Rayong 2 - 13 July 2008

 We made the journey in only a couple of hours and Margie came and met us at a nearby shopping centre, as her house is out in the country 20 or so Kms from Rayong near the small beach town of Ban Phe and there's no way we would have found it!

Margi has been building the house for 18 months and it is now nearing completion. Built in a combination of Thai and Balinese styles - large open plan living areas, and open air bathrooms -it is a real statement. Whilst there we were glad to meet both "Dear" Margi's Thai handy man, and  a fellow Australian "See- Far."  See Far (which in Thai means "Colour of the Sky") is Margi's Australian Blue Cattle dog and she is absolutely beautiful. She came out here as a 12 week old puppy and has settled in really well. The Thais are amazed by her..particularly  her size and her total lack of fear of all wild life, she attacked and killed a 3 foot snake by whirling it over her head snapping it in half whilst we were there! Amazingly Andrew and I slept through the chaos which happened in the middle of the night leaving poor Margi to deal with it.  Margi is in safe paws with See Far to protect the house!

 Margi is also very lucky having Dear who is a very helpful cheerful soul. He lives not far from the house in a small Bamboo hut. Whilst we were there his prized fighting chicken arrived in its basket and duly  set up residence in the garage (See- Far has volunteered for the job of guarding it and keeps a careful eye on it at all times…though we are suspicious of her intentions!)  Andrew was able to assist Dear  doing some work on the roof and the garden and they communicated well via drawings and sign language despite  speaking barely a word of each other's language!

It was lovely to see Margi and whist there we had a good relax which we both realized we needed after Bangkok! We met many of Margi's friends/neighbours and colleagues over lunch and BBQs and had a really great time.

Our little BBQ hasn't seen any action since we left Australia as it doesn't seem worth it in Asia as the food is so cheap but it came in useful as Margi's hasn't yet been set up.  We went to the markets at the town of Chanthabutri and bought a huge fish which we cooked with chili and lemon grass …delicious! We confused the lady selling Sugar Cane juice by asking for all her squashed cane rather than juice ..great for the garden! Margi is seen as a bit of a novelty here being a keen gardener as as the markets are so cheap people don't seem to bother growing their own veggies so gardens are mainly ornamental. We had a good look around the rest of the markets at Chanthabutri, as ever with Asian markets a real hive of activity.  It  is a nice town and is a big centre for the sale of gems -rubies and sapphires. It also boasts the largest cathedral in Thailand which was built in the French style by Vietnamese immigrants fleeing religious persecution by the Chinese in the 18th century. It was undergoing a major renovation when we visited so we didn't get a good look but it has a good location on the river, and no doubt looks impressive without the dust sheets!

It being the wet season here we had had quite a bit of rain so it was not really beach weather but we took the hour's drive  to the beach town of Pattaya. This is a big centre for expats with a very sleazy image. Whilst  efforts are being made to attract more "family" based tourists it is still more girly bars (in or just off the main "Walking Street") and sex pats than anything on a quick viewing at least. It had a couple of very good shopping centres and a lot of international restaurants but we didn't think the beach was that great compared to others we'd seen ..though to be fair it was a bit of a bleak day weather wise. Not really somewhere we'd rush back to though.

So on Sunday 13 July Margi kindly dropped us off at the bus station and we took the 3 hour trip to Bangkok where we returned "home" to the Atlanta once more. We took the Sky train  to the Central World shopping centre where there was an open air photography display we had tried to see before in Bangkok but never got around to. A travelling exhibition it was entitled "The Earth from above" and depicted a range of aerial photographs from all around the world  by a French photographer, its aim being  to increase awareness of global environmental issues. The exhibition has been translated into 24 languages and seen in 110 cities worldwide. It was really very interesting and enclosed is the website for your information www.yannarthusbertrand.org

Just outside the shopping centre was a small temple and it seemed to be a very busy time with people queuing up to pray. It made a bit if a contrast right in the middle of the shopping centres with all the commercialism around..typical of Thailand it is a real land of contrasts.

That night after going to one of our favourite Indian restaurants we tried to have an early night as we were going to have a very early morning!  Unfortunately I couldn't get to sleep and so was very bleary when our wakeup call came at 3.30 am next morning. We caught our 4 am taxi to go to the airport from where we were flying to our next destination which was also our next country ..Hanoi the capital of Vietnam.