Ko Lanta…last day?

Our last day in our new-found paradise, Ko Lanta and on to the story of the “secret” beach.  The night of the beach party, Malik the TukTuk driver asked us what beaches we’ve been going to on Ko Lanta and since we haven’t really felt like renting a motorbike or paying for TukTuk’s we’ve been sticking to our local beach-it has some ‘okay’ snorkelling but the reef is dead and it’s just rock and not swimmable at low tide.  Malik started telling us about this beach by his house down the road which is basically around the rocky outcrop from where we had been swimming.  We’ve seen a couple of people swimming around this outcrop and have wondered what’s around the bend and where they were going.  He offered to take us in his TukTuk the next day as it is not visible from the road.  After breakfast he took us about 5 minutes drive up the road and wouldn’t take any money for taking us there.  We pulled over to the side of the road to a small pathway that went into the thick jungle.  The path was very overgrown and very narrow and I couldn’t help but think of cobras or poisonous spiders or something.  I didn’t think about Malik leading us into the jungle in the middle of nowhere, however, as I had seen him with Pon and Pheat for days now and I knew he was good friends with them and he obviously loves Nong Pheat very much.  He was always carrying him around anyway, I felt fine.  After about 10 minutes of walking through tall jungle shrub the path opened up into a massive clearing of coconut palms and a large bay of freaking unbelievable private beach.  Actually, almost private-at the time of our arrival there was one other German couple on the beach who immediately started asking Malik how to tell the difference between the young coconut and the ones with the harder dried meat we are more accustomed to in the west.  He had already opened up two coconuts and drank the coconut water but he had thrown away the rest.  Malik took out his knife and fashioned a spoon out of a piece of the coconut and gave it to me to eat and left us to the beach.  We chose the other end of the bay and left the Germans on the other side and after about 2 hours, they left and we had the whole entire beach to ourselves.  A huge bay with a soft break of waves and all white sand.  Behind us the grove of coconut trees and beyond that the jungle and the path back to the road. 

At the edge of the grove where it meets the sand, a mango tree with a rope swimming and actually the only downside to this was the garbage from groups of partying Thai’s including syringes!! Actually one big disappointment in otherwise beautiful Ko Lanta has been the garbage on the beach.  When I mention it to local people they seem reluctant to admit it comes from the locals (all the garbage is not the kind of stuff tourists buy, although you do see some plastic water bottles), and instead they blame it on the last full moon period where the tide was exceptionally high but I don’t know.  Anyway, a near perfect secret beach and we spent the afternoon here, M living out his Robinson Crusoe fantasies by attempting (and failing) to make fire.  We swam and watched the coconut palms sway and 3 muslim fisherman and their little boy pulled their boats up and disappeared into the jungle path. 

I feel pretty lucky these days. 

We leave Ko Lanta early tomorrow morning and tonight we must say goodby to Pon, Pen and Nong Pheat although Pen has told us she is waking up early to open the restaurant so we can grab breakfast from her before we go.  We hope to come back to see them again.  We’re already talking about doing so when we reenter Thailand from the North later to go to Chiang Mai but at the moment I’m not sure. 

That’s the problem with travelling is you make really intense friendships in a short period of time but then you have to leave.  At home you already have those really intense friendships and all you do is think about leaving.  I suppose we just have to make the most of all of them each day. 

Ko Lanta and the stars…

(journal excerpt) November 27, 2011-The weather here finally changed for the good here and we got a good day at the beach yesterday.  Still hanging out with Pon, Pheat and Pen and its been great getting to know them more.  I have learned a lot from Pen in a short time about Thai cooking and after mentioning to her that I was after a Thai style vegetable peeler (I know, I’m a geek), she promptly brought me a new one in the package from her kitchen and tried to give it to me.  I made her take 20B for it and even that wasnt enough…I had my first fresh young coconut since being here that Pen hacked open with a massive knife by herself.  It had been in the fridge and it was ice-cold and the best thing I have ever tasted.  Then you get a spoon to scoop out the young coconut meat from inside.  Seriously amazing. 

Pon has a friend named Malik who hangs out near the restaurant.  He drives a tuktuk and waits for customers to walk by and when he is not busy, which is always, he is in the restaurant smoking and talking with Pon or playing with Nong Pheat.  Pon made Mai Tais for them and was giving us little shot glasses of the leftovers which eventually grew into him making a new blender full and him giving us two full glasses free of charge.  After we hung out in the restaurant for a while, they asked us if we were going to go to this beach part that was happening down the road at the next beach resort about ten minutes drive away.  We hadn’t planned on it, the flyer on our table didn’t make it sound too much our thing-a Man U game on a big “telly” followed by a UFC match, cheap beer and some kind of “worst Speedo ever” competition.  But they offered to drive and said they were going so we all loaded up in their truck, baby and all and headed to Klong Nin Beach.  We had to make a stop first at teh resort that Pon’s mother runs/rents.  Pen mentioned she might stay there with Pheat and visit with Pon’s mother. 

As soon as we arrived at the resort, all these children ran up to Pheat and he was carried off into the crowd of family and friends.  The resort was rough-I’m talking some serious ramshackle wood and thatch bungalows-loud music, I caught a glimpse of the inside of someones open bungalow and it was fully horrific, like something out of that scene on the Ko San Road in “The Beach”.  Meanwhile Pen brought me a Thai whiskey and coke (also free) and M bought a big Chang.  We were getting to know this French couple that Pen and Pon also invited and came on their rented motorbike.  She is half Mauritian, half French and he is Algerian.  Their English was about as good as M’s french and so our conversation vacillated between the two languages and as the two (M and the Algerian) got involved in heated discusses about Algerian cinema, politics and healthcare systems, I tried to explain in basic English what was being said to Pon and Pheat who had no clue what was going on.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t get to the other resort for the beach party until we stopped there on the way back home.  The evening progressed into many Thai whisky buckets and apparently Scottish? Rum and Pen and I sat in low beach chairs as the tide came in under our feet and she told me all sorts of things about working at the resort where we were, under her now mother-in-law, fighting with her and getting 4000B per month (and sometimes 3000B) for working the bar, serving customers food, taking orders and essentially doing whatever she was told to).  She also talked about getting cheated out of 80,000B when they attempted to open their restaurant down the beach from where we were (long story) and having to save the money all over again. 

The night was amazing and beautiful and a few times I walked out to the edge of the water where it as away from all the lights of the resort and there were more stars than I’ve ever seen.  I actually said, “Oh my god” out loud, it was literally breathtaking.  As much as I thought I hated a cheesy fireshow, I quickly changed my mind when the adorable 11-year-old nephew of Pon came down to the beach to give us a private show.  All the while poor Pheat stayed awake and was mostly cheerful (there is no such thing as a “bedtime” in Thailand or most of Asia as far as I can tell). 

As I said, it was an amazing night, our new French friends were great and a perfect night only to be followed by a more perfect day the next day that I have to write about tomorrow when my hand doesn’t hurt so much…

What I’ve been eating…

Hello lovelies,

As per requests, I have been taking photos of food I’ve been eating along the way.  If you know me, you know I am obsessed with food, probably most obsessed with Asian food and we have been eating at the best place in Thailand as far as I’m concerned.  Below are some photos and locations.  Prepare to drool.

Mos Burger: Mos Burger was our guilty Japanese fast food pleasure when we lived in Tokyo so of course we had to indulge when we were in Bangkok.  This is, what it looks like.  It’s a burger with a bun made of rice and the inside is seafood tempura.  I have since read the aforementioned Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” and vow to cut down on my seafood intake if not eliminate it entirely but you will see it crop up from time to time on my travels.  This above meal was not as good as I thought it would be.  It was kinda greasy and needed a lot of hot sauce to give it some oomph. 

Spicy Thai Salad: Made with tofu, just for us! We ate a variation of this salad every day and I am completely addicted to it.  Lime juice, chilis, fish sauce, onions and cilantro..oh my god, my mouth is watering just remembering it.

Thai Glass Noodle Salad: A variation on the same salad with glass noodles.

Muslim Yellow Curry with Peanuts, Potato and Tofu

All thai food photos courtesy of Nong Pheat Kitchen on Kong Klong Beach in Ko Lanta.  Please visit the sweetest family ever with the best food! You can see more of my photos, including more food photos on my flickr page here.

Ko Lanta…

In Ko Lanta now, a great change from Ao Nang and Railay…in a way it’s a shame that the place that once held such a huge place in my heart has changed and I wanted to remember it in a different way, but if it wasn’t for our desire to find something else, we wouldn’t have gone to Ko Lanta.  Hard to say what it will be like here in another five years but for now it’s our new Railay…what follows are some journal excerpts from the past little while…

(journal excerpt-November 16, 2011-Railay Beach, Thailand)-Our plans have changed a bit and we are leaving for Ko Lanta tomorrow.  Originally we were planning on going to the islands off Trang, particularly Ko Muk which is famous for its beautiful Emerald Cave (a cave you enter at low tide that opens up into what sounds like an amazing lagoon with crystal clear water) but it seems like a bit of a fuckaround to get to from here.  I know that that is how it is and how one gets to the more isolated, less touristy beach but the cost of all the transport from here to there has also dissuaded us for the moment.  From here we can get to Ko Lanta fairly easily as the package ticket we can buy here is under $15 for us to get all the way there.  We are really hoping to be free from all the Canadian 20-somethings and Russians as Ko Lanta is a much larger area with 9 or 10 beaches=more spread out.  I know its wrong to be irritated by whole nationalities, one of which I am a part but really I am just irritated by large groups of people from anywhere that impose themselves upon you and dominate a whole area without respect for the people around them.  The Canadian idiots came home at 4am again last night and had full on yelling conversation with each other on their veranda.  I think the German woman who is next to us and seems to be alone must have come out and told them to be quiet because today they apologized to her…anyway, I am excited to be going to a new beach tomorrow and even the challenge of finding a new place to stay doesn’t bother me-this is the only real Thai beach I’ve been to and I’m ready to check out some more…Ko Lanta!

(journal excerpt-November 19, 2011-Ko Lanta, Thailand)-We have spent two nights in Ko Lanta and so far it has been a refreshing change from Railay.  The poeple here are so much more laid back and friendly and there is a lost more space for the tourists to be spread out in.  We are in Kong Khlong Beach which is rocky and not the best for swimming but known more for its snorkelling and backpacker crowd.  Lots of Bhang Lassi’s and Mushroom Shakes to be had although I am abstaining! Our guesthouse is called Blue Andaman Lanta esport and has a nice swimming pool.  Our room is much larger, newer and cleaner than what we had in Railay and has Cable TV but it is also 100B more.  The price upgrade has been worth it.  We are right on the beach and we have free wifi in the restaurant.  The area we are in is not very developed compared to the other beaches but if you walk about 15 minutes there is a 7-11 and another convenience store is just 2 minutes away.  Rood is somewhat cheaper here than Railay, as well we’ve found a great family restaurant with the sweetest couple and baby we have been eating at since arriving.  We also met an older man from Georgia wo has been good company and he also travels often for months at a time so he has some good travelling stories, many from years and years back before backpacking was as common…

(November 20, 2011-Ko Lanta, Thailand)-Very strenuous day of laying by the pool and beach har har.  Took some laundry this morning…)

(November 24, 2011-Ko Lanta, Thailand)-We have been in Ko Lanta now for one week and it feels like we’ve been here forever.  Time has come to a standstill and we rarely know which day it is.  Unfortunately it has rained most of the time we have been here and when it rains there is very little to do, which is still better than a day back at home at work! We visit our little restaurant every day with Pen, Pon and Pheat (that’s Pete, not Feet) and M and I play with him while his parents help the customers and cook.  The other day after we ate dinner they had no more customers and Pen asked me if we’d like to go with them to the main village for a festival.  For 10 days there was a huge market with food stalls, a stage for bands and about a million people.  I didn’t buy anything but Pen and Pon bought several shirts for their baby and some toys for him which broke the next day.  Pen needed new shoes so bad that her flip-flops broke on the way to the festival grounds meaning she had to walk barefoot in the mud till she bought some new ones for 120B.  They are a sweet family and they really seem to have very little but it’s clear how much they love their Kid.  Pen is 26 and Pon only 22.  Pen told me when she found out she was pregnant she wasnt happy because she and Pon had hoped they would have had money for everything for a baby before they had one.  She wanted an abortion but Pon refused and now she said she feels bad when she thinks of that and sees Pheat.  They struggle, their restaurant being only one month old but its clear they are happier than most people I know.  As for our Georgia friend it looks like he is skipping Malaysia for now and moving on to Vietnam instead.  Malaysia is likely going to be wet and he has never been to Vietnam…so with the Rain we mostly swim a bit until it starts, read and write and talk to the people in the restaurant or Georgia.  So far I have read:

Dead Souls-Nikolai Gogol

Eating Animals-J. Safran Foer

The Marriage Plot-Jeffrey Eugenides

A Visit from the Goon Squad-Jennifer Egan

The Cats Table-Michael Ondaatje

Our next adventure will likely be to attempt to get to KL by my birthday in one week.  From here we will go to Satun and spend one night, and then one or two nights max in Langkawi (not our favourite place) and then on to KL.  Our Visa expires in about 8 or 9 days and its hard to believe we’ve been in Thailand almost one month.  I’m looking forward to being in another big city for my birthday and I’m also looking forward to those amazing 1$ indian thalis Malaysia is so famous for! Thanks for reading…

xo