Comings and goings

Once again, I’ve gone wandering around without my camera. It’s Saturday night and thought I’d walk to the highway for a sit-down dinner. After last night’s visit to the bar district to play some pool, opted for a quieter night.

I have no way of knowing the name of the restaurant I’m sitting in, since the signage is all in Thai, but I think it’s the same place I ate last week. It is about a 3/4-mile walk from my apartment. A good, comprehensive menu  of soups (I think they specialize in soups), curries, stir fry, seafood, chicken, pork. They also sell beer and I saw a couple of tables order bottles of liquor. The place was very busy, always a good sign.

tom kha gai

Tom kha gai

I’m still feeling my away with Thai food so I ordered fried prawns, which came with some fried green vegetables and some fried white vegetables. Lots of breading, but good. But not enough.

So I ordered tom kha gai, a creamy coconut soup with chicken, mushrooms, lemon grass, galangal (related to ginger) and lime leaves. Tasty but spicy. 230 baht or less than $8 total for both.

I really didn’t need all this extra walking around tonight because I spent much of the day walking around, in the hot sun. I had decided to do a dry run walk to the immigration office so that I was sure where it is. The Google map information I’ve been getting has not been accurate. I knew it would be a  long walk but it turned out to be twice as far as what I thought it would be.

When I go next week to get my 30-day visa extension it will be via motorcycle taxi, not by foot.

Not content with all that exercise and sun exposure, I decided to go to the beach early to fish. The tide was just coming in, the waves were minimal, my Thai friend was fishing, and I needed to work on my tan. Now, interestingly, it’s considered somewhat in poor taste to take your shirt off on the beach, or to go swimming without a shirt.

DSC_0170Too bad. I don’t swim fully dressed. That’s what swimming suits are for. So, I pulled off my shirt, baited my hook, and waded out chest deep to cast. My friend had two lines out but hadn’t caught anything. He came over and presented me with two bait he had caught. These are exactly like what we called greenbacks in Florida, except these were large. Either they get bigger here or this was the end of their life cycle.

Anyway, neither of us hooked anything.

DSC_0172

Fishing, shopping and playtime

I’m still trying the fishing thing, and maybe I’m gaining on the knowledge part but I’m sure not gaining on the catching part. And BTW, really appreciate the jokes about my continued losing streak. But maybe today.

Why? Well, I finally decided to buy some fish for cut bait. I’ve been trying to catch something to use as bait for a week with no luck. Nothing will bite my lures and the cast net I bought was a waste of $30 – the weights are totally tangled with the net and there’s no pull string to gather the net anyway. I went online to see about ordering a 6-foot castnet from the U.S. like I used in Florida but the mailing is twice the cost of the net, with no guarantee it would make it here.

Cut bait is apparently what is necessary, according to the only other person I’ve encountered fishing on the beach. I mentioned this local guy before. He sets up with a heavy rod in a sand spike, wading out to his chest and heaving the 2-3 ounce weight and bait as far as he can. Then he just waits, just like we did for big fish off Turtle Beach in Sarasota.

giant_snakehead

Giant snakehead

He says he is already catching snakefish and something else I couldn’t identify from the remarkable sketches of the two he made in the sand for me.  He said one of the fish he caught recently weighed about 5 kilos (11 pounds). I suspect the unidentified fish might be a catfish. This afternoon I will try my new bait and tactic (but it looks like rain).

The bars and pool

The bar area here is a maze of alleys, bars, restaurants and massage parlors. It’s a song thew ride into town before 9 am and a motorcycle ride back whatever time I decide. Finding pool adversaries can be difficult but I did stumble across a bar last night with four tables and lots of Europeans playing. First impression is that there are a lot of really good players here, as evidenced by the several leagues they have going.

I managed to horn my way onto a table, simply because I asked about the tables and the person I asked was the owner, a German. The two guys on the main table let me join them for a round robin. After making my first five shots, several of them memorable, I think I had their attention. Frank, my first opponent, then proceeded to run seven balls and won. I had one turn total and joked about it afterward, to which Frank replied, “I had to. I saw you were good.”

The bar setup here is so different from Batam. Some of the bars have girls out front who are there to bring in guys and maybe get them to pay a bar fine to take them out. Unlike in Batam, these girls aren’t taking drink orders; they are there to entertain. The girls employed as waitresses and bar tenders tend to be older and heavier. So far, they all seem less happy and certainly less friendly than I experienced in Batam.

My Thai bank account

I’m sure I have a new bank account with Bangkok Bank, and my money has been sent from the U.S. into this account, but, unfortunately, I cannot access the account yet. I thought I had the correct username and password but I guess not. So, it’s a long walk to the bank tomorrow for some help.

Grocery shopping

It seems strange but I have not found a supermarket for the locals. So far, I’ve done most of my shopping at the upscale Tesco at Market Village and the Tesco mini a couple blocks from my apartment. But the locals don’t do their grocery shopping at Village Market – it’s wall-to-wall with Westerners, mostly Europeans from what I can gather. Geez, it’s almost like a retirement village. There must be somewhere besides the fresh market where locals go for their basic food/dry goods needs.

Speaking of Market Village, I found a section of beach yesterday that has a long section with umbrellas and lounge chairs. It’s directly across from Market Village, down a long, narrow, dirt alley. I’m really having a tough time, however, getting the images I saw on the beach of hundreds of pale white, mostly obese over-70 people in their Speedos and two-pieces, even bikinis, either in the water, walking the beach or huddled under their umbrellas. Not sure how anyone would dress like that (or is it undress like that?) with the bodies they have left. I left quickly, but for those interested you can order food and beverages there.

Local TV, movies

Forgetaboutit! There are very few English-language channels here on basic cable and almost nothing to watch. I may have to consider paying for movie downloads or find someone to help me get better cable. Netflix is here now but after experiencing it in North Carolina, I’m not that enthused. I used to do a slow download from another service but they are now requiring regular payments.

Also, the Market Village has a cinema but all but one of the films I saw offered Saturday on what amounted to a tour of the 4-story complex, was in English – The Revenant. The cinema is on the third floor and has a 6-alley bowling alley next door.

On the mall’s second floor is a myriad of restaurants – Japanese, Italian, Scandinavian, Thai, American (Sizzler, believe it or not, but expensive here).  I reviewed a number of the menus and you can get a meal for anywhere from $3 to $20. There is also a Baskins-Robbins and a Dairy Queen, where I ordered a strawberry ice thingy for $1.10 (12 oz). The first floor is mostly upscale clothing stores and Tesco, and the basement floor has mostly retail stores. There is a Starbucks, a McD’s and a KFC.

Local laundry

As I’ve mentioned before, getting your laundry done here is much more expensive than in Batam. Here they charge by the piece. I brought a few things to a laundry about two blocks away this morning and just picked it up five hours later. Two young ladies welcomed me with shy smiles and looks that said, “Oh no, we’re not going to understand him!” But the exchange was easy, with them handing me a number and saying to come back that afternoon.

There was maybe two kilos, including slacks, a towel and bed linens. They do the same wash, dry and iron here as in Batam but the little amount I had cleaned today cost as much as 3-4 times that in Batam. Looks like I will be doing most of my own laundry, but if I move into the first-floor unit there is a washing machine and plenty of outdoor area to hang to dry.

Vignettes

horse

You can rent a horse ride on the beach. In fact, I think you can call from one of the beachside restaurants and this guy will show up.

moon.ship2

There’s always a flotilla of 4 ships off the coast, including this destroyer – because the king’s vacation palace is here, actually right next door to my apartment.

OK, this will take some splaining. Every evening, there is a beautiful Thai woman who walks her, a yellow mixed-but-looks-like-a-small-lab. Sometimes she has her maid with her. I imagine her as a princess because she either comes from wealth or married into it. So last night, princess and a female friend show up, as usual, and then disappear behind one of the sea walls.

No biggie, but later, as I went out to fish, I could see that they were taking pictures, and Princess was in a neon green thingie, doing all the posing you would imagine a beautiful woman on the beach might be doing for a photography.

Oh. I was wishing I was that photographer, and had my camera with me, but sanity won out. But I did manage to “steal” a couple of shots of Princess photographing her photographer. Sorry guys but I was too busy watching when Princess was posing to actually take any pictures. Though that might not have been a good idea anyway.

If you don’t fish, this post won’t interest you

My bestest of friends know that I’m an avid angler. I prefer salt water because of the mystery and size differentials compared to freshwater, but either will do. So when I left the great Gulf Coast fishing for Costa Rica nearly six years ago, it was with the understanding that my future home would provide ample opportunity to fish from shore.

fishHasn’t quite worked out that way, though. In fact, I haven’t caught anything bigger than 8 inches since. And fishing opportunities have been rare, even though I lived two blocks from the beach in Jaco, Costa Rica, four blocks from the sea in Croatia, two blocks from the sea on Sicily, on an island in Indonesia surrounded by water, on an island in the Caribbean, again surrounded by water, and now in Hua Hin.

One of the main attractions of this place for an at-least semipermanent stay was its beach. It looks very much like the beaches I was used to in southwest Florida.  White sand, low wave action. There are some differences here, however, and after a week my fishing from the beach has been a failure.

This evening, instead of going to the beach to chunk a metal spoon at a seemingly empty sea, I decided just to walk the beach.  The tide was very low and there were more people than usual walking the beach. I even ran into my neighbor and his family from the first floor.

I also found some help for my fishing problems, and some hope that there are fish off this beach. About 100 meters from where I’ve been fishing was a rod and reel in a sand spike, no owner in sight. He turned out to be 50 meters away at the seawall and when I knew the rod was his I had to walk over to learn from a local.

He turned out to be very friendly and showed me his end tackle setup for weights and hooks, which he wires himself, and the bait he was using (dead shad). It looked very much like a shark setup but he said not for shark but for snakefish. These get pretty large from what I’ve seen. The tackle was also similar to what I recently bought.

My new angling friend also said the big fish start to arrive off the beach in February, through April. Don’t know what those fish are but they are likely some sort of schooling fish like jack or blues.

I also asked him how far he went out to cast – to his shoulders. So you have to walk out a ways before casting.

Always seek out the locals if you can. Kind of like tomorrow when a local woman is helping me open a bank account. Keep your fingers crossed on that one.