Koh Life (Wednesday, January 26, 2005)
Before leaving Koh Lipe, we had one last breakfast. Most of us had anticipated our first taste of “genuine” Pad Thai (without ketchup), and we had it before taking our longtail “taxi” to our big boat back to the Pak Bara Pier. Once on land, of course we ate again, having a lunch of prepared curries (I tried the goat curry, which was tasty but the meat seemed not to have been trimmed very well of gristle and hide), soups (I tried the beef, whose richness was tempered by cilantro and lime), noodle soups or fried rice. Then, quite quickly, we were on the road again. After a strong dose of Benadryl for itching, I napped in the van until we reached our hotel in Trang.
The Thumrin Hotel was immediately welcoming (despite the steep staircase from the street), providing a seemingly motionless elevator, cool A/C, and a traditional bathroom. We were instructed to accumulate our dirty laundry for cleaning, as our opportunities will be limited in the coming weeks. While the streets looked inviting, the itchy bumps and sunburn kept me indoors during the hot afternoon sun. You’re reading the results now.
We had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, which was a very quiet place (tourism is down, even this far from the ocean). The first dish was roasted pork accompanied by a side of Thai herbs (basil, mint, scallions) and a dipping sauce that seemed to consist mostly of dried red pepper in vinegar. This quickly was joined by stir-fried soft shell crabs with white and green onions and hot chili, and roasted duck so crispy that one could eat almost all the bones. There were a couple of other dishes, but I don’t have the photos for those at the moment. Trang is known for its cakes, which are baked in a ring pan with a hole in the center, and range in texture from Angel food to pound cake, with a wide variety of additions and flavorings. The coconut cake we sampled with dinner was not especially good, but we were promised that soon we would be visiting the original source for the real thing.
Trang (Thursday, January 27, 2005)
Our first excursion of the day was to Thale Noi Waterbird Park, on the northernmost part of the series of increasingly brackish interconnected lakes that meet the sea at Songkhla. We met in the lobby at 5:00 AM to get started early, but someone had blocked in our vans and it took a long time to get her out of her room and into her car. We missed the sunrise on the lake, but we still got in a good deal of birding. I’m not sure what most of these birds are, but here are some pictures:
Upon our return to town, we had a simple one-dish lunch of our choice of rice, fried noodle or soup dishes at a restaurant near the train station. I spent most of my free time after lunch catching up on email, these notes, and my many hours of continuing legal education (to which I am listening online).
Dinner was a short walk but a world away from the hotel, in a restaurant that described its food as “Chinese-Thai fusion.” The setting was outdoors, on a patio largely isolated from the noise of the street. Dishes included sea asparagus (those white worms), black mushrooms and shrimp in a black bean-like sauce with lots of garlic; small pieces of crispy duck with basil and cucumber on the side; a pork and crab (?) sausage shaped a bit like a meatball and wrapped in soybean skin (looking somewhat like sausage casing, but not closed at the ends) with a sweet-sour dipping sauce; large shrimp in a red curry with large slices of hearts of palm; fish fillets deep fried and then tossed with shrimp, squid, and baby corn in a somewhat traditional Thai basil and garlic preparation; Chinese greens with a very lightly Oyster-flavored sauce; and whole steamed fish with thin slices of fatty pork and black mushrooms. Excellent, but too much food (this seems to be a trend). We probably passed slices of Trang cake, but those details escape me.
After dinner I had to run back to the Internet place for another hour of MCLE. Then there would be a few hours for packing for our one night in Krabi and our trip to Koh Poda island.