(written by Nancy)
As you may have figured out from the title, we did not stay another night in Krabi – Dave really wanted to try out Phang-Nga and he was able to convince me to hit the road this morning despite my attempts to stay in bed and enjoy another day off in Krabi. Dave was sure we would have no trouble finding a hotel, even with it being Friday night. Well, I’ll cut right to the chase, we had no trouble getting a room at our first choice hotel, so he was right about that. We are about a month from the start of peak holiday season and we’ve found that at least half, perhaps more, of the hotels in the towns we arrive at are not even visible on the Internet. Their signs are either in Thai only, or they are just too small to make the likes of Tripadvisor or to have their own website. So far, even in the smallest town, we’ve managed to find at least one option and so far they have all been decent hotels. Tonight we are at the Phang-Nga Inn (or Hotel, depending on what source you read) which was listed in Lonely Planet. There are at least 4 or 5 hotels within walking distance that we didn’t see in our research.
As for the close call, well, we made it within about 5 k’s of Phang-Nga under clear skies. In fact, it was starting to get a bit hot. We could see some clouds coming but thought we might outrun the storm. No such luck. About 5k out, we got pelted by a wall of water. We could see it coming so we ducked off the road at a fish farm, where we could get under a cover – the fellow working at the farm just glanced at us and continued working under his big parka. It bucketed down for about 15 minutes, then it stopped. We started to ride, and were hit by the second wave of rain. This time we just said screw it and kept riding as there wasn’t really any place to pull over. This only lasted for about 10 minutes and then we had no more rain for the remainder of the ride. We were pretty wet, which meant Dave had to clean the bikes when we finally arrived at the hotel. If only we’d ridden a little faster…
We got a relatively early start today, leaving the hotel by 7:30 and made pretty good progress. We rode along Highway 4 for about half the day, then Dave found some back roads, without road numbers even. Yes, we are getting quite confident now, taking short-cuts even (though I will admit I might have asked him a few times if he was really sure this was the right way…). We made a couple stops for photos along the way. Dave could not resist snapping a shot of the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant and we finally grabbed a photo of the ubiquitous roadside cauldrons. They are not really cauldrons at all but certainly look like them. They appear to be roadside rubbish bins used by rural homes for putting out their trash. They are made entirely of old tires but the first few times we saw them we thought they were made of cast iron. Pretty good use of old tires.
We stopped for morning tea at a servo, as we do most mornings. We actually weren’t quite ready for a stop but this one had a fancy coffee shop sitting right on the road – too good to pass up. It was one of the nicest servos we’ve seen. With the heat, we had iced coffees rather than espresso and they were very tasty and there were even nice tables and chairs to sit at – luxury for us! And the toilets were clean and fancy – note outside gents facilities again (Dave is enamoured with these). There was even a mobile ATM truck/thingy which in addition to having a portable ATM, claimed to have “Easy Exchange”, “Instant Account Open” and “Pay-point” services. It did not appear to have any staff so I’m not sure how anything other than the ATM worked.
Not long after the servo, we stopped for more photos at a rubber processing plant. We’ve been seeing sheets of rubber hanging out to dry since coming into Thailand but we’ve not yet captured them in a photo. At the plant they had heaps of individual rubber sheets stacked on top of pallets. The plant manager came out to see what we were up to but didn’t mind us taking some photos. As we understand it, they collect the rubber in cups, cook it down to large sheets and hang the sheets out to dry. The cooking stabilises the chemicals allowing for easier shipment and further processing.
Eventually, we stopped stopping for pictures and made our way to the hotel. Maybe a few less stops and we would have missed the rain but then we would not know that we can open a bank account at a gas station.
Once everything was cleaned up we asked the hotel owner for a lunch recommendation. He drew us a map to a place on the river just on the edge of town. We debated just going somewhere in town but decided to trust local knowledge. All good, until about half way there when the dark clouds over town decided it was time to open up again. We ducked under an umbrella that was set up on the side of the road outside a house. In seconds, the owners were ushering us inside their garage, into nice dry chairs. Turns out that they were making and selling some sort of roadside treat. Before we could say no, we had a tray opened for us, we’re being instructed on how to eat them and given nice cold water to drink. They were an older couple, and spoke no English but between our hand signals and phrase book we figured out that the treats were little pancakes/crepes filled with a coconut/soy bean/sugar mixture – they were actually kind of tasty. What luck we got caught in the rain right there as we would never have stopped otherwise.
Eventually the rain let up and we made a dash for the restaurant. It was right on the river with little grass hut shelters with tables and chairs. We were the only customers (it was half way between lunch and dinner time). We had cashew chicken, green curry, shrimp fritters and mango salad. Everything was delicious with the mango salad being particularly tasty. It was made of sweet firm green mangos (I’ve not seen these previously), with a little onion and cashews and that secret Thai sauce that makes everything taste good. I could have eaten a couple plates – sorry, the photo doesn’t do it justice – we just couldn’t wait to eat it!
Though we ordered a lot of food we had plenty of time to eat and managed to get everything down. Stuffed, we walked back to town looking for a tour company. We’ve decided to stay here one more day because Dave really wants to see the ‘James Bond’ island, which is an island nearby where they filmed parts of ‘The Man with a Golden Gun.’ We saw lots of karsts and mountains today riding and town is completely surrounded by them. Only trouble is that they are so common, power lines and buildings often obscure the view. Even though we have to go on a boat to see the island, I’m told it will not be a bouncy ride and hopefully we’ll get to see some of these views without all the man-made distractions. The half-day boat tour takes in several other local highlights so it should be fun.
We’re having a simple dinner of yoghurt and muesli for dinner as neither of us are very hungry after that big lunch. We’ll let you know how the boat tour goes tomorrow (I’ll be taking a plastic bag with me just in case…).