Sunday, March 20, 2011

Koh Lanta & our return

by Mark & Kara

Our next destination was Koh Lanta – a small island a few hours from Krabi. This was the relaxing part of our trip. It was the first time we were in one place for more than two nights. Our time at the beach was very relaxing and low-key. We finally had our appetites back and spent a lot of time thinking about where and when we’d be eating. Mark tried a different Thai dish at every meal and I did at almost all of them. I also really enjoyed the fruit shakes and had one almost every day. The plethora of fresh fruit was amazing! One day we indulged in perhaps the best burgers we’ve eaten in years – in any country. Kara's burger involved avocado and crispy chicken, and Mark's was called the Garlic Sauce Cheeseburger made with a half pound of some of the best ground beef he's ever had. It must have sat a good 6-7 inches off the plate when it was brought out. They were expensive, but well worth it. We had to take a nap afterwards we were in such a food coma and didn’t even eat much of a dinner that night.

This was our view just 50 meters from our bungalow.  Don't mind the baby stroller...

We could lounge all day and into the evening.  It was wonderful.

The island we stayed on was very touristy, but beautiful. In the future I might like to visit a more remote locale. The beach was filled with Europeans – in fact, we only saw a few other Americans the entire time. There were especially a ton of Germans. We suspect many had been there for weeks, as they walked around sporting their perfect tans. We played a game of, “Who can find somebody as pale as us?” most of the time.  Bonus points were awarded for finding somebody even paler than us, but that was a rare accomplishment.

This is a picture taken from about 75 meters out into the sea.  It was so shallow you could walk out this far and only be up to your waist in warm, salty water.

One day we ventured out to explore some caves we had heard about. When we arrived they told us we each had to pay about $10 for the tour with the guide. I asked if we could go without the guide and the woman laughed and said no. So we waited a bit and ended up going with two young German women. After hiking for a while we got to the caves and realized we didn’t exactly know what we’d signed up for. We were given head lamps and realized this would be a bit more intense than we had anticipated. The exploration through the caves involved squeezing through really small crevasses, crawling on our knees, and scaling down rocks. Meanwhile, we were sweating like crazy in the extremely thick, humid air. It was pretty awesome though and worth it. The tour concluded with the site of hundreds of bats hanging from the ceiling – very creepy.

Pro spelunkers!  Headlamps, sandals, sweat-drenched t-shirt: check.

We kept trying different foods and different restaurants throughout our 5 days on the beach. One night we decided to do the "grill on the beach" option where the restaurant staff have you point to the items you'd like to have grilled and then brought to your table. Kara went with a huge kebab of chicken, onions, and peppers and a huge ear of corn dipped in garlic butter. I went with the whole tuna and a baked potato. We ordered drinks and watched the crowd of people grow, and soon after the corn came off the grill. Then more time went by and we got to thinking maybe we should ask about our food. The place was hoppin' and our waiter took about 10 minutes to figure out our food never hit the grill - unfortunately they were now all out of chicken kebabs. We watched as they put the tuna, potato, and the replacement beef kebab on the grill, knowing full well it'd be another 30-40 minutes. I'm not sure that Kara's side of the meal was the greatest, but when that full Tuna came out and I began picking away at it, it almost made the wait worth it. I'd been craving seafood for years really.

Simply amazing.  Probably took me about 40 minutes to eat, but it was all kinds of fresh/delicious!

At the end of our meal that night we befriended a pregnant black cat (hard to see).  We fed her bones from the fish, and a few extra pieces of meat that we couldn't finish.

Finally, our peaceful stay at the beach had to come to an end and we headed back to Bangkok on an overnight train. Arriving in Bangkok around 8:30am, we had one last day to spend there before our 10:45pm flight that night. It being Saturday, we went to the Chatuchak weekend market. We had heard it was huge, but even we didn’t expect how big it was. They give out color-coded maps. It's like the Puyallup Fair grounds in size, but the entire thing is just stalls and stalls of everything from designer clothes, to birds/fish/puppies, to used books. It was fun at the beginning but in the afternoon I had made the mistake of not buying something I saw earlier and I wanted to go back and find it. We got lost in the maze of the market and started to get overheated and cranky. We actually think we both got some sort of heat rash from the whole experience. However, in the end we walked away with a bag full of souvenirs.

This is another shot from Khao San Road where we had a few last meals and watched this band perform and get interviewed.  I'm fairly sure we're in the background of some indy band music video now.

We finished up our day in Bangkok with a couple of happy hour beers and a smattering of street food – phad thai (Mark may have eaten two whole plates), chicken kebabs, corn on the cob, and fresh fruit. We're gonna miss those food options, the shorts/t-shirt weather, and the allure of exploration. But we’re back in Mongolia now, happily reunited with our cat Mishka, and planning out our last 5 months we’ll be here in Mongolia! Our vacation flew by as we know our remaining time here in the land of Chinggis will as well.

How could you pass this up?  It was just a couple bucks to get a plate of phad thai and spring rolls.  You pick the meat (if any), the noodle type, and the spices.  Takes like 3 minutes and you've got lunch!

Though this marks the end of our blog posts related to our trip to Cambodia/Thailand, Kara has posted dozens more pictures on Facebook.  Check them out here: Thailand & Cambodia.  And we'd like to thank all of our family who really helped fund a large part of our trip with your wonderful Christmas gifts.  Thank you.  We're just grateful we could share our experience of South East Asia with all of you through the wonderful technology of camera and blog.

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