There was no kettle in the room for hot water and hence, the morning had to begin without a rejuvenating cup of coffee. The room tariff did not include breakfast either. Having decided to hit the streets later than normal I had provided for bread and peanut butter, bought from a 7eleven store. The bread was super soft and the peanut butter crunchy. I sat up and shortlisted 7 places to visit during the day. Problem was the absence of a reliable navigation system. However, the woman at the reception, friendly and English speaking, gave me proper directions to reach the places that lay in three different directions – three to the south, three to the north and one to the east. Despite all the painstaking research and enquires I ended up visiting only the three in the south.
I decided to first explore the Khao Takiab Mountain and beach. I reached it in 15 minutes from the hotel. It is a short diversion from the main southern route 4 to Chumphon. When I reached the mountain side, which I recognised by the tall statue of Buddha facing the sea, I parked the car and walked to the beach. The place was so unremarkable that I had to reconfirm that I was where I thought I was. I asked a person, who looked like a local, if that indeed was the “Monkey Mountain”. He said, “Yes, yes. You see monkeys (pointing to many monkeys frolicking in the shallow part of the sea), see, see. That mountain, you know. So Monkey Mountain”! The Khao Takiab Mountain is also known as the Monkey Mountain for the large number of macaques that have made the temple grounds and a part of the beach their own. In fact, one of the main attractions, when I visited the beach, was to follow the antics of the monkeys in the water. They mimicked the activities of their two legged cousins so much that I wondered if they were humans in disguise. Some swam effortlessly, others jumped from rocks, some shoved others into the water, some had plantains to peel and feed on, a few played pranks on the unsuspecting and some others bullied the smaller ones. They were completely unaffected by people capturing all this on camera. In fact, it looked as if they were putting on a show to be digitised. The small climb up to the temple on the hill gave panoramic views of the beach. After the climb one can relax in one of the many shacks that provide seafood prepared to local taste.
On the way back from Khao Takiab I dropped in at the Cicada Market, which is meant to be an interface between artisans, artists, tourists and students. Cicada means insect in Thai language and it is an acronym for Community of Identity, Culture, Art and Dynamic Activities. The market is only open on three days of the week from Friday to Sunday, and so I missed out. I headed for the Market Village, considered to be one of the biggest shopping malls outside of Bangkok. Just to experience the scale I went in there. It is huge and has all the well known local brands and some international under one roof. The Tesco tore is large. I spent more than an hour inside and ended up buying quite a bit of stuff like wafers, beer, cakes and biscuits that had special offers going. Almost an entire floor is occupied by restaurants and food stalls. Walking around the restaurants with interesting aromas enticing the olfactory senses, I walked into a one that promised traditional food. After much deliberation I ordered a pork and shrimp wonton soup. I observed people at other tables and found that the table was full of plates and bowls filled with food. I wondered if I had ordered less than what I should have. In a short while my concern was addressed. A huge bowl of soup with steamed wontons and sliced cooked pork with vegetables was placed in front of me. Many types of sauces and slats were also set by the side. I tasted a spoonful of the soup and decided against altering its taste with sauces and salts. I loved it and the quantity was just right for lunch. As I was walking back to the car I was enticed by a stall of Dairy Queen and took a portion of the mango and cheesecake ice cream. I waited it to melt a bit and it tasted yummy.
Once I got back to the room, heat and lack of sleep hit me together. I must admit that a couple of cans of Chang Beer also supported the effect! I passed out for almost three hours before freshening up and heading to the night market – all plans to visit the other places went out of the window. I reached Chatsila Market and sought out the massage centre. The one I had last evening was so good that I wanted a repeat. However, it was not the same person who was allotted to do the foot massage this day. But, it was exceedingly good too. I found that my masseur was much in demand with repeat customers waiting for their turn despite other masseurs being available. After the session was over, with almost half closed eyes, I moved over to a food stall and had dinner of minced pork, holy basil and steamed rice.
I have planned to start off to Phattalung early tomorrow since it a 650plus km drive. Hence, I thought it best to ask the reception if they could give me some hot water to make coffee in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy at the reception gave me an electric kettle. I asked why that was not placed in the room, in the first place. He said they didn’t have that many for all the rooms! Anyway, problem solved, I asked him to give me a wake up call at a half past five.