Day 84: Roast Crickets & The Cargo Ship
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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Where I stayed
Surat Thani>Ko Samui Night Ferry
The ferry ride was pleasant enough but arrived in Krabi too late to catch a cross-isthmus bus to the other coast. Geographical lesson: Thailand has two main island paradise coasts: the Andaman Sea, home to Phi Phi, Phuket, and "007 Island," and the Gulf of Thailand coast to the east, home of our next destination. It's about a two hour drive to cross the countryside and travel between the two. With no buses left (the guidebook didn't mention a 4pm cutoff time, but it was something we should've thought to check regardless) and the only available share taxis filled, we were forced to hire a private ride at excessive cost to our wallets, $30 per head. Still, the driver was a pleasant man and his brand new air-con pickup with leather seating was a welcome change from the butt-destroying chicken buses, especially considering our battered condition. The Krabi Province countryside we drove through was like something out of an ancient Chinese painting, covered in light jungle with towering limestone facades all around. A few of these rock formations had temples on top. About an hour in the landscape flattened and gave way to endless rice patties, and an hour later we pulled in to Surat Thani. Surat Thani is the eastern coast equivalent of Krabi, a coastal fishing town of pleasant but unremarkable order from which most ferries to the islands leave.
We were dropped off at the night-ferry pier, where at 11pm three identical overnight boats would depart for Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, and Ko Tao respectively. These were "cargo ships, not luxury liners. Bring plenty of repellent an watch your bags," Lonely Planet warned. They were already docked and being stocked with freight so we just went ahead and purchased our tickets. As our rucksacks contained nothing but heavy loads of dirty laundry by this point, we went against the book's advice and left them on our bunks inside. "Our bunks" = sections 21 and 22 of one long, gigantic cushion stretched out across the side of the boat's upper deck. We wouldn't be sleeping on metal containers or sacks of vegetables as the book implied but the Spartan-ness of it all was still funny. With four hours to kill we wandered out into town in search of the main night market. Every Southeast Asian town/city has at least one night market, and they're always great time killers and people watching spots. This particular one mostly just sold food, so Jeff and I parted ways briefly to seek out nourishment. He was looking for apparently delicious oyster omelette's, a dish that was both exceedingly unkosher and due to containing shellfish were firmly in the "high risk of food poisoning" category. I applauded his kahones but settled for some simple pad Thai myself. Now, speaking of unkosher though... upon meeting back up, we passed an old lady selling roast insects in bulk:
"I'll eat a cricket if you will," I half joked.
"Okay, sure!" came Jeff's too serious response.
He asked the lady how much three crickets would cost, but since she was selling them bulk she just gave them to us for free. Thus followed a painful half hour in which Jeff, calling my bluff, would not leave me alone until I ate one of his roast crickets. He tossed one into his mouth and sat me down on a curb so that I could eat mine comfortably. After a great deal of teasing, and some funny pictures, I tossed one of the remaining two into my mouth. "They're a good source of protein, just keep telling yourself that..." When else would I get the chance to eat cricket, I figured. It was pleasantly crunchy and cracker-like. The legs felt a bit creepy rubbing up against one's tongue, but other than that there was nothing gross about it. Rushing to get the experience overwith, I swallowed my bug before I'd adequately chewed it, so I could almost say "I ate a roast cricket WHOLE!" Don't eat them whole.
Back at the dock we were accosted by the creepiest drunken homeless man who thought that caressing my knee would be a good enticement for me to give him my beer. He was mistaken. We then snickered at the Australians whose table he sat down at after we fled the scene, but were surprised to see some locals give him change. Giving change to beggars is much more common here than it is in America, probably due to the lack of adequate government safety nets for the mentally ill/crippled/disabled/unemployed to fall back on. Or something political like that. The spartan cargo ferry made for a surprisingly cozy and mosquito free night of sleep, and we arrived in Ko Samui the next morning without incident. There was an evil fluorescent light above our bunk but I was so tired that it didn't bother me much.
Food Poisonings = Zero
Bizarre Food Eaten = 1 Roast Cricket
Pad Thai = Starting to get sick of it
Green Curry = Could never get sick of this
Wallet = 100% depleted, borrowing cash from Jeff for remainder of trip
Quote of the Night =
"Mmm, tastes like seaweed." - Jeff re: cricket