Bed 5, Bangkok hospital

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

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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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Island Life

We woke up in Ranong, ate some breakfast, then made our way to the dock to catch a boat to Ko Phayam.  We had the option of taking the slow boat which could take two to three hours, or a speed boat that would take between 35 and 45 minutes.  The choice was obvious.  So we sped off through the waters of the Adaman Sea to the tiny island of Ko Phayam.  At the dock we caught a motorbike taxi to our hotel.  There are no cars on the island, only bikes and scooters.  Our bungalow is a super cute freestanding structure with a room and a partially outdoor bathroom.  It’s pretty sweet, and we’re steps away from the water. 

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We took a walk back to the little village to grab a delicious lunch of spicy noodles and thai tea.  We then rented a scooter to scoot around the island.  It’s quite small, and takes less than a half an hour to cross it most ways.  It’s going to be a few days of lazing around a small island, wading in warm ocean water…

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We’ve scooted around the island, checking out all the beaches, and messing with little crabs.  Most of the food we’ve eaten has been fiery hot and delicious.

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Thai My Shoe

Thailand is a place I’ve been trying to get to since the sixth grade when  my friend Melissa Nonsrichai told me all about it and invited me to accompany her to visit every summer.  My parents were too nervous to let me travel, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  So, here we are, in Bangkok, eating as much spicy food as possible.

The flight from Tokyo to Bangkok was bearable.  Seats were small, and the guy sitting next to me reeked of cigarettes and had foul breath.  But, it was only five or six hours or so, so whatever.  At the airport we were able to get a really cheap data plan for the iPhone (about $30 a month for unlimited data), so now we can have maps and even write and publish blog posts from the phone.  So, hopefully that will mean more content.  We hopped in a metered taxi and made our way to Khao San Street to find our hotel.  Man oh man, I hadn’t anticipated the scene when we arrived at Khao San.  When the Rough Guide said that Khao San was the tourist/backpacker mecca, I pictured something similar to our time in Thamel in Nepal.  Khao San is like Thamel’s younger, rowdy, cousin, who is on the edge of being out of control.  The first few establishments you see are ‘hometown favorites’.  Golden arches, the King, and the Green Siren all have real estate on this small street.  Storefronts are eclipsed by street vendors selling overpriced cheap wares like tank tops with kitchy logos, dreadlock extensions, and bathing suits.  You have to watch your toes at all times or you may be run over by a street food vendor, but I’m okay with those.  Street food carts hold anything from pad thai to fresh coconuts, and all of it is delicious.  Bars selling overpriced alcohol and multiple 7/11 shops quench the thirst of tourists who would not otherwise be of drinking age.  Staying in a tourist area like Khao San has both advantages and disadvantages.  For one, everything a tourist may need is condensed into a small area, but the prices are inflated, and in Thailand the government encourages inflated prices for tourists.  But, you have to push through mobs of people at the end of an evening to get back to your room, which won’t necessarily be a quiet place to sleep.  Though I will say, our room was very clean, well appointed, and reasonably priced for the area.

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Our first night we found a little restaurant to grab some dinner, and it turned out to be delicious.  Seth ordered a medium spicy, red curry with chicken and baby peanuts.  The flavor of the dish was delicious.  I ordered a seafood soup with mussels, fish, shrimp, squid and lots of vegetables.  We both ordered well, and truly enjoyed our first meal in Thailand.  They were both quite spicy, and the change was welcome.  Although, between the heat outdoors and the heat of the food, it is going to prove to be a sweaty trip!

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Our next day we covered a lot of ground.  We walked all the way to Bangkok’s Chinatown area.  It took quite a while, but we stopped at many food carts on the way.  This is where we met the boy with the sugar glider (aka squirrel).  We sampled sweet, little, taco looking treats comprised of a sugar wafer ‘taco shell’, filled with ‘marshmallow fluff’ and one was topped with toasted coconut shavings and the other with bonito flakes.  They were delicious.  We, also, found a bag of Jackfruit on the way.  Jackfruit is awesome.  It’s a huge, bumpy, melon like fruit with little pod like flesh inside.  The flesh is firm and tastes like a mix between a ripe banana and a pear.  I love it.  Though it is not in season at the moment, we, also, bought durian. Durian is known as the king of fruits for it’s size and it’s ‘spiky’ exterior.  Because it’s not in season at the moment, I guess it’s not as stinky as normal.  It was pretty good, but it did leave our room smelling a bit.  Note to self: only eat outdoors.  We tried so many other delicious Thai treats.  The Thai sausage was delicious and filled with ginger and pork, and we enjoyed a bowl of spicy noodle soup as well.  There were other treats too, but too many to name!

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After doing tons of walking around Chinatown the skies opened up.  When it rains in Thailand it doesn’t mess around.  The lightning is blinding, and the thunder is deafening.  It’s really cool.  It started to look and feel like it was going to rain, and our hypothesis was confirmed by all the shopkeepers covering their goods with plastic.  We found a covered area of the market and walked around as the rain poured down.  In the markets they sell just about anything you could need, down to sink faucets, hair ties, stove burners, and bootleg porn DVD’s. It serves as an interesting place to walk around.

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Eventually we caught a tuk tuk that told us he’d take us to our street for 20Bht if, on the way, we could stop at a market first.  We noticed we were going in the complete wrong direction and inquired with our tuk tuk guy.  He handed us a card that said that if he took tourists to this market he would be given 4 liters of gas, even if we didn’t buy anything.  He began to drive even more, and when asked he was hazy about details and told us we’d be going 10 minutes before we reached the market, and we were driving in the wrong direction.  We decided it was possible we were being scammed, so we hopped off at a red light.  He didn’t protest, so perhaps our suspicions were correct.  Many guide books warn you about being taken to a shop just to look, then being forced to hand over large sums of money to be released, and being roughed up in the case that you don’t pay up.  We potentially dodged a bullet there.

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That night we found our way to Lumpini Stadium, where we watched Muy Thai Boxing.  I was nervous to attend, but Seth assured me I’d be ok.  I was imagining the chain link cages of ultimate fighting, but this was nothing like that.  You could tell that the guys were not going for a kill, or even a knock out.  It was about points, and it seemed like a respectable sort of fighting.  Though the fights were interesting to watch, the exciting part, for me, was watching the crowd.  During certain matches the crowd would become so animated and would call out at each individual hit.  Though gambling is illegal in Thailand, it was blatantly taking place inside the stadium, with police turning a blind eye.

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The next day we took a boat ride down the Chao Phraya River.  We were able to view many temples from a distance.  We got off at the Sky Train stop and took a short ride above the city.  We disembarked at a giant fancy schmancy mall that we’d heard about.  It was interesting to check out the food court.  It was almost as if we hadn’t left Japan.  The food court was dominated by Japanese restaurants.  In a wave of nostalgia we stopped for some takoyaki.  Though it was decent, it was not nearly as delicious as the ones in Japan.  No big surprise there.  Afterwards we searched the mall for a new pair of sandals for Seth.  His were done.  We were successful so we put his old Reefs to rest later at the boat dock in hopes that someone who needed them would pick them up.  

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After the mall experience we walked around the streets and found some street food.  We found some delicious Thai Sausage.  It comes on a stick accompanied with some cabbage, ginger, and what are called mouse dropping chilis.  Oh so good.  

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The following day we made our way to Wat Pra Khao to see the Emerald Buddha.  Though he and the room that enshrined him were quite spectacular, just as magnificent were the grounds surrounding it.  The architecture of the buildings were quite dramatic with roofs that sloped down and out, fashioned in bright colors, accented with mirrors of many hues.  The stone temple guardians were equally impressive, towering over us with bright menacing faces.  

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Later we visited the Wat Pho which holds the colossal, reclining, golden buddha.  This buddah is huge and though relaxed in his pose, quite imposing.  After a long day of walking we made our way back to Khao San for massages and relaxation.

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The next day was a bit of a flop.  We took a taxi all the way out of town to the Tailing Chan Floating Market, only to find that it was strictly a weekend market, and we were there on a Friday.  Oops!  But, we were able to find a great meal of noodles, soup, beef, and fish balls.  We had another flop that evening.  Seth had read about a restaurant called the Royal Dragon which, in the 90’s, The Guinness Book of World Records named the largest restaurant in the world.  It sprawls across 4 acres of land, is run by over 2,000 servers, and holds entertainment like dancers and muy thai boxing within.  Pretty impressive.  Well, something to know about many foreign cities, is that taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers are mostly criminals. Even when their taxi boasts a sign that says ‘metered taxi’ they may refuse to use it and refuse to drive you without your commitment of an exorbitant fee.  Similar with tuk tuks.  So, when we wanted to hop in a cab to go to this restaurant which was way too far to walk, we found no one who would use their meter, and no one who would agree to a reasonable price.  After standing  and trying to flag down taxis left and right for quite some time, a monk approached us and told us a better place to stand and when we told him where we were going he recommended us not to take any deals over 120 baht because that was more than enough.  To give you an idea, drivers were asking for 500 plus.  Criminals! Not all, but most.  After about an hour or so of searching we gave up and ate at one of the overpriced touristy restaurants nearby.  

The next day we hopped in a taxi to take us to the airport so we could begin our journey to Ko Phayam.  Somehow, even though it was a metered taxi we were charged way too much.  He apparently pushed the toll button despite the fact that we gave him cash for the tolls.  We paid at least twice the price for this cab ride than we had paid when we arrived.  But, we made it to our flight on time and it was a quick and easy flight with some rewarding views of slick ocean flats and islands that seemed to leap out from the ocean.

The next step was to take a minibus from the airport into town to get to the bus station.  See, our flight landed in Surat Thani, and that was not our final destination for the day.  We waited an hour and a half before we embarked on the minibus, and then waited another half an hour or so before we actually left.  After stopping for gas, lunch or dinner for the driver, and to pick up some papers, we finally left town and made the perilous 3 hour journey to Ranong.  It was cramped, the roads were a bit scary, and our driver was in a real big hurry to pass all other cars despite oncoming traffic, blind corners, and military check points.  But, somehow, we made it to Ranong.  We called our hotel who sent a shuttle to pick us up.  He took us to our nice hotel with nice people, we settled in, then left in search of dinner.  We were lucky to find a street nearby with tons of food.  We returned to our room with flat noodles with chicken and greens in a thick brown sauce, a ‘salad’ of sorts with a melange of ingredients such as fish balls, tomatoes, onion, chicken feet, hot dogs, wood ear mushrooms, and so much more, all doused in a lime, vinegar, chilly sauce, and we topped it off with a bowl of vermicelli rice noodles with various fish paste shapes.  It was all delicious.  We feasted back at our room.

This morning we are going to catch a high speed boat to a lazy little island named Ko Phayam.