Saturday, October 16, 2004

This is a photo of Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol.

I went for yet another interesting songthaew ride yesterday, into Hatyai, to meet my boss and go to immigration to get my visa extension.

Nope, no babies in my lap or anything like that...just tons of traffic as Thai's from many different provinces descended on the city of Hatyai to attend the graduation ceremony at one of the local universities.

It seems the Princess was in town to attend the graduation ceremony and hand out diplomas, which is why I ended up having a pretty eventful afternoon.

The streets in Hatyai were absolutely clogged with traffic. Truely unbelievable. I was once stuck in South Philly traffic after the Rolling Stones concert of three days duration let out at JFK stadium (circa 1982 or 1983) and even that didn't come close to what I experienced yesterday afternoon.

My boss Craig dropped me off at Tesco Lotus at around 5:00 p.m., and I ducked inside to quickly pick up a couple of things for dinner. I've got this thing for their deli's Chinese red roasted pork with sweet sauce and their rolled chicken baguettes...yum, yum....just slice em' thin, drown them in sweet hot sauce and enjoy! Ummm...ummm!

Anyway, I got out of there quickly as Lotus was packed to the hilt with people and the impending clouds outside were signaling another good soaking on the way. So, about fifteen minutes later I emerged, zipped across the walkover and picked up the first red songthaew bound for Thunglung.

Police were everwhere! I'd never seen so many of them. They were standing in the middle island in the street, one ever few meters yakking into their walkie talkies. Really, there were hordes of would have had to seen it. Traffic was bad enough, when suddenly I heard police traffic whistles going off like crazy. Suddenly the songthaew made a detour across the intersection we were at and I could see uniformed police, wearing white gloves, frantically blowing their whistles and directing traffic away from a section of roadway that had been deserted.

Putting two and two together, I figured the royal brigade was somewhere in that area, probably visiting some local businesses or picking up some eats at one of the local restaurants, so police had thoroughly blocked off traffic to this huge section of route 4.

The detour my songthaew took, into the bowels of Hatyai, was actually kind of fun. I got to do plenty of sightseeing of areas I had never been through. But, that pleasure got progressively old when it became evident that all the huge tour busses, songthaews, tuk tuk's and passenger vehicles alike, were crowding into these smaller, narrower streets....all making for a major traffic jam.

Then it began raining.

Ahhh...let me rephrase doesn't "rain" here, it pours buckets and buckets. So here we were, at a dead standstill on some distant Hatyai Soi, in the pouring rain, breathing exhaust fumes and gawking at store fronts that were now beginning to close.

I began my songthaew ride home at around 5:25 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. and we finally reached Thunglung at 8:40 p.m. Three hours or so, jammed into a crowded songthaew in the pouring rain. Alas, I didn't have to be anywhere.....nobody waiting for me at home (besides Howard) and no appointments to keep, so I just settled in and enjoyed the ride to the best of my ability.

The dark Thai kid across from me, however, looked horrified. Made me wonder what he was missing out on....a date? His mum? Hummm...guess I'll never know. He pressed the buzzer and got off somewhere short of my stop and disappeared....running like a banshee, into the downpouring darkness.

A truly interesting afternoon/evening in southern Thailand!

Posted by Hello


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