Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pictures are uploaded!

Please head over to flickr to check out our photos from Thailand (just click on the pictures over on this blog's sidebar). There are tons and tons, so browse to your heart's content! Here is a small smattering:

In case you haven't seen the other blog, we received some shocking news when we returned home last night. Don't worry; we are all fine, but this shocking news is currently dominating our thoughts. I will share more stories and fun soon, but for now, I feel the need to be quiet. Warmest wishes from us to you (and especially from us to Pasquale...)!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Last day!

We are on our last day in Chiang Mai. Our flight departs at 4pm for Bangkok, where we'll spend the night at the airport hotel before flying on to Perth at around 8am tomorrow morning. Our time here has flown! We have been to two elephant camps (hooray!), visited temples galore, played endlessly in the pool and I browsed shops to my heart's content. It has been a great trip! I can't wait to share photos, but since we have a few hundred (thank you, digital cameras), it will take some weeding out and serious uploading time to flickr once we get home again.

Has the illness passed? Not really. Fortunately, we had a great time despite the unending coughing. Papa's ears and throat got better and then worse again, so we'll be taking him to the GP once we get home. Ellie probably needs to be seen for her still present cough too. Before we left, I was worried about traveler sickness. This is, after all, still a developing country. There are questions about water, concerns about Hepatitis A and typhoid...but so far, so great in that department. I was the prize winner in the food poisoning category. One meal made me sick sick sick...but it was a fluke. We all ate at that restaurant, and Markus and I ate the same thing. I got sick; he didn't. No problems since (and we even ate there again twice). It turned out to be our favorite lunch spot after all.

Although it is very humid here and heavy with mosquitos, we have to admit we aren't looking forward to returning to cold tomorrow. We ARE looking forward to returning to routine, and Ellie really wants to see her friends again. Hooray for a great trip!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Hello again, this time from Chiang Mai! Notice the corrected spelling in the title. I entered the previous Thai expressions in spellings that made sense to what I was hearing, but I have actually seen the words written now. "Sawasdee" is the greeting, and "kob koon" is the thank you. Female remains "kaa" but male address is "krup", which does not at all jive with the way it sounds, but I'm going for accuracy in reporting here.

We arrived yesterday to a bit of a rude awakening. Staying in four star extreme splendor while in Bangkok did not do us any favors for our arrival here at a much more normal-for-us place. It just took one night to correct our expectations. Baan Orapin is exceedingly lovely. It's a bed and breakfast we found through TripAdvisor, and it is beautifully appointed. The setting is a traditional Thai family compound with what must be considered a mansion house at the center. The family converted it to a B&B. It is quite a serene, peaceful setting amidst much busyness just outside the front gate, and we are enjoying it thoroughly.

Last night was our first night, and it was a rough one. Markus had his sickest day yet with the cold. Sore throat, endless coughing...then the inevitable fury at the endless coughing. The girls tossed and turned and moaned in their sleep as we left behind our canned air-conditioned tower and traded it for wall units in a very humid place. And while beautifully appointed, there is no escaping the fact that mattresses are generally CRAP in developing countries, no matter how nice the place. I don't know that any of us slept much. But by day, that all melts away.

This morning, we enjoyed a perfect, simple breakfast put on by the staff, and then we were off to see Stephanie's elephants! Opas, the owner here, arranged for us to have a taxi attendant for a half day, so he drove us about 30 minutes out to the elephant farm. Of course, we rode one! And watched the show! But first, the elephants were bathing. We got close to watch and one very playful, cheeky big boy sprayed us down! The girls were stunned and then started to cry. Poor things! It was very funny. Markus somehow avoided the worst of it, but we were drenched. Good thing it's summertime and quite warm! We were dry before too long. Later, we fed the elephants and one elephant posed with us and did some little tricks for the camera, including one shot where he wrapped his trunk around my waist in a hug. I was holding Stephanie at the time, and she was not expecting his trunk on her legs. Again, she cried and cried. Poor girl. I think it was the suddenness of it all, because we talked a lot about it and laughed later about how fun it was that the elephant splashed her and gave her a bath and she got elephant snuggles.
On the way back to town, we stopped at a butterfly farm, but there weren't many butterflies out today.

Markus took the girls to play in the pool while I passed out cold on the bed for about 20 minutes. Then, we walked about five minutes down the road to have lunch at Regina. It was so low-key and PERFECT because they had pet kittens! Markus and I enjoyed a delicious lunch in total peace and relaxation while Ellie and her sister Jungle Jane chased and pet and loved the kitties to pieces. I'm thinking this may be our daily lunch spot for the week.

I don't know what to think about the colds that have taken hold of Markus and Ellie. At about 1am, I was ready to call Thai Airways and change our return flights. I know they are just colds, nothing to write home about, but they feel big and frustrating when you are on a special holiday that you may never repeat. Unfortunately, I also heard Stephanie coughing in her sleep (which is how it started in Ellie), so I'm not looking forward to bedtime tonight. I'm hoping the days will continue to be full of enough goodness and happy memories to help us shrug off the nights once the sun rises each day.

Now, I'm off to the grocery store. This being a B&B means there is no food outside the set breakfast hours, and even those start almost two hours after our early risers wake up. I need healthy snacks and munchies...and maybe some cough suppressant.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sawa di kaa!

(or Sawa di kap, for men)

Greetings from Bangkok! We arrived safe and somewhat sound after a much longer journey than anticipated from Perth. We knew the flight would be long, and we weren't too worried about it. The girls handled the bulk of the flight beautifully. We were in business class (HOORAY!), so we had plenty of space. Toy Story 2 was on the kid movie channel, so they were happy (Stephanie watched it almost 4 times in a row). Thai Airways flies direct from Perth to Phuket, carrying on to Bangkok on the same plane with a 30 minute delay. We thought we'd get to stay on the plane, but no. We had to get off, go through immigration and security and get back to the plane. It wasn't too hard, but the process set Stephanie over the edge. The flight to Bangkok from Phuket was very short, so the kids movie channel didn't come back on. She was so angry! She was tired and pitched fits for most of that flight (very atypical for her). On the seemingly unending descent, the pressure was awful and her ears started hurting big time. She began to scream. It was terrible. She didn't stop when we landed. She carried on so much that she made herself sick while we waited for the car to take us to the hotel. Once we settled into the car, she fell asleep hard in my lap...only to wake up 50+ minutes later (still in the car due to traffic) and resumed screaming, clutching her ear. I was worried that she might have damaged it somehow (she was congested before the flight), but by the time we reached the hotel, she was much better. I think it finally equalized...and so did she. Thank goodness.

After that frazzled start, we have nothing else unpleasant to report. The hotel is fantastic! Our room is stunning. We have never stayed anywhere so nice, including the time we lived in the Ritz Carlton. There is a lower floor in the hotel were there is a fitness center, pool, and cafe. We have spent most of our in-hotel time there. The (included!) breakfast is so comprehensive that even Ellie stuffs herself. Yesterday, I was treated to a massage that made me want to give up and join one of the many yoga-massage retreats on offer here in Thailand. Basically, we are being spoiled to bits and loving it! This will only last anothey day or so before we move on to Chiang Mai, where our accommodation is far more low-key. All we had heard about Bangkok before arriving was how busy and stressful it can be, so we decided to make our hotel stay here as lovely as possible. Achieved!

Bangkok is massive. I'm not sure what I expected, but this isn't really it. The city is so huge that I look out the window and think it could be anywhere. But then my eyes settle on some very slum-like houses, and I quickly remember that this is a developing country. The people are incredibly friendly (they are famous for it), and hospitality is generous. We have learned to greet others with "sawa di kaa" (for women) and "sawa di kap" (for men), as well as saying "kap koom kaa (or kap)" for showing appreciation/thanks. Thais love children, and Stephanie is the star of attention! We thought she would hate that (she's very shy), but she's doing just fine. We suspect it is because Thais approach her with a warm smile and very quiet, contained body language...and usually they don't speak to her until she acknowledges their approach. Whatever it is, she is very happy to let them fuss over her. She has had her picture taken on many staff members' mobile phones.

Ellie developed a bad cough last week (of course) and it is still plaguing her. The cough kept her up often in the night last night. Markus seems to have absorbed her germs, and now he has a sore throat and cough too. Ah well. We are all a bit exhausted, but that's why we are on holiday! We know we will catch up and relax in Chiang Mai. There is so much to do and see in Bangkok, but the kids find it too overwhelming to enjoy. We are mostly keeping close to the hotel, though we did take a boat tour of the river and visit the textile market yesterday and we visited the (quite good!) aquarium this morning.

I'm sorry not to be able to share photos right now, but the computer here in the hotel is not speaking to my camera. I hope you are doing well! I do have access to email here in this hotel, though I'm not sure what the situation will be in Chiang Mai. We will be here until Tuesday, August 3, and we'll back in Perth on Tuesday, August 10.