This week we indulged in a quiet weekend at a charming resort in Jomtien, a beach town close to Bangkok. You know the kind of weekend: eating and drinking punctuated by sitting on a colourful canvas chair on the beach, slathered in sunscreen, saying “Mai Ao” [“No, thank you very much! I don’t want a snakeskin belt/a massage/grilled squid/etc.”] to the veritable stream of hawkers who pass. We were treated to magnificent sunsets (and a sprinkle of rain) with our evening cocktails, but I hadn’t packed my tripod, so the few high-ISO hand-held shots I took don’t warrant sharing.
Mid-Sunday afternoon more rains approached. Having had our fill of inactivity, we looked at the guidebooks to find somewhere close to visit and decided to explore the “Million Year Stone Park & Pattaya Crocodile Farm”.
Now, you wouldn’t think that a tourist attraction of such note would be hard work to find! We had three maps, a guide book and a GPS in the car with us. Unfortunately, in spite of the Thai map download, the GPS had no idea what we were talking about. The paper maps were not much more help; the park seemed to be somewhere in a vague roadless triangle off the major routes. The Michelin guide, however, was quite explicit: “9km north by 3. Turn right into 3420.” We weren’t sure if they meant north of centre or north of city limits, but by the time we reached the next town 15 kilometres away, we knew we’d missed the corner. We turned around and tried again – to no avail. No “Stone Park” signs; no highway 3420 markers.
I suppose we could have asked someone, but I wasn’t convinced that asking someone about “old rocks” would do it, and I couldn’t remember the word for “million” in Thai. Besides, the weather was lousy, so we weren’t unhappy about driving laps of the highway. We pulled another U-turn and tried again, this time via a new bypass, in case it was the reason our guide book wasn’t getting us there. One of the things about living in a developing country is that sometimes the “-ing” overtakes you! Buildings come and go; roads morph and move… Our guide book is over ten years old, and clearly that bypass wasn’t.
Long story short, two hours later we found the park… thanks to: being able to read Thai, unbelievable persistence, and several more wrong turns and U-turns. But, it was half an hour before closing and the light was going the way of the tour buses. We decided to come back the next morning on our way home. Now that we knew where it was, we thought the signposting would probably leap out at us, but it didn’t. Many corners weren’t marked, most signs weren’t in English and we never did find a marker that said “3420”. Such is life in Thailand… ไม่เป็นไร! Never mind.
The park is nice, the stones and the bonsai gardens are beautiful, and the crocodile show would be exciting if you’d never seen one before. (I think I need to do a separate post one day just on animals.) What really amazed me, however, was the workers. Anyone who has read my first post knows I am impressed by how hard people in Thailand (and other Asian countries) work. “Hard Yakka”, for anyone who doesn’t know, is “hard work” in Australian vernacular. “Yakka” alone is “hard work” in the Jagera Aboriginal language of Moreton Bay. It is the best way to describe the hot, heavy manual labour at the park. Now, you wouldn’t think that million-year-old rocks would be hard work to maintain, but clearly, as you will see from the pictures, it is a big job!
I hope your work is not too hot and heavy!