During my research on group activities, I accidentally discovered a site called Cookly, which lists numerous cooking courses in Bangkok. Amongst the fancy professional and hotel cooking schools were several home-based classes that offered a great value and, I hoped, a setup one could better hope to recreate back in the States. Today we’ll have the opportunity to see for ourselves.
The Royal Orchid Sheraton is very close to Chinatown, which is the first stop on our walking tour this morning. I suppose it would be more accurate to say walking, boat, bus and tuk tuk tour, but we will get to that soon enough. The first challenge for my friends is fighting the jet lag and getting to the lobby by 8:15 to meet our guides.
Five friends will be joining me on their first trip to Thailand this afternoon. I don’t think I’ve learned enough Thai to function as a tour guide, but I have apps for translation, mapping, and reviews, so I’m hoping it will all work out. This morning, I have time for one more massage before checking out of the Salil and moving across town.
The last day of any of Kasma’s trips dawns bittersweet. We will celebrate our time together with a dinner feast, but our little tribe might never find ourselves all together in one place again. At least we have photos, and nearly 24 hours of potential adventures ahead.
Gazing out over the beach from the Anda Lanta’s breakfast buffet, it is easy to understand the attractions of this island. Yet we must continue North: more reefs need to be snorkeled, and more delicious Thai food awaits. Krabi, here we come.
Kasma has been bringing groups to the Southern end of Koh Lanta for a few years now, to put some prime snorkel spots a 30-60 minute boat ride away. The Anda Lanta is a luxurious little oasis on our trip. Its lovely views, ludicrously large beds, ample porches with drying racks, strong air conditioning, hot showers, and easy breakfast buffet make life here a breeze. Kasma’s driver Sun says coming to Koh Lanta is like coming to a foreign country because no Thais visit here, but this time there are at least two exceptions: due to a cancellation by a trip member, there is a room for our drivers Sun and Aex so they can get a closer look at how foreigners vacation in Thailand.
Located on the Gulf coast of Thailand, Nakhon Si Thammarat is an historically important sea port and home of Southern Thailand’s most important Buddhist temple. Here we will find our main cultural sites on this trip, as well as some tasty food.
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.
After a long, hot morning here at Koh Surin, we will head East in search of cell towers and hot showers. It’s hardly been “Survivor, Thailand” out here, but we value our little luxuries.
Our vans raced to the Mu Ko Surin Park headquarters where we met representatives from Sabina tours, who operate the speedboat “ferry” out to the islands. We wanted to be early so we could board first and get our pick of seats, but there was no way to know another group would delay our departure by over an hour. Oh well, more shopping time.
It’s about 600 kilometers from Bangkok to Ranong, including several delicious detours. Although I’ve made this journey five times before, it turns out there are significant changes this year because the wonderful seaside restaurant at the Pranburi Marina, Sunee, was evicted due to encroachment on public land. I will miss the crab meat stir-fried with holy basil and spicy baby clam salad. But we won’t go hungry. Ever.
On Kasma’s Southern trip, we have a couple days here in Thailand’s enormous capital city before heading for the beautiful coast of the Andaman Sea. If all goes according to plan, there will be delicious meals, bargain hunting, massages, and good internet connectivity. Unfortunately, this year the air will be even more polluted than usual. In truth, I don’t mind having another excuse to avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the tropical heat, but I brought masks just in case.
My route to Thailand takes me through Taipei, Taiwan. On previous journeys, I have passed a few pleasant hours in Taoyuan airport’s Terminal 2 eating dumplings, having my hair washed, and riding the massage chairs. This time, one of the options for redeeming my miles provided an eight hour layover that promised enough time to run into town for even tastier dumplings. As if this weren’t complicated enough, would attempting to vlog the adventure bring me to a whole new level of crazy?
When I first visited Thailand in January 2005, I had no idea I would return even once, much less nine more times. But the warm waters, delicious food, fascinating culture, and Kasma’s well-planned itineraries keep drawing me back. This year, after a 20-day round trip through the South, some friends will join me for an after-trip. My own “tour guiding” skills will be put to the test, and while I can guarantee that we won’t go hungry, beyond that, we’re winging it!
Today we’ll fly to Bangkok and wrap up our adventure in Southern Thailand with the traditional feast of Northeastern food and entertainment — my tenth. It’s remarkable that after all these years I still can’t predict whether my purchases will fit in my bags and meet the weight limit. But then, it wouldn’t be travel without surprises.