Firstly I guess I should give some background information pertaining to the title of this blog. Queen Niung was a famous ancient Chinese queen, somehow her name evolved into the modern day term for girly, or sissy, niung niung. About halfway through last semester Micheal’s kindergarten class started to say “Mr. Micheal so niung niung”, keep in mind these students are four and five years old. We didn’t give it to him as an official nickname until I was given one to match, and they just fit so well together, it became us. “Pung Pung” means chubby or fatty. The day I returned to work after our Thailand vacation one of my kindergarteners ran up to me and slapped me in the stomach saying “Ms. Colleen pung-pung” and ran away without so much as a standard “Good afternoon Ms. Colleen”. Henceforth, we became Niung Niung and Pung Pung.
So this is the story of our second week in Thailand and how we got stuck in the Russian Mafia’s Retiree vacation hot spot and all that followed.
We left Bangkok in a mad rush on Saturday afternoon, trying to get out before any trouble started before the Sunday elections. We couldn’t find anywhere around the national park that would take us or anything on Ko Samet where we had a hostel booked a few days later. So we were stuck and booked the cheapest hotel we could find in Rayong, a small city on the mainland across from Ko Samet island.
Getting there was a nightmare. We went to the Bangkok airport (my second time there that morning), and got a shuttle to the transportation center where we were supposed to get a bus to Rayong directly. However the service directly to Rayong was closed that day, so instead we had to take a bus to Pattaya, then a minibus from there to Rayong. So we got on the bus to Pattaya, guess where the first stop was? The Bangkok airport. It took two hours to get to Pattaya where we were hurried off the bus at what looked like a city bus stop on the main road, and then escorted almost immediately into a minibus. The minibus ride took another two hours, and we thought we were there. Not so lucky, the hotel according to our bus driver was another 50k outside of the city itself and would cost another 500 bhat each to get to. We had no choice but to pay her and let her take us. After a full day of travel for what should have been about a three hour journey we arrived at our hotel around 7PM. Still too wary of Thai food we got pizza at the place next door and went to bed early.
Thailand’s version of western pizza is much much better than Taiwan’s I have to admit, but their “American Breakfast” is a little off kilter. Not only in Rayong but each free breakfast we had that called itself “American” was a fried egg, a piece of that thick gross Texas toast, fake jelly, fake butter, and two little hotdogs, which of course I never ate. Oh, and Nescafe, it made me really appreciative that the Taiwanese have at least heard of real coffee.
Our three days in Rayong consisted of “American Breakfast”, beach all day, then any kind of food that wasn’t Thai for dinner. The beach looked like a lakeside state park beach to me. Mostly trees leading up to a small strip of beach where you could rent a chair and umbrella for 50 Bhat. Once I was told you had to pay I got up and layed down in the sand directly in front of the chair with all my things. I don’t think the owner liked that too much but couldn’t do anything about it. It would have been fine, a little dull, but fine if we weren’t surrounded only by middle aged Russians. I’m not racist, maybe it was too much American breakfast,or that I read too much Ayan Rand as a teenager, but something about their presence did not feel right to me.
The last day their we figure out how to get to Ko Samet and took the ferry there for the day. Though Ko Samet is a national park it is as equally touristy as Bangkok and Pattaya. We sat on the beach all day and watched people. I got into taking pictures of couples taking model shots of each other to amuse myself.
The only Thai people I saw were those working, and by working I mean hanging around socializing. Everywhere I saw in Thailand no one really seemed in a hurry to get anything done, especially bringing your check at a restaurant. Every other person I saw was a tourist, not like Ko Chang where clearly there were a lot of local ex-pats and Thai’s who made a little community. As the sun started to sink the restaurants on the main beach would drag out tables and chairs to the shore line so that by around 6PM almost every inch of the beach was covered.
The next day we got up and retraced our steps and got to our hostel around noon. Instead of sitting on the beach the whole day we explored the island. We walked down the coastline and found several more beaches, smaller but less crowded.
After spending the day on the beach we got aloe massages and much needed foot scrubs to go with them. The old woman giving me my massage insisted I get a foot scrub too as soon as she saw my feet, I thought I may as well get them taken care of while someone is actually offering to touch them. We had dinner and tried going out for drinks, it was a similar situation in Ko Chang, a lot of the bars looked like they had the potential to get pretty wild and were all bumping music but no one was there. I never thought I would have to try to party in Thailand, the party is supposed to just be there.
Day two in Ko Samet we went para-sailing in the morning and sat our butts on the beach for the rest of the day. That night while Micheal took a nap I went out and got a mani pedi, the cheapest purchase I made in Thailand by far (150 bhat). We attempted to go out again unsuccessfully.
For our last day we did a speedboat tour around the island. We were crammed into a small boat with a bunch of Chinese tourists and shuffled around all day. We made five stops. Before we got to the first one one of the two kids on the boat threw up all over Micheal’s leg without so much as an apology from her or her parents. On the first island we did a short hike, that lead us to this amazing view….
and we found the coolest cat ever.
The second island we stopped for lunch and did a hike around the island, it was so small we circled the entire island in about 30 minutes.
The third stop was another beach. The fourth was snorkeling. We stopped in between two of the small islands and the captain threw some watermelon rinds in the water and the fish started to swarm around the boat. It was very different from our first snorkeling experience. There were a lot more different kinds of fish and Micheal says he even saw a sting ray, but I was too late to catch it. You had to float as close as you could to the top of the water so you wouldn’t scrape your legs on the coral or the terrifying looking sea urchins! There were anemones and all sorts of sea (gulf) plants I’ve never seen before. It was amazing. If it weren’t for our fellow passengers shrieking in the background and clinging to the rails of the boat in their life jackets it would have been my favorite part of Ko Samet.
That next morning we headed for the final leg of our trip Kai Yai National Park. Little did we know we had quite the journey ahead of us. We left Ko Samet Island on the ferry at noon. Got back to the mainland by one, were on a minibus to the Bangkok airport (again!) by 2:30. After arriving at the aiport around 5, we asked several information counters. From the looks people gave us you would think no one went to this national park, ever. We were instructed to take the skytrain to the MRT to a stop at a bus station. We got to the stop where the bus station was supposedly was and couldn’t find any buses luckily there was a girl there about our age who spoke English and told us that there was a bus station with the same exact name as the stop we were at but in a different location. So we took a taxi to the station with the same name and finally got on a bus at 7pm. We got to the town right outside of the National park, Pak Chong (where our rough guide told us to stay), around 11pm and got a room at the first hotel we saw.
The next morning while enjoying our free “American breakfast”, we were approached by two Germans around our age who were looking for a way to see the park also and were a little lost. We told them our plan to call GreenLeaf Guesthouse that ran tours and provided a place to stay in Pak Chong near the park. We had been in contact with them all week trying to figure out the right date to come but our latest inquiry got no response. We invited them in on our plans. GreenLeaf was full up, so we called every guesthouse/tour company listed in the rough guide until finding room and available tours with Jay’s Jungle Tours. They came to pick the four of us up from the Pak Chong hotel about twenty minutes later.
There first tour of the day wasn’t until 3pm since we already missed the full day tour that started at 8AM. I suppose this is going to have to be a four part installment because I have so much to write about the park I just can’t fit it all in here.