Monday, September 21, 2009
Luckily this place is saturated with hotels, guestrooms, hostels etc. We found something in our price range around the corner called Sunrise Hotel.
We took the skytrain to Silom area where it was supposed to be a chic shopping area. All we found was shopping malls ... and even in 100 degree heat (it was hot that day) we didn't care to do that. Actually, we were quite tired so we just kicked it back to the hotel and took a rest.. Got up around 7ish and headed for Patpong, the red light district.
The prostitution is unbelieveable here. We sat in a bar for a beer while 15 girls danced on a small stage in their bathing suits or bra/panties and felt bad. One girl was dancing a lot faster than the music, one was skipping around acting suspiciously, one was dancing erotically and watching herself in the mirror, most of them were just moving a little as possible and a few were enjoying themselves.
It was a sad scene. Across the bar we could see girls sitting with old dudes, fat dudes, ugly dudes with backwards hats on and being fondled. One guy was singing to the music "if you want my body, and you think i'm sexy,.."
Patpong also consists of a huge market for counterfieted items and restaurants. We walked the market and sat down to eat at a place down a street that was thumping. It turned out to be a gay area and it's just amusing to watch Nicola deal with all sorts of things he's never seen before.
I could talk a while about all that I saw in this area but it would just go on and on about all the women for sale and how we saw menus of women on laminated papers so you could choose the girl you want to have.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The journey was long. We left at 4pm for an hour's ride to the pier, then waited at the pier for 40 mins. The ferry ride was 3 hours to the mainland and then boarded a bus for a 2 hour journey to the train station. We arrived 2 hours early for the 11 30 pm train that ended up being delayed until 12 15 am.
Sketch city!! When we first arrived there random people just lying around on the benches, sleeping, eating, selling things.. but just a few. I used the bathroom and had to pay 30 baht for service in a filty bathroom with no paper or spray thingy. I was wondering how the people used the toilet and you know, cleaned up afterwards... i always bring my own toilet paper.
The discussions were all about what to expect when the train came. We paid extra for first class.. a private room with a locking door so we could sleep in peace. The train would travel overnight and arrive in the morning around 11am. We were hoping to buy some dinner along the way but we didn't like the looks of the station after seeing a huge rat run into a hole on the platform!!
We bought chips and chowed on sunflower seeds to fill the gap.
They came around selling coffee and doughnuts in the morning. Thank God! I like a good support pillow but that one was so hard it was like lying on a rock. And the train was quite noisy. I woke up to Nicola standing and in my face.. Turns out I was dreaming and he thought I had been awake. He startled me, I had the 'where am i???' feeling. no doubt.
2 days in Bangkok and then back home to China. woo.
Friday, September 18, 2009
We finally finally finally went for a Thai massage. I had been hounding Nicola to go for 2 weeks but since he got badly sunburned on our very first day here, we just didn’t end up going. Oh man, what were we missing! Incredible! It was THE best massage I had ever had. The lady was climbing all over me, bending me in all sorts of different ways, touching me in places I had never been touched ;) haha, well.. don’t be naughty, that’s not what I meant.
$5 paid for 70 mins of heaven!
We had decided that buckets were the event for the evening and grabbed our sand blanket thingy, a bucket of rum and coke and headed for the beach where others with the same idea as us were all spread along the beach chilling.
The fire show tonight was better than the rest I had seen this vacation. A couple of the guys were particularly talented having not dropped the baton at all during his set. Bravo! In Phi Phi, even though the music and the vibe were better for the fire show, the dudes were dropping the batons all over. They couldn’t complete a set without dropping it.
No big deal, just noticed that the guys here are better.
The music is not though. Giuliana mentioned that they play a set list every night on repeat. She said she knew the next song and she was right which was disappointing for me and actually spoiled it a little. I would have rather not known that since I wouldn’t be there for the 2nd round and wouldn’t have noticed anyway. Oh well. A couple of buckets later we headed for the crepes stand for an evening snack and wobbled home. It was beginning to rain anyway.
Tomorrow is our last day here. No big plans, just going to chill for the day before our LONG commute to Bangkok. We opted for the night train since it would be an adventure. I had never taken a night train before, let alone one in SE Asia… so let’s see how that goes eh…train station at midnight. The thought is a little nervous for me. More so the cleanliness of the cabin which has always been a factor this trip, but we did well and got lucky a few times with places and not so lucky with others.
Bye bye for now. I need sleep.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
And we did! We met up with the girls we met on the first day we arrived in
Anyway, they turned out to be great friends who we communicated through text messages the entire two weeks in
The pool that we never did swim in. Nice though.
As soon as we arrived at
Ko Phangan is super cool. The vibe is calm in the day, relaxing, and really chilled out. Once the night hits, it’s mayhem. Even in low season there is a beach party every night with fire shows, fire breathers, djs spinning sets, buckets of alcohol and a huge crowd of dancing people enjoying their vacation. Everyone here is the same age as us, or younger.. and everyone is having a great time.
Nicky love you long time
The beach is awesome with crystal clear water and powdery white sand. The town here in Hat Rin remains pretty true to
The weather has been fantastic. We were really concerned about excessive rain since Sept is supposed to be quite wet AND the first day we arrived it was down pouring in Ao Nang, but there hasn’t been any rain at all in the day.
The seafood in this part of the world is amazing. We have been eating cheap crabs, prawns, squid and snapper all week. Nicola says the best money spent is on good food.. Luckily for me, I benefit from that ;) haha. He doesn’t mind springing a little extra for good seafood.
Tomorrow is our last day in Phangan. We are undecided about what to do although we are considering doing a boat tour of the island, but I’ve noticed prices here to be a little bit high for things like boat and fishing tours. On Phi Phi we could travel around for 100-200 baht which is just 2-4 euros. Here, it’s 700 baht for a few trips around – which is 14 euros EACH!
We will see.
Giuliana and I.
Our trip is almost over.. gonna have to start looking for a hotel in
Skip pizza and go for a crepe at 2am
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
We arrived last night in the evening – late enough that it was dark outside and we couldn’t see the actual beach and ocean front. We could only see the lights of all the resorts that lined the beach with their restaurants and lawn chairs all set up on the sand.
The room... nice bedding.. um
You can buy fireworks and set them off in the sand over the water.
A balloon - they light a little fire and let it go. It floats off into space. Cheweng Beach was super annoying because they bother you to buy one every 2 minutes. I was also concerned about where these fireballs were landing and the garbage it leaves in the ocean or around the land. Anything to make a dollar.
Luckily we both woke up around 8am and made our way to the scooter rental place. The idea was to navigate the island ourselves and explore the islands without having to taxi or mini bus it over. The scooter for the day cost only 3 euros !!
The first place we stopped for breakfast was
Even though Lamai beach was nicer for the fact that there weren’t many people hounding us to buy things, we ate breakfast, took a swim and carried on.
First stop was to see the Grandfather and Grandmother Rock formations that resemble male and female genitalia. eep
There actually isn’t much to do on the island except explore waterfalls and swim on the beaches… which is exactly what we did in the end.
We explored 2 waterfalls that were inland, nothing too spectacular but still a wonderful natural beauty to see. We could hear the monkey show but decided not to attend. We also saw all the elephants that they use to do the elephant trekking. I sure hope they treat those guys well.. nothing close to a natural habitat obviously – I actually feel bad for riding on one but I suppose the experience was interesting. I wanted to see the culture.
Tomorrow we will move on to Ko Phan Gan. Honestly I think the day was wasted here, which is a shame, but better to know.
Now if only we could find a place with free wi fi connection L I’m on holiday but I still like to check in with home as often as possible.
We will try to meet up with Giuliana and Stacey tomorrow since they suggested going to their place called Sunrise Resort on Hat Rin Nok (sunrise beach).
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
It took just about an entire day to travel from Phi Phi to Ko Samui. Whether we took a plane or a bus, the travel time would equal out to be the same but of course the plane would cost a lot more. We went for the bus option.
The deal was about 10$ for the ferry ride, the air conditioned bus and then the ferry ride again from the mainland to Samui.
As it turned out, the bus wasn’t feeling very cold….. we sat for more than 2 hours on a bus that was completely full with no air conditioner or open windows! The air coming out of the vents was just the fan. Oh man. Everyone was sweating and moaning and hating it! When we reached the pit stop area we waited more than an hour for a new bus to arrive and take us for the last 45 mins of the trip.
The ferry was an additional 1.5 hours to Samui and we paid the $4 each for the ride across the island to
Luckily since we hadn’t booked accommodations, some of the people on the mini bus ride suggested Relax Resort which offered cheap rooms, middle of the road rooms, and proper bungalows. We opted for the middle of the road – about 800 baht – 16 euros, still under budget for what we had planned. A curious room, but clean and totally workable.
We had dinner on the beach since all the hotels and restaurants set up tables and lawn chairs for about 3 km. It was pretty amazing actually.
A long day traveling, tired again, but hopefully worth it for a good trip here.
Tomorrow, scooter trip to the inland waterfalls and remote beaches.
After completing our dive course we decided to stay in Phi Phi for one more day to explore the island a little and enjoy it. We had been up early every day for the dives and were so tired each evening that we had no chance to go out and see the fire shows and whatever else happens here.
With luck the day was sunny! We decided to take a long tail boat over to a few beaches down the way called
The water was blue, and deep enough to swim. There was one restaurant that we spotted to later each lunch at.. everything was perfect!
I thought I noticed the couple next to us speaking Italian and mentioned it to Nicola. Being as shy as he is, he just waved it off since he had no curiosity to investigate.
I saw that the guy had hurt his foot and took the opportunity to ask if he had cut himself on the coral that lined the shore. He said no, that he had stepped on a sea urchin (ouch) and he asked if I had tweezers. Obviously, I didn’t, but as it turned out, they were from
We ended up spending the rest of the day with them exploring the island further to a very very secluded beach with crystal clear water and then met them again later for dinner.
We climbed to the viewpoint on the top of the island for a bird’s eye view. Man that was hard work. It said in the book that it would take 10-25 mins to climb up the stairs depending on your fitness level. I mean, I’m not out of shape but holy smokes that was a tough climb. The view was breathtaking and spectacular. All worth it!!
Nicola had a blast speaking in his own language with people from home. Funny that he had mentioned that when I had met a Canadian couple a few days earlier in
We went to the other side of the island for dinner, you guessed it, Italian! It was a really good meal actually. I have to admit that it was nice to eat an authentic pasta al mare.. (seafood pasta) – since being in
It was Saturday night so they had a huge fire show planned to the music of a DJ – it was fantastic. I had wanted to see a fire show the whole time while on Phi Phi but had been to tired every single night to look for a good one.
The tide was out so we walked along the sea floor for a good 100 meters. It was very cool.
We have planned our trip out of Phi Phi tomorrow. The day begins with a 9am ferry to Krabi town for 1.5 hours, bus to Surat Thani for 3 hours, ferry to Ko Samui for 1.5 hours and then minibus ride to
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I woke up this morning sore and aching from carrying all the dive equipment on and off the boat yesterday. I am totally and completely drained of all energy and just can’t wait to go to sleep.
I am happy to report though that I am PADI certified as a diver to a maximum of 18 meters depth. I passed the final with 94% and had 3 dives today instead of 2, which was a bit of a bittersweet bonus. I was so tired that the extra dive just added to that total body fatigue, but, since Nicola didn’t do dive 2 yesterday, I got to go along for his dive 2 and both the dives that were scheduled! YAY
Actually someone slipped a small crab into my mask and I don’t think they got the reaction they had hoped for. I was like, oh, there’s a crab in my mask… instead of screaming or hitting the ceiling. Ah ha. Sorry guys.
The weather was very windy. I was seasick most of the day, as were others on the boat. But once we hit the water, all the motion sickness went away. Magic!
Actually it’s been raining here in Phi Phi for 2 days but we haven’t noticed since we’ve been in the water anyway. What a way to spend a rainy day!! No loss of a day.
The dives today were amazing. We saw 3 turtles on the final dive and a cuttlefish that was laying eggs. The dive instructor said that in his over 1000 dives he had never seen that before. So we sat down there and just watched as this squid like fish laid her eggs under a coral.
I napped in the afternoon before the test but that still wasn’t a sufficient rest since I woke up groggy and pretty out of it. I don’t know how those dive instructors work so many hours. The dive shop was still open at 9pm and there was my instructor still at work!
Our dive instructor Angus, from Scotland
We called it an early night… went for dinner and now home to sleep in tomorrow. No plans as of yet but hoping for good weather so we can hit the beach and chill out.
We will also plan tomorrow to leave Ko Phi Phi and head towards Ko Samui on the East coast of Thailand. It’s a long trip but I have heard that it’s all worth it since Samui is apparently amazing. I’m not sure how anything can beat what we’ve already seen and done here in Thailand but we will see, and of course, report.
Until tomorrow.. xoxo
Ps. I never proof read these entries so excuse any grammatical errors or otherwise ;)
We went to bed last night really early since today we had to be awake at 6 20am to get dressed and ready for our 7am dive.
This would make it our first open-water dive in the big sea. There were quite a few people taking the boat out with us, all diving at some sort of level. I could see skilled divers, new divers out on discovery dives (which means there is no pre-lessons, just a brief on how all the equipment works) and others were brushing up on their skills after a year off from diving.
My skills tests all went really well. I performed several of the skills that we had learned the day before at the beach as part of the training that included hovering (buoyancy test) mask skills, buddy breathing skills, regulator retrieval (actually removing your air hose at 18 feet underwater and throwing it behind you, then showing the 2 different ways of how to retrieve it). Kind of scary but all went well for me.
Nicola on the other hand panicked. I watched from the bottom as he did the mask skill and when the water filled his mask he accidentally inhaled some sea water. Even though you can cough into the regulator, (thing in your mouth where you breathe from) the sea water is quite stinging in the throat. It happened to me on the first day at the beach, so I knew how he felt. But, the last thing you do is panic. He ripped off his mask and threw his regulator out of his mouth (as most panicked people do) and swam for the top.
It’s a bit dangerous to do that, since you have to ascend slowly to allow the nitrogen from the oxygen to escape your body. So the instructor tried to help him at about 3 meters but he wasn’t going to let it happen.
He ended up going back to the boat for the rest of the dive while the instructor (Angus) and I went for my 2nd dive. Poor guy, I felt so bad for him. I came back and he looked so defeated. But, it’s the cardinal rule in diving, keep calm and learn how to deal with the challenges.
He will do the 2nd dive tomorrow to catch up.
The world underwater is fascinating. Something I have never imagined that I would do, and now having seen it, I just want to see more!!
My ears give me a problem though. You have to equalize every meter while descending which means you have to squeeze your nose and blow slightly to allow air from your breathing to go into your ear canals where there is a little bubble of air on each side that needs to be filled to avoid the pressured feeling. My right ear is fine; my left is a bit slow. So the first 10 mins of the dive are spent equalizing instead of enjoying the view. No big deal though, once it’s done I can swim all I want and take a look at the scenery.
Today we saw lionfish, which are dangerous if you touch them, leopard sharks which are harmless, barracudas, tons of different colored fish, angel fish, sea cucumbers, 2 eels, a cuttlefish which looks a little like a squid, trumpet fish, schools of grouper.. what else.. a lot. Too much to list but I mentioned most of the cool things.
We couldn’t do much after the dive day was over, sooo tired from carrying the equipment and swimming.. just dinner and some walking around this very small island. I am looking forward to the dive lessons to be over since this place is a huge party and I am too tired to participate!
Tomorrow, another 6am morning and dive 3 and 4 to complete the training and then the final test on theory.
Sorry no pics. There is no chance to take pics while in training but when we do a recreational dive I will have a chance.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Today was an extremely long day.
We started at 8am in the classroom. Until about 1pm we watched the review dvds from the book that we were supposed to read the day before. I crammed until 12 30am trying to get through all the chapter questions.
Honestly, it was a lot of information to cram for in 1 day.
After lunch we learned about all the equipment, suited up, and walked with the massively heavy tank on our back about 8 minutes to the contained beach area to learn how to use it all in the water.
My legs are so sore from carrying it all. I felt my knees weak and almost at the point of giving in while I was walking to the beach.
What a terrifying experience. At one point where we had to fill the mask with water underwater and learn how to clear it using our nose, I started to cry. We took a short breather on the surface and went back at it.
It didn’t help that Nicola was nervous and almost panicked the whole time. But in the end the instructor said my buoyancy is fantastic and that I got through all the skills very well. We were in the water until after 6pm. It was a very long day.
I felt a little boost of confidence considering I haven’t been in school in quite some time. I am proud and happy to have picked it all up quite easily. The same goes for the Mandarin lessons.. I’m a bit ahead of the other guy who is taking the class with me. It pleases me that I am still sharp in the classroom. Yay!
Tomorrow morning we have to be at the dive shop at 7 10am to go out for our first reef dive off the boat. I’m scared to death but I feel a little bit confident since I got through all the skills easily and my ears weren’t giving me any trouble.
I learned how to equalize them, and once done that, there was no more pain or pressure while being under 20 feet of water.. a bit deeper than a swimming pool eh.
Better get some rest. It will be another long day tomorrow in the water. Looks like rain but who cares when all you have planned is being wet anyway.
We walked about 10 mins along the path (there are NO cars here, such clean air!) and checked a couple of places before settling in one guestroom above a shop. For 20 euros a night we considered it a pretty good deal. Seaside, balcony, mini fridge, satellite television and nicely made up bed.
We had the day to choose anything we wanted to do.. and there seemed to be many options. First thing, we signed up to become certified PADI open water divers! It’s a 3 day intensive course that includes a half day in class, a contained dive in shallow water, and four open dives in the ocean. We bought the study book and vowed to read it over once we were back from the afternoon plan.
Next, we hired a private long tail boat and traveled to Phi Phi Ley, which is the scenic island just south of Phi Phi Don.
The day included a stop at monkey beach were tons of monkeys live and are visited daily by tourists. It was a scary experience since they are a wee bit aggressive!! If you get too close, they will run at you. Your only defensive is to run fast towards the water, since apparently they don’t like it much.
Tomorrow: Day 1 of dive school. Exciting!!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The night before we booked a day trip island hopping around Krabi that included chicken island, Poda island, Phra Nang beach and a couple of others. We visited 2 snorkel sites and enjoyed the incredibly clear water and all that was below it.
The sand was so fine that it was like walking on silk and the water was so clear that you could see 50 feet ahead of you easily.
It’s nice to see that everyone around us is in our age group. We have met a ton of people while sitting at outdoor beach bars and overhearing that there are other Canadians around. It’s so easy to to about the trip, where we’ve been and plan to go. The interaction with the people really helps when choosing where to stay and what to do. I hope we’ve been an inspiration to others since we are super active every single day doing different things, booking tours and swimming in caves.
I’d like to know what the rooms are like though, for 300 baht per night (6 euros). I met a few people around who say they pay more that that, ever! I’m wondering, where the heck are you staying and what is the room like? One girl mentioned that they could hear rats running in the ceiling! We’re budget travelers but we’re not backpackers. We’re here for 2 weeks and calling it a holiday, not a lifestyle. Love me or hate me for it, but that’s the way it is.
Tomorrow morning 9am – ferry to Phi Phi Don Island. The main island of 3 ( I think) that is well talked about and listed in my 1000 places to see before you die book. Haha. Yes, I have that, and I’m not embarrassed either. I am curious to know what we will find there for accommodation since it is known to be more expensive even in low season. We planned not plan this trip. A first for me.. and even though it will take more effort to walk around and find a place to stay for the night, at least we know what the room is like before agreeing to the price. So far we’ve had a good experience implementing this concept and a bad one.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The weather was looking good. We confirmed our elephant trip and invited Stacey and Giuliana who we met on the bus the day before. We rode in one of those pickup trucks with seats in the back box with the wind blowing through our hair. (Highly illegal back home.)
The elephants seemed pretty content. They weren’t being treated badly so I didn’t feel so bad riding on the back on one. Interesting ride.. to say the least. Very entertaining. The driver then dropped us off and gave us about 2 hours to hike up the the Huai Waterfall and swim. The water was too murky for me to swim but some of the others did… I really don’t like not being able to see the bottom unless I know it’s just sand.
After returning to the hotel we decided to get out of Ao Nang since the weather wasn’t great and the beach was crummy. The sea was too rough to rent canoes so we headed to Railey Beach. The deal is, get a cheap Long Tail boat ticket but you have to wait until there is 8 people to join the ride. We waited about 1.5 hours !!
It was worth it!
Railey Beach is beautiful. The long tail boat anchored because of the tide and we had to carry our luggage about 80 meters in the water over our head!
Railey West is the expensive side. We made our way over there for drinks on the beach that evening but stayed on the east side. Railey East in my opinion has far more character. Bars and whatnot all along the water. Even though the beach is nothing to look at and completely unswimmable, the atmosphere was calm and relaxing. With cushions on bamboo bars, just lay around with drinks and watch the sea and long tail boatmen going by and by.
Sunday’s idea was to tour the surrounding islands but we hadn’t made any reservation yet. We just thought to hire a long tail boat and go on our own. UNTIL, just before closing time we stumbled across a little travel agency and bought tickets for 8 euros each for a full day tour around 4 islands.
Oh, forgot to mention that we found the cheapest ever backpacker hostel… so cheap that we hated the room. It was dark and creepy and luckily the price was cheap otherwise we would have felt ripped off. I was afraid of spiders crawling down onto my head while I slept… I would have felt safer from the bugs sleeping in a tent! We’re moving tomorrow to a place down the road. $20 for a private bungalow with air conditioning and television. DEAL! We’re budget travelers but not backpackers. We’re on a 2 week holiday, not a 3 month trip so we can spend a wee bit more on a room that is clean and bug free ;)
SO much more going on but impossible to write about it all.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I asked, which “white” bus and she said there is only one. OK.
We saw the white bus, paid, and boarded. Then the driver asked where we were going… not to that area.. at all! So we went with it and after a long and confusing conversation on the phone with them (the mysterious lady was nowhere to be found) I hung up a little frustrated.
After arriving quite far from the original location and meeting two lovely girls on the bus we walked around a bit and priced different hotels in Ao Nang beach area. We ended up in a tourist information office and booked a room for 30 euros a nite.. not bad, but over our budget.
Right next door we found a place for only 15 euros a night and we plan to move in there tomorrow night. Also free internet, which I can’t say for this place.
Oh ya, the rain. It’s raining. We got our bathing suits on and headed for the beach. It was low tide so the water was waaaaaaay down there.. yea.. on our way down to the water the sky got increasingly darker. Then.. (sound pouring rain) -that went on for a while.
We are now on our way to an all you can eat BBQ dinner for oh, $3 each. We are crossing our fingers for the rain to slow down since we’ve booked an elephant ride and waterfall visit for tomorrow morning.
-update – after the bbq we stopped by a bar across the street. I already knew that the sex industry in this country is huge.. but having never seen it before, well, this bar was a big eye opener. Good times though. We sat and had beers before we hit the sack.. played jenga with some local girls and watched as foreign men got their rocks off. Pretty ew actually but it’s good to see how it wall works here.
That’s all for today.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Our flight from Shenzhen to Bangkok was at 11 30pm and arrived at 1 15am. I had no idea that Thailand is 1 hr back so the flight was a bit longer than expected. Doing the math will show that I am actually writing this at 4am.. so it's gonna be short!
The hotel we are staying at costs 15 euros for the night and I read all about how people thought how clean it is. And it is! It's beautiful actually.
There's a balcony, several English tv stations, free internet, free water and free breakfast.. plus free airport pickup. yay! Thanks tripadvisor and sawadee.com
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I have figured out how to stove-top cook on count it.. ONE hotplate with no oven. Unless you consider a microwave an oven. Haha.
I still make my own pasta sauces, each and every time. Mushroom, eggplant, sausage, vegetable, and secret sauce. Basil is scarce around here so I took some seeds from home (i suspected well before) and made my own little garden. Now we can enjoy fresh basilico in our salads, calzones, and sauce anytime we please.
Fresh fruit is plenty - and I am lucky to have found a huge fruit and veggie market just 15 minutes walk from home.
Still remembering to wash all very very well. It may be fresh but it's not pesticide free. We are still in China people. And if you're really nervous you could just peel it all, which I mostly do.. but it really doesn't make sense since I don't peel tomatoes and I continue to eat lettuce. I just wash it well.
Yummy watermelon on hot days is more appetizing than I ever thought it would be.
My parsley garden didn't grow but I am thinking to try again. Not to forget that it's on average 35 degrees daily here. Perhaps when the weather cools, it will grow. Never give it direct sunlight either. It'll be dead in a day!
We have a little deli up the street that imports food and drinks. Luck has it so close to where I live.. they import fresh fruit juices that are sugar free, pureed tomatoes in a glass bottle (rather than a can,) Barilla pasta, salamis and deli meats, Chilean wine, cheese, EV olive oil.... so that helps. But I am missing out on a nice selection of breads. Chinese people don't eat bread!! Rather, steamed buns which I can't compare to a nice pita bread, or wheat bagette.
Can't have it all!! At least it's all mostly cheap to eat.