Jan 25 – 27
Miguel and I wanted to start our Thailand travels with a beach. And when I did a little research on quiet beaches close to Bangkok, I came across Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. I didn’t really know much about the place, except that it was supposed to be a low key beach area more popular with locals than foreigners. That sounded like what we were looking for, so we decided to check it out.
We took a bus from Bangkok to Pranburi. And when the bus dumped us off in Pranburi, we gave a quick glance around and thought “what the hell are we going to do here?” The area looked very dusty and industrial. And it was Chinese New Year, so except for a handful of grocery stores and firework stands, everything was closed. We didn’t see any taxis or tuk tuks around, but we knew we had to get to the park somehow.
Eventually we talked to some girls in a grocery store. They directed us to a songthaew at the end of the street and we hopped in.
We had told the driver that we wanted to go to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, but instead he dropped us off at Sam Roi Yot beach (called Phu Noi beach by the locals). We thought about making him take us to the actual park like we had asked, but the beach he dropped us off at was really nice and quiet (exactly what we wanted). So we stayed there. And that turned out to be a really good decision.
Aside from a handful of fisherman and a few older couples, the beach was pretty much deserted. It was wonderful. We actually heard that some Christian missionaries from Texas were staying at the other end of the beach, but we never saw them.
After walking along the beach and checking out several guest houses, we came across Blue Beach Resort. It was a little pricier than some of the others, but the owners were really friendly and we had a good feeling about the place. Since it was the off season, they said we could have a room for 600 Baht (rather than the usual 800 Baht). And after they told us that we could have free breakfast every morning and free use of the kayak, we were sold!
The beds in our room came with fancy decorations, so we got dressed up and danced around.
And almost immediately after we arrived, we borrowed the kayak and paddled to a nearby island that we were told had monkeys on it.
There were definitely monkeys! Long tailed macaques. We saw them the second we reached land.
When I got too close, this guy started making a scary face at me. When I made the same face back at him, he started hissing and looking like he was going to bite me.
That was when we left the monkeys alone. We departed from the island just in time for the sunset.
When the Blue Beach Resort told us we’d have breakfast in the morning, they weren’t kidding! From here on out, most places that advertised free breakfast meant instant coffee and toast. But this place was special. I think normally they make some sort of egg and ham dish, but the cook said she’d make us veggie food.
We were so impressed with her breakfasts! So impressed that we still talk about them!! For our free breakfast, we got good coffee, fresh fruit, and huge portions of rice with mixed vegetables.
And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, she whipped out some amazing fried rice dish the next day for breakfast. And it wasn’t the typical fried rice (all greasy with some eggs thrown in). It was a huge mound of spicy vegetables with some rice thrown in. This lady thought of everything. She even gave us a lime, soy sauce, chili, and dried onions to put on top. I really should have given her a hug….or at least taken her picture so her memory will be preserved forever.
We ate there once for dinner and were impressed again – of course.
One night, we tried a new place for dinner…and this is where we lost our innocence. We had just been talking about Thai food and how, so far on our trip, it really hadn’t been all that spicy. Miguel carried a Thai dictionary in his pocket most of the time, so we discovered that the word for spicy is “pet.” When the waiter came and took our order, I ordered green curry (one of the spicier curries) and pounded my fist in the air while saying “pet pet pet pet!” When the waiter left, I started complaining that I didn’t think it would be very spicy. For one, it seemed to be a restaurant that catered mostly to Westerners. For another, I figured he probably glanced at us, noticed we weren’t Thai, and decided we couldn’t handle it.
Either the waiter overheard me talking shit, or he was just simply following the instructions I gave him. Either way…boy were we wrong!!! This was the spiciest thing I had ever had in my life. Once we took our first bite, all the conversation stopped. And it took all our concentration just to chew our food and try not to die. It made me feel like my brain was boiling. Miguel spent most of the time sucking deep breaths of air through his teeth. It kinda felt like torture, but we managed to eat most of it in the end….slowly. After this, I learned my lesson and never ordered anything extra spicy again. I just asked for some extra chili on the side, so I could add it as I wanted.
This actually isn’t the picture of the curry (I was hurting too much at the time to photograph)…but this dish most have been spicy too.
The morning after we arrived at Phu Noi beach, we decided to rent a motorbike. Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (the place were we had intended to go all along) was only about 7 kilometers down the road, so it seemed like an easy destination for our first motorbike trip.
Many places at the beach have motorbikes for rent, but we rented ours from this one:
Since Miguel doesn’t drive in Austin, it was really fun to have him drive me around in Thailand. I was too scared to take control the motorbike, so he did all the driving. Later, he admitted that he was scared too. But he was a great driver! No injuries! No deaths!
And this was a great place to practice driving a motorbike – especially if we were planning to rent one anywhere else in Thailand ( as the road probably wouldn’t get any calmer than this).
The drive to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park was very scenic!
And there are quite a few nice places to check out. Tourism is minimal (as there isn’t much public transportation), so most of the visitors were locals. The first place we checked out was Ban Bang Pu, a decent beach with quite a lot of locals swimming and having picnics. I actually liked our beach better (as it was clean and much quieter). The island on the right of this picture is the monkey island that we kayaked too. Our guest house was just around the bend on the opposite cove.
From there, you can either take a short boat ride to Hat Laem Sala (another cove), or you can get there by hiking up a steep path. We hiked.
And the beach on the other side was nice and quiet. But the mosquitoes were really bad – especially in the shady areas.
From this beach, it was a quick walk to Tham Phraya Nakhorn (a beautiful cave with a temple inside).
After hiking back over the hill, we had a quick picnic before moving on to the next stop.
The next stop was Tham Kaeo, a large cave full of glittery stalagmites and stalagtites.
When we pulled up to the cave entrance, a man was outside renting flashlights. He told us it was really dark and best to have two flashlights just in case one of them goes out while we’re inside the cave. We figured he was probably just exaggerating in order to get us to pay for the flashlights, but we rented one just in case (but only one).
And it turns out he wasn’t lying. It was dark! After climbing down deeper and deeper into the cave system, we were getting scared. And we definitely wished we had listened to him and rented 2 flashlights. If our flashlight had gone out, there was no way we would have been able to find our way out of the cave. Someone would have had to come rescue us.
The cave was really pretty, but it was a huge relief when we finally made it out.
Miguel’s pants were all dirty from crawling around through the caves.
We had just filled up with gas and were on our way to return the motorbike. But then we got a flat tire! Luckily there was a motorbike repair shop right next to us. The guy fixed it in about 15 minutes.
That night, we spent time on our quiet little beach. And because this beach is so quiet, we were surprised when a bus load of ladyboys pulled up to do a performance. The ladyboy show was at a bar called the Bamboo Bar, which was basically just a makeshift bar consisting of some tables and bamboo fencing that is put up at night and taken down during the day. Miguel and I were talking to a couple at a restaurant nearby and we could see all the ladyboys across the street standing around in their thongs. The guys ended up staying at the restaurant, but once the show started, the woman and I walked over to the bar to watch. I thought the show was great! The ladyboys had elaborate costumes and dance moves. Most of the songs were English songs, but they threw in a few Thai songs as well. The Thai ladyboy version of Johnny Cash is quite hilarious!
Thai ladyboys can be found in large numbers all over Thailand. Here’s an article about all the ladyboys in a certain Bangkok University. Actually, because surgery in Thailand is so cheap, people from all over the world come to Thailand to get sex changes (or any other type of surgery), making medical tourism a growing trend in Thailand.
I thought the ladyboy show was a good welcome to Thailand and a nice end to our stay at Phu Noi beach.
- This is what it looks like when I dump all the contents from my backpack onto my bed.
- When I first got to Thailand (and all of Asia), I was shocked to see so many cats with half a tail. I asked several locals why this is, but everyone seemed to have different answers. One lady told me she thought it was because the Thais don’t want the cats to climb trees to eat birds, so they chop off their tails. That didn’t seem likely. Another person said it was genetic, but that didn’t seem likely either. Miguel and I had our own theory: That they chop off all the cat tails to weave them into the hair of dredlocked tourists on Khao San Road. I decided to look it up. And as it turns out, it actually is genetic. Most of the cats in Asia seem to have this mutation (I guess because they’re all so inbred and there aren’t many other cats in the gene pool). You can read about cats with bobbed tails here (scroll down to “bobbedtailed cats”). And here’s an article about Siamese cats and the legends behind the kinks in their tails.