Chinese Food At A Top Bar

A few weeks ago it was announced that the Corner House Bar in Rompho, Pattaya had done a deal with a local Chinese takeaway company called Wok N Rok, with the outcome being, the bar would be hosting a special buffet featuring Wok N Rok food.

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Going forward, the Corner House will also be offering Chinese cuisine from Monday to Saturday, so not only do I have access to some of the best delicacies in town, I can now eat it at one of my favourite bars.

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I decided to pop along to the buffet night and took my Nikon D750 with me to grab a few photos.

The food is cooked in a typically British style of Chinese cuisine, similar to what you find in almost any town or city across the UK. The chef is Thai but she spend many years working in Chinese restaurants in Scotland, so this for me is like a piece of home.

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My favourite is Chicken Curry, I cannot order a Chinese without having a curry, and Wok N Rok offer a fantastic variety of curries including beef, pork, chicken and special curry.

I am also partial to some Sweet ‘n’ Sour or Spare Ribs in either Gravy or Barbecue Sauce or in some instances, I will even have them dry.

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Wok N Rok have an extensive menu so it could take me some time and many visits to see Stuart and Phetch at the Corner House before I have worked my way through what’s on offer.

The buffet was a huge success as people ventured in over a four hour period.

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I hope that the daily service will take off, for Chinese restaurants are few and far between in the city of Pattaya.

I only took a few photos on the night, mainly due to a variety of circumstances but the food as you can see is amazing.

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The Corner House rarely do things by half measures and this was no exception. Everyone appeared to enjoyed their “All You Can Eat” buffet and washed their meal down with a few drinks of their choice.

Sadly I got caught up in other things and did not get the opportunity to sample the self service fare on offer but I will be around soon to order my favourite curry.

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Nom on the other hand, delved in and sampled the delicious food from what was, a substantial buffet.

Can you do it again Stuart?

And we need another Rompho party night 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party Times In Pattaya

It has been a while since I found time to update my blog but despite this, I have been active with the camera, although not as much as I would have liked.

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I still have an ongoing issue with my Nikon D750 but there is little I can do until I find a way to get my D610 delivered to me from Scotland.

Most of my attention has been taken up by parties, a subject that often involves great hilarity and meeting new and wonderful people here in Pattaya.

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Take my first image for instance. I was at a birthday party for a good friend “Phetch” when I spotted a gorgeous little girl enjoying a lolly. I introduced myself to her mother and asked permission to take a few photos.

The result is an image of an angelic little girl.

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My next offering is of the birthday girl herself and her boyfriend Stuart as he presents the birthday cake. This lovely couple own the Corner House in Rompho.

Next we have two images that for me, were the best of the night. Wan attended the party and sat beside myself and Nom. She had a couple of drinks and got up to dance. At the time however, she was on the stage and singing along with the band, providing me with a few classic images.

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Wan is one that you never take your eyes off, for you just do not know what she will do next.

The image of the lady singing (the one WITH the microphone) sings with a another chap that I have never managed to discover their name either as a duo or own identities. They are often seen entertaining around Rompho though.

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They are an excellent duo and produce some great cover versions of rock standards and ballads.

Staying at the Corner House Bar, I have included one of Nom, taken with Wan, before either of them had been dancing.

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I was going to say they were taken before any alcohol was consumed but that may be a lie.

Shortly after Phetch’s party, I was invited to another party for my good friend “Dong” er Martin.

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Martin and his delightful partner Oil, own New Country Road Bar (NCR) in Rompho, a short walk from the Corner House. I had assisted with some arrangements for this event, following the highly successful Jerry Lee Carlson gig at the NCR. Click here for photos and blog article.

Martin, like Stuart, has been very supportive of me during troubled times, and I owe this pair my very existence in Thailand. Yes you know who to blame now 🙂

Dong as he is affectionately known is pictured above.

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The entertainment for this came in the form of a Scottish lassie living in Pattaya by the name of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Stephanie. Steph does a lot of oldies like her name suggests, with a bit of hip shakin’, gyrating and knee grinding thrown in.

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One of the guests was a guy called John, another top man living here in Pattaya. John loves to dance, especially to the likes of Chuck Berry and despite being in his 70s, the man can boogie all night – almost non-stop.

Where he gets his energy from I have no idea but I wish I had half of it. Stamina beyond belief!

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It is incredibly rare for me to feature in my photos, mainly because I am almost always behind the lens.

But due to camera issues, another splendid chap known as Marcus attended, with a view of offering advice but as a result of his presence, I got some time to be on the receiving end of the camera. Marcus is a top photographer in his own right.

This one is of Nom and I, which would usually only be captured on a phone picture.

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Anyone hosting a party in Pattaya should really look into hiring the Jäger girls. These two lovelies work for free, promoting Jägermeister and other drinks such as Jim Beam.

The deal is simple, they will sell customers one measure from your own stock and they will provide a free drink from their collection. The guest gets two drinks for the price of one, the bar gets the sale they may never have had and everyone gets inebriated. Result!

It is difficult to say no to a Jägerbomb when a two ladies are offering a free one, along with a photo too.

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So what happens when customers get free Jägerbombs and Jack Beam? See for yourself 🙂

I don’t know the girl standing behind Nom but she was the life and soul of the party. She had everyone in tears of laughter all night long. A top girl and one that would be welcome at any party of mine. Here she has bent a drunken Nom over and well – I will leave the rest to your imagination 🙂 Jenny can be seen sitting on the bar looking weary.

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Another classic featuring the wonderful Julie, who is a regular with husband Steve at both aforementioned bars. Steve and Julie love to dance and are in fact, featured on many video recordings from this night. Friendly people who liven up every party they attend.

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The image above is one of my favourites. I had just met Karin for the first time and found her to be an outgoing person who loves to sing and enjoy herself. I snapped this photo when she was laughing and chatting with her friend Poi. Completely natural and one that I am proud of.

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Next is Martin’s girlfriend oil, who was still reasonably sober at the time but like the majority of Thai ladies, they love to dance. And boy can she dance! Later in the evening she was found on top of the bar with Jenny dancing to many party hits.

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Above, we have Poi and her magician boyfriend. The latter entertained us with some magic tricks when we required a bit of respite from the antics going on inside the bar.

Rompho throw the best parties ever. I have attending parties galore since arriving here and very few disappoint. Often people get very drunk but you never see anyone causing trouble. No requirement for bouncers here.

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I will finish with a photo taken at Phetch’s party at the Corner House, simply because I wasn’t sure what was going on but again, it depicts fun and beautiful people. Well OK – Stuart adds the fun part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven In Pattaya

What a fantastic couple of weeks I have enjoyed as far as music is concerned. Firstly, I went to see Helmut and Friends at the wonderful Hemmingways in Jomtien, where the band blew me away, with some amazing cover versions of soul, blues and rock tunes.

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Helmut is a guitar maestro and handles everything from Mark Knopfler to Gary Moore. In fact, the whole band are superb and if you haven’t seen them and you are in the Pattaya area, head along to Hemmingways on a Thursday evening from 20:00 and observe an awesome band in action.

The food in the bar is rather tasty too, I hasten to add.

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However, this post is about a certain Jerry Lee Carlson from Sweden and HĂĄkan Nelson, from the same country. The pair played four gigs in Pattaya and I was fortunate to see two of them.

Initially I ventured out to The Triangle in central Pattaya, where a large crowd gathered to enjoy the show and secondly at New Country Road Bar (NCR) in Rompho, which is located in the Rompho Complex in Jomtien area of the city.

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Many people said the event would never work in Rompho but my friend Martin asked me to promote it for him and I did just that. Firstly with posters and flyers then numerous videos supplied by Sweden’s number one rock ‘n’ roll star, Jerry.

Jerry has played all over the world, including tours of Europe with his legends show, featuring tributes to Elvis, Roy Orbison and of course Jerry Lee Lewis.

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He has recorded a number of albums, appeared on TV and radio and is simply, one of the best entertainers you will ever see.

A lot of planning and preparation went into the NCR event, hours of hard work, hiring equipment, tables, covers in case it rained, food and so much more. Was it worth it?

Damned right it was.

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NCR attracted 102 people seated, plus 16 inside the venue and approximately 40 bystanders, who watched from the sidelines, due to either a lack of seating or they were enjoying the event from another bar.

Jerry kicked off the show as always with thundering rock ‘n’ roll classics from his hero Jerry Lee Lewis. He sang the hits of Elvis, Fats Domino, Hank Williams and even did a rendition of a Robbie Williams hit, just to show his versatility.

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Rock, country, blues and boogie woogie tunes all blasted out from the venue. HĂĄkan Nelson on drums was his usually faultless self ashe followed Jerry’s left hand to keep the tempo going.

People came from other bands to watch the gig. Local media in the form of Pattaya People were present to record video material, which will air shortly. Love Pattaya were represented too and kindly supplied the bar staffs shirts.

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Bar owners came from pubs in Pattaya and Rompho to enjoy a fantastic show.  Many people came to Rompho for the first time and hopefully they will return with other new faces for future events.

Jerry sang “Great Balls Of Fire”, “Whole Lotta Shaking”, “High School Confidential”, Hound Dog”, Bonnie B”, ” Mean Woman Blues”, “Lewis Boogie” and many more classics from the golden era of music.

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If ever there was a man born to entertain, Jerry Carlson is that man. He is a genius on a keyboard/piano and sounds identical to a certain Mr. Lewis, when the legend was in his prime.

He also does a great impression of Andy Kaufman’s fictional character Latka Gravas from the hit US sitcom “Taxi”.

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Jerry also impressed with a version of “Take Me Home Country Roads” with a “NEW” added into the lyrics, just for the bar. He sang ” Blueberry Hill” replacing Blueberry with Phratamnak to give the song a local feel about it. Phratamnak Hill is a popular area in Pattaya with tourists.

Yours truly even acted as compere for the night, introducing Jerry and HĂĄkan. Not something that was planned, I can assure you but it’s amazing what you can be persuaded to do following a few Smirnoff Midnight’s.

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Jerry did three sets and even came back for an encore or two once he had washed the sweat from his face because it was incredible hot on Saturday evening.

Like many others, I felt disappointed when the show came to its conclusion. The guys had entertained us for a couple of hours but I would have happily listened for another two hours.

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I love rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, especially when it is produced to this standard. But all good things have to come to an end – till next time that is. Jerry and HĂĄkan’s return cannot come fast enough and rumours are rife that they may return as a trio. I hope so!!

Next up NCR have Rock ‘n’ Roll Stephanie, who will feature at Martin’s birthday party. Steph, like me, is Scottish and does a fair bit of hip shakin’ during her act.

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If that event proves successful it will pave the way for further live music events at NCR, which can only help to attract visitors to the area, which in turn will benefit the many other bars and restaurants in the complex.

I happen to know a few great singers and bands in the UK, who if they ever fancied a busman’s holiday to Pattaya, could be catered for.

Ziggi – your audience awaits you 🙂

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Helmut & Friends At Hemmingways

I have visited Hemmingways a few times for food but I have never ventured into the bar/restaurant on a Thursday. This is when they have their live music nights, which features a band known as Helmut and Friends.

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Manager Mark, had previously invited me to come along on a Thursday evening but time had always been an issue for me. However, when assisting with a promotional project for a good friend, who just happened to want to see the group, it was a sealed deal.

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But there was something else to factor into the equation.

Pranom’s mother was visiting from Roi Et and I wanted to take her to a pleasant eating establishment, where I knew the food would be of an exceptional standard and the surroundings would match the quality of the cuisine.

So with these two details taken into consideration, it had to be Hemmingways.

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As always we were greeted by one of their friendly staff as we entered the bar. A smile and a warm welcome are not unusual in Thailand but the employees here are top drawer.

The band had set up but were 30 minutes away from commencing their show. So we took the opportunity to order our food and a drink.

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I have to confess that the staff at Hemmingways are exceptional, as mentioned above.

They look after you from the minute you walk in the door. They all speak very good English, which is a huge bonus, even though I was with two Thai ladies.

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The food as always was tasty and well presented with large portions. The ladies enjoyed a Thai offering from the extensive menu and I went for a burger that was put together following  my instructions.

I was armed with my camera, for I had agreed with the bar that I would take a few images for the venue and the band.

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Having never heard Helmut and Friends play previously, I was keen to perceive what they had to offer. I had listened to mixed reviews but 90% of the people I spoke to, rated them very highly.

They would not disappoint.

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I had a twenty minute chat with Helmut before they commenced playing and discovered that they often performed as a five-piece outfit, fronted by Filipino singer Jovy Del Rosario, who by all accounts is a fantastic vocalist.

Alas, on Thursday, there were playing as a four-piece band and one wondered if it was going to be a second rate show. But they were far from that!

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They began with a number of slow songs, mainly, I would imagine, because people were still enjoying Hemmingways’ cuisine. Songs such as “My Girl” provided light entertainment, whilst the diners enjoyed their food.

The band sprung to life during their second set of the evening with an absolutely brilliant version of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, done in their own impeccable style. The vocals on the song from Jayson Camilo were astonishing.

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They continued with well known hits such as “Africa” and “Down Under” and even had the audacity to cover Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summer Time”, which again was flawless.

During many of their songs, the band can be observed sharing jokes and generally having a great time, which often had the audience laughing along with them.

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Helmut is a huge Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits fan and let us see just how good a guitarist he is with a variety of amazing solos.

Anyone who can replicate, Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing” has to be a genius on a guitar and the song suited his vocals to a T, to quote an old idiom.

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This was jaw dropping stuff from Helmut and appreciated by those in the bar.

Then to show us their true versatility, they sang an uptempo version of Dean Martin’s “Volare” and and worked a treat. Vocals being from Jayson once more.

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In their third set they did many rock ‘n’ roll songs from the likes of Chuck Berry before displaying their versatility with Stevie Wonder classics and “Get Down On It” from the disco era. The bass playing on the Kool and the Gang hit from Jeckson Echavez was exceptional.

Drummer Marvin Javier, provided the beat and held the band together as they played hit after hit, from almost every genre of music you can imagine. The keyboard skills from Jayson and lead guitar solos from Helmut, truly are world class.

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Add into the equation, the amount of fun the band have as they play for you, and you really do have a fantastic ensemble for parties, night clubs or any other event you care to name.

Hemmingways have secured Helmut and Friends every Thursday from 20:00 and I would highly recommend, popping along to see them play. The venue is a high class establishment, spacious, air conditioned, free Wi-Fi and offers a huge selection of draught beers, wines and spirits.

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And in between the group’s sets, you can enjoy watching sport on one of their many televisions, strategically placed around the venue. They even have a beer garden, should you care to sit outside.

I would like to give a mention to the staff who work at Hemmingways. Rarely will you meet a nicer group of people, who treat their customers with the utmost respect.

From the minute you enter the premises, to the moment you leave, the crew at Hemmingways ensure you want for nothing.

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If you haven’t been there – it is well worth making the effort, whether it is for live music, excellent food or to view a sporting event on TV, Hemmingways is deserved of a visit.

Helmut and Friends were: Helmut Schachtner on vocals and guitar from Germany, Jayson Camilo, keyboard and vocals, Marvin Javier on Drums, Jeckson Echavez on bass,  all from the Philippines.

Missing was Jovy Del Roasario, whom I will make a point of going to see very soon. When someone tells you that “she will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up”, you have to take notice.

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By the way, the Hemmingways staff are a fun loving bunch too, happy to get involved with the photography.

Thanks to the band and to the management and staff. See you all soon I hope.

 

 

 

 

Songkran 2017 – The End

I wrote earlier that Songkran 2017 had so far been a huge disappointment compared to last year. But the Thai people were just saving the best for last.

Today, I travelled to Rompho Market, a large complex of bars, street food, massage shops, barbers, restaurants and other small businesses.

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I had observed from my condo window, that an assortment of small stalls were set up along the roadside, which are not normally there. Curiosity got the better of me so I had a sneak peak at what was going on.

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Street vendors were selling food, water guns, waterproof pockets and a variety of other items, which may prove useful for the water events and those in attendance.

But what was more surprising was the vast amount of people who had gathered by the side of the road, with one goal in mind – to immerse people in water.

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Now I am a good two miles from the centre of Pattaya and have never witnessed the likes of this previously. As I headed towards Rompho in my taxi, there were literally thousands of people. lining the streets and showering passersby with water.

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The traffic congestion was horrendous but far from boring. I could have spend all day watching the antics of the locals as they went about the business of soaking people or indeed being soaked in return.

A guy had a fire hose and was showering people as the they passed by in open backed pick-ups. Pick-up and trailers were full of people and containers of water. Again, there was only one place that water was going.

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People were dancing in the middle of a four lane road, which had cars using the wrong side just to make some distance, including my impatient taxi driver.

It was party time in Pattaya at last. A time for me to attempt to capture the action.

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However my camera was very much tucked away in my bag and remained there till I got to Rompho. Then I went in search of the hilarity.

It is fair to say that the majority of the people who take part in the shenanigans are either girls or kids. The men of Rompho preferring to remain in one of the fifty bars, although that did not always guarantee safety, as you can see in the second image from the top.

My good friend Jeff was treated to bucket of icy water as he enjoyed a beer.

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People walk around with buckets of what is either flour or talcum powder mixed with water, to form a paste, which they then use to cover a persons face with the substance.

I am not sure what the significance is but most people welcome the temporary facial.

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I had two fears. One was someone pouring a large bucket of water over me and drenching the camera and the other was being hit in the eye with the high powered jet from one of the water guns.

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The camera is allegedly waterproof and has had a number of wet days over the years.

The eyes however; well let’s just say one of these guns could blind someone.

I was hit in the eye on day one and I can tell you, it hurt like blazes. I did not hold back when telling the guy he was an idiot for aiming at my face. He did apologise profusely I have to add.

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Songkran from a photography point of view is a fantastic time. I only wish I had a back up camera so I could risk getting right in amongst the action but having only one with me, I opted for safer ground.

Today was the final day of the celebrations. The people of Thailand will no doubt party throughout the night but tomorrow, it will be back to work for most.

The image above of my mate Jimmy getting wet, came about because I instructed the girls and kids to target him.

This was actually the last in a series of six images. The best ones were taken seconds before but alas they were also blurry and no good.

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So it’s a sad farewell to Songkran 2017 but I sincerely hope I am around for the 2018 celebrations.

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Thomas And The Power

Anyone who knows me, will be well aware that I have a great love of music, especially live music. When it is done well that is.

Since arriving in Thailand, good music has been lacking in my life. There has been exceptions of course such as the fantastic “Jerry Lee Carlson” from Sweden but generally speaking, there isn’t much on offer here.

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Yes there are some excellent Thai bands but they are usually let down by the vocals and again, I will emphasise, there are exceptions to this rule.

Rules of course are meant to be broken.

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I have heard a couple of groups who impressed. One from Jakarta at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pattaya and another at The Corner House in Jomtien, this time from the Philippines.

But overall I haven’t been overwhelmed by the what has been on offer in Pattaya.

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Yes there are fantastic singers in the city but many rely on backing tracks and for me, this does not constitute live music. The karaoke styled singers are fine for background music or light entertainment but they cannot be taken seriously unless they play “live” with a band and without backing tracks.

Some are actually very good, for again, there are always exceptions to the rule but generally speaking, it has to be live for me.

I will take a moment to say that I know of at least two singers, who could play on any stage. They have the talent for sure but lack ambition or drive to take that vital step. I won’t put names to them, for that would be wrong of me – but I really wish they would take a chance and develop the talents they obviously have.

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I would kill to see certain entertainers here in Pattaya.

Some of the rockabilly or country bands I saw in Scotland or even a few of the many rock bands I took photos of across the UK in the year leading up to my departure from Scotland. I can always dream I suppose.

Busman’s holiday perhaps for singers/groups maybe?

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Anyway, I diversify.

A friend I met at a gig, contacted me and asked me to attend one his shows – I agreed but with trepidation.

Sure I knew he was an excellent drummer for I witnessed his ability when he performed with Jerry Lee Carlson but I knew nothing of the others he was performing with under the banner of “Brian Thomas and the Power”.

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As always I arrived early at the venue, which I knew well. In fact it was one of the first, if not “the” first bar I drank in when I arrived in Pattaya in April 2016.

Back then, every bar was new to me and I was keen to explore but I returned to the Lion Pub frequently in my first three months in Thailand, mainly for food.

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The Lion Pub is a large spacious venue, filled with high tables and stools, numerous TVs,  a couple of pool tables and a stage.

It is an excellent bar that also serves wonderful food and prides itself on its coverage of all sporting events.

If it is on, just ask at the bar and it will appear on one of the many TVs.

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However, I had never attended a music night at the Lion Pub, so not only was the band unknown to me but I didn’t know what to expect from the sound and lighting on the night either.

The latter of course being important to me as I was armed with my Nikon D750.

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The warm up for the band seemed to be prolonged and at times I considered vocalist Brian to be either a perfectionist or somewhat pedantic as he strived for a polished sound before commencing the show,

I guess a bit of both but as I was soon to discover, it was worth the wait.

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The band play a mixture of rock and soul music but they do lean heavily towards soul, even when performing rock classics. Not that they do any songs in their repertoire an injustice. Far from it, in fact.

They have an original feel about their sound that gives a uniqueness to the songs they deliver.

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Brian is an excellent vocalist. Being from New York, there is no requirement for him to put on a fake “American” accent. It comes natural.

He reminded me at times of another American singer, Huey Lewis. I am not sure if he will enjoy that comparison or not. Time will tell 🙂

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Brian is an accomplished guitar player covering both rhythm and lead variations, again with a soul music style about his play.

The bass guitarist Scott, provided the beat along with HĂĄkan on drums and to be honest, when you added in the saxophone played by Noi, the sound was phenomenal, even before any vocals were applied.

It was evident that I was in the company of a proficient set of musicians.

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The band played a variety of well known tunes that had the audience’s feet tapping from the start.

But more was to follow when seventy-three year old John, arrived and gave the evening another dimension and the dance floor a purpose.

John loves to dance, especially to rock ‘n’ roll, which the band duly provided.

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Once John was on the floor, the ladies soon joined him much to the enjoyment of those in attendance.

Back to the band. They covered many famous and well known songs, from Motown and other soul and rock sources. INXS, The Blues Brothers, Chuck Berry, Johnny Otis, Johnny Kid and the Pirates, the Temptations, Rufus Thomas to name but a few of the artists covered by Brian and the the guys.

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The spectators were invited to join in during audience participation slots. Yes the old “na na na na na” permits everyone to take part, irrespective of what language you speak.

Overall, I was impressed by Brian and the Power and would happily venture out to see them again. I would recommend them to anyone who loves live music.

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I am always seeking good music shows, so if you know of any – get in touch. Pattaya only for obvious reasons, unless someone fancies taking me on a musical adventure 🙂

Songkran 2017

I arrived in Thailand on April 12th, 2016, just in time for the Songkran celebrations, which commenced on the thirteenth of the month.

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What an experience it was too!

Arriving from Scotland, I was thrown in at the deep end as Thailand celebrated its New Year. And I have to confess, the Thai people know how to enjoy themselves and have fun.

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It was partly because of these festivities and one or two other lifestyle changes, that influenced my decision, not to take my return flight back to my homeland. It was time for me to try something new and I believed that I had discovered just the place to begin a new and exciting life.

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When I arrived I was in the company of a fellow Scot and his Thai lady, Kenny and May. Five weeks later, I was on my lonesome. But I managed fine, met knew friends, and of course met a fantastic woman. We hit if off immediately.

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Now one year on, It is Songkran again and I was desperate for the celebrations to get underway so that I could venture out with my camera. The first day was a huge disappointment however. There was a lack of bars participating in the event compared to last year, so the hunt for a suitable vantage point to shelter from the water games was not forthcoming.

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I sat in a bar overlooking the road but alas, I failed to achieve a clear view of the activities.

Today though, I went alone, found a line of bars on the beach that were all actively immersing people with water as they passed by. I chose somewhere as close as I dared to be, for the safety of my photography equipment. It is allegedly waterproof but I don’t like to chance my luck.

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I had my first beer in over a month in bar number one, took some photos and repeated my activity in two other bars close by. Thai people love to have their photo taken and will often approach me to enquire where they may see the photos later. My Facebook friends list grows constantly because of this.

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Once I had enough images, I walked through the small alleys, taking the hits from the mixture of welcoming warm water and the incredibly freezing cold wetness from the bars that added copious amounts of ice to their supplies.

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The look on people’s faces when they are suddenly saturated in ice cold water is truly worth seeing. It is however, a different experience when it happens to you. Remember it is 32 degrees in Pattaya when someone pours icy fluid down the back of your sweaty shirt. It certainly comes as a surprise!

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Songkran is the celebration of Thialand’s New Year and is a “must see” tourist attraction. It offers not only the water sports as I call it but there are parades with people being transported around on the back of lorries dressed as anything from sailors to Thai traditional dress.

Music blares from every bar participating and massive containers are alongside the venues to hold the water, which is dispensed over walkers either by small buckets or water guns.

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It is believed that the water washes away bad luck amongst other things. So when a Thai person pours water over your head, they are basically wishing you a Happy New Year and a prosperous future.

When a tourist does it, well its because they are being childish and joining in the fun. And it is highly entertaining for those who like to participate.

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Many expats, flee the country at Songkran because they hate the time of year. I prefer to endorse it and engage in it as much as possible. I will offer myself for target practice to any child with a water gun or bucket, then enjoy their huge grins as they see me grimace when I discover the water is Baltic.

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This, for me is Thailand. Songkran, the rural provinces with the rice fields, water buffalo and ladies adorned in traditional Thai dress, is what the country is all about.

So if you ever come to the “land of smiles” do it during Songkran. You may never go home again!

Everyone Loves A Party

Since arriving in Pattaya, Thailand in April 2016, I have enjoyed many wonderful parties, typically in the area known as Rompho. My latest venture into the nightlife of Pattaya was no exception.

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Rompho is a complex of bars and other small businesses all set in one location. It is said that there are fifty bars within the complex but if I am honest, I have frequented around a dozen or so.

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I have my favourites that I used to visit often but since moving to a new condo, three kilometres away from Rompho, I am not seen just as often as I would like to be.

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But every so often, I do return, mainly to see friends or maybe I am passing by whilst out on one of my 10 kilometre walks in the sun and I pop in. I always get my haircut at one of the barbers in Rompho, just so I can say “hello” to people I know.

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Recently I was invited to a double birthday party, although it may have been my camera that was asked for more than me 🙂

Never one to turn down a good party (within reason), I packed my bag with my Nikon D750, my SB700 flash unit and a couple of lenses and set out to do what I enjoy most. Getting drunk! No – seriously – taking photos.

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When I arrived I was delighted to see that the band were one that had appeared at the venue before, the location being, the Corner House Bar in Rompho. Despite having photographed the band previously, I still don’t know if they have a name. They certainly didn’t the first time I saw them. But when you are adept with your instruments and fronted by a talented vocalist, it doesn’t matter what you call the band!

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It was the lead guitarist who attracted my attention. The man was made for the camera. He has one of those lived in faces that every photographer hopes to stumbleupon. AND he is willing to pose as he plays, acting up for the big shot. My opening image features this man, and once again, I apologise for not knowing his name. Next time I will ask.

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The party, as always at the Corner House, was a huge success and my role was to capture as many of the guests on camera as possible.

The celebrations were for Stuart, the gaffer and his friend Chris from Luton, who were both honouring each other’s birthdays. Why we celebrate being a year older is beyond me. I would rather rejoice if they discovered a way to become a year younger!!!

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My second image is one of my favourites, for there is nothing more rewarding than photographing good looking people. I captured this lovely couple as they entered the bar.

Next up is a man with a face that you cannot forget. His beard is distinguished and the extraordinary ponytail, if that is what it’s called, is an eyecatcher.

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The bar staff in most bars in Pattaya are worth concentrating on. This image of the dark haired beauty, is the Corner House’s cashier – Bee.

Then we have the girl in the green dress, who was sat opposite me and my girlfriend, Nom. But I bet she regrets sitting at the photographer’s table, for when I got bored, my attention switched to her. She was a star it has to be said, posing like a true model but unfortunately I missed most of her ingenuity whilst striking a pose and she wasn’t one for repeat performances. However, the photos of her that were taken when she forgot about my presence, provided some fun shots.

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Then we have birthday boy Chris and one of his friends from England. Two very nice guys. Chris, went to the trouble of buying every lady in the bar a flower from one of the many flower sellers, who come round Rompho. The girl with the roses must have thought it was Christmas.

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A Scottish friend and rock ‘n’ roll singer appears next. Stephanie was there for various reasons but one was the hope of getting the opportunity to belt out a few songs. She gave us three renditions of Chuck Berry classics to mark the passing of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Steph is well known around Pattaya, often seen singing in a variety of bars. This time however, she performed with a very good band, and was awesome. Not that she is bad without the band of course. Best get that in before I get thumped!

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I have included one of that man again, the lead guitarist but this time with an artistic approach. I set the camera to F2.8 and got close up, zoomed in, so that I achieved a depth of field that blurred the closest point of his guitar. The focal point being his plectrum.

Now the gentleman who looks like he is crooning his way through a Frank Sinatra song or belting out a power ballad, is actually singing “Happy Birthday” to Stuart and Chris. In another life, he could be a soul singer, at least for photographic purposes. I love this image.

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The presentation of the birthday cake to Stuart from his lovely partner and soon to be wife, Petch. I have much to thank Stuart for but that is something I won’t go into here, suffice to say that I am honoured to be associated with him.

The two beautiful girls are again anonymous, for either I cannot recall their names or I forgot to ask. Well I was drinking copious amounts of Vodka at the time. But they take a lovely photo and that is all that matters to me.

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Another good man, playing pool. Steve, who asked for an action shot of himself, which may not be the best term to use in the city of sin, as described in certain newspapers.

What’s going on over there then? The boys from Luton seem interested in something but I have no idea what caught their attention. I am also at a loss as to what is going on behind them 🙂

I will leave you with another image of a man that I could photograph all day or night in this instance. Again the aperture on the camera is set to blur anything close or in the background as I focused in his face.

Many thanks to Stuart for the invitation to his party. May there be many more.

The whole collection can be found by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day, Thai Style

Last Saturday, I took to Beach Road in Pattaya, to take in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was a scorcher of a day and at first I believed my information regarding the time the parade would commence was wrong.

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I popped into one of the many bars along Beach Road, trying to determine if the parade was past, had I missed it, was I early or was I even at the wrong location.

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After forty-five minutes, I gave up and decided to take my camera elsewhere.

I was only left the vicinity by ten minutes when I was informed it had started. I walked with great haste back to the beach in time to catch the procession.

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First to approach me were the bands and there were a few. There wasn’t a great deal of music being played as those involved paid homage to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in 2016, having served just over seventy years and the nation’s monarch.

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They were followed by a number of disabled people, some in wheelchairs, others more able bodied but clearly physically or mentally impaired. This for me was one of the highlights. You have to give praise to the organisers, schools and institutions, who made this little piece of magic happen for those lovely people.

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Those who took part were clearly thrilled at their involvement and it was clear to see, they were having fun. One fellow passed me, waving as it to say “take my photo” as he clung to the the back of a vehicle that was slowly pulling him along.

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As always at any parade held in Thailand, you will find beautiful ladies involved. On Saturday, we were treated to the gorgeous Hooters and dance studio girls along with the ladies who passed by in traditional Thai dress.

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My favourite form of photography is working with people. Whether it is in a studio, a football match, a concert, a party or like this one, a parade. I am in my element with people to aim my lens at. I love nothing more that interacting with anyone who wishes to get in front of my camera.

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Thai people seem to adore having their photo taken and will happily stand and pose, even if it means holding up the parade – and they did just that, much to my pleasure.

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Of course we were treated to men, women and children dressed up in their green garbs, especially for the day, and with bright sunshine, the colours were enhanced as they wandered up the road.

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Lorries and cars decorated in a variety of diverse adornments were seen by the large crowds that had gathered. Cameras clicked away as the procession slowly worked its way towards Walking Street.

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There was of course the comical outfits too, which was matched by those who had spent hours or possibly days preparing for the event.

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It wasn’t quite as fabulous as the Buddha festivals I have attended but it was still something to behold and generated a lot of interest in the city.

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There are numerous Irish bars to be found in Pattaya, some of which I have frequented and had a grand time. I think every bar or bar owner had contributed in one way or another.

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I think overall, the children stole the show. The youngsters were obviously delighted to be taking part, and their huge smiles filled onlookers with delight.

So here’s hoping I live long enough and remain in the Kingdom of Thailand to see another St. Patrick’s Day or maybe even ten 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hua Hin, Thailand

I have, at the time of writing, lived in Pattaya, Thailand for ten months and I have enjoyed every minute my time here. The land of smiles has, for the most part, defeated my clinical depression to the point that I rarely have to rely on medication. Considering the many years I suffered from this debilitating illness, this is by no means something I claim lightly.

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Thailand is a beautiful country. I have hardly touched the surface of what it has to offer in terms of tourist attractions.

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I have visited Bangkok, Roi Et, Chantaburi and of course Pattaya I have travelled around on foot, bike and bus, to learn what the city of Pattaya has to offer. There is an abundance of must see and do tourist attractions in Chonburi Province. It is not just Walking Street I can assure you.

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I was afforded the opportunity to visit the town of Hua Hin on the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand when the new passenger ferry services came into operation early January 2017.

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The ferry is of a catamaran design and glides over the waves at an average speed of 27 knots or 30mph. Security is high at both sides with airport style scanners and searches before you are permitted into the waiting areas.

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The staff are polite and helpful at the ports of Pattaya and Hua Hin. They even salute their passengers as they depart the ship.

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The ticket allocation was a bit of a disaster on the outward bound trip but the staff handled the situation well and we were actually given premium seats as an alternative to the ones paid for.

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The journey takes around two hours and is effortless. We booked business class for that little bit of additional comfort. The extra cost is minimal and worth paying for a tranquil area, with padded seating and free coffee during the trip.

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Upon arrival in Hua Hin, it was evident that the traffic was nowhere near as chaotic as the city of Pattaya, where everyone appears to be in a hurry and lacking patience. My new home city is well known for its accidents and deaths on its roads. Hua Hin was far more relaxed. People travel with less haste and display superior commonsense. The roads were in better condition too, and even had pavements on most of them. Hard to believe but it is true!

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There were plenty of tourists but the majority are older married couples. There are no Go-Go Bars to be found in Hua Hin and although it does have a fair sized area of sexy bars, it is not in your face the way it is in Pattaya.

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There is also a large ladyboy contingent within these bars and I found it difficult to tell who was and who was not a ladyboy. There are many gay men, the camp type too. However, none of this should put you off visiting these bars.

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There is fun and hilarity and non stop entertainment to be had, for these people know how to enjoy themselves and never force themselves on to anyone. They simply enjoy their work and put a lot of effort into assuring the customer is happy. We had a fantastic time singing and dancing along with the bar staff.

 

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I found the prices higher than in Pattaya, which was surprising. From a can of coke being six baht dearer to the average meal being 25% higher.

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There is no bin to hold your drinks bill in, so you have no idea how much you are spending till you ask for the bill. I prefer the Pattaya method, where I can check the contents of the bin and see how much I have to pay at any time.

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The town has much to offer its visitors. The Hua Hin Safari is a must. It has Elephant Rides/Shows, Cobras and Crocodile Events and much more.

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The highlight for me however, were the tigers. Not any old tigers here. No drugs are used, for there is no requirement. No these are babies. You can handle a four week old cub and have your photo taken with it. You can bottle feed an eight month old tiger, which is a massive creature and not much smaller than the parents. Lie down beside them and rub their belly, let their rough tongues run over your leg or arm.

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This is an amazing experience and one that you should do. It is not cheap, costing around ÂŁ25 but it is probably a once in a lifetime experience and if the truth be told, I would have paid ÂŁ50 to get close to these animals. You can spend as much or as little time with the tigers as you wish. There is no one rushing you or asking you to move on.

The temples around the town are awesome and again, you have to visit Wat Huay Mongkol Temple for instance or the seven kings statues at Rajabhakti Park.

Another truly inspiring and exceptional place is Monkey Mountain. As the title suggests this is a mountain featuring an abundance of monkeys, that you really can get up close and personal with.

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You can purchase food and stand amongst them as they climb all over you to access the edibles. You will do well to retain ownership of the bucket of fruit for more than 45 seconds, for they will climb up your body, sit on your head and basically turn the bucket upside down and empty its contents on the ground. Great videos and photos to be obtained here.

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There is a Floating Market, which I found disappointing in comparison to the equivalent in Pattaya, for there were no boats in the water, shepherding customers around. They were present but there was no one to take you out on the water. Maybe it was their day off, who knows. The market itself is very good but that one aspect let it down.

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We spent three days in the town and had an absolute ball. The people are friendly, there is plenty to do and restaurants galore. Some of the eating places are excellent and they are always chokablok with diners.

Taxis are slightly different in Hua Hin. They have the traditional Tuk Tuk, which is not available in Pattaya. They have the standard Taxi Meter cars but not so many. They also have what I can only describe as a small, unstable looking van, with the back removed and replaced by open railings.

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They have baht bus style taxis but these only have eight seats as opposed to the twelve of Pattaya and of course there are taxi bikes and private cars too. Oh and the cycle rickshaw is also to be found in Hua Hin.

Fishing plays a large part of the local life in Hua Hin. From small boats to individuals collecting crabs in the sea. There is plenty of evidence at the markets too where a multitude and vast variety of fish can be purchased.

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My biggest regret from this trip was losing two memory cards with over 500 images that unless I revisit the town, cannot be replaced.

For this reason I have had to use photos from the places we visited to populate this post and for that I apologise.

I did have a walk along one of the many quiet beaches, where I snapped fishermen at work, children frollicking in the sea and enjoyed the tranquility on a very hot and humid day.

Hua Hin is a town I will return to, hopefully before I depart Thailand. A one day trip is all I need to obtain the images I have lost. The ferry and hotel will be under 3000 baht. My personal taxi cost me around 2000 baht on my last outing and food possibly 1500 baht. So adding it all up, ÂŁ150 will cover another trip to this fabulous town.

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Oh and ÂŁ25 to hold those baby tigers!

Please note that the images without my logo on them were not taken by me and utilised from Hua Hin sources. Thanks to those who captured the scenes.