A day off, it being the 80th birthday of the world's hippest monarch. Small Boo and I decided to take a trip to Pattaya: I've skirted the edges of the resort a few times, but never actually been there. It's actually a fairly grim, tacky place, somewhere in the psychic space between Blackpool and Benidorm, but with rather more tattooed, chain-smoking Eastern Europeans in evidence. Still, one more to tick off the list.
The fun came on the way home. First, we stopped at Mini-Siam, a model village in the grand tradition, with representations not just of Thailand's finest architecture, but many of the world's finest tourist attractions. It's actually pretty good, although the right-most head on Mount Rushmore is more Leonard Nimoy than Abraham Lincoln.
It's a fun detour if you're passing, and there were plenty of local family groups enjoying the holiday. What surprised me was the presence of three vast coaches full of Korean tourists, who were lapping the place up with as much relish as the Thai kids. It did make me wonder whether we've got this tourism business right: maybe its enough to stick models of the Parthenon, Sydney Opera House, Angkor Wat and so on in one venue, and let the punters run free with their cameras. I mean, when they photographed each other in front of an impressive copy of Abu Simbel, they could have been imagining themselves in Egypt, or the Las Vegas version of Egypt? And which would more impress the folks back in Seoul? (Which reminds me, I really want to go to Macao, to see their version of the Vegas version of Venice.)
Obligatory obeisance to Baudrillard duly performed, we proceeded to The Bottle Art Museum, the life's work of the late Pieter Bij De Leij.
The oeuvre of Dutch-born De Leij falls squarely into what art critics with interesting haircuts now call "outsider art". He made rather rough and ready representations of buildings and vehicles, then dismantled them, and put them back together inside bottles. It's what people have been doing with model ships for centuries, but rather more fiddly. The slightly melancholy atmosphere in the little museum tipped over into David Lynch territory when we reached the back wall, only to see pictorial representations of De Leij's six weddings, revealing that he was a dwarf.
The final stop was an orchid farm, but we were stopped in our tracks by a gesticulating man who warned that a randy, rather violent elephant was blocking the road, and if we carried on we'd probably be making a very interesting claim on the car insurance. We took an alternative route, and from the farm we had a good view of the beast being tranquilised, which made me feel a bit Orwellian, albeit in a terribly safe, sterile way.
"It's nearly four," said the orchid man. "The Russians will be here soon." On cue, seven or eight all-terrain vehicles, most of them ridden by burly men in shorts, crash helmets, vicious sunburns and nothing else, rolled up, had a quick drink, and departed. "Tour party," explained our host.
Small Boo selected an orchid cluster, and stowed it in the boot. On the freeway back to Bangkok she glanced at the car ceiling and gasped. It was swarming with large, black ants, which had presumably hitched a ride along with the flowers, and spent the rest of the journey wandering harmlessly over our heads and arms.
"How shall I end this?" I asked her, as she lounged on the bed, tapping into her laptop. She shrugged.