I landed in Trang to gray skies and rain. A lot of rain. December is supposed to be dry season in Thailand. Yet it poured rain on Wednesday evening, as well as all day Thursday.

Trang is the gateway to the Trang Islands in the Andaman Sea. But it is not a tourist town. It has a large Chinese population, and a reputation for excellent and unique food. I planned to stay here for three nights, giving myself plenty of time to decide to which island to travel next, and to get some laundry done. I’m glad I gave myself the extra time, as my laundry took two days! This is because of the constant rain and humidity and lack of dryers.

I didn’t really mind though, as I had quite a bit of writing to do (including the monthly newsletter that went out on Friday). And with one restaurant in my hotel and one right next door, I knew I wouldn’t go hungry. The food here is good and cheaper than in Bangkok. I spend $14 or less a day for three full sit-down meals and all drinks (including cappuccino, beer, and drinking water).

I booked transport to the island of Koh Mook and accommodation for five nights. Credit cards are not accepted in many places here (outside luxury hotels and restaurants) so I withdrew enough money from ATMs to last me until Dec 23, which involved two separate withdrawals. Both times, the first machine I tried gave me a weird “You card has incomplete data” message. Ever since an ATM machine in Manilla swallowed my bank card, and another one in Ecuador gave me a withdrawal slip but no money, I’ve been wary of foreign ATM machines. This message didn’t help. Fortunately everything worked fine on the second attempt.

By Thursday night, the rain had diminished, and I ventured out a kilometre or so up the road to the Night Market. It wasn’t very busy, possibly because it was the King’s Birthday, an official holiday in Thailand. I came across some beautiful light decorations which were obviously in honour of the Thai King (and not Christmas decorations).

Friday, the rain finally stopped (for the most part) and we even had a little sunshine. I decided to try a different restaurant, five minutes from my hotel. They had an English menu, but I was the only foreigner there.

On Friday and Saturday night, another (much busier) Night Market sets up in front of the train station, just around the corner from my hotel. I finally found the courage to try some street food. I was very picky though, making sure the food was freshly cooked and that they were not touching it with the same hands that touch the money. I would observe a stall for a while before committing to ordering food. In the end I had a set of six elongated fried nuggets with fillings of taro, pumpkin, yam, and banana (sweet and savoury at the same time), and some green noodles and duck in a tasty broth. I also bought a Thai bubble tea. By 8:00 PM the market was becoming pretty packed, but once again there were very few foreigners. Many stall menus had no English translations whatsoever, and the attendants spoke no English. I took many pictures of mystery foods. Many of those I had never seen before (see photos).

In between meals and errands, I wrote, and also took advantage of the TV in my room, since I probably will not have one in the island beach bungalows. There are two English channels, one of which is a Sci Fi one, so I watched two back-to-back episodes of Star Trek the original series!

Saturday morning, I decided to find a place to have a typical Trang ko-pii (sweet black coffee) and dim sum for breakfast. The girl at reception gave me general directions for a place called Ton Noon. You pronounce it with emphasis on the second word, and as if you were speaking Klingon. I had to stop and ask someone after a few minutes as I knew that the restaurant wouldn’t have the name in English on it, and trying to find street addresses in Thailand is a loosing battle. Fortunately she understood (after a couple a tries) and pointed to a green building right across the train tracks.

I walked in, and not too surprisingly, I was the only non-Asian person there. It felt a little awkward at first, but the staff was very patient and showed me what to do. This is not like any dim sum places I’ve encountered in Toronto, or even Hong Kong.

First, you pick up small dim sum dishes from a large display. They only contain one piece each. I really had not idea what most of them were. Then they transfer them into wicker baskets and steam them. During this time, you’re served your ko-pii, in a small glass. This mixture is so sweet and sludgy, you can almost believe that it’s hot chocolate. Then they bring you some other plates with pork, buns, and little packets of sticky rice (topped with coconut and some sweet paste) wrapped in banana leaves. You pay only for what you eat. The BBQ pork bun was deep fried instead of steamed, so quite heavy. Of the four dim sum I picked, two appeared to be filled with shrimp, one possibly with pork, and the other were two tiny hard-boiled eggs. It was a very interesting experience and pretty good overall (and only 100 Bahts). Sure beats the fried eggs, piece of ham and wonder bread that passes for an American breakfast in these parts.

The mini-van that was picking me up for the transfer to Koh Mook island arrived on time, and eight people piled in. Five of us were foreigners. As it turns out, the other four were all travelling together on a quick beach getaway from their English teaching job. One of them had “adopted” a stray kitten who was also travelling with us and seemed a little alarmed at the landscape flying past the windows. Our driver seemed to be in a big rush and kept honking at everyone and passing, often doing 100 kms/hr on small two-lane roads.

After an hour we got on a long-tail boat, and landed on Hat Farang (Foreigner’s Beach) half an hour later. It’s nice to be out of the city and traffic, even if my accommodation here is a basic bungalow with fan and cold water shower. I ran into the teachers again at lunch and we spent some time together on the beach. There was no rain today, although the sky was party cloudy. I hope this weather holds.

More on Koh Mook and my beach stay in Wednesday’s post.


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