May 16-29, 2018
The first couple of days in our new house we spent doing laundry, working on some legal matters and other not so fun things but unfortunately we still have responsibilities to take care of, even though we are half way around the world. We walked along Ruangrat Road which is the street we live on and one of the main roads of the city. Scoped out a few street restaurants and the local market. We pulled out the bicycles and walked them to a mechanic shop a few blocks away to get the tires filled so we would have a transportation and a way to see more of Ranong. Then went for a ride to the outskirts of town and around the city.
Eat Cheap in Ranong
As in any city the price of eating out can vary dramatically depending on what type of food you want and where you go. The cheapest option is always the local cuisine and typically at most of the small street restaurants a dish will run around 40฿ or 50฿ so about $1.50 and rice around 10฿, which makes eating out often cheaper then cooking for yourself. Not to mention most of the food is absolutely amazing anywhere you go. However, we don’t always choose the cheapest option and sometimes we like to see how each shop differs; whatever we are craving that day often dictates where we end up for dinner. We also tend to rotate from a cheaper option to a pricer restaurant; when I say pricey I mean around 300฿ for the three of us which is about $10. This is the price without beer or soda because neither of us are really drinking alcohol, I do enjoy an occasional beer but we are definitely not pounding them back like we use to.
Noodle soup is a favorite around here and we have had a bowl at various places around town. There is a stand a few doors down that makes a pretty tasty soup which they call a “Noodle Waterfall.” We were eating there the first time a massive rain storm came through, water was pouring off the roofs and tarps. A lot of the smaller food stands have tin roofs which makes it very difficult to have a conversation, its borderline deafening when the rain is coming down. Francesca loved the rain and enjoyed running through the water cascading off the tarps until the thunder and lighting started. There was a couple close strikes and loud booms that frighten her so she was ready to head home.
A day or so later we tried a bowl at one of the food stands in the market. First, we walked around to see what there was hoping there would be some type of menu but its not like we could read what was written on them anyway. Daniel likes to know what he is eating so sometimes its a bit difficult to just scope out the food stand. I, on the other hand, will try just about anything and often prefer not to know what it is until I have tasted it. Anyway, we were hungry so I suggested we eat what looked like Pho, we are not in Vietnam so it wouldn’t be Pho but on the table where people were eating was an array of goodies to put in your soup just like you get when you order the delicious Vietnamese soup. So we politely ordered two bowls with the young woman running the stand who spoke a bit of English and took a seat. We were given ice and water and a plate with a variety of soup toppings on it, we couldn’t tell you what they were. The steaming hot soup was brought over with a small bowl for little lady and the young woman told us which topping were spicy, then she sang “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to Francesca. Must have been one of the only song in English she knew, it was quite adorable especially since it is May and 100 degrees.
It didn’t take us to long to find our favorite noodle soup spot. We were riding around on the bikes and decided to try a food stand that is a few blocks outside of the main town area. We didn’t know what they severed nor did we know how to ask for anything. We stood near the food prepping area wondering if we ordered there or sat down and waited for someone to come over, you never can tell what is the proper etiquette. The woman running the stand came over, not able to speak much English, said “Soup?” We looked at each other and said, “yes, two please.” “Noodles?” she asked as she pointed the egg noodles in her display case. We shook our heads in agreement. She motioned for us to sit and shortly brought over two large bowls of steaming hot soup. We waited patiently for the soup to cool as the enticing aroma floated in the air our mouths began to water. We couldn’t wait any longer and dove in to the delicious bowl of tasty broth, Daniel was impressed so much so he has proclaimed it his favorite noodle soup spot. We have visited them several times, they take pictures with Francesca and let her run around playing with one of the young girls that is often there. They are adorable together holding hands and sitting together watch the people pass by.
Shopping to cook a meal at home
Even though eating out is super cheap we are with Chef Daniel so he does want to utilize the resources here to learn authentic Thai cooking and use the fresh ingredients that are at our disposal. So we decided to hop on the bike and take a ride to the Tesco Louts, the local supermarket, to check it out and pick up a few things you can’t really find in the market: cereal, coffee, peanut butter and jelly. We were also interested in the price difference from the store to the market and as expected the market is always cheaper and supports the locals, not to mention you can find pretty much the same stuff in both places you just have to search a bit harder for what you need in the market. The main difference is the store has air-con, both offer an experience especially since we have Francesca there is always someone wanting to hold her and take photos with her. On one trip to the Lotus she met a little girl and they played in a puddle together for quite awhile holding each others hand, running in circles and splashing around; it was rather adorable. But the market if definitely where its at, the escapade differs every time; the sudden down pour that floods the street, the vendors that adore Francesca and offer her new fruits to try, the exploration and discovery that we all experience is what this trip is all about. Not to mention we also get to practice a bit of Thai and live like a local.
So needless to say we do the bulk of our shopping at the market. We carry our reusable bags in hopes to cut down on the plastic bags but it doesn’t always work, Thai’s love their plastic bags and we try to stop them from giving them to us but they don’t always understand that we don’t want them. There are a couple small stands that we usually pick up all the vegetables we need for Daniel’s fried rice or curry which runs about 120฿. Then we stop by a butcher stand and pick up a few pieces of fresh chicken. Daniel was a bit unsure about buying it from a stand, at first, but then was reminded its fresh. Four or five pieces of chicken breast will run about 75฿, depending on weight. One time he bought a whole chicken, which was around 150฿, so we could make some stock and when I say whole I mean WHOLE; head, feet, innards, trachea, butt, all of it minus the feathers. It was quite funny to see him come to terms with handling it, he liked to have his gloves so he doesn’t have to touch it with his bare hands so he was a bit grossed out.
We will swing by the spice stand to grab some fresh curry paste. They have a variety to choose from green, red, sour, yellow; all piled high in giant bowls. The pastes are so fresh they are moist, you can see the oils and smell the amazing aroma as you approach. The attendant will scoop out your desired amount into a bag, weight it, flash the number with fingers or show you the total on a calculator, collect the money and your on your way. I think we paid about 60฿ for a kilo which was enough for us to make two large batches of curry and batch was about five meals for us. Daniel really wants to learn how to make his own paste but we don’t have the mortar and pestle which is critical for releasing the oils from the ingredients you are crushing. He wants a proper Thai recipe so we are searching for a local that will show him how its done, Thai style, which will vary throughout the regions across Thailand.
Andaman Pier, Ranong Thailand
Rainy season in Ranong is 8 months out of the year, so the whole time we are here we have to be prepared for torrential downpour. Most days it rains, but when the sky clears and its a nice sunny day we take advantage of it because we could be cooped up for several days in a row. On those glorious sunny days we enjoy taking the bicycle out to explore, it is great exercise and a fun way to get around. We rode to the Andaman Pier, on the north side of Ranong, where you can get catch a boat to a casino in Myanmar. It was about a five mile ride from the house. Along the way you pass the Chao Muang Ranong Cemetery which runs for several miles aside the road. The graves are marked by large monuments to the dearly departed, each unique in size, color, and layout. Some have animal statues that guard the pathway up to the monument, some have giant urns, there are one’s with small pagodas, and some with spirit house; each grave is very different and beautiful. Once past the cemetery there are sporadic houses, normally with some kind of stand offering food or drinks for those that drive by, and lush forest areas. Highway signage is pretty accurate in the area, written in both Thai and English, so its not to difficult to find your way. Once we were at the dock we took a walk on the pier to gaze at the sea and the land that lay on the horizon. People were rushing to board the boat to Myanmar. After we had rested a bit we headed home taking note of a sign that said beach, it would be a destination on one of our upcoming rides.
An uphill climb to Punyaban Waterfall
A few days later, when the rain subsided, we decided to take a ride to Punyaban Waterfall, about an eight mile ride from the house. When we looked at the route we didn’t take into consideration any elevation change, everything here is sea level, right? Well we choose the route that kept us of the main interstate as much as possible, however we were completely unaware of the steep incline we would encounter riding up the hill. We had to get off the bikes and push them up for a bit, that was in the first three miles we still had five to go. I love to ride, it is my preferred way to exercise and getting around. I love the wind in my hair, gliding down the street, racing down a hill after pushing yourself up an incline, and the ability to cover ten times the distance compared to walking. The best shape I have ever been in was when I was riding sixteen miles a day four days a week, I felt amazing. Daniel, on the other hand, hasn’t spent much time on a bike; so the whole experience is new to him and the steep up hills are a bit to much. The first climb was so intense we both had to dismount and push the bikes a bit to the top, our hearts were pounding. We gave ourselves a couple minutes to catch our breath and hopped back on for an enjoyable down hill ride. Then we had to tackle another 3 mile up hill incline before clearing the peak, it was a bit brutal, stopped a couple times, but successful made it to the waterfall.
The National Park had a 200฿ per adult entrance fee for foreigners and 50฿ for locals. We paid our fee and proceeded down the stairs to the lower pools. On the way down I noticed a crab hiding in the rocks, he was blending in beautifully to the surrounding, if he had not moved I wouldn’t have know he was there. When we reached the bottom Francesca and I didn’t waste anytime getting in the water, I need to cool down after the strenuous uphill ride. The water was cloudy but refreshingly cool. The pools tiered down, each one was shallow which was perfect for Francesca to play and splash around in. She would call for me to come, I would follow her climbing in and out of the water and up the rocks visiting each pool. Daniel roamed around taking photos of the surroundings, I think the water was a bit to murky for him to enjoy. I laid in the water relaxing while Francesca played near the waters edge, picking up rocks and tossing them in to the pool.
Before we left, a group of monks from Myanmar showed up to take photos of the falls. Daniel was able to capture some beautiful photos of them. They took pictures with Francesca and chat with Daniel for awhile before they departed. Some of the park’s workers came over to see her as well. One gentleman gave us some finger bananas and water, he held Francesca and took a few pictures with her. His name was Mok, we chatted with him for a bit before making our way back up the mountain. The ride home was easier then the ride there, which was a relief. During our eight mile ride home we passed through a routine traffic stop, at first we thought it might have been an accident, all we could see was cars stopped and lights flashing. As we passed the officers waved at us and said hello. We were exhausted when we arrived home, it had been the most strenuous ride we had conquered thus far.
Searching for the beach…
We gave our bodies a day or so of rest after the ride to the falls, the rain made it an easy decision. A couple days had passed and we decided to see if we could locate a beach. We had saw a sign when coming back from Andaman Pier so we headed in that direction. The road took us to a small village and ended near a waterway. A man came over to us trying to tell us where we were, as we were looking at a map that was posted. We think he was telling us that we want to go a bit further north, up one of the roads we had past to a small resort area, but we were not entirely sure. We parked the bikes and walked over to the “beach” area. The sand was covered in trash, it was heartbreaking and very disappointing. Sad to think no one cared to clean it up and that it was normal to their existence. Francesca had wanted to go swimming but there was no way we were getting in the water.
Looking back we had not made it to the beach we were searching for but a delta area where the waterways meet. There were longboats transporting people from one bank to another, we watched as the boats would pull to the shore letting people on and off. One water taxi, full of patrons, pulled up to let a young man off, waited as he hurried to his hut and back again. The shore opposite of us, was lined with large buildings some appeared to be manufacturing boats of all sizes, and some looked like they were fisheries. Down the smaller river, the shores were lined with wooded shanties built on stilts, home to the industrial workers. The water taxis would drive its passengers to their door and would pick up them up when signaled. We watched the parade of boats pass us by as we rested before heading back home.
We have been flabbergast to discover that there really is not a beach in Ranong. You would think since it sits on the coast that there would be some beach area however there is not. The coastline is covered in mangroves and the only area that could be considered a “beach” is on a private resort property. You can glance at it from the hill top or when your on a passing by boat but it doesn’t look to inviting. Knowing that there is trash floating in the water along the coast doesn’t exactly entice you to want to spend the day at the beach.
A Parade for Buddha
One afternoon I was in our courtyard finishing up a yoga session when I heard some music playing. At first I thought the neighbors were having a party but then I noticed it was getting louder and louder as if it was approaching us. Then I recognized the sounds, it was a marching band. I ran through the house to see what was going on. The local school’s marching band was playing outside. I went to grab the camera and tell Daniel. We went to watch the parade of school children pass by. The persuasion began with the marching band and was followed by a truck that carried the ceremonial offering for Buddha.The truck was filled with flowers and had a spirit house with a statue of a Buddha inside. Followed by droves of school children from the surrounding schools all of them were waving, smiling, and laughing at us as they passed by. Several shouted out hello and posed for our pictures. At first, we had no idea what the parade was for or what it was celebrating, it was Memorial Day in the States but we were clueless as to what this was about. The following day we tried to go to the bank and nothing was open, it was only then it registered that the parade was celebrating a Thai and/or Buddhist holiday.