I was very happy when we pulled away from Don Muang airport. I had got over the first obstacle – that of getting a taxi to Pattaya without being ripped off. I sat in the back, which I was asked to do, although in Europe, I typically have a preference to sit up front with the driver for a conversation if I’m travelling alone. Anyway, I sat in the back and looked around me; I soon guessed that the driver did not understand English. I did not have a difficulty with that and settled down to look at the barren scenery in silence.
After an hour and a half, I could see that we were getting close to Pattaya. Thirty kilometres equals thirty minutes as the city will slow us down, I reckoned. Anyway, with that the driver turned to me smiled, said ‘Bia’ and turned abruptly left off the road. Luckily Thais drive on the left, as they do in the UK. He stopped the car by a ‘Seven-Eleven’ shop and opened the door for me to get out. We went in and he guided me to the upright fridge full of Bier Chang, a Thai beverage that I did not know.
He opened the fridge door and grinned. I took two, thinking that he could not drink and drive, but that if he wanted one, I had one to spare, or I could drink it myself. Covered culturally. He took two more. OK, I thought we are nearly there anyway. At the check out, he put his tins in front of mine and stepped back nimbly. Just as the cashier was ready to tell me how much with a pen and paper, he tossed a pack of cigarettes into the pot and walked away. 110 Baht or $2 the lot. Outside, I gave him a beer and the cigarettes, which he accepted thankfully. After finishing a beer and a cigarette, we were off again.
I offered him another beer but he would not take it. I never really worked out why he took two, but only wanted one, but it did not go to waste. Fifteen minutes later, we came into Pattaya along its fantastic beach view road. Pattaya bay is really beautiful, with everything you imagine a tropical beach to have, although we seemed to be lost. We were traveling at 15 kpm down a empty beach road which is five or six kilometres long. Sure enough, he was lost. He knew my hotel was off Beach Road, but had no idea where.
So, I rolled down my window and made to ask the foreigners I saw but the driver would not stop. It was mystifying. Days later I was told that Thais do not like to ask the way and rarely do. We got there thirty minutes later, which was thirty minutes late to meet my friend and he had gone.
The bar, The Pig and Whistle on Soi 7, was lovely, so I paid off the driver and went inside. The air conditioning was really appreciated and I sat down to wait for the boss, who turned out to be from England. He bought me a drink and told me that my friend had had to go, but that he would return at 8pm. I went up to my room to rest and think. Including the seven hours time difference, it had taken 28 hours to get here.