09 April 2007

There's no place like home

Where to begin, where to begin....we have had so much going on the last two weeks that we feel like we've hardly slept in our own beds! Of course, it has been so wonderful to get away from the city to get some clean, fresh, air, but now, we are happy to be HOME! Like I mentioned in my last entry, we were off to Hua Hin for a long weekend with our friends, the Selways and the Strates. They are both families we know from church, and we feel so blessed to have such wonderful people to be with when we want to play! The kids all get along great, so we knew this was a win/win weekend from the start!

We rented a 16 person van (3 families, 2 kids each, driver, and a few extra seats) which had a TV/DVD player, plus a Karaoke machine. What more could you ask for? We didn't really get our money out of the Karaoke system, much to some people's dismay, and other's relief, but the movies for the kids sure made the travel time go by quickly!

We stayed in a nice, clean, simple place with a great staff, and only a short ride to the beach.

I thought this picture on the front steps of the hotel was cute. But, what I thought was interesting was what was on the other side of the street.

This is the street that our hotel was on. A little bit of a contrast here? These were some homes and at least one food shop where I saw a HUGE wok of fried rice that looked amazing.

This beach was extremely touristy. It was fun to experience this side of living where people are bringing you fruity drinks, taking your garbage for you, setting up your chairs and umbrellas, vendors walk by trying to sell you things, and you can even get a massage right there on your chair. Very nice!

The beach was beautiful, as you can see. Jack found someone selling these little airplane kites made out of Styrofoam for cheap, and he played with it for at least 2-3 hours! Hence the need for Aloe Vera later, unfortunately.

We spent a day at this waterfall that you could hike up to. We were all excited to spend time here, until we reached the entrance, after quite a drive, only to find that it was VERY expensive! Thanks to Joel and Shane's smooth talking, we were allowed in at a discounted price because we live in Bangkok (this was 1/10 the price!). We didn't go all the way up with the kids because it was not exactly a trail, and we really didn't know what we were getting into, so we weren't super prepared. But, we had fun wading in this part, and Jeff even got unexpectedly soaked while trying to retrieve a stick for Jack. What a good dad he is! Luckily, his cell phone was okay, and his watch is waterproof!

This isn't all the kids, unfortunately, but I thought this was a cute one at the hotel of Jake, Meg, and our two. Janie still loves Jake like crazy. It was fun for the kids to spend so much time doing new things together.

One of the highlights was going to race track where we all got to enjoy go-carts! This is the girls before our ride. Aren't we just hot stuff? Kaddi (pronounced Katie) and Som are animals when it comes to anything competitive, I think this is pretty hilarious.

Jeff loves stuff like this and was quite the animal out there on his own, but I was sure he would slow down once Jack jumped in. Nope, he was still going fast and skidding around corners to beat the other guy/kid teams. Jack was loving every second of it. This is definitely the most secure Jack's been in a car since we arrived here. He was SO excited there was a seatbelt! It's been over 5 months since he's sat in one!

We had a blast with our friends for these 3 days. It was awesome to visit so much, relax on the beach, go shopping, let the kids play, see new things, and we even had 3 Thai speakers in the bunch so the misunderstandings were kept to a minimum. Besides the trip to a baby clinic for Jane (she came down with something that first night), everything was GREAT!

We returned home on Monday evening, spent a few days home recovering with extra naps, LOTS of laundry and even canceled a few things we were too exhausted to enjoy! Wow, traveling sure does take a lot out of you! We had just enough days to get back to normal, when it was time to leave once again!

We committed to this trip to Hua Hin as well as another trip with Jeff's friends from work, not realizing they would only be 4 days apart! But, of course, we were still very excited to go somewhere new and be with friends. So, Friday morning, we got up super early and met Jeff's friends at his work to start it all again!

We traveled for 5 hours to a beach called Ban Krut, about 2 hours past Hua Hin. I was really looking forward to this trip because I knew that it would be a completely different experience vacationing with foreigners (from Canada, America, England, Laos) than with native Thais. Boy, was I right! The actual traveling was very similar. Same kind of van, visiting, movies for the kids, etc. I really enjoyed getting to visit with Jeff's friends in a relaxed setting rather than just in passing. He always talks about them, so it was nice to put a face with a name and actually know their personalities first hand. What wonderful people to work with!

We arrived at the resort and got settled in our little "bungalows". Very different from any place we've ever stayed and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It was very small, but we are getting really good at doing one room for all 4 of us, especially with this porch, that made it really easy! The bathrooms were an experience, just in themselves. You could sit on the toilet, wash your hands, and shower all at the same time if you wanted. I never tried this, but it is always nice to have options.

It was a little bit like camping in that there is sand everywhere and any time the kids step outside, we planned on them getting filthy. This is Jane doing the sign for dirty, after only a few minutes in the sand. If you thought sand was dirty, try adding lots of sweat to the mixture!

This beach was across the road from the place we were staying. It was like heaven! We were amazed at the difference between this beach and Hua Hin. This was not touristy at all, in fact, until the sun started to go down, there was hardly anyone on the beach at all! There were no vendors wanting to sell you things, you didn't pay for the beach chairs, you couldn't get a massage from your chair, no one bringing you drinks, and it was such a nice change! As much as we love to experience the touristy side of things, Jeff and I are both drawn more to places where there actually are Thai people. And not just the ones who are running their businesses. We love to go where the Thais vacation. And, this is where we were. It was awesome.

As you can see, Jack jumped right in. He loved the sand and the water this time. He made lots of friends who had sand toys and water guns, so he was in heaven. We were so grateful for one Thai family in particular who were staying just a few doors down and we saw them at the beach, breakfast and the pool all three days. The kids shared all their toys and the Mom and Dad were SO sweet to let Jack join in! I've said from the start that Jack should have been a 3rd child. He just loves families with older kids! Luckily, he is also the world's best older brother!

After Janie warmed up to the water and waves, we could hardly get her out. She loved the water splashing into her, and occasionally dug in the sand as well. She mostly just liked to see the waves wash the sand off of her.

This is Dom, Kae, and A+ on the porch of their room. They brought a grill to make shishkabobs on which came in handy again when they got a bunch of free shrimp from the shrimp farm they went to. I was watching how they cooked the shrimp only to find out that their favorite way of eating fresh shrimp is raw! They thought it was hilarious that Jeff and I were amazed by this. I like to try a little bit of everything, just to have an open mind, but this was a little far for me right now. Maybe after another few months I'll be more willing.

They got a kick out of how much I love the fruit here. This is my favorite fruit right now , Pomelo (coming in close second are mango and pineapple). I buy it on the street at least 3-4 times a week. Dom decided he was going to show me how to peel it myself (on the street, it's already peeled), so this was definitely a highlight for me. This is all the peel, and you can see the fruit that comes from it. The rind is extremely thick and spongy, but the fruit is oh, so good!

This is everyone at dinner together, just a few meters away from the beach! Starting around the table, there is Kae (pronounced Gay with rising tone), A+ (pronounced A with a rising tone), Tui (pronounced Dewey with low tone), Dom (very easy, nice, eh?), Jeff, the driver (didn't ever catch his name, but he was very nice), and Dave. Where are the kids, you ask? They found some bikes to play on (probably the food shop owner's kid's stuff), so they were occupied without supervision for at least the 5 seconds it took me to take this picture.

This was a dish we ate at dinner the last night together that is pretty typical of Thai seafood. I have tasted squid quite a few times now and continue to find that it's never my favorite. Although, this same night, Kay cooked Tako Yaki, a Japanese food, which has octopus in it, and I thought it was fantastic! Must just be the way it's prepared, or what it's mixed in with. Who knows. Maybe Kae is just an awesome cook.

This is my darling husband trying his best to look mean with his "vagrant" look. He didn't shave for 2 weeks and had more beard than I've ever seen him with. All the Thais with us were amazed at how hairy he is compared to them. Very few Thais we know have to shave very often at all. For some reason, they are quite hairless. Jeff's a little jealous.

Everyone but me and the kids went to visit a temple on the mountain as well as the shrimp farm that I spoke of earlier. As much as I wanted to go, it was better to keep the kids home where I didn't have to worry about them touching things they shouldn't. It feels so much better to be in situations when I don't have to say "no, no, no" so much. That gets old really fast. So, we had a GREAT time swimming together at this awesome pool where I could say, "yes, yes, yes!".

I just thought this picture was cute of Jane.

So, two trips, both extremely different. One was completely pizza, subway, and burger king. The other, only Thai food. One with families, the other with singles. One in a hotel, the other in a bungalow. One town had 7-11 and Starbucks, the other, it took us until the second day to find a place to buy crackers for the kids. So different and both so fun. It's hard to even know how we want to do our next outing because we saw so many sides of things! We just felt so blessed to be able to do this with such fun people and do so many fun things. I loved spending time with people I know well, and I loved getting to know people I barely knew. We just are so grateful for everyone who lets us non-Thai speakers tag along and enjoy the ride!

Since we missed Easter Sunday completely, we planned a special meal and Family night to carry on our Easter traditions. It was nice to have a night at home, just the four of us where we could play together and talk about why Easter is such a special day. It was interesting on Sunday to know that it was Easter, yet, we weren't even getting to attend church that day. There are no churches even close to where we were, plus, everyone in Thailand was broadcasting Conference this weekend. Luckily, the bishop promised us the Conference DVD next week, so we look forward to watching that during the week, after the kids are in bed. Yes, we will get to actually WATCH it, instead of chasing the kids around through all the sessions and hoping we get bits and pieces! We are very excited to hear the words of our prophet and other leaders. I am also very excited to hear the choir sing in that wonderful tabernacle! I can't wait to see it again! So, to all of you who watched conference in your Pajamas last weekend, I hope you truly appreciate that convenience! We've still got a while before we can do that again!


Anonymous said...

Nice trip! Nice article! -Yong

Esther said...

What a wonderful trip and experience to have!! Thanks for sharing!