20 July 2008

7-11 is HOW FAR?

This post is super long with LOTS of pictures. I just can't stand to leave anything out, as you'll soon see!

We decided very last minute that we wanted to spend our holiday weekend (Thursday was Asamha Bucha Day) outside of the city. Having just recently spent a bit of time in the mountains, we decided on the beach. Especially because we knew we could easily get there in a number of ways. (We've found transportation to be the biggest dilemma when you don't own a car!)

One thing we still hadn't done is take advantage of the train system, which we'd heard was great! We decided to head towards Hua Hin, a touristy beach town we visited about a year ago, but the hotel we found was about 30 km south of the city. We realized the night before that besides getting to Hua Hin, we didn't know how, exactly, we were going to get to our hotel. We've become a little more relaxed about our transportation needs lately. We figured we'd just play it by ear.

Here's the Hua Lamphong train station at about 7:30am. I think train stations are so fascinating. I think it was the best place I've found yet for people watching. It was filled with Thais and Farangs alike.

This is waiting to get on. Jack thought it was so cool to see the big train come right up to where we were standing. I'm always so impressed with public transportation that just keeps things moving along! It's there and people use it. Why doesn't everyone have this?

We lucked out on the train because within 5 minutes, Jack had met a kindred spirit named Kate. She was on a daddy/daughter weekend to Hua Hin, so the entire train ride, Jack and Kate laughed, read books, and played games needing very little attention from any of us! We enjoyed visiting with Kate's dad from the UK for a good 2 hours of the train ride. I've never met anyone who makes friends as quickly as Jack!

We arrived at the Hua Hin station only about 1 hour later than scheduled. The kids loved the ride though, so why would we complain? This station was pretty unique in its design, and while we waited for our next leg of the adventure, we watched as they filmed a movie right there on the platform!

Jane found some swinging doors (like to a saloon) at the station, and apparently there was a friend behind them. She'd stick her face in and come out with a huge grin each time.

Like I said before, we didn't know how we were getting to our hotel, but once in Hua Hin, we discovered that for only 12 baht for all four of us (about 35 cents), we could all ride a bit further and get to, what we thought, was a lot closer to our destination. This is where we went wrong, but I'll get to that in a minute. This 12 baht train ride was definitely the most unique experience of our trip!

We piled onto this train (and I mean piled, at first we didn't think there was any room!), and tried to get cozy while everyone looked at us like they'd never seen white people before. There really was standing room only, but when this lady on the right, (looking at the camera) saw the kids, she stood up and wanted us to take her bench. This was very nice of her because this train was crowded and very HOT! I was worried about how the kids would do in this environment and wondered if we'd have done better just to hire an expensive taxi to take us out there, but this turned out to be their favorite part of the trip! Jeff and I are in awe at how our kids adapt to things here! This picture is not fantastic, but I included it in hopes that you can get an idea of the number of people on this train!

Another thing we loved was that at each stop, people would come by selling food to people through the windows. At one point, a guy actually walked through the crowded cars selling sticky rice and grilled pork. Of course, Jane just had to have some. Whoever thought of this idea had quite the entrepreneurial mind, because people were buying it up!

So, back to the transportation issues. We arrived at our indended stop, and once we were off and the train drove away we realized we were in the middle of nowhere! We thought at the very least, there would be motorcycle taxis to take us to our hotel. There was not ONE in sight! No taxis, no tuk-tuks, no trucks, nothing. We puttered around laughing nervously trying to weigh our options. There were a few shacks and one tiny food stand around the station, then there was a lot of dirt and a (sort of) road. We thought of getting back on the train going the other way, or calling the hotel and seeing if they could send a car (which I'm sure would have been pricey!), or just start walking and hope to see a taxi, which was our naive thought! Luckily, we happened into a good samaritan who spoke fantastic English, possibly the only one in a 10 km vacinity, and had a really nice car and driver. I couldn't put the pieces together, but honestly, we didn't care! She offered to take us to our hotel and wouldn't even accept payment. I'm really hoping we have an opportunity to pay this one back somehow! Our options were getting pretty limited until she showed up! We realized even more what a blessing she was as we drove the 15 km to the hotel and saw nothing on the way. If we would have started walking, we would have been in trouble! So, maybe next time, we'll figure out at least how to get to our hotel before we leave home. Maybe.

Jack couldn't wait to get to the beach, so as soon as we could, we headed out! It had just rained a bit, so we were a little worried about jelly fish, so we mostly stayed on the sand. The kids didn't mind though. They found a huge mountain of sand and played as long as we let them. They were climbing, jumping, digging, and making rock piles, and loving every minute of it!

We stayed at the Bacchus Home Resort which was a simple hotel right along the beach. Our main priorities when picking a hotel is that it's cheap, we can walk to the beach, and it has a nice pool. Everything else is just a bonus! This pool was fantastic and SO clean!

My kids are in heaven in the water, so what's better than heaven? Heaven with ice cream! They are so spoiled!

The one thing I didn't believe in the reviews I'd read about this place, was how remote it was. The question to decide how remote is, "was there even a 7-11?". In Bangkok, there is a 7-11 on every corner, so the fact that we had to walk for about 20 minutes to get to one was crazy! This was us on our first quest to 7-11 so we could get some snacks and hopefully a slurpee!

There really was nothing around besides other resorts and a few food shops that even made us nervous. We ended up eating in the hotel restaurant on a day when we weren't feeling as brave as usual. The good part was that they had my favorite: Massaman curry. Delicious!

The highlight of the entire trip for me was on Friday morning. We went out to the beach and discovered the tide was really low and you could see a huge sand bar way out in the water. In this picture, you can barely see Jane on the right, and Jeff (yellow shirt) and Jack to the left. We all walked out there and found so many cool things!

We found several dead crabs, but this one that Jeff found was still alive and kicking! We let him go quickly after the kids got a good look because he didn't seem like he was kicking as hard as we would have hoped!

From a distance, this jelly fish looked like a plastic bag, so we were shocked when we discovered what it really was. In Germany I saw jelly fish, but they were NOT this big. There were countless tiny ones all along the shore of this sand bar that Jack pointed out to us. We hadn't even noticed them before!

As always, my kids love the hermit crabs, and we found a lot of these!

Of all the things we found, by far my favorites were the sand dollars. I've never been to a beach where you could find whole sand dollars! They were everywhere, so we started a good collection, which unfortunately I didn't get a picture of. Jack and I were in a really wet area at one point and I reached into the sand and pulled up a whole handful of them, only to discover that they were still alive! It was fascinating to see the little hairs/legs all over their bodies and realize that they really are living animals! Of course, we put the living ones right back, but I felt so lucky to be able to see them first hand. I'd just never thought of sand dollars as anything but an empty, dried out shell before. I was in awe!

I loved this shot of the shore, the clouds, and, behind the tallest trees, our resort. It was a gorgeous day to be out together!

Jeff and I have discovered that we like going to the beach, but mostly just when we also have a hotel and a nice pool to come home to. We've totally gone soft since we've had children! But, now that we know what we like, we can easily make it happen! We swam and swam and swam! Jack was an absolute animal in the pool! He kept swiming across it, practicing his backstroke, retrieving stuff on the bottom, and was getting pretty brave with his diving! He's only just started to learn diving technic in his swim class (which is already beyond my current knowledge), but he wasn't afraid to try it out! He never wanted to get out!

Jane was a bit more reserved in the pool this trip. She's become pretty reserved anywhere outside of her lessons lately, but still has a great time playing with the toys and occasionally retrieving Jeff's goggles off the bottom for him. We bought some sand toys that came with this boat. Jane and the boat quickly became inseparable.

We swam until we literally couldn't see anymore because there were no lights in the pool! It was beautiful to swim at night with the hotel lights, the waves crashing, and the palm trees against the deep blue sky.

We insisted everyone have a nap one afternoon so we could still enjoy being together. We've realized that NONE of us do well when we're tired. We slept better on this trip than we have in ages, it was wonderful! Maybe next trip we could work it so I could actually sleep with my husband!

Jane insisted I take this picture of her with "little Jane". All the little statues were either her or Jack.

On Saturday morning, we knew we had to check out but were still unsure about how to get home! Seeing as there were NO taxis or anything of the sort around, we decided we'd have to use the hotel services. We paid for their "taxi", which was really a covered pick up with two benches in the back (called a song taew), to take us to the local bus station. This worked out really well as we only had to wait about 30 minutes for the next bus, and it was cheaper than the train! This is the kids in the song taew on our way out of Pranburi!

Our kids, for some reason, are fascinated by busses. They liked the train too, but Jane in particular, sleeps really well every time we get on a bus. It took her less than 20 minutes to fall asleep for two hours, through numerous stops and even a bathroom break. She was an absolute angel when she woke up!

The kids loved reading books, Jeff and Jack told stories, and they watched Lightening McQueen together. I thought it was heavenly, as I got to dive into a new book I've had for a week!

One thing we don't understand about the busses in Thailand is why we never seem to get off at the same place. Two different times, we've been let off at a bus station, and we have no idea where it is! Luckily, there are plenty of taxis to take us wherever we want, but it's still disorienting to not even know where you've been as you drive home.

We had another good Samaritan experience in the taxi on the way home. We were all doing just fine until Jane started to throw up all over herself and the back seat of the taxi. I was terrified at what the taxi driver was going to act like, as I've heard they are pretty testy (for Thais) when their taxis are abused. He quickly saw what was happening and pulled over. I got Jane out and cleaned her up, poor thing, while Jeff jumped in the back seat to start the clean up process. I apologized to the taxi driver as he was watching us in action. He responded with a smile and "mai pen rai", a common phrase meaning "never mind". I was so grateful we had such a sweet and understanding driver, when he had every right to be upset about his nice taxi! He even helped Jack find a place to do his business while we were busy with Jane. We cleaned it up the best we could, and the driver did his best to get our sick girl home quickly! It was some crazy driving, but we were grateful! We couldn't thank him enough for how kind he had been, and he seemed like it didn't bother him at all. Why are we continuously blessed to meet such selfless people as this?

Jane acted just fine after her incident, and we enjoyed a nice, quiet Saturday night at home. We really love getting away together, but as Jack puts it every time we walk in the door after being a way for a bit, "it feels SO good to be home!".


Bethany said...

I know someone that can make friends as quickly as Jack, YOU! You are one of the kindest people I have ever met and I love reading all about your adventures in Thailand! Take care.

Jennifer said...

What a wonderful trip. I love the resort you chose - the beach is lovely and I had no clue about sand dollars. I find that even the transportation stations are so beautiful. I love all the architecture. The photos are so beautiful and colorful.

Kudos to you for doing the volcano. And I must say that I'm a bit jealous of Jack's interest. When I take my kids to a museum or suggest a project, they think I am trying to torture them. I am so sick of video games and what a strong hold it gets on the hearts of big boys. Never tell Jack!

Andrew & Vanessa and kids said...

Wow! What an amazing adventure! You are so great to detail every bit of your vacations, and I love it! We feel like we're actually there! Love you guys

karalynstrings said...

Your little family is just so dang cute! Jack and Jane have two great examples - it's no wonder they make friends so easily! I love reading about your adventures each week. I am still waiting for a week when you don't have some really cool adventure - it just doesn't seem to happen.

Bettie said...

What a fun trip! Bryce recently took the girls to the beach (their first time) in california and they saw tide pools and all kinds of fun creatures in them. Isobel now wants to live by the beach :)
I agree with Jack - adventures are fun - but it feels SO good to be home after.

Bevany said...

You guys are so cute. Seriously, I love your posts and all your pictures. What a fun trip. You are so daring. Your kids must be so well behaved to last so long on buses and trains like that. I think my Keigan and your Jack would get along really well. She loves meeting new friends!

Mimi and Papa in Provo said...

Well, you know me and boats, automobiles, buss', trains and planes....this was all an adventure I would love to have had with you. Thanks for sharing with us.

Bryce Jr said...

This post did remind me of our trip a couple of weeks ago to San Francisco and the Redwoods. Well, it was our trip times ten. Me and Isobel and Eva had a pretty wild time on SF public transit one day (from 7:30 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.), then hit the Redwoods to see slugs and centipedes and the ocean.

Bettie said Isobel wants to move to the ocean. Eva can't stop talking about how cool it was, but she doesn't want to live there: "I think when I'm older I might still be too scared of it."

Anonymous said...

mmmmmmm dad bet she is good fun in bed