14 August 2007

Happy Mother's Day to Me!

Yes, you read that right, Mother's Day! Living in Thailand has many perks, but one of the biggest is that they have all these wonderful, random, Thai holidays that gets Jeff off work. For some of my most diligent readers, you might recall us celebrating Father's Day in December on the King's birthday (December 5th, also my baby brother's birthday!). August 12th just happens to be the Queen's birthday, hence the mother's day celebration! You may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with anything? Good point. And I will answer that question momentarily. But before we begin, here are a few pictures from our week.

We had a great week. We spent a day at Ocean World, had the Becks over to play, discovered a fantastic play group at the British club, and got to introduce the Beck family to some of our favorite Thai food we get off the street.

The traffic was terrible on our way home from the play group, so we hopped out of the taxi in the middle of the street, which is always a little scary with two children, and walked to the train. Janie was feeling like such a big girl because we didn't have the stroller, so she got to sit on a bench and even found a seat on the train when we got on.

I feel moments of success when my kids are content while I am trying to get ready in the morning, especially when they are playing together! This morning they both sat on the bed and looked at books together, enjoying each other's company. I loved it.

Another day this week, I was trying to keep Janie entertained while I got ready in my bathroom. I sat her on my bed with a book to look at. I asked her to find the violin. She was so proud of herself when she pointed it out. I proceeded to ask her to find the shoe, fish, etc. I then asked her to find the pretty girl (it was a book of princesses but she doesn't know what a princess is) and waited for the triumphant look I'd seen with the other challenges. She looked right at me and pointed to herself, "pretty girl". And she certainly is.

We met up with Jeff, Pink, and Luck for lunch on Friday at Fuji. We ate delicious Japanese food, visited with two of the sweetest people ever, and Jack got to open lots of chopsticks! After lunch, Jack had some money he had earned that he wanted to spend at 7-11. It's amazing how far 15 baht will go when Pink is the one that takes him in to spend it. He came out with a chocolate milk, ice cream cone, and 16 baht. She must be magic. Thanks, Pink and Luck!

Back to Mother's Day. Really, it just happened to be Mother's Day this weekend, all I knew was that it was the last 3 day weekend before Jack started school and I was ready to get away from the city with just the four of us. And, after a particularly rough week with Jack, it was even better timing than I initially realized.

We didn't want to travel far, so we took a recommendation from one of Jeff's coworkers to try Cha-am, a city just 30 minutes away from Hua-hin where we went with the Strate and Selway families in March. Although we didn't know anyone who had actually been there, we were hopeful it would be as wonderful as everyone said it was on travel websites. We were not disappointed.

We wanted to get out of the city, but after checking the prices of traveling, we opted to travel by bus/van instead of the typical expat mode of hiring a driver. We were feeling adventurous, and confident that we didn't need all the farang frills to have a good time. So, we showed up on this back soi at 5:30 am to catch a van down to Cha-am. No English was spoken here, so Jeff was able to show off his amazing Thai skills and after a while, we were directed to a van, hoping it was the right one. One lesson we learned: buying 4 tickets for 2 adults and 2 children doesn't mean you will get 4 seats. We were feeling lucky to get 3! But, we weren't complaining. The kids did fantastic, we were plenty comfortable, we got there faster than we expected and it was 1/4 the price of hiring a driver!

So, this is the most official looking place associated with the van business. We pay money, he gives us a ticket that says something on it, we hop on. Pretty simple.

Jeff found Janie some rice to eat for breakfast and she was certainly content with it!

We were so surprised to actually reach Cha-am in only two hours (the minimum time we had read) that we hardly knew what to do once we got there! We hopped out, unloaded our stuff and when a guy in a motorcycle taxi driver asked me where we were going, I told him the name of the hotel, expecting him to call us a taxi. People are just nice like that here. He promptly hopped on his bike and motioned for us to hop on! They loaded up our stuff (luckily we had very little) and the four of us on the back of two motorbikes, and off we went!

This is Jeff and Janie with their driver, although at this point, Jeff had already put the stroller down (I'm not kidding). Janie was loving it. She was putting out her arms like she was flying and Jack kept looking up at me saying, "this is SO cool, mom, isn't it?". We thought the whole thing was hilarious.

We got to Methavalai hotel at 8:30am, but check-in wasn't until noon. But I thought I would talk to them anyway, just to see if we could take care of some things now and possibly leave our things with them while we hit the beach. I'm sure it was because I was so prepared (I didn't have our passports or the receipt from the online agency we used), that they checked us in immediately instead of waiting 3 1/2 more hours. I couldn't believe it. They were fantastic, even welcoming us with drinks!

Here's the view from our room.

After family nap time, we set out for the beach! Jack was loving every minute in the sand. What kid wouldn't? I got these great swim outfits a few weeks ago and I think they are the greatest! I felt so much better with their skin covered. I've seen too many "baked" foreigners here and have lost my taste for the sun. With these swimsuits, sunblock, and visiting the beach later in the day, we didn't need an ounce of aloe. Yay!

Jane was funny. She didn't even want to take her shoes off at first! It took her a while to warm up to it, but she never loved it like she did last time we were at the beach. Although, she was plenty happy if we were right there with her!

I think our favorite part of this awesome hotel was the pool. We loved that we could walk across the street from the beach, shower off, and hop in one of the several pools to swim even more (but much cleaner!). They had an awesome kids area with slides, fountains, bubbles, etc. This is Janie during her first photo shoot when we got to the pool the first day. She makes friends everywhere! She's a trooper. I think her picture is on cell phones all over Thailand.

This would be photo shoot #2 with this father and son we played with for a while that afternoon. This little boy shared his blow-up wave runner which my kids adored. He was a really good sport!

Janie is an animal in the water. She had whole crowds watching her in the other pool. She would go down this big slide and plop right into the water without a fuss. She would bob herself up and down in the kiddy pool, and she and Jack loved that they could look at Jeff under water. We LOVE swimming together, it's a fun time for all of us.

Janie at breakfast the next morning. She's so messy and I didn't have a bib, so we just took her shirt off. I don't think that would be very acceptable in the U.S., but here people just smiled and laughed, I'm sure commenting on how cute and chubby she is. In this picture, she's dipping her banana bread in her orange juice. Yum.

Because we were so disoriented when we arrived in Cha-am the first day, we forgot to ask anyone about how to get back to the city! So, we decided that we'd better find a way to get home on Monday. We set out to find a bus station we had heard about, and decided we'd cover more ground on bikes. We rented these bikes for 20 baht/hour (about 70 cents) and rode up and down the beach road. I thought the kids would be nervous, but Jack was loving not having to walk, and Janie was so comfortable, we were constantly reminding her to "hang on!".

Just one of the sights while we were riding. Jeff and I kept asking each other, "how do you choose between these 5 food shops that are right next door to each other and they are all roasting huge pigs?" The question was so overwhelming, we just couldn't choose and kept on riding!

Another one of Jeff and Janie. The seat they had for her was great. We wished there would have been some way to strap her in though, but she certainly didn't mind. She was throwing her arms out to the side, playing with things in her lap, moving her legs all around. I was amazed. Riding the bikes along the beach was definitely a highlight for me. It was a simple, low key way to see a lot of this little town, and the kids loved it. I can't remember the last time I rode a bike. Very memorable.

In fact, getting around by bike was so perfect, we rented them again that night to get to the night market! It was at this little market that I fell in love with Cha-am. It was the smallest little market I have seen yet. Mostly food stands, with a few for clothing and odds and ends. We got some dinner here (chicken on a stick, fried chicken, pineapple, pomelo, som tam, noodles, and a fruity drink) and looked around a bit. This is the stand where Jeff got my som tam (papaya salad), one of my favorite Thai dishes. Currently, I eat this almost every day.

This is pretty much the rest of the market. Very small. It was so quaint, the people were so sweet (although that's not unusual), and we saw only two other farangs there the whole time! I just kept thinking, "I love this market, I love this town, we have to come back here!".

We tried to enforce a family nap time each day we were there, but this was hard to do when Jack really just wanted to swim, swim, swim! Before Jeff and Janie had even woken up (I didn't get to sleep because Jack was too excited to let me), Jack was ready to go! This is his Peter Pan pose.

Janie was having a little snack before we hit the pool. Her favorite, sticky rice. People always laugh at her because she eats it right out of the bag like this (kind of like you eat a hamburger with the wrapper around the bottom), but it is a GREAT on the go snack!

Jane, for some reason, always loved to lay on the pavement outside our room. What a nut.

We ate yummy Thai food all weekend, besides this meal, of course, where Jeff and the kids ordered fish and chips. But, it was fun to try out different food shops along the beach. We didn't eat at any places that had a front door (or even 4 walls), that's for sure.

The kids and Jeff being silly on the beach. I love these kinds of pictures. I really don't know how Jeff comes up with new faces every time!

I'm not quite sure what it is, but whenever I have been to the beach, it is always sad for me to go. I think it might be because I never quite know when I will see it again. I know it won't be long, but you know, I fell in love with this little town, so it was sad to say, "see you later... hopefully".

I really loved Cha-am. I loved how small it was, how few tourists we saw, how the vendors on the beach stopped to chat, how we could walk or ride a bike anywhere. I loved going to the sandy beach, hopping in the pool, then cleaning off in the hotel room. I loved eating at food shops everyday. I loved taking family naps. I loved playing with my kids all day, three days in a row. I loved the time together, just the four of us. It was my favorite Mother's Day weekend ever.

And in case you were wondering, we even found a way to get home. We hopped on a bus, Monday afternoon, and four hours later (they told us three, unfortunately), we arrived at a bus station in Bangkok. We busted out the DVD player on the way home to entertain the kiddos, although I think Jeff was enjoying Dumbo too, what do you think? On top of watching this, Jeff told Jack every story about his childhood he could think of, and Janie and I exhausted my vocal repertoire. I felt pretty bad for all those people seated near us trying to sleep!

It started raining about 1 hour into the ride, and about 2 hours later, it started to leak through the roof onto the seat. We couldn't help but laugh. The bus was full, so we couldn't move, but honestly, we've had worse. A few of you will remember our trip to Sattahip with Anutra (our Thai teacher). The four of us and three others crammed into a tiny pickup (the front) and drove for 3 hours. We think of that every time something seems a little uncomfortable. We always feel like everything is roomier and softer when we remember that experience. Funny how that works.

We pretty much had no idea where we were once we got off the bus, but luckily, the taxi driver we found knew how to take us home! So, by about 7pm, we were home, and loving it. We spent the taxi ride home evaluating what we would do again and where to go on our next adventure. Now that we've experienced other ways to travel, and Jeff continues to blow me away with his Thai skills, I'm feeling like we can take on anything! Any suggestions?


Hawkins family said...

What a fun Mother's Day adventure! I love that you guys are always ready to try something new! Good job, Jeff, on not getting your family lost in translation! We love you guys!

Kimpossible said...

That sounds like so much fun! It's so beautiful there. Thanks for posting the pictures.

Som Tom is my favorite Thai dish too--eat some for me!

The Croshaw Family said...

Sounds like we need to go back to Cha-am when we come to visit. Maybe even eat "Thanksgiving dinner" on the street? I'd certainly be up for it!

Esther said...

That sounds like a great adventure! Thank you so much for sharing Mindy! I really miss you all! I love hearing all about you all! Love you lots!