Back in Thailand

Well I guess it’s appropriate that the first post of my new blog is actually about being back in Thailand; as opposed to Bali, or that other Indonesian island, or Kuala Lumpur. Also, as I finally found time to learn to quickly and easily compress my photo files from iPhoto (read: Wayne mentioned to me that a friend had told him how to do it) I can pretty safely assure you this will be the last time you need to bookmark one of my blog links:). (Or you could, you know, hit that subscribe button on the right and get new posts delivered swiftly to your Inbox. Oh, technology!)

Anyway, there was no rest for the weary upon our arrival to our adopted home, and I mean that in the best way possible. Our good friends Jack and Grace (of the Mini Pizza making extravaganza, as well as many other fond memories whose blog posts didn’t jump as readily to mind… oh yes we all went to Nakhon Si Thammarat together once and I recently met up with them in Bangkok… as long as I’m shamelessly plugging I might as well do it right.) were returning to Thung Song for a few brief days on a hiatus from their new jobs in Mandalay, Myanmar. They arrived the day after we did.

We actually took Jack and Grace’s jobs at Thungsong (Tapae) Municipality High School when they left, and so have many mutual friends and acquaintances at the school. Everyone was very excited to see the prodigal children, and true to the parable this involved a lot of food-giving. Wayne and I were invited along for many-a-meal, and thought it only fit to host a feast at our own house on their last night in town.

dim sum; little steamed baskets of things that generally wouldn’t be considered breakfast where we’re from (broccoli, tofu, quail eggs, processed fish patties molded and colored to look like nemo) but is a very standard breakfast here. to no one’s surprise, even after everyone was full another 10-or-so baskets made their way to the table. thai hosts find it really hard to understand and accept the concept of, ‘i’m full, i really can’t eat any more,’ no matter what language you tell them in!

so of course for our feast at home we had to make enough food to impress. item 1: jack’s roasted vegetable fusilli. he taught us how to make a tomato sauce from scratch and we haven’t bought one from the store since. a good trick to know!

item number 2: massaman curry. it’s delicious and comes in $1.50 packets… just sauté some veggies (and/or meat, if you want, it’s generally served with chicken), dissolve the mix in coconut milk, add to veggies, and let simmer until everything is nice and soft with its enzymes sufficiently degenerated. this is a normal thai dish and we thought we’d better serve them something they were used to if they didn’t take so strongly to all the farang food.

item 3: bruschetta (with homemade pesto!)

item 5: grace’s apple crumble. most excellent!

jack, grace, p’lem (p’tim’s husband), p’tim (our invaluable helper-teacher at school), p’bam (another co-teacher), nam and sai (p’lem and p’tim’s daughters), and wayne. not pictured: chok dee, our principle; and jalan, our neighbor. a feast indeed!

There was also potato salad but somehow it missed out on the photo shoot. While Thai people really like to shove food down one’s throat and not take “no” for an answer, we found they seemed a bit more choosy with our food. No worries, though, it left us with a fridge full of leftovers that lasted us a week. As for the over-feeding habits, Eugene’s visiting Finnish friend whom we also met during Jack and Grace’s visit summed it up nicely: “There are worse problems you could have.”

Eugene’s other Finnish friend also made a lasting impression on us in that she made the recommendation that led us to our (Jack’s, Grace’s, Wayne’s, and my) next travel destination: Koh Jum. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry– neither had we. It’s a very small island (that also has the name “Koh Pu,” or “Crab Island”) that was very quiet but picturesque. We were warned there was not much to do there but relax and that sounded perfect to us. The next morning P’Lem so very graciously drove us to Krabi, from where we caught a boat to the island.

their album’s dropping next fall.

crab island indeed!

so to add to the ‘deserted island’ feel there was no electricity in the bungalows at all, and it was turned off after 10 even in the restaurant/hang out area! we were issued an oil lamp as night fell haha. this little baby ran us 350 baht– just over 10 dollars a night!

We attempted to do a bit of snorkeling off the island, but unfortunately the waters around Koh Jum are not graced with the clarity of, say, Koh Phi Phi (visible from Jum’s shores). The snorkels provided by our guesthouse (Joy Bungalows) were also not the greatest. Wayne and I were, however, “lucky” enough to see an enormous reddish-pink jellyfish, which sent us straight out of the water. It was quite murky and I had thoughts of a million others lurking in the midst!

shame, this is from someone’s flickr and i’m not able to get the link for it. but this is what our jelly looked like.

Of course we got some gorgeous sunsets (followed by a few rounds of volleyball… I was the only one to lose all four games, but I was voted Most Improved, which counts for something I guess).

rescue attempt?

The thing about Koh Jum, however, was that as soon as night started falling, and the air temperature hit a certain level (or so we were told), this incredible buzzing sound would instantly fill the air. It was loud but gradually one got used to it, or perhaps when the temperature cooled even further the cacophony actually subsided as quickly as it had begun. In any case, it was easy to forget about the what-must-be-cicadas seemingly everywhere around you. That is, until the lights in the restaurant drew them from the darkness and they first started circling the lights, then descended a bit to land on whomever attracted them the greatest at any particular moment. I’ll say they liked Wayne the best, but none of us made it through the evening without at some point being latched onto by a giant insect.

looks like he’s really considering chomping on the thing!

the second scariest thing in the restaurant that night…

favorite pose.

After two days on the island it was time for the four of us to go our separate ways. Wayne and I were off to Tonsai, to catch our friend Di-art (whom we’d met on our previous excursion to the beach, and who invited us to that big Thai concert near his house in Hat Yai in March) on one of the last weekends he’d be working there.

leaving koh jum. after a terrifying motorbike taxi ride across the island (there aren’t really any… roads to speak of) we took one of these tiny boats to a small fishing village called laem kruat. from there, a songtao to krabi town, a mini bus to ao nang, and then a very very choppy boat ride to tonsai. all part of getting from point a to point b in thailand!

oooh… arrived at low tide…

We remembered Tonsai being quiet, but it would seem we had really arrived in the middle of low season. I wouldn’t call it deserted, but it was definitely devoid of hordes. The fact that as soon as we arrived the wind began blowing incessantly off the sea in ways that suggested a hurricane might be on the way I’m sure did not pique people’s party spirits, encouraging them instead to seek shelter.

This was actually alright by us– the staff at Chill Out Bar (where Di-art worked and where we made our base) are all fun and friendly people, but we were a bit disappointed that the blues band who were meant to play that evening had to pack up their stuff once the rain started falling. We caught their warm-up session and I think it would have been really great. Oh well, it’s safe to say we still enjoyed the evening considerably.

di-art kissing a buddha statue.

The next morning provided much better weather, and we decided to do the jungle trek from Tonsai to Railay Beach. It was a cool journey, but I have to say I wasn’t that impressed by Railay. The beach was definitely nicer than on Tonsai, but we couldn’t find breakfast for under 200 Baht (alright, only $7 but that’s really a lot in these parts) and the people were noticeably less friendly. We met two different people on Tonsai who’d started their time in the area over on Railay, and said when they came to Tonsai there was just this total feeling of, “This is where I need to be!” We felt the same and so decided to be super adventurous and swim back to Tonsai. (On that note, we do know others who prefer Railay, so don’t let me completely bash it. I could see it being a much more livelier place by night.) The swim ended up being a bit longer than I was anticipating but it’s always rewarding to complete a physical challenge like that. We were then rewarded with a <100 Baht breakfast.

advertisement for the blues show we should have seen!

railay (west) beach

By noontime the weather had already changed again; strong winds and rain were making us wonder if we’d even be able to take a boat back to Ao Nang. Eventually we were and after another songtao/walk around Krabi Town in search of the minibus station/minibus we were really back in Thung Song to stay!

Which meant there was one more order of business to carry out: Fetching the beloved pup! In the course of our absence our friend Henk (“Uncle Henk,” to Ollie) had come into possession of a car, so he very kindly drove us out to Nakhon to pick up Ollie from the kennel. With smiles on their faces the ladies working there told us he was naughty and had fought with the other dogs, and also that he hadn’t really eaten. Little pup was indeed a bit on the thin side! But it was a happy reunion and we’ve since worked on putting some meat on his bones.

The next day we were back to work for the onset of 3 weeks of going-to-work-but-having-no-work, which are fond memories at this point, but now reality has set in and we have to go to work (and actually do work) on six Saturdays, including today! So let me leave you here.