Guest Post! Visiting with family

Guest Blog:  by Max and Kristin Rose

After 7 months of not seeing the little brother and Sarah, we said enough is enough!  Let’s hop on a plane and visit them in Thailand.  It only took us 30 hours to get to Bangkok.  We had one day on our own to visit this wild city and here are the highlights.  We took a tuk tuk ride to Starbucks (I know…) then the guy drove us to the wrong pier and we saw a dead body (yuck), we then walked to the correct pier and rode along the river seeing the city.  We stopped at the Kings Palace, which was lovely but we sweat a lot.  We had a nice Thai meal, which we later learned was way over priced (more on that later).  We enjoyed the infinity hotel pool overlooking the city and the next day we were off to Phuket to see Eric and Sarah.

Phuket

We arrived at the beach town of Kata and promptly went to the pool.  It’s hot here.  Eric and Sarah arrived a little while later and we all enjoyed Chang beer because Singha was 10 Baht more.  (Roughly 33 cents US).  It was interesting to see how my brother has changed!  Not only looking slim, but he who was once known for enjoying the finest things and not too worried about spending money has learned some lessons on his travels.  Eric and Sarah are now experts at finding the deals.  (I think they eat 7-11 dumplings everyday, about 17 Baht, 20 cents.)  They are delicious by the way.  We walked the town in search of food that would fit their budget and found a great Thai restaurant that would later be recommended to us by a local cab driver as the best and cheapest in town.  Again, E and S know their way around the world now.

The next day we visited the Big Buddha, which is correctly named, as it is a BIG Buddha.  E and S went scootering as Kristin and I decided to ride an elephant.  That was fun!   That night we tried to go back to our great restaurant find but it was closed.  So we settled and had a disappointing dinner but got to play some Connect 4 while we waited for the meal.  The next day was spent traveling to our favorite spot of the trip, Krabi.

Krabi

Railay Beach is where we spent the next three days.  We learned to love pineapple shakes, (pineapple, water, and ice), we learned how to build a sundial, and we learned to watch the tides as not knowing the tides can lead to issues getting back to our hotel.  E and S had to wade waist deep in the ocean to get back.  This peninsula (we looked it up) was amazing, huge cliffs, great beaches, some massages, some rain, and even monkeys.  Crazy monkeys!  We spent a day roaming the area going through caves, finding “secret” beaches with the other tourists and eating at our favorite restaurant “Mangrove.”.  We had great bungalows to stay in and Eric and Sarah were our neighbors.  I beat them both quite handily in cribbage too.  They seemed a little cocky from their years worth of practice so I had to take them down a peg. (For two) ((cribbage joke)).  Our second day here it rained, well poured or what some call a monsoon the entire day.  It was nice to relax and not worry about where to find another pineapple shake for a while.  The next day of course was clear blue sky or what we travelers call a great day to sit in a bus for a while.  We bought a long boat to mini-bus to big bus to ferry boat to taxi trip (what could go wrong) from a “ladyboy”  (look it up if you have to) named Emi.  Everything was perfect and we arrived at what we now know as a party town called Koh Samui.

Koh Samui

We were unaware that this remote island was actually spring break central for the entire world and our hotel was right in the middle of it at Chawaeng Beach.  Our biggest booking mistake.  Eric and Sarah found a much cheaper and more morbid place to stay just down the road.  After a little research by the pro’s (not us) we were able to find a great beach, which if we return to Koh Samui is where we will stay.  The beach was called Crystal Beach and it was great.  Eric and I got sunburned and we all enjoyed the calm clear turquoise blue water.  The following day we found yet another spectacular beach, a 7 km stretch of white sand called Mae Nam.  Eric found us some beach chairs in the shade for 100 baht each, which nobody ever collected from us.  A highlight here was when a vendor strolled down the beach selling grilled corn on the cob.  It was great.  Our last night in Koh Samui was spent with the four of us going to another great Thai restaurant where the meals are roughly 90 baht a plate (between 2 and 3 dollars).   Yes Eric and Sarah found this one too.  Kristin and I spent the rest of the evening checking out the craziness of Samui where you can’t go 3 meters without a guy asking you if you need a tailor, or getting tickets to the boxing match, or getting pulled into some shop.

Bangkok Round 2

We headed back to Bangkok for an afternoon and overnight stay.  We spent about 4 hours at the Saturday market where Kristin shopped for more elephant pants.  She decided 2 pairs of pants and 1 pair of shorts was enough.  After all, they have elephants on them.  We walked for miles through the different stalls, bartering as we went.  We even splurged on a 180 BHT meal and it was delicious. 

 Overall we had a great time visiting with the professional world travelers.  They have a multitude of stories from every corner of the globe.  They have met great people, and learned a lot about the world.  And they know how to save a buck.  We are off to Dubai now and they are now in Cambodia.  We wish them well on their travels and can’t wait to see them again in Seattle.  And we will be back to Thailand for sure…next time with the kids! 

Exploring around Krabi and Railay

In-between intermittent rain showers we've moved from pool, to porch, to exploring the Railay beach area with Max and Kristin. 

One awesome place to explore, rain or no rain, is the caves in-between the beaches.  We happened upon them and then spent a lot of time inside, explore the various formations, critters, and colors. 

Our next stop on our exploration was this gorgeous beach that we somewhat happened onto after a walk through the jungle.  The surprise of such a beautiful beach made it even more fun. 

The day ended with drinks on the beach watching a beautiful sunset. We've loved our time exploring with family and getting to spend time catching up and playing games together.

More family has arrived!

Max & Kristin enjoying the pool-side life in Phuket

Max & Kristin enjoying the pool-side life in Phuket

What a whirlwind!  From the temples and mountains of Chiang Mai to the beaches of Thailand!  Leaving Cory and Margo to travel through Laos we set off to meet Max and Kristin in Phuket.  It was so fun arriving to see them swimming in their hotel pool like they've always been down here and we've just finally made it to see them. 

The next day Eric and I set off on scooters, while Max and Kristin got in a private car to drive them to the sites.  We met up at the Big Buddha to enjoy the views of both Buddha and the surroundings.  The water is so gorgeous here! 

Max and Kristin set off to ride some elephants and Eric and I scootered off to look for some pretty views.  We love the feeling of freedom we get from having a scooter and being able to explore.  I'm thankful Eric has mastered driving on the left hand side of the road and being so confident in his skills with all the different types of drivers we encounter. 

We met back up with Kristin and Max at the pool for the perfect ending of such a fun day.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Cory and Margo headed out for Laos and we stayed behind for our flight the following day to see Max and Kristin.  With time to kill and a gorgeous day, we headed to the mountains on a motorbike to see the Buddhist temple Doi Suthep.  We had seen a lot of beautiful temples in Chiang Mai and were kind of expecting more of the same.

Instead after a beautiful, windy road, we climbed some 200 steps to amazing gold-covered temples.  Legend has it that the supposed shoulder bone of buddah was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), trumpeted three times before dying at the site. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

The views of the surrounding countrysides matched the beauty of the temples and after a quick rainstorm we couldn't stop taking photos.  

Massage anyone?

We headed to the Chiang Mai women's prison for a massage a few days back. 

Massage anyone?

Massage anyone?

The massage was hilarious - we were told to change into pajama-like clothing and then lead to massage beds all over a common room.  The women couldn't get over how big Eric's hands and feet were, falling into incomprehensible giggles when they held up his body parts in relation to their own.  The massage involved a lot of stretching, popping, and different strange positions I have never been in.  The prisoner/masseuse was also on the bed leading us into each position.  We left happy but not with the usual relaxed feeling that comes from a massage!  It was a very fun experience, costing 180 bhat, $6USD. 

In the kitchen with family

It has been 7 long months since I've been in the kitchen with family.  It's where I grew up - my mom made us dinner every night of my life and as we got older our chores in the kitchen grew along with being the ideas we'd pitch to create.  Sunday dinners have always been a family evening, cooking and sharing great food as the beginning to the next week.  Though phone calls home have replaced those meals it's never quite the same.

This week we were lucky to take a cooking class with Cory and Margo.  Though we had most of the work done for us and only had to complete the final touches it was fun to be around a hot stove throwing things together and learning different methods.

Our day started as the pick up truck converted into bus picked us up and took us to the school.  We enjoyed a coffee while picking the 6 dishes we'd learn how to make.  The fun thing was that we had so many choices to pick exactly what we'd like and there were some 15 other students in the class as well so there was lots of activity.  Next we headed to the market to learn about how coconut milk is made, how many different types of basil there are, to see different kinds of garlic, and ask questions.  Here are a few (poor) photos of the market.

We headed back to the kitchen where it was a cooks dream - everything had been beautifully prepped for us so all that was needed was the chopping of some vegetables, pounding of some spices, and measuring sauces for delicious meals to come together.  We each made 6 different courses and then shared each over a communal table with the others in our class.  Here are some photos of us in the kitchen, click on any to enlarge:

Thai food comes together so simply with a few key ingredients: the carb of choice (rice, or an array of noodle choices), tons of fresh veggies, oyster or fish sauce, lime sauce, coconut sugar (so unbelievably good), coconut milk, curries, peanuts, and then fresh herbs for garnish.  Everything except the papaya salad is cooked over the same wok pan, no need for all the pots, pans, and frying dishes we all have!

It was such a fun day to be together in the kitchen.  If only our mom could have been there :)

The temples of Chiang Mai

Yesterday after fueling up on delicious smoothies we circled around the Old City of Chiang Mai and admired the temples that seemingly pop up in every direction.  From big to small, lavish to kitsch, Buddhas come in all sizes and in all positions. 

It was a fun city to explore and even more fun with family.  The temples are all so beautiful and the Buddhas all so welcoming and beautiful to look at. 

 

Sukhothai, family edition

I've missed this face!

I've missed this face!

Knowing Cory and his girlfriend Margo were coming to visit us at the beginning of July got us through many tough days on Java.   It's been 7 months since we have seen friends or family from home and though we have met so many awesome people on the road, nothing replaces family.  They arrived early in the morning to Bangkok and we hit the streets exploring and taking the river ferry up and down the river.

The next day we headed by train to the town of Sukhothai where there are 193 ruins from the 13th and 14th centuries.  They are spread throughout 70km and we found the best way to explore was by scooter since the 100 degree temperatures made it a bit hot to explore by bike!

The temples were lovely.  Not too crowded and with plenty of areas to take a pause and take in the surroundings. They are divided into sections and we explored the Central section and then the East and North areas as well.  The central area has been restored to some degree but seeing the nature taking over other areas was beautiful.  Click on any of the images below to enlarge.

Another really special part of this day was getting to call our family on Dinner Island to wish them a Happy 4th of July.  While they were all together lighting off fireworks it was surreal we were halfway around the world looking at Buddhist temples!  I'm so glad we could say hello to everyone - this is the closest we'll get to a family reunion for a while!

Talk to family - from a Buddhist temple to Dinner Island!

Talk to family - from a Buddhist temple to Dinner Island!

The next day on our way back to the train station we stopped to see one of the most photographed Buddhas in the world.  It was swarming with people and we all took off our shoes and spent some time walking around and looking at all the different Buddhas.