Making Blog (Out of Nothing At All)

Making Blog (Out of Nothing At All)

After a day of bus travel, I arrived in Chanthaburi, the City of the Moon. Contrary to the name’s translation, the city’s main draw is gem stones. As the hub of the global gem stone trade, visitors can ooh and aah at piles of gems being inspected and purchased at the countless stores lining the gem district. My guidebook tells me that 50-60% of the worlds rubies and sapphires pass through Chanthaburi for cutting, coming from from Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Africa even (I happened to see 3 towering African men outside a shop; they were just as surprised to see me as I them!) I would stay a few blocks from the gem district, the river adjacent to my guesthouse aglow with large vinyl gem-shaped lamps upon my arrival.

Finding this accommodation was easy, always a nice treat after the entire day on the bus. I stayed at River Guest House, mostly by the urging of my songtheaw driver. Many local transporters have relationships with guesthouse owners and very often tell you other places are full or exaggerate their rates. But not in Chanthaburi. That much I can tell when I stepped off the bus after 7 weeks of dipping my toes in Thailand’s cities. In this case, I considered River, as it’s listed in my guidebook, but dismissed it with the intention of staying in the more “Spartan” guesthouse with the more “Spartan” price. The driver got me the Spartan price I wanted. Appreciating his good manners and insider dealings, I hired him as private transport to see some sights the next day.

To my relief, the room was spotless and the toilet, Western, with an actual roll of toilet paper. This is very rare. My room was small but comfortable, had no windows and stayed pitch-black well into the morning. Another huge plus but with sacrifice: no electrical outlets, no cellular service. Anyhow, my plan for the following day was to see some gem folks doing their thing and grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading out to Oasis Sea World at 10 a.m. with my driver, then continuing onward to Nam Tok Phliu National Park for a glimpse at another falls.

The quick bite was accomplished via mango & sticky rice but the gem shops were still barred and sleeping. No problem, I was ready to hit the town with my friendly driver! But only after accidentally turning the shower on me with my cumbersome tote bag and getting soaked mid-primping. Good times. So yes, Oasis Sea World? Sounds a bit Orlando-esque, a? I had this notion of spending the afternoon swimming with the beloved dolphin performers at the Oasis. And for 400 baht (or $12.59 US), I thought I might as well as such experiences in the states are dramatically higher. Alas, the divine forces (in the form of Asian tour groups) did not want me messing with their sea mammals. I was denied at the door as they were at capacity with swimmers. I could have stuck around for the 40 minute show but thought “heck, no”. And I could have came back the following morning to accomplish my dolphin mission (had the bi-lingual waiver in my sights and disturbingly read “…A.I.D.S….hepatitus..” within its text) but I thought “heck, no” again. The following morning I’d be Bangkok-bound, making one more brief stop in Ayutthaya before sitting still until my flight back to New York.

It was nice to be in the passenger seat. Because neither my driver or I knew too much of each other’s language it wasn’t rude that I stared out the window and enjoyed the scenery. Soon I’d be back in America and I wanted to soak in as much Thailand as possible. But the music in the car was pure American and I welcomed it in all its sweet tarty pop effervescence. No doubt’s Don’t Speak, Extreme’s More Than Words, Air supply’s Making Love (out of nothing at all) {I enjoy the 80’s parenthetical song title craze though this may not officially be the title}… I was in heaven with cheesy America ballads. But it was Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour that had me uninhibitedly singing along. My driver proclaimed “I love Americaaaaa” before putting the disc of hundreds of mp3s in the player. He was a hoot. *To justify my enjoying above-mentioned songs (excluding Stevie Wonder), please note I have been without music since I’ve been here, my iPod having died and blanking all my songs early on.

So we drove to Nam Tok Phliu National Park to see the Phliu waterfall. He gave me one hour to do my thing. The park was dark and damp, surrounded with dense and deep browns and greens. The cool, moist air was worth the “foreigner fee” alone and it helped to see busloads of Europeans leaving as I walked in solo. Even more deserving was the quantity of carp inhabiting the rocky streams of the park. Reading a bit about the opportunity to partake in a fish-feeding frenzy, I purchased a bunch of green beans (very long in Thailand, like 2 feet) on the way in. At the first rocky entrance to the stream, I thought I was simply looking at a dark body of water. I realized it was the motherload of hungry, scurrying carp. I quickly secured my post and fed those very aggressive carp, with the dangle and drop of each green bean causing a fish fight. Check out the video here (if this works):

And some nice shots of the fish:

After the greens were done and the stream full of frisky Thai children scaring away the carp, I walked deeper into the park see the waterfall. The park was beautiful and had the feel of the Pacific Northwest. As I approached the falls, rocked pathways became very slippery. Not having much time left, I wanted to get to the observation point to take some pictures. Over-confidently strutting the path, I nearly slipped many times. I became the damsel in distress to a Thai man who made it his mission to walk me up the inclines safely. Stubbornly independent (and cautious of strange men guiding me in dense foreign woods), I had to reject his reaching hand 10 times for everytime I truly needed it. Then the man insisted on being my personal photographer and snapped plenty of unflattering pictures of me (including one with a dainty butterfly perched on my hand). He was hard to lose but eventually he let me enjoy the falls on my own.

And what do you know… apparently the national park system here in Thailand does this plate business at many of its parks! After noticing the set-up leaving I slowed my step, expecting someone to run after me with my picture plate. But they missed me on the way in. (hmph.) Only when I reached my driver did I decide I’d turn back and demand my face on a plate. For Clinton, who got such a hoot out of the plate posted a couple days back. Not candid and far-less hipster-looking, Karen plate part II.

And that was my time with the driver. After a failed attempt at purchasing mangosteen (a regional fruit I haven’t tried yet), he left me at my guesthouse to forage for food. With far more variety at the day market then at my guesthouse’s restaurant, I made my way to the market by the town’s clocktower. I thought I’d pay a visit to some gem shops on the way. Many owners were friendly and let me take pictures knowing I had no intent to buy. I was shocked with the lack of security in the shops. One man, the lone inhabitant in the store, turned his back to me several times as I requested to see bigger stones! Had I been a character in a Sidney Sheldon novel I’d surely pocket some before smiling charmingly and sashaying out the door. But no, I returned to my guesthouse with only some goods from the market.