Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pattaya, plah!

It was really hard for me to leave my little cottage in Karon Beach, and I would not have picked my stay in Pattaya to be my last stop in Thailand, but that’s how it worked out. I went there for a special event, and luckily it was only for a few days. The upside was I got to see a lot of old friends who came from Maui and all over; and I got to meet some new friends. The downside was the hotel. I can only quote the wife of W.C. Fields when they pull up to the orange grove he acquired in a drunken poker game, after a long dusty trip across the U.S. trip in an old jalopy. She puts her hands on her hips, gives him the you drunken fool look, and says, “it’s a dump!”  My husband loved W.C. and, whenever I complained about our house, he would put his hands on his hips and mimic that scene. It always made me laugh. Anyway, that’s what most of us were saying about the hotel, although everyone said I got the best room. I could have moved, but I was sick one day and only there for a few days. Plus, I’m pretty jaded now and a few nights in a bad hotel with hot water and a bathtub is not a big deal.

I was on the 16th floor, and the first night I heard a horrible cat in the wall howling. I was by myself, and I swear I thought I had been transported into an Edgar Allen Poe story. It was the freakiest sound I’ve ever heard. I sat up in the bed while this cat moaned and howled behind with the sound echoing throughout the room and me trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. I went out on the balcony, sixteen floors up, looking for a stray cat. I went out in the hallway looking for someone to tell me if I had gone mad. I called the front desk several times, but no one understood me because they barely spoke English. Over the next few days the cat howled every night. I finally had one friend who verified that he heard it too, or I really would have been worried about sanity. I never did find out where or what it was. Once night, I didn’t hear anything and it was even creepier because I thought maybe it died in the wall and it would haunt me forever. The cat in the wall hotel was my impression of all of Pattaya. It was just another big, grimy city howling from the minds of all those men looking for sex. It didn’t help that the weather was completely overcast, and I got violently sick for about 24 hours. I only saw the beachfront the last night I was there when I went to dinner with friends. As I’ve said before, travel experience is completely personal, and one man or woman’s paradise can be another’s home across the road or hell across the road.

The only upside, besides seeing friends, was the walk down the street in front of our hotel which was filled with interesting shops and a great soup lady. There was a guitar shop, a Harley Davidson bike place with tons of old bike parts, and a great Chinese goods store where the lady sold everything from headache powder to beautiful leather bags. I also had a fun ride on the back of a scooter taxi to and from our last dinner together. I can’t believe how brave I am to ride around on the back of scooters in the middle of Asia traffic with some crazy young driver who doesn’t speak a word of English. Well, crazy or brave, take your pick. I also had some great visits with friends, and a funny weird goodbye dinner. 

Seeing long-time friends from Maui really reminded me of all my history in Hawaii, and it was the first time I felt homesick. I think home is not about where your house is, but where your friends are. I have friends on Maui and in Hawaii that have known me for over twenty years. And as much as I love my family, they just don’t know me or appreciate me in the same way my friends do. My family and I have spent a lot of time of apart, and although they know some of my life story, they have different versions and opinions. My friends are (mostly) people who I have similar experiences with, who not only know my story, but understand it. I love spending time with my family, but when I’m with them I’m mostly just this old (hippie) who can’t play Wii right, doesn’t know how to shop or fix herself up, and makes the wrong moves in backgammon. My friends, at least some of them, know what incredible things I’ve done and how much I have to share. They appreciate the miracle I am. And, with my friends I can really be myself, whoever that is in the moment. Nothing beats that. That is home, wherever you are. 

I had some moments, sick in the hotel, where I was thinking about ending my trip in Fiji. I told myself I could do New Zealand some other time. Then, once I felt better, I checked my flights and realized I only have another month or so and I’ll be home. I hate to crap out that close to the finish line, really! There were also some issues about what I wanted to do in Australia. My friend from Sydney and I had planned to go to Tasmania for a week, but I decided I really wanted to see the Barrier Reef this trip instead. I’d like to go to an exclusive resort or a cruise, but it would be cheaper just to go to Cairns or Brisbane. I’m checking it all out. Then I’ll spend a few weeks in New Zealand, see Hobbitland, and ride around looking at potential places to stay long term in the future.  I’ll spend the last week in Sydney, and then head home early April right on schedule. That’s the plan for now.

So it was goodbye, Thailand and hello Hong Kong, coming down the last stretch of the tour. It’s so hard to believe that all this time and all these places have passed by so quickly. In the beginning it seemed like such an enormous block of time and locations, and now it seems like I could go another year or two to fit in all the places I could have gone. It is a big wide world, and there is so much to see and do. As long as I am fit, I can’t see any reason to stay in one place for very long, except to spend time with friends and family. Home can be anywhere my heart is for a while.

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