The next morning we rode mopeds south along a narrow road to the quieter, less settled side of the island. Roland, a broad-shouldered German ex-pat was pushing a long-tail boat towards the beach. We waded through the soft sand and warm surf, along with a large, boisterous, friendly French family, climbed aboard, and pushed off for a snorkeling tour of the island. The weather had remained pristine since we’d disembarked in Koh Tao. The sun floated in a cloudless azure sky, its bright rays caressing tanned skin and turning the ocean below an inviting aquamarine. Continue reading
Our stomachs still full from the Amita Thai Cooking Class, we settled into a sleeper traincar bound for Koh Tao. As we drifted off into much-needed sleep, our plans were interrupted by the skittering black blur of a large cockroach hustling across the floor. It disappeared out of sight–the worst thing that could have happened. Mandy’s imagination raced frantically: Where is it hiding? Where will it turn up next? How will it sneak up on me? She’d finally began to relax when a second, smaller, cockroach zig-zagged into view. I smashed it with a flip-flop. Continue reading
Wakefulness arrived slowly the next morning, the hotel’s high thread count sheets and luxuriously soft down bedding imprisoning us deep within the depths of a Songkran-induced slumber. Eventually, we managed to rub the sleep from our eyes and staggered down to the hotel’s equally lavish inclusive breakfast. Against one wall were the classic Western staples: fresh fruits and juices, yogurt, eggs, pastries, bacon, and sausages. Mandy, however, bypassed those familiar comforts for the Asian dishes along the opposite wall: savory pho soups, thick rice porridge (called congee) containing meat and fresh herbs, and spicy stir-fried noodle dishes. She has never been a huge fan of American breakfast food and has been in heaven the past two months.
Our first stop after breakfast was the Maeklong Railroad Market. Continue reading
The water theme continued into the next day. It was Songkran, a celebration of the Thai New Year. The Buddhist tradition of symbolically washing away misfortune and wrongdoing has morphed into modern Songkran, the world’s largest, and most insane, water battle. Families stand outside their houses with hoses and buckets full of (ice) water to douse passersby. Pickup trucks hauling giant garbage can reservoirs take the water fight to the streets attacking pedestrians, other cars and trucks, and Thailand’s countless moped riders (for those wondering, no, it’s not all that safe).
Mandy and I had taken a water shuttle up the Chao Phraya River to visit the Royal Palace and Emerald Buddha Wat. Every temple seemed to have a slightly different dress code, which varied from not allowing exposed shoulders to requiring full-length sleeves. The same discrepancies applied to legs: some temples allowed shorts, others allowed shorts if they covered the knee, and sites like the Royal Palace required the legs to be completely covered.
Because of the heat and the fact that we could never keep it completely straight, we simply wore shorts and didn’t spend much time worrying about the daily dress code. Most temples had clothes available to borrow (for free) at the entrance. Since we had no desire to complicate our day or buy any new clothing, we happily accepted the inconvenience of a quick change outside each temple before entering. As we rummaged through the boxes of clothing outside the Royal Palace, Mandy came away with a decent pink sarong, while I had to settle for grey M.C. Hammer pants. Continue reading