Destination: Thailand! As Usual, It's Not Exactly What We Expected

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Michael and I have arrived in Thailand!

This is the fifth major stop on our ongoing “digital nomad” journey (after Miami, Florida; Birgu, Malta; Matera, Italy; and Bansko, Bulgaria — with shorts stops in lots of other cities along the way).

For several months, we’ll be staying on Koh Lanta, which is two connected islands almost a thousand kilometers south of Bangkok, not too far from Phuket (“Koh” means “island” in Thai). It was a bit of a challenge getting here from Seattle (three flights, four cab rides, and a ferry).

And right away, there were things we loved, and things we weren’t so crazy about.

Take, for example, the main road down the island. In some places, it’s pretty dumpy. This is probably the worst section, which is in the middle of serious construction:

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But we’ve learned previously not to judge anyplace too quickly, because locations aren’t always what they seem to be at first. In fact, we now have a “Three Day Rule” before we render any verdict at all.

And sure enough, once we’d settled into our lodging, we went to explore the beach (about two hundred meters away), and found that the action isn’t along that main road, but rather along the beach, which includes a string of lovely waterfront restaurants, bars, foodstands, and open-air massage parlors — all lit by colorful fairylights starting at dusk.

It is, in a word, charming!

There were other annoyances, of course. We had arranged to stay in a hotel for three nights while we tracked down more permanent lodging, but it turned out that most places didn’t do long-term lodging in the “high season” of January and February — or they were already booked up. After a bit of a panic, we finally found a place, but ended up paying more than we wanted ($850/month US), though we’re moving to a cheaper (and much nicer) place in thirty days ($550/month).

Meanwhile, you also can’t drink the tap water, there are no public trashcans anywhere, and some Thai toilets…well, that’s probably the subject of another post.

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That said, the Thai people are lovely, and unbelievably friendly. Most of Thailand practices Buddhism or Hindism, but Koh Lanta happens to have a very large Muslim population, and it’s fun to see the women zipping by on their scooters with their hijabs flowing out behind them. (We’re less crazy about the mosque next door that broadcasts the call to prayer over a loudspeaker at five frickin’ AM!)

Best of all is the food! It’s obviously what Thailand is most famous for in the west, but it must be said: Thai cooking is simply much, much better here than anywhere else I’ve eaten it. Why is this? Have the recipes been altered for (foolish) Western tastes? Or do all the mediocre cooks leave the country because they can’t cut it here?

There’s also nothing quite as good as fresh mango and pineapple for breakfast every morning.

I always hate to dwell on the cost of living in poorer countries, because what seems “cheap” to me isn’t inexpensive to most of those who live here. Still, it must be said: meals in Thailand are even cheaper than they were in Bulgaria. You can easily eat a large meal of fantastic street food for $2 a person. In a nicer restaurant, it might be a bit more expensive — maybe $6 or $7. The aforementioned mango or pineapple is $1 or less for a whole one, cut fresh for you by the vendor selling it.

And did I mention how amazing the food is?

We’re also very happy with the co-working facility, KoHub, an impressive complex that includes both outdoor and (air-conditioned) indoor working spaces; a large jungle garden for walking and pondering; and a restaurant that serves meals either at your workspace or in the cafe or garden.

Oh! And I’ve already made lots of feline friends, including one that shares my work-station! Thai cats are as friendly as their keepers.

I’m sure we’ll have other Thailand updates soon.

But for now, Michael and I are off to the beach for a twilight swim in the ocean, then a simple dinner of Pad Thai from a little stand just up in the trees.

Update: Here it is, below! Extremely yummy, and not just because it’s surrounded by Thailand at sunset.

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