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November 11th, 2000 · No Comments

Layover at The Royal paradise Hotel

Day 315 & 316

Our first dinner at the Royal Paradise Hotel was a memorable one, where traditional Thai dancers entertained us with their lively music and graceful dancing. The food was impressive, we got to eat from a huge buffet filled with traditional Thai food and American dishes. It was delightful.

The hotel is located in a very seedy area, its sort of a Tijuana with a beach. I know there must be a nice area around here someplace, because I’ve heard Phuket is a great place to go. This just isn’t it. I later discovered that Patong Beach is not prime real estate, the better places to go are Katon and Kata Beach to the south.

Our Hotel was nice, but stepping outside the door brought some severe urban blight into view. The whole neighborhood was once probably very nice, but today only a bulldozer could help it. The street is filled with tacky gay bars and the once ornate fountains now are filled with stagnate green water and trash.

This is what happens when the tour director runs out of money. We get to stay in ghetto neighborhoods, it’s all part of the adventure!

My first day in Thailand was spent catching up on the website and planning for the next two weeks of the trip. The heat is bringing many people down and I was no exception. It is just too hot to cycle the five 100 mile days scheduled over the next 9 days of riding. I was torn between staying put in Phuket for the duration or flying to Singapore.

After seeing the neighborhood outside the hotel, my feelings for staying here evaporated. Then I was asked to manage one of the two bus groups that are being formed to get us to Singapore. I decided it would be fun to have a direction and purpose again, so I said, “yes.” Kristal’s bus would ride again!

On day two of the layover I attended a Thai Cooking Class that was held at the Boathouse Restaurant in the Karon Beach area. It was on the way to class that I discovered I may have been hasty in dismissing Phuket Island as a place to spend a couple weeks. The other areas were gorgeous.

The Boathouse is a hotel and restaurant with a private beach. It had a stunning oceanfront setting with turquoise water and white sand beaches. I could have stayed there forever.

My cooking class was held in the restaurant where we could look out and see the water and the beach. We had a cozy class of 11 people from various parts of the world. Our teacher, Tummanoon Punchun is the author of a few cookbooks and has been teaching this class here and in Switzerland and in France to teach this two day cooking class. I was leaving on the second day, so would only be able to take day one.

The class was so informative, at first we were given a lesson in the spices. I enjoyed the fact we all got a sample to see, touch and taste. Most of Thai cooking is done with spices that we don’t have back home. It was nice to be able to see them up close. I now have a greater affinity for what I’m eating.

Chef Punchun talked at length about the types of spices and how to recognize “old from new”. He also went into how long the shelf life was of each item. When we finished that discussion, we were all led to a table to actually get our hands dirty by mixing a stuffing for prawns. The Chef cooked them in a wok for us when we were done, and the best part came when we were allowed to eat our creations!

We learned how to prepare two appetizers and two salads. After class we sat in the restaurant and ate lunch, enjoying each other company. It was a good experience.

The Thai government has a very unique long range plan to increase tourism in Thailand. It is a 3 step process that goes like this:

1) The government is planning to sponsor 20,000 franchised restaurants to help create an interest in Thai cooking.

2) The government will than supply grocery stores internationally with the ingredients needed for Thai cooking.

3) The government will then help promote Thai cooking classes, taken in no other than Thailand!

It sounds like a brilliant plan and I’m already ahead of the pack! I graduated from my class with a great looking apron and a new appreciation for spicy Thai food.

It was a good experience.

The Thai Cooking ClassHere I am with my cooking buddies and the Chef. From left to right, Lee Ann, Me, Chef Punchun, Linda and that’s Marc in the back.

Tonight back at the hotel, Kathleen Hooker sponsored a “talent show”, put on by a select few of “hammy riders.” It was a great show.

Ben beating on his bikeOur Master of Ceremonies, Ben juggled oranges and coconuts for us between acts. When things got really tough he used his bike as a drum, later he balanced his bike on his chin. Who says Raleigh Global 2000’s aren’t versatile?

Al and Allen singingThe choir had us in stitches by singing verses of the latest hits, “How much is that doggie in the hot pot, the one with the bar-b-qued tail?” and “50 ways to flush a toilet”. Hopefully the titles of the songs need no more explanation.

Al and Allen did a duo using all of our names in a melody of tunes, some recognizable, some not. They were so creative and funny.

50 ways to flush a toiletIt was one hilarious moment to the next. I loved laughing and crying with the entertainment. This is what I had envisioned Odyssey to be in my dreams. A group of funny, friendly people who have become like family to each other. We have seen and been through so much. Going home is going to be hard and perhaps boring.

DannyDanny said “it’s been the best year of his life, even though he’s only had 19 of them(years).”

The countdown to home has already begun. Several people are leaving prior to Singapore. Tickets from Phuket to the U.S.A. are very cheap, as in $430 to the west coast. It’s hard saying “goodbye.”

Coming here on the plane, several folks got on the microphone to make announcements. As they did, Tim introduced them. I thought after the fact that no introduction was necessary, I knew each person by the sound of their voice. I know I can identify all 200 of the riders, by voice now.

We have come a long way since January 1, 2000.

Tags: SE Asia · Thailand