On this final morning in Bangkok, there was little time to roam the streets for last minute tastes of the deliciously familiar. Instead, it was the challenge of securely packaging precious souvenirs in a manageable fashion that compelled me to check the 7-11 for rope, twine, handles, or anything to supplement my packing tape. In the end, more tape would have to do. After a last breakfast of rice porridge in the hotel restaurant, we loaded into the van for the airport.
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.
After a last cold, salty shower and a last sunrise on the lovely beach of Koh Poda, we gathered for a breakfast of boiled rice soup with chicken meatballs. After a brief powerboat ride back to Ao Nang, we would be heading back to Krabi town for better food and better accommodations.
We have a day of transition before our next island destination but this, too, will be spent mostly in a swimsuit. Heading North from Trang to Krabi, our first stop was a small restaurant serving local-style dim sum. However, seeing that a tour bus had just dropped off passengers there, we drove another block to a second place. It had less selection, but it was okay. Those less than impressed would not have to wait long for another bite: we soon would be stopping at the Kook Ming cake factory!
Our last morning on Koh Lipe involved another run through the buffet (ho hum) and then a chaotic transfer by longtail boat to the ferry pier. Pier is generous: a too-small rectangular area composed of air-filled plastic blocks has two speedboats tied up to it at a time, and several longtail “taxis” attempting to unload passengers and bags from all directions. No one seems to be in charge, but the captains of the ferries give orders and reprimands. Tourists approach one another for a clue, but we who cannot speak Thai are all confused.
The bug is back. And although I could have squished him (her?) several times in flicking it toward the corner, it failed to take the hint to run down the hole. Currently it has left the bathroom and disguised itself against the wood paneling of the Western wall of the bungalow. I will let the housekeeping crew deal with it.
I set the alarm an hour early to make very certain that I wouldn’t miss the checkout time. Although it was a close call, in the end we were waiting for the BP Samila’s bellhop to lug all our bags down to the van, so I was okay.
Songkhla (Feb. 8, 2012)
A soft but insistent thrumming woke me before 6:00am: Thai synthesized aerobics music. I checked email and headed down to photograph the sunrise. Despite many attempts, I couldn’t figure out a good way to feature the famous mermaid statute and the rising sun together, but a fisherman throwing out his net made a good silhouette.
A Final Morning in Nakhon Si Thammarat
We headed to a newly developed street for a breakfast of Hokkien (Fujian) Chinese dim sum, which differs in some ways from the Cantonese dim sum so familiar to those of us from the Bay Area. While we waited, we tried their signature soup of pork in a five spice broth with cabbage and mushrooms. The broth was delicious, and some of the meat, but the liver and stomach were not my favorite bits.
Eating Local in Nakhon Si Thammarat (Feb. 5, 2012)
The Sunday market is composed of row upon row of vendor stalls. At one end, you can find a wide range of used clothes (is this the end of the Goodwill value chain?), and at the other, you can order fresh squeezed sugar cane juice in a bottle, cup, or plastic bag. In between, we saw endless piles of fruits and vegetables, curry pastes ready to fry up, fish being butchered, and frogs knocked senseless. Of course, we also ate innumerable items as we went; one of my favorites was chicken on a stick with a sweet red coconut BBQ sauce.
Departing the Greenview (Feb. 3, 2012)
I thought I might be running late when I dropped into the dining room at 7:32, but apparently I was the first to show. I ordered the rice porridge with pork meatballs (“boiled rice” on the menu, “joke” in casual Thai) and doctored it with the available vinegar, ground dry chillies, and white pepper. When I later mentioned to Kasma and Michael that I wished I had brought a smaller bag for the lake trip, they lent me a bag. As they removed a couple of kilos of shrimp paste I realized that there would be a certain fragrance. I treated the inside of the bag with Rick Steves’ Quick Fresh spray (not entirely effectively) and set it out to dry.
Koh Surin Day 4 (Feb. 2, 2012)
After another mosquito battle and organizing my bags for departure, we met for a classic Thai breakfast of rice porridge. Rice is a constant, of course, as are shreds of ginger, but the other ingredients can vary widely. Ours contained shrimp, fried garlic, and a bit of cilantro. From dishes on the table we could sprinkle on chillies for punch, and white vinegar for added freshness. We also had some shredded, dried, sweetened pork “floss” from Kasma’s snack bag, which offered some chewiness and extra protein.
Koh Surin Day 1 (Jan. 30, 2012)
While there were too few guests for the Jansom Hot Spa Resort to lay out a lavish breakfast buffet, we did have our choice of a rice or noodle plate. I had spicy chicken with Thai basil and a fried egg to start my day. That and several cups of Lipton tea would have to keep me going until lunchtime.
I recalibrated my mental calendar to ensure that I was ready for an on-time departure. Mission accomplished: twenty minutes early rather than ten minutes late. We headed down the highway toward Ranong, where we would lay over for the evening. Our first stop was at a roadside stand specializing in kapi, the shrimp paste that forms an important component of many Thai curries and other dishes. Tiny shrimp are laid out in the sun to dry, then salted and allowed to ferment. The better grades smell best (more “like the sea” and less “rotten”). I picked up a small jar that should last me a while.
On the first Saturday morning of her trips, Kasma likes to lead bewildered Americans down the crowded sidewalk of Sukhumvit between Soi 55 (Soi Thonglor) and Soi 57, where a market blossoms at dawn. Fragrant grilled pork, strings of flower buds for Buddhist offerings, and knick-knacks beckoned, but we were on a quest. We picked up plump pan-fried dumplings stuffed with garlicky Chinese chives, chewy glutinous rice chive cakes, fried bread (a kind of unsweetened doughnut), grilled bananas, and khanom krok, the deliciously rich coconut milk pancakes (in this case topped with a few kernels of corn or bits of green onion). Oh, and two trays of mango and sticky rice.