Archive for March, 2007

Kra Buri

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Woke up at 6am and it was already getting light out – the days are getting noticeably longer as we head north and it gets closer to summer. We were on the road in time to enjoy the comfortable temperatures of dusk. The road towards Kra Buri rolled and undulated (to use the words of our New Zealand guidebook) the entire 59 km. At the top of the largest undulation of the day we stopped to enjoy a posted scenic viewpoint. On the way down the other side of the hill we passed a picnic area. We felt exactly like we were in New Zealand! The English signs and hills felt out of place in Thailand.

We visited the Ranong bike shop yesterday to get Jamie’s rear rim re-taped and hopefully end the flat tires. It is constantly and unexpectedly just going flat. It is not at all fun to stand in the sun on the side of a road with buckets of sweat dripping off everything, trying to fix a tire. It’s even worse when you think about the fact that every minute spent fixing the tire means you’ll be riding closer and closer to the dreaded hour of noon when the sun is at its most brutal and there is not a speck of shade to be found anywhere. As the day gets hotter we also notice that the dogs don’t even care about chasing us as they usually like to do. They’re too busy sacked out on the side of the road trying to deal with the heat!

Anyway, at the bike shop we chatted with the owner and found out he and a group were planning to ride 120km the next day in the same direction as us. Just 10km into the day we ran into them all! They were waiting at one guy’s house for everyone to show up so they could start off. We stopped and chatted on the side of the road. They all had lots of fun lifting up our bikes and grunting and exclaiming to each other about how nuts we were to be carrying so much weight. We also took lots of group photos. We teased them for wearing so much clothing – everyone had long sleeves on, I don’t know how they can ride in all those clothes!

After we left the Thai cyclist team we passed through some small fishing villages where women were sitting in bungalows along the side of the road weaving gigantic green leaves into roof thatching. I wish we would have stopped to get a picture, it was pretty amazing. Halfway through the day we stopped in a town to search out some breakfast. Just as we stopped the Thai bike team caught up with us and pulled into the town to get a drink. They bought us each a Thai-style Gatorade, we chatted a bit more, and then they said “Come on! We will ride together!” Oh great…I was hungry and ready for a break, but neither of us wanted to pass up the chance to ride along with a big group of Thai cyclists! We rode with them for 10km. I think they were going a little slower than usual to accommodate us, but I was at my aerobic limit regardless. I kept it up, panting and sweating like crazy, for the 10km but then I decided to throw in the towel. We waved goodbye, dropped back, and stopped at the next roadside shop serving breakfast.

We ordered the usual, “Kai Jeaow”, which is a simple omelette served over rice. We also each got a tiny can of iced coffee, brand name “Birdy”. Everything is so tiny and cute here! Here’s the shot of our typical breakfast feast. This is one of my favorite parts of the day:

Bikes parked outside the restaurant:

We reached our destination of Kra Buri by 11am. We checked into some bungalows just outside town, showered, read our books for a little bit, and then headed into town. We wanted to eat some lunch and stopped in a cute looking corner restaurant. It turned out to be a coffee shop. The co-owners were two women who’d grown up in Kra Buri together, went to university in Bangkok, and then moved back to start the coffee shop together. We were ecstatic to discover that they served the same type of delicious iced coffee that we’d had at D.D’s! We walked around town for a bit. Here’s a house we passed that was drying chills outside:

We headed back to our bungalow to chat with the owner (she spoke English!) and eat some dinner. She herded us down the block to her brother’s ‘restaurant’. I use that term quite loosely. She told us to take a seat, take a seat! The problem was, there were only two tables and they were all full. We said, it is full, we can not take a seat. Then she kept motioning at a table of two teenage guys…so we sat down with them. They sheepishly said Hello to us but wouldn’t say anything more, then moments later they got up and left to hang around at the end of the driveway. Our hostess said, “What do you want? Fried Rice? Or Noodles with Pork? Fried Rice? Noodles? What you want?!” We said, Noodles sound good, and she told her brother. Then she said, You want something to drink? Pepsi? We didn’t want Pepsi but we also didn’t know what we really wanted. So we sort of froze and stared at each other. She thought we didn’t hear her and started raising her voice so she could be sure we didn’t misunderstand her: Pepsi? Pepsi?!? Pepsi?!! We said Yes Yes! Pepsi sounds good. So we ate noodles and Pepsi for dinner. It was pretty hilarious. The noodles were OK, it was a very small serving which is typical, but there was all sorts of mystery meat in them. I tried a piece and it sort of dissolved into powder in my mouth. Ew. I didn’t eat anymore meat. Jamie later said he saw all the meat just laying out in the open with the flies and sun. Nice!

After dinner we went next door and bought two beers and a fine selection of Thai junk food, including banana chips, tiny cakes, some weird corn cones, etc. We ate these in our room along with a small watermelon we’d bought earlier in the day. Later on we signed on our hostess’s guestbook and went to bed.

Resting & Roasting in Ranong

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

The boat ride from Koh Phayam to Ranong was quite nice yesterday, other than the fact that I wound up with the only seat on the boat that wasn’t in the shade. After 30 minutes I couldn’t handle the feeling of the sun creeping up to barbeque first my hand, then my arm, then my shoulder, then my neck…! So I sat on the floor with the bugs and ants and read my book for two hours. I was happy to be in the shade & happy I remembered to get my book out for the ride, so it wasn’t too bad. View from the pier, before getting on the boat at Koh Phayam:

Another pretty fishing boat:

I spent a very productive morning studying Thai. I am trying to learn the characters so I can recognize some common words. I can count to ten now, too! Here’s my study sheet:

We ate lunch near the pier in Koh Phayam, and Jamie sneakily took this picture of a Thai family taking a break in the restaurant’s back room. They were playing a card game and having a grand old time:

Upon arrival at the pier in Ranong we hopped on the bikes to ride into town and back to the same hotel we stayed in last time. It started to rain, which created a strange feeling. Our upper bodies were wet from the rain and so felt nice and cool in the breeze created by riding. But as the rain hit the hot pavement it created a steamy heat wave swirling up around our legs. When we rode through deep puddles, the water splashes were actually hot.

At bedtime we realized that the screens in our windows didn’t close all the way and one of them had a giant hole, offering a myriad of ways for the mosquito population of Ranong to pay us a visit. I went on a mosquito killing spree and then turned off the lights hoping they wouldn’t be smart enough to find their way in. No such luck. After an hour we gave up trying to sleep and got out of bed to kill more mosquitos and duct tape the edges of the windows to block further attacks. This is exactly why we brought duct tape, and we felt like geniuses for having it!

At this point I thought I felt an eyelash in my eye, so went in the bathroom to get it out before continuing with the killing spree. I looked in the mirror and realized that my entire eye was bright red and very swollen – so much so that the clear membrane of my eye was actually wrinkling up when I blinked. Yikes! Nurse Jamie held my eye open and vigorously sprayed it with saline solution in case there was something in there. Naturally, my pajamas got soaked with saline, too. It is so hot here I didn’t care, though, and just went to sleep and hoped it would be better by morning (it is – just red, not too swollen anymore). I also decided to shut off the alarm for 6am…lack of sleep from mosquito attacks, inflamed eye, and the fact that Jamie needs to go to a bike shop to get new rim tape in his back wheel mean we will take a rest day in Ranong. (Since New Zealand, Jamie’s rear tire has been going mysteriously flat. He has had six flat tires already, most of them are on the inner side of the tube and we can never find anything that looks like it is causing the flat. A mechanic in New Zealand thought our tubes were faulty, but replacing those and the tire itself hasn’t helped so now we are going to try re-taping the rim to see if that fixes the problem. The rear tire we swapped was trashed anyway. It developed a large double-humped bulge after 2500 kilometers of cycling. That’s two Panaracer tires that have failed on us so far, so we are in the market for new tires. We are hoping we can get the Schwalbe Marathon tires in Bangkok.)

Last time we were in Ranong we discovered a restaurant that has the BEST iced coffee – D.D. Coffee. It is like a melted coffee milkshake and tastes like real, strong espresso because they actually have an espresso machine at the restaurant! This is a majorly exciting discovery because every other time we’ve had “coffee” in Thailand it has been that nasty instant Nescafe crap. Needless to say, we made a beeline back to D.D’s today!

Fun fact: we’ve spent the past five days going into every drug store and pharmacy we pass, looking for dental floss. No one sells it anywhere! Today we finally found it in Ranong…thank goodness!

Koh Phayam

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

After a little over a week on the Thai mainland we decided it was time for a taste of the island life. One day of biking got us from the tiny beachside National Park of Laem Son to Ranong – a city bordering Burma on the western coast of Thailand. After a frustrating hour of riding our bikes around Ranong in the very hot midday sun, we found a decent hotel to spend the night in. Our room was on the 4th floor and had a neat view of the city…but there was no elevator so we got to experience the fun of schlepping all our gear up four flights of stairs for the first time! We ended up locking our bikes outside in the ‘secured’ car park behind the hotel. They were there the next morning, but we both spent a lot of time worrying & peering out our window towards the bikes in an attempt to catch anyone trying to wheel them away. The sunset in Ranong was beautiful – here’s a glimpse of it from the main street:

The next morning we woke up, rode our bikes to the pier, and caught a longtail boat to the island of Koh Phayam. The boat ride was supposed to be two hours long, but something was wrong with our boat’s motor so we spent an additional hour sitting at the pier waiting for it to be fixed. The smell of rotting fish in the sweltering sun was overpowering at the pier – disgusting. There was also a hyperactive four year-old Australian with lenient parents on the boat. This kid literally spent the entire three hours running back and forth over our feet, fiddling with our bicycles, and peering waaaay over the side of the boat. I was wishing he would fall in for a bit of excitement, but no luck. View during the boatride:

Upon arrival in Koh Phayam our boat was mobbed by guesthouse owners out to hook a tourist our two and drag them back to their resorts. Having the bikes was nice because we weren’t dependent on these people for a ride – instead we got to cycle around the island and pick out a place to stay with no pressure. We somehow ended up on a very rough trail through the remote jungle in the middle of the island. After 4k the trail ended and we were on the other side of the island…on a beach! No more road! So we pushed our bikes through the soft sand, then got back to ride along the shoreline towards the bungalows. Riding our bikes on the hard packed sand was easy and we just couldn’t get over the fact that we were actually riding our bikes on the beach on an island in Thailand. Wow! Here I am:

Bamboo Bungalows was our residence of choice. Here I am relaxing in a hammock. The open air restaurant is right behind me:

Lots of traditional fishing boats along the shore:

Fruitstand where we bought watermelon for a snack:

There are tons of dogs around here. None of them are spayed or neutered and they are all running around breeding like rabbits. We’ve been chased by dogs a few times but so far they haven’t tried to bite – they just run along side us barking like crazy. Sometimes yelling at them gets them to back off, and we recently found a bamboo switch that we’ll use to swat them like the locals do. I am also going to start looking around for a nice handful of rocks to throw at the next pack of barking dogs I run into. The other day we saw a dog get absolutely nailed by a speeding truck. I felt really guilty about it because the dog had stopped in his tracks in the opposite lane to stare at us and wasn’t paying attention to oncoming traffic. A truck came roaring around the corner and the crash as the it hit the dog was so much louder that you’d expect. The dog went flying through the air and did not move again. At least he died instantly rather than just getting maimed. Here’s a funny skinny dog we saw while walking on the beach:

A neat fishing boat covered in white flags and wire traps of some sort. Maybe for crab?

Someone’s bungalow on the beach.

We continue to be amazed at how inexpensive it is for people to vacation here in Thailand. You can stay here on this beautiful island in a nice bungalow for $6 a night. Each meal costs about $2, local whiskey is $1, and local beer is $2. You could live like a king for for only $15 a day! Or you could work at any old job in the US for 6 months during the summer, come live here for the other 6 months, and you’d still come out saving money in the end.

We also had our first sighting of an old, fat, white guy with a young beautiful Thai woman. These two were walking down the beach hand in hand and then came to our resort to eat dinner. We have never eavesdropped so much in our lives! These two were not getting along either. They tried to order some fresh fish for dinner and she wanted two fish for herself, while he thought they should only get three total. She was so mad at him she got up and moved to the chair at the far side of the table. He attempted to pacify her by saying, “I’m not used to having woman tell me what to do. In America no do.” We almost burst out laughing! He proceeded to talk to her in pidgin-English for the rest of the night and eventually switched to a chair next to her. Here’s to hoping things work out for those two lovebirds!

The sunsets here are amazing! Here are some pictures:

Koh Phayam is known for its cashew nut trees. The trees are all over the island and their fruit gives off a very strong sweet scent. Cashews grow as a seed hanging off the end of a pear shaped fruit.

The seeds are picked, boiled, and then dried in the sun. When they are dried the outer husks are peeled off.

After two days here we’re getting a bit restless. Neither of us are the type that can lay around and relax on the beach for too long, and we’re excited to keep cycling North towards Bangkok! So, this afternoon we’ll hop on the boat back to Ranong. In the words of George Costanza, “Onwards and upwards!”


Monday, March 26th, 2007

You may have noticed that the pictures in our journal posts are no longer links to larger versions of the pictures. This is because we are using Windows Live Writer to write our blog posts and when uploading posts with multiple pictures to our server, WLW has a hardcoded timeout value that is exceeded on the slow internet connections here in Thailand. Because of this, we have to remove the links in order to upload the posts to our server.

All is not lost however, I am uploading our pictures to our Flickr site which means you can view them at different resolutions (including the very large originals), comment, make prints, etc. The photos are also organized into sets, so you can view just the Thailand pictures we have taken so far if you want too.

The First Nine Days in Thailand

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Phuket Airport to Andaman Peace Resort at Laem Son National Park
9 days, 7 days cycling
367.24km (52.46km / cycling day)
21 hours, 47 minutes, 40 seconds in the saddle (3:06:49 / cycling day)

Lodging has been a little more sparse than we expected here in Thailand. A couple of times we decided we wanted to stop for the day in a decent sized town and looked around for a guesthouse but could not find one (or any other type of accommodation either). We made a big mistake in buying the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia instead of a specific guide book for each country. The Rough Guide focuses on the tourist resorts in each region of the country and nothing else, so most of the time we have had no idea of what is ahead in terms of lodging. For food it hasn’t matter so much, since there are restaurants and food stands literally everywhere so we never have to go hungry or thirsty. We will definitely be investing in more guide books once we reach Bangkok.

Lodging has also been a little more expensive than we expected. The least we have paid is 250B(~US$7.23) for a room in a guesthouse with a squat toilet, AC, and TV. The most we paid was 800B(~US$23.14) for a bungalow on the beach with a fan, flush toilet, and power only in the evening. We’ve learned that the price varies more with location than with the quality of the accommodation. We haven’t been bargaining for our accommodation either because we haven’t been sure whether or not it is customary here.

Lodging per Day US$10.56
Food per Day US$18.80
Miscellaneous per Day US$0.19
Total per Day US$29.55

Total Cost US$389.54

In terms of cost, we are spending less and we have increased our quality of life as compared to New Zealand. We sleep in hotels instead of our tent and we eat every single meal at a restaurant. (We actually sent our stove and cooking equipment back to the US to save on weight.) We usually have a couple of beers with dinner too. Did I mention we get to eat delicious Thai food for every meal instead of subsisting on peanut butter and honey sandwiches? The downside is the bicycling is not as beautiful (so far), and we get chased by dogs a lot more. The dogs are all over the place and love to roam the roads in the morning. (We saw one get killed yesterday.) Our current strategy is to try to outrun them, but we are also considering yelling, getting of the bike and standing our ground, and defending ourselves with bamboo sticks. The roads themselves here are very nice with wide shoulders that are shared by bicycles and motorbikes and the drivers are leagues beyond those in New Zealand. We get polite honks and people slow down and pass in the opposite lane here which is much more pleasant than getting blown off the road by a sheep truck passing too close at 120km/hr.

Today was spent resting on the beach at the Andaman Peace Resort near Laem Son National Park. Sarah has come down with her worst case of diarrhea of the trip so far. She accidentally rinsed her mouth out with tap water last night after brushing her teeth and woke up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach cramps. She has spent most of the day stinking up our room and guzzling bottled water to try to stay hydrated. If she feels better by tomorrow, we will cycle to Ranong. From there, we may take a boat out to the island of Ko Phayam off the coast for a couple days of island life before continuing on towards Bangkok.

Eating and Pooping

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Sarah and I think we are in heaven with the food here in Thailand. We like to stop for lunch at little road-side restaurants where Thai people are eating. The food is usually spicier and better than the places that cater to tourists. Almost all of these places are made of bamboo and some are raised off the ground on stilts. The first time we walked on one of those we thought we were going to fall through! The floor is really spongy. Maybe it wasn’t made for big white people like us. (We took a picture of Sarah with Mr. Lek and Mr. Jut and when we showed it to them, they pointed to Sarah and said “big!”. Her worst nightmare!)

It is always fun to order at these little places. We always try to speak Thai and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sarah is getting pretty good now. She knows how to order eggs in the morning and how to say “I would like to pay now”, “What do you recommend?” and “It was delicious, thank you.” If the staff can’t get through our accent, they usually let us look at the dishes in the kitchen and point at which ones we want. Today we ended up with a chicken-feet curry. We weren’t really sure which parts to eat and which to leave behind. Do you crunch up the bones in the feet, or just nibble the skin off the outside? We are usually the center of attention at these places. The Thais are always smiling at us and sometimes I even get offered a sip of someone’s whiskey to drink! If anyone speaks English we always get asked where we came from, where we are going, and whether or not we are married. Once while eating breakfast, we got passed by a guy riding an elephant and most people in the restaurant were still staring at us!

There are also smaller stands everywhere that only serve one type of food like pad thai, fried bananas, or sticky rice. Here is a woman making some pad thai for us.

Sticky rice is cooked inside bamboo over a fire of smoldering coals. It is sweet and a little smoky – it reminds us of barbeque back home. You peel back the bamboo and eat the rice like one of those orange push-ups you used to eat as a kid.

We have spicy food for every meal of the day. For breakfast we either have a Thai omelette over rice or some type of curry. Yesterday we had red curry with shrimp and pineapple and today we had roti and chicken curry. My stomach sometimes hurts from all the spicy food. If it gets too bad, we just stop and get some fruit to cool off though. Our favorites are mangos, watermelons, and bananas. The fruit is so fresh and good here. I never liked mangoes at home in the US, but I love the champagne mangoes they have all over the place here. We also tried mangosteens today. They have a hard, fibrous shell sort of like a pomegranate and are really juicy, sweet and just a little tart on the inside.


A lot of the bungalows we stay in have western toilets, but when out and about we have to use a squat toilet. It is a porcelain platform with grooves where you put your feet (barefoot…someone tell Britney). Then you squat over it and let ‘er rip. I usually take my pants off to avoid an embarrassing situation. There is no toilet paper used with these toilets. You spray yourself off with the little hose next to the toilet, or use your hand and the water dipper if there is no spray hose. Cold water up your butt is a great way to start the day!

Welcome to the Jungle

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

After arriving in Khao Sok, we hung out in our bungalow during the hottest part of the afternoon. At about 4:30 Tawee, the owner, came and rounded up his 5 guests (including us) to give us a tour of the park from the bed of his pick-up truck. First stop was a small temple built into one of the limestone cliffs. The temple itself wasn’t that impressive but the surrounding grounds were full of monkeys – macaques. As we drove up to the temple Tawee honked his horn and clapped his hands really loudly. Swarms of monkeys descended from the jungled cliffs surrounding the temple and came towards us. Some of the other guests had purchased bananas for the monkeys on the way to the temple and they shared a few with us. It was really fun to get out of the truck and hand out bananas to monkeys, although it occurred to both of us that this type of tourist behavior is probably very bad for the monkeys. They walk right up to you, reach out their hands, and pull the banana away from you. They have really strong grips and will wrench the banana away from you if you try to hold on to it. The adults are experts at peeling the bananas and eat them exactly like humans do – really bizarre. Here are some pictures:

We then drove to a scenic viewpoint where we finally had someone to take a picture of both of us at one time!

Finally we stopped by the park entrance…I think this was mostly an excuse for Tawee to drive us to his friend’s minimart so we could buy stuff from him.

Tawee’s wife cooked all the meals at the bungalows’ little restaurant. Everything she made was SO good, and we were shocked when we ordered a green papaya salad and they ran out to their garden to pick a green papaya for us! The next day we ordered chicken with basil leaves, and we watched them pick the basil from the garden too.

The next day we rode our bikes the 5km to the park’s entrance to do a short hike. We started off at 6:30am in an effort to beat the heat and hopefully see some wildlife. Even though it was early it was still hot and humid and we were both feeling really tired. We trudged along a 3km trail to a pitiful little waterfall (even our guidebook admitted it was a stretch to try to call this trickle a waterfall) and sat there for a bit eating our bananas. The bananas we’ve been eating here, by the way, are really tiny ones – about one third the size of a banana in the US. They are really sweet and have so much more flavor, too. I never really like bananas in the US, but here they are very tasty! Here is some of the thick bamboo along the trail:

We caught a glimpse of a few monkeys in the trees during our hike – the same type we’d fed the other night. We didn’t see any gibbons, but we did hear their calls. It is really hard to describe the noises they make – almost like a siren. Our guidebook says they use the thermal barrier between the hot and cool layers in the jungle trees to make their calls travel 2-3kms. We also caught a glimpse of a giant hornbill flying above us, but we weren’t close enough to really see him. Jamie tried to take pictures anyway:

We ended up back at our bungalow by noon due to the heat. We’re starting to wonder what we’re going to do during the afternoons here. It gets so incredibly hot that you just can’t be outside…even walking down the street to look at a town is miserable. Maybe we’ll just get a lot of reading done…

Another delicious dinner was had thanks to Tawee’s wife, and we learned some card tricks from his friendly cousin. We spent the night lying in bed under our mosquito net listening to the sounds of the jungle. Definitely the strangest animal sounds we have ever heard! The next morning we headed off at 6:30am back west to Takua Pa, on our way to Bangkok. The morning was incredibly foggy, misty, and beautiful.

Khao Sok

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Sarah and I have reached our first national park of Thailand - Khao Sok National Park. Yesterday we rode to the city of Takua Pa and were surprised to learn when we arrived that no one knew of any guesthouses within 30 kilometers of the city! It was already 1pm and scorching hot out and the thought of riding any further was absolutely dreadful, so we hunted around and asked half a dozen people before we were finally directed to a room for rent about one kilometer outside outside of town. When we found the place, our hearts sank as the caretaker told us the room was already booked for the night. But then his eyes lit up and he told us we could sleep in his open-air hut for free! We quickly agreed and spent the next hour or so hanging out with the caretaker, Mr. Jut, and his friend Mr. Lek as they avoided the hot afternoon sun. Mr. Jut was an extremely gracious host, supplying us with cold drinking water, peanut crackers, juice drinks, and even Thai whiskey and soda water! 

After our socializing, we decided to let Mr. Jut get some work done so we headed back to the city to have dinner and kill some time before retiring for the night. We found an open air market in the town and dined on fresh fruit, fried noodles, and murthabak. Here I am using our phrase book to attempt to order some fried noodles.

When we arrived back at Mr. Jut’s place, we realized he had invited the neighbors over and was cooking up some fresh crab with homemade chili sauce for us! We couldn’t believe how generous he was. The dinner of crab and Thai beer was delicious and we spent the night listening to the Thai conversation and trying to use our phrase book to join in. It was pouring down rain at the time, so we were able to say, “My what dreadful weather we are having!” and “Do you think it will rain tomorrow?” with success.

We woke up very early to avoid the heat today and were glad we did because the rode to Khao Sok from Takua Pa is very steep. It was only a 50 kilometer ride, but climbing hills in this heat and humidity is like doing aerobics in a steam room. The park itself is beautiful rainforest and steep limestone cliffs. Gibbons, tigers, and elephants live here!

When we arrived at our bungalow, we cooled off with some fresh watermelon and pineapple shakes. Delicious!

We’ll spend the afternoon resting in our bungalow and then tonight and tomorrow exploring the park.

Land of Smiles

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

We arrived in Phuket, Thailand yesterday morning after an uneventful flight. We ended up purchasing two extra tickets for our JetStar Asia flight for an extra 20kg of baggage per seat. Thanks to the extra seats and extra 40kg allowance we were able to get on the flight with no hassle.

We landed at 7:30am and put our bikes together outside the airport. We had quite an audience – every single taxi driver, bus driver, and valet waiting for his passengers was crowded around watching us put the bikes together. It was a funny feeling because in New Zealand there were cycle tourists every where you looked, but it seems that we’re much more of a novelty here in Thailand.

The main tourist resorts and beaches are South of the airport. We weren’t really in the mood to pay high prices to look at fancy hotels we can’t afford, so we decided to cycle north to the less popular beaches. Our map wasn’t too helpful for the Phuket area so we had to ask for directions a lot. This was very entertaining because (not really a surprise) most people don’t speak much English. We’d ride up to people on the sides of the road and announce the name of the place we were trying to get to: “Mai Khao…?” Then people would gesture and we’d try to figure out what they meant, or they’d say “Left, Right, then Right, then Left”, or something really crazy like “One kilometer, U-Turn, then airport, then another U-Turn, then left” I was left wondering if they really knew what a U-Turn was…otherwise weren’t they telling us to go in circles?! We’ve been very impressed with how incredibly friendly and helpful everyone has been so far. As we ride down the road almost everyone looks up to wave and yell “Hello” or “Sa Wat Dee” (hello in Thai). The roads so far have huge nice shoulders for the very popular motor scooters that people ride around. As they pass us on the shoulder the scooter drivers are very polite and friendly, usually even giving us a little beep to warn that they’re going to pass.

At one point we turned down a side road that ran through a tiny little village that was full of young kids hanging around on their bicycles. They were very excited to see us. They all started yelling Hello! hello! hello! and jumped on their bikes to follow us. The road eventually came to a dead end where we stopped to consult our map as a mob of about eight grinning kids surrounded us. I finally tried to ask one of their mothers where we were on the map, but she wasn’t really sure.

Many roads went through groves of coconut palms:

We road in circles for awhile and finally found Mai Khao beach where we stayed in a very adorable, but overpriced, bungalow on the beach.

Road to the bungalows:

We ate lunch and dinner in an open air shelter right on the beach, and we also spent some time reading in the hammocks. The beach wasn’t very good for swimming we were told – it gets deep really close to shore, has huge waves, and a vicious undertow. Yikes. We just stuck our feet in and were shocked at how warm the water was!

Bungalow and bikes:

Hanging out in a hammock:

Water buffalo on the side of the road! This mother didn’t like us at all – she aggressively started us down as we rode by, and was careful to keep herself between us and her baby.

Today we rode 35km north and ended at 11am in the beachside town of Thai Muang. We’re going to have to start really early in the morning here because by 11am it was starting to get too hot to bike. We ate a delicious lunch at a local restaurant where we tested out what happens when you say you like spicy food. Yesterday’s food seemed to be custom made for tourists – very bland. So to avoid that I said “We like spicy food” when we placed the order. The cook was a little nervous and held up 4 chili peppers, saying that’s how many she was going to use in our lunch. We said OK (then looked at each other nervously)! The end results was food that was delicious and definitely edible, but we also had runny noses and sweaty faces the whole time. We learned from the restaurant owner that we just missed the 10 day giant sea turtle festival. Shoot! We are going to check out part of the beach later tonight where sometimes giant turtles can be spied.

Lunch – Red Curry Shrimp:

Digging in:

A Taste of Singapore

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

The food in Singapore was definitely one of the highlights. Especially after arriving from New Zealand where things cost the same as they did in US, driving us to cook rice & beans or peanut butter sandwiches for every meal.

In Little India we went to a southern Indian restaurant where you were served a scoop of rice on a banana leaf surrounded by a bunch of little cups of sauce. You pour some sauce on the rice, mix it around with your right hand in an attempt to form little balls, and then pop it in your mouth. Using your left hand is rude and eating rice one-handed was a huge challenge – but very entertaining. The locals sitting behind us were opening cracking up as Jamie took this photo. Thus, the look on my face:

One of my favorite things in all of Singapore were these cute little flower shaped steamed rice cakes filled with coconut. They were made fresh when you ordered them so you got to watch the woman fill the mold with rice flour and coconut and pop them under the steamer. We asked to take a picture of her, but she was too shy and said no.

The was a little bun filled with sweet red bean paste. At first it tasted odd to me because I was expecting it to be more sweet and less bean-y. But then after I got over the initial shock I loved it:

Our guidebook claimed this is one of the most popular desserts in Singapore. It is shaved ice with different fruit syrups, a little coconut milk, and then a sprinkling of sweet red beans on top. Buried in the bottom was an assortment of brightly (and I do mean neon) colored gelatin cubes, circles, and droplets. Each part on its own was tasty, but I’m definitely not used to eating all these things together in one dish:

The dragon fruit is bright pink with green spikes and is about the size of a softball. It is served chilled then cut in half. You scoop out the flesh and edible seeds with a spoon it is almost like eating sorbet out of a real fruit cup! It has a mild but slightly tangy flavor and the crunchy seeds are very tasty.