Koh Phi Phi is a spectacular island in the Andaman Sea. It was completely wiped out in the Asian Tsunami of 2004, and quickly rebuilt. It is a small island without cars. It’s got lots of chill beach areas, lounge bars, party bars, international food, quality local flavors, plenty of island characters and abundant cat life. These cats are perfectly calm and easy to approach due to lack of predators, lack of cars and human trash acting as daily snacks. It was a relief to have cool cats to hang with instead of the blank eyes of city cats. City cats don’t even recognize you as a possible chance for petting, they stare with fear and dart away. Phi Phi cats look at you and yawn or roll over. The cats represented here are just from a short walk from hotel to bar. Some were quite portly and pleased with themselves, kittens crawled in the plant pots pretending to be jaguars, and others laid on the floor of 7-11’s air-conditioned marble entrance.
After an awesome day at Blue Moon Bar on Klong Nin Beach in Koh Lanta drinking, bodyboarding, playing football and frisbee and tanning, we had worked up an appetite. Nearby the smell of grilled foods brought us toward the grill almost floating like Bugs Bunny when he smelled a carrot. We got a full salted and peppered snapper, some curry and two big tiger prawns that tasted like lobster. Corn in Asia is never very good, but everything else was delightful. The ocean waves gently crashing, sand under our feet and bellies full, we hopped on the scooter and took the slow ride home through cool jungle air.
As the sun was setting, I heard a rustling like someone shaking shells in their hand. The sand behind me seemed to be moving. The tide-line was literally crawling with life. The little crabs were going about their business investigating around the rubbish searching for clams or snails. They would leap into their homes if you approached but reappeared, claw first, if you picked them up.
It was a deserted beach during low season, (May-October) but very interesting to see the variety of shells they used. None were bigger than your thumb. There were also these two island dogs doing some hunting at low tide.
After exploring the enormous and contemplative temple of the 43m Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho:
An old man asked us if we wanted to take a river cruise. I had done some research on them, and most visited the floating markets and old houses of the “Venice of the East.” It wasn’t a top priority, but sounded fun, and had a reasonable price of 1,000 baht (30US$) for an hour tour. We had an entire longtail boat all to ourselves. First, we passed the famous temple of Wat Arun:
Then, we moved into the mysterious flooded alleys in the heart of the city.
All the houses were built on these seemingly shoddy stilts. Laundry is usually visible outside the clapboard walls.
This was a huge surprise. Water monitors, an aquatic scavenger, have taken up residence in the populated waterways. There have been reports of them walking into residents’ houses.
Locals on the dock, partying, was a common sight during the trip.
Time for the daily hookah.
We were far too late in the day for the floating markets, so this is as close as I got. A lady in a boat selling grilled chicken. Overall, it was a pleasant diversion from the penetrating heat of the sidewalks. And more overall, I wasn’t a big fan of Bangkok. The public transit (ie: subway/elevated train) drastically underserves the city. Khao San Rd. was more pleasant than I thought, but it was just a place to get a crappy kebab, cold beer and shop while being hassled by everyone to buy their stuff. The tuktuks are a constant rip-off and taxis that don’t use meters rarely know where you want to go. Even trying to go to one of the famous Ping Pong shows becomes an issue if you are concerned with prix fixe quotes before entering (1000 baht per person?). The combined price of the famous Emerald Buddha and National Palace cost 500 baht (15US$) to enter. I might pay that kind of price to see a museum with something to learn or admire, but 15 dollars to see another Buddha and gawk at the pictures of the beloved King’s dogs. No thanks. Then, when I remarked to the guard that it was expensive, he told me, “We can charge 1,000 baht and people still come. It not expensive, good price.” That rubbed me the wrong way, and I was finished with Bangkok temples. Chinatown seemed cool at night, with cooked ducks and cheap gold for sale while strange faces peek out from among the windows and doors. It was a big city with too much personality for a week. It’s actually the kind of place where it’s NOT nice to visit, but living there would probably be easier as you learned the rules and became accustomed to the insanity. The day we left, one of the many military coups of the past half century was occurring. Curfew, albeit lax, came into effect. Armed men seemed to be on every corner. The TV’s stopped showing programming on most channels and were replaced by a blue screen of military insignia’s. I’ve been to big cities that treated me better, so I feel like Bangkok is summed up by the classic, trite line of: “I’ve had better.”
It was a small silver food cart, cooking for about twenty tables down a narrow alley off Silom St. Their operation was spotless, and people hunched over their food protectively.
Papaya Salad–Spicy and crunchy, probably healthy until all the sauce gets involved.
Tom Yum Soup– It’s spicy as hell, rice is necessary, a few tasty prawns and a lot of lemongrass.
We hit up our daily hookah afterwards.
It’s a frequent sight along the streets crowded with roaches and masquerading men. Crispy fried chicken and a greasy work station. I must have eaten about ten chicken legs and a few more chicken wings in my week in Thailand’s capital. They are cheap and smell great. The skin is so crispy, and doesn’t fall off in one piece like KFC or any of the other fast food joints that specialize in processed yardbird.
It was recommended by TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet. It turned out to be a Thai fusion place that was disappointing. At least the crab was real. The food was good, but nothing special. Salt or MSG was the main ingredient.
The city is big. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get, but starting from my hostel near Sukhumvit, heading slightly aimlessly south and west. It was around noon on a Friday. People were out and about, cars paced the streets, dogs and cats patrolled their corners, cockroaches hid in the shadows awaiting their time to shine–nighttime. Stuck on a main thoroughfare with poisonous traffic fumes all around, I made my way into the alleys.
I found some friendly uniformed men who wanted to talk to me despite their lack of English.
Sorry, it’s the wrong side of the road. Nobody wants to shift gears with their left hand. There’s a reason we drive on the “right” side.
He wanted to talk, but moved away when I went to pet him. Cute.
These guys were drinking whiskey. I opted for soda water and greatly disappointed them. But they had fun posing.
She was so scared and happy to see me. She wavered between this face and a heartwarming smile.
They were waiting for something or someone, and the old man laughed heartily when he saw his picture.
Strawberries on clothes? Only when you’re little and cute.
This was some terrible Thai drama being filmed. The boy and girl saw me and smirked. The director (multi-colored hat) called some phrases, then the Thai word for “ACTION” and the camera rolled down the track. There were no words spoken. The girl just looked deeply into the boy’s eyes and then ran away with arms flailing and feigned tears. They broke set and the actors walked away without a word to each other.
Trash encroaching upon the reflection.
The day ended with me being accosted by ladyboys on Sukhumvit soi 4–a notorious spot for hawking flesh. Bangkok.
As the sun went down on my walkabout in the city, I found this peaceful park.
It’s a splendid little big town. There is a brand new mall, Maya, where I wasted some of the scorching daylight hours in virtually empty air cooled movie theaters and intermittently playing video games. At night, the air fills with jasmine, and the city moat sparkles from the headlights of speeding cars. Tourists pedal around on their cruisers, locals hide in the shade. The temple count felt as high as that temple saturated village of Luang Prabang. I like to visit them and look around, enjoying the calm gaze of Buddha and the gentle jingling of wind chimes.
The temples elicit a certain lonesome euphoria, a knowledge of impermanence in this world, to crave less and give more.
The walking night market creates agoraphobic nightmares. It wasn’t even that crowded, it just wasn’t my scene. So much for sale, so much unnecessary goods, so many things I wanted to buy! That’s how I knew it was wrong. Nothing I saw was anything beyond a simple, silly luxury that would be fun to have or to give as a gift. Backpacking ensures you carry only “what you need to survive.” The bag has limits and trinkets don’t fall into the backpack’s purview. However, I suppose it’s a nice place to buy stuff that will eventually become junk.
This girl was a highlight, she sang with confidence and used her arms to exaggerate emotion.