Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thailand: The long and short of it. (Mostly long. But worth it... Tigers! Elephants! Cute kids!)

The Thailand post! Because finally I'm doing it! Seriously, this new photo system on this here new laptop is killing me.  But anyway, we went to Thailand!  Over a month ago... for Spring Break back in April... Maeve's dancing with excitement.  A few hours later, she was nice and feverish, on the plane.  In FACT, Bran and Nuala both had been sick and feverish and missing school just before this trip, and then EVERYONE except me was sick! No puking. Thank goodness.  But poor Maeve had it the worst. A fever the entire 10 days... coughing like she was on the verge of popping up a lung... don't get me started on Z's coughing fits. And the other two were coughy, but not as much as Z or Maeve.  And Asians are very particular about wearing masks when there is sickness around.  Logically I knew they all couldn't help it, but I was still saying through gritted teeth, "STOP coughing..." as heads turned in horror from all around us...

Anyway, Thailand! We went to Bangkok first for a couple of days, then flew to Sukothai for just one night/day, and then we went up north to Chiang Mai for several days.  It was lots of fun, and very delicious.
Ayuthaya, near Bangkok (here I'm experimenting with different text sizes, because I feel like "normal" is so small! Which is what I always use. This is "large." Don't you think there SHOULD be something in between? Here is "small."  And "smallest." And "largest.") Anyway, yes. Ayuthaya! In "normal." Which still seems so small.
Annnnd.... more ruins! It was pretty hot there. Pret-ty hot.  And I'm not (just) talking about Zac.
Zac really likes this head.  It is pretty cool, peeking out of the roots.   The kids each got $10 to spend over the course of the trip.  Bran blew $5 on this little guy. That's a ton there!  AND, it's not even a real monkey. But he loves him.  He calls him "Belt," after the little sloth guy on the "The Croods." Good movie... go see it!
Mmmmm... driking coconut milk OUT of a coconut! It was yummy.
Riding an elephant.  It's kinda interesting how they can lose their pigmentation.  Or at least that's what it looks like... I really know nothing about elephant skin/skin disorders...  This was a pleasant little jaunt just down the road to see some ruins.  Zac and Nuala's elephant was right behind us, and at one point our elephants just kinda hung out together, and the mahouts (elephant handlers) were chatting, and Z's elephant picked up a watch face with his trunk! It was just really cool, seeing how dainty those trunks can be.
The ruins we elephanted to... Maeve looks slightly unsure about things, but I promise she was NOT being precariously posed from the top of an elephant.
A very smiley baby elephant! Elephants totally smile, right?! ;)  I like these picutres because in the next one...
... you see the little guy's ear flapping out...
...and then Maeve reacting to being smacked in the head by an elephant's ear.
We took a boat trip to Bangkok's floating markets.  It was lovely. Just lovely. The water was kinda gross, of course, but it was a nice cool ride, and the kids each got a big loaf of bread to feed the fish.  See Nuala's between her knees? Maeve gnawed on hers ahead of time.  The floating market had some tasty treats we got to try.  Food is so cheap in Thailand! And delicous! Did I mention it's delicious?!
A big water monitor. The boat driver totally tricked us (accidentally), by calling out, "crocodile!" It's not a crocodile. Still cool, but not a crocodile. There was one in a storm drain in the middle of the city. You could just see its eye, looking up at the world...
These fans have probably been their favorite Thailand souvenirs.  Nuala got this lovely pink one, and Maeve got an orange one with elephants. That thing gets used a lot. I credit "Sophia the First," actually. A new-ish Disney show about a little girl who becomes (sigh) a princess. It's actually pretty good, but her stepsister, who has always been a princess and is somewhat more uppity, is always whipping out her fan. Maeve has taken a shine to Uppity Princess (aka, Amber) because she has long blonde hair (double sigh).  Anyway, cute fans. Happy girls. Bran got one, as well.  I have not seen it since we got back.
Nice lady who sold us the fans.
Mango with sticky rice! The BEST ever.  The mango was just perfect... not too ripe, and not too hard or tart. Just PERfect.  The rice with the coconut was also perfect.  I could eat that every day.
In Bangkok.
Poor Maeve.  I seriously felt so badly for the hot and feverish little tyke.  We are not normally immediate fever-treaters, but we kept her pretty dosed up.  No one wants to feel icky away from home. 
Ooohh, yum! The cafe across from our hotel in Bangkok! Its specialty was jimjum.  I just googled it, and it's also called Thai Hot Pot.  For you English speakers...  Anyway, it's a clay pot filled with delicious broth, placed over hot coals.  The you put in the veggies/meat yourselves, and cook it right there. It was SO. GOOD.  This is the place where Nuala totally dipped a chunk of sticky rice into the super spicy (we were in Thailand! Just imagine.) sauce and chowed down on it. Before we knew. AFTER the fact, everyone knew.  But alas.   We fed her a whole bowl of noodles, and more rice, and something else, but I can't remember what... Anyway, she survived.  Oh, the glass noodles in the jimjum! Those were the best.  We had to order another pot, because it was so good.  We also got another dish to try, and several extra noodles and rice, and the kids got a soda... We spent $10 there.  Then we went across the street to our hotel and spent the same amount on shakes for everyone. Nice.  Oh, man... The food in Thailand... the trip was worth it just for that.  Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea...
We got lots of stares and some people did take pics, but overall it was nowhere NEAR India-level of insanity, with these little blond rascals.  I was surprised, but pleased.  The Thai people just seemed so much more polite than the mobs we encountered in India.  These are some of the cafe workers. They were super nice!
Bran's cute.  
The airport at Sukothai is tiny! And this statue is cool.  We went to church in Bangkok, to an International Ward, and then caught a flight to Sukothai.  I put on my best stalker persona and talked to a family whose blog I came across from another friend's blog. They were very cool, and did not seem to be too weirded out... ;)  It's a small world, after all...!
Also at the Sukothai airport... Nuala was thrilled with this discovery. She came running around the corner yelling, "Mom! There's an elephant covered in SCALES! and it's PEEING!" And, she was right.
Our hotel in Sukothai was amazing.  It wasn't really a hotel. More a compound of lovely little bungalows, with fountains, and caged birds, and little secluded benches and hammocks all over the place... The guy who ran it was an old Italian hippie. And that sums it up.  The breakfast there was divine.  Especially the freshly made sticky rice with coconut milk steamed in banana leaves. You opened up the little packet and sliced bananas on top of the rice, then drizzled honey over it. Oh, man... Seriously.
The little bridge to our hut.
Bran on one of the many hammocks. He's totally a hammock dude. Knows how to chill.
This was a lamp in our bungalow room. It was cool. The kids wanted me to take a picture of it, and Bran wanted to be in it, but he was only in his underwear because it was a quite, quite, QUITE warm night, and the A/C was somewhat lacking, so he held up his tse-tse and said, "just say that I'm part of the wall." So. He's part of the wall. 
Anyway, after breakfast, we rented bikes (for THREE bucks. TOTAL.) and rode around the ruins in Sukothai. This was by far the best way to see things.  I'm fairly certain that this was one of our favorite days.  Nuala was not having luck with any of the bikes, so we got Bran one, got one for Z with a seat for Nuala to perch on in the back, and I got one with a little seat for Maeve in the front.  It was so much fun!
We stopped whenever we wanted to, but riding bikes was so nice and cool. Here Bran is smiling, but trying to elbow Nuala away from him. Awww, sweet...
I love this shot.
Me and Maevesters.
Handsome fella.
Look at these pictures from the top left, going clockwise.  Z captured well the realities of taking pics with kids.  You gotta snap 'em quickly, because those rascals have things to do! Places to go! Then I took a picture of Z. He stayed still.  Good job, Z!
Woohoo! Bikes! Bran let Nuala have a turn on his little bike, and he got to see how it felt to ride on the back.  Bran was proud that he only fell off his little bike "six times!"  Never mind that one of those times I yelled at him to jump because his bike was sliding down a ditch.  We recovered it and moved on.
I think we all felt more free because we did not have helmets on.  Obviously they are good and life-saving and we all wear them with our own bikes, but there was something nice about being able to hop on a rickety bike with no available safety equipment. Like being a kid in the 80s again. 
Giant buddha with gold fingers.  And Zachariah. He's the one in the green shirt.
Nuala, rubbing the gold fingers for luck.  Actually, just because she felt like it, but I know she won't turn down any luck that might come her way...
This little guy and Bran hit it off at the place we stopped at for lunch (super good Pad Thai! Also super good smoothies!).  Neither one spoke the other's language, but who needs to talk when you have action figures to zoom around?
Bangkok Airport
And on to Chiang Mai. Oh, Chiang Mai. It's up north, so we flew into Bangkok, then over to Sukothai, then up to  Chiang Mai.  Our first day there we had a big ol' day full of stuff.  We went on a little bamboo raft ride up a river. It was pretty hilarious, b/c we brought the kids' life jackets, and they were totally fitted out for this ride, and it probably only got knee-deep anywhere. It was very pleasant, and Maeve fell asleep (and was not-so-pleasant when she woke up), but definitely not life-jacket necessary. Better safe than sorry, right?  We didn't take our cameras on that raft ride, but we do have one pic that we bought from the friendly folks there... I didn't scan it. Or take a picture of it. Just imagine us all on a bamboo raft.
After that we rode elephants. Hahahahaa! We've ridden several elephants in our day... none bareback yet. But this was, by far, the worst and best ride ever.  It was horrible! So horrible I was just laughing the whole time! That made it the best. 

1.  The elephants were trekking through very hilly and uneven terrain. See above.
2. There was absolutely no padding or anything remotely comfortable on the benches.
3. Maeve was STILL in a mood (remember the not-so-pleasant waking from the nap?) and did not want anyone touching her. Kinda difficult when she's sandwiched between Nuala and me on a super bumpy elephant ride. And I'm TRYING TO HOLD ON TO HER SO SHE DOESN'T GO FLYING OFF THE ELEPHANT.  So, fighting to hang on to her and keep her from smacking Nuala whenever she touched her was fun.
4.  Our poor elephant must have had allergies or something, because she kept lifting her trunk backwards over her head (so...pointed straight at us) and snorting. We had muddy snot all over us.  I tried getting a good picture of it, but the flash washed it out, and the drops were too small, but whatever... you couldn't really SEE it. It was disgusting. 

Anyway, it was really fun! I 100% mean it. I came away with bruises on my thigh from being whacked against the bamboo. Maeve was crying at the end because we walked through the little bamboo-rafting river and the elephants all sprayed themselves/the riders.  It was hilarious! But poor, sick, tired Maeve...
Here we are, checking out our snot legs.  It got on Maeve's face several times, too.
Afterwards we chummed around with the elephants. Fed them bananas.  Painted their nails. No, not the nails, but the other two...
This was a 3-week old baby. Her name was Watermelon. Well, it was the Thai word for watermelon... which I don't remember. Shocking.
AFTER the elephant ride, we ate a yummy lunch and then went in our little mini-bus full of: one older French couple, two Italian buddies, one speedo-wearing South African man, and us, to a farming village. We walked around and then hiked to a waterfall where we swam for a few minutes.
Afterwards we walked past some souvenir stands. What was awesome (well, one of the things) abt. Thailand is how low pressure everyone was! It was a total contrast to India, where everyone was in our faces with everything, left and right. Thailand... wow. I was amazed how no one pressured us at all. ONE lady, at the night market in Chiang Mai, was annoying. And that was it.  Anyway, here is Maeve, getting the very last of her little drink. She's cute.
Tigers! The next day we went to pet tigers.  We only went in with the babies, just because we're kinda frugal. They were the only ones the kids could go in with anyway. And they were soooo cute! Our 10 minutes flew by.  
Everytime I see this pic, I just want to snuggle that little fella again!  It reminded me totally of using Mango, our big orange cat that we had when I was teenager, as a pillow, but this fella was obviously a bit bigger... sturdier... look at those paws!  Maeve was a stinker. Ohhh, girlie.  She was (again) in a grumpy mood. Being sick can do that to ya.  I am 100% convinced that she refused to even TOUCH a tiger just because we wanted her to.  In this picture I was trying to get her to lie down on him with me, but she was having nothing to do with that.  We were kinda ticked.  I mean, when's she going to have another chance to snuggle a tiger?! And how cute would a picture of her and a tiger just her size be?! Sigh. Stinker.  Also, WE knew she wasn't scared of them, but no one else watching knew that, so we were trying to not be the overly-mean-parents-forcing-their-"reluctant"-preschooler to get close to a tiger.  Whatcha gonna do, right? At least everyone else enjoyed it. 
Bran didn't want to stop, um, spooning... This guy needs a pet.
Right after this shot, the tiger zipped away. Something was obviously much more intriguing across the room.  Isn't the floor kinda gross? Yes, yes it was.  There were probably about 7 or 8 little tigers in the enclosure.
Z trying to convince M to pet his tail. Just his tail! Come ON!
Trying for a family shot.  Ahhh, tigers are just SOOO beautiful!  If only they were not top predators who need to be out in the wild. Otherwise we would totally get one. 
This illustrated why kids are only allowed in with the little tigers. This fella totally stalked Bran's hand. The one you can't see. And then pounced like a... tiger... it was awesome. After we got out of the cages, Maeve totally perked up and was super happy to see all the tigers. Even now she tries to pretend she petted the babies. But no.  Z DID touch her foot with that tail up above, and there was contact made, but that little rascal...
We got to feed this parrot sunflower seeds. Everyone liked it. Even Maeve.
Ha! These big balls! Y'all have seen them, I'm sure. The twins always wanted to try them in Bulgaria, but we only saw them in tiny pools in the mall. Here was better.  It was really funny watching them flop around.  Then, it was my turn.
At first it was fun. And weird, because I was out there all alone, and several people had gathered to watch, and I felt like I was on display. In a big bubble. Because I was. But it was still fun and I couldn't stop laughing, and THEN I started to think, "Huh. This is kinda... gross..."  It was so hot in that plastic bubble, and I was sweating a ton, and rubbing that sweat all over the inside of the ball when I'd fall, or just move. It was really disgusting. I was super glad either Nuala or Bran had been in the ball before me, and I felt really sorry for the person who got in after me. I'm sure blowing all the air in to inflate it dries it out. Yeah. Ten minutes in there was more than long enough!
Outside a temple in Chiang Mai.
Inside the temple.
Bran hanging up one of the... hmm... I don't remember what they're called. But you buy them and hang them up for luck.  
An even older temple behind the newer one.
One of the many, many times we had fresh fruit smoothies/shakes in Thailand. Yummmm... And only abt a dollar or so! Awesome.
These moving walkways in the airports are apparently called "travelators!" At least sometimes! I like that.
And we arrived home, eventually. It was a really fun trip.  We decided we do, indeed, love Thailand. As most people seem to decide. Maeve miraculously had no trace of fever or sickness the day after we got back.  ON the way back, we stopped in Hong Kong for the night, and she was so feverish (yes, I forgot to give her medicine before we got off. Dangit.) that she got flagged by the sickness-checker lady and we had to go into the bowels of the airport to see the medical staff. And Maeve had to wear one of those masks that are so popular in this part of the world. She didn't like it.  Luckily they determined that we hadn't been around any birds (well, there WAS that parrot...), etc., and let us go with a note to take to a doctor in HK requesting his help should we need it.  Thankfully we didn't.  It was a great trip, but also great to get back!  

I just realized that I didn't mention my Thai massage at all. It's worth mentioning. I couldn't NOT get one while in Thailand, but ohhhh, how I wish I hadn't! Except for the "fun" memory it adds...  So, I saw these massages advertised everywhere, for about $10 or less for an hour-long massage. It was kinda inconvenient, what with the rascals and all, to just stop somewhere for that long, so you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that our hotel in Chiang Mai offered them as well, for $10.  The afternoon after we went to pet those exceptionally cute tigers I decided to get one. The kids were in their room, adjoining ours, watching a movie, and Z was going to take a nap, so I headed down to the front desk to find out where the massage room was.  Ha. There WAS no massage room. The lady goes up to your room! I told them my hubby was taking a nap, so they hemmed and hawed and finally said, "okay, go out by the pool." I figured there must be a room out there that we hadn't seen, since we'd been to the pool a couple of times already. I went out and waited for about 10 minutes, in the nice, warm sunshine.  Finally I see a couple of guys coming out, carrying a plastic chair and a table fan, and following them a grumpy looking little Thai lady.  They proceed to set up a pool lounge (not the comfiest of lounges, either) just next to the pool, and plunk the plastic chair next to it, with the fan on top of that. It finally hits me that they plan to just let me have my massage right there. In full view of the rest of the hotel.  Outside in the HOT afternoon. Yeah, no thanks.  Oh, man. The masseuse was quite displeased. It was obvious. I said, "Oh, RIGHT here? It's pretty hot out..." and she said, "yes, it is hot." Grumpily. I can't blame her.! I am dragging this sucker out! Long story short (okay... or not...), I called Z and told him what was up, he said "fine, come on up and I'll get one, too" so I told her that, thinking that there were multiple masseuses and we would get simultaneous massages, but NO, she planned to do mine (an hour) and then Z's, so we nixed that and he just layed on his side of the bed, reading, while I was pulled and rubbed, and twisted next to him by this freakishly strong, tiny woman.  Seriously, she left a bruise on my leg.  Overall, it felt nice, especially b/c of the whiplash-y elephant ride of the day before, but it was AWKward.  I felt like my personal space was totally invaded, since she was in our room, and Z was RIGHT there. And he talked to me occasionally. It was just really weird. Really.  And there you have... THE massage. You're welcome.


Bonnie said...

Oh the adventures! So glad you wrote about this. It terrifies and fascinates me all at the same time. What cute, cuddly tigers and what adorable kids. Your life is just... wow. Crazy. How fun.

pauline said...

Hi there ... I have just spent a looong time with you on your trip to Thailand... thanks! It was great :) Seriously, your descriptions/photos are so wonderful. I loved it all... some of my favs: the coconut milk drinking... the elephant's skin pigmentation sort of appears to be sculpted ... the cute, smiley baby elephant's ear whacking... oooh, nice colourful fans! ... really such cute pics of you all, even tho' most of you were under the weather ... oh, the mango..yum! ... Everywhere is so picturesque! Poor li'l sick M! Cooking in the clay pots: the meat you added must've been already cooked? How fun to do that! I love the bungalow "hotel" concept ... looked like a little paradise spot right there. Bikes!I'd've loved them... I like the profile pic of you F with M in front... and Z&B look so great too ... and N "look, no hands" ... AhahahahahaHA... I can hardly stop LOL'ing at the rickety el ride up that rough terrain... it has created a nice scene in my mind... that of the experience being somewhat less desirable than the memory...totally! What an experience for you all! Aww, I LOVE the baby tigers...I spent way too much time looking at those pics ... so soft and cuddly... Bran's so chummy with the little tiger... tiger having fun too :) That's a lovely fam pic with him... Oh, the big bubbles look like fun to try... and the fruit smoothies ... all the food seems like such a great experience indeed. I had another big LOL'ing session when I came to the infamous massage!!! HahahahahHAha... I just can't help myself, but it is really VERY funny :) Thanks for this entertainment and glimpses into your fun travels ... Love you all... Mom (Dad too) xox

Tara said...

Hehehe, I'm still laughing at your massage! I'm so glad you finally posted! Thailand sounds SO cool. Poor Maeve, she looks so sad in those feverish pictures. The tigers! What an awesome experience. And all the pictures are so cool, you seriously need to print out those tiger pictures for your walls. I love that it looks like the gold fingered Buddha is pushing down Z's head with one finger. And, yeah, all the food sounds amazing! Those three kids are so cute, I'm glad we finally got to see some pictures...;)

Rob and Erin Smith said...

Wow!!! What an Amazing trip!!! I totally want to go now, my mouth is watering!! Aoife wants to see a video, we'll go find one. Love the bike adventures and the elephant rides with the mud-snot, so sweet of your elephant to try and keep you guys cool like that :) Sorry you guys were sick, that's not ideal, but Look at those awesome tigers!! Seriously, what a really Fabulous trip!

Aislinn said...

The massage has left me unable to remember the other comments I wanted to make! Dangit! I'm still laughing so hard! Oh yeah...I like the golden handed statue. She really has Zac under her thumb, eh? Get it? Under her THUMB? HAHA! I am so funny! ;) All the kids look like they had fun and were troopers...I was especially struck by the lack of grumpy Nuala pics during the trip! Not even one! Impressive...;)
Also, Maeve's hair looks soooo long! Wow! Neither of my girls could have grown hair that long at three. Way to go, Maeve! The pic of Bran and his little friend at the cafe was so cute! You're right...who needs words when you have a common bond over toy dragons? Ah...the elephant ride cracked me up, too. So gross but sooo funny, LOL. Coming to the States must be so boring for all of you...

Shannon said...

I have to admit that I ride without a helmet sometimes out here in Wimer. It feels so nice. I agree that it is like being a kid again in a childhood that my kid will never have. Safety ruins everything!

Anyway, I loved the post and all of the elephants. Poor Maeve.

Btw, my captcha says: tigress assedon.

Grandma said...

wow a massage. I think it had to feel weird like you said. Personal space invasion.

Grandma said...

What a terrific adventure. Food and elephants, temples and ruins wow!!! I have always wanted to ride and elephant. The baby was precious. Tigers were awesome. I loved your whole post.