The ascend to the Tiger Cave Temple came with a price, by the evening of the next day, our leg muscles refused to contract. We found refuge in a massage parlor where 4 beautiful Thai women rubbed oil into our aching muscles and brought them back to life.
Slowly we were making our way north. Lodging in Kao Sok National Park and enjoying refreshing waterfalls; passing by Hua Hin and playing all day in the ocean; stopping by a beautiful temple in Sattahip and receiving blessings from an old monk.
Soon we were entering Pattaya, a town with tainted reputation and a place where we were planning to meet New Year.
Our plan was to check out to the pier in the city where we were planning to stand at midnight and then drive out of the city and find lodging. It was very early afternoon and we had plenty of time. The traffic into Pattaya started miles before. By five o’clock we were in the city but nowhere near the pier. We started to worry. I decided to take drastic measures and pop a U on the busy street. That didn’t work out quite as I hoped and I took a right turn into a very quiet and narrow street. Several houses later we saw our lodging. It was perfect. It was cheap, quiet and in the city. By nine o’clock, we showered, got dressed to the T and were ready to meet Pattaya.
Pattaya was loud, sweaty and full of fumes from passing cars and scooters. We came down to the Walking Street near the beach which was blocked off from four and two wheel traffic and was full of thousands of people who were lazily walking around checking out souvenir shops and noisy restaurants. The diversity of tourists was astonishing. We heard many familiar and even more unfamiliar languages. We saw faces of every shade of human color imaginable. Couples ranged from young Chinese teenagers to old Western men holding hands of young Thai women. The atmosphere was friendly and exciting. People took pictures of each other and with each other. Several times, completely random men came up to us and took pictures with us. We walked by a Russian restaurant where our countrymen were drinking vodka and dancing to the familiar Soviet songs. Clubs on the each side of the street were very loud and varied from high class striptease establishments with beautiful half-naked Russian women dancing in the glass windows to good old American bars where live music and drank laughter overpowered the noise outside. Slowly we made our way to the pier where the New Year Countdown was to take place. We situated ourselves on the sand and since we had about half an hour till midnight we decided to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Right next to us a bunch of foreign young men were sitting on an old boat turned upside down and drank beer. Noticing 4 beautiful women (us, of course), they immediately came over and offered us beer and a place on the boat. The young men turned out to be Turks, spoke excellent English and were quite entertaining.
A few minutes before midnight, the top of the pier generated a thundering and familiar bang and the public went wild under the beautiful display of fireworks. Magnificent as ever, the fireworks were coming at us from all sides. We found ourselves being little kids again. Marveling at man’s colorful creation and yelling “Ura” (a Russian cheer) from the top of our lungs. The fireworks continued for a long while and we didn’t notice when the time crept into January 1st 2010.
And that’s how we entered the New Year. On a warm Thai beach, surrounded by thousands of tourists and locals who were screaming cheers in hundreds of languages, kissing and hugging and wishing a good year. Russians have an old belief: “The way you’ll meet new year is how the year will go”. We were definitely satisfied. If the belief had any stand behind it, we shall meet many new people this year who will bring us cheers and happiness.
In the morning, we drove my sister to the airport near Bangkok. Alas, my baby had to go back to work in Taiwan and we had to say our good-byes. I do not know when is the next time I will see her. My trip in Asia shall come to an end in mid spring but Vira is planning to stay in Taiwan a while longer. I was very sad to part with her. She is my soul-mate, my supporter and one person who gives me wings. But it was time to go. We decided not to stay in Bangkok this time around and come back to it when we had to drop off Natalie which was only a week later.
Our next stop was several hours west of Bangkok: Kanchanaburi. Reading in our tourist brochure, we found an intriguing paragraph about a Temple with a Floating Nun and a nearby magnificent seven-tiered waterfall.
If only we knew what waited for us at the Erawan Waterfall...