Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Koh Chang

November 29, 2011

I spent another day on Koh Chang. I switched bungalows this morning to a place called Sawadee (hello). It the same price and a much better bungalow that can be locked and has electricity from 6pm - 10pm. I gave up the views and a rustic thatched roof for a few more comforts. Plus it is beach side and has a very beautiful restaurant under a giant tree and so far the food is exceptional. Last night I came here for dinner and devoured a whole steamed red snapper in a sweet and savory tarragon sauce. It was one of the most beautifully prepared fish I've ever eaten. Sadly I didn't have my camera and will live with the memory or order it again tomorrow night and relive the bliss. I spent the day on a thatched platform by the sea on a comfy mat with my notebook and kindle. This resort is spilling with good vibrations and I'm feeling much more upbeat after the relocation. I went for a sunset walk and drank sweet lechey juice as toucans squawked over head. I'm planning to spend another night here and then take a water taxi to a neighboring island called Koh Phayam. It's a little more populated then Koh Chang and also has a national park with rain forests and a good two day snorkeling trip I'm thinking about taking. I think it's one of those places on the brink of exploding into a full force tourist island. There is also a very cool ecolodge I might splurge a little and stay in for a night or two.

Amanda Mar
Koh Chang, Ranong Province, Thailand

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The beach at Ao Sane

Phuket island

Monday November 23 - Sunday November 27
I met an American couple from seattle the night before I left koh Jum and enjoyed my last dinner at Woodland Lodge. The hospitality and sunset views at woodland captured me, but I'm not ready to stay put just yet. I decided to head to Phuket to visit a yachtie friend who has a house on the island and is also taking some time off boats. I cought the ferry back to Karabi and then took a four hour minivan ride to Phuket town where Chris picked me up on his motor bike and took me back to his house. Chris grew up as a cruiser kid in Spain and Asia. His family discovered Phuket and eventually bought a house on the island. They keep their boat in Chalong Bay. Chris has recently bought a duplex in a mostly Thai neighborhood which he uses as a base and place to take holiday away from big white boats. It was so good to have a companion and tour guide for a few days. I don't think I would have gone to Phuket as a solo backpacker because it is spread out and expensive. I was able to avoid the crowds, costs, and confusion while seeing the best parts of the island with Chris.

After regrouping at his house we headed to a water side restaurant on Ao Sane beach. The beach is one of Chris's favorite spots so we returned the next day for some swimming, longing and more delicious food. A group of friends Chris knows from Spain met us there and we drove to Big Buddah for sunset. A five story tribute statue sits on one of the highest hills on the island and offers three sixty views of the island. It was two over cast for a decent sunset, but the viewpoint gave me a good prospective of the size of the island and the surrounding islands. We headed to a night market for lots of fried snacks before going back to wash away a long day of sun and sea. We ate dinner at a local roadside restaurant. I ate my first fried soft shell crabs of the trip (yummmmm).

On Wednesday we headed into Phuket Town. The town center is not as touristed and is filled with all types of storefronts and restaurants. There is no shortage of cheap clothing bazars anywhere in Thailand... Indoor, outdoor, air con, markets, and moving carts. An endless sea of similar t-shirts, sandals, dresses, handbags, and hats. We stopped for rottie dipped in green curry. Pancakes with egg and a thick spicy curry sauce. I had some urban burnout after a few hours In town. We stopped at a shopping mall where I got a Thai cellphone and sim card so I can be even more connected while I'm here. Then it was straight to the beach for a sunset swim and a good grassy viewpoint to watch the sun go down. Then we headed to Rawi beach in search of a carnival where a Thai reggae band was suppose to play. We ate dinner at a waterside restaurant with concrete picnic tables, strings of fluorescent lights hung from trees and a busy street he server had to cross to get to the kitchen. We were happy for the sea breeze and delicious food. The concert that night was canceled due to wind and rain, but we met a British and German pair of characters and headed to an Indian restaurant to smoke hookah, chat, and eat samosas. They were both in Thailand for Martial arts training. It was interesting to hear them talk about their world and life in Phuket. I played the part of the American and listened to the familiar cracks about puppet Obama and the tumbling partisan government and crashing economy. For the most part we kept it light and I enjoyed a few hours of conversation.

The next morning we headed back to Rawi to check out the fresh water perl shops. Thousands of strung perl necklaces hung from bamboo stalls in all different colors. A sign read lots of lady or ornaments. I could help but think about fem theory, ornamentation, and the symbolism of pearls. We had lunch at the same restaurant before driving all over the place in search of viewpoints and sights. Then we headed to Chris's parents house for a chill out by the pool and dinner. We met up with the spaniards and Chris's sister and visiting cousin and had a few beers at a beach side reggae bar. I celebrated Thanksgiving by gorging on a late night bag of fried chicken from a roadside stand.

On Friday we had another low key beach day at Ao Sane with Chris's cousin Justin. It rained off and on and I enjoyed sitting under a beach umbrella and watching it all come down. Chris's parents threw a barbecue and I met some other foreigners living in Phuket. That night we met up with a group of foreigners teaching in Phuket and went to two Thai clubs. The first wasa cool bar blaring top 40s which was fun to dance to, but when the night turned to live band karaoke we left quickly. The second club had a live Thai band with crazy enthusiasm and choreographed dance move. The loud energy was overwhelming, but we stayed for a worthy hour of people watching. The silent stoic Thailand boys and very fashionable girls stand around table tops with bottles of ice and whiskey. By the end of the night I was very ready to head home. I can't say clubbing in Phuket Town was a great time, but the experience felt authentic and worth seeing.

By Saturday I was ready to hit the road and make my way back to a quiet island. I took a six hour bus ride to Ranang and got a guesthouse for the night and caught a boat to Koh Chang. I met the owner of a guest house at the pier and have booked a wooden bungalow without electricity form him for the night. I'm about to walk the beach and check out the other options. The place is beautiful but the ringing from some sort of bug could drive me into a permanent migraine or insanity. For the most part I'm happy to be by the sea and back into a life of simplicity.

Amanda Mar
Koh Chang, Ranong Province, Thailand

P.s. the bug noise just subsided (thank you universe)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


November 23, 2011
I made the jump from Koh Jum to Phuket on Monday. A longtails transferred to a ferry and the a minivan to Phuket Town where a friend who I met when Magic was in the boat yard last November picked me up. I've spent the last three nights at his house in Chalong. He has taken me all over the island to coves and veiw points away from the throngs of beach goers. I don't think I would have come to Phuket on my own, but having a guide and a friend for a few days after my week of solitude on Koh Jum is a nice change.

After a day on the beach we took a trip to see The Big Buddah yesterday at sunset. It is a five story tribute statue to Buddah that looks out on three sixty views of the island, the sea, and surrounding islands. Then we went to a night market for snacks of all kinds of fried things on sticks. After a shower and a chill out we went out to a good local roadside restaurant and I fell in love with fried soft shell crabs with cracked pepper. An excellent day.

Today we wondered around Phuket Town, the older city center. We ate Roti dipped in a thick chicken curry sauce. Lots of wondering left us a little burt out so we went for an afternoon swim and another delicious meal of fried prawns and papaya salad. Food glorious food. After regrouping we planned to go to a Thai Reggae concert, but it was canceled due to rain. We ended up smoking hookah and eating samosas with two other foreigners who showed up despite the rain and had a nice time lounging and talking. Hopefully the concert will happen tonight.

I'm feeling good from full days and lots of beautiful food. I'm planning to depart Phuket tomorrow or the ext day for another week on a secluded island called Koh Chang.

Amanda Mar
Phuket Island, Thailand

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leaving Koh Jum

November 18, 2011

Another quiet day in Koh Jum. I went into the villege for a lunch of spicy green mango salad and fish in lemongrass and chillies washed down with an icy mango shake. The sun is going down and giving into another dazzling sunset. I've started another book and spent some time connecting to the world. The beach here is one of those places you could easily fall out of touch and give in to a life of disconnected bliss, but I am happy to share my experience in real time and plan my next meetings with friends and island hops. I plan to stay in Koh Jum until Monday morning and take the ferry and then the bus on to Phuket to meet up with a yachtie friend. It will be good to have a tour guide in this tourist Mecca.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Koh Phi Phi

November 16, 2011

I went with a group of three Germans and a couple from San Fransico to Koh Phi Phi for the day. I am so thankful to be on the quiet beach in Koh Jum instead of fighting the tourist beat on Koh Phi Phi. The tour in the longtails around the islands was beautiful. Tall outcrops of limestone cliffs fall straight into the sea. A few coves empty in the first hours of morning tours were jaw dropping. Clean cool water revealing coral headed and the movements of fish bellow. But beauty is a burden. Speed boats and long tails bringing groups of day tours to fester among the crowded pressure cooker of the tourist village. Row after row of the same trinkets and bumbling sweaty red faced bodies. I ate a meal in a guest house and watched a laxidasical army seeking their crowded beach chair paradise. I was relieved to get back on the long tails and let the crowd induced migraine disparate as we put kilometers between me and the mess. It makes me realize how many different experiences you can seek in one country. How travel and relaxation can be defined differently by each traveler. Im starting to understand what I'm seeking and how to look for it. I returned to Koh Jum and booked four more nights in my bungalow and made plans to meet a yachtie friend in Phuket on Monday. So I am enjoying my hammock next to the sea and the freedom to write, read, and let music and freedom fill my head.

One of the Germans staying at Woodland Bungalow helped me cut a prepaid sim card and instal it in my iPad. This means I am connected to the world on this little beach. 40 hours of data for about 10 dollars. So I am safe, connected, and content Intended to let another day pass to the rhythm of the waves.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The beach at Koh Jum

Koh Jum

November 10, 2011

I'm laying in my Bungalow in Koh Jum about to finish my 6th day in Thailand. I'm staying on a quiet little beach a little off the tourist beat in a thatched and polished bamboo bungalow. I started today with a bowl full of mystery soup. I really wanted to go back to the big public market to eat breakfast so I dared to point to a pot and eat as the Thais were. A thick breath with mushrooms, bamboo shoots a few whole boiled quail egg, a chicken wing, some jelled cupes of blood, and a very strange cartilage of some sort. I ate most of it but couldn't stomach the last of the cartilage. I think she gave me an extra large portion to see if I would eat it. But by Thai women standards I am an extra large women so maybe she just thought I was hungry. I towered over most of the people in the market, but again it was a good experience before catching the ferry to Koh Jum.

The ferry idled a quarter mile off shore and long tails came to pick passengers up and take them to their bungalows. The tide was too low to drop me in front so we went to the dock at the village on the island and I took a cab to my hotel. The cabs are 75 cc mopeds with a carriage attached to one side for holding passengers or cargo. The island is bigger then I anticipated and we took several roads to get to the Woodland Lodge. I have booked just for to nights, I'm going to scout out the other options tomorrow. My bungalow is very nice, but the grounds a little loud with staff laughing and dogs bark.ing. I took a log walk down the beach and then wrote for a few hours before walking down to another guest house for a fried noodle dinner.

Life is good

November, 11 2011

My first full day on Koh Jum spent writing swimming and relaxing. Writing was very productive and I'm finding easy to find a voice in this setting and am excited to spend many more hours in the same spot with pen in hand. To be a writer you must think of nothing else. Let the words become your obsession. It's the first full day of writing I've given myself in far to long. So I think I will stay here until something wills me to leave. Give myself the time and space to put this last year in prospective,give thoughts to the future, and become a little loss infliction read and written.

Amanda Mar
Koh Jum, Thailand

November 12, 2011
A full day in Koh jumand ive decided to stay a few more. it is easy to write here. easy to fall into a routine. easy to type or write away to the rythem of the waves. Easy to find the courage to delve into a new project and complete it. So I am happy for now. Very at peace with myself and feeling as though I am exactly where I want to be. When I was fantisizing about dispearing and putting distance between myself and Magic I was thinking of a beach and solitude and a mental and physical space to write. So far so good. I'm writing and reading and these simple acts are feeling very meaningful.

Amanda Mar,
Koh Jum, Thailand

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Krabi Town wondering

November 9, 2011
A good day in Karabi. I took a long walk around the city this morning. I wondered into the large public market and took in the sights and smells of row after row of seafood, produce, and prepared foods. I took it all in and tried to look like I had a purpose, though being the only franang in the market comes with its fair amount of confidence sucking glances. But I truly enjoyed wondering and watching people buy their daily food. I retreated back to the tourist district and had a tall ice coffee and dove into a book. Then I went to a travel agent and booked a ferry and accommodations on Koh jum for tomorrow. I'm off to a much less developed island to do some reading, writing, and off the grid disappearing. I love yo u all, but I'm ready for a technology lapse.

In the afternoon I went to the beach with a German women who was also traveling alone. We took the public bus, which is a pickup truck converted to carry passengers to Au Nang about 20 min away. After a lunch of spicy tuna salad we spent a few hours in the sun and waves before coming back to regroup. This evening we went the night market by the pier where street venders with translated menus cook Thai meals on the street. I had braised pork over morning glory greens. Healthy and delicious washed down with a cold beer. We did a little more wondering and did one last sweep through the holiday market. A good day of planning and activity. Tomorrow I'm off to a beach and peace. I will update when I find some Internet. All is well and I'm having a fantastic time.

Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand

Sunset in Karabi Town

Karabi town

Sunset in Karabi Town

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Karabi Town

November 8, 2011
I took the long tail from Railey back to Krabi and checked into a much better guesthouse in Krabi town. Most travelers don't spend much time here, but this clean little town has grown on me. It is a nice introduction to the Thailand beyond the tourist beaches. I've enjoyed urban hiking taking in the street stalls, markets, food, fish, and traffic. Everyone I have encountered have been so helpful and honest I can understand why they call this place the land of smiles. I went back to the vegetarian restaurant and got another giant plate of rice and vegetables for under a dollar. I did a few more errands, bought a hammock, changed some money, and bought some toiletries at the expensive western pharmacy. Then I had my first traditional Thai message. Amazing and cheap and how the body should feel. Then I went back to the Special market and ate spicy BBQ chicken, noodles, and fresh banana bread. I'm resisting the urge to do it all right now, the beauty of solo travel is the pace. I'm enjoying just taking time to wonder, write, people watch, sleep, and let my stuff explode in my gust room. Personal space both physical and emotional is a beautiful thing and the point of this sabbatical.

Amanda Mar
Karabi town, Thailand

Hat Tham Phra Nang

Railey, Thailand

November 6, 2011

I started the day with a delicious coffee and fruit breakfast (the Thais thanks to the French) have perfected the art of coffee. From sweet Thai ice coffees and teas to the perfect cappuccino coffee is everywhere here. I caught a long tail from the pier at Krabi to the peninsula of Railey. Long tails are the local water taxies. The planked wooden short keeled boats rock back and forth with every weight change or boat wake. They are named for their odd outboard engine configuration. A dry exhaust outboard with out a housing is attached to a 6-10 foot shaft with a propellor at the end. The shaft shoots aft and the propellor is only a few inches under water. This allows the driver to menuver in shallow water and to make sharp turned by pulling the shaft out of the water and placing it left or right to move the bow. The 40 minuet ride along the mangroves was beautiful, but constantly disrupted by floating trash and the traces of humans. We arrived at the beach at low tide so I had to wade in shin deep water with my backpack strapped to my back. I am thankful again for choosing such a small bag.

I chose a basic bungalow set on a hillside surrounded by high limestone cliffs. The rooms were nicer at the guesthouse next door, but the character and front porch of the bamboo thatched huts is better. You can hear monkeys in the background and as cocktail hour begins the staff are lighting campfires and playing dub reggae. Thankfully it is still shoulder season and there isn't much of a draw tonight.

After waking up at 3 last night I decided to tire myself out to beat the jet lag. I spent two hours kayaking around cliffs and escaping the hordes of beach goers in a water logged double kayak. 10 dollars well spent for the views, solitude, and promise of sleep. Some pictures of the cliffs and my bungalow for you....

Riley is too crowded and too tourist centric for me. There are plenty of young people ready to party, but the result is a slightly dirty and disheveled bit of paradise. So many sunburt white bodies everywhere. Unless it charms me this evening I think I'll spend one more night here and head back to Karabi to book a boat to a much less developed island. I'm planning a sunrise hike to Pra Nang cove to beat the hordes.

Amanda Mar
Railay Beach East, Thailand

November 7, 2011
I woke up to roasters crowing around 5:30. After falling asleep quickly and early after dinner my body was wide awake and ready to explore before most of the beach awoke from their holiday commas. I walked to Pra Nang cove where I kayaked yesterday. I shared the beach with one other tourist and a man hauling away yesterdays loads of plastic water bottles. In the quiet of early morning before the first long tail engines broke the silence this spit of calm gave herself to me. The towering and intricate limestone cliffs shoot out of the sea towards the sky. The water is clear and becalmed at day break like so many bodies of water I have witnessed before. I took a nice swim along the rock cliffs which reveal lots of caves and coves to explore. In the distance islands with similar jetting rock cliffs appear as ghosts on the horizon. There is reason to worry about the sustainability of this place and it's easy to fantasize about what it was like before eroding concrete pathways, speed boats, and the high end resort which attempts to dominate the beach. A story told over and over again of warm places along the sea. People, plastic, development make me feel a great sense of loss. In a few short days in Thailand I'm beginning to consider what kind of traveler I am and how that will alter my path during these next days. I will keep reminding myself of my bias and to stop judging. Even in simple holiday beach paradise I am thinking constantly. The good news is two nights in a thatched aluminum roofed bungalow and my pace and priorities are slowing down to an appropriate chill.

This afternoon I hiked to Ton Si, the much more laid back backpacker rock climbing side of the island. The hike was short and steep. There were monkeys in the tres and bobby trapped communication
wires across the trail. Ton Si is thick with bungalows, low laying lounges, and hippie beach side bars. I had a late lunch of shrimp curry and a tall beer beach side and people watchers. Rock climbers lead climb on the beach, blinding hippie toddlers play in the sand and a old man with a guitar plays to the see. Long tail engines give the place a rhythm and young people create a slow pace of life. But still I'm choosing not to linger here. Tomorrow I'm going to take another early morning swim and catch a long tail back to Karabi for a day to regroup and book a boat to Ko Jam. Ko jam is a quiet and underdeveloped fishing island with a handful of bungalows. I think for now I want to disappear ago write, hike, swim and enjoy some solitude.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Karabi

november 5, 2011
Day two in Thailand. Im feeling at ease and settled after two days in Karabi sleeping and wondering. The act of traveling is much easier then I anticipated. In the tourist center so many people speak english and the goods and services to help you move from one place to another are endless. I walked around town today with a women I met on my flight from Bangkok who has been to Karabi many times. She took me to a delicious vegetarian lunch for under a dollar. We walked along the estuary and though a pathway in some mangroves. The water is brown and muddy from the rainy season. We spotted monkeys fishing for crab under the mangroves. This afternoon I sat in a cafe and sipped sweet Thai ice coffee and thought about my next steps and wrote in my journal. This evening we went to a night market in town for a week on account of a holiday I didn't catch the name of. With its mixed religious background and social lifestyle Holidays spot the calendar. Families, couples, and groups of friends flood the street stalls selling all varieties of food, trinkets, and clothing. I ate a grilled squid on a stick whose center offered a surprising yet tasty texture. Then I got a egg battered pancake filled with mussels and dipped in sweet chili sauce, delicious and filling. Socializing and shopping appear to be a huge part of the everyday Thai experience. The streets of the special market were full, but just around the corner was the regular weekend market with more people shopping, eating, drinking, and listening to a sequined dancing singer belt out pop songs over an electronic beat. The weekend market collided with the nightly fruit market where we bought a pampino (oversized sweet grapefruit).

My two days in Karabi town were an easy introduction filled with sleep and small excursions. Tomorrow morning I am taking a longtail boat to Railay beach. It is a tourist peninsula only accessible by water known for its stellar limestone rock climbing cliffs. I'm excited to be in a hill side bungalow with a beach within walking distance. Over all its been a good first two days in Thailand and I'm ready for lots more.

Amanda Mar
Krabi Town, Thailand