Barely a few weeks back from our trip to Langkawi Island, and with Anna’s parents now over, it was time for us to head north to Thailand, to take in some new sights.
Admittedly, things didn’t get off to what I’d have considered a smooth start – first of all, we elected to get a taxi and the driver, who wouldn’t have been too out of place driving around Dublin, felt compelled to inform and advise me on all sorts of matters of possible interest, such as palm oil plantations, car manufacturing in Malaysia, his kids, his family, his career and last but not least, that favoured topic among taxi drivers around the world – racism. Then, when we made it to the airport, it turns out that the penalty for not ‘booking a bag’ online with Air Asia is quite high, as in 20 Euro high, which is a bit steep by Malaysian standards. Anyway, we had the luggage so there wasn’t much that could be done except pay it and shut up. Thankfully, I got a small reprieve in the form of a 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah note on the floor just after security – while initially I had some delusions of grandeur thinking that this note, being so large in value could even possibly pay my rent and a whole host of other things, it turned out to be worth a grand total of 17 Ringgit, or 4 Euro. Great. The flight up north however was fine, and in no time at all we were standing back outside in arrivals trying to identify our newfound driver ‘Mr. Sak’ and his name placard.
While the resort was magnificent, my concern by then had grown at any rate to getting food as soon as possible and after a brief rest stop and a look around our rooms, we were straight back off into town in search of food.
The town of Ao Nang was a little busier than I’d have liked. The heat was strong, the prices were cheap and everyone was willing to haggle over any price – but the sheer number of tourists wandering the streets was unbelievable. Down at the beachfront meanwhile, longtail boats queued right up waiting to whisk people away to neighbouring islands, beaches or wherever they wanted to go. Don’t get me wrong; it was very pleasant, but very busy. Thankfully, although the mini-bar price of our room was more than acceptable, I knew I could do better with a bit of searching and the local ‘ocean mart’ was more than willing to oblige with beers coming in large bottles at 40 baht, a snip at just RM4/EUR1. Needless to say, after our meal was done, a large stock-up was made to carry me through for a night or two and we decided to away back to our resort for the evening and take in the last of the evening sun. The town of Ao Nang, interestingly, isn’t just populated by locals and a bunch of tourists; it’s also inhabited by a vast population of tuktuk’s, in this case seemingly normal motorbikes with huge metal attachments kitted out to seat as many people as you could cram in, like a sort of delicately balanced open-ended sidecar. So, when in Ao Nang, who were we to not try one out, so we hopped in and at least tried to speed off into the distance, made difficult by the driver and the 4 of us all relying on this single motorbike, as it struggled to make it up even the gentlest of inclines.
The problem was, just a few hundred meters before our resort there was a relatively steep hill that was almost sure to cause problems. And it did – we all made it about halfway up the hill before our trusty steed gave up the ghost and came to an unexpected stop.
I’d be lying if I said it was an action-packed holiday – the next morning, we barely made it up for breakfast, although once I got there I was more than happy to eat everything in sight, and then more after that. And after that was done, it was time for a relax by the pool, during which I managed, thanks to my mother who’s always eager to keep me up to date on matters relating to the Irish economy and brought me over two books on same during Christmas, to make a full catch-up on the developing horrors back home while I’ve been away. The strange thing about Thailand, I find anyway, is that choosing a place to eat often goes in the opposite way to what you’d expect; sometimes the places that look the most rural or old actually provide the absolute most outstanding food and this was no exception. Next door to our resort, there was a considerably more dated accommodation with a tree house serving as its restaurant – no lie, it looked a bit old, it was all a little strange that we had to take our shoes off before entering and our waiter made all the right noises to indicate that he had no clue what any of us were talking about. But, I can personally guarantee that the cashew nut chicken was one of the most delicious meals of them all. So good in fact, that we were back more than a few times – one time even waiting for them to sort of ‘open up shop’ for us.
Downtown at night meanwhile, everything continued to be very ‘busy’ – on a nightly basis, everyone would come and set up stalls selling things like hand carved soap, or necklaces, or, well you name it and they probably sold it. Likewise, the bars seemed to have a permanent ‘happy hour’ of sorts on the go, while the restaurants too had at least one person stationed outside trying to encourage prospective diners in with offers of discounts and cheap beer. One night we dined downtown at a local pizzeria (I know, it sounds a bit strange when you’re in Thailand, but anyway) and after that, that more or less put the kiss of death on any further downtown dinners such was the level of incredibly poor service and speed with which we were treated. Anyway, as we became more and more obsessed with visiting our local tree house for food and came to realise that practically every dish they could serve was equally as delicious as the last, there came no point in even going to town for food – although my trips to the ‘ocean mart’ were still happening with a degree of regularity. And, before we knew it, we were down to our last two days – a four islands tour and snorkelling one day, a dinner show at our resort (at which we were the last to leave) and one last poolside relax…