Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Two weekends in Pattaya, a Thailand beach resort

This post isn't about tea.  I've just taken a rare break from blogging, mostly due to spending two weekends on holiday beach-weekend outings in Pattaya.  For people familiar with Thailand that might seem odd, doing a family beach outing there, since that's known for being a resort themed around vice.

I just wrote a description of what's there as a Quora answer, which I'll cite all of, so there's really no point in clicking through except to see a few more pictures there:

What makes Pattaya, Thailand such a popular tourist destination? What are some of the best things there?

I was just in Pattaya over the past two weekends. It’s primary draw is as a sex tourism destination; no need to dance around that subject. I go there on family oriented vacations because it’s convenient, it’s the closest beach area to Bangkok, and taking a few hours to get there (varying with traffic density) versus 4 1/2 to 5 hours for Hua Hin makes a big difference. Cha-am is slightly closer than Hua Hin, just up the beach to the North, towards Bangkok, but not much different related to travel time.

Beyond what I’ve mentioned there are cabaret shows there where transgender (men to women) dancers perform. It’s not seedy or distasteful at all, if it sounds so, just novel, not something you see everywhere. The “cabaret” idea of seeing traditional costumes and dancing seems a bit unusual, but the only time I’ve been to one of the two main versions it wasn’t so bad.

at the Tiffany cabaret show; not my thing, but not so bad

There is a beach. It’s known for not being as clean as some of the other beaches in Thailand but I suppose the location related to where waste flows into the gulf from that city and other industrial areas would determine just how clean or dirty it actually is. We were in the water briefly this weekend; it seemed ok. It’s probably as well to split the time heavier on the side of spending more time swimming in a pool.

It’s not typical to see a lot of family vacationers there, as proportions go, but plenty of families do visit there in terms of a count. There are two large, modern water parks a good distance outside of town (Ramayana and Cartoon Network Amazone), and a local, inexpensive version in town (Pattaya Park, I think that was called). We just visited the last a week ago and went to a hotel water park themed area open to paying visitors this past weekend, at the Centara Grand Mirage. A brand new mall opened this past week, Terminal 21, interesting for having a theme on each floor as the one in Bangkok does (eg. ancient Greece is one floor, Japan another).

There are a few other attractions for kids or families but the main entertainment theme is nightlife, along with massage and such (multiple kinds). Visitors to Thailand who aren’t interested in that theme should probably go somewhere else since there are plenty of other beach area and island options.

About those weekend outings

This doesn't connect back up with the subject of tea; I often use weekend outings as a chance to take a break, from caffeine and from tea.  On the first I didn't bring any and only drank a single cup of coffee during one morning and then on the next day some tea while visiting a friend at Tea Village, a nice shop there, that also has a website here.  I took that further on the second weekend, drinking from some left-over leaves grandpa style the first morning, and skipping tea altogether for two more days.  This past week I was sick with a stomach problem (passed on from my kids) so I took two days off all caffeine, and one of those off food.

that little one was sick in this photo; she's very durable

I tend to express that my life here seems more normal and maybe even more "Western" than one might expect.  My kids love pools and water parks so that's what we were there to see and do.

other family theme vacations can work out there

Centara Grand Mirage pool area; we stayed elsewhere and visited there

jumping into the deep end, literally

Kalani couldn't really swim the first weekend and could the second; to me that was the biggest story and the most interesting experience.  It all just came together, over a year of practice and taking lessons, with some personal coaching from her brother tipping the balance.  

I'm not sure if all those details would even be interesting to other parents, never mind anyone else.  She was fearless that first weekend, swimming around in water too deep to stand up in, in spite of not having a reliable ability to swim over distance, or even to tread water.  Then the next she could do all of it, tread water, swim on the top surface, and underwater.  Part of the surprise was so much coming together; she could do freestyle, finally turning her head properly to breath, swim underwater half a pool length in the short direction, and picked up frog style swimming, kind of odd.

4 years ago it was his turn to learn; she's a year ahead of schedule

the last trip, October 2016 (we switched to going other places)

A new mall opened up here, only a week ago now, Terminal 21.  The first version of that is here in Bangkok, with different floors based on different themes.

the Eiffel tower

I was just watching some Youtube videos about dying US mall culture, kind of an old subject now, since that played out quite a bit around 5 years ago.  It came up related to Sears finally filing for bankruptcy, about two years after industry analysts first said that was immanent.  There's a mall in my hometown, Cranberry PA, that was hit hard by a JC Penny moving out, and this Sears issue will probably finally kill it.

How could Thailand be so far off the economic progression in the US?  Online retail sales never picked up to the same extent.  They will, and some malls opening now will close or be re-purposed, or older ones will fail instead.

In a sense this "being behind" is much more of a good thing than a bad one.  Let me explain.  If you (living in the US) could go back to the US culture and economic status of 20-25 years ago, would you?  That trade would involve experiencing limited scale economic growth instead of decline, infrastructure development, and economic and culture changes in a much more limited form.  That last part also relates to a lack of any form of school shootings or "crazy people" committing child abductions and mass killings, or even violent crime (ok, some of that started in the 70s and 80s in the US, but Thailand hasn't caught up to the US levels 30 years ago yet).  Unfortunately since I started this draft two days ago there was another of those very close to where I'm from, a mass-shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Thailand is actually ahead in terms of settling gender issues; there is a well-established third gender (M to F transgender), and no one cares what those people identify as, or limits their social role or work options scope, at least all that much.  Cultures just vary in different ways so it's not a great description or model to compare them as behind or ahead of each other, but to some extent doing so for aspects does seem to make sense.

There's a split in expat (foreigner) perceptions about Thailand and Thai culture I should back up and explain.  One side is a bit bitter for being disillusioned by dealing with being in a foreign culture.  On the other extreme--people tend to fall towards one or the other--expats see Thailand as more ideal than where they came from, maybe not as a paradise, but often even framing it in exactly that extreme form.  I think this relates to people making peace with a decision to leave their native country, more so than how it really is in Thailand.  Or not being able to.  Of course how Thailand actually is factors in, but people can build a balanced, positive life in different places, or fail to achieve that. 

at a new park in Bangkok since, Chula's Centennial Park in Sam Yan

Switching back up to a much more general level, it's my current impression that people can believe what they want to believe, and can round off external experience an awful lot to accommodate getting reality to match.  Do I even need to mention how this relates to Trump?  He himself acknowledged that he could shoot a person dead in public and his supporters would find a way to be fine with that.  It wasn't exaggeration, and he didn't mean it to be.  I personally accept that on the more liberal side people are criticizing many bad leadership choices that are doing great harm to the country but on both sides people can focus on believe what they want to believe.

A different expat could visit Pattaya (also with a family) and see sex workers, and talk more about how the water at the beach isn't clean, about getting stuck in traffic (one of the two trips down was a nightmare for travel time, the two back were the fastest we've covered that distance; someone could remember whichever they chose to).

Building a new mall could be seen as a cultural blight; they already had a relatively new one, and there are countless malls where we live in Bangkok.  About the vice theme my kids saw go-go dancers on the one-block walk to and from that mall (it's that out in the open; one bar and one bar-area are public view, not walled buildings).  My daughter thought it was odd that the one woman was dancing alone, never mind the part about the pole. 

"Drinking Street," that publicly open go-go bar area

an earlier photo with the mall still under construction

How did we explain that?  We didn't.  We said "that's a bar," and let it drop.  Kids pick up an awful lot so they surely got a sense there was more going on than they were familiar with but then they don't go into bars.  I kind of did, as a child, since one of my earliest memories was dropping by a Moose club when my grandparents (one set) was into that scene.  People drank; there were no shiny poles or women dancing.  I think we might have played bingo, with drunk people around.

Wrapping up, or at least heading there, the rest is what you'd expect.  We visited an "open zoo" on the way down and my kids were really happy to get back to feeding giraffes and elephants.  I was in a pool a lot, both weekends.  I don't go to bars; I more or less gave up alcohol for the Thai rainy season, a 4 month Buddhist lent, which isn't difficult because I only drink one beer a week normally.  My wife's interest-requirement was a two hour oil massage, which I typically go experience with her since she likes the company.  There are other ranges of "massage" options there but those we experience are always the higher end spa versions, on the up and up.  Readers curious about what the other range might involve could Google search "soapy massage."

this kid turned 10 since this was taken

interesting how animal ethics issues relate

I suppose different readers would interpret this take different ways.  Maybe some would think I have an ideal life, or others a boring one, or some might think I've colored what I've passed on, stressed parts that were more interesting to me and minimized others.  Of course I did; that was the one point I tried to make, that it's what we do. 

To some extent I even intentionally embrace taking a narrow perspective.  I love seeing the world through my kids' eyes; it's a beautiful world to experience.  As an example 100 times over that last weekend I heard a quote from a Donald Duck cartoon from them:  thank you my good man; may I have a spot of tea?  I would laugh and say that never gets old, and I wasn't completely kidding.  It was a little fresher that first half of the times they said it but the light in their eyes from making light of being annoying and repetitive was much cooler than the counter of experiencing a repeating track.

I guess the second half of that video tells more of a mixed story; they repeat some version of an Indian accent of someone saying "please my friend."  I think that's from school, no doubt sampled from some media source via a friend. 

It's awfully culturally insensitive for mixed race and culture kids.  Kalani has a friend who is Indian, so they get exposure to other cultures, but it's another thing putting it altogether, and yet another sorting out which expressions should be limited.  Making fun of a cartoon duck with an English accent and an Indian speech patterns would be seen differently in the politically correct US culture environment.  In that context the British duck version might not be ok either, but more likely it probably would; I think making fun of white people, even the British, is still ok.  The cartoon duck pretending to be formal didn't seem a cultural slight but the rest did start in that direction.

with a new friend from Taiwan (the girl on the right)

Americans could make fun of other Americans but it's such a sore subject these days.  To quote a Canadian acquaintance, so many seem dumb as a bag of hammers.  Science denial is a personal pet peeve; rejecting climate change or evolution are absurd but that keeps getting extended, now onto flat earth theory.


Maybe a bit too much drift through that last part, but it is interesting how culture issues play out differently in a different country, and how being around a lot of foreigners shifts that.  Or being one, for that matter.

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