Friday, November 11, 2011

My Thai: Info you can use

Krabi - after the four-island tour

Warning: This is a long post... so do yourself a favour, and read it in installments.
Before the euphoria dies down, let me tell you of our best holiday – ever.
I hope you can use the information if you ever want to. We went to Thailand – Bangkok and Krabi – and my best advice to you? Go to Krabi now!


* * *

BANGKOK
What we did:
I’ve never really liked Bangkok, it’s too sleazy. We were reduced to leaving Zach in the hotel room in the evenings when we went scouting for food. Also, Bangkok was flooded, but not Sukhumvit – the government had very obviously sacrificed the suburbs to keep the central district dry.
We did get onto one free tour offered by the hotel, but since the Grand Palace, the Chao Phraya river and most of the temples were out of bounds, we were only able to see the Marble Temple (entrance: 20 Baht/ Rs 32) with a lovely girl who was unfortunate enough to be called Pon. We were very lucky to be there during a ceremony in which a young man was leaving the monkhood and returning to his family. (In Thailand, young Buddhist men must go into the monastery at around the age of 20, for a minimum period of 15 days.) And the Marble Temple has a whole lot of beautiful Buddha sculptures – standing, sitting, walking and reclining – from different countries.
The bento box at Shin Emon
We spent some time in Siam Ocean World, built into the bottom of the very upmarket Siam Paragon mall. It costs about 600 Baht per person (Rs 960), if booked through an agent. Do not bother with the glass-bottom boat tour – it is one minute of being pulled around what seems like a flooded parking lot in some ways. 
Most of our shopping was done at MBK, which is a rather amazing cornucopia of everything under the sun. At least two shops on the ground floor have bags at 199 Baht (Rs 320), and now, so do a lot of our female relatives! Kevin also bought his dream 75-litre Deuter backpack here at an amazing 1,200 Baht (Rs 1,920).
What we ate: 
Chicken Rice Porridge at McD
We usually love street food when we travel, but since drinking water was a problem because of the floods, we ate with the locals in mall food courts instead. We ate at Platinum, MBK and Siam Paragon, and, of these, we found Siam Paragon had amazing variety and a plethora of dishes under 100 Baht each.
We also indulged in two restaurants – Fuji (at MBK) and Shin Emon (at Centralworld), both Japanese. The bill at Fuji worked out to about 750 Baht (Rs 1,200), but the bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms were very worth it. Shin Emon had very interesting bento boxes at around 140 Baht (Rs 224), and you got to grind your own sesame to garnish (see photo).
Sushido from Mister Donut
For the record, Zach gave his custom as usual to McDonalds, Burger King and KFC in both Bangkok and Krabi, and also to Mister Donut, which had some cool donuts decorated to look like sushi.
Where we stayed:
The furniture at the Omni Tower serviced apartments is old fashioned, and you have to walk a little to get to the main Sukhumvit Road and the Nana BTS station; you are rather confronted by the working girls if you walk the street at night. The complimentary breakfast is also a little sparse – eggs, fruit and toast. But, for 2,289 Baht (Rs 3,600), you get a flat bigger than our house, with a sitting room, huge bedroom, kitchen, a pool on the 8th floor, and a bathtub – also a walk-in closet on our second stay. 


 * * *
KRABI
What we did:
There’s no delicate way of saying this, so I’ll just say it straight: Indians have not hit Krabi, and Krabi has not yet reacted to Indians. If you are a well-behaved traveller, go to Krabi now, before both those things happen. As of now, the gentle Thais in Krabi will treat you just like anyone else. One young man – with not one word of English – rode alongside us for almost half an hour to put us on the right path when we got lost on our hired scooter.

Zach in the water off Phra Nang
On the speedboat, Chicken Island behind us
Zach and Kevin snorkelling off Chicken Island
We did the four-island tour with Chokpasian Andaman (900 Baht per person/ Rs 1,440) on our first full day in Krabi. Ingo picked us up from the hotel at 8.30am, put us a fast speedboat and took us first to Poda Island, where we waded in the shallows in life-vests, then off Chicken Island where we snorkelled in jade-green deep water, then to Tup Island where we had lunch out of picnic boxes and wallowed some more in super clear water, and then to Phra Nang, by which time Zach was the only one interested in getting wet once more. Do not miss this if you go to Krabi, and of course, there are also the Ko Phi Phi and Hong Island tours to be done, but we decided to do non-water things too.
We hired a scooter at 200 Baht (Rs 320) from the hotel when we returned at about 3pm (surprising energy, right?), and drove to the Krabi night market, or Walking Street, as it is already called. Do not try to do this by scooter, it is 22 km each way and Kevin’s backside still twinges in memory. The night market is a very local experience, with food at ridiculously low prices. We bought Thai noodles (pad thai), sutar feni (buddi ka baal) in pancakes, sausages and the like at about 10 to 20 Baht (Rs 16 to Rs 32) per portion. Also deep-fried maggots, packed with a spray of vinegar, and a stick to pick them up with, but Kevin gave up on them in the end.

With Mark and Beater at the Siam Cuisine cooking school

Posing with the ingredients

 The Coconut Soup with chicken and Pad Thai I made
Our other great experience in Krabi was going to Thai cooking school (1,200 Baht/ Rs  1,920 per person). We could choose six dishes to learn, so Kevin and I chose different dishes, but since we were just four students, we learned them all! All the dishes turned out marvellously, and Kevin wanted to go again the next day.

The rental car in the Krabi Airport parking lot
But the next day, we hired a car and explored (1,200 Baht/ Rs 1,920 for 24 hours). We went to Krabi Airport and tried to change our Air Asia tickets (learning: you can change Air Asia tickets only upto 48 hours before departure), went to the Big C supermarket and did some browsing, and then went to the Khao Phenom Bencha national park, where I was a sore disappointment to Zach because I refused to let him get into the waterfall pools. So after a wonderful day in our rental Toyota Vios, we went back to our hotel and vegetated on our loungers while he splashed in the pool and all was very right with the world.
What we ate:
All sorts of local food at the Krabi night market, what we cooked at the Siam Cooking School and at Jeanette’s Restaurant on the main Aonang Beach stretch, where the set meal for two at 590 Baht (Rs 950) gave us a mixed platter of starters, a Pad Thai, a rice dish (with too much raw haldi for our liking) and fresh fruit for dessert.
Where we stayed:

Our pool access room at the Aree Tara Resort
I cannot recommend the Aree Tara Resort in Aonang enough. It is off the main stretch, so you are not slave to the tourist buzz, and our pool access room was beyond brilliant. You could climb straight into the pool from our little deck area and there were two loungers and a coffee table on which to rest our Breezers and other alcopops as we watched Zach floating in his big green float in the pool. We stayed four nights and paid about Rs 3,750 per night for three persons with breakfast through hotelclub.com.
NOTE: At the time we were converting, 1 Baht = Rs 1.6
Do feel free to ask me for more details you can use, before I lose them all to advancing age.



2 comments:

  1. Hey Prima,
    Sorry about your experience at Bangkok. Regarding Krabi, you do not need to go all that way to enjoy snorkeeling or visit lovely uncluttered islands. In India, there are the Lakshwadeep Islands off the coast of Cochin. When I used to travel to Cochin on work I found out that you can travel by air-conditioned ship to Lakshwadeep Islands and stay on board throughout the trip with visits to the many islands. There is also a helicopter ride as part of the holiday. Check it out. It is part of India Tourism. By the way, you cant take booze on the islands or leave any clutter behind.

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  2. Hey Mario,
    Very true, I went to Lakshadweep some years ago and snorkelled off Kadmat. The water was brilliant and clear and we walked off the beach with our snorkels, which I must admit I enjoyed more than being lowered into deep water, like in Thailand, since I can only swim when I know how deep the water is. Which is why I was able to take that photo of Zach and Kevin, I stayed in the water about 10 minutes and then, got back onto the boat. Zach, who also cannot swim, was perfectly happy with his life-vest, and we plan to get him swimming lessons soon.
    Cheers!
    Prima

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