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.
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.
Ranong (January 25, 2010)
The hotel said they would open their dining room at 6:15 am to accommodate our schedule. However, they failed to mention that the food would not arrive until 6:30. Perhaps that is unfair to the white bread and sliced fruit — they are foods, too — but the extra 15 minutes built into our schedule already was being squeezed out.
As we headed to the pier at Ban Hin Lahd, we passed through at least 3 checkpoints. There is a serious effort here to crack down on Burmese immigrants. Fortunately, none of us merited close inspection.
Bangkok (January 24, 2010)
Leaving Bangkok under cover of darkness, we made good time on the major highway toward Southern Thailand. Our first stop was a roadside stand selling shrimp paste (kapi) and sea salt. The products are complementary, in that salt is an important element of turning tiny fresh shrimp into the fermented paste that forms the base for many Thai curries and relishes. Although I still have a jar from 2008, for just over a dollar, it makes sense to get a fresh jar. And thus begins another day of barely justifiable shopping.
Bangkok (Sunday, January 22, 2006)
I woke before 4:00, feeling a bit sore from the massage (or the bed?). Time to clean up and pack for a day of driving and snacking. I miscalculated the time needed to pack and ended up the last to check out — 10 minutes late. Kasma gave me her most disapproving look; I must do better from now on.
Ranong (Monday, January 17, 2005)
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!
Bangkok (Sunday, January 16, 2005)
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.