By Graham K. Rogers
I did finally see and photograph a couple of hornbills. Breakfast came just after 7:30 am, but there is a continuation of inconsistency here. On Friday, I was given fruit juice with the continental breakfast, but not coffee, even though fruit juice and beverage were part of the order.
The second day I had to order by phone as no forms were available and the continental breakfast had no fruit, no fruit juice, but I had ordered coffee and that came. This morning, pastries, fruit, coffee (I checked the box), but no fruit juice. It was just as well I had some in the fridge.
The camera was all set up and I waited (hoping) that I would see the large yellow and black hornbill. As I was drinking the second cup of coffee, to my left there was a rustling and lots of loud bird sounds. First one, then a second black and white hornbill flew out of a tree and into another closer to the room. I missed the flight (the photographs were blurred) but managed to take several of the two birds.
They half flew, half hopped into another tree, but one did come back later. In the interim, there was some more noise and a young hornbill flew onto a palm tree nearby, so I was able to take a couple of shots of that too. So far, the day was going quite well.
I sat down with the tourist map I had been given and tried to decide on a number of destinations for the day. In the end, the plans did not work out and I still have a number of options for Monday.
My intention was to pass the marina where I had bought petrol the evening before, then turn right onto a road that would take me towards the Black Sand beach. The run over the hill was punctuated by having to avoid a snake that was trying hard to cross the road without being hit. I saw the car ahead swerve slightly, so I was alert to some problem. I followed suit and I hope that the snake - a couple of metres long - made it home OK.
I took a slight detour after passing the gas station and instead of turning right, turned left, intending to take some pictures of the boats in the marina. I passed a small shopping complex and saw a beach to my left, so pulled off the road. There was no marina, but another quiet beach with a few yachts anchored offshore.
I spent some minutes taking a few shots with the cameras, then as I pulled out
saw a large hotel construction facing the beach. That will be nice. Later that afternoon I went further along this road and saw several other constructions, all related to high priced accommodation.
Going back the way I came, just past the shopping area I saw a track that led to the back of the marina. I stopped in there for a while, almost slipping on the tiled steps: the tide comes in sometimes and these had algae on them.
Back on the road (113) I drove towards the Black Sand beach. I missed a turning to the Temuran Waterfall and a couple of beaches - perhaps later. On the way, I saw a turning for a cement works. This was marked on the tourist map (as well as the Teluk Ewa Jetty). The road looped back to the 113, so I had a look. It really was a cement works and there was nothing touristy about it. There was all the dust and machinery one would expect from such industry.
I did take some photographs and joined the road again. A short distance away was a beach with parking and seats, but no people apart from council workers cutting the trees. I took a selfie, using the Photo Timer app ($1.99). I balanced the iPhone on a low wall and had to make it to the car in ten seconds (GPS: 6.4214 N. 99.777397 E).
I had an idea that the Black Sand Beach was a little further on, but signing was not good. I saw where I thought it was (I was right), and when I turned round, there was a sign telling me it was 500m away. This was set up as a place to buy goods.
The only access ways to the beach were through an arcade. The beach, which was down some steps, had some black sand, but this was not deep and rich like other beaches with colored sands.
My next idea was to take a left at the roundabout, aiming for Tanjung Rhu Beach. A couple of resorts were also prominently marked here. I made it to the beach, down a long and winding road, punctuated by speed bumps and a security gate. The beach was private - part was reserved for the resort (fair enough) - but the public were allowed access under certain conditions. Like everyone else, I was given an A4 sheet with a list of 18 rules, all of which were reasonable.
I particularly liked Number 15: "No Radio or Music Equipment to be played in the area (iPods with earphones are acceptable)." I guess my iPhone would be OK too, but not a ghetto-blaster or the massive speaker systems favoured by some in S.E. Asian countries.
I drove through a beach-side area selling food and other items then parked the car in a sandy lot near the beach, spending a few minutes to take pictures again.
Leaving the beach area, I drove back towards the roundabout. The sky to my right was thickening, suggesting there might be rain later. I passed a restaurant with a sign: "Scarborough Fish N Chip Restaurant." This is not something I have eaten in years, so thought I would give it a try. There were a couple of westerners and their wives there already. I ordered snow fish at a reasonable R27, along with a can of Sprite. There was a slight taste of sea salt as I put the straw to my mouth.
There was no phone number nor URL on the menu, so I took a photo to give me GPS coordinates (6.438295 N, 99.801788 E). The restaurant did not have the same blanket ban on loudspeakers as the beach and a thumpy ABBA tune was particularly effective. The selection suggested the choices of someone who had been a UK teenager in the 1970s.
When the food arrived, it was accompanied by a small salad - neatly cut - with an unusual dressing: slightly spicy, with a couple of ingredients I could not identify. The chips were not "French fries." These had been properly cut from potatoes. The outside was crisp, the inside soft. The fish was battered, not covered with breadcrumbs and the snow fish was soft. The flesh separated easily, suggesting it was fresh. Both the chips and the fish had been fried slightly too long for me: a little dark in a couple of places, so the exterior of the chips dried out quickly. The meal as a whole was pleasant.
I took the route I planned and soon saw the turning for Mount Raya. The road just kept going up and up, twisting through the hills, like a number of backroads I used to ride in Kanchanaburi. I stopped when I could, but sometimes where the views were best, it was unsafe to stop.
About 10 Kms in, I could see the summit, way in the distance: a hill topped with antenna arrays. There was a resort there, just below the antennas and it had its own observation tower. I toyed with the idea of going up, but there was too much cloud.
On the way down, I stopped at a few places I considered safe spots (6.389597 N
99.793053 E). One of these led to a set of steps that apparently went all the way down. With the car, it would mean I would have to return: down is one thing, coming up another entirely. On the way back to the main road, I saw an eagle, but by the time I had found somewhere to park, it was long gone.
Before joining the road again, I checked the map and loaded one of the Hasselblad film cartridges as I had used one film (12 photos) among all the digital shots I had.
I took a circuitous route back towards the hotel, spending a few minutes on one stop waiting for lenses to un-fog. I had the air-conditioning on too low, so altered that.
The fuel indicator showed some evidence that I had used what I had put in the day before, so I went past the hotel, back to the service station by the marina. I took some time to walk around taking some more photographs of the boats before starting to head back to base. I had an article to finish for the Bangkok Post and Massa was on pole position for the Austrian GP.
At the hotel, I checked for the channel that Star Sports (shown in the hotel information) was using. The desk clerk checked and told me that because of the World Cup, the channel had been switched to give the guests that. I was not happy.
Perhaps not all guests are brainwashed about soccer.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.