Do you want lunc? Mistake? That’s what I thought. It took me a couple of days to figure out that lunc is lunch and branc is branch. You got the idea – no ‘ch’ in Thai language.
One morning in our Airbnb in Bang Sak we decided on Thai cooking school. A brief search in Trip Advisor recommended a school in a town about 30 minutes south of us, and it was about to begin in 30 minutes in the local market.
South we went zooming on our scooter, searched and searched and never found the group or the market. A bit disappointed we proceeded to find the school itself. Here a lovely surprise awaited us. We were welcomed warmly with a cold bottle of water and were asked to wait in the scene of the crime itself for the group to arrive from the market. Oh well, we missed the shopping part but the rest of the day exceeded our expectations!
We were a group of about ten people, mostly Germans, and each of us chose the dishes we wanted to cook. The table was set for our specific orders and Vandy, the chef and main teacher, instructed us according to the order of the dishes. First we learned how to make egg rolls, then Tom Kha soup. Some of us cooked Pad Thai and some Pad Sew Wee.
For dessert we learned about dishes I never heard of before.
The ingredients were top quality and the taste divine. We each got to eat our own dishes and taste what everyone else cooked.
The atmosphere was fun, inquisitive and friendly. We especially befriended Anne-Fleur Schoch, a young singer from Hamburg who turned out to be a sweet music wedding singer and a punk rock screamer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wuzJO0K_eY.
We shared Thailand experiences and travel plans. This seems to be the way here each time we meet other travelers. Friends for a brief moment in time.
It’s official. We like it here. We can picture ourselves living here. We stayed in an Airbnb in Bang Sak (a village between Kapua Pa on the north and Khao Lak on the south). Third floor up, over a charity training school for Thai people. Two bedrooms, limited kitchen, street noise and comfortable bed with lots of “air-con”. Nice jungle view from the porch and a yoga mat.
On the way to here we bought food in the supermarket to cook, and did indeed cook one dinner. Shopping is a whole different kind of experience because two thirds of wht’s on the shelves is a complete mystery. Everything is only in Thai, and go figure what is Gluten Free. Ori made smoothies (watermelon, pineapple, mango, banana, etc.) and ‘Die-sa’ for breakfast–we did manage to find Australian quick oats. Lots of hot water for showers, reliable internet (although a bit slow – and we’re uploading a Lot of Pictures).
It was our base of operations for those challenging five-minute walks to the beach, to go to cooking school and to wash elephants. We rented a scooter and zoomed around the neighborhood, dodging the “Scandinavians” who are intent on getting the best sunburn possible.
The beaches are vast, clean and free. The Indian Ocean is the calmest we have ever seen. According to Ori’s creed we have to go down every evening to swim and watch the sunset. The ocean then feels like an endless warm-water pool that stretches from one end of the world to the other.
As we disembarked from the special boat that brought us from the Khao Sok dam to the floating hotel, (an unforgettable hour ride), we were welcomed by a golden Brahman–the four-faced creator god, and a glass of cold juice. I know, I told you that Thailand is Buddhist, but we discovered that there are Hindu influences as well. Cheow Lan Lake or Rajjaprabha Dam Reservoir, is in Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani Province, south of Bangkok. It is an 185-square-kilometre artificial lake, inaugurated in 1987 with the construction of a Dam by the Electricity Authority of Thailand as a source of electricity.
I guess, as a side affect, it also became a magical natural place for tourism.
At Panvaree the staff were super friendly, it felt like a very close and personal place, like they were family, although our main form of communication was sign language. That feeling was amplified when a rowdy group of young Germans arrived a day after us and included us in their partying. Oz was happy to practice his German. We kayaked, which was free as part of the payment, as well as other boat tours to see the sunrise, the sunset, and visit the jungle and the caves.
Swimming in the pure lake water was something else altogether. It felt like the mermaids were holding us afloat. (For real it was the required life jacket). The food was authentic Thai food, something a little different than what you get in restaurants.
The best part was, contrary to what their website promised, that we didn’t have any internet or phone connection–completely off the grid. Suddenly we had time to draw, play cards and just rest a lot.
We took tons of pictures. Amazing place, amazing people.
When was time to leave, two of the sweet staff ladies took the boat ride back to the park entrance with us and arranged for us a taxi ride to our next destination.
27 January 2019
Maikhao Palm Beach Resort, just north of Phuket town, Thailand
It’s a week since our journey has begun in DIA. 28 grueling hours of travel, to Seattle, Seoul and Phuket. When we arrived at Seoul airport it was like entering a futuristic scene. Everything from the bare minimum art-deco, minimum human interaction, to the doll-like stewardesses who looked all the same with their hairdo and artificial smiles. Another 6 hours flight and we landed in Phuket just before midnight, into a whole different feel. The sign International Phuket Airport welcomed us in Thai, English, Russian and Chinese. And indeed, the cacophony of these mixed energies was prevalent during our whole visit in Phuket.
Maikhao Palm Beach Resort, just north of Phuket town was the perfect landing spot for jet-lag recovery. The rooms were luxurious, and so the swimming pool and the glorious beach. The view from the porch was the calm Indian Ocean. I do not know what all the Chinese and Russian guests were doing during the day. We hardly saw them in the pool or the beach, so we enjoyed the vastness almost all to ourselves.
But, the dining room morning scene is a different story. It almost reminded me of breakfast in the Kibbutz, minus the Israeli delicious food. A noisy bunch of people displaying their vacation clothes, eating enormous amounts of food and buzzing around. Speaking about food, I cannot find any awareness of Gluten Free breads or crackers, alternative milks, or herbal teas. Since I decided not to eat salads (because it is washed with water we do not approve of), and the array of pork cold cuts is off my limits, my selection is minimal.
The Thai people are Theravada Buddhists (Early turning). Polite, helpful, soft, smiling, minimal in their communications and speak very little English. There are little shrines near each household or business, but I never saw any public worshipping around them.
One afternoon we took a taxi (hardly any public transportation available) to the Yacht Haven Marina on the other side of Phuket island to leave our sailing gear in their office, and get aquainted with the scene. We also had to settle our account with them for which we brought with us Kosher dollars, striagt from our Boulder bank. But, due to a big Russian mafia scandal a few years ago here in Thiland, they are extremly caucious about the ‘green’ stuff. They examined each bill ten times and many of them were rejected for having marks or writings on them. The same happened in the Exchange booth in town. It was hillarious. Since then, we learned that most Thai business, taxi drivers, etc. do not trust dollar bills or take credit cards, so we have to carry with us huge amount of Baht (the Thai currency).
While in the marina, we ate lunch in a tiny Turkish make-shift restaurnt and had a great talk with the young owner who delighted in my Israeli accent and perspective of ‘world politics’. Here is me and Khun