Boom Boom Boom (Richard Marx in Our Room)

If I were ever tortured, my captors would break me by playing the morning music from the elementary school next door.

— Dan, after the fifth straight day of waking up at 7:15 AM to enjoy a 45-minute syrupy Thai musical loop resembling “It’s a Small World After All” followed by a live, 15-minute booming drum and bass cadence used to drive a herd of students to their seats.

For the second year in a row we’ve returned to the town of Krabi, one of our favorite southern Thai venues, for a little Krabi-style eating, catch-up and beach time.

What’s changed in Krabi since last year?

1. School’s in Session

On our first morning in Krabi, Dan jumped out of bed – camera ready – thinking there was a Chinese New Year parade taking place outside.

Happy Family - Krabi, Thailand
A Thai family at the night market in Krabi.

No, there was no Chinese New Year parade. We learned the hard way that school happens to be in session this time of year. The elementary school next door chooses to start each school day (including Saturday) in the manner described at the top of this post. Bizarre and mind-numbing. Truly.

If that’s not enough, the afternoon sometimes features Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” wailing through the loudspeakers. How this is relevant to a bunch of elementary school children is beyond us.

We’ve asked others if all this constitutes standard practice at Thai schools. Fortunately – for the Thais and the rest of the planet – the answer is “No.” It’s only coincidence that our favorite place to chill out and catch up happens to be adjacent to some kind of twisted experiment in primary education.

“Why not change guest houses?” you ask? Good Dream Guesthouse works for us on every other front that a marching band alarm clock every morning can’t drive us away.

Last time we visited Krabi (April 2007), we weren’t even aware of the school next door. Local schools were on break then, in observance of Songkran (Thai New Year and Water Festival).

Note to selves: Next visit to Krabi must coincide with a break in the school year.

2. Real Men Make Roti

Thai Roti - Krabi, Thailand
Roti and curry on the streets of Krabi. Yum!!

Another item on our “dreaming of eating in Krabi” list: roti at the Muslim Restaurant on Prudsa Uthit Road. Think of roti as a Malaysian pancake or crepe. Although we have yet to visit Malaysia (we head there tomorrow), we find it hard to believe that the roti there could be any better, but we remain open-minded.

We were dismayed to find that the daughter who shepherded our previous roti experiences wasn’t around. Half our fun here consisted of watching her work the dough, fry the roti and pound the finished product in cloth to remove any excess oil. We console ourselves with the thought that she’s probably in school getting an education.

Her mother and father took her place. Particularly with the father, we were skeptical. But, it turns out that the roti-making gene was passed down through the generations. Although the energy of the father’s roti-making method did not quite measure up to his daughter’s, his result was similarly good.

3. Soup’s On, But It Moved

So our favorite soup stand moved.

“Big deal,” you say.

Kanom Jeem soup - Krabi, Thailand
Khanom jeen soup and a fantastic selection of condiments. Krabi.

Fair enough perhaps, but khanom jeen (or kanom jeen) is not your mother’s chicken soup. Made from a light curried fish reduction, fresh vermicelli noodles and an optional dollop of sweet peanut soup – and served with a trayful of fresh and pickled vegetables – it’s still one of the simplest and finest soup experiences we’ve ever known.

So perhaps now you understand our worry when we learned that the owners of the soup stand were given the boot by their sidewalk landlord. The stand was nowhere to be found during Chinese New Year. Luckily, it was just taking a break for the holidays. The soup ladies are back in action on Krabi’s main street (Maharat #111) in front of a jewelry shop and next to Pornprasert Pharmacy on the corner of Maharat Soi #10.

This time we tried some of their fish cakes steamed in banana leaves. A little too much on the gelatinous side for Audrey’s texture preferences, but the taste was spot on – fresh fish and a bit of coconut milk with a mild zip to balance things out.

4. New Breakfast Joints

Due to a motorbike accident, Good Dream’s breakfast cook was unavailable for a week. So we ventured out a bit more than usual in order to keep from starving. Here’s what we found:

Relax Cafe on Chaofa Road (at the corner of Uttarakit Road): An extensive breakfast menu with all the basics (eggs and toast), egg on croissant sandwich, and new to us, Welsh rarebit. Their version features an open-faced ciabatta sandwich with egg, cheese and mustard and optionals like mushrooms. All very good. Lattes and cappuccinos are the best in town. If you go later in the day, the tuna melt and chicken satay sandwiches on ciabatta bread do well to fill any western traveler’s craving for an authentic sandwich.

89 Cafe on Chaofa Road (up the hill from the corner with Uttarakit Road): We don’t know what yogurt or muesli brands they are using, but it definitely works. The best in town. The drip coffee is pretty good for big-cup coffee and the American Breakfast (eggs, toast, meat, juice, coffee) is similarly a good deal.

5. New Favorites at Good Dream Guesthouse:

Thai Red Curry Squid with Rice - Krabi, Thailand
Perfect squid red curry at Good Dream Guesthouse in Krabi.
  • Red curry fried rice: More of a dry curry than a coconut milk-based curry, it’s served with a hearty portion of rice (50-60 Baht). Although a bit more expensive than the night market, dry curries here are chock-full of meat (whichever you choose – we prefer the tender squid), or you can go vegetarian if you like. Red curry is our favorite. If you’d like to pull back on the spice, go for the green curry.
  • Indian curry: Made with coconut milk like other Thai curries, the Indian-style curry features red curry paste as a base, but adds a dose of yellow curry powder (that’s a guess) to set it apart from the other local curries.

Some Things Don’t Change

Shrimp and Long Beans Curry - Krabi, Thailand
Shrimp and long bean curry at Krabi’s night market.
  • The night market on Maharat Soi 10 is still a Thai curry fiend’s dream and features more than 50 curry choices in the span of 20 meters. Our favorite market curries still include shrimp and long bean, greens and taro in coconut milk, and Penang pork. The price is the same: 25-40 Baht ($0.80-$1.30) for a plate of rice with two types of curry on top. Finish off your meal with a tray of sweet papaya (10 Baht/$0.30) or mango and sticky rice (25 Baht/$0.80).
  • Viva Restaurant on 29 Prudsa Uthit Road still churns out authentic pizzas from a wood-fired oven and home-made pastas (tagliatelle and ravioli). It retains the prize for the best Italian food in town. Yes, we’ve tasted some of the others (Bolero and Firenze), but Viva still easily comes out on top.

Photo Essay: Southern Thailand

Krabi Travel Information: Accommodation, Food and Transport

  • How to get there: We flew Air Asia from Bangkok to Krabi (about 1 hour). Taxes and fuel surcharges are often the same price as or more than the ticket. We paid around $50 per person for a one-way ticket, including taxes. Watch your stuff at airport security in Bangkok.
  • Transport from Krabi airport: Once you arrive at Krabi airport, you have the choice of a taxi (around 360 Baht) or a bus (90 Baht per person). While the bus from the Krabi airport to Krabi town is cheaper per person, it drops you off on Chaofa Road away from the center of town where several men are waiting to “help” you make reservations at over-priced guesthouses where they have connections. If you already have a reservation, they will drop you off – rather begrudgingly – at the guesthouse of your choice, but they will continue their sales pitch for other guesthouses until the end. Don’t be surprised if they feign both hearing loss and short-term memory loss and ask you repeatedly where you are staying. This is a scam – the Krabi taxi scam – and is a direct result of the Krabi taxi mafia’s corrupt grip on the Krabi airport and the government officials who dole out permits to operate there. Our recommendation: find yourself some people to fill a taxi and split the cost. Per person, the cost will be the same as the bus, but you’ll avoid extra time and frustration.
  • Where to stay: We were welcomed back to Good Dream Guesthouse by owner Bryan Rilinger. The rooms are still a good deal and an additional wi-fi router/repeater means that all air-con rooms downstairs (450 Baht/$14) now get a strong wi-fi signal. The atmosphere and food are as relaxed and pleasant as ever. Address: 83 Uttarakit Road, email: krabidream@gmail.com, phone: 075 622993
  • Where to eat: Krabi knows no shortage of excellent eating options. See above and our previous post, Krabi’s Cheap and Divine Eats.
  • What to do: Check out the nearby beaches and enjoy the laid back atmosphere of Krabi town.

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Comments

  1. Pete De Ritter says

    Dear Audrey and Dan,
    Heard you were going to Malaysia. I didn’t know much about Malaysia so I thought I would do some research. You should be in for some taste treats there. Cuisine looks very interesting and varied.
    I found some places I would go to if I weren’t confined to the Lazy Boy temporarily. Since you guys are my proxy travelers I thought I’d send them to you. It covers a lot of ground so it probably won’t be possible to see them all and your taste in destinations may be different than mine but here they are anyway.
    Points of interest in Malaysia
    Peninsular Malaysia
    Perlis
    Kelam Cave
    Kedah
    Pekan Rabu Market – Alor Star city center
    Perak
    Kellie’s Castle – The castle is situated on the way to Batu Gajah town at the Kinta Kellas Rubber Estate, about a 30-minute drive and 14 km south of Ipoh City.
    Sam Poh Tong Temple – located in Gunung Rapat, just 5km south of Ipoh.
    Belum Forest Preserve
    Selangor
    Batu Caves – 15km north of Kuala Lumpur
    Blue Mosque – in Shah Alam – locally known as Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.
    Kuala Lumpur
    Many things to see
    Pahang
    Kenong Rimba Park – The jump-off town to Kenong Rimba Park is Kuala Lipis.
    Taman Negara National Park – Kuala Tembeling – the jump off point for the park – is also accessible from Kuala Lumpur
    Melaka
    St. John’s Fort
    St. Paul’s Hill (A’Famosa)
    St. Peter’s Church
    Terenggano
    Pasar Payang Market – a variety of traditional handicrafts such as batik, silk, songket, brocade and brassware, as well as fresh produce – try a special local delicacy called Keropok Lekor
    Many beaches along the coast
    Johar
    Gunung Ledang/ Mount Ophir – Tangkak, about 16km away.
    Many nice beaches along the coast
    Eastern Malaysia
    Sarawak
    Bako National Park – Petra Jaya Bus No.6 and regular minibuses go from Kuching to Kampung Bako
    Jalan Satok Sunday Market
    Matang Wildlife Centre – about 30km from Kuching City
    Niah National Park (Caves) – accessible by road from Miri or Bintulu
    Sarawak Cultural Village – Located at Pantai Damai, Santubong, just 32km from the state capital, Kuching
    Sabah
    ***There is a travel warning for Sabah***
    Batu Punggul Pinnacle
    Danum Valley
    Kinabalu Park – Mt. Kinabalu
    Have fun,
    Pete

  2. Bryan Rilinger says

    Wow! I couldn’t agree with you more about the comments about Krabi in general, great writing! I agree with your comments about Good Dream being the “best in the biz” but I might be considered to be a bit biased.

    Hope all goes well guys! Great seeing you again

    Bry

  3. Sirje Ehrenpreis says

    Dear Dan and Audrey,
    I read your writings with intrest. Since I havent’t eaten for a long time- I have to go to the kitchen after such a mouthwatering description of different foods. Good luck!
    Sirje

  4. says

    Pete: Thanks for the research and long list of worthwhile spots to see in Malaysia. It looks like the bureaucracy around our visas to India will keep us here longer than expected, so we may get to see more than we originally hoped. Hope the recovery is going well!

    Bryan: While we don’t miss the marching band wake-up each morning, we do miss Krabi already. We’ve spent the last few mornings looking around for a decent cup of coffee and breakfast. Your input on Good Dream is a biased, but you do run a good business there. Who knows when we’ll show up on your doorstep next!

    Sirje: Tere! I hope you found some good food in your kitchen! Krabi does have some of the best food…anywhere! I’m so glad you are still enjoying our writings and hope you and your family are doing well!

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