Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm back in Thailand and traveling with Nut

Dateline: Koh Tao: Wednesday & Thursday, October 13, 14:

It's a rainy day today so we canceled a scheduled snorkeling trip. We're just hanging out on our veranda at the Sai Ree Hut Resort and goofing around. It's a good time to prepare some photos and write something about our travels so far. The rainy season is just about to end but I guess we've managed to catch the tail end of it. I really don't mind as the temperatures are moderate and I'm quite comfortable for a change. As you can see, Nut, ever vigilant about getting too much sun, is still in her Levis as we took our first beach walk. Later on the sun came out briefly and we went swimming. It was tons of fun because she was hanging onto me for dear life and laughing with delight as the waves washed over us. She hasn't been to the beach in years but contrary to what she told me earlier, she can swim a bit. I reckon you had to be there .....

Below is a shot of Nut on our veranda. She's chatting with one of the hired hands, a very friendly and helpful guy who goes by the name of Tiger. He's shared lots of info with us and here we are enjoying a Chang beer and some conversation (in Thai, of course. I am merely a bystander.)

I arrived in Bangkok last Wednesday and met Nut after a 6 month separation. Even though we spoke frequently on Skype over the summer I often wondered just how I'd feel about her once we got back together. We had spent only a brief time together last spring and while it was fun and I came away totally infatuated with her, I had doubts about whether we would be able to pick up where we left off. Those of you who know me know what a worrier I am. I have my my mom to thank for giving me the "worrying gene" as my sister and I call it but most of you also know that my worrying seldom leads anywhere productive. And such was the case this time as well. I'm loving being with Nut and traveling together has been a hoot. It's very obvious to me that she is completely happy with her farang boyfriend. I simply couldn't be happier about the way things have turned out.

We kicked around Bangkok for a few days visiting a few favorite places, riding the water taxis on the Chao Phraya, eating out, drinking a beer at the Gecko Bar, and shopping at the huge MBK Superstore where I bought Nut a new bathing suit and blouse for our trip. I only mention this last bit because of the novel method of trying on clothes for fit in a place like MBK. Unlike our shopping malls which are dominated by big chains with expensive displays and changing rooms, etc., the malls here are stuffed with many tiny, one-person businesses. Although some are considerably bigger many of these shops measure something like 10 ft by 20 ft and because they're so small don't have dressing rooms. The Thais improvise here by employing a technique not unlike the one you might have used as a child at the beach. That's the one where your mom and dad hold up a large beach towel to encircle and shield you from view as you change out of your street clothes and into your bathing suit.To try on pants or shorts Nut first donned a large, elastic-waisted skirt, sort of like a mu-mu in appearance, and once inside that she slipped off her jeans and slipped into the new outfit. It's sort of crazy but it works. Very inventive.

Here's a couple of photos of a Bangkok street temple we visited on the way home from our shopping trip. There are temples scattered all around Bangkok, indeed all around Thailand. Some are big and ornate like Wat Pho and Wat Arun that we visited last spring and that I included in this blog. Others are tiny street corner things containing only a statue of Buddha, some lanterns and places to put incense sticks. This temple contained two separate and different Buddhas and in size was somewhere in between. Nut told me one was especially for people asking for a partner, a girlfriend or boyfriend — love in their life. This Buddha "likes roses". The other was where you go to ask for good luck and "likes yellow chrysanthemums."


Below is an image of a girl about to place her offering of roses on the altar. The smoke and fragrance of incense permeates the air and in this shot you can see one of the urns where the incense bundles are placed. All in all it's a really nice scene that I feel privileged to witness. We will no doubt visit many temples during our travels and I'm totally looking forward to that.

We left Bangkok by bus traveling south toward Chumphon where we would catch a boat to Koh Tao. Along the way we visited Hong, an old friend of Nut's from the years before she moved to the big city. Hong lives with her parents, grandmother and daughter WanSu, on a small farm near Pran Buri. (N12.41920 E99.91126) They grow rice, bananas, bamboo shoots, and in small ponds scattered here and there, fish that they market. They are almost completely self sufficient. The area surrounding their homestead is quiet and very much in the country -- the night sounds that filled the air after dinner (crickets? and frogs?) while unfamiliar to me were very relaxing. While I love Alaska, the nights, except in springtime when nesting songbirds and snipe are active, are very quiet. Night noises, and thunderstorms, are some of the things I miss the most from my years in "the lower 48".

Nut with Hong and her daughter, WanSu
WanSu's father works in Malaysia and only comes home every few weeks to see his wife and daughter. He's a huge man apparently and the size of WanSu attests to that. She's a very large two-year old (63 lb). She apparently took a liking to her large falang visitor because when we left she cried hard and desperately tried to join us in the truck. Images of Harper and how much I already miss him filled my thoughts as we adjourned to our hotel in Pran Buri. Here's a a candid shot I got of Nut while she was yakking with her daughter on her hand phone.

After spending the night at the Pasook Hotel we grabbed another bus for the short hop to Chumphon. We stayed in a fairly nice hotel there but the big treat for me was the dinner we had in a restaurant right next to our hotel. The food was cooked in what I think is referred to as Moo Kata. You get a small charcoal fired cooking unit delivered to your table. The center part serves exactly as a charcoal grill -- assorted meats and fish are cooked on the grate. Surrounding the grate is a "moat" filled with boiling water. In the water you place other foods, mushroom, broccoli, baby corn, noodles, morning glory, etc. The meat choices were many - pork, chicken, curried or not, several kinds of fish, squid, prawns, beef, liver, tripe, whatever. On the veggie side we could choose from many, many items, some already mentioned, along with seaweed, rice noodles, bok choy, you name it. On the side we had a variety of cold salads, some with prawns... I could go on but you get the idea. Oh, yes, I almost forgot. We had ice cream for dessert. Total cost for two, not including the beer, came to 200 baht, about 6 bucks. We ate until we were stuffed. Nut kept up with me, or maybe I should say I kept up with her. She will never leave the table until every scrap is consumed. How does this waif of a woman stay so thin? We joke about her having a tapeworm — "time to feed the worm, he's screaming again!" By the way, Nut remarked as we were finishing up that this meal was only okay in her opinion. The moo kata in Chiang Mai, she assured me, is much, better. (a-roi mak mak) Hah! I'll believe it when I taste it.
(Note: Nov 2012: I learned that what I was referring to as Moo Kata is in reality, moo gra~ta
(หมู กระทะ) where moo means pork and a gra~ta (กระทะ) is a small frying pan. As is so often the case, what I heard as a "k" sound was really a hard "g" sound.)


Our visit to Koh Tao was a bit of a disappointment. It's really touristy, loaded with farangs and is really all about diving. Consequently, prices are high and the streets crowded. If I had made it down here while Joe was doing his free-diving course last spring I likely would have tried the diving. Still, we had fun and made a few friends. Tiger for one and a young woman named Susan from Boston who is on an extended tour. She despises the political situation in the states and is seeking another place to hang her hat. I cannot say I blame her. She's been on the road for two years and won't return until she runs out of money.

Later this morning we head back up north to Bangkok. We have a dinner date with Nut's brother Moo who says he wants to drink whiskey with me. I'm not going to try to keep up with him because I had an experience with Thai whiskey last spring that I'd rather not repeat. We'll catch the fast catamaran back to the mainland and then hop a bus to Pran Buri where we'll again visit Hong and her family.

Dateline Pran Buri: I added this photo after I uploaded the original post. We boarded the catamaran and as I was about to walk by the snack bar to rejoin Nut on the top deck I thought I'd go ahead grab a coffee. It turned out to be Nescafe instant topped off with powdered Coffeemate. Yuk! As you can plainly see, I was not pleased with it, not at all.

Signing off for now. I'm wishing you well wherever you are...