Friday, January 16, 2009

Traveling to the Treehouse

So Leslie has always had a desire to live in a boat on the water.  Yesterday, that dream ended.

After the writing of the last blog the two of us ate some more Pad Thai and took off for the bus to Ko Phan-nang, a little island off the southeastern seaboard.
A man took us from Lamphu house to a little shop about two blocks away, where we sat with a bunch of farang (foreigners) waiting for the bus.  We hung out with Dale and Meesha from England and Ben from Germany.
We got on a double decker bus and the five of us grabbed the bottom floor to ourselves, where we had loads of leg room around around 9 pm.  We were informed that we had to sit in our numbered seat above, so had to head to the top floor with the commoners.
The bus was relatively comfortable, with seats reclining to almost laying position.  Leslie had a woman behind her who was about 6’5″, so she asked her not to recline so much.
We slept as much as possible on our way to the port, but the bus did rock back and forth pretty heavily.  The lights above us didn’t work, so my desire to read was short-circuited when the cabin lights went off.  We slept as best we could, but it wasn’t very restful.
We stopped once where they let everyone off to go to the bathroom.  At that point we talked to Dale, Ben and Meesha and agreed that once the lights went off we’d sneak to the bottom of the bus.  The five of us met each other again a few minutes later as we found the bottom floor and slept better for the remainder of the bus ride.
About 5 am the lights came back on and the bus unloaded to allow us all off.  The boat did not leave unitl 7am so we had some time to sit and chit-chat.  At this point we lost track of Dale and Meesha and I chatted with Ben while Leslie got some shut-eye.  We sat on comfortable little cots waiting for the sun to come up.  Leslie woke up when a rooster appeared next to her making some noise.  Ben gave me some tips on what to do once we reached Singapore as I took notes. 
The boat arrived about 6:50 and we all got on.  The sun was about 2/3 up and we walked about a quarter of a mile down a rickety little bridge.  We made it onto the boat and sat next to Ben.
The boat was making three stops.  First, Ko Tao, which is mainly for scuba-diving and snorkeling, then Ko Phanang, which is for relaxing and known for it’s full moon parties, then Ko Samui, which is developed with many western chain stores. 
The boat was a pretty modern looking, double-decker catamaran (two pontoons).  We could not really move around the boat to well, but it was fairly comfortable with a movie being shown (Hellboy 2).  The seats were a little better than airline quality with three on the left, an aisle, five in the middle, another aisle and three on the right.  It looked like it was about to be a comfortable voyage. 
As we pulled out of the shore the staff started heading up and down the aisles and I thought that we were in for some food or a drink.
Then they started handing out barf-bags. 
The boat took off at breakneck pace through waves that had to be fifteen meters high.  At first I was worried about whether or not we’d make it, but then just got curious about how long it would be until the first person lost their lunch (or breakfast as the case may be).     Ben had been on these trips before so I asked him.  He said that it wouldn’t be long. 
About two minutes later Geesha fell across my seat as she had the pleasure of being the first person to make the dash to the back of the boat.  A steady stream of people followed as I put my hands in the air like a roller-coaster.   It was quite a ride as I thought that the boat driver must really know what he’s doing.
A few times he caught a wave wrong and the whole boat came down with a jolt that I thought would knock my fillings loose.  About 1/2 the boat ended up using the bags provided as Dale made his way after Geesha to the back of the boat. 
The biggest problem was the chain-reaction that was created when someone used the barf-bag.  It set off everybody else!  The whole thing was a bit like a scene from a bag movie, but not as funny when you’re living it.
I did okay, and Leslie was a trooper, but did end up utilizing the tools provided.  She didn’t feel well but stuck through it really well!
It finally calmed down as we neared the island about two and a half hours of pukey-travel later.  We first reached Ko Tao, which was NOT our destination.  We say Geesha and Dale exit and Geesha had a “thank you, God!” smile on her face.  The subsequent trip to Ko Phanang was relatively calm, but we were all happy to reach shore.
Special thanks to Chalain Brazzel for telling us about the Treehouse Guesthouse.  For those who don’t know, she’s Leslie’s friend who is teaching English as a second language in South Korea and recommended it as a place to stay on Ko Chang.  However, it has closed down on Ko Chang and reopened on Ko Panang.  It reopened the day we arrived. 
We got off the boat and headed to the Yellow Cafe, which is a little town on the island.  We ate some food and waited for the taxi, which the treehouse said would be there.  It arrived at 1pm.  There, we met Michael and Kristin from Munchen, Germany.  Michael is an engineer and Kristin teaches English.  They were off to a different hostel on the same beach called Mai Pen Rai, which means ¨Whatever¨.
The four of us crawled into the back of a pickup truck and headed to the western side of the island.  The pickup “taxi” goes from Haan Sadet (Sadet Beach) to Thang Salah (the only city on the island) at 1pm.  It goes from the beach to Thang Salah at 10am amd costs $150 ($5).  That’s it. 
If you miss that taxi then you have to hire a cab to take you along a very windy, dirty, pot-holey rode for 1000 baht ($33).  It’s dark and dangerous at night and they do NOT want to do it.  Many won’t even go for that.  As a result, you get there and STAY there. 
When we got to the beach we found Mai Pen Rai but could not find the Treehouse.  Kristin and Michael checked into Mai Pen Rai.  We eventually got directions from the taxi driver, who rolled his eyes at us.  We had to walk to the end of the beach and down a path that was up to our thighs in water.  It had been flooded earlier and the water has never been higher.  We did make it though. 
We officially became the second group to check into the Treehouse yesterday and it is GORGEOUS.  There are 10 bungalows in the treehouse and they are just finishing it.  When we walked up, Pamela (owner/operator) told us to dig in.  There was a party for the work-crew lined up and a free buffet of some great food.  We were REALLY hungry, so anything would have been great. 
Pamela welcomed us to the main cabin that was covered with about 20 chairs and a kitchen.  There´s an attached deck with knee high tables and pillows.  It´s a good little hangout spot with a german couple perpetually drinking beer and the bustle of a new hostel almost complete.
After eating, Pamela showed us three Bungalows.  We chose the one on the very end for 550 a night (about $18).  It has electricity from 6pm at night and is BRAND NEW.  It still smells a bit like paint.
It´s got a porch out front and is situated on a large rock sitting on the beach.  The rock is about 100 feet tall and sticking right out of a little bay.  It´s all wood and painted yellow and blue.  The sheets are brand new and there´s a great mosquito net to keep the bugs out.  It has running water and we´ve figured out that you can get a lukewarm shower if you take it in the afternoon.
Today, we woke up and did nothing.  We went to the main building of the Treehouse and noticed how much progress has been made.  As opposed to having no menu, they have three pieces of paper scribbled and taped to the desk.  Pamela was busily making signs that point to the treehouse as she helped the two kids through their homework.  The kids are German-Thai, most of the people on Haan Sadet are German. 
There´s a bunch of dogs running around that are well taken care of for a change, who are begging for food most of the time.  We sat on a bluff and read a book.  That changed when we made the trek back to Mai Pen Rai and found Michael and Kristin.  We sat with them and hung out for about five hours. 
Mai Pen Rai is on a beach with two other hostels.  It is the ¨main area¨and has two restaurants, the taxi, a small shop and this computer.  Treehouse has only the bungalow and a restaurant.  Treehouse has five people staying and about 12 workers while the ¨main area¨has about 200 people total. 
Every time we go from one to the other we have to go through the path that is flooded by two and a half feet of water (depending on the tide).
There were five big things that happened today as we sat on the beach by Mai Pen Rai.  
  1. we ordered a cocunut smoothie
  2. we ordered a  pineapple smoothie
  3. I dug a hole in the sand as a make shift armchair
  4. Leslie listened to her IPod
  5. I changed into my swim trunks.
As dusk approached the we  went to the Treehouse for dinner with Michael and Kristin where they told us about their trip in Vietnam.  They then headed off to a BBQ at Mai Pen Rai while we went to our Bungalow.
I then proceeded to make a jerk of myself.
We saw some of the workers playing football-soccer, so I asked if I could join.  They said I could and they were kind impressed, saying ¨farang´´farang´´ to get me to give them the ball.  They were burning bushes around a part they were clearing to make the next hostel. 
I then cracked a shot from distance . . . .and hit the firë.  The plastic ball we were using burst and I used the Thai I know.  Kor Thot!  Kor A’Pai!  I said, which means Sorry!  Excuse me!  They laughed, but I felt bad. 
I then went back to the bungalow and found some older workers on a rock in front.  We communicated to the best of our ability, which was mostly numbers and learning to say ¨water¨ and ¨bird¨.   Leslie read and relaxed in our bungalow. 
Six o’clock rolled around, I excused myself and we made the trek through the dark over to Mai Pen Rai in order to use the internet and let everyone know we didn´t die, we were just in a place where there´s no power most of the day! 
We´ve talked about heading to the other side of the island tomorrow, but we´ll see what happens, we´ve found a great beach and are in no rush to do anything!
To answer your question Jenn, ¨Pad Thai¨is a wide variety of stuff over here.  We´ve had thick noodles, thin noodles and a bunch of vegetables that I don´t even recognize .  We really haven´t had two that taste the same.  A few have been close to what we get and some are pretty different.  Some are better, some are worse.  Most have these little green squashes that are kind of tough to chew and some things that look like peas, but don´t taste anything like that.  All in all it´s pretty good, but it depends on who makes it.  We´ve had Pad Thai that costs from 25 baht from a little stand to 120 baht ($4) from a restaurant.  The best we´ve had is the cheap stuff from the street vendor. 
I also want to give a shout out to Andreas, who was the Swedish man we met at Thanon Khao San a few days ago.  His travel blog is
We´ll probably start a link page to people we meet at some point.  Ben from the boat´s got one, too, but his is in German, so not so much. 

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