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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Thai Adventure

"The Girl, the Sold Watch, and Everything"

--A Thailand Adventure

went our little scooter, put-putting at full hamster motor speed to haul our two “Farong” (Westerner) tushies up the  winding Thailand hillside.
Eyes squinted in determination and tongue chewed in concentration, I fishtailed up the wrong (left) side of the twisting, 2-lane, rice noodle road.  Blasting their horns in warning, overcrowded buses, Tuk Tuks and scooters whizzed by, from both ways —  in Thailand, traffic lanes, lights and laws are only a friendly suggestion.
The Girl...
My travel buddy Lisa did an admirable job of not squealing in terror . . . too often.  But if her nails had not been gnawed to the nubs, my sides would have been shredded into fish gills.
“800 baht!” the street vendor’s voice still rang in my ears, in concert with the whine of the hamster motor and horn shrieks.  “It’s good watch, Boss!  For you, good price!”
That line.  “For you, good price!”  Do they hammer that line into every street hawker the world ‘round?  Of course, it invites haggle, and after 3 weeks I had once again mastered the Art of the Deal, rather than the standard American reply of, “Duh, okay!”
The Sold Watch...
My previous watch died, appropriately, on Day One of our trip.  I happily ditched the watch, and my obsession with time thereof, for the rest of our Thai sojourn.  But now, with airline time tables looming a scant few days away for my 30-hour, 10-time zone trek home, I began to once again hanker for a reliable, if not too flashy, time piece.
As a pilot, I’m picky about my watch.   But I’ve never bought into the silly,  thousand dollar wonders marketed as “You’re not a real pilot unless you have a Breitling like good ol’ Captain John Travolta here.”  More bells, dials, whistles, and aerodynamic gleaming alloy than his Boeing 727.  Guaranteed to send the airport X-ray scanner into convulsions.  All status symbol and flash.  But does it actually tell time?
...and, well, you know...
Me, I go for practical.  Dual time — one digital, one analog — to keep me upright while zigzagging the time zones; day and date prominently displayed; an alarm and, well, ok, a stopwatch if you must.   Not too big, not too flashy.  $32.99 at Walmart.
Our travel mates, Brian and Beth, lean that other way, though.  To wit, Lisa and I politely tagged along as they scoured the Phuket Island vendors in the city of Patong for the ultimate deal on Rolex knock-offs . . . or Folex, as we came to mockingly call 'em.
For you, Boss, NOT good price!
Eyes darting furtively about, the winning vendor smuggled us into his super secret back room and plied Brian with only the “best of the best.”  A veteran of Thai travels, Brian talked him down from 6000 to 2700 baht — $90 for two pieces of the finest, flashiest junk the 3rd World had to offer.
From 800 baht, I’d talked my vendor down to 350.  $12.  Not bad for a novice Farong, but still more than a local, or even Brian, would pay.  I didn’t mind.  One-third the price of Walmart.  Good price, Boss!

Profession: Pilot.  Career: Traveler!

So why was our Little Engine That Barely Could struggling to haul our Farong derrieres up over the hill and back to the mayhem of Patong?
Because, two hours later, the big and little hands still displayed 10:20 a.m. — the exact time of my smokin’ watch deal.   Unless we were trapped in a black hole, my $12 wonder watch had stopped working.
Or, to be more precise, had never worked to begin with.  The analog hands, that is.  The digital LED portion reported, correctly, the current local time as 12:32.
Much to my dismay, I knew, we were most certainly not trapped in a time warp.
Team Aloha! —Lisa, Cap'n, Brian & Beth
So, reluctantly ripping ourselves away from our beach chairs and Chang beers (80 baht, good price!), Lisa and I zigzagged our way back to the point of sale.
Knowing that my street vendor may suddenly close for lunch if he spied me approaching with a return, I surreptitiously slipped up to the stall pretending to be a new customer.  I was immediately greeted with another, “For you, good price, Boss!”

Smiling, I held up the defunct watch.  “No good, Boss!” I replied.
Deer in headlights look.  With surprisingly minimal hassle, I got a new, if different, watch — Thai street dealers never seem to have the same two time pieces, but rather a mishmash of random stock.
“Instruction manual?” I asked.  Digging through a stack of manuals, the boy thrust a random booklet into my hand.   At least the thing had the same manufacturer name as was printed on the face of the watch.
Little monks, biiiig Buddha!

Back over the hill we put-putted, my new wonder piece gleaming on my left wrist.
Did I mention April is Thailand’s hottest, muggiest month?  Think Atlanta summer plus ten degrees temp and humidity.  Drenched in sweat, we jumped into the pristine water for a few minutes' respite before settling back in our beach chairs and ordering up a coupla new, nearly cold, Changs.
Still skeptical about the new watch, I checked the analog dials.  Still happily tic-tocking away!  That’s when I noticed the digital part.  Foggy with seawater, with the LED display all smeared!
Nothing short of a $12 watch could rip me away from this slice of heaven!

Deer in headlights.  Unsure, the young vendor nervously glanced at his boss.  “Here,” the stall owner said, thrusting a new time piece into my hand.  “Here is better watch!  You go now and no come back!”
“No worries, mate!” I replied, knowing that, functional or no, I was not hauling our kiesters back over the mountain and away from our beachside Changs for yet another $12 piece of dysfunctional junk.  
Thai Food Fiiiiight!!!
Back on our little patch of sand-strewn paradise, dripping wet with cool seawater and clasping new semi-chilled beers, the pilot in me ran through a mental, “3rd World Time Piece FunctionalityChecklist:
Analog hands tick-ticking test — Check!
Post-swim digital LED test — Check!
Nightlight luminosity test — Check!
Day, Date, Year reasonably correct test — Check!
3rd World Time Piece Checklist” — Complete!
Tuk tuk?  No, Tusk Tusk!
I am proud to report that, after an entire week, multiple time zone crossings, now half a world away and back in the office at 35,000’ enroute to STL, my new timepiece keeps on tickin'!  As the setting sun reflects off the clouds below, my Thai wonder still precisely reads the time as 10:20 am.

P.S. — Both Brian and Beth had to return their $90 wonders at least once as well.  To date, both have been eerily silent on reporting current functionality!
P.P.S. — Oh, ya, and Thailand has lots of cool places to see, eat, ride elephants, snorkel, hike, rock climb, party and stuff.   Lotsa giant gold Buddha’s, cool temples and the like.  But you can figure that out by reading your Lonely Planet guide book.  Cheers!


  1. So funny!!! Well, I'll say one thing, you've got perseverance, Cappy! (either that or you're a hard head...)

    Great photos too! :)) Thanks!

  2. Wow! Great trip, great story. Too bad I wasn't there to keep you in line!


  3. Hey's about Damn "TIME" posted!!(Yes Pun)
    Your internal 'blogger' "TIME" piece on the "frits".......Mmmm......LOL
    So your took a 3 week vaca....traveled around the world....renting a scooter......rode an elephant.....and all to buy a $12.00 watch and go to McDonalds........??!!
    Only "You" can make a 'dragon t-shirt,
    "Don HO".....Hawaiian shorts
    and a "straw fedora"'s "Magic"..........and you delivered.....Cappy!!!!!
    No really....I am serious......!!
    not to mention......the "light-up devil horns headband.....very nice!.....least the headband had batteries........maybe next you travel the globe for a time piece.....check for 'BAT' do know I'm joshing........right??
    of course....let see......OH YEA..
    I can really do Without... that 'Ravolting'....John........rearing his ugly head........sorry.....hope your not a fan.....eshhhh...
    I've heard he can really be a hog with 'Air space'.....?????????

    Your Pics.......Show the STARK..."AWESOMENESS" of a Vacation gone
    "A MONK".....LOL...........
    love the gotee'......too

    The 'Thai Sunset' to die for!!!!!!.......

    You did real good with this..... Post.....BOSS!!!!!.....

    between your "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee's"
    and my...
    ".......................'s".........we'll be up 'sh!t creek....if ever they start charging us..........;)))))))

    d8^ that silly 'ball cap too!!!!!!!!!


  4. Ha! You left the beautiful beach to go back for a $12 watch...I see where your priorities are Nice pics Cappie...thanks for sharing the wild side of your life. Hee!

  5. Haha, thanks all!
    G: perseverance, hard head, what's the diff?!
    R: I think we'd both get in trouble, lol!
    TWA: haha I've always hated those goofy fedoras. The only person that could EVER make it work was Ol' Blue Eyes! But, I found that, and thought, What the hell?!
    I gotta say, that last Thai sunset is in the TOP 5 of ALL TIME for me!
    B: Pilots are notoriously cheap...hence my determination!
    PS: The watch STILL works beautifully! AND the devil horns!!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. JetHead thanks for the advice. I deleted your comment to erase the situation that you pointed out ;)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. LOL @ JetHead - good advice, tough line to tread Cap, thanks for the great post nonetheless! :)

    Dave from the UK

  9. :) Hi Chris. I like the way you guys look out for each other. It's really refreshing to see. :)

  10. Hey Cappy I've been meaning to ask you.........Did you go to the "Water festival"......over in 'Thai'......????
    and disqualified.......from "Wet T-shirt"....contest..somebody burst your bubble........eshhhh..

    Love the pic.........ya finally got your name in lights......
    Please don't you EVER take away your playful adventurous self........from your blog posts.....!!!!btw..........
    As far as CNN.....NYT......MSNBC.....'Screw them all'.............and the
    ...... "White horse" they rode in on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    just my opinion.........of course...........results may vary........

    1. Yes, we started our trip out with a bang, at the "Song Kran" water festival (Thai New Year celebration), that went on all weekend in Chang Mai! We spent about 4 days soaking wet! Which was pretty nice considering April is Thailand's hottest month!

      Well...CNN et al will hopefully leave me long as I remain squeaky clean! (good thing I went to the water fest, eh?!)

  11. Hey Captain!

    LOL @ The Watches. Maybe less funny for you but it reminds me of sitting at a beach in Italy and all those people trying to sell you sunglasses, bracelets and of course WATCHES.

    It was almost time for a fake Breitling Navitimer I guess haha. The VLOG looks SUPER PROMISING! I can't wait for it, it looks very epic!
    The pictures of Thailand look great, I hope my visit to the Dominican Republic will very impressive also! + I can't wait for the 767 trip hehe, first time crossing the Atlantic and sitting on a widebody and flying that long :) Heck I might even buy a watch haha.

    Take care, really gotta quit now as all hell is breaking loose here! Major thunderstorm coming up!

    Bas (Eagerly awaiting your VLOG!)

    1. Thanks, Bas!

      It does seem that all 3rd world beaches round the globe have the same vendors. So you just go get yourself that faux Breitling in DR--whatever tics your toc! Cap'n John T will be proud, lol!

      Looking forward to seeing/hearing bout your adventure!

      I'm excited to post the Vlog too! I have done lots of vids for my ppl at work, so I'm comfy in front of the cam, and enjoy the fun of editing it, too. I'm proud of the product, so be sure to check it out!

  12. Like Bas Man say...............
    Looking forward to your Vlog!!!!

    ps.......did a "Pocket Protector"....come with your watch.....????

    alright I give you break........BOSS!!!!!!!

  13. I had fun reading your interesting adventure in Thailand, Mr.Cap'n Aux:)I can't wait to go to Bangkok and ride the flashy tuk tuk and eat the spicy food!I think my Thai travel this year is gonna be fantastic!:)

    1. You'll love it, DD! Spicy Thai food finally transformed me into a hot sauce lover!

  14. Replies
    1. You should go some time--it's not far for you! Do you ever get out of Karachi?


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