Week three on the ground in Thailand and a girl could get used to this. Coming in from the Philippines we headed into Bangkok, a place that I have always wanted to see. Just a year ago my sister, Cassandra Black, was unveiling a world-debut of the Snow Dragon opera in this very city. I had hoped then to have my littles in the audience making a life long memory of having seen their aunt perform in another country. Alas, it was not to be but now, walking through the markets and making the traditional tourist selections that I have seen her return home with, I can’t help but feel as though she is here vicariously sharing these moments with me.
We began in a small little motel just outside of the airport. The indoor reptiles were reminiscent of the earliest nights in Bali but the two separate rooms were a welcomed relief to us all. Believe it or not even the kids can get burnt out from all of the together time. Hearing them laugh together in the other room at 11:30 at night believing in their heart of hearts that they had shaken the watchful eye and ear of mom and dad was soul healing and you could hear it in the reckless abandonment and joy bleeding over the threshold and through the door. The bond these two are developing is something I can only begin to imagine as a child of seven. They laugh, they cry, the experience and they grow through everything as a team. They search for one another in the crowd. They call out to each other in protection. They wrap their arms around one another when too many people are close and they refuse to allow anyone to encroach on or forget the other in any way shape or form. The other day I over heard them talking in their bedroom after I denied W his tablet and instructed him to do homework instead. “I don’t like mom. She’s mean and dad is nice,” ranted W. “She’s not bad. She loves us SO much she hugs us and protects us and teaches us all the time,” met R. I wasn’t hurt at all. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t moved. Contrarily I was THRILLED that they had one another to lament to. It was in that very moment that my faith in their forever bond was cemented.
After the tiny motel we woke the next morning for coffee and a mediocre hotel breakfast and headed off in a taxi to find a hotel in Bangkok that would suit us. We found it! We stayed at a Ramada, which both of us had (until this point) little to no appreciation for. This hotel was however located on the pier with a view that overlooked what we are beginning to learn is any big cities staple, the Ferris Wheel, and the staff was phenomenal! It was an added bonus that they offered on site childcare and a riverside restaurant. We had originally intended to stay for a few days but ended up extending, not once, not twice but three times! While there we enjoyed the Asiatique pier on multiple evenings. There we experienced; more fish pedicures, GREAT food, souvenir shopping (which we limited because we are living out of packs) and views that seemed to go on for eternity. We also got to take a taxi over to the Paragon for a day of shopping in one of the world’s most renound shopping and fashion malls. What did we find that we loved aside from a $16,000 USD couch? Adam found a pair of ultraboosts and Ariel found a tremendous, 5 star, crepe shop that seemed to bring the entire team some momentary food joy.
The following day we called for a taxi and were pleasantly surprised when the equivalent of a party bus pulled up to transport the 4 of us the 4 hour round trip drive to the floating market. This market! For all my adult life I have desired to see this market and I wasn’t leaving this country without the experience. Thank God I made time! The weather was a perfect 74 degrees and the colors, sounds and smells were sensory euphoria. We floated for about 2 hours enjoying all the input this market had to offer but I was struck by something so much more valuable to me. Before making this trip we got rid of all our possessions, our things. Traveling down this canal knowing that I wasn’t in the market to accumulate more stuff was the most liberating experience that I could ever hope to relay to you. The colors were brighter. My desire was to capture the moments. I wasn’t looking to find a killer deal and gather my favorite things instead it was memories that I craved to archive. The burden and the pressure of finding the right deal or bartering effectively were removed and I was open to just experience and enjoy all that this market really had to offer me. A culture rich in heritage and tradition. The business men that, even on the river, took a no nonsense approach to their customer. “Are you interested?! If not float on! There is some other boat that can pull in here and buy. No problem.” The intent was not to be rude as much as it was to be effectively compensated for their time on the river. Hundreds of people float the river daily and if the customer on the present boat isn’t smitten with the bargain at hand then someone else certainly would be. The food somehow tasted more rich knowing that it was prepared by hand this morning after loading all the necessary ingredients onto the boat. Savoring it while floating by the other tourists and seeing their haste to get the deal and save the buck weighted their experience against mine in an all to priceless manner.
While on the river we took the extra minutes to disembark from our little long boat and climb the stairs to the temple. There is a different type of reverence here today as the communities king has recently died. I sat quietly in the corner while a monk, silently, blessed a new born and his parents. I watched as the locals made tribute to the offering sites and marveled at the scale of the construction. It truly was a beautiful day. And while I myself choose to worship a Christian God seeing people choosing to bask in love and reverence is always uplifting to my soul.
Next we were taken over to a crocodile show. Every piece of the joy I had felt across the street was enveloped by the painful mistreatment that I saw in this show. There was no where for the crocodiles to go. There was no open water. These crocs were kept in a shallow and drained concrete pool. They were; hit with sticks, kicked, pushed and prodded in order to make them perform on command. I was having a difficult time discerning weather or not their compliance was drug based or simply a result of them having given up on trying. Either way, I desired more for therm .The show wrapped with an offer to have you sit on the crocodiles back for a photo shoot. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We were taken back to our cab but not without first passing their mistreated elephants. These elephants had had their tusks purposefully formed to hold people for photos. There 10X10 fenced in cage and shackled ankles left them pacing 3 steps left and 2 steps right over and over again. They had less room to roam then I had at home as a bedroom! Having recently been to the elephant sanctuary in Bali the mistreatment of these beautiful animals was even more glaringly obvious. We washed our hands. Fed the elephants just one more time and moved back towards our cab to call it a day.
Squeezing all the life out of the hotel that we could we enjoyed some top notch buffets and a full day of childcare while we went to the spa for an entire day of treatments before saying goodbye to the wonderful friends that we made at the hotel and heading off for the airport. The staff that cared for the kids enjoyed them so much that they saw us all the way out to the cab for a small photo session before our departure. The warmth and love that the kids received on site from someone other than mom and dad was invaluable. Despite how “light” we all are traveling we still somehow managed to out weigh the elevators weight requirements on the way out challenging us all to pair down even further.
The airport was easy to navigate as it had a minimal availability of dining and shops but we hovered here most of the day as we waited for a flight that departed at 8pm. Imagine our surprise when we went to check in and were told that our flight had been booked for a month out! The AirAsia staff was friendly enough that after some gushing over my tattoos and Rylyn’s hair they agreed to accommodate us and switch our tickets to tonight’s flight allowing us to proceed onto Phuket and enjoy some more of Thailand’s gorgeous atmosphere and offerings. We booked our hotel from the airplane and caught a cab from the line outside the airport to get there. It was seaside! A 25 foot walk to the ocean every morning! We were well in the middle of some amazing eateries and coffee shops and to complain would make me the most ungrateful woman on the planet. Instead I was beside myself with gratitude for my abundant blessings and moved by my spoiling. I can’t stop praying that I am successful in communicating and instilling this gratitude to my children.
We spent a week or so in Phuket and then headed to another part of the island, Rawai. Our hope is not to just visit places but to experience them. So, we will spend just over a month in Thailand. We will visit more than 4 districts. While Phuket had some better dining opportunities and western experiences the beach in Nai Harn is among the best I have ever encountered. The water is pristine! The temperature is always descriptively perfect. The sands are as soft and light as I have ever found, although it will always follow you home. And the lack of salesmen on the beach is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. Football in the surf is quickly becoming a staple as we know that we will be greeted with a soft landing and sandcastles in the shade are bringing smiles to the little’s faces that I have long searched for. The poor internet creates a valued empty space that encourages us all to grow closer reading out loud to one another and sharing favorite memories as well as music. There IS something to be said for the connection in the [technological] disconnection.
We still have a week left on the ground here but I am consistently moved and inspired by the ocean and sailboat views. The children splashing and playing in the banks of the ocean without reserve warm my heart and bring an easy smile to my face. The weather is formidable and, as I said earlier, save for the lack of internet *and a $20 round trip ride to the grocery store and good coffee* a girl could get used to this place. Thailand may very well be the first place that expats make sense to me. We’ll see if that still rings true in two weeks. Until then, please continue to send the emails and weigh in on my travel. As usual, I appreciate and respect your input. Love you and thanks for journeying with me!
*Update a week later* I have to admit, I was really hoping to find “to die for” Thai food ALL OVER Thailand but alas we have been less than thrilled since leaving Phuket. We search everywhere and the best foods we try are anything but Thai food. Maybe that’s because they are trying harder to master that which is not theirs? Just a side thought…sure am missing my Thai Tuesdays with my goodguy pal back in Texas. Wish I could say you were missing out over here. Wait, here’s a thought, why don’t you mail me some curry?