we wake to a chorus of far-off whooping and boat motors. the early birds and gibbons have risen, and they are seeking each other out. our own vessel is set to leave at seven, so we use the interim to indulge in coffee and ovaltine (nong, having taken it a bit upon himself to care for the infirm princess, brings me a piping cup of the latter, explaining “for you. keng.” i am touched.). i arrange my travel partners in a loving pose and snap this early morning portrait.
i dip my toesies in the warmth of the lake. i am straight chillin’. nong approaches and joins me, so i entertain him by miming casting a rod and hooking a lunker. he giggles and calls me “mr. deen.” mr. deen? he calls over lek and consults, then corrects: “you mr. bean.” ah.
we sail away (sail away, sail away, sail away). you couldn’t ask for a more stunning body of water. because the lake is man-made, it is stock still, and the color is more brilliantly turquoise than a paint chip bearing the same name. the whooping of the gibbons is continuous, and i return the call as best my lungs are able (nong: “you mr. bean.”).
the goals this morning are monkeys and hornbills. now, i’m no birder, but the latter particularly interests me, as both the great hornbill and the helmeted hornbill are commonly spotted in khao sok park. in case you didn’t click on the link:
not too far from the raft houses, james spies a conga line of tiny monkey silhouettes clambering around some far off trees, and we ooh and ahh respectfully at the Wild Creatures. a few minutes later, a tree chock full o’ gibbons comes up on the left. we check ’em out.
tragically, this morning it is monkeys, monkeys, everywhere, but not a hornbill to drink (or see). we retreat to the safety of the raft houses, forlorn and dejected.
[as a bit of an aside, but definitely fitting in with the theme of Things Not Seen, i have come upon the knowledge that the infamous corpse flower lives in this neck of the woods as well. it’s a bit of a trek to go see them, however, and we don’t manage to scrape out time for this delicate specimen in our hectic schedule. i did, however, make space in my noggin for the name of the flower in thai. say it with me: buaphoot. means “lotus up.” it’ll come in handy sooner rather than later, i feel certain.]
our weary hornbill-less spirits are soon lifted by a buffet breakfast offering a delightful spread of thai specialties, including gobs of the khao tom that has quickly become mom’s favorite. i munch a pork filled bao and get nostalgic about wendy seligmann.
we fart around for a spell, then hop back on the boat to visit a really super neato area of the lake. word on the street has it that its rock formations look just like those of a much more famous landmark in china, so it has that name. unfortunately, the chinese moon language didn’t stick in my brain. forgive me!
we veer off course for a pit stop at a second set of raft houses, these much less numerous than our set. out back is a veritable throng of fishes. visitors have gotten in the habit of feeding them, so they swarm constantly. i locate a few kernels of dried corn in between the wooden slats, and the fish freak out when i toss them in the water. we experiment with orchestrating the movements of the hoard with careful kernel placement.
out of nowhere a tourist grabs me and poses at my side. his pal snaps a quick shot. whaa? well, i do look sharp in my retro blue dress. who wouldn’t want a photo with such rare beauty?
we clamber back on our trustworthy vessel, only to find she is a-sputterin’. oh my! engine troubles ahoy (matey). the driver goofs around with it while we observe the lazy fish who have wandered far from the tribe and have set a course for our boat. after a few minutes of throwing what biodegradable debris we could scrounge into the water, nong purchases baggies of dried corn for all. entire baggies! luxurious excess! we take great joy in every golden nugget, giving the gift of nourishment to our frantic aquatic friends.
the sputterin’ finally gives way to a healthy growl, and we pull smoothly away from the dock. once back to our home base, we feel it is past due for another swim, and all parties swan dive into the watery depths with wild abandon. ahhhhh.
i sustain a mild sunburn on my shoulders, but it is completely worth not hosing myself down with the wretched aerosol can of sunscreen. yecch.
it’s beyond idyllic. after a languid lunch, though, we hoist our bags onto the boat once more and head on out. all are subdued and sleepy on the return journey. daddles mentions he is feeling ill – a poor premonition.
the transfer from boat to van goes without a hitch. we sweat and sleep on the way back to phuket (i have finished with my book. i miss it.).
we fall off, one by one. vicky departs, then lek to his bar. we reach baan suay guesthouse, unload, and say our teary goodbyes – almost, anyway. gunter offers some snark, and we offer our house should he ever find himself in arizona. nong and i hug and tell each other to “take care” – we’ve grown closer than one might suppose for the limited span of time and even more restricted overlap of vocabulary. he’s a playful sweetheart. i wonder if he misses mr. bean.
dad immediately retires to his chambers for some much needed downtime. mom pools it. i call a fuzzy.
it is decided that dad shall remain at the guesthouse tonight while mom and i venture out in search of grub. we pop across the street to an italian place and ask for the “quickest” item on their menu, receive overpriced pasta bolognese, nip back up two flights of stairs to deliver the piping foodstuffs to our patient, then skip merrily down the main street of karon.
i am feeling jaunty and critical, and i make derisive comments about the general state of attire of the average karon tourist. we have woefully left our camera back in the room, so i have just attempted to find a suitable photo on the web. intriguingly, many results for “farang” come back with pornography. i did manage to root up this, though, which i found on the fair side of interesting. mat sellah!
we scoot like galoots to the red onion, which mom has heard is marvelous. there is a line sprawling out the front, which we figure must indicate something inside worth a line, so we join it. i gallop off to a mini-mart to grab a tall frosty Tiger to stave off thirst during the interim between line and munchies. many onlookers found it necessary to comment upon a well-dressed young lass sauntering down the road with a delicious beer in her delicate hand, but i paid them zero mind.
the wait is not long. based on the posts of internet creepos on the linked-to forum, we order the duck red curry, along with a fried crab/pork combo and ho mok. i am especially jazzed for ho mok, as i read a pretty awful memoir about a year ago and have been salivating for the dish ever since.
the food arrives and it is, in fact and in deed, a series of marvels. it is the first legitimately spicy thai food we have savored on this trip, and i am in chile paradise. our noses valiantly run and our tear ducts swell with pride. a Singha completes the experience.
ever so slightly giddy on thai bubbly, we venture down to the end of karon’s main drag just to take a peek. the scene is hoppin’ as much as aging, overweight white tourists with no sense of fashion ever hop, and the people watching is fabulous. we know we are going to be in for a treat when it comes time to explore the raunchier corners of the island.
it’s past our bedtime, and we waste no time in conking out. we have nothing slated for the morrow. how delectable.