Feb 222012

I needed a little time for the internet, so I arose early, showered, and somehow crammed everything into my roller bag without having to use the expansion feature. The Krabi Maritime’s breakfast buffet offered one last bowl of rice porridge, and the weirdest looking pad Thai I’ve ever seen, in a very unnatural shade of red. Surely the food choices will improve when we arrive in Bangkok.

We loaded into a van and the radio started playing strangely appropriate music: Homeward Bound by Simon & Garfunkel; It Never Rains in California; San Francisco (the one recommending you wear some flowers in your hair). Coincidence?

Traffic on the way to the airport was bad, and the lines at the curb for the x-ray machines were long, but we needn’t have worried. Our flight boarded 20 minutes late so there was plenty of time to check the souvenir shops. Great looking fish books in the bookstore, but it’s hard to justify the extra weight right now.

Our flight was very full with European tourists. The moment the seat belt sign went off, people all around me threw off their belts as though they had just been freed from a lifetime of bondage. Haven’t they heard of clear air turbulence? Or are Americans now too accustomed to accepting lots of in-flight restrictions in the guise of protections for our own good?

Next to me in the center section, two young Scandinavian girls played with the seat controller and then their Nintendo DS’s (the world’s babysitter for tweens). I ate my spinach-filled pastry (plus, I will admit, someone else’s) and made notes on my phone. Thai Airways’ slogan is “Smooth as Silk,” and only a few small ripples of turbulence disturbed our journey. Not counting the bumps and jostles from my giggling seatmates.

Back in Bangkok

Our arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport was delayed, perhaps due to foggy/smoggy conditions. The terminal could be the world’s longest, and it takes a while for passengers and baggage to reach the exit. Please hurry; it’s time to eat again. We reunited with Sun and sped to Aw Taw Kaw market for lunch and, of course, more shopping.

After a bowl of wide rice noodles in a flavorful broth topped with slices of roast duck, two sticks of grilled pork from a second stall, and two pieces of sour sausage from a third, it was time to roam the market. We picked up specialty rices, fruit and nuts, and examined clothing, curry pastes, and other options. The heat was brutal, so we stepped into air conditioned stores to cool off. By the time we were finished, the main topic of discussion had become airline baggage weight limits. We could be pressing our luck.

At the Rex, I examined my large box, which is neither too full nor too heavy at this point, and other luggage. I quickly realized that I had forgotten my blue Dockers (the ones I had intended to wear on my flight home) and my favorite batik shirt in the closet of my room back in Krabi. No wonder my packing had seemed so easy. I wonder what else was in that closet? Hmmm… well, I have no credit on my phone, so I will have to call later. (By the time I called, lost and found was closed for the day; better luck tomorrow.)

The post office was sold out of the smaller boxes I used to organize my big box, so I will have to improvise from here. For now, it’s off to Hatthai massage for a final workout. My masseuse had a look of disdain on her face while working on my feet, and she tortured them accordingly, wielding the pointed wooden dowel with intensity. But I certainly appreciated all her hard work on my arms, shoulders, neck, and feet. Her countenance brightened upon receiving a tip.

The Grand Finale

For dinner we strolled a couple of blocks to Vientiane Kitchen, a Northeastern style restaurant with live entertainment. The fried pork leg here is legendary, with a deeply smoky flavor in the thick layers of tasty fat. Our first course, though, was a miang plah, featuring a fried fish, leaves for assembling little packets, and chopped garlic, ginger, chillies, lemongrass, and shallots, bits of lime, toasted coconut shreds, and a sweet sauce to drizzle over the goodies before stuffing the packet in your mouth. Nice. A toasted rice salad with sour sausage bits was properly spicy, as was the eggplant salad (made with what appear to be teriyaki eggplant wedges). The coconut soup with chicken, on the other hand, was too tame, and the soured fish was too salty for me. Still, there was more than enough to go around.

I had purchased a kilogram of (overpriced) mangosteen at Aw Taw Kaw, and Kasma kindly cut them open for sharing. We also ordered a variety of desserts; I had the customary glutinous rice balls filled with sweet black sesame in a ginger tea. Not long after we finished, the band became more active and involved various members of the audience. Various people were called up to blow some pipes, varying in size from large to ridiculous; I couldn’t make much sound with the latter. They also did the bamboo dance, which involves two long poles brought together (*boom* *boom* *smack*) at a faster and faster pace. I have pretty good rhythm, but not such good aim, as I stepped down directly on the bamboo pole, making a sickening cracking sound. Sorry! The second try worked better; Kasma posted an uncut video on her Picasa album.

Tomorrow we head home, or for some, to an intermediate destination. I haven’t kept much money for last minute shopping, but there’s always the ATM if I see something irresistible.

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