December 5 – 13
Kyra: One afternoon we were chatting with a Dutch restaurant owner about his take on Thai government corruption and he started telling us about the widespread use and abuse of Meth in Thailand.
How we got there
Ben: An AirAsia flight from Yangon to Krabi. Prior to this flight, Kyra and I decided it would be fun to really put Myanmar’s infrastructure to the test with a 10hr overnight bus ride from Bagan to Yangon. To say I slept may be an exaggeration, but the bus was able to bring us safely to Yangon, where we took a cab (it may have been a temporary house for a few other people who shared it with us) to the airport, arriving a bit early for our flight (6 hours).
Kyra: Because internet in Myanmar was so woefully slow, we were sort of blind going in to Thailand. Without a clear understanding of visa requirements or where to go we erred on the side of being able to enter the country by bookending our time with a departure date out of the country, which is a shame because we would’ve loved to have stayed longer!
Where we stayed
Ben: For those who know Kyra, you also probably know that her favorite food is Thai – specifically, Panang curry, even more specifically, the Panang from Mango Thai in St. Paul. Obviously, the first meal we ordered was a panang from the restaurant just beside our Airbnb. It was probably 1/3 of the price of St. Paul’s finest curry, but it was mouthwatering good and we went back for more the next day.
Kyra: My version of heaven. Thailand is a parade of cheap curries, roti (pancake), seafood, and fruit juice. Street food proved to be our favorite but it was all phenomenal. I wish we had more time all over Thailand, but particularly in Bangkok because it is foodie paradise.
Ben: We tried a variety of juices, fried chicken on a stick, and banana pancakes. Every place we ate turned out better than the next and we were thankful for the inexpensive fare after traveling Europe for a few months.
Local View and Lessons Learned
Ben: As Kyra and I were taking backroads to the beach on our rented scooter, we drove past an elephant excursion company. This was a sad sight for us; the elephants were tied to trees and kept there until they were needed to cart selfie-stick touting tourists through an obstacle course, weaving in and out of the woods nearby. I always imagined a small village making some extra money by giving tourists a quick ride on their work elephant, but in hindsight I should’ve expected what we saw near Krabi. We never planned to do the elephant tour, but this gave me another reason to steer clear.
Ben: Based on a conversation with a european restaurant owner in Krabi, the government isn’t exactly by-the-book. He told us about how many bribes and hoops he had to go through just to begin his restaurant. These continued afterwards: he paid a bribe every week to continue selling beer when none of the other restaurants around him could. He currently has a new restaurant outside of town, which makes me wonder what happened to the old one, but needless to say they operate quite differently than we’re used to in the US. This can be a benefit (street food, a different type of freedom, etc), but one wonders how large it can grow before there is a sudden correction. We talked with a few other travelers about how the street system would never work with cars, but it seems there is also a point at which there will be too many scooters on the road to continue the current road rules (which are universally ignored). It will be interesting to see how Thailand and other nearby countries deal with these issues in the coming years.
Ben: We encountered a strange phenomenon beginning in Thailand: we didn’t attempt to learn basic words. Maybe this was because so many people readily spoke English to us or we were burned out after a dozen other languages – I’m not sure. But here’s what Google says about “thank you” in Thai: ขอบคุณ
Kyra: Thailand was a complete vacation for us. The weather was beachy and beautiful which boded well for hours of lounging, eating, internet, and sun. Some day we’ll have to go back and experience more of the culture and less Disneyland-like areas but at the time it was exactly what we needed. A few days during this visit, we rented a scooter in search of secluded islands and street food. One such day, we made our way to Tha Lan Bay and ended up meeting a Filipino guy who helped us coordinate a day long tour of the nearby islands:
Ben: I usually have safety and efficiency on my mind, so when Kyra pushed me to rent a scooter, I was hesitant. First, I’m not even licensed to drive a motorcycle in the US. Second, the amount of traffic-related deaths in Southeast Asia is quite large, but not often correctly reported on (the government is mostly to blame for this, obscuring numbers that would make them look bad). Eventually, I gave in, trusting myself to be safe and hoping that others on the road wouldn’t make any sudden erratic moves (which I’d seen many a time). The risk paid off and we saw some incredible “private” beaches, the tall cliffs near Krabi, and some awesome street markets. See the ride from Kyra’s perspective below:
Kyra: So many covers of songs. Generally they were really great, occasionally they missed the mark. It was rare to go into a restaurant and hear the original song or elevator music.
Ben: Pictures of the sunset. This was fetch for all the tourists (including us). To be fair, the sunset was incredible, but it was funny to see the beach packed with people posing or snapping the same picture.