Category Archives: Thailand

Back in Bangkok (Again) – Terrible Taxis and Market Marathon

We’re back in Bangkok, for the last time.  We decided to try another hotel near Khao San Road, and it was a disaster.  Lucky House advertised itself as being clean and cheap.  It was only cheap.  But, it definitely wasn’t the worst hovel we’ve stayed in, and it was still in a convenient location.  

Our first day was cut short, due to the massive amount of traffic getting to the hotel from the airport.  Even though Thailand doesn’t have an acting king anymore, they still hold their former king close to their hearts.  Apparently his birthday is December 5th and they celebrate his birthday for the entire month.  This, being the first weekend of the month, is some sort of holiday where people were trying to get home early or get out of town to celebrate, which meant unbearable, stand still traffic for miles (or kilometers).

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After checking in to our hovel, we walked around, showing Sandra all that is Khao San Road.  We, then, made our way to MBK, a huge shopping mall.  Not only was MBK huge, but it was connected by a skywalk to two or three other shopping complexes, a science center, and a center for the arts.  It was immense.  Sandra used the time to purchase a new camera, bargaining her way into a pretty sweet deal.

We ended up on a round about ride by a tuk tuk driver who tricked us into going to a restaurant that would give him a kickback, when we had asked to go to another area.  He lied.  Oh well. But, it took us at least an hour to find a taxi to take us back to our hotel area of Khao San.  Once again, they were either trying to charge us way too much, or simply refusing to take us there.  Work ethics are different here.

On our way back to the hotel, we ended up stopping at what turned out to be a huge night market with carnival rides, games and attractions like a ‘freak show’ (with no actual freaks) and a haunted house.  It was filled to the brim with people, so after some time of shuffling through the crowds, we caught a tuk tuk back to Khao San Road.  We decided that the perfect way to end the evening was to get a massage.  What better way to end the day, than with a massage.

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The following day we ended up on a market marathon.  The last time we tried to visit the Tailing Chan Floating Market we learned, the hard way, that it was only opened on the weekend.  So, we made our way to the riverside market.  It was wonderful.  Stalls selling gardening supplies, fruit, and food lined the street down to the river where a floating dock served as a food court.  Little wooded boats were lined up around the dock, serving up fresh seafood like grilled prawns, scallops, and even chicken satay.  All was delicious and the relaxed ambiance served for a very enjoyable morning.  We chose this market specifically for this reason.  When you tell a taxi driver you want to go to the Tailing Chan Floating Market they tell you about how they will take you to a better, bigger floating market.  Those are jam packed with tourists, and maybe some locals, and I hear it can be a hectic, stressful experience.  We leisurely made our way through the market without being hassled by anyone, and most of the other patrons were locals, with a foreigner sprinkled here and there.  It was really nice.

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Afterwards, we caught a cab to Chinatown.  We walked around the streets revisiting their electronics section, in particular.

We decided that one more market was in order, so we caught a tuk tuk to the Skytrain station in order to arrive at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest weekend market in Thailand.  This place was massive.  Hundreds of stalls selling ‘I love Bangkok’ tees, Thai silk tissue box covers and ties, street food treats, and even a western store selling 10 gallon hats and cowboy boots.  

It had been a long day and we were ready for our last meal in Thailand before heading back to our hotel.  

Moving On…

Seth gave me quite a scare.  A hospital in Thailand is not ideal.  But, they were good enough and after some tough days, he seems to be on the mend, though his culinary experimentation phase has come to a screeching halt (understandably).  

Getting to Vietnam was a two step ordeal.  Due to flight times, we would have to fly from Phuket to Bangkok, and the next day fly from Bangkok to Hanoi.  We had a bag of unused items and souvenirs that we wanted to stash somewhere in Bangkok.  So, once our flight landed, we hopped in a taxi (a metered taxi from the airport) and sped off to a storage facility in the center of Bangkok.  After some confusing back and forth with the driver, who knew about as much English as we know Thai, we got him to agree to wait a minute while Seth dropped off the bag, before heading to our hotel, which was right across from the airport.  I’m not sure what he thought about the whole ordeal, but he seemed to think it was funny.  

What I thought was funny was driving up to our hotel.  Our hotel was disguised as a car wash, and I think it was an undercover no tell motel.  I wish we took pictures, because it was such a funny place.  It was mostly clean, and the bed happened to be one of the most comfortable we’ve had in a while.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but Thailand seems to be notorious for very hard/firm mattresses.  This, mostly clean, bed was much softer.  

We asked the woman at the front desk if there was a shopping mall nearby.  She asked us if IT Shopping Mall was ok, and we said, “sure!”  There have been so many acronyms on our trip and shopping malls tend to be referred to by their acronym.  Who knew that this time the acronym would be so literal in English.  The mall was full of IT gadgets.  It was a mall of adapters, monitors, speakers, phones, and anything else you and your electronics collection may need.  And our dinner options were minimal.  But, we ended up going to a chinese restaurant that had been recommended to us in the past named MK (note the acronym).  It was pretty delicious.  We ordered a mix of noodles and dim sum like foods.  

We woke up at 4:30am to catch our flight to Hanoi.  Unfortunately, when you hail a taxi at odd hours, and not odd hours, there’s a high chance that your taxi driver will be drunk.  We noticed this very quickly.  Even though the ride was only about 10 minutes, we almost got out and walked, because he was bad news.  But, we made it to the airport and from there it was pretty straightforward; long lines, airport employees who don’t make sense, seats with no legroom, and smelly people sitting next to you.

At the airport in Hanoi we grabbed a super cheap sim card for our phone and found our hotel shuttle.  The Landmark Hotel is in the old section of Hanoi.  We walked around a bit and found some interesting lunch of sautéed  veggies.  We’re pretty excited to see Sandra tomorrow!

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Turns out it wasn’t sun stroke. Since my condition worsened and my fever hadn’t gone away after 3 days, we decided to get to the hospital in Phuket. Oddly enough, it’s name is Bangkok Hospital. I don’t want to go into the gritty details of my condition, but they gave me fluids and against doctors orders I signed myself out, and I am self medicating. We cross checked all this with our nurse friend, Sandra, who will be joining us in just a few days in Vietnam, and she said self treatment should be fine. I don’t recommend going to a hospital in Thailand. In plain view across from us was a guy with his leg cut open to the bone with a doctor with no mask digging around trying to get something out, beds full of people groaning and crying, and a nurse that has to be THE WORST nurse in the world at giving an I.V.

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Sunstroke is No Joke

Since last post i’ve been laid out on my back in our hut feeling like i’ve been beat on by a gang of monkeys. The sunburn that followed our little adventure wasn’t so bad but other symptoms started creeping in, like stiff joins, a horrible headache, sensitive skin, nausea, and a bloated painful stomach. My first thought was to get on web MD and type in my symptoms (bad idea) for at least a full day we were convinced I had either malaria, west nile, yellow fever, dengue fever, or meningitis, none of those would have been fun. At this point the fever is low enough where we are fairly sure it was a bad case of sun stroke and severe dehydration.

So if you plan on kayaking 8-10 miles in 97 degree heat drink more then just one liter of water.

Ko Yao Kayak Adventure!!

Today we rose with the sun, as we always do, ate a hearty breakfast, lotioned up, grabbed a kayak, and made our way to see the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay that have been calling to us since we arrived at Suntisook Bungalows.  The tide was pretty low and coming in, so we had to walk it out a bit before being able to hop in.  It probably took us about an hour to reach our destination, four miles according to google maps.

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Unfortunately the water in Thailand is not crystal clear as in Greece, so we couldn’t see much below our paddles.  We investigated around a few of the land structures and happened upon a family of monkeys doin their thang.  They were crab eating macaques, lounging in the shade of the mangroves.  One was trying to open a coconut, and when we came near he yelped at us, hugged his coconut, and scurried a bit away.  Normally we are not big fans of little primates, but these guys were lazy and mildly curious of us in our little, blue kayak.

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We spied a tiny beach, but when we arrived we found that so had many tour company boats.  The little beach, and shallow water surrounding it, was packed with life vest wearing tourists.  I’m not sure why someone would go into 5 foot deep water with a life jacket on, but there were at least 20 bobbing fluorescent vests. We did some exploratory laps around the little islands, and Seth climbed a little bit up one so he could jump off.  Eventually we munched on some lunch of chicken fried rice from our hotel.  Afterwards, we fed our leftovers, and some munched peanuts to the little school of fish nearby.  That was colorful fun.

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We decided it was time to head back another four miles.  We stopped by some more limestone karsts on the way and found some pretty formations and schools of fish hiding beneath.  Paddling back probably took almost twice as long, but our arms and backs are wrecked.  That was a lot of paddling, but well worth it!

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Escape From Coconut Island

We weren’t exactly in love with Khao Lak.  It was quite a touristy town, with many overpriced, touristy restaurants.  Our hotel was nice enough, but there wasn’t anything to do in Khao Lak.  We had one more night before we had a luxury resort stay planned for a week.  We were really looking forward to that.  We decided to head down to Phuket and stay in the old part of town for a night, before heading to our private resort island.  We walked out to the main road to catch a bus down to Phuket.  We weren’t waiting long before I spied a couple in a big, nice SUV.  I asked them if they happened to be heading towards Phuket, and they were, so we hitched a ride with them.  So, the German man, Thai woman couple, with their 6 year old daughter, took us to Phuket.  We sat in the back with the little girl as she played Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja on her phone, and sometimes recorded herself singing along with the car music.  They were nice enough to go out of their way to drop us off in the vicinity of our hotel. That’s the nice part of travel outside the US.  There are certain places where you can do things like hitchhike, and feel completely safe.  I mean, it’s not like we hopped in the back of a truck with guys in fatigues carrying machetes, so don’t use our experience to go and get yourself killed.

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Phuket is an island, with the feel of a city.  It’s a big island and it seems like all of it is very developed.  We stayed in Phuket Town, which is considered the old historical part of Phuket.  Some of the main attractions in Phuket are the Sino-Portuguese style houses.  There were many of those.

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We found a bustling restaurant, filled with Thai people, so we ate there.  The food was delicious and spicy.

After a tip off from a woman in a boutique in Phuket Town, we made our way down to the weekend night market.  The night market is a place for locals and tourists alike.  People go to the night market to buy clothing, backpacks, souvenirs, and dinner.  Seth and I bought some snacks.  Some of them were more tasty than others.  In the adventurous spirit, we sampled some insects, grubs and hoppers to be exact.  The grubs were ok, but now that I’ve tried them I’m not going to be searching them out for a late night snack.  The grasshoppers were not my favorite.  The flavor was too much like chewing on a stick that you pulled out of the mud, and the legs had spikes that pricked my tongue.  I think I’ll stick to snacks like sausages and jack fruit from now on.

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In the morning we went in search of a special type of spindly, white noodles, a Phuket traditional breakfast.  We found the noodles, I think, but we realized soon that we were in a Chinese restaurant eating dim sum, rather than Thai food.  Awesome.  The dim sum was the same as at home and different.  We had har gow, but also little bowls of fish soup with ginger.  And when we ordered our noodles, they came in a soup, not a curry.  But, it was all very good, and a great way to start our day.

We, finally, made it over to the dock to catch a water taxi to the private resort island of The Village at Coconut Island.  We were, almost, immediately disappointed when we saw the beach was quite unexceptional.  And, once we made it to our room, the disappointment grew.  The room was not the same as the ones advertised on the website, and it was dirty.  Gross.  The hotel sent someone to tidy up, but it didn’t change much.  There were so many other things wrong with the situation, but not worth getting into, because we got out.  We had to wait until the next morning to talk with the appropriate people, and after doing so we left to another island.  We finally escaped!

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Now we are on the cozy little island of Ko Yao Noi.  We’re staying in the Suntisook Bungalows and it feels like paradise.

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Yesterday, we rented a scooter and scoot around the island to check it out.  We found a hard to reach beach, and Seth showed me his muscles as he opened a sprouted coconut.  For those of you who don’t remember (or do) we went to Hawaii for our honeymoon.  While there, our friend Annie told us that there was a chunk of coconutty goodness hiding inside a sprouted coconut.  But, when we tried to find one, we spent over an hour opening the coconuts with no reward.  This time we opened the coconut to find a delicious coconut foam, with the crunchy texture somewhat like a watermelon.  We learned later that the coconut tree grows on this foam and the coconut meat for 2 years before sprouting roots.  While we were enjoying our delicious coconut snack on the beach, a man approached us and helped us dislodge the coconut meat for eating.  He then went and found us some fresh tamarind from a tree nearby, and ended up climbing it to fetch us some more.  Though he spoke no English and us no Thai, we hung out for a bit before leaving the beach.

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We had to leave, because we didn’t want to be late for our cooking class.  Mena, of Mena’s Thai Cookery, taught us how to prepare a variety of Thai dishes.  She was a wonderful woman with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cooking.  And, to top it off, we ended up with a very, very good Thai meal in the end.  She should open a restaurant.

We have a spectacular view of the sunrise over the Phang Nga Bay and I’m laying in a hammock as I write this post, watching the tide roll in.  Today we will spend the day relaxing, but we have about a week to do what we want, on this island or another, and in our near future we have kayaking, snorkeling, and perhaps fishing.  It’s pretty exciting.

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Phuket Weekend Night Market

Below are a few videos of Berkley’s first and second intentional insect meals. When in Rome..

The market was huge and covered in tasty looking food. The shopping on the other hand was distinctly focused on tourist, although we were able to find a few good souvenirs.

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Made it to Phuket


Khao Sok

Up early and off to Khao Sok national park, we were picked up by the tour company at around 8 am and by 9 am we were in the jungle. Our guide Ja was a humorous, ex park ranger who joked with us while leading us through the park trails. We spotted some monkeys (langurs), a stick bug, squirrels, and many birds. After an hour hike we stopped for a brief swim in the river. The water was cool, refreshing and filled with carp, needle fish and catfish of all sizes. We stopped for lunch and had a rather bland tourist version of massaman curry and some fried chicken. After lunch was a bamboo raft trip down the Khao Sok river.  We stopped to have tea boiled in rungs of bamboo, served in bamboo cups.  As our tea was simmering one of the raft captains took us for a little stroll through the jungle nearby.  We saw a giant durian tree with young spiky durian.  It’s no surprise that these fruit can be fatal if one falls from the tree.  They can become about the size of a basketball and is encrusted in hard, sharp spikes.  We, then came upon some rubber trees.  Berkley was intrigued, because the little bowls collecting rubber were mostly full, with a plump white ball.  Our raft man didn’t speak much English, but with some miming he told her it was ok to touch it.  It was springy and wet, just as you would expect fresh rubber to feel.  What she didn’t expect was the smell.  Sadly I learned this too late, as everybody had already followed suit and touched the rubber.  It turns out that rubber smells absolutely abhorrent.  The smell clung to our fingers throughout the rest of the day, despite many washing attempts.

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As we were floating down the lazy river on our bamboo raft, I spied a rope swing.  I swung like Tarzan off the random dangling rope. Berkley shot some pretty great video of me swinging on the rope. Almost as amazing as my dads video of me catching a huge tarpon on the beach in mexico.

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We continued on, and our raft captain pointed out a mangrove snake coiled up in a tree.  Pretty neat.  Quite soon after it began to rain thick, heavy rain.  Within minutes we were drenched to the bone.  It sure put the rain in rainforest.

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Travel by Land is Never as Straightforward as They Lead You to Believe…

All right, so, when last I left you we were on the small, peaceful island of Ko Phayam. 

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It was time to go.  But, going is never simple.  Even though you have to deal with taxis or shuttles and security, flying is way easier than traveling by land.  When you want to fly, you go online, book a ticket, and show up at the appropriate time, and it is pretty straight forward from there.  But, when you travel by land, you never really know what you’re gonna get.  For example,  we bought a high speed boat ride from the island of Ko Phayam to the mainland in Ranong.  Simple.  It left on time, and took us to where we expected.  But, then we had to contend with taxi drivers who would rather be shot down for their inflated rate, than actually work.  We walked a bit before finding a local transport who told us he’d take us to the bus station.  He gave us the same price as all the locals that were jammed in the back of the truck with us, so that was nice.  He dropped us across the street from the turn to the bus station, perfect.  But, on our way to the bus station someone stopped us and showed us the bus to Khao Lak, which was where we were going.  Now, I know that busses in Thailand make multiple stops and that your destination may not be the destination of the bus.  Either way, the guy told us that the bus was going all the way to Khao Lak.  I’d blame it on being lost in translation, but he spoke English quite well enough, and even pointed at the destination line on our ticket and said, “Khao Lak.” Hours later we found that the actual translation of the Thai words on our ticket said, “Takuapa” which was, obviously, not Khao Lak.  Though we were quite disturbed, we couldn’t reasonably become angry with the driver, because he had nothing to do with the swindle.  And, really, it’s our fault for not proceeding all the way to the ticket counter.  But, when you’re in another country you never know if the customs are different, so you try to go with the flow. 

After another bus ride we made it to Khao Lak.  We wandered around the main road, wishing the google map would give us an actual destination to look for.  The locals pointed us in a variety of different directions, and we were finally successful, and found the Swiss Guesthouse.  It seems like a new building, and we could be the first to use the room we are staying in. There is still plastic covering light switches and when I turned on the AC it had the ‘I’ve never been used, plastic-y’ smell.  And, we’re back in shump-ville.  Though the entire bathroom floor becomes flooded, and you have to wipe down the seat later, this is a deluxe shump, and has some touches that make it work.  First of all, the bathroom is clean.  Then, there is a soap dish/shelf.  The hot water works and there is sufficient water pressure.  But, the item of noteworthiness is the cover for the toilet paper, which actually works.  I was quite impressed to find that the paper was completely dry after the two of us took showers.  Very nice…

There were a few reasons why we decided to stop in Khao Lak.  The biggest determinant was that it is about midway between Ranong and Phuket.  We needed to break up the bus ride.  It’s quite uncomfortable sitting on a bus for 3 hours, and 5-6 sounds unbearable.  Also, the driving is quite scary and that needs to be spread out as well.  We chose Khao Lak in particular, because it is said to be a good starting off point for a variety of day trips.  For tomorrow we have a tour of the Kao Sok National Forest where we will take a jaunt through the jungle and float down a river on a bamboo raft.  Sounds good.  It is, also, a good jumping off point for diving and kayak trips to some interesting land formations, but after weighing our options we decided against those, but don’t worry, they will happen in a different location of our trip.  We wanted to see if Khao Lak was a place we could enjoy aside from the day trips, so we made our way down to the beach.  Quite a walk from our hotel and quite touristy on the way.  We found a super touristy market area with more cheap souvenir shops than I could handle and the beach at the end of the road was not all that impressive.  So, this will be a jumping off point.  

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The next morning, after booking our day trip, we took a long walk to grab some lunch at a restaurant recommended by the guy at our hotel.  Ten Star had okay noodles, and really delicious Tom Ka Gai soup.  After lunch we went next-door to get foot massages at Phuping Beauty Salon.  We didn’t notice the name until we left, which is good, because we might not have been able to enter with a straight face if we had noticed the sign beforehand.  (for those who don’t know, ph is not like our F sound. PH is pronounced as a plain old P)

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Afterwards, we made our way over to a little mini market to grab an ice cream bar.  Seth is partial to the Magnum ice cream bars and decided on one of those.  I found a lychee flavored popsicle and it was delicious.  After a little more walking our cold treats were gone and there was another market right in front of us, so we went in to find another cold treat.  Once again, Seth decided on a Magnum ice cream bar, and I found a popsicle with a bit of an interesting flavor profile.  It was really tasty even though the pictures lead me to believe my popsicle was comprised of jackfruit, corn, and green beans.  I’ll be buying that one again!  I love finding odd things at the market.  

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