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Posts Tagged ‘Khao Lak’

Meanwhile, Back in Surat Thani

February 10, 2010 2 comments

“Temple!  Temple!  Temple!  HA–34 POINTS!”

I couldn’t determine the accent of the couple next to us, but they were definitely speaking English.  Crammed in the front of the bus from Khao Lak, scoring one point for every bird-house like construction that they saw standing in front of a house.  They’re not exactly temples, I kept biting back.  They’re actually called “Spirit Houses”, and are used to keep any and all ghosts/poltergeists/demons sheltered and out of the house.  The more people who have died in any given spot, the bigger the Spirit House.  They come in bright colors, and are gilded in the clawed style of Thai Temples.

“SPIRIT HOUSE!” may’ve been a difficult thing to shout, though…every time they yelled “temple!”, a drop of water from the leaky air conditioner landed on Brian’s shoulder.

“Temple!……Temple!”

The final day and a half in Khao Lak was beautiful, but we’d gotten antsy again.  After our wade across the lagoon, one of the workers of the Sunset Bar rushed from the beach hut to summon Nop, who brought us a tray of 4  squid.  They’d just been pulled out of the ocean, and their skin was flashing from purple to white and every hue in between.  Nop told us that’s how we could tell it was fresh.  He cooked two for us with lemony spices with sauteed cabbage, onion, and carrots.  We could barely finish.

“Three people on a motorcycle!  46 points!”

Saddlesore yesterday, we left the bikes beside the Amsterdam Resort workers, who were cracking open shells on the bricks outside the computer room.  We walked two blocks to the International Tsunami Museum.  It was little more than two skinny stories with a few presentation boards with facts and photos, a small laptop with seismic readings and a horrifying video of the wave coming in, but it was extremely effective.  It’s been six years already, but the memory is still poignant, and the results are observable in the sparse population, the construction outlets, and the under-utilized, but beautiful beach.  Most of the facts about the incident can be found online.  One thing I didn’t know, that I think is worth sharing, is that the earthquake that set the waves in motion also moved the North Pole by an inch. 

I realized that I was more shaken by the visit to the Tsunami Museum than by my visit to Auschwitz two years ago, which was confusing.  But then, for something like the Holocaust, one can focus anger on the evil people who were the cause and the perpepuation.  I can’t hate the ocean, or fault lines, so the feelings are a little more conflicted…

“Temple…Temple….MONKEY ON A MOTORCYCLE!!!”

We lurched forward to look as the bus passed a man riding a moped down the left side of the road, literally with a monkey clinging to its back. 

Our train will get here after midnight.  We’re sipping fountain drinks in the internet cafe surrounded by Thai teenage boys playing computer games.  We’ll arrive in Penang, Malaysia tomorrow morning at noonish.  Before that, though, we’ll try to squeeze in one last Pad Thai.

Perfection (barring jellies and tsunamis)

February 8, 2010 4 comments

We knew when we were herded onto the open truck with a couple of Poles and all of our gear that we weren’t getting to Khao Lak that night.  The bus station, as the man at the Surat Thani information desk had warned us, was an overpriced Tourist Agency that didn’t even sell tickets to our location.  We had gone irrevocably downtown away from the bus station, and by that point so had the sun.

We crossed the street in a bit of a huff, I refused to pay the cab driver (and miraculously got away with it–possibly because we stomped away while he hassled the Poles).  There, however, we were drawn back to another agency where a polite woman named Ahn convinced us to spend the night at a low cost backpacker hostel and then take the 7am bus the next day.

Surat Thani is like the Kettleman City of Southern Thailand, albeit slightly larger.  It’s a juncture from which one can head to a multitude of different spots of interest.  It’s got the cheap In&Out burgers (or Pad Thai, rather), but it doesn’t have much else.  We lay in the hostel watching a Jessica Alba movie until we fell asleep.  It was a bit of a disappointment, as we’d been on the train from Bangkok for eight hours that day and had spent our final day in Bangkok in air conditioned markets or indoors hiding from the rabid street vendors and Ladyboys.  In our defense, though, Zhuhai does not have the National Geographic channel.

So until today we had been feeling a bit disillusioned, a bit tired of temples and pretending to pray to gods we didn’t feel any connection to, and a bit disappointed in ourselves as travelers.  We got on the bus, and fell right back to sleep.

Five hours later we got off the bus and were in Paradise.  I mean the city of Khao Lak on the Southwest Coast of Thailand.  We’d read about it on travelfish.com and seen that it was very small, friendly, and was trying to recover from the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami.  If ever there was an opposite to Bangkok, this was it.  We sat down in the “D-Time Bar” where the servers saw our backpacks and immediately called our hotel for us.

As we sat, sipping cool drinks and staring at the emerald-green mountains, a lanky farang (foreigner) with a fanny pack stalked up to us.

“You speak English or Sprechen sie deutcshe?”  He told us that he was Kees and would be taking us to the Amsterdam Resort.

Don’t let “Resort” fool you–I’m far from a high roller.  What we got was a simple bungalow with a fan and a mosquito net.  We did find out, however, that Kees is in charge of the place itself.  He likes to sit at a table in the center of the open-air restaraunt giving free travel advice and adding up totals on a clacky-keyed calculator.

We ran straight into the ocean, and then straight back out, after Brian was stung by a jellyfish.  After that incident we decided to take it easy and wade across the lagoon to a beach shack called the Sunset Bar, where we sat, quietly, until sunset.  Nop, the owner, came to us with a brown paper folder full of before and after pictures from the tsunami.  He apparently, had the bar for years before.  There had once been evergreen trees surrounding it.  There had not been any lagoon.

We promised to come back, tonight, for dinner.

Brian and I spent the day cycling on the left side of the road to witness white sand beaches and step over dead jellies lying in beds of shells.  Tomorrow we’re going to hike to a waterfall.  Right now, though, we’ve got a date with Nop, a Sunset, and squid.

Suck on that, Bangkok.