Tag Archives: squirrel

Eating Bat and The View

Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage.  The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk.  I really have to rev myself up for the task however.  Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day.  Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.

My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar.  Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot.  Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay.  The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant.  Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill.  Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.

Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking.  First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path.  They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well!  But I’m getting ahead.

It felt like I had been walking for hours!  No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin.  I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there.  Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar.  It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden!  That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.

I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart.  It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden.  While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle.  So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path.  There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar.  One was down the path to the right, the other to the left.  I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far!  You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!

So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink.  I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island!  There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it.  I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit.  He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage.  He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂  He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦

I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is.  Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States.  Quite an impressive mix!  In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place.  As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”.  “Have a beer, kick up your feet!  Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me.  And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not?  So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.

It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue.  And the main meat of this barbecue??  Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat!  I LOVE bats!!!  Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!!  I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces!  So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat!  Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat!  The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful.  I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.

I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury).  After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black.  I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town.  I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker.  But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!

Sun setting
Sun setting

I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao.  I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t.  Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦  All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around.  And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place.  I will definitely have to go there again!

On to Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

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Bangkok ‘Gangster’ Scams

 

I don’t really know how close I was to the Palace because again there was no way to judge true distances on my map and to make things more interesting, maps posted along the street didn’t coincide at all with the map I had so I was kinda just going blindly most of the time…

At one point I came across a hilarious little squirrel.  People (I’ve noticed this elsewhere now too) hang little bags or full coconuts on the trees for the squirrels!  I didn’t know they had squirrels in Thailand before this!  He was adorable to watch as he dipped his head in the bag for a mouthful of shaved coconut, too cute!!

As I continued down the random street I was approached by a guy who asked where I was going.  The Palace, I said.  To which he replied that it was closed because the King was going to be there for his birthday.  What’s funny here is a friend of mine who’s been to Thailand said that these scammers always say the Palace is closed because it’s the Kings birthday… In this case, it actually was true, I just thought it was funny they always use that excuse!  Anyway, he insisted that the entire area was blockaded by police and there was no way to even get close to it.  BUT… he recommended several lovely temples each featuring Buddha (Golden Buddha, a temple with 8 different positions of Buddha, etc).  He said for 40 baht one of the 3-wheel taxis called “tuk-tuks” could take me around to 4 of them and bring me back!  That sounded like a good deal really… 4 Temples for 40 baht AND he would bring me back to where we started??  Sign #1 to not go- too good to be true.  But no, I thought “I could go on a little detour, rest my feet during the ride, see some Temples then walk to the Palace once we were back to start”.  Just as I got into the tuk-tuk, the guy asked where I was from.  I said the States, to which he replied “I love Obama”… I should have taken that as sign #2 to NOT trust this situation, lol!!

The first Temple was of the 8 Buddhas in different positions.  Unfortunately no picture-taking was allowed.  There was a gentlemen inside praying to one statue however that I found moving.  It wasn’t a Buddha statue but rather of a man depicted with sticks at his feet.  God of health is what the man said.  Pray to him for good health.  It was quite moving to wander around the Temple.  I’ve got more to say on that in a later post, but moving on…

I returned to the taxi after my walk around the Temple and he then told me that next stop was a Thailand factory where they make very good clothes.  Ok, I don’t need any clothes, but maybe it’s interesting somehow.  He insisted that these shops were good for the Thai people.  Ok… So we went.  The shop was, well, just a shop filled with tons of different fabrics and Giorgio Armani magazines with a variety of his clothing all ready to be tailor-made JUST for you!  As I wandered in, the sales vultures attacked asking me this and that and what would I like/need yada yada… I did one lap at a quick pace and headed out the door.  I did notice before leaving another gringo couple there signing papers… And as I headed out the door another tuk-tuk was pulling up with more gringos… Something fishy is going on…  Sign #3…

I got back in my taxi, the guy drove all of 10 feet then pulled over and stopped the cab:

Tuk-tuk man: You spend more time in there
Me: Um… I don’t need clothes.  They are very nice, but I don’t need anything.
Tuk-tuk man: Don’t matter if you buy, just looking, just LOOKING.  Must stay longer at next one for gas card.
Me: I don’t want to go to another one, I thought we were going to see Temples
Tuk-tuk Man: Yes, yes, Temples but factory first.  Must get gas card.  300 baht gas card for going to factory
Me:  No, I didn’t sign up for this, no.
Tuk-tuk Man: please, please, you do it for me so I get gas card.  10 minute, 10 minute just LOOKING

Sign #4… But he pulled the guilt trip… So ok, fine.  I can spare one more shop for 10 minutes so he can get a gas card.  So off we go… I wandered in and played my part listening to the sales pitch, flipping through the magazines “oh this is nice” wondering the entire time how/why any of these people think I have the kind of money to spend on those kinds of clothes with me looking like such crap after walking the streets of Bangkok all morning??  Anyway, I figured 10 minutes were up, so I left and got back into the cab.  The driver then turned to me and showed me on the map where we currently were (somewhere off of Nkhon Chaisi Rd WAY northeast of where we started) and proceeded to say “next factory is right here, then we go to Temples”.

Ok, I officially reached my limit.  “No” I very firmly said.  He tried his pitch to me once again begging and pleading but I had had enough!!  I told him to take me back immediately to where he picked me up.  He finally figured out I meant business, took on a sulky attitude, turned around and started to head back.  Thankfully I was paying enough attention to see that he was actually taking me in the right direction, but at a certain point we got stuck in traffic along Ratcha Damnoen Nok Rd and I just got out.  I payed him his 40 baht figuring the one Temple was worth that, walked across the street away from him and wandered the streets again.

As it turned out there was a ton of very interesting stuff along that road!  I’m not sure if it also was because of the King’s birthday or just coincidental, but according to some signs it said December 5th was also World SOIL day… They had tents upon tents displaying farm scenes, gardens, green growing, hydroponic setups, etc!  Very interesting stuff!  Also one of the tents was all about a gift festival. Not sure what that was exactly, but lots of fun stuff to look at and buy.

So really, had it not been for the scam I never would have been in that area to begin with to see all the random festivities.  But perhaps the part I thought was the funniest was when I was walking along Ratcha Damnoen Klang Rd where the Democracy Monument is located.  Yes, I was STILL trying to make it to the dang Palace, lol!!  I stopped at one of the street maps (which again didn’t look a thing like my map!) and another man came up asking me where I wanted to go… Repeat???  Thankfully not!  He was a professor at the University for Political Science and was legit!  He pointed the way to the Palace then asked what I had seen so far.  I told him “not much” just a Temple and random other parts.  I pointed on a map where I had been taken (by the scammer cabbie) and the first word out of his mouth: “Gangsters”!!

What???  Did I hear right??  “Gangsters” he repeated, then said “how many factory they take you to?”… Oh dear, lol!!!  I’d been scammed alright!  I laughed and said 2.  He shook his head knowingly and said that the police everyday get calls about that scenario or tourists walking into the police stations to file complaints about this scam.  I don’t know if the shops are part of the scam also, but I can’t say for sure.  He then went on to give me another couple good tips: Never get into a taxi (actual taxis are regular cars in a variety of colors; pink, green, blue with a “metered taxi” sign on top) if the driver does not turn on the meter.  If they try to negotiate a price with you before you get in, RUN!  Lol!!  His exact words folks!  The second tip was for the shopping areas: look at 10 stores before you buy!  Again, to avoid being overcharged or scammed on a price:)  Lovely guy and great information, I was truly grateful!!

I thanked the professor then headed on toward the Palace first running into the Royal Grounds where the side walk of the grounds were lined with police.  I asked what was going on and one guy said that in a half hour the King would arrive!  Seriously??  So I hung out in the gardens, which had a view of the Palace in the background (finally!!!) until the action began.  It wasn’t the King who arrived, but rather it was a very respected woman.  I’ve tried to look up in the papers something about what the event was all about but still can’t find anything.  Anyway, whoever she was, she was very heavily guarded and respected!  Everyone who approached her did so on their knees, never turning their back to her.  After viewing the event for a bit, I headed to the Palace (which was shut) then decided to just get back to the hotel.  At this point it had already been a 10 hour day and I was shot and ready for a shower!!

I approached some cops to ask the best place for a taxi pick-up to which they all lined up to hail a cab for me as I stood on the sidewalk (so polite and helpful!!).  I was taken to Phaya Thai (by a driver who did use his meter) which is the first stop in the Airport Rail system.  Last funny- I needed a cab from the Lat Krabang station to my hotel.  I hailed one and he stopped.  I showed him the card I had of the hotel and he nodded “yes”, so I went to get in and said “meter?” to which he then looked at the hotel card again and shook his head.  He pointed to his eyes and squinted as if to say he suddenly couldn’t read the address on the card… Scammer avoided??  Too funny!!

 

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