One day until the much-anticipated Thailand wedding. Because of all of the last-minute preparations taking place there were no relatives to shlep us around and play tour guide, so originally it was planned for us to spend another day at the beach house doing nothing. Mom and I weren’t too keen on just sitting around watching TV again (despite the fact that it’s a vacation, we are get-up-and-goers, especially when there is still so much to see and do in Thailand) so we, along with Su and Yim, walked down to one of the nearby resorts to see what kind of day trips they had available.
Every resort/hotel has information on a wide variety of day tours such as going to Koh Samui island, fishing, scuba diving, visiting a temple, etc. Unfortunately for us there was really nothing going on today. Quite disappointing in a sense, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. Su and Yim put their heads together with two of the hotel workers and figured out that we could get a ride to a local waterfall for some sightseeing. It was at this point that I experienced another bit of culture shock, but this time in a very positive way. The two girls working at the hotel made a phone call to someone they knew and asked if he would be willing to drive us to the waterfall, drop us off, and then come back for us when we were done. I don’t know if this person was a hotel employee or not; he may have been in the maintenance crew or something to that effect, but he was not on the clock, that’s for sure.
Here is a group of people that went very far out of their way to help people they don’t know who weren’t even staying at their resort! They had absolutely no vested interest in helping us other than being polite and eager to help. It spoke volumes of their character as not just Thai people, but people in general. I think we could all agree that such a situation just would not happen in America, ever. I’m sorry, but could you imagine getting a phone call from a friend asking you to swing by their place of business to pick up complete strangers, take them to a scenic landmark, drive all the way back to where you came from to wait for a phone call, then drive all the way back to pick them up and return them to their starting point? There’s just no way in hell most of us would do that. For Thai people, however, this seems to be quite normal, and at least on the surface they seem happy to do it for you. I experienced this somewhat in Japan when I got lost and asked for directions, but never did I see it happen on this level. I was shocked and humbled in a big way. To boot he was only asking for 300 Baht to do this for us (just shy of $9.00 USD).
So our driver showed up, we hopped into the pickup (in the back, of course) and drove a little way to the site of the waterfall. The problem once we got there was twofold: first, the waterfall wasn’t really falling as expected, which meant we would have to do some trekking to see it from a better vantage point; second, I checked out the first 100 meters or so of the trail we would have to take, and there was no way Mom was going to be able to make it. The trails were too narrow, slippery, and on some pretty hairy ledges. I was sorry to have to be the bringer of bad news, but I think everyone understood. The driver then offered to take us to another location where we could possibly see some pink dolphins. Everyone seemed up for that, so away we went. What I wasn’t expecting was that it was going to take about 20-30 minutes to get there. Not that it’s a long distance to drive at all, but more to the point that on top of whatever this guy was already pushing aside in his day to accommodate us strangers, he was willing to continue to do it for a longer distance and for the same price! Simply amazing.
Twentysomething minutes later and we were on the grounds of the power plant that supplies the electricity for the province. Apparently it’s common for “civilians” to come here and spend some time on the beach to eat lunch, look for pink dolphins, and generally just chill out. Our driver dropped us off with plans to pick us up two hours later, which seemed like more than enough time to relax and see what there was to see. The grounds also has an estuary that feeds into the Gulf of Thailand from areas that fishermen use to dock their boats, so there was a lot of boat activity going with fishermen heading out for the day’s catch.
We didn’t see any pink dolphins, unfortunately. Despite that the view was still spectacular and I enjoyed watching all of the fishing boat activity taking place. Very hard-working people spending all day to make a living and provide for their families. I know I couldn’t do it; I’ve gotten too accustomed to sitting on my butt and programming websites to make my scratch.
About an hour into our trip a big school bus showed up and showered the beach with a huge group of elementary school kids taking a break for lunch. According to Su they were from a relatively far away place, so this was probably the most appropriate place for them to eat lunch and burn off some energy before having to get on the bus again. I have to say, though, the bus was darn nice! We never had a bus like that when I was growing up.
I don’t know if it was a bet or just plain prepubescent curiosity, but a small gaggle of the schoolgirls worked up the courage to come up and ask to have their picture taken with me. Although having people stare at me for the past week has gotten a little old at this point, it was very cute to see them come up and ask me. I happily obliged and had to assure a few of them with just a smile that I was harmless and wouldn’t bite. I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Humphrey’s “Hunting Story” and made a very concerted effort to let them know with just my smile and body language that they were no different than I was. Granted, they are children and shy by nature (as all children are) and not necessarily in the same situation as those in Dr. Humphrey’s story, but I think the underlying principle is fundamentally the same and it’s all about the end result, right? Either way, they got their pictures and giggles, and I walked away with yet another small life lesson about how sometimes it’s just the little things that make a much larger difference in this world.
Our driver showed up a little while later and took us back to the resort for our short drive home. We insisted on paying him more money for his hospitality and time, yet he would only take 500 Baht. I’m tellin’ ya, we could learn a lot if we just opened our eyes a bit wider.
For our night-time entertainment we went back to Su’s parents house for an informal dinner with some relatives and friends. About 100 people I suspect, but I wasn’t really paying attention. We have to get up very early tomorrow; it’s wedding day after all. They are picking us up at 5AM, which means a 4AM wake-up.