Famous for its jutting islands dotting the teal waters, we made it to Ko Phi Phi. Following the 2007 tsunami that hit Thailand, much of the island was completely destroyed; to aid in its preservation, a fee is now charged to enter (20 baht). After basking in the sun (and some of us forgetting to rotate) on the warm wheat-coloured sand banks, we cruised around the narrow stalls looking for someThai buckets. The Reggae Bar, coming highly recommended from friends and past visitors to the island, was the perfect place to kick back and jam out to some classic Bob Marley and if you got there in time, a free BBQ and two for one buckets. Even better, is the Thai choice of entertainment. Yes, there is the thai boxing, but the owners of Reggae Bar thought it would be funny to put a boxing ring right in the middle of the establishment…strictly for farang versus farang matches (farang is the Thai word for foreigner). The draw – the winner receives a free meal and a Thai bucket – the loser…one trip to the dentist. After polishing off bucket number one, we watched as two Brits geared up and muscled the ring. A few solid slugs were more humourous than damaging, but then one POW broke half of someone’s tooth sending it whizzing past our faces. It made for a great picture and scored big points with the ladies. We’d hang arond long enough for some real Thai boxers to show the crowd how it’s done. It was neat to see, but really, it was just like watching the WWF except with mini Thai guys making really femanin tennis player noises.
Thai people are reknown for their non-confrontational debonair. Many visitor leaflets will warn you that getting angry in public is highly discouraged. This rather peaceful and difficult to believe characteristic poses the question of how the Thais really feel about eachother, especially where there’s safety involved? Do they fear the same things we do? Do they argue and fight the same way? Are they worried about their safety? A quick look at their driving and you’d think, HECK NO! Well, they do in fact care about their safety…just not on the road. On Railay Beach we would witness some homemadeThai barbed wire. Rows of broken glass bottles lined up along cement walls surrounding several houses could be seen along the trail connecting both sides of the island. Quams for the driving, but kuddos to the recycling.
Back on the mainland, visiting with friends at Surin beach, we’d sign up for an elephant ride. This would be the first of two elephant rides we’d experience in Thailand, each providing its own surprises. Elephant riding in Phuket is probably the most expensive place to try it, but fun and exciting none the less. For starters, our guide, a Nepalise mahoot, was casually sitting atop the elephant’s head, his legs and feet dangling behind the creatures fan-like ears. In hand was an elephant hook used to help guide and steer. Of course, it would be our elephant that would remain at the end of the pack. Old and slow, it felt like we were gliding in slow motion. Every now and then the elephant would make this terrible grunting sound followed by a wet, goobery shower that would land all over us. This would happen a few more times and wasn’t until the end of the ride that we would find out that our poor elephant had a cold. That’s snot so cool Mr. Elephant…its just snot!
A trip into Bangla Road, the popular entertainment strip in Patong, we’d stroll past some market tents along the boardwalk. While many farang perused racks of cheap clothing or chowing down pad-thai, Morgan and I decided it was high time we try some bugs-on-a-stick. The Thais seemed to like them and they seemed alright. And in all honesty, it helps to attempt doing this with a little bit of a buzz on and a steady mindframe of “these probably all taste like chicken anyway.” Trying to communicate in my best pantomimed Thai that we only wanted a few bugs and not a bag full as the lady kept attempting, we finally tried bugs. A couple of fatty grubs and some crickets airplaned into our mouths followed by wings crunching between teeth. At first it was very much a chickeny taste, and then the taste, best described as an unkept zoo, fills the mouth. “Wow, that tasted like manuer mixed with hay…” said Morgan very articulately, but spot on.
We would find ourselves very well taken care of and spoiled while in Surin. Sara’s parents, Susan and Greg Smallenberg, welcomed us to join them for several dinner’s out, including a very interesting and well-liked place called Nok and Joe’s. A restaurant run by Joe, a Canadian and his Thai wife, Nok. The pad-thai was the best we’d have in Thailand. Over one of our many meals together, Greg handed me a much anticipated article that he claimed would save me tons of money on a future wedding. Sure enough, I’d glance at the title and keel over in stiches of laughter. Beginning in January 2011, Hong Kong McDonald’s started offering a McWedding package that includes the ceremony, reception, wedding cake and catering for up to 100 people, all for the Mcdeal amount of, wait for it, less than $2000. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2055444,00.html
Athough momentarily painful, Surin was a blast. There’s no scar, and I’m amazed that there isn’t, but during a nice afternoon swim, the tenticles of a jellyfish would connect with my leg and send me screaming like a baby out of water. Stinging beyond belief, the long wrigly lines began to welt in angry redness. Morgan offered to pee on me, but thankfully the local beachguards were prepared with vinegar to save me from a man tenticle disaster. Check out one of the many well worded Thai signs advertising extra special food and beverage.
To Susan and Greg Smallenberg, we thank you for your more than generous kindness.
The Limey and The Yank