My first day on board with The Nation, Thailand’s leading independent newspaper, came as a bit of a shock to me. I have to take a train across town, then a dilapidated bus another 15 minutes down the road to reach the office. It was a humid morning and I had dressed fit for a professional work place only to find that all the employees were wearing their yellow king T-shirts. It was Monday: the King’s day.
Once I was amid the clamor and chaos of the newsroom, I was quickly set up with several editors. I was to be given an assignment immediately and sent on a day trip to cover a press conference in Pattaya, a city three hours southeast of Bangkok.
On Wednesday morning, I met up with three TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) agents and made my way towards Pattaya. I hadn’t been given hardly any information and the day ahead of me remained a mystery. I planned to stick like glue to the tourist agents during my stay and ask as many questions as possible.
We arrived in Pattaya around noon and made our way towards the outskirts of the city to investigate the largest marina in Thailand. The first piece I was to research was the large movement of high-end business into Pattaya, a town notorious for its seedy under-business in sex trade. While at the ocean marina, I had the chance to have lunch on a yacht with the owner of the multi-million dollar resort and sail around the bay overlooking Pattaya. Truly I was seeing a side of the city few tourists witness.
Chattawan, a leading TAT agent, was my guide for the day. He is a short Thai male and had worked in New York for some time. We had time to kill so he offered to bring me and the other two agents to an expensive massage parlor. This was by far the best massage I had ever received.
After relieving the stress of the morning yacht ride, we headed to Mantra, a new restaurant that would be hosting the charity event I would have to cover. An Irish charity had conducted a fundraiser in Pattaya and had made about 51,000 Euros, so they decided to include some Thai orphans in their proceedings. The organization sends terminally-ill Irish children to Lapland, Finland to visit Santa and his village – why Thai orphans would want to see Santa I’m still not quite sure. I cover the news. I don’t make it.
While I was speaking with the businessman who organized the charity and meeting Miss Ireland (yes Miss Ireland, she was a walker for the charity), Chat entertained himself by drinking a couple of glasses of wine. I joined him after my job was done and we concluded our stay in Pattaya by heading back to the Big Smoke: Bangkok.
The story detailed in this entry ran on October 19 in The Nation. Somehow it was submitted without my byline because my editor wasn’t in the office that day. Communication breakdowns even in the center of a major newspaper – welcome to Thailand.
Here is the link for that story: