What is happiness? Today it is the ease of walking through Thailand customs visa free for 30 days. I landed in Bangkok and found my driver easy enough. Ninety quiet minutes later I was checking into my hotel in Jomtien Beach near Pattaya City. I had not been out of Dhaka for almost 6 months and I was certainly ready. and Thailand was going to remedy that. I am never going to stay in Dhaka for 6 month straight again.
Sometimes I giggle. I just took a 2.5 hour flight to Thailand for a vacation. Years ago it would have taken a 2.5 hour flight to Florida. Today, you could not drag me to Florida kicking and screaming. It is the most violent state in the most violent country in the developed world. No thanks. Ask me to fly a few extra hours south to Merida, Mexico and you have my complete attention. The USA is like an old friend that you need to remove from your life.
I developed a bad chest cold and cough from the shitty air in Dhaka. I have started to sound like all the sickly locals coughing, hacking and horking and still not clearing my chest. I am hoping the clean air in this part of Thailand will clear it up. I was also a bit nervous that I would be denied my dive courses because my chest was so congested. Thankfully that did not happen, but more on that later.
Jomtien beach is a short ten to fifteen Bhat Bus ride to Pattaya City. It is much quieter than Pattaya City but you can get yourself into just as much trouble if you wanted to. The beach is much better, there are less people and you have room to breathe. I figured this was a good place to be because I did not want to spend my nights hanging around the bars for any length of time my first week.
I love "off season". Discounted rooms, the weather is usually good, maybe a bit of rain, there are far fewer people and the vibe is relaxed. Sure, street hustlers are still trying to drag you into their shops but that's a global thing. You could walk from where I was staying in Jomtien Beach and keeping the ocean on your right hand side, walk for hours into neighboring villages and beach zones, which I did. Food stalls were everywhere, great seafood restaurants, coffee shops to relax, and all things a beach town has to offer. Do you want a little perspective about life in Pattaya/Jomtien. The pharmacies will sell you quite literally any sex drug that you want, plus some I have never heard of, out front in full display in nice kiosks. No photos allowed, only browsing. Remember, this is the town "old white men come to die".
I had a day to wander around before my first SCUBA lesson so wander I did. The main beach drag was the same as anywhere else. Beach on one side of the road and shops on the other. The thing I enjoyed the most from the first day doing the tourist walk. Cars drive sensibly, there were no horns and cars actually stopped at pedestrian crosswalks to let me cross. It was the anti-Dhaka.
Thailand is home to probably the most 7/11s in any country, much like OXXO in Mexico. However, these shops were not like anything in Canada. There was a full liquor cabinet for sale where cigarettes are usually sold. I am not sure what the drinking age is in Thailand but there is obviously no age restriction for selling booze.
As for food. It's all about the seafood here. I am hit or miss with seafood. I do like it, most of it but it is never the first thing I look at on a menu, even in a seafood restaurant. No worries, there were many more options including Pork Ribs. Lovely lovely pork. Dhaka, being in a Muslim country is not a place to find pork products easily. It can be done but when it is readily available, even in a seaside town with fresh seafood, pork wins every time.
After 6 months in Bangladesh, I finally got out for a well-deserved vacation. I was sipping various beverages, eating a variety of food in a very gluttons manner, breathing clean air in the relatively quiet zone that is Jomtien Beach. I almost forgot what watching a calming beach scene with a colorful sunset was about. It is disturbing what we allow ourselves to get used to as being normal. Dhaka is as far from normal as you can get. Recently it was chosen as the 3rd worst city in the world to live in, ahead of only Damascus, Syria and Lagos, Nigeria.
What we can get used to if we allow ourselves should not be the rule, it should be the exception.