Thailand

4th Week of our 6-Week Journey

 

 

DEC 25, 2019 NAKHON SAWAN Day 1
This day was commuting-day. We had the hotel call a taxi to take us to the train station. Taxis were the same price as a songthaew - 120 THB (4 USD) for the four of us. We got to the train station quite early, as is our practice. At 7:50 am, they played Christmas music through the public address system. All the malls and big stores have been playing Christmas music all week. Curiously, the music is from the 1930s-1940s American swing variations of Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas, etc.

At 8 am sharp, they played the Thai National Anthem. All the folks at the train station stood and bowed their heads in reverence. Of course, we respectfully did the same. This is the 4th time we have been at a train station at 8 am and witnessed the National Anthem protocol. Thai people are very proud of their country.

The train showed up 15 minutes late. The second-class car was the second car, right behind the sleeper car. That all sounds way more exclusive than it was. The second class coach turned out to be worn bucket seats instead of the third-class bench seats - although the bench seats were roomier than the old bucket seats.

All the cars were ancient, even the sleeper car, which was in poor shape. The mattresses were thin and only a blanket is provided. There was air conditioning, which consisted of windows that completely opened up, augmented by a bunch of oscillating ceiling fans. If that didn’t do the trick, all the passenger car doors were left open. Like in India, I spent a great deal of time standing in those open doorways, getting as much air as I needed. Still, I loved it.

We had plenty of junk food to eat, so we weren’t tempted by all the vendors going up and down the aisles with their sing-song announcements. The scenery was the opposite of going north. We started in the mountains and watched things slowly flatten out into an expanse of rice paddies.

After seven hours, our Nakhon Sawan Train stop snuck upon us. The rhythm of the tracks lulls you into a stupor, making it easy to lose track of where you are. Luckily, we caught our stop just in time to jump off. You have to be ready and quickly step out. The train doesn’t dilly-dally at any stop.

 

We immediately hopped in a songthaew to our new hotel, the P. A. Thani Hotel,  which was 7 km away from the train station for 150 THB (5 USD). It turned out that everything in Nakhon Sawan is called P. A. “something-or-other.” The driver first passed up a P. A. Hotel and then stopped at another P. A. Hotel Place. That was not the hotel we were seeking. He got directions from the front desk and proceeded to drop us off at the correct P. A. Thani Hotel.

P. A. Thani Hotel turned out to be a decent place, especially for only 18 USD (559 THB) a night, including breakfast. Even better, they had a refrigerated cooler behind the main desk well stocked with our favorite big bottles of Leo.

 

It was dusk by the time we headed out to explore the downtown. We started walking towards a large mall located approximately a kilometer. The sidewalks were in good shape. Wanda read that Nakhon Sawan had invested a lot of money to diversify its economy, from heavy industry to high tech, medical, and Chinese religious tourism. Chinese Buddhists are discouraged from practicing in China. Nakhon Sawan decided to capitalize on that. There is big money in religion, and Nakhonsawan is out to get a piece of it. There’s also good money in medical needs for seniors and affordable cosmetic surgeries from around the globe. You can get Botox treatments for 50 USD here. We saw the large international hospitals and clinics on our way to the hotel.

 

The sidewalk vendors were doing a good business. The food looked cleaner and more variety than at Lampang, our last destination.

The V-Square Mall was bright with Christmas lights. You could almost forget that you were in a Buddhist country. What is interesting is that Thailand has two calendars: 1) The typical solar calendar that most of the world uses; outside the mall was a giant 2020 sign all lit up. All official business is done according to this calendar. 2) A Buddhist lunar calendar. Much advertising in the mall conformed to the Buddhist calendar. Accordingly, 2019 AD (Anno Domino - after Christ) is the year 2562 BE (Buddhist Era). Pretty cool - wasn’t Star Trek supposed to be in the 2500s or something like that? “Beam me up, Scotty.”

The mall had a handful of so-called western-style restaurants, like KFC, Santa Fe Steak, and Sizzler, but all Thai franchises were there as well. The steaks were pretty much pork chops. KFC chicken was the same, but all the side dishes were Thai favorites. We ended up in the Thai buffet area. Our stomachs were still sensitive and craving just bland boiled chicken and rice with clear chicken soup on the side. We threw all the rice and chicken in the soup for a terrific soup.

We returned to the hotel around 8 pm. It was Leo time. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!!

 

DEC 25, 2019 NAKHON SAWAN Day 2. The breakfast buffet at the hotel went well. I had fried rice with chicken and a wonderful chicken sauce. I'm back to real Thai food. When I started picking out the red chilis, everyone freaked. I can take a lot of heat, but these chilis took me right to my limit - no passing Go. I rounded out breakfast with a couple of fried eggs and a mocha coffee.
 

 

About two blocks away from the hotel is a lake surrounded by green space. We checked it out and found it to be a well-maintained city park. The lake was in pretty good shape, with tons of fish circling near the surface. An iguana entertained us for a while. The park had a thick tree shade canopy over the walking route which made the walking bearable.

 

There was a large group of Koreans at our hotel. They are on a group golf outing. The group is being transported around via a fleet of brand new silver Toyota vans. Once dropped off, the drivers parked by the lake to sleep and relax. We ran across them on our walk. A couple of the drivers hung up hammocks and bagged out. Another group of drivers got together a had a rip-roaring party with drinks and loud music. I Shazamed a song that they were playing to identify the song I liked. When I showed them the results, they cackled with delight. The vans except one had darkened windows. When I glanced inside, I saw a big menacing assault rifle on the seat. I'm not sure I was supposed to have seen that, so I quickly hustled off. 

Wanda flagged down a vendor on a bicycle and side cart. We bought some square strawberry ice cream popsicles. The base of the concoction was sweet coconut milk. A refreshing treat as the day keeps heating up.

On the other side of the lake, we found yet another mall. Besides the usual zillion food stalls, food stores, food restaurants, and snack stands, this mall had a big high-end furniture store. Diane had to see if they stocked dishwashers. The store feature several kitchen mockups, and two did have dishwashers. The appliances were expensive German-made Franke brand. The cabinets, especially the food pantries, had some clever pop-out shelving. We gawked at everything, mainly because it was air-conditioned-cool in the store, and we were dreading the 94º heat outside. We noticed that many mall stores were overstocked with staff and understocked with customers. We were just about the only people in the furniture store beside the army of staff.

We retraced our steps through the shady park and returned to the hotel in time of siesta split a big Leo. The rooms were cool and relaxing. At 4:30 pm, Diane got bored. It was V-Mall time. Diane had some leftover rotisserie chicken to take along. At the mall, I got some rice and soup for 15 THB. I dumped the chicken and the rice in soup and feasted. The night air was still sweltering, but at least the sun wasn't beating down.

There were plenty of things to do around the Nakhon Sawan area had we stayed longer. There was a big lake outside the city that had some boating opportunities and an aquarium that sported a crocodile and monkey show. The crocodile show featured a guy putting his head in a crocodile's mouth. That must be a crowd-pleaser. Of course, there were the usual temples all over the place.

But we have two main objectives left: 1) Experience the famous Damnoen Saduk Floating Market at our next destination. 2) Get to the coast and lay around the beaches. The challenge will be figuring out transportation.

 

DEC 27, 2019 (Thai Year) DAMNOEN SADUAK Day 1. Today was another extensive transition day to our new destination, Damnoen Saduak. The train's scheduled departure time was 8:35 am and the station was 7 kilometers away. The hotel had a large tuk-tuk that we thought we could squeeze four passengers with four rollerbags. Last night, I talked to the hotel desk attendant, who understood a fair amount of English, about getting a ride in the hotel tuk-tuk in the morning, at 7:15 am. I thought we had it worked out.

 

Unfortunately, the message didn't quite get to the morning staff, who did not speak any English. Somehow, I got the idea across that we needed a ride to the train station. After conferring with his colleagues, he brightened up and said, "12 minutes." Of course, we were expecting the hotel driver to show up, so we packed our bags in the hotel tuk-tuk. It was cramped but we felt like it would work.

Fifteen minutes later, another tuk-tuk vehicle, half the size of the hotel tuk-tuk, arrived to pick us up. The best part - without batting an eye, the driver took out his very-worn Bungie cords and Bungied two of our bags directly onto the back of his tiny machine. He then wedged the other two bags onto the passenger floor area. I got in first, so Wanda could sit on my lap with her big backpack in her lap. Diane sat in the middle with her backpack on her lap. Then Heinrich squeezed into the remaining three inches with his backpack on his lap. There was no leg room with the roller bags wedged in the remaining open floor. We rested our legs on the bags. Some of us thought it was all good fun. The standard fare to the Nakhon Sawan Railway Station was 150 THB, but we paid 200 THB for the driver's heroic efforts.

To our surprise, the moment we stepped into the Nakhon Sawan Railway Station, the friendly staff took our luggage off our hands answered questions then proceeded to take m-a-n-y pictures of us waiting in the train station. Wanda decided to take a photo of them in return. We thought we walked into a train public-relations promo. They were helpful, even rolling our bags and handing them to us once we boarded the train. We enjoyed their service.

 

To our relief, the train on our schedule matched the actual train. That doesn't always happen. We bought 3rd-class tickets since this train didn't assigned seats. One nice touch at most train stations is a train tracking board to tell you in four languages, including English, the scheduled time of arrival and the actual time of arrival. The tracking board reported that our train would be 12 minutes late. Not bad.

he train was nearly empty when we boarded. We were able to pick out comfortable bench seats. In 3rd class, the wide windows completely open. As the morning gave way to afternoon, it got hot. The breeze from the open windows was a lifesaver.

On our train ride north, we went through a town that was crawling with monkeys. They were the only monkeys we saw in Thailand outside the Chiang Mai Zoo. Sure enough, on our way back south, we went through the same town. Thanks to Google, we read about Lopburi, or sometimes referred to as Monkey City. There were thousands of monkeys along the tracks.

The train passed by the ancient Khmer shrine ruins. These ruins were taken over by the monkeys. Apparently, the people of Lopburi believe the monkeys bring good luck. In fact, because the monkey-horde attracts tourists, the local businesses throw them a big banquet feast once a year.

As we pulled into Bang Sue Junction, we felt some pangs of nervousness. Our research indicated that we had to get off at this stop to connect with a train to Ratchaburi station, the closest station to Damnoen Saduak, where the Floating Market and our next Airbnb was located. Bang Sue Junction was two stops before the main Bangkok Station, so if we were wrong about this being the transfer station, we'd be stuck in an outlying area. It turned out that our research was absolutely correct. We found out 3rd class tickets were sold out so we purchased the last four seats in 2nd class. They weren't together, but we were on the final leg to Damnoen Saduak.

Supa House, Real Folkways of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. 144 Mu 7, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, ตำบล ดำเนินสะดวก อำเภอ ดำเนินสะดวก ราชบุรี 70130, Thailand. 

 

We knew Supa House, our new Airbnb, was 23 kilometers from the Ratchaburi Railway Station, but we expected to find taxis and songthaew once we arrived. Yesterday, Wanda got a message from Supa, our new host, asking if we wanted to be picked up. She thought we were coming by bus. Wanda informed her about our arrival at the train station not the bus station, and we would most appreciate being picked up.

We didn't hear from her until we were ten minutes from Ratchaburi Railway Station. She would meet us at the station with a songthaew. That was fortunate because, by the time we reached Ratchaburi Railway Station, it was getting dark. We did not see any transportation around the station - not even a taxi. It turned out that to find Supa House would have been impossible without her help.

Our host, Supa, was a very generous and helpful person. She runs the Supa House Restaurant and rents out a few apartments upstairs. However, her apartment toilets were acting up, so she set us up at another guest house two doors down. Our bedroom was upstairs in an extremely clean and very large room with two twin beds and a private bathroom on the landing. The other bedroom was downstairs, with a private bathroom and a large King-size bed in an extremely clean room. We thought the rooms were great, plus the proprietor had Leo beers for sale in his cooler. We were ready to relax.

The entire district of Damnoen Saduak is crisscrossed with canals that are fed by the Mekong River. Instead of city blocks, there is a grid of canals there were dug by the Chinese in the 1800s. These canals became the principal transportation routes before there were cars. The famous Floating Market area is about a kilometer from downtown Damnoen Saduak. Supa House, our Airbnb in Damnoen Saduak, is located right on this main canal, just a stone's throw from where the Floating Market begins.

After settling into our rooms, Supa set us up on the deck overlooking the canal and served us a couple of Leo beers along with a most satisfying light brothy soup with veggies, chicken, and rice. The night air was pleasant. It was a relaxing end to a very long and tough travel day.

 

DEC 28, 2019. DAMNOEN SADUAK Day 2. On an information plaque mounted on a footbridge over the canal, it states that the Floating Market averages 1000 visitors a day. Floating markets are everywhere in the Bangkok area, but this Floating Market is considered to be the best. It also claims to be the first Floating Market in Thailand.

 

One way of touring the Floating Market is by long-tail boat; however, I read this should be avoided. With so many visitors, the canals get extremely clogged as the boat traffic comes to a standstill. The best way to view the Floating Market, we were told, was to walk along either side of the canals. Supa, our Airbnb host, confirmed this. She informed us to go from 6 am to 9 am when the market is slow. The mornings when the locals shop the market. At 9 am, the crazy-tour buses from Bangkok roll in. From 9:30 am to 2:00 pm, it is bedlam.

Supa was right. I got up early and walked all around this neighborhood of canals. All canals were lined with houses on stilts. There were many narrow,  side channels, like alleyways, with just enough width to float a long-tail boat and also lined with houses on stilts. All the houses were on stilts, even on dry land. The water table was just inches below the ground, so there isn't dry land under the houses. Every hole or ditch or depression was filled with water. There were some agricultural fields with long rows of dirt interspersed by long rows of water-filled trenches.

The houses were an interesting mix of sagging wood and corrugated metal shacks and pleasant looking newly built homes. I asked Supa, who lives in the new homes. She explained that these were retirement homes. Many retirees from Bangkok are looking to get away from the fast, crowded big city, move out to this slow-paced canal life and build their retirement homes.

And, it is a slow uncrowded life, except from 9:30 am to 2 pm at the Floating Market. The market stretches down several moderate-sized channels and many narrow side channels. All the market channels are lined with layers of shops and booths. The side channels lined with shops are only accessible by boat. Along the wider channels, vendors park long-boat after long-boat filled with food, drink, and other wares. Smaller Louisiana-style pirogues, carrying coconut ice cream and drinks, pick their way through the traffic selling to the boat tourists up and down the channel. Through this clogged mess of boat-vendors comes the big tour long-tail boats. That's when traffic comes to a near standstill for hours.

All the tour boats sport huge inline four-cylinder car engines with straight-pipe exhausts. The engines are as loud as Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. For some reason, the engines can't idle - either they are on, or they are off. To glide, they turn off the engine. When the engines are restarted, they burp out a thick cloud of foul-smelling, oily exhaust. So, while in the floating market gridlock, the tour boats are constantly restarting their engines to inch their way around. The Floating Market canal's air quality becomes filled with blue-black carbon monoxide fumes, and the engine-roar is deafening. Visually, it's a great spectacle from the confines of the sidewalks next to and above the canal. We were glad we were not in the boats.

Unlike the long-boat that we rode in at Ayutthaya or the long-boats we took up the Kok River to Chiang Rai; most of the long-tail boats in Damnoen Saduak are loud and poorly tuned machines. My take on it is this: it's a macho guy thing. These boats are the hot rods of this place. The engines are big and modified. The air intake is straight in - no air filters, although I did see some turbochargers. The exhaust is just a manifold straight out - no muffler. The engines are too big and souped-up for touring through the Floating Markets.

Consequently, they don't run smoothly. The drivers have to adjust the throttle to find that elusive smooth RPM continually. As I said, the engines just don't idle. And to get up to speed, they have to pre-gun the engine. The pre-gunning routine begins with starting the engine up. They hit the electric start button and the initial burp of oily exhaust kicks out. Then they go through a series of loud vroom-vroom-vroom-vroom-vrooms, before they engage the prop shaft and finally take off. Then its continually adjusting the throttle from full throttle down to 75%. We didn't experience this anywhere else in Thailand, and we've seen a lot of long-boats.

 

We found out on Sunday when the police are enforcing the “no engine” rule, it was a lot quieter and the air was a lot clearer.

In spite of the bombardment to the aural and olfactory senses, money still flowed at the Floating Market. The food was good. Wheeling and dealing at the market was in full swing. I found two dragon T-shirts that I had to have. Teri Eisberner would have been proud of me - one shirt started at 600 THB at one stall, but I walked away paying 350 THB (10 USD) at another booth. The other dragon-shirt I couldn't be without only cost 200 THB (6 USD).

It is difficult to explain this amazing spectacle. I can't say it's pretty or quaint. It is just, well, incredible. Even though it is out of the way, it shouldn't be missed for its sheer-frenzied craziness. You will never see anything like it anywhere. The food at this market was terrific, almost as good as the night market food in Chiang Mai. Overall, it was a good time - the vendors were friendly, and the chaos was fun to watch.

Once the tour buses cleared the parking lot around 2 pm, the town returned to its serenity. Next, we wanted to go on a long boat trip through the channels as we did in Ayutthaya and mentioned that to Supa, our Airbnb host. No problem, Supa proceeded to reserve a boat and driver for 4 pm. We took a short siesta before our boat ride to Bangnoi, the next small town located on the Maeklong River (not to be confused with the Mekong River). 

Before our trip, Supa urged us all to visit the Happy Room. The journey is over an hour without anywhere to stop and pee. Our long-boat picked us up at the Supa House dock around 4 pm. Supa came along to get some things at the Bangnoi market. Getting in and out of the long-boat was tricky for us oldsters.

The ride to Bangnoi was just awesome. We picked our way through the labyrinth of canals. There wasn't any signage on the channels, so the boat-driver had to know where he was going. These long-boats have another peculiarity. They can't turn with power. Instead of banking into a turn like most boats do, the boats lean the opposite way, producing a very disconcerting sensation of wanting to flip. To turn, the driver cuts the engine, which often kills the engine, and slows to a crawl. At a slow drift, the driver can inch the boat around the curve. Back on the straightaway, we go through the pre-gunning routine and off we go.
 

The river life was fascinating. The houses, all on stilts, have open fronts with big sliding doorways. The houses look like storefronts, and many of the folks were running little stores out of their living rooms, leaving the big front door wide open. You can see right into the family life - supper, TV, etc. There was a mix of new homes and shacks lining the canals all the way to Bangnoi. We came across a brand new, very exclusive eco-resort that blended beautifully in the surroundings. Somebody invested millions.

At Bangnoi, the canal emptied into the massive Maeklong River. We carefully crawled out of the boat onto the dock. The town was built right on the canal-river junction. Most of the shops were closed, as well as the market, but Supa picked up some mangos. Wanda bought some mango and sticky rice for later.

A tall double-decker crazy-tour bus was parked with the doors open. We got to see the lounge area on the bottom floor. Supa said that these buses are now illegal. The old ones are grandfathered in, but new ones are no longer are being modified.

The boat ride back to Damnoen Sudaek was at night. The boat had a weak flood light making the ride through the channels even more mysterious. The houses lining the banks provided guiding light, somewhat.  At one point, the driver stopped at a junction, seeming to be confused as to which way to go. After a good three minutes, he picked the left fork and did his pre-gunning routine. It was the correct channel.

 

Disembarking was another chore. The first dock we tried wasn't going to work. The driver maneuvered around and found a better dock for us to carefully crawl out.

It was quite a day. We sat out on the deck overlooking the night-time canal scene with our Leo beers. Except for the occasional bad-boy Harley long-boat driver, it was a quiet evening. Thais don't have much nightlife.

 

 

DEC 29, 2019. DAMNOEN SADUAK Day 3. River Thais go to bed early, even on Saturday night, but they sure get up early. The Harley-Davidson-style-long-boats started buzzing up and down the channel in front of our Airbnb room, as soon as 5 am. By 6 am, the boat vendors began to pour into the area. These are mostly the paddle-only version of the long-boat. Again, we watched the entire Floating Market ttheater-on-the-river take shape. First, the vendors, then the locals, then the tourists.

By 9:00 am, it was full-blown chaos all over again. However, this time there was a subtle difference. The tourist long-boats with the hot-rod motors were paddling through the tight bottlenecks. Supa later explained that on Sundays, the police patrol the Floating Market. They don’t allow all the revving of the engines and spewing exhaust. She said that the eventual goal is to go entirely to electric motors in the market. I couldn’t imagine that ever happening, but paddle enforcement was wise. To paddle 2 or 3 inches at a crack makes way more sense than firing up a powerful and belching giant engine to go a mere 2 or 3 inches.

We found a vendor that grilled incredibly tasty pork-on-a -tick and chicken legs barbecued with a flavorful hot sauce. We picked up a side order of sticky rice and feasted in a local tent. The grilled meats must have been marinated for a month and had a honey glazing. They just melted in your mouth.

Going to our next Airbnb was turning into a puzzle. We thought our next destination was in the city of Chon Buri. Supa looked at the address and informed us that the address of the Airbnb was 50 kilometers farther south from Chon Buri. It was in the province of Chon Buri but in the town of Sattahip.  Oops. That complicated transportation matters. Supa suggested that we hire a private van. The driver would pick us up at our door in Damnoen Saduek and drop us off at the entrance of our Airbnb in Sattahip. Sounds terrific but expensive. We google mapped the route. It was 220 kilometers. She promised to look into the availability of a driver and the cost.

In the meantime, we worked on Plan B. We mapped out a complicated trip from the bus terminal in Damnoen Saduak to Pattaya, the closest city to Sattahip. We’d have to find a taxi or songthaew  from there to the Sattahip Airbnb. It looked like at least four different legs to coordinate, maybe more. It was doable, but it would take the whole day and some luck.

Supa listened to our Plan B and offered to take me, on the back of her scooter, to the bus terminal to check out the schedule. In the meantime, she tried to contact the driver that she knew - no answer. Yikes! The ride to the bus terminal was fun. Supa drove well. She first stopped at another market in downtown Damnoen Saduak to pick up some strange veggies - beans at least 18 inches long, some long green stems that resembled fat chives but she said was closer to celery, and a bunch of other green oddly shaped plants that I had never seen before.

At the bus terminal, Supa helped interpret our Plan B route. I found out that the bus goes to the Southern Bus Terminal of Bangkok. It runs every 40 minutes, starting at 3 am until 11 pm. OK, that’s leg one of the trip nailed down. The problem was, the buses that went to Pattaya operated out of the Eastern Bus Terminal, and the two stations were 25 kilometers apart, with no decent connecting transportation between the two. We all thought we could get a taxi but knew it would be costly in Bangkok.

t this point, all we could do was to wait to hear from Supa. She hoped to contact the driver in the evening. In the meantime, I heard some Thai music coming from a local bar and went to investigate. The Hoklee Happy House, on the main channel intersection of the neighborhood, was doing Thai Karaoke, playing selected songs through a modest sound system. There was a TV set up with the words scrolling in Thai. Several volunteers took a shot at it. All the songs were Thai tunes that seemed to rely heavily on the accordion, of all instruments. I bought a Leo and settled in for a half dozen tunes. The songs were funny-sounding, and the brave singers were barely passable, but it was a fun experience.

Most of the canals have a walkway along each side. After the Karaoke concert, I just roamed along the walkways. Most of what I thought were stores, because the fronts all had metal gates across the front, were holmes. Some of them looked desperately poor. Some were quaint. Some doubles as vending shops. The inventory just mingled in with the TV, mattresses on the floor, and cooking utensils. With the fronts wide open, I could see right into the living spaces. Most homes didn’t seem to have typical furniture - everything happened on the floor.

Around 4 pm, after the most intense heat started to wane, I picked up the rest of the gang, and we walked the canal walkway to downtown Damnoen Saduk, towards the bus station. The system of waterways was complex but impressive. Again, the condition of the houses was mixed, with the direst houses emitting grief and sadness that is hard to describe. Some were the proud old sturdy teakwood houses. A few were brand new.

The walkways are mostly a rough cement sidewalk on stilts like the houses. Sometimes the cement gives way to old teakwood planks. Occasionally, the sidewalk seems to be part of a house’s front room. Supa scuffed that off, telling us that the law states that the public has the right to a walkway along the canal, even if you have to walk through someone’s front porch, which is basically an extension of their front room. So, I walked through the porches. When someone was sitting on the porch, we greeted each other with a hello, and it was all smiles.

In one big open wooden house, an older Thai guy was building a long-boat. He was laying out the hull frame using some wood ribs, a level, and a powered screwdriver. Like everyone else in the land of smiles, he was all smiles when we showed an interest in his work.

In the evening, we set up on the deck with our Leo. Someone got the bright idea to head over to the 7-11 store to get some midnight snacks. While looking for something familiar, I found the Ramen Noodles section. All of the flavors and ingredients were in Thai, but the directions were in English - that was odd. The blurred pictures didn’t help to identify flavors either. We were able to avoid the squid flavor.

A friendly Thai lady who knew a little English watched our bewilderment and helped out. We left with some pork noodles and chicken noodles along with cups of the dried pasta with tomato powder and dried pasta with a mushroom Alfredo powder. Just add hot water meals. Surprisingly, Ramen Noodles are more expensive in Thailand than at home.

For fun, we bought a bunch. The coffee machine at the Airbnb provided the hot water. We were all set for a noodles snack fest and Leo beer. OK, Ramen Noodles aren’t gourmet. But, it was fun and familiar food.

Around 8 pm, Supa stopped by to tell us that transportation  would cost 4000 THB (134 USD) 4000 baht ($134) to drop us off at our Airbnb in Sattahip. It was an expensive door-to-door service and we jumped on it. The drive was 220 km and 3 -1/2 hours in a comfortable air-conditioned new van and would save us from a nightmare of transportation connections. Transportation going north of Bangkok was surprisingly easy and convenient. We were finding out that it is far more complicated going east or west from Bangkok.

Supa hung around for another hour. We picked her brain about her travels and about Thai culture. She had been to many of the southeast Asian countries, but she also spent a couple of weeks in Sweden. Deciphering her English was like playing a charades game. She would say a couple of nearly incoherent phrases, and we’d search our brains for what we thought were the actual phrases. When we guessed the correct phrase, we’d jump up and down with glee like on a TV game show. For example, her pronunciation of the word “monk” was “mong.” Of course, our pronunciation of Thai words and city names produced a similar reaction on her part. Supa was a great host!