30 June 2008

Khao Yai

If you read my blog regularly, you probably know how much I LOVE living in the city. Ever since my first visit to San Francisco at the age of 13, I have dreamed of living in a big city. Visiting Boston, Berlin, Vienna, and of course, New York, only made me want it even more. I'm such a dreamer. Unbelievably, this is one dream that I'm actually living right now, which sometimes I still can't get over. I love being right in the middle of it all. I love traveling by public transportation, walking all over, and seeing the daily hustle and bustle of life that reflects the country I live in, and I absolutely love opening our draperies in the morning to the sunlight and a gorgeous 15th story view. You couldn't pay me to live anywhere else in Bangkok. I will admit though, it does have it's challenges. I often get "mom guilt" when I think of some of the things my children are missing out on by not living in the Utah suburbs like I did. They never get to just ride their bikes out on the sidewalks with all their little friends. They don't have a sandbox or nice, soft grass like I grew up with. (I won't get into the things they do get here, because I'm talking about my "mom guilt" items.) So, as I was really feeling the guilt this last week, I realized we needed a break from city life and got on planning a couple days of fresh air, clean dirt, and good family fun.

Jeff and Jack went for a Father and Son's outing to Khao Yai National Park last year and had a great time. I'd been wanting to go somewhere in the mountains, and since this was only two hours away, I thought it was the perfect getaway. So we booked a hotel, hired a van, and off we went!

We left early Friday morning and unfortunately hit some famous Bangkok traffic, but it didn't delay us too long. It was fun to be in a too-big van for just the four of us, where we could stretch out, wander around, tell stories, read books, and even watch a movie. I loved watching the scenery slowly change from the big city, industrial areas, industrial, industrial, and finally a little nature! Khao Yai literally means "big mountain", which I guess in Thailand, really is considered BIG. The size wasn't what I loved about it because it pales in comparison to the Wasatch mountains; I loved how GREEN everything was. You don't really even see the mountain, you just see mounds of trees that completely cover the mountain. Just green, green, green.

We stayed at the Sak Phu Duen resort, just outside of the park. Businesses here use the word "resort" a little more liberally than we Americans do, so I wasn't sure what we were in for as we started passing some of these "resorts" on the way in. I was starting to get a bit nervous. But, as we pulled up, I was put at ease as it all looked really nice, clean, and not the least bit busy! These are the driveways to the cottages. The landscaping was gorgeous.

I wished I had my camera out when we pulled up the first time. It was picturesque. The driver drove us up to the front steps and (security must have called them) the bell hop and a very beautiful Thai girl were waiting there for us. They each hopped to their duty, the bell hop got what little luggage we had, and the girl stood there with a wai looking picture perfect and directing us inside. Thailand is awesome.

We always like to explore the grounds before we go about our activities. They had a fun (but extremely worn) playground the kids loved.

By this playground was a HUGE area with at least 100 rabbits. There was also a big cage for several peacocks. Jack thought they were fascinating.

You'll have to excuse all the pictures, but I love remembering the places we stay because they are all so unique! The room was a very simple little cottage with a balcony that was the same size as the actual room! This was the view from the balcony to the other cottages and garden area. Occasionally, gardeners would walk by and see us inside and wave. I don't think that would go over too well in the states, but here it seemed totally normal.

We loved the windows in the bathroom and the closet area. They just open right up! It's no wonder how our not-so-little cockroach friends got inside (sad, but true). I was reminded that night that it's been a LONG time since I had a shower with no hot water! I'm NOT good at that at all, and honestly, how cold can water really get in this climate? Not very. I was feeling like I've been pretty pampered most of my life!

I loved the scenery from the pool. I just couldn't get over all the green! There really is green even in the city, but it's just different to have it really dominate, and I was loving it. We loved this pool the next morning (even with the audience of breakfast eaters), but it was NOT the best pool. It was kind of dirty and run down, but from this picture it really does look beautiful!

We drove into the park and paid the foreigner entrance fee (10x more than the fee for Thais, ouch!), and really had no idea what we were going to see or do. Luckily, Khun Wuth (the driver) took us to the visitors center where we could get some literature on what our options were. This was Jane's favorite thing. Dead snakes. I don't know what it is about my kids and snakes. They love 'em!

Shortly after this, we met a nice couple from Colorado. They were backpacking through and we actually ended up spending the rest of the day with them. We went on a short little nature hike that turned out to be a little more adventurous than I was imagining. I just wanted something simple that would be a good first exposure to hiking for the kids. Well, this did it! Here was bridge #1 that we crossed. Having just watched the old Indiana Jones movies (and knowing the level of upkeep on a lot of things here), I was feeling actually a bit nervous about my family on it!

Jack found a GIANT pill bug, potato bug, roley poley bug, or whatever you want to call it. That was cool.

We also found many, many, many little leeches. They were everywhere and they are creepy! I picked at least 6-7 off of my feet and legs. Maybe my Chacos weren't such a good idea. Luckily, my kids didn't have any problems with leeches or any bugs. They were loving every bit of it. Jane loved her "seat", and Jack didn't complain once about the walking. It helped to have Mitch and Kate there to visit with, and Kate knew all kinds of interesting facts about bugs and animals that Jack was just eating up!

Jeff informed me after crossing this bridge that if he were to fall in, he would probably not even try to get out. He'd just need to let himself go after being engulfed in this swamp. (It was pretty gross, but no more than some of the canals in the city that he feels the same way about.) The surroundings here were stunning. It felt like someone could come through swinging on a vine at any second.

There are just SO many safety hazards here we just try to overlook and make the best of. This bridge was so incredible. I know, that's a lot of bridges to show in one post, but they were really amazing!

As we got to the waterfall at the end of this hike, Jeff was standing around waiting for the rest of us, and this monkey walked right past him. We've heard of aggresive monkeys in Thailand many times, so it's a little nerve racking, but he just wandered by. We got this shot a little later as he walked off. We also saw monkeys wandering through closed food pavilions which didn't make us especially want to eat there later.

We drove up the mountain to another really famous waterfall. It was featured in the movie "The Beach", but I've never seen it. Anyone seen that one? At first, we could only get to the top of the waterfall. Beautiful, but not what we were hoping for.

We walked down these super steep stairs. (Amazingly, on the way back, Janie did them all by herself as we told her the story of the Little Engine that Could. I love that story)

We thought this waterfall really was gorgeous. Jane loved watching the rainbow inside of the falling water, and Jack was totally excited about all the huge rocks to climb on. There was a movie being filmed there as we approached, so we watched for a while as they filmed a Swedish guy jumping in from a tall tree. It was 360 degrees of beauty, which unfortunately, I couldn't capture with my little point and shoot.

We climbed rocks for a while, then Jack wanted to take his shoes off. This was my first mistake. My second mistake came when I offered to roll up his pants for him so he could put his feet in. My third mistake was turning around. All of a sudden my fully dressed boy was in the water up to his chest. Oops. He panicked for a bit, and then realized he wasn't in trouble and asked if he could just get all the way in. (Why didn't I see this one coming? My sisters and I were the BEST at this little lure of letting us get in the water. At least we always thought we were, I'm sure my parents knew exactly what they were getting into.) This is how Jack hiked back up to the van.

Luckily, they had a gift shop at the top where we found some kids clothing. I was glad he didn't have to do the night safari in his underpants! We paid 50Baht a person and hopped on the back of this truck to ride around the back roads of the park for an hour. Jeff and Jack did this when they were here before and saw all kinds of wild elephants, monkeys and deer. We mostly just saw the deer and a few Civets which Kate was really excited about. Jane fell completely asleep during our drive, but Jack loved it, even if we didn't see as much as we were hoping. It was a fun-filled day, but we were all exhausted and ready to get back "home".

Saturday, we took it easy during the morning. Jane and I were the first ones up, and since she was so happy, I thought it would be fun to take her for a little walk. She was hilarious walking up and down the road in front of our cottage. This girl can be quite determined when she wants to get somewhere. I took these pictures because I think kids are cute when they first wake up. And after a night of her kicking and punching Jeff and me (she's a mover in her sleep), I needed to remember how cute she actually is.

This picture, for some reason, reminded me so much of my sister, Joanna. Do we have a picture of Joanna with this same expression somewhere? I haven't started calling Janie "Joanna" yet, like I'm sure I will, eventually, but I do call Jack "Jesse" sometimes. All these J's get to be a little confusing! Isn't my girl sweet? Just like my sister!

We started our day with a nice breakfast and a fun dip in the pool. Jack recently acquired a snorkel and thinks it's the best thing since dishwashers, so we all had fun giving it a try.

We spent the remainder of our trip at a nearby dairy farm, called Chokchai. Chokchai is the company who produces the best tasting Thai milk, which is still not nearly as good as American milks, but we can at least drink it. This place opened itself up to agrotourism about 8 years ago and we'd heard nothing but good things about it. Although the tour was almost completely in Thai, we still managed to understand at least where we should meet our group and a few facts about the cows. Quite a view, eh? This is Jack saying "mooooo".

They cart each tour (of about 80 people) around in wagons pulled by tractors. We watched informative videos, saw the ice cream making process (I think) and then had some time at their cowboy town. It was funny to see cowboys entering a stage with a wai, but they certainly knew how to ride their horses and were great with a whip and lasso. The kids were in awe, and I wanted to cry because of all the good western music they were playing. It was tasteful western music, and reminded me of how I used to be a pretty good fiddler, back in the day.

Across from cowboy town was a whole field of dragon fruit. I'd never thought of how this exotic fruit grew, and certainly didn't imagine them on trees like this, but guess what? These aren't trees! I didn't even notice, but Jeff pointed out that the trunk is actually a big pipe with these growing out of it. I don't really get it, but it was fascinating nonetheless. Jack really likes Dragon fruit. I mostly just like how it looks in a fruit salad (white with tiny black seeds).

We saw a dog show (I really am not a dog lover, so I wasn't too impressed. I wished we'd gotten there earlier when they were doing the sheep show. Way cooler!), then we were onto the best petting zoo I've ever seen. It was SO clean, and you could pet everything, and for 10 baht (about 30 cents), you could buy food to feed them. My favorite was feeding the calves. Jane wanted the bottle, but she set it down about 1 foot away from them and backed away. She was a little hesitant to say the least.

These sheep are a GREAT example of how clean this place was. I've never seen sheep this clean! They look like they are stuffed, they are so pretty! The kids weren't that interested in them, but I couldn't stop touching them! I think that was the highlight of the animals for me!

Jane liked the bunnies a little better since there was more fence between them and her. Plus, random people kept coming up and giving the kids food they could feed them. We stopped buying food at this point.

Jack loved his pony ride, and used all the commands he's practiced while riding Jeff at home. Our kids are prepared for everything! Jane was hilarious with the ponies. At first she didn't want to, so that was fine. Then, she started standing in line until she got to the front, then changed her mind again. We went through this several times until I finally decided she'd have more fun back at the petting zoo. Can we just call her Little Miss Fickle?

Both the kids loved the animal show with a pelican, goats, calves, dogs, and a parrot who could do math. It was actually really well done and the animals seemed extremely well taken care of.

So, you've finally come to the end of our trip! It was a fun-filled two days, and we were happy to head back home. It is funny to think that my kids are learning about cowboys, farm animals, and where milk comes from on a farm in Thailand. Their childhood (at least these two years) is nothing like what I had in mind when they were born. I've had to adjust my ideas of how to raise my children because we live in a different world that I imagined raising them in. When I think of it this way, my "mom-guilt" subsides. But, it sure didn't hurt to give them a taste of what it was like to have your own vehicle, what fresh air feels like, and just enjoying the outdoors! Now that we're back in the city, I can of course appreciate how much I love it here. But, it certainly is a different world.

So, after our trip, we were exhausted, but life goes on. Sunday was very busy, and we were lucky to have some guests come home from church with us! This picture is good of everyone but me (I was saying something I think), but at least we got it. I hate when people leave without a picture because sometimes we never see them again! Rachel and Adam Bushman are here for 4 months with Adam's work. They've been awesome at helping in nursery when they are in town, and we loved visiting with them about their adventures while they are here, and their plans for when they get back to Provo. Carrie is from South Africa and just arrived in Thailand a few weeks ago. She travels 2 1/2 hours each way (3-4 different modes of transportation) to come to church each week. She's young, single, and very independent. She was a huge help in the kitchen and my kids already love her. Jeremy Beck's been here many times. His family (Jack's friends Isaac and Lucas) left for Utah two weeks ago and he'll meet up with them next month. Most people here go "home" for the summer for at least 2 months, so our ward is about 1/4 of the size. We won't even have ONE member of the bishopric here for about a month. I did sharing time on Sunday to about 20 kids total. The small size is fun for a while, but we certainly are spread thin when it comes to manning all stations in this ward! Anyway, it was fun to have friends over and get to hear everyone's story. This ward is truly unique in so many ways, and I love how everyone just takes care of each other. What a blessing to be a part of it!

While we were visiting, Jack was determined to build all the animals in his KFC chicky meal clay set. He did a pretty good job!

For the few who read my blog for their Sunday afternoon activities, I'm sorry it was so late! I was exhausted on Sunday after everyone left and didn't want to sit at the computer. So, now it's taken me way longer! Anyway, thanks for reading and keeping in touch! Please, send me an email if I haven't heard from you in a while. I'd LOVE to know what everyone is up to! Have a fantastic week.


Mimi and Papa in Provo said...

ok! What's all this "mom quilt" about, Mindy. You and Jeff are giving your children so much and all the comforts of America can't make up for the fun this moment in time is for them and for you. This is a great time to enjoy each other and a different culture at the same time. All of your trip sounded like a great adventure to me. Wish I were there to experience it with you but your blog is the next best thing. Actually, considering the dead snakes, creepy crawly things, and Thailand traffice, maybe it IS THE BEST THING. Ha ha! I missed your post and just kept checking back and the wait was completely worth it. We love you! Mom

Joanna said...

What an honor to hear that your sweet Janie looks like me! I believe she definitely has my cheeks! Sounds like such a great weekend and fun memories made. Like Mom said, I wish I could have been there with you (minus the bugs!). Love you so much!

By the way, my protein S number is NORMAL! Woooohoooo!

Bevany said...

Your trip looks like so much fun. And amazing! I can't believe you can just walk through the jungles like that. I don't think would let my children cross bridges like that though, I am totally a worrier. I love your posts. It's so fun to look at your pictures. Love the picture of Jack hiking in his underwear. So funny! Your kids are so cute.

John, Megan and girls said...

Seeing all that you do for your children, I can't believe you ever have mom guilt. Mindy, you're amazing! They're grounded, and they're getting to experience it all! You are so great at reaching out to others, too. What an example you are. And, it's also quite apparent that you have very happy and wonderful children. I love that you make such long posts with so many beautiful pictures! And, stop feeling guilty! You're one in a million.

Anonymous said...

Janie that's a sweet blue dress it's going to look real nice on my bedroom floor