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.
As our trip comes to a close, we’ll try to maximize our snorkeling and shopping time. Eating will not be neglected, however, as we’ll have some of the finest meals of our trip. Can we have it all?
For many years, Kasma’s groups would spend three nights on Ko Poda, an island near Krabi with such a long beach that you could watch the sun rise on one end and set on the other. Unfortunately, due to a dispute with the park service, the island’s only resort was destroyed, but to our benefit, Kasma now squeezes in a couple more snorkel locations from a new base on Ko Lanta. And the rooms there are much nicer than the ones on Poda ever were, as long as you don’t mind sharing the property with other Western tourists.
Our snorkeling time on Koh Lipe has come to an end, and we’ll dry out for a couple of days before resuming our observance of undersea life off Koh Lanta. In between, we will feast on delicious Thai-Chinese food and arise before dawn to visit a waterfowl preserve where we’ll test our photography skills.
The Tarutao National Marine Park includes the enormous but seldom visited island of Tarutao, and the more remote Adang-Rawi group of islands where, weather permitting, we will spend many hours face down in the water and enjoying unspoiled vistas (or various beverages) on white sand beaches.
Our time on the Gulf coast (the Gulf of Thailand coast) is coming to a close as we head West to the calm waters of the Andaman Sea for more snorkeling. Our shortened schedule hasn’t quite worked out so far, so we’ll have to do a little juggling on our travel day. As long as we get to the boat on time tomorrow, it’s all good.
There is more to do in Nahkon Si Thammarat, but we must move on. On previous visits to Songkhla, I’ve admired the seafood and taken some nice photos, but if you weren’t already on the Gulf coast and heading to the Tarutao park for snorkeling, would you come out of your way? You be the judge.
Nahkon Si Thammarat is the home of the most important Buddhist temple we will visit on this trip, as well as a nice National Museum and numerous shopping opportunities. Historically, Kasma spent three nights here, but as more snorkeling days were added, something had to give, so we will have just one full day to squeeze it all in.
From the Greenview, we head East, from the shores of the Andaman Sea to those of the Gulf of Thailand. Along the way we’ll visit a huge park on a man-made lake, smaller markets and towns, and other attractions less visited by Western tourists. Will we be sufficiently amused to go nearly a whole week without snorkeling?
It’s tempting to imagine what proper resort accommodations might do to one’s experience at Koh Surin, but if it were more comfortable, there might be even more competition for longtail boats and more stress on the reefs, so it’s probably better to tolerate the inconveniences and compensate with a little luxury when we return to land. At least, that’s how we’re thinking about it as we prepare to leave our dark, stuffy bungalows for a last snorkel, and then, too soon for me, our ferry back to shore.
Despite multiple coral bleaching episodes in recent years, many of the reefs around Koh Surin retain their colorful corals and plentiful communities of fish. As committed snorkelers, we were intent on seeing as much as possible during our time here. As I like to joke, our itinerary is generally “snorkel, snorkel, lunch, snorkel, snorkel, dinner.”
There is a lot of road to cover between Bangkok and the pier where we’ll catch our ferry to the Koh Surin Marine National Park (Mu Ko Surin). We’ll shop and eat our way down the Malay Peninsula and overnight in Ranong, as I did in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2012. But what appears “same same” on paper always seems to have some variation.
After taking a couple of days to orient myself to local time, I will at last be meeting up with our group for the first of many dinnertime feasts, and tomorrow our journey begins in earnest. At mid-day I will move from the condo to our hotel, but first, I’ll have one last breakfast on my own. Maybe it’s time to take a break from pork noodle soup? There are so many other kinds of noodle soup I could try.
When I mention to people that I’m traveling to Thailand with my Thai cooking teacher Kasma Loha-Unchit, they often think I am coming here to learn how to cook Thai food. I always feel a bit sheepish explaining that I take my Thai cooking lessons right at home, in Oakland, California (The Art of Thai Cooking), and I come to Thailand to eat as much properly cooked Thai food as humanly possible. Not out of mere gluttony — also to refresh my taste memory of the heights to which my cooking aspires. Today I will finally take a cooking class on this side of the Pacific and learn some variations from the techniques I’ve been taught in the past. But first, how about some pork noodle soup for breakfast?
Before my trip last year, my sister gave me Thailand’s Best Street Food (Amazon.com), and since I wasn’t able to work my way through the entire list then, I’m going to resume my work today and try to eat as much Bangkok street food as possible. I think I’m ready for any eventuality: I brought Tums, Pepto-Bismol, and a Z-Pak.