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Please, no fish sauce

Nang Rong

semi-overcast 31 °C

The guesthouse was busy this morning. Someone had a similar arrival to ours, but had to sleep on the couch as there were no open beds. Wouldn't be getting in my Canada Christmas skype today. Ryan went down the street to get a haircut. He came back with the 'Zack Efron' look since they had made him pick his style out of a magazine. He was a bit disappointed they didn't have Ellen DeGeneress or Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

It took about two hours to get from the hostel to Mo Chit station. It also required bus 77 where Ryan made a friend from Hangzhou, eager to hear about his travels. He was travelling to Cambodia, lucky enough to leave his big luggage back at his Bangkok hotel.


We wandered Mo Chit, finding out tickets to Northeastern Thailand were upstairs. After that, two vendors told us no tickets available (it was the holidays after all) and one lady finally sold us a ticket to Buri Rama, near Nang Rong, for just shy of 250 baht. We killed time there until 3pm, playing the Logos app, journaling, browsing the old Lonely Planet and wandering around to get food and drinks.

The bus ride was pretty uneventful. I watched the road signs to try and find where Nang Rong was since our tickets didn't match that particular destination. At our washroom stop, we were able to tell the driver with the help of another English speaking Thai passenger where we wanted to be dropped off. We picked up some guava and a chicken satay as a snack since it was getting later and darker.

The man who helped us translate helped us find Nang Rong, confirmed again that we had hotel reservations. I called the number for Honey Inn, our guesthouse, and after some chatting, made difficult by the roar of busses, I understood that he would pick us up there and to stay put.

Kris picked us up in a gray truck. He seemed like a nice guy. The Inn was cute with pastel colours and two stories. We even got free water bottles with our cheap room plus barnyard animals sheets, towels and toiletries. It even had some of Thailand's best wifi so far.

Venturing out for food was a different battle. The first place looked at us for awhile before asking us to write down our order. However, we couldn't write in Thai. Instead, I tried to order som tam without shrimp or those small fish they put in the papaya salad. She seemed to understand, but when it came out, miniscule fish clung to every noodle and it had been doused in fish sauce. Even Ryan couldn't eat it because of the fishy taste.

Our second attempt at supper was a few doors, or food stalls, down. I tried to order chicken fried rice for Ryan and egg fried rice for me with a whole lot of gestures and some Thai. We clarified it a few times, but my Thai must be rusty because we came out with a odd tasting chicken with rice for Ryan and a chicken fried rice for me, which I tried my best to pick the meat out of. Being outside the tourist bubble had its downsides.


Posted by Sarah.M 21:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged bus bangkok haircut nang_rong honey_inn Comments (0)

Exhausted in Bangkok

semi-overcast 30 °C

Just after three a.m., our lovely bus pulled onto 'Khao San Road' or the street far enough from it to confuse people into taking tuktuk rides at irrational prices. I turned down a cab offering a 300 baht fare telling him I used to live in Bangkok and knew it wasn't fair. A few other tourists came to ask us for directions after that and the cab driver wanted nothing to do with me.

We wandered the dead streets in search of actual Khao San until we gave up and flagged down a cab who would take us there on the meter. The price came out to 70 baht, or 80 since we didn't have the right change and he was nice enough not to scam us.

We followed the directions to our hostel and then called Jay. She wasn't pleased, saying the bus companies always let people off at crazy hours, but she was understanding and let us have the dorm beds a night early without charge. We'd have enough costs in Myanmar in a few weeks, she'd said.

Around six, after not being able to sleep in the sticky hot dorm, I texted our Thai friend Lift, then called to see if we were still meeting up around eight to explore Bangkok. Even when we did leave around 8:30, our dorm mates were still passed out cold.

We took the Bangkok Sky Train (BTS) to Victory Monument and soon after met up with Lift who recognized us right away. He was very friendly and helped us catch a bus to Koh Kret, even paying our way much to our protest. The bus was pretty full so we all sat apart until the very end. Koh Kret was in island in the Chao Phrya River in Nanthaburi province, where he worked with people with cancer at a clinic. He also had training in herbal medicine.

The island, reached by ferry, had markets and a temple. It glittered in the sun. Lift found my sarcastic observations of the faux waterfall entertaining. While we walked through the market, Lift bought us treats like popsicles made from Big Cola, and a bamboo wrapped shrimp dish Ryan wasn't big on and I couldn't try. We all got little toffee treats too.


We walked around the island to a garden area with only a few flowers in bloom. Again, he bought us a herbal drink with ice.


We also visited a kiln and pottery area where people could made their own creations with the help of a mentor. The firing took ten days to complete. The island, inhabited by mainly Mon people, was known for their clay pots and pottery. They had some pumpkin themed ones as well.


People whizzed by on bicycles, The whole walk took about six kilometers and we picked up more food, a mango and a Thai ice tea that came in a handmade clay pot. Lift gave it to me as a gift. He had plenty of questions for us on Canada about our weather, homes, winter driving and marriage ceremonies. We learned more about Thai dowries, weather in Phuket, Southern Thailand where he we originally from and the temples/stupas erected after a person's death.


Back in the city, we visited Golden Mount, a temple I had missed last time. The climb was a bit hot, but the view from the fountain was quite refreshing. There were statues of Buddha and of a woman wringing her hair. The top where the Golden stupa sat atop a white square base also had a nice view of the city, although Bangkok was smoggier than I'd remembered.


Lift showed us the other temples we'd be visiting including Wat Arun. On the way, we rang some of the large bells that surrounded the temple to announce our presence. Flags hung from the sides of the stupa all the way to the top and statues sat both outside and in. Lift told us it was probably alright to take photos inside, just the really official ones like Grand Palace were off limits inside. Gold was everywhere.


Next we walked to the Giant Swing but didn't go inside the temple as Lift recommended visiting others instead.


Along the way stopped us. "Look at the animal," he said. Ryan found it endlessly entertaining to hear all the syllables in animal enunciated. It was a medium monitor lizard hanging out by the drainage canals.


We passed a popular Thai restaurant just packed with people. We kept walking toward the river, my head pounding and stomach growling. I had to stop and rest while Lift ran off to get fruit for us.


We ventured into Khao San road at my request to find veggie friendly food. It was Lift's first and likely last visit. He found it a bit ridiculous, overpriced and there were no actual Thai people, Nepali, Indian and Burmese, sure, but few Thais. We ate at one of the cheaper places. I tried a tasty basil fried rice. Ryan and Lift thought their meat dishes were just alright. After we went looking for a Cheap Lonely Planet book, but all the stall were closed. Lift took off and we did too in a cab soon after.


The roads were jammed and our cab driver tried to take us to a closer BTS station to cut out some of the wait. My bladder was hurting so we stopped the metre at an even amount and took off to find a gas station.

Afterward, we walked about an hour looking for the BTS. There were a few English signs around, but the neighbourhood was mainly Thai with street restaurants, bars and malls here and there. Instead of signs we decided to follow actual rail in the sky to Thonburi station. By the time we found it, we only had to ride one stop and we were near our guesthouse. At least the ride had been an air conditioned relief from the heat. Quite the adventure all because of my small bladder and bad traffic.

Back at the guesthouse, we checked in officially and paid Joy. There were a ton of male backpackers in the lobby sitting around drinking with her, but we were too beat to join them. When we got back to the dorm, people were still sleeping, even at eight pm. We just weren't used to being dorm people and had to unsuccessfully sneak around quietly to get ready for bed. We managed to get much needed showers in the end.

Posted by Sarah.M 21:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged taxi temple bangkok lizard pottery scam thai_food khao_san_road golden_mount koh_kret Comments (0)

Leaving Koh Tao

overcast 22 °C

We took our sweet time packing up before a final breakfast at Zest. Our last cinnamon buns for awhile. The fact that they were dry made the goodbye easier. Ryan went back to the room to get the hotel's wifi , but it was still patchy. He got a Christmas Skype in with his family. Ava and Talon noticed Ryan's slow growing beard.

After checking out and making sure we had a room booked for tomorrow night, we left our bags at the travel agency where we'd booked our boat and bus tickets to Bangkok. We searched for food and got to try the kebabs in the end. Tofu for me and regu3346CE8AACB7D33BF4887D88D3A421F0.jpglar for Ryan with tasty garlic sauce. As we sat there, rain began to pour down in sheets. The downpour sent water pouring down the streets and the shabby electrical installation in the construction next door sent sparks flying everywhere. The Bro and Sis restaurant staff got on their construction crew after that as they attempted to make the mess of open wires safer. Ryan wasn't impressed with their electrical codes, if they had any out here. Luckily, nothing caught fire.

Once all our belongings were in plastic bags and the rain had lightened to sprinkling, we splashed down the streets to Impian Divers to buy a dry bag that the staff hadn't even realized they sold. We got the Dutch orange one at the special 420 price the instructor joked about. He even threw in sea sickness tablets for our ferry back to mainland when we asked. Robert, the owner, came to warn us about the bus and ferry company, Songserm's, theft history. He had an eerie way of describing it, but we'd keep an eye on our bags.

The ferry didn't depart on schedule, about an hour late, but it was nice and empty. The ocean didn't look forgiving with dark skies and rain off in the distance. The waves rocked sea sickness into Ryan for quite awhile. Thankfully after the second pill, he was feeling a bit better.

We docked and got thirty minutes to eat fried noodles or rice along with an addable fried egg for 10 baht. Ryan skipped the meal. Then we boarded the tour bus to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before a long 'supper' stop. I bought a bag containing at least 2 pineapples and Ryan helped finish them up now that he was feeling better.

Posted by Sarah.M 21:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged ferry koh_tao rainstorm songserm Comments (0)

Green Christmas in Koh Tao

sunny 29 °C

In the morning, we did our little scavenger hunt. My clues were bit less cryptic than Ryan's so he had to help out with a few and grab the one that really got wedged in the light/keycard socket where I had been looking but couldn't find it. His gift was a set of drawing pencils and a sour candy and mine was a pack of coconut banana rolls, mango candy and popcorn.


Since it was Christmas, we went to our favourite breakfast spot to treat ourselves to the big breakfast sets. The vegetarian one had beans, hash browns, toast, egg and a very oniony grilled veggie along with tea and orange juice. No room for cinnamon rolls. Ryan had a similar set but with meat in place of beans and veggies.


On our way back, we stopped at the front desk. I was sure they were gearing up to reset the wifi since we were constantly asking about it, but instead we asked them to take our picture by their Christmas tree.


We figured out a beach to visit up near Saiwee beach on the east coast this time. I brought sport sandals just in case we ran into island hills, which we did. The signage was poor for the roads. We passed a Thai boxing arena and Saiwee beach until we did find a sign indicating that we were at the farther beach we hadn't intended to visit, again. This was getting familiar, but we thought ah well, we'd check out Laem Thian beach anyway, known to be quiet.


The hike soon turned challenging as we passed construction on a new resort and more signs to tell us that this road was also dangerous for inexperienced motorcyclists. The uphill trek began and we checked our not so full water bottle. If the resort area was anything like the last one, we could get some overpriced water there. Along the way we passed a man's home, a jogger, flowered trees, and old homes. But most of the trail down followed a waterline, reassuring us that there'd be some kind of development at the end, be it a shop or a hotel.


The crashing of the ocean's waves grew stronger and the blue water would peek through the trees, leading us onto another hilly path. We came across a tall concrete building with loiterer's debris and smashed windows. Ryan joked we should climb it for a view but I was cautious of squatters.
The other stairs led down to the other section of the shabby resort that we later found out had been abandoned in 2011. Mainly English graffiti and the liquor bottles confirmed this was a party site, not somebody's temporary home. We avoided broken glass from windows and bottles as we walked.


We sat on the tiny tip of beach and the cement ledge. The waves crashed in, too strong to swim or stand leisurely up to our knees. We welcomed the break, though we had trouble seeing why this would be ideal resort territory.


Next, we went exploring a bit, up the two flights of stairs to the roof with a nice view. We were at the tip of the island with ocean to our left and right. The wind tunneled through and we couldn't help but think what a nightmare the place would be during a storm. Perhaps an accident or big storm closed down their business. It was always eerie to see things frozen in time, the signs still up and a few beds still around in the busted rooms.


We walked back using our limited energy and water. There were some birds and small animals, lots of butterflies too. Parched at the bottom of the hill, we sought out shakes at a nearby restaurant. The ladyboy working took our order: a coconut shake for Ryan and mango for me. They weren't the greatest ones we'd had, but boy did we need them and the fan they turned on for us, operating at top speed. We topped up our water supply nearby and explored Saiwee beach area a bit. Most of the same shops were here like in our area, including Zest, but here was bigger and had far more tourists.

For lunch, we stopped at The Hippo as Ryan had been quoting Along Came Polly since we'd started diving. He had even wanted to get the French instructor so he could get him to say 'Rueben, are you for scuba?', but sadly it never happened. He could be 'happy as the hippo' with his generous portion of pad thai. I had a veggie burger that had my mouth watering since I read about it and enjoyed every bite. We rolled ourselves out of there and back to the familiar Mae Haad area. Our plans to visit a real beach got scrapped by our desire to rest out of the sun.


Come supper hour, we still had minimal appetites. We wandered the streets indecisively for a bit before going to see a Thai acoustic band Fah Mai. We could only see half the musicians from our position at the back couch. At the same venue we'd ate at yesterday, they'd expanded the temporary steel walls and were cutting up vinyl table clothes during the show. The group's sound was good, like folk fest meets folklorama vibe. All the lyrics were in Thai. Overall, it had been a Christmas that would be hard to forget.


Posted by Sarah.M 22:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach waves music christmas band resort hike thai koh_tao abandoned Comments (0)

Christmas Eve, Koh Tao

During a relaxing morning, we treated ourselves to a full breakfast at our quick favourite cafe Zest. We had cinnamon buns, a spinach omelette and Ryan had another pepper ham sandwich. We've become regulars around there. They even gave us a Christmas gift from the friendly Thai owner, a cute bag of cookies.


Our next mission was to find a beach on the South side of the island with calmer waters. The roads weren't the greatest for walking with steady traffic and no sidewalk. There were hills too, not too bad until we reached closer. A map would have been handy as the signage was pretty minimal. Finally we saw a sign that said Haad Sai Daeng beach. It was further than we intended but there was no use backtracking. We climbed past the palm trees in our poor footwear. Not a good day for flip flops. At the summit, there was a tower with a view of Shark Island. The slope down was quite steep and not recommended for vehicles.

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The beach was a decent trek down and fairly small, overtaken by two resorts. Given the crazy road, the beaches weren't too hopping. Our stomachs begged to be taken care of first so we went to the resort and got pricey Cokes, a fried rice dish and a burger that actually filled Ryan up for once as it came with fries. Looking back it seemed cheap, but when your head is working in local currency it's two to three times the price of a regular meal.


Next, we set our sights on finding a place on the beach where the brazen waters wouldn't soak our stuff. I had some fun photographing the waves before the sunscreen set it. We stood in the warm waters as the waves crashed in, watching the small cove, the island, the few brave swimmers and our bags until my legs started to get funny jolts in my nerves, not bites mind you, but we left all the same. Maybe muscle exhaustion from scuba and the hike, hopefully not jellyfish. We had no problem lazing on the beach after that. It clouded over a bit to offer us some relief.


Before we left, we wandered to the opposite side of the small beach to find the other resort. The hike up wasn't as bad as we thought it would be and we got to enjoy the coconut trees.

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For supper, after our hour plus walk, we tried to go to the kebab place which was closed and instead went to Bro and Sis to watch some live music by a foreign man named Simon. He covered Johnny Cash, Passenger, Kings of Leon and had a pretty good voice. The atmosphere was neat too with a balcony and pillow seats overlooking the dark ocean and an open warehouse concept complete with cement floors and metal walls inside, though that could have been because they were doing renovations nearby to expand. From nearby Sairee beach, we could see all the party lights.

To celebrate Christmas, Ryan and I did a 50 baht ($1.60) gift exchange based on items we could find in 7-11. We'd turn it into a scavenger hunt by writing up clues and hiding the gifts around the hotel room.

Posted by Sarah.M 17:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach waves christmas hike koh_tao Comments (0)

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