the Quad Locks remains. The tracking service is unfortunately not available. The expected delivery time is between 3 and 14 May. It could have been here already, but it’s not there yet. Due to the coronation, the post has not been around for several days. How long before we can cycle again? We want to continue our adventure!