Island Sunsets, Sand, Love, Cat

On the islands of the West coast of Thailand, sunsets are a quiet reminder that time is actually still passing despite the slow pace of your day. There were some really spectacular views over the ocean, as if the sun was bleeding into the water. We got lucky with really good weather, cloudy and sunny with morning or midnight showers. It’s never easy to leave paradise.

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Not all the sand was so coarse. Phuket’s beaches were so fine they made a squeak when you walked.

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This is one of our favorite sunset pictures together.

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Our only beachside hotel was here in Phuket. We swam in the rain and ran home wet in bathing suits receiving stares from the locals in jackets and boots.

 

And of course, this lovely little cat who followed us all the way up our extremely steep stairs to hang out with us.

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Tiger Kingdom Redux

My girlfriend, Jordyn, joined up for the last month of travels, and she loves cats just like me. We skipped the chained up tigers of Bangkok and went to Phuket’s Tiger Kingdom. It’s the same as Chiang Mai, just more expensive. The tigers were more active down in the islands. Some of them were playing in the water with coconuts. Basically, it’s always a rush to be so close to such a glorious animal, so I was happy to go again.

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Then, on the way home, we spotted a baby elephant by the roadside. Yes, he was chained up (which made us sad) but he was fun and gave us vacuum suction kisses on our cheeks. We fed him bananas and he ate about 10, skin and all. He was a cute lil’ bugga.

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Koh Phi Phi

This is a magical island. It’s got the cute, friendly cats ready to love on your leg. It’s got plenty of shopping, eating and drinking available. It’s got Scuba and snorkeling in the crystal blue ocean you expect of paradise. The Banana Bar has a rooftop bar with several big screen projectors and a dynamite sound system. Watching Kill Bill with excellent sound made me appreciate Tarantino’s movie soundtrack all over again. Although it’s full of shirtless, tattooed post-grad or gap year douchebros drinking to excess and discussing debauchery in loud voices, you can easily ignore them to fully enjoy this fantasy island. Cosmic (near the party area) is a restaurant with homemade ravioli that made me smile. What a place!

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Quiet, lapping waves on our semi-private beach with the little kitty who followed us home and slept every night in our room.

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View from 3rd floor of Phi Phi Good View Hotel.

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The fire dudes before the daily fire show. They showed us all their fire scars.

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Sunset soccer at low tide.

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The “main” street is full of snack stalls, bars, and traditional tattoo parlors like this one.

Koh Lanta ~ Cook Kai’s

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There were a few places with this name on the island, but the only one open during low season was close to the main town of Saladan. It was raining and we ducked inside, hungry as usual. It’s big and cozy, seems to be family run and has a few cute cats wandering about underfoot.

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This was the “meatball” sandwich. Technically they are correct, but it’s not what I was expecting. Nevertheless, very delicious.Image

Gotta get your veggies in there.

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White or Yellow noodles, you can’t go wrong. Both were balanced and clean.

This place was an eating highlight of a quiet, wonderful island.

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Cats! of Koh Phi Phi

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.

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Koh Lanta ~ Fish on the Beach

Koh Lanta ~ Fish on the Beach

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.

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Koh Lanta ~ Hermit Crab Beach

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.

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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.

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Bangkok River Cruise

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After exploring the enormous and contemplative temple of the 43m Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho:

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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:

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Then, we moved into the mysterious flooded alleys in the heart of the city.

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All the houses were built on these seemingly shoddy stilts. Laundry is usually visible outside the clapboard walls.

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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.

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Locals on the dock, partying, was a common sight during the trip.

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Time for the daily hookah.

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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.”

Clean Street Food in Bangkok

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.

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Papaya Salad–Spicy and crunchy, probably healthy until all the sauce gets involved.

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Tom Yum Soup– It’s spicy as hell, rice is necessary, a few tasty prawns and a lot of lemongrass.

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We hit up our daily hookah afterwards.

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Fried Chicken in Bangkok

Fried Chicken in Bangkok

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.