Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Koh Yao Island - Day Six - A Day Away from "Kill Me Now"

Having been guests of the Paradise previously, we planned our activities while on Koh Yao accordingly. The kayaking trip through the sea caves? Did it in 2004. Rock climbing in Krabi? Save it for the next trip. With our history on the island and the probability of us returning a third time already being sorted out in detail[1], we made the bold decision to do absolutely nothing all day.

Doing absolutely nothing sounds leisurely but takes a lot of sudden planning. It starts with the question of getting out of bed. Do we or don’t we? The desire to get early morning photos got our butts hustling by seven. Swimming followed, breakfast was had (coconut jam, oh glorious coconut jam) and we were back to our villa by nine. The next question we encountered was, “How many provisions do we truly need when our villa is just 40 meters away?” We decided on a lot and packed the beach bag full with four different sunscreens, two ipods, four books, one dominoes set, two headbands, four towels, one beach blanket, two travel journals and pens, Cubans, a pit viper and an array of fruit. You can never be too prepared.

Once set up on the beach, perfectly situated under a flowering frangipani tree, we headed off to the other side of the cove for some beach exploration. From the boat, we had spotted a nice beach and were determined to bushwhack our way over there. After climbing over painful limestone, we decided to have a go in the deep tide waters. As we were standing there, talking about our game plan, a large blue crab[2] found interest in David’s exposed toes. Waggling in his flip flop, his big toe looked to be a tasty meal to the crab and he started to sneak closer and closer. My instinct, of course, was to pick up the camera. I told David to waggle his toe a bit more. He said, “But the crab will attack me!” By this time, the crab wasn’t just scoping out his toe…he had his arms stretched wide ready to wield his claws. Being the loving wife, I answered “Don’t be ridiculous! The crab won’t attack you!” while I positioned myself with my finger on the camera trigger to catch the attack going down. Ever trusting of me, David waggled his toes. Sure enough, the crab made a sudden fast movement toward David who was, fortunately, a millisecond quicker than the crab. He had yanked his foot out of his flip flop, leaving the crab with nothing but a clawful of rubber. We shook the crab off of his shoe and watched it immediately attack a sea snail. After watching in awe while the crab devoured the snail, we decided that it was just too dangerous to continue on. This turf belonged to the crabs.

Back at our beach post, we read, we swam, we read, we swam and we were looking for something better to do by 11:30. I was able to schedule a Thai massage for four but needed a change of pace in the meantime. When in doubt, eat. We headed off to the beachside restaurant for a light lunch...fresh ahi sashimi and two orders of prawn caesar salad. The sashimi was perfect, the salads were tasty, but it was all upstaged by the appearance of Man, our dear island friend. He presented us with a baggie of yam thale rod ded, a spicy salad made with prawns, mussels, crab, and squid. His mother-in-law, known as the best cook on the island, had heard that we were looking for some truly spicy food and sent Man off with her famous salad and an invitation to come over to lunch the following day. Lunch at Man’s house? We couldn’t believe our luck. What a cultural opportunity this would be.

While we entertained ideas of the food we’d be served the next day, we dug into our initial sampling. The ingredients had been pulled out of the water that morning from Man’s very own fish farm. As we were eating it, staff members kept coming over to make yummy noises and to ask if it came from Man’s mom. When we would affirm, they would respond with “pet chin chin”, the ultimate in spiciness. We agreed. Covered in a green chili sauce with liberal additions of red chilis, the salad was definitely pet chin chin. Every single last bit of it went into our stomachs. If we had been alone, I would have licked the plate.

Back at the beach, it was time to head in for a swim before tide went out. A half hour later and it was gone, leaving some very fresh tide pools to explore. While David went back to the villa to grab the camera, I headed into the murky sand to find starfish. Boy, did I ever find them! By the time that David came back to the tide pools, he found me reclining on my elbows with starfish lined up from my belly to my toes. Big ones, little tiny baby ones, ones missing a leg, ones missing two legs, all difficult models. Those things can move. Frankly, that was half the fun, lying there while starfish crawled off my body. It’s like feeling all the legs of a millipede only way less grody. We crowned me “Natalie, Queen of Starfish”.

When the afternoon rolled around, we moved our operation to our pool. With no tide, we wanted to be able to take a quick dip. Both of us plopped into our recliners with books to enjoy some peace and quiet. Right then, two German women encroached on our turf. They started walking up our private beach with inquisitive looks on their faces. Once I spotted what they were looking at, I yelled “Grab the camera!” to David as I went to check out the monitor lizard that had walked onto our property. He was a beauty at about three feet long. The property manager had informed us that a five meter one lived in the next bay over…the way the little one looked at me did not make me want to venture over for a look at the large one. His eyes said, “I’m calm now, but one wrong move and I’ll thrash your leg with my tail and make you cry like a little girl.”

Just as I was about to hop in the pool, I realized that I had a Thai massage appointment to go to. I ran down to the spa pavilion and changed into my sarong in record time. I had spent the day mentally prepared myself for a dismal Thai massage experience. In 2004, I had the worst Thai massage of my life at this very location. It was like a terrible Swedish massage with clothes on, not the tugging, stretching, kneading experience that it should be. Brethney had tried it the previous day and stated that she kept having to tell the girl “harder” but finally got what she was looking for. As Brethney’s previous Thai massage experience had been done by a Russian woman in a Slovakian spa retreat, I quickly ascertained that she didn’t have any idea what Thai massage was supposed to be like. No matter how many times I asked “harder”, “firmer”, or “deeper”, it just didn’t come through and I found myself thinking about balancing my checkbook. You know that it is a terrible massage when you find contemplating finances more relaxing. Her actions were slightly redeemed by a proper Thai back-cracking at the end but I was ever so happy to come back to the villa to find David poolside with two pineapple juices with coconut rum awaiting my return. As we had picked up pineapple juice and Malibu rum in town a few days previous, he kept them coming, complete with pineapple wedges and orchids. Note - do not leave a fruity drink at ground level. The next sip you take may be filled with ants.

We headed over to dinner later than usual; the place was packed when we arrived. It was seafood buffet night. Or, in Natalie’s world, everything right in the world on a plate. Give me seafood for any meal every day and I will be eternally happy. A large boat sat at the very end. It contained quite the arrangement of seafood. Entire fish, some measuring three feet long, were laid out on the ice with rainbow lobsters, giant oysters larger than my fist, huge tiger prawns, blue crab, squid and other assorted sea creatures. Ma laughed when we put in our order: two giant oysters, one rainbow lobster, squid, and one entire fish. We snacked on steamed mussels, sucked down the oysters for hordes oeuvres, devoured every last bit of the fish and sucked the lobster dry. After we finished that round, we ordered another lobster. All of that for less than dinner for two at Bambara.

We visited with the Gokce’s afterward, getting tips from them on how to dress for lunch with a Muslim family the next day. I settled on a long skirt and a wispy long sleeved shirt. David opted for linen pants and a short sleeved linen shirt. With our hosts being Thai Muslims, we didn’t need to worry too much about modesty but erred on the side of caution anyway in a desire to be respectful to their home. Back in our villa, we couldn’t fall asleep. It was like we were going to Disneyland the following day. What was it like in a Thai home? What sort of deliciousness would we be served? What is Man’s wife like? Most of all, we were thinking, “Wow. What an honor this will be.” We couldn’t wait for the following day.

[1] Probability of Return: A wise Swedish woman on our trip gave us the wicked idea of giving birth in Krabi. The company would basically pay you to take a post-partum holiday. They say that it takes a village to raise a child…with a large network of support on Koh Yao, we would feel comfortable handing over our newborn to Ma or her family, Man’s family, or any of the staff members for a few hours while we could recover from baby. Babies are most precious in Thailand…Islands seem to have strong baby communities as well. While it’s a splendid thought, I figure that we will go back multiple times in our life anyway. Plus, that just may be to Brangelina.
[2] Large Blue Crab: There really are no large blue crabs. They’re all just so adorable…yet so aggressive!

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