Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Our flights home were smooth and easy... Wonderful grandparents met us at the airport with hugs galore... Driving was a snap, even after spending 4 months on the "wrong" side of the roads.
So here we begin the next adventure, and try to process and truly appreciate these past several months of incredible experience. Transitioning back home to our "normal" life is always challenging for me. We'll try to go slowly, and take it step by step... All in good time...
Monday, January 3, 2011
So now we are finally here in "tropical paradise," hoping that Thailand will meet their lofty expectations. The fruit & food is exquisite, plentiful, and delicious. Mangoes, star fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteens, pineapple, papaya, etc. etc…. Pad thai, green & red curries, tom yum and tom kha gai, spicy green papaya salads, chicken satay on the streets, ice cold beer and soy milk and fresh fruit juices…. Ahhhhh… It is SO wonderful to just eat here! And the parasailing bit? Will it be possible on Koh Chang? We came here because it’s not too far away from Bangkok (5hrs.), but still has some mellow quiet affordable places to stay… But on our first day splashing in the waves, we saw parachutes way down the coast, so we boarded our scooters and zipped down to check it out. Oh yes! They do parasailing, and such a deal too… 700 Baht per kid ($23 each). Each of them got a 20 minute ride, out around some smaller islands, and managed to land safely back on the “launching pad” raft. Lupin was so light that they sent an extra boy up with her to add some weight…. He just grabbed on, dangling from the slings, and upon takeoff, scrambled up into the rigging to sit above her harness. They all came down smiling and giggling and squealing with joy! Fantasy fulfilled, and on the first day at the beach!
The motorbike bit has also been a blast! The girls were begging us to ride scooters or motorcycles in Nepal, but egads, Kathmandu traffic is pretty daunting with kids! Even down in mellow rural Chitwan, we couldn’t find scooters to rent, as the entire town seemed to have only 3 rentals, all of them constantly booked up. Here in Koh Chang, scooters are like an extra appendage… everyone rides them everywhere, sometimes a family of 4 on one unit. It was so much more fun, efficient, and economical to zip around the island by scooter, as every pickup-truck taxi ride runs about 50 Baht per person… that’s 200 baht ($7) for the family one-way every single ride! Yikes… but the scooters go for 150 ($5) per 24 hours, which must be 10 to 20 times cheaper than shared taxi rides.
One great ride was up a quiet side valley, with a hike to Klong Phu waterfall… plenty of tourists on the trail, but also plenty of tarzan vines, snakes, and cool jungle trees. The slot-canyon waterfall was cool and exciting… and it was so nice to swim in fresh water for once! So far so good… parasailing, tropical waterfalls, fresh mangoes, motorcycle riding, snorkeling, rope swings over the sea, and luscious sunset swims every evening… I think they’re loving Thailand so far!
We are “suddenly” on Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand. Sipping a cool Singha beer, with the tingly fire of green curry and tom yum soup on my lips, while the kids take turns on a rope swing hanging from a palm tree over the waves. I’m reclining on comfy triangular cushions with Karen, listening to smooth Thai pop love songs wafting from the bar. The girls have just located a friendly dog to play with, as well as a nice young Dutch boy to attempt communication... A shirtless Sammy Hagar look alike is hanging out by the bar, and several European couples are also hanging out nearby, enjoying the sunset with lungfuls of tobacco… the dang French! They all still smoke!
After a couple sweaty nights in our claustrophobic Bangkok guest house “cell,” it was wonderful to board a comfy bus bound for Trat… We were headed for Koh Chang, a huge island down near the Cambodian border, to get some beach and snorkeling time before we head home to ski season… Karen and I were here about 12 years ago, back when the bumpy one-lane road only went part way around the island. Back then we walked past the end of the dirt road to find several cheapo bamboo cottages for a few bucks a night. Well nowadays this place has exploded with development! There are hundreds of places to stay now, from plush 5-star resorts to a few hold-out crusty “budget” bungalows in the $20-30 range. The main road is now smooth & freshly paved, and lined with countless souvenir & dive shops, restaurants, pharmacies, and 7-Elevens… There are ATMs everywhere! Times change, especially with Thai island tourism!
Nonetheless, we walked 10 minutes down a quiet dirt side road, to find some mellow beach huts. The kids are literally flipping out with glee, as we now have warm water, sand, shells, coconut palms, cool breezes, papaya, mango, and pad thai in abundance. They don’t care about what this island “used to be like.” They are thrilled to just hang out, swim, and play on the beach for several days! And so are we…