Hit And Miss


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, February 06, 2005 was originally posted on February 12, 2005.

DAY 477:  “I charred my back and need 1 day to rest it on a moto. smile” Noelle wrote on a note for me to read the day before when she arrived at our room before I did.  While I was off rock climbing, she had gone diving and sat out on the upper deck during her surface intervals for too long, and when I saw her I saw the result:  her back had cooked red like lobster.

ACCORDING TO THE GUYS AT PHRA NANG DIVERS, Noelle’s Ao Nang dive shop of choice, we didn’t have to book a snorkel boat tour for a day of R&R; good snorkeling could be done off the shore of Tup Kaek Beach, about 20 km. away from Ao Nang.  Getting there was half the fun — at least for me — because we got there with a motorbike we rented for $4 all day.

Knowing that I had braved the crazy motorbike traffic of Hanoi, Noelle trusted me at the helm of the motorbike that we rented from J. Mansion, just across the way.  “You know how to ride?” asked the owner.

“Yeah,” I replied with confidence — but soon the engine was on and the bike out of my control. 

“Back brake, front brake,” he pointed out.  Oh right.  Brakes.  They stop the bike from crashing into things.  The owner looked a bit concerned turning the bike over to me while Noelle looked pretty terrified.

“Didn’t you read [the entry] in the Philippines when I almost crashed into a vending stall?” I asked her.

“Uh, no.” 

The owner gave me a quick refresher on how to operate the bike (without crashing it) and had me drive around as a sort of test to see if I could handle it.  I passed and he smiled.  A reluctant Noelle hopped on the back and soon we were off.

MY INHERENT NEED FOR SPEED resurfaced in my mind and soon I zipped us to the nearest gas station so that I could really crank it on a less empty tank.  I almost swerved out of control when I made a big U-turn into the station to get near the pump.  Noelle wasn’t the least bit impressed.

“You wanna wear the helmet [stored under the seat]?” I asked.

“Actually, yes.”

The helmet was probably a good idea because soon we were off on the countryside roads at close to 90 km/hr (about 55 mph), which doesn’t sound like much, but is when you’re on a little motorbike made of aluminum and plastic.  It probably didn’t instill any more confidence in Noelle every time I mentioned that I really had the urge to find a ramp and jump over a car like I had done numerous times in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. 

“I’m going to kick your ass,” Noelle said from the back, holding on for her life.  “It’s not a race!”

I slowed down to a normal speed — until another motorbike passed me from the right.  “But that guy’s going so much faster than me!”  I revved up the throttle to about 100 km/hr, yelping like an idiot and passed him.  If there was a ramp, I’m sure we would have gotten some hang-time.

ONE HEART ATTACK LATER, we arrived on the secluded Tup Kaek Beach where no one was around but the construction workers in the back working on building new resorts.  “I think I see the reef,” Noelle said, pointing to the dark blue patch in the turquoise waters.  We geared up in the snorkel gear we borrowed for free from Phra Nang Divers and went in — but found nothing but dead coral, killed from the Asian Tsunami of 2004.

“He said [it’s beyond the dead coral],” Noelle said.  We search some more, but couldn’t really see far with all the silt in the mix. 

“Is this [the right place]?” I asked.

“Well, he said it was near the Sheraton.”  (We were near the Sheraton, but could have been closer.)

“Even if we found it, we wouldn’t be able to see it [with all the silt.]”  Looked like the guys at Phra Nang led us to a miss.

We head over back towards the Sheraton and found a small road that led to another resort by a rocky beach.  The guy there said the reef was just off the coast and so we parked to gear up.  However, the bike was around the bend and out of sight, and with some questionable guys lingering near it, I felt uneasy about leaving it there.

“There are people lingering by the bike,” I reported to Noelle. 

“Do you want to move it?” she said.  “You didn’t get halfway around the world if you didn’t trust your instincts.”


Eventually I found a safer-looking road closer to the Sheraton that led to a small beachfront restaurant with a parking lot, the perfect place to keep the bike parked with more confidence while sipping on yummy pina coladas.  Nearby there was a baby elephant swimming in the water with an owner or trainer around a crowd of tourists (picture above).  I asked about three times what it was doing there, but no one gave me an answer. 

Noelle and I geared up again to look for the supposed reef mentioned by Phra Nang Divers.  Snorkeling around, we found the visibility to be a tad better (but not by much), but again, we saw mostly only dead coral and the occasional fish.  It wasn’t completely dead; there were some areas of living coral and a few clownfish swimming amidst them, but mostly, the site didn’t live up to the hype.

“At least we found Nemo,” Noelle said, looking on the bright side.

“And Dumbo.”

“Because of the snorkel?”

“Uh, no, because of the elephant.”

“Oh right.  Sometimes I’m blonde,” she said — it was one of her catch phrases.

The afternoon excursion of diving was sort of a letdown, but speeding back to Ao Nang at 100 km/hr more than made up for it.

REDEMPTION FOR THE GUYS AT PHRA NANG DIVERS came when we took their advice to eat at a seafood restaurant out of town, a place easily accessible with our rental motorbike, even at speeds slower than 100 km/hr.  Their directions led us out of town along a dark road (even with the stars out), but we eventually found the place with the headlights on.  The place was a great find as it served real Thai food at real Thai prices for primarily real Thai people (as opposed to me).  In fact, it was so off the tourist area that the name of the place had no English name, nor was the menu in English.  (We just knew to look for the “one with the green awning.”)  Fortunately our waiter knew some English and instructed us to simply point to any of the fresh seafood sitting in bins nearby and tell him how to prepare it.

We pointed to prawns, crabs, clams, and mussels and asked for green curry, yellow curry, red curry, and ginger (respectively).  Soon the live seafood went from this, to this, and eventually to this — and all for about the third the cost of any place in town. 

“This is the best Thai food I’ve had in Thailand,” I said.  The Green Awning Restaurant With No English Name was a definite hit in my book, and the suggestions of Phra Nang Divers had been redeemed (so here’s a plug).  The only thing that could have topped the yummy seafood feast that night would have been to rev the motorbike up a ramp and over a car on the way back to Ao Nang.  Man, that would have been sweet — provided we landed safely of course.


Next entry: Superday

Previous entry: The Cliffs Men

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Comments for “Hit And Miss”

  • Yes, I’m still going to kick your ass!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  12:03 PM


    Keep the RSVPs coming… I KNOW there are more out there that will most likely show up… get your heads counted!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  12:04 PM

  • Noelle:  You are very brave. LOL Next time you drive!  That is, if there is a next time.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  01:31 PM

  • That food looks so yummy. I think I’m going to have to eat Thai food for dinner!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  03:33 PM

  • Erik TGT: Arrr, we making our best effort to get there matey.  We be RSVPing as soon as we are sure.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  09:06 PM

  • I wasn’t sure what the last “this” picture was going to show.  Im kinda disappointed. grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  10:00 PM

  • TJW: I was a bit leary to click on that last link too. Our host has that sneaky habit of posting poo-pics. Thank heavens it was just the picked-over-plates! Phew.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/11  at  11:28 PM

  • Erik - be careful on the motorbikes :(  Lots of ppl die in Thailand in motorcycle accidents

    Posted by Liz  on  02/12  at  10:36 AM

  • i’m sure you’ll have fun playing the latest GTA when you get back…. (ummm i don’t have it tho)...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/13  at  06:06 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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