It’s only been a few days, but I’ve already settled into a very comfortable routine here in the Little seaside town of Ao Nang Beach, Thailand.
Let me start by saying that everything is astonishingly affordable in the “land of smiles”. And this fact invariably affects the spending choices you make.
For example, my little bungalow near the beach sets me back a mere $23 a night – so maybe I’ll stay longer. It’s quite basic but, clean, quiet, conveniently located – shops, restaurants, and the beach are just a short stroll away. Add three meals out (with adult drinks) plus an hour massage, and your daily total is easily under $50.
I usually start my day at the restaurant next door with local fresh fruit and yogurt. The pineapple and mango are particularly delectable! But Yesterday I choose to eat like a real local and had rice soup with minced pork (60 bhat, $1.70) and I’ve absolutely no regrets. If you long for bacon, eggs, and toast, no problem! A “western breakfast” is available for $3.40.
But keep in mind, to keep costs down when traveling to a foreign land, eat and drink like the locals. Your spirit of adventure is generally rewarded by a positive and memorable experience!
Next, I head for the protected beach, passing classic colorful Thai “long tail” boats waiting to ferry tourists to the nearby islands for snorkeling/relaxing. The far end of the Beach is framed by a giant limestone karst, rising dramatically from the sea.
Here I swim and dry in the morning sun before it gets too high; prior to needing to apply the dreaded white cream. Today I will bring my mask and snorkel and see what I can find…
Along my short stroll back from the beach, for 50 bhat ($1.40), a tiny dark wrinkled woman uses a machete to chop a hinged opening atop a large green coconut and inserts a straw. So delicious and even cheaper than a small carton of pasteurized Vita Coco back home! Is there a more healthy and delicious way to hydrate and top off electrolytes?
Next, I arrive at the perpetually bustling street food row. Some dozen stalls offer everything from mango crepes cooked in coconut oil, to chicken satay, to charcoal grilled squid with sticky rice ($1.40, $2.00, and $4.50 respectively) and they’re all amazingly delectable. Today I will try a banana crepe for $1.15.
Street food and side-street restaurants are the friends of value travelers. By that I mean better AND cheaper!
The restaurant on my bungalow side-street prepares an excellent seafood Pad Thai for $2.28. Enjoying this meal al fresco, watching international tourists and locals parade by, with a large bottle of beer ($2.57) is a truly an enjoyable experience.
Every tenth or so storefront is a massage parlor – it’s a Thai thing. And considering that an hour massage costs less than a typical massage tip back home, I figure I can’t afford not to get one every day! Having gotten too much sun yesterday (yes, I foolishly refused to retreat as the midday sun made its way around a palm tree) I opted for an aloe vera massage today – delightfully soothing!
The local beer and rum are top notch, and being local, are extremely affordable. Chang is my favorite beer among the several local varieties. SangSom rum is smooth and delightful on its own or mix it with fruit juice from one of the omnipresent 7-11’s.
It’s crazy, but there are actually more 7-11s in tiny Thailand than across the entire USA. And I have a theory for their popularity. The 7-11 colors (red, orange, green) are eerily similar to the colors found at the Royal Palace and temples, and the Thai people absolutely adore their King and are demonstrably religious.
I’m not suggesting conspiracy; the 7-11 corporate colors were established long before venturing overseas. But perhaps the coincidence of colors inadvertently, yet subliminally attracts customers.
Snorkeling off the mainland beach is nothing special, but there are plenty of amazing tiny islands just a half hour boat ride off the coast. A full day excursion to three islands, a buffet lunch, plus fruit and water on board costs only $23. Not bad for world-class snorkeling amongst beautiful islands.
Yes things are quite different over here, however on my way back from the beach the other day, while feeling momentarily alone and out of place, I came upon a sidewalk cafe and stopped dead in my tracks when I heard Bob Dylan asking, “how does it feel to be on your own?” It was an aha moment that made me realize that universal constants exist in the midst of such vast differences.
OK, let’s review the routine:
- fresh fruit
- fresh coconut water
- street food
- beer & rum
- side street restaurants
- seafood, seafood, seafood
- an occasional aha moment
This routine feels so natural and pleasantly unavoidable that resistance would surely be futile.
I happily surrender myself completely!