My photographer and I set off along Jomtien Beach to prospect the assembled few, it would have been nice to have spoken to multitudes but this low season is most definitely the lowest anyone can remember.

The beach was effectively deserted, apart from a few clumps of Thais, most of whom were down from Bangkok for the weekend. It was a sad case of empty baht buses, forlorn motorcycle taxi drivers plaintively raising their eyes in anticipation at our approach only to resume their downcast appearances when we sadly declined their eager services. Dejected drink and snack sellers and deck chair purveyors likewise looked expectantly only to have their hopes dashed when we explained we were looking for holiday makers.

Our first takers were a couple of swarthy, lonesome individuals we initially mistook for Azerbaijanis, who seemingly spoke no language known to man. Eventually, it transpired they were Iranians called Ali and Baba, respectively – no kid! Here they were, apparently for a holiday, but they weren’t quite sure. It seems they were from Tehran. We expressed our sympathy over their fellow countrymen’s plight over their elections, the seven or eight people killed in protests and 500 people arrested, but I fear our commiserations fell on deaf or non-comprehending ears, so we bid them adieu.

Our next encounter was with a trio of men we thought were Russian from their guttural speech and baleful looks when they eventually deigned to speak to us. It turned out they were, in fact, German, all named Kurt, apparently; very fitting considering their manners, I thought. They gave us short shrift saying something like “Nix spraken ze Englisch” when I politely asked them. And on to the next far flung group. This time we were in luck, a Russian family who apparently were completely in love with Thailand. However, “Luv de Thais” was the only intelligibly phrase we managed to get out of them, but at least they were willing and eager to speak, sadly mostly in Russian.

We were then nearly corralled by a near desperate banana boat tout, who would have loved to take us for a spin and dip, but even if we’d had the time, I had my one and only experience of a punch-drunk banana boat bandit many moons ago, never, ever to be repeated! After literally shredding my knuckles and rendering them red raw because there was no plastic covering on the security rope, the demented banana boat must have thrown me and my companions in the briny at least 12 times. I lost my wallet, watch and a gold bracelet on that occasion. “No I don’t think I’ll take you up on your kind offer,” quote I. Our next close encounter was with Willi, a Dutchman, who said yes he was here on holiday – for 1 year! He was going back to Tulipland for four weeks and then returning here. He was absolutely blissed out by Thailand and Pattaya in particular, and no amount of airport protests or swine flu epidemics were going to keep him away.

For our next mini-interview, we had to trudge seemingly miles up the beach before we encountered anyone else who looked as though they might be willing to share their experiences. Another German glowered at us, as we approached, presumably something to do with the bevy of Thai delectables he had in tow, so assuming he, too, was called Kurt, we passed them by. Then we eventually managed to find someone, one of the 4.2 billion who not only spoke the most widely spoken language in the world, but was actually willing to be interviewed without snapping at our heels or throats.

This affable type was an Ozzie named Ian, down with two compatriots and a trio of Thai friends, Nit, Nair and Sammy, from Bangkok for a weekend’s relaxation in Fun City, and after 10 days back to Oz. A wandering representative from a worldwide advertising company by the name of Look Media, Ian was very impressed with Jomtien. That the beach was virtually deserted didn’t faze him, in fact he preferred it. He expressed his commiseration with the sad events which had partially deterred people from coming here, namely the airport fiascos, riots and now the Swine flu. But for him, there was no place like it or the Thai people – the friendliest people on Earth , he reckoned. No amount of troubles or economic woes would deter him, or anyone else he knew. They were all extremely taken by the Thai amiability, Ozzie wives included, so much so they couldn’t get enough of the country, its people and culture.

Recently, the Australian currency has had a bad patch, comparatively speaking, but now it is rising again, so he predicted his countrymen would be here in their hordes again before too long. After all, with the value for money and the friendliness, especially of the Sheilas, nothing would keep them away. Let’s hope we get some similarly inclined people, then all our recent woes and despondency will be history and hope and smiles will be restored to the faces of our Thai hosts.

Feature Type : Travel & Leisure


Post a Comment