Afterburn — Back in the Bay Area

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Feb 212005

Home (Monday, February 21, 2005)

I’ve been back in California for ten days and my tan is starting to fade. But Thailand — its people, places, and food — remains on my mind. Not least because I’ve been poring over 2,700+ digital photos, picking out the ones that are the least blurred and (in my opinion) most evocative of my trip. It probably will be several weeks before they can be edited and resized and posted for viewing. I never imagined it would be such a big project. Continue reading »

Bangkok Finale

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Feb 102005

Krabi (Wednesday February 9, 2005)

I had trouble sleeping after I realized that I had packed my passport in my other suitcase and forwarded it on ahead to Bangkok. Would I be able to fly? How long did the bus to Bangkok take? Fortunately, the photocopy stashed in my wallet was sufficient and after a brief stop at the breakfast buffet, and a few hours in transit, we arrived in Bangkok and met up with our drivers. Continue reading »

Krabi Take 3

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Feb 082005

Khuraburi (Monday, February 7, 2005)

Who won the election? Apparently it was a subject that engendered great passions: as we drove from Khuraburi through the heavily impacted Khao Lak area, we saw a person stomping on one of the candidates’ signs on the side of the road. He flashed us a big grin when he noticed us watching. We were in Khao Lak with the idea to distribute some additional contributions, but there was not an organized place to do so, except in temporary housing centers which were much too large for the amount of cash we were carrying. But let’s get back in sequence. Continue reading »

Koh Surin National Park

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Feb 062005

Khuraburi (Thursday February 3, 2005)

Koh Surin National Park is Thailand’s premier snorkeling destination, with numerous reefs teeming with fish and unparalleled corals. At least, it was before the tsunami. With only tent camping available, it was not the destination one would have hoped for, but at least it was open. Having already spent six days on the water, we would see whether Surin remained #1. Continue reading »

To Khuraburi and Beyond

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Feb 022005

Krabi (Wednesday, February 2, 2005)

After another run through the hotel buffet, we packed into our vans for the next leg of our journey. The morning began with a number of phone calls to Sabina Tours and various park officials while Kasma coordinated the camping arrangements for Koh Surin. During this time, we were released into the market in Krabi, which featured stall after stall of seafood vendors, dessert vendors, meat vendors, vegetable vendors, and so on. Many of us purchased snack items for the road. Continue reading »

Krabi Take 2

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Feb 012005

Koh Poda (Tuesday, February 1, 2005)

We had a late breakfast of fried rice noodles on Koh Poda and boarded our longtails for Krabi around 10:15. An hour later (and a bit wetter), we were on shore and headed into Krabi town for some shopping and Internet access before lunch. (Exciting description of checking e-mail omitted.) Continue reading »

Koh Poda (Poda Island)

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Jan 312005

Krabi (Saturday January 29, 2005)

After an all-too-brief night at the Maritime Park & Spa Resort, and a quick run through the buffet, we loaded our island essentials and headed for a pier to catch a longtail boat to our first destination, the beaches of Krabi’s Laem Phra Nang peninsula, which has no access by road. Continue reading »

Krabi Take 1

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Jan 282005

Trang (Friday, January 28, 2005)

We checked out of our hotel in Trang and headed up the road for dim sum. The first spot, which apparently is the best place in town, did not have enough available tables for our party of 14, so we headed to a second. Our plates included a delicious roasted pork, as much fat and crispy skin as meat; steamed fish with ginger; siu mai pork dumplings (I’ve had better in California); fish cakes; fried bread (Chinese doughnuts); sticky rice steamed or grilled in some kind of leaves; sticky rice stuffed with pork; crab claws in a pork meatball in bitter melon; crab claws in a mixture of crab and shrimp meat; black mushrooms in a brown sauce; steamed pork buns; and, last but perhaps best, steamed buns filled with a bean paste-coconut custard blend. And, for once, all the tea I could drink. We were extremely full but we stopped just up the road at Kook Ming, the bakery that originated Trang cakes. After mulling the many choices in the gift shop, people settled on various favorites, and we sampled the “three flavor” cake. It wasn’t my favorite: it was more of a three-color-not-that-much-flavor cake to me, but I was still scheming a way to get a dozen of those bean paste buns for the island. Continue reading »

Trang and Thale Noi Waterbird Park

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Jan 272005

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. Continue reading »

Koh Tarutao National Park

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Jan 252005

Satun (Sunday, January 23, 2005)

We got on the road North to Pak Bara from where we would catch our chartered boat out to the islands of Tarutao park. We stopped for breakfast very near the pier, having a choice of various lunch-like items. I vaguely recall a slightly tough beef stir-fry, but I wasn’t taking notes. Continue reading »

West to Satun

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Jan 222005

Songkhla (Saturday, January 22, 2005)

For our last breakfast in Songkhla, we once again visited the hotel buffet (in my case, for less than 15 minutes) for rice soup, a piece of omelet, fruit and tea. We then headed to another local museum, first taking a brief detour to the large, ornate Wat Matchimawat temple. The Songkhla National Museum formerly served as the governor’s mansion. Built in Southern Chinese style and housing a wide variety of artifacts, the museum provided a pleasant diversion. Once under way, we had to pull over for rambutan (I forget the Thai name), a red fruit with many soft green protrusions that tastes somewhat similar to lychee. The stand also had very ripe durian, which I tried for the second time (and really didn’t like much better.) Continue reading »

From Nahkon to Songkhla

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Jan 212005

Nakhon Si Thammarat (Thursday, January 20, 2005)

For our last breakfast in Nakhon, we once again visited Krour Nakorn for noodle and rice dishes. We then hit the road to visit a couple more local temples and associated markets. At Wat Wang Tawan Tok, we saw an example of a Thai-style Kuti, a wooden monks’ residence dating back to 1888. While the Kuti was remarkably well preserved, the other temple buildings were in varying states of (dis)repair. Numerous vendors in the marketplace appeared to be selling virtually identical amulets and charms featuring the particular image in the temple’s main shrine. Down the road we visited the Nakhon Si Thammarat Handicraft Center for additional examples (and purchases) of yan lipao — baskets woven of very fine fern stem fibers — where many of us did our part to support local artists. Continue reading »

Nakhon Si Thammarat

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Jan 192005

Khao Sok Park (Tuesday, January 18, 2005)

Our next destination, Nakhon Si Thammarat, is described by the Rough Guide as “the cultural capital” of Southern Thailand. The city has enormous importance in Theravada Buddhism, the religion observed by more than 90% of Thais. Our two day whirlwind exploration of Nakhon will cover temples, museums, markets, and of course food. Continue reading »

Khao Sok National Park

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Jan 172005

Monday, January 17, 2005 — Ranong

Over breakfast at the Palm Court, we were disappointed to learn that our snorkel trip to Koh Surin had been delayed, not least because we immediately had to re-pack for a very different trip to Khao Sok. But we were pleased to learn that we were moving on, and that there was reason to hope that the park service would have Surin’s beaches cleaned up to its satisfaction well before we would be leaving Thailand. For those keeping notes, we had a somewhat traditional breakfast of rice porridge with a wide variety of “stuff” on the side. I ordered combination B, which came with three plates of strong-flavored dishes that could be eaten with or added into the porridge. These were Chinese sausage chunks stir-fried with vegetables, salted fish (not my favorite) stir-fried with vegetables, and thin pieces of fish (or was it chicken?) sauteed in a slightly sweet yellow sauce. The portions seemed immense for breakfast, but we would need the energy! Continue reading »

The Road to Ranong

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Jan 162005

Sunday, January 16, 2005 — Bangkok

Tonight we will stay in Ranong, a town famous for its geothermal hot springs. Before leaving the U.S., I had read that after the December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami, the springs had run dry. If true, it probably is temporary: the Rough Guide says Ranong is the wettest town in Thailand. Continue reading »