The road from Khuraburi to Khao Sok passes through the town of Takua Pa, where we indulge in delicious roti with savory and sweet accompaniments. But first, one more warm shower.
Friday, February 1, 2019
The Greenview offers options of both Western-style and Thai-style breakfasts. I opted for the rice porridge with pork meatballs, and asked for an egg to be added. The egg came out hot, which was a surprise, because it was meant to be raw. When I cracked the shell, only the outer 16th of an inch was cooked. Perhaps this is a food safety technique I’ve never heard of? With a choice of black pepper, ground red pepper, chilli-infused vinegar and other seasonings, it could be made as exciting as you like. Add fruit on the side, and it’s enough to get us to our early lunch.
The town of Takua Pa lies near a key intersection where the main coastal highway meets the smaller highway heading East to popular tourist stops such as Khao Sok Park and Ko Samui. So it was not surprising to see open air shops around the town’s fresh market displaying beach wear alongside ordinary clothes and Chinese New Year items. I was on a quest to find a tea strainer so I could brew loose tea in my hotel room rather than spend my entire trip dependent on terrible little tea bags. I was surprised to find a tea infuser similar to the ones I use at home: a 500ml glass carafe with an infuser basket that fits into the top for the leaves and water. When the tea has reached the desired strength, a button releases the brewed tea into the carafe. For less than $5, this seems like a remarkably lucky find. The thick layer of dust on the box concerned me, but assuming I clean it well before use, what could go wrong?
The real reason we are here is to enjoy a decadent brunch at Thai-Muslim Restaurant. While Southern Thai style roti pancakes usually sell out at breakfast, Kasma arranged in advance for extra dough to be available for our visit. A dough ball is quickly flattened with greased hands, and then stretched to a large circle by being “thrown” onto a flat surface. For plain roti, the sides are folded in to form a square and the dough is then placed on a generously greased griddle to brown and crisp. A few pieces of finished roti are covered with a towel and the cook uses her hands to smash the bread from left and right, then rotates 90 degrees and repeats. This create a fluffy bread perfect with a rich massaman curry chicken or fragrant goat curry. For stuffed roti containing fillings, the center area of the wrapper is covered before the sides are folded over and there is no smashing phase. Instead, savory roti “Mataba” and sweet banana roti are pre-cut into 16 pieces, the latter topped with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk and, optionally, a sprinkle of granulated sugar. It’s not health food, unless you consider your mental health.
The road East from Takua Pa to Khao Sok winds past rubber tree plantations and undeveloped land, gradually gaining elevation. We stopped for a photo op gazing down over a lush valley pierced by limestone karsts that somehow have resisted erosion. After a second view point on the road, and then a brief walk along the top of the dam that formed the Ratchabrapa reservoir (Cheow Lan Lake), we reached the parking lot for the pier. My idea of a light overnight bag is a 22” wheeled carry-on, which is a bit of a chore to carry when the rolling gets difficult. Perhaps I will reconsider my bag choice “next time.”
We crossed the lake in a extra-large longtail boat with a fixed-position sun shade (Kasma prefers a removable sun shade so we can watch for monkeys, birds, etc.). The view was hazier than usual this year, probably due to the particulate pollution affecting Southeast Asia, but one still could appreciate the dramatic limestone karsts that jut from the lake, and marvel at the various forms of life that cling to them. T-shirts captioned “Guilin, Thailand” reference the connection to karsts famous in China, and reflect the rapid increase in Chinese tourism in Thailand over the past decade.
We stopped by the official park cabins to get a better understanding of why we couldn’t book them, and discovered that for the most part, they now require using a separate outhouse instead of having their own bathrooms. It’s one thing to be stumbling to the bathroom on solid ground, and quite another to negotiate a floating walkway at night. Hmm. Our own cabins at the Phupawaree Resort, where I also had stayed in 2017, contain the usual modern conveniences — air conditioning and wi-fi — but no hot water, and you can’t put paper into the toilet. It’s okay for one night. Although the water of the lake is silky and comfortable, and easily entered from each cabin’s personal balcony, I took a break from being wet and used the time to catch up on cooling down.
The Park instituted a no alcohol rule, so having our traditional happy hour in the dining room was not an option. My well-protected bottle of Tequila will need to await another opportunity to be consumed. The meal itself was fairly average: a good sized deep fried whole fish was accompanied by a garlicky spicy sauce. We had “bottomless” plates of sour curry fish (with a large round omelet on the side), vegetables stir-fried in Thai oyster sauce, and red curry with pumpkin and chicken.
Even without a happy hour, one has the sensation of constant motion when lying on a mattress on the floor of the cabin. It’s restful enough, but I won’t mind returning to solid ground for a few days after we boat out tomorrow.